Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's a Winner

We love bananas, but we're not always good about eating them before they turn brown. So, I'm always on the lookout for good banana recipes. I found one I'm pleased with, and I'm happy to share it. I found the original recipe at Simply Recipes, but here it is, just in case you're too lazy to take yourself over there.

This recipe is for cookies. I'm sure you could place the dough in a sheet pan and make it into bar cookies. The banana flavor isn't overwhelming and the cookie is light and airy. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (or softened in the microwave)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 ½ large bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (walnuts or pecans or whatever else you might think of)  
Steps:

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; add the egg and beat until the mixture is again light and fluffy.
2 In another small bowl, mix the bananas and baking soda. Let sit for about 2 minutes. (This is to help the acid in the banana react with the soda to make bubbles, which will lift the cookies.)
3 Pour the banana mixture into the butter mixture and stir. Mix together the flour, salt, and spices and sift into the butter and banana mixture. Then, mix until just combined.
4 Fold into the batter the chips. Drop in spoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How Not to Repair an Oven: 4

We had a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year. That's a topic I'll tackle in a later post, but I will say this: I'm glad we went the non-traditional route because I have no confidence in my oven's ability to work. Who wants a turkey that's only partially cooked? Not us.

You can call me a skeptic, but I'll call myself realistic. You can call me pessimistic, I'll still call myself realistic. And just to shut you up, I'll tell you that the oven, once again, emitted the F10 error yesterday.

Yes, that's right. In the middle of baking some frozen pizza, the bells and whistles rang. And you know what I did...jumped on that phone and made yet another repair appointment. Which means we will have the lovely repair people come out one more time to check my oven. This time, it will be to replace the temperature sensor.

What's after that? I'm not sure. We could keep this dance up...they replace parts, I use the oven, the error rings, I call them back. But at some point, the powers-that-be will have to realize that the best course of action is to simply replace the entire oven.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday

Conversation as we put up the Christmas tree:
Talia: Are we heading out for Black Friday?
Me: No.
Aaron: Is that the day we can't eat meat?
Me: No.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratefulness

One thought for this Thanksgiving Day (as shared from DulyPosted.com):



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tell Me How You Really Feel: 11

The kids have been home for a couple of days. With that thought in mind, I might have something to say about spending most of my time with the kids. I don't. Except that it would be nice if I had vacation days at the same time they do. That only happens over Christmas (we all have the two weeks off then), so I'm just grateful the girls are old enough to watch everyone else. I can go to work. They can stay home. All's right with the world.

So what do I have to say today? I have a question. About the American Express card. Every once in a while, Tim receives an application for the card in the mail. I don't get those same invitations, presumably because I don't make enough money to warrant owning their card. Who knows. Here's my question: What's so special about the card? Why should Tim want to apply for one? Most places I visit don't even take American Express, so again, what's so special about the card?

Does anyone out there have one? Do you get more rewards? Do you feel as though you are a more important part of society because you own one? Is it worth owning the card?

I tore up the invitation, which was written on thicker paper than I used for my wedding invitations. (I'm guessing the money they charge for an annual fee goes toward the cost of that paper.) I then tossed the pieces into the recycling bin because we have no interest in yet another credit card. Unless that card does something really fantastic, like allow us to time travel.

And that's how I really feel.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Eyes Wide Open

Danger, Will Robinson! This post is not for the young. Or those who might be easily offended by pop culture references. Or by those who are simply prudish. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The twins are voracious readers who read just about anything we allow them to read. About a year ago, they said, "Can we read Looking for Alaska?" Since I enjoyed that book (and you know about my obsession with John Green), I said they could. And then I remembered the Crest Complete Incident. If you're not sure what that incident might be, Google "Crest Complete Looking for Alaska" and you'll see what I mean. Was it my proudest moment, allowing my girls to read about oral sex? No, it was not. But in classic John Green style, much of what he said was completely lost on them. (Not that he's a bad writer. Clearly, I'm his biggest fan. But the man writes scenes in such a way that sometimes, the innocent are spared exactly what he's talking about.) In fact, they had to ask me exactly what the scene was about, and because I try to be open with my children, I explained it to them.

Anyway, we now use the Crest Complete Incident as the standard around here for whether or not the girls can read a book. Imagine a flow chart with the words, Is it worse than Crest Complete? at the top, and underneath that, If yes --> Can't read; If no --> Can read. A good example of what constitutes No in our house would be New Adult novels like those written by Colleen Hoover. They are chock full of graphic sex scenes, which are not meant for young teens, at least in my opinion. (Of course, New Adult targets readers 18 and older, but you know how many kids are...they like to read up.)

