Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Monday Night

(Are you humming the tune to Katy Perry's Last Friday Night? I know I am. I even thought about writing a little parody of that song, but here it is, almost the evening of New Year's Eve, and I have things to do. So I won't.)

Last Monday night, I found myself scrubbing dishes after dinner. Of course, I couldn't find anything abnormal in those actions, considering I'm the certified dish person in this house. But something about the whole mom-doing-dishes was different that night, and it had to do with the addition of a colander that perched on my head.

Why did I have a colander on my head? Those of you who've known me for over 20 years might think I was channeling Harvey, my hippo character. But no, my hat of choice that night was because Melina asked me to wear it. I can't remember why, or what we were pretending, but I do hope that I'll remember (and I hope she does, too) the night that we had fun in the kitchen with colanders on our heads.

And because I certainly don't mind ending a year's worth of thoughts on someone like Melina, we're going to stop the post there.

It's been a great year. I've posted 318 times this year. (Can you even BELIEVE that?) Thanks for putting up with me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What Day Is It?

Even at the end of the year, I manage to learn something on each day of my existence. Yesterday, the lesson involved a subject most people avoid: hemorrhoids. You see, despite my belief that my hemorrhoid had disappeared, I found out yesterday that it hadn't. (TMI? Too bad.) So what's the lesson for today? What have I managed to learn between the time I awoke at 6:15 a.m. and now? That this date, December 30, is not only Bacon Day (something I don't care that much about, but a subject that will be endlessly fascinating for the kids) but also National Bicarbonate of Soda Day.

What? You're not thrilled with knowing that today is basically celebrating the wonders of baking soda? I am. I am absolutely ecstatic that the cleaning and baking wonder has its own day. I use baking soda so often, Tim teases me about wanting to use it for everything.

Well, in case you didn't know all the uses of baking soda, I'm including a link to a pretty comprehensive list. Most of the uses listed, I've tried, and most of them actually work. You can thank me for your late-year education the next time I see you.

Monday, December 29, 2014


I've been thinking,
of so many things.
Too many really,
for my brain to deal with on a daily basis.
I think that maybe I should seek out
full-time employment.
Not that I don't work full-time already,
as you know we mostly SAHMs do.
But away from this house,
in an office or cubicle (if I'm lucky).
A job with many hours,
which would take me away from the kids.
Something I really don't want to do yet.
But then I think that I don't want Tim
to have to work
until he is 80.
And at this rate,
with four kids and four college tuitions,
he's on track to keep bringing home a paycheck
until he's at least 85.
I've also been thinking that writing
isn't much of a career
when you don't get pieces published.
How do people do this all day?
Pretending that what they have to say matters
to at least one person?
I know that my words do matter to a few,
and it's not that you few aren't significant to me
(because you ARE, more than I probably tell you),
but YOU aren't the one making the decisions,
the one pulling the strings,
the people who say YES, WE WANT YOU.
Your being able to smile at my words
makes me very happy. Estatic even.
But does that fact make me happier than anything else?
I'd like to think so.
I can't be sure.
Which gets me to thinking that no one can be sure of anything.
Even the postal service isn't always as dependable
as they used to be.
My mailman forgets our house sometimes,
even if I'm waiting for something important,
like the pathology report on my abnormal mole.
And then, when I do get the report, it makes me think, too.
Of how I should stay out of the sun
more than I already do.
So I can earn back that nickname
the one from long ago, in high school:
Cadaver cheeks.
I whisper the words to myself
and feel my lips sickle into a smile
as my mind reels backward in time.
I'll wear that nickname loud and proud, now, if it
keeps me from suffering a fate like melanoma.
Now that's a word I'm not going to think about.
At least right now.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Decision Time

It's that time of the year again--the one where I make the decision to cut my hair (or not). Today, I'm not sure what to do. I like having long hair for many reasons, the most important of which is because pulling hair into a ponytail is one of the easiest things in life to do. Plus, if I want to hide, I can leave the hair down that day and use it as a curtain.

