Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wii Conversations

I caved. I told Tim that I thought it would be okay to get a Wii. In my head, when I told Tim that, I had visions of the kids doing something more active than Minecraft. Like Wii bowling or skiing or even cow racing. We don't have those games yet, but we do at least have the controllers so that all the kids can have a hand in their Super Mario game that came with the Wii. (They are standing and moving, slightly, so for right now, it is somewhat more active than Minecraft.)

It's vacation, so after breakfast, I said, "Sure you can play. But you all play, or you don't play at all."

So far, this is what I've heard from the family room:
  • Wait, I need that other flower!
  • Yellow toad! Who is yellow toad???
  • I'm going to be in a bubble. Pop me, please.
  • Go. Go. GO! and then Don't go so fast!
  • A collective NO! and then We were so close.
  • Stop, you're killing Melina!
And the best one of all (next to that last one) since it teaches a lesson:
  • We have to cooperate. To do it together.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ender's Game

Two years ago, a friend said to me, "Have you read Ender's game? It's a classic. I read it when I was a kid and I re-read it a month ago. You should try it."

I'm always up for a good recommendation, so try it I did. I can't remember why, but I had trouble with the first couple of chapters. I didn't feel compelled to continue, so I didn't.

Two months ago, another friend of mine said to me, "Have you read Ender's game? It's really good. Odd, but good. But you get to the end and..."

Well, when that same friend brought the book to writing group and said, "Have at it!" I thought I might as well.

This time, I read it. It held my attention quite well, but there are certain things I noticed that bothered me, and I wondered if anyone else had the same problem.

1. The book switches back and forth between 3rd and 1st person. It looks like the 1st person is meant to be the internal thoughts of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin. But I appreciate the simple act of italicizing internal thoughts. It makes it easier to read and process.
2. The concept of time is glossed over in the book. Ender starts out as a 6 year old kid and by the end, he's 12. Within one page, the author chooses to simply move on, so quickly at times, your head can spin.
3. The ending completely stinks. Of course, that is my opinion, but after what I think is supposed to be a big reveal (and it really isn't something you don't see coming), the author just decided to end the book. He comes up with something completely hokey that, again in my opinion, seems like an add-on; an I-need-to-come-up-with-something-but-I-didn't-run-it-by-my-beta-readers. Yeah, that's how much I liked the ending.

Is it a good book? I'll let you decide. But I'm finding that the books that really stand out to me are the sleepy hits, the ones that start out small and spread by word of mouth; the ones that you can read and re-read, that many people can relate to; the ones that, even if you don't like the writing style, keep you reading. I need to go find myself another one of those.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

1 Day Left

What would you do if you woke up to this message?

ONLY ❶ DAY left of Service.


I've had reason enough lately to think of that message, the one I received from the cell phone company. It was reminding me to activate my phone for three more months and add more minutes. If I didn't, I'd lose service. But it wasn't the phone I was thinking of when I saw that message. It was the lives that have been lost that came to the forefront of my mind. A friend of mine lost her husband on Christmas Eve; another woman I know through Tim's mom lost her mother; a third lost her grandfather-in-law just yesterday.

Had they known that they had only one day left of service, what would they have done on that day? What would you do? 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Restroom Etiquette

As I sit at the library and work on my manuscript (thank you, Tim, for giving me two hours away), I just need to remind everyone of one thing:

When you use the restroom, please remember to wash your hands.

(I'm sitting across from the restroom and there is no way some of these people can be washing their hands. There isn't enough time between the sound of the flush and the opening of the door.)

And now, back to what I came here to do.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Confidential in Atlanta

I have, for the past 20 years or so, thought I might make a good Dear Abby or Dear Prudence.  When we still received the newspaper, I'd read through the Dear Abby column, and think that some of the advice I'd give would be the same as, or better than, that given by the columnist.  I don't keep up on Dear Prudence, but Tim likes to read her from time to time, and when I check out the columns, I think she uses common sense a lot when she responds to queries.  I can do that, I think.  But would I want to?

I doubt it.  Listening to friends and family and trying to help is enough for me.  Don't get me wrong, you can still call and I will listen.  In fact, I enjoy listening.  I will still try to give advice, too, if you want it.  But my advice might not be what you want to hear.

This week, if I were going to write a column about anything, I'd write it about acceptance.  Not the type you get when you apply to college, but the kind you do every day with your spouse, whether or not you realize it.  I accept, every day, that I need to make lists for Tim.  It doesn't matter that we've had kids for over 10 years.  He still needs the list of things that need to be done for them and around the house when I leave on Saturdays.  If I don't give him the list, the stuff won't get done.

What does he do in return? Many things, I'm sure. But the one that comes to mind is his acceptance of my sleep habits. He accepts, every day, that I will fall asleep before 10 o'clock, without heading down to give him a goodnight smooch and hug.

Acceptance. It's almost harder to do than to love. If you have both, you can go far.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day After Christmas

While I was convinced that some sort of virus would keep us from gathering, the whole family managed to descend on my parents' house on December 23rd. This Christmas, I've been reminded to try to keep everything in perspective, and to remember to count our blessings. I think we have many of those.

May the New Year keep us happy and healthy, and the same to you and yours.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Give Them a Break

We've had rain, rain, and more rain here. Last night, a nearby town was worried that the banks of the river were going to overflow. People were on  alert, and as of this morning, I've read about flooding, submerged cars, road closures, and the collapse of a restaurant ceiling.

And what do some locals complain about? The fact that a business, who has been in our city for 15 years, was flying its American flag after dark without the proper illumination. Sure, I can appreciate the flag and all it stands for. It should always be treated with the respect it deserves. But come on. Let's concentrate on what's really important, TODAY.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Heaven

Make vanilla pizelles, and while still warm, curve them into a burrito-like shape.

Then, fill it with this lovely frosting, which you should have made previously with a mixer and stored in your refrigerator:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/4 cups whipping cream
2 1/3 tsp vanilla

That's a little slice of Heaven, right in your own kitchen. You can thank me later. (If you don't have a pizelle maker, let me know. I will make you a batch and try to get them to you. Seriously.)