So today, we went to the library. We picked out some books for everyone, and headed home. After dinner, a twin who shall remain nameless called to me. "Hey Mom, can you come here? What does this mean?" She showed me the book she had been reading, a novel by Lauren Myracle called ttyl. The entire novel is written in texts, from the point of view of tenth graders, and to be honest, I hadn't realized she picked it up. "Look, right here," she said and pointed to the words. And there, on page 11, it said:
SnowAngel: well, she said that margaret. . . er . . . ejaculates
mad maddie: WHAT?!!!
SnowAngel: well, actually she said she squirts when she comes. and then she was like, "shit, i can't believe i told u. u've gotta swear not to tell, terri, u've gotta swear!" while the whole time i was 2 sinks over going "HELLO! do u even know i'm here?"
Yeah, I'm not sure if the twin was stuck on the word ejaculates, or she wasn't sure what it meant by the phrase when she comes. But in those few seconds, I determined that this book had surpassed the Crest Complete Incident. Not only is the book inappropriate for the twins, hell, the book isn't appropriate for me! Call me sheltered, but I didn't know what it meant to come in tenth grade!! (I knew about ejaculation, as even then, I was an A & P fanatic.)

I'm sure you're wondering how I reacted, right? Here comes another fine parenting moment. I took the book away from her, laid it on the library book shelf in our home, and told her that I'd explain what the words meant but that I wouldn't allow her to read the book. (Yes, that was the okay portion of the moment. The part where you nod your head and pump your fist in the air and say, "Yes! She's a great mother! Go Chris!") Then, I pulled my worn copy of Flowers in the Attic off the shelf and tossed it to her. "You want to read crap? Then read this," I said. Apparently incest with few details is less disturbing in my mind than tenth graders who've had sex.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blog Value

A few days ago, I read an article about the value of a blog. (I can't find the article right now, but when I do, I'll link to it.) Put VALUE and MY BLOG into one sentence, and I have to laugh. Why? Because I've never thought about what value my blog has. I write because I want to write, I want to practice writing, I want to share thoughts and stories with the few people willing to read them. And, I want to remember certain moments in our lives.

But does this blog have value? I'm not sure. And do I care? Furthermore, should I care? I probably should, but at this time in my life, I don't have extra minutes to worry about whether or not my blog has value. So, I won't. (Although the topic might be a great one to return to someday.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Good Words

Years ago now, I discovered the poet, Rumi. I found him in what I thought was a very unlikely place: between the pages of a book categorized as Juvenile Fiction. Since that time, I often find myself Googling his sayings, because just one look at them can inspire me to write.

In my quest to find something the other day, I found the beautiful quote below. And thankfully,  I know exactly where to use it.

I want to see you.

Know your voice.

Recognize you when you
first come 'round the corner.

Sense your scent when I come
into a room you've just left.

Know the lift of your heel,
the glide of your foot.

Become familiar with the way
you purse your lips
then let them part,
just the slightest bit,
when I lean in to your space
and kiss you.

I want to know the joy
of how you whisper
"more”

Friday, November 21, 2014

How Not to Repair an Oven: 3

This story is becoming tiresome and predictable. And yet I report it. I just have to, because some day, I could see this segment of my life as part of a bad sitcom. Yes, yes I can.

Mr. Repairman showed up Wednesday afternoon. Third afternoon for repair--third different repairman.
Him: You've got the parts the company sent?
Me: Yes. Here they are.
Him: Great.
Me: If you need something, I'll be in the dining room with the dog. Not that I can help you fix this or anything...
Him: [Laughs] Thanks.
Shadow and I retreated to the dining room, where I promptly sat down to read a book. I listened to the small racket in the kitchen, and when I heard a beep, I knew he'd replaced the control panel. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the man called for me to tell me he was done.
Him: So that's it. Let me check that the oven works.
Me: Okay, well, let's just say that I use the oven, and I get the error again.
Him: You shouldn't. I replaced the control panel.
Me: All right.
If you know me, my behavior was predictable. Of course, I looked at the negative side of things. It's a trait I share with two sisters and many ancestors!! But if you know my writing, then you know why I'm saying this story is predictable.

Because yes, the man left at 3:00 p.m. At 5:15 p.m., after setting the oven, baking the food, and turning the oven off, the error code rang again. F10! F10! I ran down to the basement and flipped the circuit breaker--the only way to get the beeping to stop.