But the ends of my hair are pretty dry and brittle, and I certainly don't want to be mistaken for a forty-something who wishes she were twenty-something. (Truth be told, sometimes I still feel like I'm in my twenties, but I don't need to relive those times. I'm good with being 41 years old.)

So, I'm turning to you, faithful readers. The question isn't whether or not I'll color my hair again (I think a new stripe will be forthcoming, soon), but should I cut it? Thoughts? Thank you in advance.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Food Fodder

I swear to you that this blog will not be a recipe blog. However, I NEED to share two very tasty recipes I encountered this week. Because all four kids are still here and will be for the next week, I don't have the time to write out the recipes. Plus, you can find them here and here. What are they? A recipe for Cherry Pie Bars, and Italian Mini Frittatas. We had the former on Christmas for dessert and the latter this morning at a lovely brunch (if I do say so myself) with our wonderful friends. Enjoy! And if you do make them, let me know how you like them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Memories

Scents have a way of taking us back to moments in our past. So do recipes. The following sugar cookie recipe is the one that does it for me. They aren't named for my mom, Mary, but we did make this cookie when I was younger, usually around Christmas. I fell in love with them then, and fall in love again, every time I eat one of these.

Mary's Sugar Cookies*

1 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
granulated sugar/frosting for decorating

In a large bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and butter. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract, and mix well. Blend in the flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half 3/16 of an inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes and sprinkle with granulated sugar. (Or don't, if you plan on frosting them.) Place on lightly gresed baking sheet. Bake 7 to 8 minutes, or until light brown on the edges. (I start with 5 minutes and go from there, depending on how thick I've cut the cookies.)

This recipe is supposed to make 60 cookies, but I've never had a batch larger than 33 because I like to roll my cookies out thicker. And if you enjoy soft sugar cookies like I do, place them in an airtight container along with a piece of bread.

*I found this recipe on the internet, but the one I used to follow is from an old Betty Crocker recipe book I believe my mom still has. The pages of the book are worn and torn, and I didn't have the heart to ask for the actual book.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Greetings

Dear Friend,

Can I still call you that? We haven't spoken all year, and yet, I'm sending this letter out to you. I know you ripped open the envelope (or clicked on the link, in this case) with haste. Maybe your heartbeat increased when you saw our names splayed across the top of your inbox. Then again, maybe you didn't care one single bit that we had, in fact, thought of you when we asked ourselves, To whom should we send our holiday letter? If you fall into the latter category, you are more than welcome to write to us and let us know that next year, you'd rather not be included on the holiday greetings list. (In fact, why don't you do just that. If enough of you do, then we won't feel compelled to write up the drivel you know is sure to follow. Because really, ain't nobody got time for that.)

So what to say, other than what a superb year we've had?

I'll probably have to think about the entire year for a few figure out what you'd like to know and what I'm willing to share. Not that you can't just find everything out here, on the pages of this blog. Plus, it might take me a moment to figure out how to say what I want to say. I mean, should I write everything in first person? Or should I follow the more literary route and speak to you in third person? Then, I have to decide: third limited or omniscient? Of course, I'd lean toward omniscient, as this letter is supposed to regale the trials and tribulations joy and wonder that happened to this screwball family this year. Which means I need to get in the head of everyone, or at least report like I know everything. (I should, I'm the mom, right?) You see what happens? I get caught up in the minutiae and here you are, thinking to yourself to get on with it. Just get the hell on with it! (Oops. This is a family blog. And I didn't put a disclaimer. Well here it is: be forewarned...this post might not constitute a completely family-friendly letter.)

I will tell you one item I won't be sharing in this letter: a picture. Tim and I don't take too many photographs of ourselves, only those of the kids. Part of this lack of documentation might be that we're too busy playing with or taking care of the kids, but a little part of it has to do with the fact that our digital camera is 12 years old. (Yes, that's right. It still works, so why get rid of it? I say the same thing about Tim. All. The. Time.) So if you feel like comparing our fortyish bodies to yours, or if you want to see how we've aged, then I have to say, get used to disappointment and just move on. This is not the right forum. But I will tell you this: Tim still looks the same as he did in high school, albeit a smidge heavier. I look almost the same, except for the wrinkles. (My skin refuses to stay hydrated and I find myself squinting at this computer screen day after day. Those are my excuses...I really have no idea what Tim's excuse is.)