 



Friday, December 20, 2013

My Take on The Elf

I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for saying this, but I just have to say it: I absolutely loathe The Elf on the Shelf.

In past years, he has simply been a minor annoyance. I don't have one in my home, so I tolerated the stories and pictures that other people had told me or posted. I listened to the kids at school tell how their Elf "had moved from the piano to the dining room table" and they hadn't seen it do so at all! "Well okay then!" I wanted to say. I held my snark in check.

But this year, I've had it. I can't really say why, but I'll try to explain anyway. Here it goes.

1. He's creepy looking. His fans say he's cute, charming, and that we should all love him, as is. Okay, well, I will love all people, as is; all animals, as is. Heck, I even bought a house, as is (Well, the real estate agent didn't say we were doing that, but thousands of dollars later, I would say the house listing should have said, as is.). I say stuff being PC. He's creepy and I don't like it. I would never be able to walk into a darkened room knowing that Elf was in there. (Look at his eyes. Really look at them, and the expression they hold, and tell me that Elf couldn't possibly be possessed by a demon.)

2. He's mass marketed. I've never been one to follow the trends. Hallmark ornaments? Can't stand them. Chrisopher Radko ornaments? Not my favorite. Anything that I can track down almost anywhere? I will buy them, but I prefer not to. Remember, though, that I'm not here to judge. If you like Elf or Hallmark ornaments or even Christopher Radko, I will still be your friend. (I just might question your judgment.)

3. His history is a little, well, let's say muddled. I read recently that he was created in 2004 over a cup of tea. I found that funny. I have characters that have been created over a cup of coffee, or when I've been in the shower, or out on a run. I have no plans to tell that to anyone. But apparently, this character made it to being published by 2005 and life just hasn't been the same. Now I realize that traditions need to start somewhere, but something born in 2005 seems a little young to me. Furthermore, a friend of mine says that Elf on the Shelf resembles (please read as ripoff) an elf that she has from the 50s and 60s.  Hmmm. I bet you can guess what I'd have to say about that. No need to tell you. Now this reason isn't a deal breaker, but along with #1 and #2, I hope never to encounter an elf on my shelf.

Lest you think I am nothing but a scrooge, let me say that I'm all for spreading Christmas cheer and belief in magic at this time of the year. In fact, when I was a child, I was convinced an elf lived in our house. (But we never saw the elf, and in truth, the whole idea that someone was watching me scared the crap out of me.) I also truly believe in the spirit of giving and that magical things can happen at Christmas. I'd even go so far to say that Christmas miracles can and do occur from time to time (despite what Tim may think). But in my world, The Elf on the Shelf ain't a part of that Christmas magic.

Do what you must to make you and your family happy. But my skin crawls when I look at the Elf; therefore, he should be laid to rest.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Take a Second

Every once in a while I need to call on the whole of the internet (or at least the few that read my blog) for a favor. Right now, I have a friend whose husband can use our prayers. Their story isn't mine to tell, so I won't give details, but please, if you get a second, say a little prayer that my friend's husband recovers quickly, with few repercussions.

Hurrah!

Most of you now know this, but last night, Zoe finished up a poem for an extra credit assignment, and when I told her she should submit it to a local literary magazine, she said yes!

When we clicked that button to submit, I felt like a mama bird watching her baby bird fly for the first time. The smile that passed across Zoe's face was huge, and the same one I feel when I get a great idea into my head for a story.

I have no idea if the magazine will print her poem. I have no idea if she will submit any more work anywhere else. I don't care. I'm just proud.

P.S. I can't post the poem here, as a post is considered published, and I don't know how the literary magazine would feel about that (because, you know, I have so many readers!). However, if you want me to send it to you via email, feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Coffee

My book club meets at the local Starbucks once a month. I often don't buy anything, but sometimes, I do. Today, I simply felt like coffee.
Starbucks' barista (SB): How can I help you?
Me: May I please have a tall coffee. I'd like 2/3 of it decaf, 1/3 of it regular, and enough room for cream, please. About an inch of room. [I held up my fingers to show her the space, just in case she didn't know what an inch actually was. Although the baristas at our local Starbucks seem to be pretty up on their math. Or so I thought.]
SB: Sure, that's not a problem. Why don't I put it into a grande cup and you'll have plenty of room for coffee and cream. If you're paying for the coffee, you might as well get it.
Me: That would be great, thank you. I never thought to ask for it like that.
The barista turns to grap a paper cup. She fills it part-way with either decaf or regular, I'm not sure, and then turns back to me.
SB: That's 2/3 decaf, right? I woudn't want to get it wrong.
Me: Yes, thank you.
She turns back to finish the drink while I stand in line, listening to the lovely music being piped in over the speakers. There is a crowd there today, probably due to the cold. The coffee will feel wonderful to my chilled body.
SB: Here you go. Have a great day.
Me: Thank you! And you, too.
I walk over to the sugar and cream kiosk and pull of the lid off my grande cup, which is filled to the brim, with coffee. More coffee than I paid for. But there is no room for cream at all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Things I Thought I Saw

Every once in a while, I don't see things correctly. Recently, these three instances popped up.

On the Huffington post website: Lorde Calls Himself 'A Hugely Sex-Positive Person'
What I really saw: Lorde Calls Herself 'A Hugely Sex-Positive Person' (Thank  goodness about this one; I have nothing against transsexuals, but I was certain that Lorde was a woman.)

In my contacts section of my Gmail account: John Green (Wouldn't that just be awesome?)
What I really saw: John G***n (I need to keep my friends anonymous,  but I can tell you that his last name is not and never has been Green.)

On an Advent Jeopardy Game: O Holy Shit!
What I really saw: O Holy Night!

God help me, with that last one.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Submissions

As you all know, I have dreams of someday publishing a book that I have written. I've put that into the five year plan, and in the meantime, I continue to write many things, such as these blog postings, more manuscripts, and short stories.

Because of my dream, I don't usually do anything with my short stories, but I received an email awhile back from the community college at which I teach. They have a literary magazine that was open for submissions. I had a short story that could possibly be sent there. I needed to make the connection between the two.