And then, I called the company.
Me: A repairman left about two hours ago. But my oven blasted the error again.
Company: It did?
Me: Yes, it did.
Company: Do you want me to see if they can come back?
Me: Well, I'd like to use my oven again. But I have to get my kids to singing lessons. I'll be back at 6:15 if they want to come again tonight.
Company: Okay, I'll let dispatch know.
No one returned that evening. And by the next morning (yesterday), I thought I better call them, just in case they had some information.
Me: Hi. I had a repairman come out yesterday to fix my oven. Even though he replaced the control panel, I used the oven and got the error again.
Him: You did?
Me: Yes, I did.
Him: Huh. Let me look at this...
Me: And last night, the company said they might send someone back out but they didn't. That's okay, I just want to be able to use my oven.
Him: I can understand that. Well...let's see...okay. You have a new control panel, right?
Me: Yes.
Him: Did you flip the circuit breaker after it was installed?
Me: No, the repairmen never said to do that. But I did have to flip the breaker yesterday after it errored, so yes, by now, the breaker has been flipped.
Him: Sometimes, that circuit needs to be switched off after installing a new panel. It sort of resets the system.
Me: Okay. Since I've flipped it already, I'll use my oven today and see how it goes. But it would have been a really nice thing for the repairman to tell me that.
Him: Yes.
Me: I'll call back if I have any more problems.
Him: Have a nice day.
In the end, I used my oven twice yesterday, and so far, no error. I'm hoping this new control panel was the problem. However, I sense a pattern with this company: part of the error comes with the repairmen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tell Me How You Really Feel: 10

Can that be right? Can we possibly be at ten of these posts? Somehow, time has marched on and left me behind. Ten? Excuse me for moment as I rub my eyes and come to grips with that number.

Okay, thank you. I'm done marveling at how many weeks can pass so quickly.

Yesterday, I received this email from an old colleague at University of Michigan. It read:
Chris: I proposed your name as an alumna I'd like to see featured in this year's newsletter. I should have written sooner to ask if you'd be willing to write a short paragraph about what you've been up to in the last umpteen years but I didn't. So, are you interested and would you be willing?
Two thoughts popped into my head the moment I finished reading the email. 1. I missed the person who wrote the email and I wished I'd have kept in better contact with her. (If you're reading this, A, perhaps we can try to catch up.) 2. What would the Physiology department have to say about me?

I've had this discussion here before, I think, although I'm too lazy to check it when and where. But I've often wondered how much of a waste people over at UM think I am. You see, in academia, the logical course to follow is to finish the Ph.D., move on to a post-doctoral research position, and then accept a job at a university and build your own lab (the kind that performs research). I can't tell you how many people we heard from in gradute school who followed that course. I'm sure most members of the department thought that when I entered the program, I would also continue down that pathway. Hell, I think I even figured that's what I would do.

But then, two circumstances arose. 1. Early on in graduate school, I taught a laboratory section of an Anatomy & Physiology course at the local community college. 2. I met and married Tim and got pregnant. (Yes, in that order, although I realize that order isn't right for everyone. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but then again, this is Tell Me How You Really Feel day.)

I'm pretty certain that even if the second item above hadn't happened, I'd still have found myself in the teaching arena. From the moment I set foot on that community college, I felt at home. A surge of excitement would blast through me as I'd stand at the front of the class, expounding on the cell membrane or pointing to the sphenoid bone. It's a feeling of pure joy and one that I still experience many times in lab, or when I speak about muscle and nerve in lecture. I love the feeling. It works for me. Emphasis on me.

And you know how I feel about writing. *Swoon*

So the questions I wonder about with respect to my old department are these: Do they see me as a good representative for the alumni newsletter? Will they be proud to know that I successfully balance teaching, parenting, and writing? I'm a good candidate for an alternative career, that's for certain, but I haven't even made money off of my writing (yet), and you know that parenting doesn't pay in anything but hugs, kisses, and love.

In the end, I wrote back the following:
So good to hear from you. What a blast from the past.

I'd be happy to send a blurb, although many will be disappointed at my lack of illustrious science career! However, my feet are content to be where they are.
That's the truth. And that's how I really feel.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Horsing Around

The twins are good math students, but they are sloppy math students. Yes, I can say that. I'm their mother, and I'm not saying anything that they don't already know. Because of that sloppiness, they make mistake after mistake, and seldom take the time to fix them. Both girls usually know what they are supposed to do with a math question. Execution of that question is, well, what I question. Therefore, the girls (along with a few friends) have been heading in to school early on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays to spend some time with their math teacher. They enjoy the early morning time with her, and have found it beneficial. I, too, have found the time to be helping. Their confidence in their ability to do math has grown.

Yesterday when I came home from bringing Aaron and Melina to piano and singing lessons, Zoe confronted me in the kitchen.