Anyhoo, back to the task at hand. I don't want to waste too much of your time. Let's see, what have we done this year? And what would you like to know? Should I talk about all the awards my kids have won? (Um...they might have won a few, but I'd rather not brag. My snowflakes aren't any more special than yours.) Or the fact that I found great literary success? (I didn't, but I did get a short story published.) Why exactly am I writing then? That's a good question. Many times, I ask myself that very question in cases of letters like these. Keep it short, I think. But then look at this. See all those words down there? Up above? I can't seem to keep it short, either. I guess I'll just spell everything out for you, person by person. If I wrote about our year month by month, you'd be reading about my loving, dysfunctional family well into 2015. (And that is your cue to exit, if you so choose.)

To make this simple and slightly less verbose (hah!) we'll go in birth order of the children, and combine Zoe and Talia. The girls despise when people do that--putting them together without asking, or assuming that if it's good for one half of the identical twin combination, it's good for both--but I have proof that they do it to themselves. Right now, sitting under our slightly underwhelming Christmas tree, are gifts from both of them. In fact, the tag says, To: Aaron, From: Z and T. So, if the girls combine themselves, I think it's appropriate for me to do it, too. Especially when I'm trying to save time here.

The question is, what can I report? As many of you know, the twins turned 12 in January. (I'm still in shock that I'm a parent of two not-always-my-favorite-age 12-year-olds. What will happen in a little over a month, when they've reached 13? Wrinkles on my face won't be the only problem I have.) Since that time, they've been dealing out almost-teen attitude, especially toward their siblings. I find myself, daily, asking them to think about their tone of voice, or whether or not what they said seemed appropriate. ("Yes, Mom, in my head, it seemed appropriate." Then, as they turn away, I wave the middle finger behind their backs. I do. I'm not kidding. You knew I wasn't a saint. Apparently, I'm not a very good mom, either.) These oh-so-lovely-ladies wrapped up their first year of middle school, played far too much Wii over weekends and spring break, and read more book pages than many of their cohorts combined. (Hey, they might have won an award for that...I can't remember. If I did remember, I'd be considered a much better parent, of course, especially if I take out the middle-finger waving.) Most importantly, for much of 2014, both Zoe and Talia begged for a phone. Here we are, at December 22, and we still haven't caved into that demand. I have no plans to do so for at least six months, maybe longer, if I'm lucky. If I tie giving them each a phone to something like, say, reaching a height of five feet, I've got it made. Those chances are slim, and it won't be happening in the next six years. At which time, they will be headed off to college, where they can work a part-time job to supplement a phone and the costs that go with it.

I'm sure that paragraph just blew you away, didn't it? Think of all the letters you'll be receiving this holiday season. I'm sure ours will rise to the top of the list as the one with the most important news to share.

That thought, of course, provides a great segue into writing about Aaron, who hasn't asked for a phone this year. Why? Because he was too distracted by the discovery of his abdominal muscles, a body part he showed off to as many people as he could. (Hey, it's better than the alternative. But just wait...) I'm not sure if he thinks those muscles will be a chick magnet or if he just likes to look at his torso flex. Either way, he spent much of the year running around naked at home, even though he turned ten in November. Yes, ten years old and still playing in his birthday suit. (Hold on, Tim still does the same thing. I think the presence of the Y chromosome explains everything there.) This year also stands as a monumental year in the subject of Aaron's hobbies. He played a load of soccer (and is having fun and learning...what a concept), and built many structures: buildings, forts, disco balls, etc. Recycled cardboard, wood, dog food bags--you name it, he used the materials to construct something this past year. The pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance? His Halloween costume. And what did he dress up for on Halloween? A toilet. Come to think of it, he won an award for that toilet costume... (He sure knows how to make a momma proud.)