So I just submitted my short story to the literary magazine. Even if my story is included, I won't get paid for it, but I would at least be able to say that one of my stories was published in a literary magazine. Perhaps it would help with credibility.

Which gets me to my point for the day. A few moments after I emailed my submission, I received an email confirming that my story had been received. This is what it said:
Dear Christina,

Thank you for sending your work your work to X. We look forward to reading it.

Sincerely,
XEditorial Staff 
If you don't see the problem right away, read the note again. How credible of a magazine is it if they can't edit their own emails? I have a mind to contact the director and let her know of the error. That might just dash my chances of being published, though.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pythagorean Triples

Saturday afternoon, as I was dipping pretzels into chocolate, Talia approached me.
Talia: Hey, Mom. Can you help me with my math homework?
Me: Sure, what is it?
Talia: We need to figure out some Pythagorean Triples.
Me: I know who Pythagoras was and what the Pythagorean Theorem is, but let me see your paper. I don't know what the triple means.
Talia gave me her paper, and I read the definition of a Pythagorean Triple: "Any set of three whole numbers that satisfies the Pythagorean theorem. Examples include (5, 12, 13) and (7, 24, 25)."

For those of you who don't remember, the Pythagorean Theorem states: "That the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. The theorem can be written as an equation relating the lengths of the sides a, b and c, often called the Pythagorean equation:
a^2 + b^2 = c^2\!\,
where c represents the length of the hypotenuse, and a and b represent the lengths of the other two sides."

(BTW I found that little definition on Wikipedia, but you can find it other places, too.)

In short, the girls needed to find three numbers that satisfied the theorem. And their teacher gave them a hint. Keep the numbers under ten, he said.
Me: This won't be too hard. Let's figure it out.
Talia: How?
Me: Well, your dad probably has some nifty equation to do it, but I think you should just use good old trial and error. 
So I prodded Talia and she made a chart where she chose a c and then an a and b and then calculated the square to see if the variables worked. It didn't take long for her to find that (3, 4, 5) and (6, 8, 10) were the answers her teacher probably wanted. I helped Zoe do the same thing once Talia was done.

As soon as Tim walked back into the house, I asked him about the homework.
Me: I'm sure there's another way to do it, but I just had the kids choose numbers and test them.
Tim: Just a moment.
Tim walked over to his work bag, extracted a notebook, and opened to a page, somewhere in the middle. This is what it said on his paper:
Theorem: There exists infinitely many Pythagorean triples.
Proof: Let p be an odd integer > 1.

Gobblygook...

Corresponds to a right triangle with legs of length...

More gobblygook...
I don't need to write the rest. I smirked when I saw it. Of course there was an equation that could figure out the same thing we had by testing numbers. And of course, Tim had it, at hand, proof written out. In his notebook. Something he'd done it for fun, some other time in his life.

I tease, but to be honest, I'm also jealous.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tracks

There was enough snow this morning that my long run, much like last Saturday, was somewhat difficult. There were slippery spots on roads that had been plowed; there were unshoveled sidewalks and sidewalks full of slush; there were also streets full of snow, except for the tracks made by the cars that had already traveled the roads.

Those tracks saved me this morning. They gave me a little respite from having to hop from place to place to find a spot to put my feet. I ran down the tracks thinking that I was grateful to have them, because even though the run was hard, at least I was running. And I realized something, with respect to running and to life. Sometimes, you have to follow the tracks made by others and simply trust that when the seasons change, you'll be able to make your own tracks.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Not Just for Kindergarteners

On Thursdays, I head to the elementary school to read with the kindergarteners. Actually, they read to me, and if they need help, I walk them through sounding out the word or recognizing sight words. I enjoy spending this time with each of the children, sitting on a folding chair in the hallway. I can see when the light turns on in their head or when a burst of confidence surges through them. I hope that they will remember the lady who took the time to help them learn to read, and then, when they are older, do the same thing for someone else.

Another cool thing about being with the kindergarteners each week is seeing how the teacher interacts with them, and what her teaching methods are. Melina is the first of our children to have Mrs. R., but her reputation precedes her. In fact, I will admit to hoping that we be put in her room (and let me also admit that we loved the other option; she was a good teacher for our other kids). I had my reasons, only one of which is that Melina had just turned five in July. Another one is that I feel Melina's learning style was more in line with what I had heard was Mrs. R.'s teaching style. Almost two full quarters in and I can say, with confidence, that Melina is learning by leaps and bounds and enjoys going to school every day.

But of course, I just got distracted. What I wanted to say was that by being in the classroom, I get to see what Mrs. R. does. Yesterday, one of her lessons was the concept of enough. It was supposed to be a math lesson, but since I'm no longer five, I walked away with an entirely different way of looking at what Mrs. R. had to say. Either way, it worked.

"Do we have enough gingerbread men?" Mrs. R. asked the kids. "If we have six friends standing here [she calls all the students friends instead of students, or pupils, or kids], and we have four gingerbread men, are there enough? Pass them out and let's see."

Mrs. R. chose another child to pass out the construction sheet cookies to the friends who were standing.

"Let's see," she said. She let the children who were seated process what was in front of them. Many of the children were counting to themselves and it was easily apparent, because they could see the children standing in front of them, whether or not everyone had a cookie. "Oh no. We don't have enough, do we? And how many more do we need?" she asked.

The kids figured out that they needed two more gingerbread men in order to have enough. "Of course, 4 + 2 equals 6."

I was supposed to be taking each of the children, in their turn, out to the hallway, but when I was listening to the lesson, my mind wandered a little. It got me thinking about enough, which is completely appropriate to think of at this time of the year. Do we have enough? Of course my family does. We have enough and then some. We have more than enough space in our house; we have money in the bank, food on the table, clothes spilling out of the closets, and two running cars. I have time to volunteer and work on my books and enough time to sit and write this blog post. We have love and courage and hope and a positive attitude, which sometimes, we hope is enough.

Go ask yourself if you have enough. I'm not going to tell you what to do with your extras if you do, indeed, have enough, or more than enough. But I can at least encourage you to be grateful. I know I am. And this year, I'm especially thankful for Mrs. R. I wonder if she knows she's not just teaching the kindergarteners.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Easy

Melina was working on her math today, on a computer program called Dreambox.