"Mom, I have to tell you something," she said.

The look in her eyes told me much of what I needed to know: they held a level of discomfort that wasn't normal for Zoe. "Okay, what it is?"

"Well, this morning, Mrs. S. had to be called out for a meeting. So we were left in the room by ourselves..."

I could only imagine where this was going. What had the girls done?

"And so we were talking about horses and our friend started galloping and then we did, too. We galloped around the room." Zoe maintained eye contact with me the entire time. I felt good about that fact.

"Well," I said. "And what happened?"

"Mrs. S. came back in, we got in trouble, and we're banned from coming in early for a while." Zoe didn't cry, but I could see a tiny tear hovering at the corner of her eye.

"How long is the ban?" I asked.

"I'm not sure."

I could see every side of the situation easily. As a teacher, I can appreciate the fact that you want to maintain calm in your classroom and that if you leave the room for a moment or two, the children inside should remain seated. She's coming in early to help these girls. They disrespected her. As having been a 12-year-old girl, I understood how one might see a friend and decide to do what she's doing. Why not gallop around the room and have some fun? As a mother, I had two things go through my mind. Yes, the girls made the wrong choice. They should not have horsed around at school even though school was not in session. But if you're going to get in trouble for something, I am thankful it was for galloping around the room. There are so many other instances that could occur in middle school, right?

I told Zoe I was proud of her for telling me. I knew that it was difficult for her to get the words out. Talia admitted that, even though I'm not a yeller, she thought I might yell at them.

"Why would I do that? The punishment is two-fold," I said. "First, Zoe had to find the guts to tell me about this, which she did. Thank you again. And now, you need to work harder on math all on your own."

They both nodded their heads in agreement and told me they planned on making apology letters to take in to Mrs. S.

When Tim came home, he said to the girls, "If you never got in trouble, we'd question if you were okay." I'm not sure the girls understood what that meant, but I think he's right. I also think that we've learned a lesson about behavior at school: the teachers don't tolerate much anymore. But discussing that topic is for yet another post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Simple Reminder

Over at HuffPost Parents, Oren Miller (stay at home dad and blogger) does a nice job of telling us what he knows. Miller has Stage 4 lung cancer, which means that he most likely doesn't have long to live. He's written a beautiful, compelling, from-the-heart post that reminds us to live in the moment because those moments can be cut short or even taken away.

We need to be reminded of that fact. Often. And since you're all my friends, I'm taking it upon myself to remind you.

You KNOW what I'm going to say, right? (I guess I don't need to say it then.) Well I will anyway.

Do not wait until dire circumstances arise to live your life the way you want to. (I'm not saying that Miller did that.) You need to take up the bucket list before it becomes a bucket list. (I'm not only predictable...I'm repetitive. I'm CERTAIN I've said this all before.)

Kiss your partner in the rain if you so desire.

Play with your children instead of doing the dishes.

Make snow angels with the neighbors.

Write that novel you've got brewing in your brain.

Learn Mandarin.

Go bungee jumping or sky diving.

Travel the seven seas.

Live every moment as if that moment were your last moment. With joy. With good intentions. With love.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Foiled Again

As much as I try to put most lunch items into reusable containers, there are a few times that I need to use conveniences like aluminum foil. A few hours ago, as I prepared lunches for the day, that was the case. Aaron's lunch box was almost full, and the piece of banana bread wouldn't fit if I put it into a container.

So I reached for the foil. I'm not a big believer in brand names, so the foil we currently have in the drawer came from Shnucks. If you've never had the pleasure of visiting a Shnucks, don't cry. It's no different than any other grocery store chain, really. But they're found west of Indianapolis and east of Kansas City, so maybe you've never encountered one before. Why do I have foil from this place? Because we attended a family reunion in Columbia, Illinois (another place you might not be familiar with), and our kids wanted to make hats on the drive home.

Yes, you read that right. The kids wanted to make hats out of aluminum foil. So on the way out of Coumbia--and anticipating at least a six hour journey home--we stopped at Schnucks for 200 square feet of aluminum foil. That's a lot of hats!

As it turns out, our kids didn't make too many hats that afternoon (hence the box of foil in my drawer) but when I tell people that story, they laugh. "You really stopped to get foil?" they say. "Yes, we did," I reply. "That's pretty cool," they say. "Yes it is," I reply.

But I have to ask this: if those people brought their own foil on their next long trip, maybe their kids would make hats, too. Or maybe something else: boats, the Eiffel Tower, a whole universe full of planets and stars, or a Christmas village. We don't own portable DVD players, and we don't usually bring the tablet with us on vacations. Our kids are forced to read, sing, play I Spy, color/draw or yes, make foil hats out of the wrappings of their lunches. Creativity in the car? It can be done and done well. You should have seen some of those hats.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dress Shopping

The girls and I shopped today for a few items, including boots and a dress for me. I'm not a big shopper. In fact, I hate shopping, but that discussion is for another post. As I slid the dress over my head and smoothed the fabric down, I thought to myself, Yes, this could work. However, I wasn't convinced. Until Talia piped up, "Mom, from the back you look like a teenager."

That comment sealed the deal...what forty-something mother doesn't want to look younger than she is? And I think that the store should hire my girls.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How Not to Repair an Oven: 2

I blocked out the hours of 1-5 p.m. on Wednesday so the repair man could come check out the oven. Again. I only hoped that it was not the same repair man. When the van pulled up to the house and an unfamiliar face opened the driver's side door, I pumped my fist in the air.
Him: So you're having trouble with your oven again?
Me: Yes. I used it, and the temperature reached 400 degrees, stayed there for about 10 minutes, and then, the oven beeped with the F10 error.
Him: Oh. F10. That's a control panel error.
Me: Really? A control panel error? F10 means control panel error.
Him: Yes.
Me: So the other guy didn't have a clue what he was talking about, did he?
Him: [Laughs.] I can't say that...
Me: No, you can't, but I can.
In the end, the repair man stayed for two minutes. He checked my receipt and verified that I had purchased a protective agreement (and thank goodness I had, for apparently the control panel repair will be costly). He didn't have those parts on his truck, though. The parts need to be sent to us, and then he'll come back and fix the control panel of the oven.

I opened the front door so he could leave.
Me: Will you be back next week to fix this for us?
Him: Well, it could be the other guy.
Me: Uh...
Him: [Laughing] He does know how to install parts.
Good to know sir, Good to know. I'm still hoping to see this second man back here next week. And I'm going to ask him to look at the wires the other guy messed with. I don't want to have to call and have them come out and check my oven again because some wires are loose at the back.

Moral of the story? Never be afraid to admit when you don't know something. The first guy could have called his colleague to verify the problem, which means my oven would be working by now.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Best Dog Ever

Shadow waits by the back door when he needs to go outside. He doesn't bark or whine to let me know that his bladder is full. He simply rests there, without making a sound, until someone (namely me) notices him. If the urge to go is overwhelming, he might say something: a small groan or moan that means, "Hey, I'm waiting. Please come open the door."

He's the only being in this house that doesn't demand something from me. To be able to claim that spot on my list is a huge thing, although he doesn't know it.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Shadow. He turned ten over the summer, which means we've had him for seven years. (He arrived the summer before Melina did, and I can't imagine not having either of those two stars in my life.) Turning ten also means that he's getting older and won't be with us all that much longer: the average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is 11 years, although they can live to be between 12 and 15 years, if you're lucky. As with any animal I live with, I want all of the years of their lives to be productive, happy, years. Right now, Shadow is a lumpy mess (Goldens tend toward the acquisition of lumps all over their bodies as they age) and he's having more trouble getting up from the floor, but he's still in overall decent health. Is it good health? I can't be sure. But I know that with four rug rats who love him and two adults who give him great hugs each day, he's got to be happy. He says so with the bounce that's still in his step when Tim comes home and the way he runs out the door to play with the kids.

I've realized, though that I'm not necessarily happy. The more time I spend around here (Tuesdays and Thursdays, to be exact...my days off) the more I understand how much I'm going to miss this dog when he's gone. Sure, the loss of this dog will hurt us all, but in the grand scheme of our days, I spend the most time with him. He listens to my complaints about the oven repair, he hears me sing as I vacuum. He watches for the bus for me when I need to use the bathroom and keeps me company on gloomy days when my magic rainbow fleece doesn't seem to work. When I'm cold and lonely and tired and crabby, all I need to do is extend my hand to his head and rub it. Shadow closes his eyes, much like I would do if I were having a massage. He leans into my hand and stays there. I believe he'd stay there all day if he could.

Shadow rivals my childhood dog, Holly, the one who, until now, held the place of Gold Standard for dogs. Each time the kids wrap their thin arms around Shadow's head or midsection, I remember so many instances of when he earned the Best Dog Ever title: how he laid down with the kids for a picnic, but didn't steal the food; when he sat next to Melina as a baby--a two-week-old baby--and simply sat, staring at the little beast before him; all the times his gentle nature made it easy to be around him. There are too many memories to count, but yet not enough. I've started snapping photos of his senior citizen self, because I don't want to forget this dog. I hope I can't forget this dog.