Melina: This is easy.
Me: It's not always easy, Melina. As you keep going, it will get more difficult.
Melina: It's easy! (She sang this, which should be no surprise, considering her normal behavior.)
Me: Okay, but it will get harder.
Melina: It's easy! (Again, singing the words.)
Me: Okay.
Melina: I'm easy! (Third time singing.)
Me: I hope not.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The One About the Keys

I was born responsible. And logical. And trustworthy, full of common sense, competent. However you want to say it, with life's day to day events, I can get it done. (I would not use those words when it comes to me and say, Differential Equations, or Analytical Chemistry, or Latin, to name a few subjects that probably confound me.) So you know where this post is going, don't you? Well, let me recount a little story, exactly as it happened.

Yesterday, 4 pm.

I had just gotten back from picking Aaron up from piano. I collected my things from the car and looked at my purse, which sat in the bin between the two front seats. You should get that, I thought. But then I second guessed myself. Nah, leave it there. You need to drive to library tomorrow morning. And it's completely safe in the car. I paused, but then said to myself, Your extra key to the car is still in your purse, though. What if you lose your keys?

YES, WHAT IF THE COMPETENT LADY WHO KNOWS WHERE HER THINGS BELONG MISPLACES HER KEYS?

I should have listened to myself. Instead, I thought that I had my keys in hand, so I'd be okay.

BIG MISTAKE.

Today, 8:15 am.

Tim left early to get to a meeting, one at which I would not be able to contact him because I didn't know where on earth he actually was, but I knew he wasn't at his usual work building. Aaron and Melina had already gotten on the bus, and I was getting the girls and myself ready. I wanted to leave to do a few errands before I had to be at the elementary school library. So, we'd all practically be leaving together.
Z: Mom, have you seen my gloves?
Me: They should be upstairs in the basket or in the orange bins.
Z: They aren't upstairs.
Me: Okay (I start to rifle through the orange bins), well did you  look in here?
Z: Yes.
And this is where it gets really good.
Me: Well, if you just put things back where they belong, you wouldn't lose anything! You and your dad need to learn that lesson. That's why I usually put things back in their places. I don't waste as much time looking for things because I know where they are.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS.

I kissed the girls goodbye and watched them pile into Kelley's car. I locked the front door and went to get my keys. Which were not in either of the places that I usually leave them. And of course, my purse is locked in the car with the extra set of keys.

I'll shorten this lovely tale (and tell you to stop laughing at me). I called the school and told them I might not be there. I called my auto insurance guy who told me I had two options: call the police and they will come (free of charge) to help; or call the insurance company and they have free roadside assistance, too. I opted for the police, knowing that in this sleepy little town (and the fact that last week, I had spoken to a policeman on our street who said that not much usually happens around here, thank goodness) they might not be too busy. The police came and successfully opened my car door. I thanked them for their kindness and waved them off so that they could go do more important things with their day.

As an aside, one of the officers was the same one that attended the vehicle crash I was in this past August. He said, "Oh yes, I remember you. You're the one with the van and all those kids."

Yep, that's me. With all those kids, is it any wonder why I don't know where my keys are?

As another aside, I made it to the library with ten minutes to spare and then even got to the store for the few things I needed. Next up, I'm going for a run. I think I deserve it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Baking Day

I had planned to do some baking with a few friends today. Thankfully, that's all I had scheduled, as the kids had an unplanned day off (two inches of the white stuff, not enough to call off school, except for here, in the South, although we aren't really in the South), which meant I'd have four children inside the house (they didn't feel like heading out). After a few emails back and forth between my friends and me, we decided to go ahead with baking day as previously scheduled.

What was on the docket? A recipe we found on the one and only Facebook. You can find that recipe here. But the real question to ask is this: did the recipe turn out as great as everyone hyped it up to be?

Don't get me wrong, the cookies were good. But I wasn't entirely blown away by them. I wanted to be, really I did, and I loved the flavor that the browned butter brought out, but were these fantastic? Eh. Would I make them again? Yes, I would.

Now what was great was the company. So if you find yourself with an unplanned day off and you feel like doing some baking, come on over. I'd be happy to entertain any number of my friends. I have a whole pile of recipes to try.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bad Catholic II

I found out this weekend that my level of being a bad Catholic has escalated. I am so bad, I'm likely going to hell because I can't say I'm sorry.

What did I do?

Have you ever heard of a mortal sin? I'm sure many of you have. I found several definitions of a mortal sin, one of which comes from EWTN: "A serious, grave or mortal sin is the knowing and willful violation of God's law in a serious matter, for example, idolatry, adultery, murder, slander." That's heavy stuff, you know?

Well, according to the Catholic Church, birth control (including sterilization) is also a mortal sin. I knew this and I'm pretty sure you all knew this, too. So really it's no surprise and I'm just telling you something that you already know. And if you read this blog, you know that Tim went to have a vasectomy a couple of weeks ago.

Also, I tried birth control pills for 3 months way back at the start of our marriage. The little buggers gave me headaches, so I stopped taking them. But I had no qualms about taking the pills, knowing that they simply interfered with ovulation and made my uterus inhospitable (I actually do have an issue with any form of contraceptive that actively interferes with life already started.) and didn't think twice that I was sinning. The same can be said for what Tim refers to as hats (put your mind in the gutter and you'll know what these are). Sinners of the worst kind are we, right?

Well, in my mind, if we didn't use some form of birth control, then we'd likely have more children and more children would mean that I'd be overstressed and overworked and overtired and a horrible mother to each of those children, which would most likely cause issues of resentment and hostility in the lives we created. Chaos could ensue. The world could end because my children felt unloved and then unleashed those awful sentiments to others, causing a major spiral. Dramatic, yes. But you never know. And who can say which scenario -- birth control or unloved children -- is worse? (You obviously know which one I think is worse.)

So back to the whole mortal sin thing. Tim is the one that drew my attention to this next juicy morsel. In Tim's quest to find out what other sins (besides his vasectomy) actually qualify as mortal sins he found something called the marriage debt. No, it's not about money. It's about sex.