Lately, the kids have started their own ritual by whispering into Shadow's ears, "You're the best dog ever," and when they do that, tears spring to my eyes, each and every time. They know what's around the corner in a couple of years, and the older three children can remember what we went through with our cat, Ferdinand, several years ago. I don't know what the future  holds for Shadow, but I do know this: Shadow is the best dog ever. EVER.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tell Me How You Really Feel: 9

Happy Wednesday to you all! This day (despite the gloom) is an especially great day because I do not have to teach! Instead, I will be meeting up with a writing friend to discuss some pages of our current works-in-progress. The joy that courses through me right now...it feels great.

I also wanted to say that I miss all of you. (And when I say you, I mean all six of you. Thanks again for reading.) I wanted to stay away from the blog so that I could concentrate on the important things in my life--the kids especially. But the last few weeks have taught me that I can't stay away. I have too many stories I want to tell and my kids love to read them. Plus, I'm still not running, so why, oh why did I take away the writing? My body requires therapy in some form, and if I can't get it via running, I at least need to grab it via writing.

You know what that means, right? That I'm coming back. Maybe not every day, but most every day. So get ready for some real drivel.

Monday, November 10, 2014

How Not to Repair an Oven

A few weeks ago, the oven I purchased in September, 2013, beeped at me. ERR F10 flashed on the screen as the wail continued. The noise bothered me, so I ran down the basement steps and switched off the circuit breaker. Then, I performed a Google search.

ERR F10 corresponds to runaway oven temperature, or in other words, the sensor in my oven needed help. Because I'm busy, I didn't call the repair place right away. I waited for the event to happen again--which it did. Twice within one week? I knew I had to call. The repair man arrived at my house last week.

Here's how the conversation went down:
Him: What error did it show?
Me: F10, I believe.
Him: Are you sure? I don't think there is an F10. It should be a number under ten.
Me: Hmmm. Let me check my computer. I might have saved the search I performed.
I went over to my computer and brought up the screen where I had found the information. Sure enough, in this Kenmore model, an error of F10 existed. I informed the repair man.
Him: Oh, I was looking at the Frigidaire codes. They make Kenmore, you know.
Me: [Even so, it's a Kenmore. You should be looking at the Kenmore codes.] Oh, okay.
The repairman set my oven, pushed some buttons, opened the oven, and checked the elements. The temperature inside the oven rose, but the error didn't occur.
Him: Well, I can't get the oven to do it again, so it could be one of two things. The wires at the back, or there could be something wrong with the control panel. That control panel...
He launched into a treatise on how the control panel serves as the brain for the oven. I didn't tell him that I probably knew more about brains than he probably did. Instead, I listened to his spiel.
Him: So, it might be in the control panel, but I'll check the wires at the back. Sometimes they are loose or not connected right. And if we're not sure it is the control panel, I don't want to mess with it. That's an expensive fix.
He opened the panel at the back of the oven. Everything looked fine, but he proceeded to strip wires and reconnect those wires, just in case.
Him: So I don't know if that will fix it.
Me: You don't?
Him: No. It could happen again. So I'd suggest that you buy a purchase agreement. Because if it does happen again, the fix will be covered.
Me: Why can't you just fix it?
Him: Because I can't verify that the wires were the problem.
Me: ?!?!?
I bought the purchase agreement because it cost me less than another trip out would. And then, I baked something. I used the oven again on Friday, and then one more time on Sunday morning, when the F10 error blared once again, loud and clear. Only three days after the repairman had fixed it.

I just hope the person they send out to fix the oven this time knows what they're talking about. And if they can't fix it, I'm asking for a replacement. At no cost to me.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cinderella Story

She never cared about being Cinderella. She knew that story was exactly that--a story, a tale, a bunch of drivel gathered together for little girls who could imagine nothing better for themselves than a dashing prince who came in and saved the day. She didn't have time for crap like that. (At least that's what she told herself. Every day seemed easier to take when you didn't expect someone to come rescue you.) Instead, the story of Pinocchio held her fascination. Perhaps it had to do with the number of hours she spent each day, feeling like nothing more than a wooden puppet herself. She couldn't be sure. But every time the Disney movie came into theaters for yet another special showing, she scraped together the money to go see it.

Even to this day, the most popular song from the movie sent her backwards in time. Drying dishes one evening, she heard the familiar tune, the first notes of "When You Wish Upon a Star," trickling through the radio. Tears welled up behind her eyelids and she steadied herself with her hands against the counter top. She thought back to those days when she'd climb into the seat of the darkened theater, tip her head back, and marvel at the imaginary world before her. Relief would settle on her shoulders as the big screen took her away from all the things she couldn't handle in life. Just being was difficult at times. Seeing Pinocchio muck his way through the journey and come out on the other side gave her hope, sustenance to continue.