Our Lady of the Rosary Library states that the marriage debt "means that a married person is obliged, under penalty of mortal sin, to give his (or her) married partner sexual intercourse whenever it is reasonably asked for." There are acceptable reasons for refusing to have sex, and they are "adultery, sickness, drunkenness, insanity, non-support, danger to an unborn baby." 

So it's okay to be drunk but you can't tell your partner that you're too tired to have sex because you've been carting around his kids and making his life easier by cleaning and cooking and paying the bills? Hogwash, I tell you. Just hogwash.

Which all comes back to why I am a bad Catholic. I cannot accept these teachings. I just can't. It is not in my nature to think that God and Jesus and Mary and the Saints and all the wonderful people that are a part of the Catholic Church will look and me and say, "Well, she WAS a good one. But then, she asked her husband to get a vasectomy after years of sometimes saying no to sex with him. Forget about all the little things she does each day to make the world a better place. She said NO to him. Because she was tired!"

They wouldn't say this. Mary would be nodding her head in understanding and I'd like to really think that Jesus would tell me to go ahead and get some rest. Judge me all you want, all you really good Catholics. And you other people? I say that we listen to our guts and the God that we know exists (or not, if you are so inclined, considering you don't need to believe what I do) and keep living my life the way I am. I guess I'll see some of you in hell.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Cards II

About ten minutes ago, my friend Barbara helped me realize something about the holiday cards I probably won't be writing out this year.

"I only do photos, no writing," she said. "I don't have time."

She's right. We don't have time, unless we start writing the cards in July, which I have said I'd do before, but I didn't do this year. And while I LOVE photo cards (which means, keep them coming...I am not lying when I say this; in fact, I've blogged about it before), I cannot give them.

Because when I send holiday cards, I must WRITE in them. And not just a simple Happy Holidays, or Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or whatever it is you celebrate. I need to ask how the family is doing and tell you that we are fine; I need to find out how your jobs are treating you and tell you whether or not we'll be visiting your neck of the woods any time soon. AND, I need to personalize it. So I can't do an all-in-one letter (again, I LOVE those, too, but you already know that) because I would have to personalize that letter for each and every one of you.

So, we're back to the emails.

I think I better get going.

Friday, December 6, 2013

An Epic Movie

Melina: Aaron, do you want to watch Epic with lunch?
Aaron: We watched it yesterday, Melina.
Melina: I know, but I like it.
Aaron: Well, Melina. I like it, too, but it's kinda, not really, like, epic anymore.

In my opinion, it never was.  So glad the kids are starting to realize it!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Underwear

There are many things I said I'd never do when I was a mom. One of these things was to wear underwear with holes in them.

As a kid, I remember folding the clothes, carefully placing my mother's underwear into a pile. There were very few intact pairs. On most of them, the elastic was worn or the back had a hole in it. Yet still, she wore those panties.

What in the heck? I used to think. Why doesn't mom get new underwear?

Last night, I confirmed that I am, indeed, my mother's child and that apparently, I will wear underwear with holes in them. While folding my own clothes, I stumbled upon a pair of polka dot bikinis (I'm not so much like my mother; I refuse to wear briefs.) that had seen better days, for sure. The underwear had lost its luster, along with its elasticity and a few threads. While I should have thrown out the pair, I didn't. I folded it up and it's sitting, right now, in its home in my drawer.

I get it now. Why mom didn't buy new underwear. Why I don't buy new underwear. It's not that I don't have the money to head to Target and buy a new bag of Hanes. It's not that I couldn't even step it up and get a few more expensive pairs of underwear from the department store. It's that the concept of buying myself new underwear isn't on the list of things I need to do today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day. Buying new underwear won't win out over volunteering at school or reading with Melina. Making sure my undies are whole doesn't hold a candle to helping the girls with math homework or carting Aaron to piano. New underwear is the last thing on my list, behind dog doo and cat vomit.

Now, if Tim had any sense, he'd read this, head to Victoria's Secret, and pick me up some new, better, lovelier (I still like cotton, Timmy), underwear. He did get snipped, after all.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Two Little Owls

Two little owls,
sitting side by side.
Looking forward,
but always knowing
that the other one is there.
Two little owls.



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Cards

It's almost that time of the year where people being putting together holiday cards and sending out long notices of how the year went for them. With the cost of stamps, the number of cards we get each year has dwindled, and since I'm not the best person to send cards (we've had this conversation before), they don't always get out. This year, will I be sending cards? I'm not sure. Instead, I might be sending personalized emails.

I hear you, FRN, laughing in your chair. But I'm serious. I can do so much more with a personalized email than I can with pen and card right now. I'm so busy with everything, as we all are, that finding the time to choose a card, write the card, and get the stamps...well...none of that is likely to happen. However, getting up and sending out an email or two or three each day CAN occur; it's part of my life now.

Would I be starting a trend? Should I try it? I guess as long as I have the email addresses, why not. I think everyone would understand, don't you?


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Too Much Turkey

Thursday dinner: Turkey
Friday dinner: Leftover turkey
Saturday dinner: Turkey soup
Sunday dinner: Veggie chili with turkey
Monday dinner: Anything that doesn't involve turkey


Friday, November 29, 2013

Simple Recipe

Here's an easy and yummy way to make a store bought brownie mix just a bit better.

Take your brownie mix and use applesauce instead of the oil. If your brownie mix doesn't call for oil, add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup; it will add moistness. After stirring everything together, add some crushed up Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe Joe's. I added about 1 cup of the crushed cookies to a bowlful of brownies that would fill a 9 X 13 pan. Bake according to the directions on the box, but make sure you don't overbake.

After the brownies have cooled, frost the brownies. This recipe is delicious:

3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 tsp vanilla

Blend the sugar and the cocoa together in a bowl. Add the melted butter, milk, and vanilla to the sugar/cocoa blend. Beat for a few minutes until well blended. If you want richer and darker frosting, add about 1 T of coffee (or 1 tsp instant coffee) and more cocoa. For thicker frosting, adjust the amount of powdered sugar. This frosting is delicious for just about anything, and will be enough to frost an entire cake.

I've been tinkering with muffin mixes, too, and even the dollar muffin mixes can be made quite yummy with the addition of applesauce or mashed banana, vanilla, and chocolate chips or nuts. You might as well try it out, because you aren't out that much money if they don't work.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Eats

I sat down to write a short post and looked over at Lucy, who is sitting on the rug in the living room. He has his paws tucked under him and his back legs are up a bit, and truthfully, he resembles the turkey I seasoned yesterday. As much as I get angry at the poor beast (who yes, woke me up again, at 4:30 this morning), I would never mistake him for the bird when it comes time for cooking. Or would I?

Take that scary thought with you this Thanksgiving and I hope you have super happy one!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Questions

1. When did velour decide to make a comeback?
2. Whose bright idea was it?


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

China

Almost thirteen years and three months after our lovely wedding, I just got around to pulling the China we registered for out of the boxes. We had it stored in an upstairs linen closet, and when the kids saw the boxes, they asked to see the China. We don't have a China cabinet, and up until last month, when we were granted more cabinets with the remodel of the kitchen, we didn't have room in the kitchen for the China, either. I had toyed with the idea of selling it,  but realized that probably no one in this neck of the woods was looking for Lenox Federal Cobalt Platinum China. I wasn't completely sure I wanted to sell it anyway.

So out of the box the pieces came, and all of them now have a place on the top shelf of our corner cabinet. Melina is drinking tea out of one of the teacups right now, and she says she feels fancy. Tea might be the only use of the China that occurs for the next thirteen years and then some, but there was something about the moment, when I cracked open the boxes, that was just so sentimental, I'm glad that I was able to do it.

I thought of the people who cared enough to buy a place setting; I thought of the conversation I had with my mother, when she said I'd regret not registering for China (I didn't really want China, and knowing that it took me this long to open it, I don't think I would have regretted it, but who's to say.). I thought of that steamy September day when Tim and I and all the people who were important to us were able to party the afternoon away and then go on to have some drinks at the local watering hole. I thought of how different our life was then and how similar it is now: somethings have stayed the same, and others didn't.

I think if I'd have opened the boxes without the kids, I might have packaged them back up and listed the China on Craigslist. But seeing the wide eyes and smiles as we opened each box, the way the kids, all four of them, held the pieces in their hands, the way they gently placed a salad plate on top of the dinner plate and made sure that the tea cups were secure in their hands before coming down the stairs, the reverence in their actions. It meant something to me and reminded me that perhaps the China wasn't just another set of dinnerware. Perhaps it actually means something much more.

Bumps

Melina has a propensity to stick her finger up her nose. It started way back, when she had a slew of colds right in a row, and much of her mucus dried right up, inside said nose.

"I'm trying to get the dried mucus out," she always said.

"Don't put your finger in your nose," I always replied.

Well, Melina has gotten better about putting her finger in her nose, but every once in a while, I find that chubby little index finger attached to the right nostril. It happened again last week.

"I have a big piece of mucus in there, Mom," Melina said. "It hurts. Can you check it? It's a bump. A big bump."

"Let me give you a Kleenex and when I find a flashlight, I'll check it out," I said.

She was fine with that scenario and after I located a flashlight, I had Melina lie back against the pillows and took a look into her nostril. There was no mucus, only nose. The kid had been trying to go against a part of her nose that is supposed to be there. 

Now according to Melina, the bump has come and gone. What I think has happened is this: sometimes her mucus membranes are inflamed, and that's when the bump is bigger. I have no proof, but I plan on checking out this nose more often.

Just what I needed. Nose checks. I'll schedule those right in to my already very full days.




Sunday, November 24, 2013

Random Things

  • That the repetition of ONE WORD could make me laugh so much.
  • That I'd go back to Ann Arbor, enjoy the visit, but be happy to come back home to a place that is not Ann Arbor.
  • That I can seriously be chilled in a house, even though the thermostat is set at 70 degrees, which is higher than I keep it at our house.
  • That I'm looking forward to a week off at Thanksgiving because I can sleep in, even if it means I'll be sleeping only until 5:30 am.
  • That as much as I like our new, used car, and I'm grateful to the events that led to our acquisition of the car, I still miss my minivan, especially on longer trips.
  • That I might need to cave, soon, and purchase a phone that can do everything, even texting.


Friday, November 22, 2013

BUGS!

I despise bugs. It doesn't matter what kind. I JUST DON'T LIKE BUGS. I can look kindly at the innocuous ones, I've been known to scoot spiders outside, and I've had to kill wasps in my own home, with my own hands. I can deal with most of them, most of the time, but suppose you walk down to the basement, pull aside a boxspring, reach for a suitcase and realize that you are staring down a GIGANTIC cricket in the face. Don't you t;hink that might get to you? Trust me, it does, since I just did it.

We both survived. I scurried back up the stairs and shut the basement door. He went back to laughing at the crazy lady of the house.

P.S. Kelsey, you might be rolling your eyes at this post, but I'd be better off with a mouse. Seriously.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Competition

A rustling sound drifts down the stairway,
alerting me that Little Red is awake.
I hear the thump of still-small feet as they hit the wood floor
then scamper down the hallway,
before meeting up with the carpet of my bedroom
where the noise is snuffed as quickly as a candle.
I wonder how long it will be
until Little Red figures out that I'm not in the warm and cozy bed.
I'm downstairs, hunched over a computer, trying to find some time to myself
before the bustle of four kids and a still-sleepy husband
interrupt my story and force me to place it on hold, for a little while.
It's not long after the first sound
that a light hand snakes around my middle,
a warm forehead snuggles into my side,
and green, still-tired, eyes look up at me.
A shy smile erupts across his face,
causing his freckles to twist and turn against his alabaster skin.
I know what he wants.
I pretend that it's me, and my hugs,
and the scatter of smooches I will press to his forehead.
But I know better.
Because Little Red is an easy-to-read nine-year-old.
He wants an early-morning turn on Minecraft.
It's difficult to compete when you're up against a computer.




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Journeys

This is what I call a cop-out post. Something I already said via some other form of social media and then plunked here, counting it as a post. But I'm not participating in NaBloPoMo, so it shouldn't matter, right?