She wiped her hands on the dish towel and crumpled into the chair. So many wishes had bloomed over the years: Wishes that had not been granted, wishes she never dared ask for. Wishes that had almost come true. Wishes that had been granted but had changed nothing. Even now, she had a wish: to travel back in time and tell her young self what she needed to do in order to get where she wanted to be in life. But what would she tell her young self? As she straightened her back in the chair, craning her neck to hear the last notes of the song, a realization washed over her.

Wishes never got you anywhere. Cinderella might have had a little help, that was true. But she'd wanted to go to the ball, and to the ball she went. A girl could learn a lot more from Cinderella than she first thought.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wish List

What does this wish list say about me?
  • Salad spinner
  • Vacuum
  • Chicago Manual of Style
Say what you will, but those are my top three choices of what I'd like to find in my stocking this year. Only the first two need to be new. (Hint, hint.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Get it Right

The email popped up in my inbox at 10:22 a.m. yesterday, although I wasn't there to read it. It said:
Hello Christine-
This is your email to confirm the details of your free XYZ Basic Sperm Bank account.
The following is the account information you registered with:
-----------------------------
First Name: Christine
Last Name: DXXXXX
Email: c*******@gmail.com
User Name: XXXXXX##
Password: XXXXXX
-----------------------------
Please confirm that all of the above is correct by clicking the button below and also please save this information for your records.
I laughed out loud. First off, my name is Christina (emphasis on the a at the end, of course), and secondly, I asked my husband to get a vasectomy! At this point in time, I have no need for a sperm bank. Right? And could this possibly be a phishing scheme? I wasn't sure, so I went on to read the rest of the email:
Choosing a donor that's right for you can seem confusing, even overwhelming at times. After all, you're making a decision that's deeply personal to you and your family. And it's going to affect the rest of your life.

We've heard from past, successful clients that it really helps to have someone:
  • You can talk to right from the start
  • Who understands how you're feeling
  • Who also knows how the entire donor selection process works – inside and out
So in the next few minutes, you're going to get a brief email from one of our support specialists. In that note, she'll give you her name, email, phone number and a link to our live chat line (along with a few tried-and-true tips that have helped others in the past).

She's at your service anytime (M-F 9 to 5 EST) to support you and to answer your most pressing questions.

Look for that email in the next few minutes.

Sincerely,
Your XYZ Team
Sure enough, time-stamped at 11:00 a.m., I received another email from the company, this time from the aforementioned staff member. I scrutinized the words. The email looked legit. The company looked legit. Clearly, this was no phishing scheme. Clearly, they'd incorrectly entered an email address. Clearly, I needed to contact this company and tell them they were sending information to the wrong person.

So I did. I left a voice mail message for the staff member, L, explaining that they had sent me information that had been intended for someone else. Later that day, I received a voice mail message, asking me to return her call. So I did that, too, although I wondered what they could possibly want from me.

Well, here's what she wanted: the name of the intended recipient. Yes, that's right, I had to give to the staff member of the sperm bank the name of the person whose identity she should know. L could have, I would think, asked me to confirm the email address that was used, because I would think the company would have a database of emails they could search. Instead, L asked for Christine's name. Her full name. A name I'd like to forget (even though I don't know this person) simply because I feel bad that I now know it. (Not that there's anything wrong with using a sperm bank, in my opinion.) And before you say it, I already checked the FAQ site of the sperm bank. Sadly, HIPPA laws don't cover sperm banks, so I guess it was within L's rights to ask for her name, but professionally, I think L took the wrong path.

Moral of the story? Be wary of this sperm bank. If they can't get an email account right, how can you be so sure a client will be getting the correct sperm?!?

*Thinking of using a sperm bank? Feel free to leave a comment with your email address. I'll be sure to get back to you and let you know which company NOT to use.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Never Go in Against a Canopy...

Melina is the proud owner of a pink, frothy canopy that hangs over her bed. I thought when it arrived that the fuchsia bows added just the right touch. After all, the more embellishments, the better. (Eyeroll.)

Anyway, the pink concoction hangs over her bed, and clearly is for decorative purposes. Meaning, you really don't do much with it at all, besides marvel at its loveliness and in my case, wonder how in the world your daughter came to be so frilly and feminine. (It's all good, just different.) And normally, because the canopy simply hangs from the ceiling, it's not involved in any part of our daily lives, with the exception of bed time--when I wrestle with each of its extensions and attempt to place them around the bed in a satisfactory manner for Melina.