I'm really just sharing this tidbit again because I want to remember this day. The day that Melina drew a picture and then wrote, in her kindergarten way: Hi. We wil hav a wundrfl jrne.

She ran over, held the paper up to me, a huge smile on her face. I gulped. I looked at my fourth child and leaned over and squeezed her. I inhaled the scent of her hair and willed a few tears to go away. If I had even tried to imagine the journey we would go on from the moment she was born, I could never have done it justice. I'm proud to have her in my life and can't wait to see just how wonderful our journey with her will be.

Sniff.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Story Questions

When I started a story back in the summer of 2012, it was because one incident at the local Kroger inspired it. I remember the event; I remember coming home and furiously pounding on the keyboard for a few moments to get out a beginning; I remember going back and filling in some details and then finding a groove for a few weeks.

I eventually started other book ideas, when I wasn't sure where the story should go, but I'd come back to it from time to time. Piece by piece things started coming together and a story about Sadie, Theo, and Andrew began to develop.

A month or two ago, I had point A and point B, but I still wasn't sure exactly how the novel was going to get from point A to point B. But I  knew that I wanted to find out. I challenged myself to get done with a draft. It didn't have to be a spectacular one, but it needed to be done. And so I did. I put forth a huge effort and sat, tirelessly, as the words began to flow. And a very strange thing happened. Actually, it isn't so strange. It's the same thing that occurs every time I sit and write: a story develops that I didn't know was there. As if my characters know what they are going to do and they plan on surprising me.

The surprise this time is that one of my characters has ALS. I won't say what happens or who it is, but because of the severity of the disease, the disease itself actually becomes a character in the story to some degree. It effects all persons of the family and each person must make adjustments and respond. When I sat down yesterday to do some tweaking of the novel, I realized that without doing a lot of research on ALS, I'd never be able to tell the entire story, the right story.

So my mission has been defined. In order to get that story I want, I need to make sure I get the facts correct. As a scientist, I would be doing an injustice if I didn't dig deep and find out the current and most trustworthy information, and as a writer, I wouldn't be credible without doing so. It will be a long and daunting process, gathering information from patients, caretakers, physicians and the like, but I am so excited, I can't stand it. I found myself eagerly wanting to begin yesterday, but realizing that I had to get some help, first. Hence, a Facebook plea and some great leads.

The novel won't be done for a quite a while, now, but in the end, I think it will be a much richer, far more profound account than I ever anticipated at the beginning. At least, I can hope.

The moral of this story? Always keep your eye open for story ideas. They have the possibility of morphing into something completely unexpected.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Listen to Your Elders

I love social media. Gasp. Did I just say that? I did. At first, I was wary, but good things can happen because of people who know how to use social media in the right way. Of course, bad things can happen, too, but I've turned into a half-full sort of person, and I'd like to stay here. So Pffft.

While I'm not that into different forms of social media, you know that I at least have a Facebook and Twitter account, both of which I check regularly. And though I'm often behind the times, i.e. True Facts by Ze Frank (argh, there I go again, laughing), I eventually do get to see what everyone else who is plugged in all day see.

So this morning, as I was sipping my coffee, I opened up Facebook and saw a post by an elementary school friend of a TED talk. If you've never seen one of these, you should. They. Are. Phenomenal. This one in particular showed a video of Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist who researched what makes people successful and found that the answer is grit.

Grit. The stuff that you put between tiles? No, that's grout. Grit. It's hard work, perseverance, the ability to commit to something and see the whole project through. The video is worth watching, really, because I find some people subscribe to the theories that money, or nepotism, or IQ are the means to success. According to Duckworth, they aren't.

What I found most interesting, though, is the way the video was linked in Facebook. It said that her findings were surprising. To whom? To her? I find that hard to believe. Duckworth might have found it surprising that she was able find a correlation instead of simply anecdotal evidence, but haven't we (including Duckworth) known all along that elbow grease does the job? How many parents have said to their kids, "Hard work and determination are the keys to success." Who doesn't try to instill a good work ethic in their children? We've known what Duckworth says for a very long time, but I guess we just didn't have the data to show it.

All the octogenarians out there are sitting in their rockers, nodding their heads and saying I told you so. Sometimes it helps to listen to the elders.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Science Fair Projects

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE REMOVE ALL CHILDREN OF READING AGE FROM IN FRONT OF YOUR COMPUTER. THANK YOU.

Aunt Maria messaged me this morning. "Chris, can you ask Tim if he has any ideas for science fair projects? We have until January but the topic is due tomorrow. Thanks."

I passed the message on, but thought I'd check to see what I could find on Google. I Googled cool science fair projects, but I wanted to see pictures, so I ran it through the imaging option.

I found a bunch of nice pictures, complete with smiling kids standing in front of prize-winning (or not) science fair projects. Some of my favorites? Keep reading.

DISCLAIMER (2ND WARNING): HAVE YOUR KIDS MOVE FROM THE ROOM, NOW, OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES!

Do you know where this is going? I was hard-pressed to figure out how old some of the kids standing in front of the projects were, but I do know that they weren't old enough to use these words, ever. Okay, maybe the girls with the first project were, but that was really the most mild one I saw.

And here they are, in no particular order.

1. Music and Sex
2. Bitches Ain't Shit
3. I Hate My F***ing Braces (my asterisks, not theirs)
4. Fellatio, Do Not Swallow
5. Who's Your Daddy, 2nd Year

So what happened to baking soda volcanoes, or putting celery into food coloring? Those are still cool, right?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Driving

I'm adding a little extra caffeine to the decaf/regular mix this morning because it is the first Plot Sisters' Road Trip!

I'm leaving my house at 5:30 to go meet up with my group and we're heading to our first writing conference together.

Woo-hoo!

And Good Luck, Tim.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Still Laughing...

"Mom, can we see True Facts about the Chameleon?" Zoe said.
"Please?" Talia added.
"Ten seconds. Only ten seconds. That's all you need," I replied.

They only asked to see it because they knew I'd end up hysterically laughing, which I did. And the girls had me repeat the first ten seconds at least three times. By that point, my face was down on the table, tears streaming down my face.