But early last evening, I got a shout from Aaron.
Aaron: Mom!
Me: Yes?
Aaron: Mom? I need you!
Me: What do you need?
Aaron: Mom! I need you to come here.
Usually, I ask the kids to come to me if I'm in the middle of something important. But I do come to them at times, and since my hands were free, I set off in search of Aaron. (Our house isn't that big, but I still had to confirm where he was, which was upstairs.)
Me: I'm coming.
Aaron: Okay.
I could tell by the sound of his voice that he might be in Melina's room, which is located right off the top of the stairs. As I reached the last two steps, I said:
Me: What do you need me for?
Aaron: I need help to get my teeth out.
Yes, you read that right. His teeth needed to get out. And from what? Yes. You can see the path this story is taking. As I entered Melina's room, I saw Aaron facing her bed, his face flush with the canopy. And one of the tulle panels was attached directly to the bracket on his upper left incisor.
Me: How in the world did you get her canopy stuck to your teeth?
Aaron: ...
Me: Never mind, I don't want to know. Just don't let it happen again. [I gently pried the fabric away from the bracket.]
Aaron: Okay, thanks.
I'm not entirely sure how or why the event happened, I'm only grateful that Aaron had enough sense to ask for help instead of trying to pull the canopy off his bracket by himself. Perhaps turning ten means he possesses a little more common sense these days.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Time Change Woes

If you know anything about me, you know I'm not a fan of moving our clocks forward and backward. I'm a creature of habit, and messing with those habits wreaks havoc with my system. In fact, today one might call me an ornery witch (or something worse) because I'm so tired, despite the fact that I was in bed, with the lights out, at 8:20 p.m. last night. (Yes, you read that right. Aaron and I went to bed at the same time.) But there's nothing I can really do to help myself except to adjust. And it might take me a while to do that.

So I'm glad I'm not posting much these days. Because my posts will tend toward whining, and I just can't have that.

It's sunny here today. I'm going to focus on that fact, add some extra caffeine to my cup of coffee, and find myself a good book to bring to bed with me tonight. (Although I won't be reading it, because I'll have drifted off...)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Little Man Turns Ten

It's been ten years since they placed a puckered, pale Aaron onto my chest. I remember that warm fall night for many reasons. Some silly: Tim forgot the camera, but the hospital was so close to our house that there was time for him to head home and get it--I could hold off on pushing. And some not: I had hoped to deliver naturally, which didn't happen. (Vaginal, yes. Without drugs, no.) I remember asking the hospital staff for food almost seconds after Aaron came into this world, and having the doctor ask me how I could be thinking of food. Well, lady, I just worked very hard, wouldn't you say? Of course, I'm hungry. I remember the nurse, Carol Caroll (yes, that was her name), leaning close to my ear and whispering that she'd find me something to put into my stomach. That small meal of canned tomato soup was the best I'd ever eaten, I have to say.

But what I remember most of all is that I was nervous. About having a baby boy to look after when I'd had no experience with boys. Even now, ten years later and despite the decade of experience, I'll still say I don't know what I'm doing. I simply take each day as it comes and adjust accordingly. And what I've noticed is this: it doesn't pay to be nervous. It's much better to listen and learn.

And learn, I have. I've learned that boys are very different from girls and yet so similar. I've learned to cover the penis when changing a diaper and that tighty-whities on a toddler are actually cute. I've learned that some kids charge ahead at every opportunity and that because a wall is there, some of them will try to climb it. I've discovered that pi really is a wonderful number and that prime numbers are pretty special. I know the ins and outs of Legos and why Doctor Who is the best show on the planet. (Well, maybe the Simpsons are even with that old chap.) I've also learned that potty humor never, ever, gets old, at least when it comes to a ten-year-old boy.

It's difficult to wrap my head around the fact that Aaron is now two full hands old, that he is in the double digits, that he's closer to leaving this house than staying in it. I tear up thinking about all the times I've complained about his noisy feet, his constant barrage of words, his inability to eat ice cream without dribbling some of it onto his shirt, the chair, and sometimes, even the floor. I'll miss those days when they're no longer here. That, I know.

And so I'm going to revel in the time we have left. Continue to open up my arms when he snuggles next to me at 3 a.m. or when he comes up behind me as I'm making dinner. I'm going to try to open my eyes and ears to this little green-eyed boy who wakes up each morning, ready to accept the challenges in front of him. I'm excited to see what he builds and who he becomes. So excited.

Happy Birthday, Little Man.