I'm gonna need a little help here...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Real Problems

I was lamenting the fact that I had to have PB & J for lunch today. Some people would kill for a sandwich of that caliber. I know that. The kids go to school with children who wouldn't even have that as an option at home because there are no options at home. And here I was whining that I'd be stuck with PB & J.

You might wonder why I'm stuck with it. I certainly could go to the pantry and fix something else, right? Well, here's the story:

I started getting the lunches ready this morning (Yes, I need to force these children to help with their lunches, but at night, that is the last thing on my mind, so in the morning, in a rush, I usually ask them to put part, but not all, of the lunch together.) and realized it would, indeed, be another PB kind of day. I whistled as I slapped the PB on, and then scraped the last of the J out of the jar. I pushed the sandwiches into the boxes and figured that I'd make Tim a sandwich, too. (Tim is not so good about making his own lunch, or eating regularly, for that matter.) I went to find his container (he uses Melina's pink princess sandwich box) and realized it was still in his lunch bag. And that he still had a sandwich from yesterday inside the container.

Argh. I groaned. Loudly, I might add. Because a not-eaten PB & J in the box meant that he didn't need a new one, and that I would need to eat the new one, because I don't like throwing food away.

I can appreciate PB and J, I really can. But I need to be in the mood for one. And I could tell that today, I just wouldn't be. Call it a hunch, call me Velma. But no PB & J was in the plans for me today.

When I mentioned it to Tim this morning, he said, "So I'll eat two of them today." What? Really? "One for a snack and the other for lunch." Somehow, I forgot that I lived with the person who ate a PB & J sandwich every school day from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Well, that solved the problem now, didn't it? Tim's the hero of the day, and I still feel bad about whining over a sandwich.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Good and the Bad

The good news: as of yesterday, I have a finished first draft of my manuscript.
The bad news: I have so many unanswered questions, that it might as well not really be called finished.

In my mind, however, it helps to know that I have told a story from beginning to end. That there is a start, a series of events where the plot unfolds, the struggle, the climax, and then conclusion to the story. If all of that is on the paper, then my work constitutes a first draft. See how I make myself feel better every day? The little things, people, the little things.

So the rest of this month, I will go back and figure out the answers to questions such as:
1. What purpose does Karen serve in the story?
2. What do they do about Charlie and testing?
3. What about the other kids, Lexie and Delia? Should they play more paramount roles?
4. What the heck happened to Pickles Martin?!?

I'm confident I can address some of these and at least get a somewhat more pulled together draft by the end of November. If I do it the right way, I could very well have added almost 50,000 new words to this book, in one month. My own personal version of NaNoWriMo. Wish me luck, friends. I'm going to need it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

True Facts

Have you looked into Ze Frank's True Facts series on YouTube? If you don't have two hours to waste, don't even bother Googling it, for if you do, those two hours will spiral out of control and be gone within what feels like minutes.

On the other hand, if you want a good laugh (and by laugh I mean the tear forming, gut splitting kind), then look them up. You will find out so many important things, such as:

1. How to correctly pronounce the word chameleon. (I haven't watched the chameleon video since last week, and here I am, laughing again at the memory of how the narrator first pronounces chameleon. I don't want to ruin the fun. Just go here.)
2. That male ducks have corkscrew penises and that female ducks, in turn have corkscrew vaginas.
3. Tarsiers have very large eyes, each one of which is heavier than the brain.
4. The three-toed sloth actually has one more finger than the two-toed sloth. (Ze Frank, of course, makes fun of this misnomer.)
5. Land snails have love darts, which are stored in the dart sac. (Really, go here. You need to see this one.)

Five is a good place to stop because as I write this, I find myself watching these little videos, again, and every time I do, I've lost another two minutes and 47 seconds of the time I have alone. Which reminds me, DO NOT check these videos out with your children in the room, unless you really want them to know that the fruit bat has gigantic testicles or that the mantis, due to it's ability to turn it's head 180° would be the "only insect able to enjoy live tennis or some forms of pornography."

Snort.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day of the Vet

Every year since we moved here, Veteran's Day has meant one thing to our household: the day we take the pets to the veterinarian. It wasn't a thing we planned to do the first year, but when we found out that Tim had the day off and the cats had to get to the vet, it was easier for him to do it than for me to take twin cats and twin girls to the vet. The next year, we had twin cats, twin girls, and a redhead little man to account for. Little red was only 10 days old on Veteran's Day, and I had no plans on taking him out. Thus the tradition, of Tim taking the animals to the vet, was born.

This morning, as I stood at the veterinarian with Lucy and Shadow (now down one cat and up one dog), I realized we need to change our ways. It's fine to know that each Veteran's Day we'll be taking in the pets, but it's more important to start the day with a remembrance of what Veteran's Day actually is and who it honors.

So next year, we might still drag the animals in for their yearly check ups, but it certainly won't be until we've had a discussion with the kids at the breakfast table. We'll talk about our veterans, what they've done, how they've been affected by their jobs, how we all take so many things, like freedom, for granted. I'll be sure to put the veteran back in Veteran's Day, at least in this household.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Love and Romance

Here's a snippet of an email I received the other day:

Do you use your imagination to come up with better than real life romantic heroes? Do you fantasize about perfect love or forbidden love? You can embrace your passions and turn your daydreams into written stories. The WDU workshop Essentials of Romance Writing will teach you how to shape your ideas into a readable story.

Yes, yes, yes! I thought. Only because I skipped over (inadvertently) the part that stated the title of the workshop, Essentials of Romance Writing.

So no, no, no. Because writing romances has never been on my list of topics about which I'd like to write. I cringe at the thought of stringing together sentences that should make people swoon. When I critique my writing friends' work, you can tell the moment I reach a romantic scene: my faces flushes and I scrunch up my shoulders, EVEN THOUGH NO ONE ELSE IS IN THE ROOM.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a current manuscript of mine revolves around a forbidden love and the struggle my character has when faced with an attraction she never went looking for. Holy cats, it could be a romance novel. Who knew?

I have no plans to go back, tweak it, and write the manuscript as a romance. I'd probably need to get to the chiropractor if I did, so that he could dig my shoulders out from underneath my ears.