I think it's good to just move on at this point to Melina. Not to imply that she's worth no more than what you find at the bottom of a toilet, because she's completely worth more than that. You all know it. In fact, she's the golden child, right? She listens well, she goes to bed pretty easily. She's the star of the show most of the time. She's the one we'll find on Broadway, singing her heart out, or maybe in the alley behind Broadway in a pair of fishnets and a fur shrug, I'm not sure. It's a crapshoot with this fourth child. But how did 2014 go for her? Swell. I'd say that word sums up her year. Wait, that word is not fancy enough. So let's change it to something more fabulous, like exceptional. She charmed the pants off the people at school and earned her reading stripes. She transitioned into first grade with great success (and only a few meltdowns) and last week, she performed as the lead in her reading group's rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. Plus, she received the Frozen CD and soundtrack this year. Clearly, life couldn't be better for her! (I'm a little worried that lately, she's invented a new language, some cross between Swedish, Russian, and one of the 40 Polynesian languages out there. While it's cute, I have no idea what she's saying. Maybe that's a good thing...)

And what about Tim and me? What can I say about us? (I know we're the ones you're really interested in.) The cold winter temperatures of January, February, and March forced me to pull out the old Michigan parka and the patience, considering the temps seemed never ending, much like the constant bickering of the kids. I taught this year, which provided a nice break from the monotony of writing time and volunteering at the elementary school (can you feel the sarcasm in that statement?). My foray into more teaching hours also forced me to admit that I still possesses a shred of passion for the subjects of muscle and nerve. However, if by some grace of good luck I found a literary agent who wanted one of my books, I'd jump off the teaching bandwagon. Stat. I also hurt my psoas muscle, I haven't run since August 2, and who would blame me if I slipped a little Bailey's into my coffee right about now, eh? (Most of you already know this, right?)

There's not much to report about Tim. He likes his job. (Wow, that's a really descriptive and helpful sentence for you. And I call myself a writer?) He's involved in both old-man soccer and old-man baseball now, so his knees tend to thank him more often these days (less time crouched down as catcher). That baseball team, by the way, won the World Series this year. Great job, Mudcats! As you already know from the notes from above, Tim spends time in the buff. He also builds toys with Aaron, sings with Melina, and tries to spread his love of math to the twins. He still leaves his socks on the floor and his coats on the chair, but after more than 14 years of that behavior, I'm not going to start to complain now. (It does no good, anyway.)

That's about it, really. I guess I could tell you that we found a dog, and then rehomed a dog. We adopted a cat and kept the cat. Which means that our family only grew by one mammal, which is in part thanks to a vasectomy in late 2013. (Oh, did we forget to mention that in last year's letter? That's right, we don't usually write these...) Well, thanks to that simple outpatient procedure, Tim and Chris saw an increase in activity in 2014, if you know what I mean. And no new kids means the vasectomy was a success. Like I said, 2014 was a superb year.

And on that note, it's time to say goodbye.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy whatever the hell you celebrate or don't,

Chris, Tim, Zoe, Talia, Aaron, Melina, Lucy, Shadow, and Heathcliff

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Yesterday morning, I decided it was time to try and take a walk. Not a run, mind you, but a relatively easy, not-too-long walk. One that I hoped wouldn't cause any flare-up within my body.

The moment I slipped on my running bra, I felt as though I had come home. By the time I laced up my shoes, I'd only confirmed how much I missed the feel of their embrace.

The crisp, December air brushed my cheeks and tickled my nose, and the call of the birds energized me. I won't bore you about the fine details of my walk--like how far I went and how fast--but I'm so grateful I went out. I'm also hopeful that I'm healing well. I can't wait until I'm ready to run, instead of walk.

Friday, December 19, 2014

For Your Amusement

I received a rejection the other day that I feel compelled to share with you. It's beautiful in its simplicity, really. Somehow, the brevity of the message takes my breath away. The effect of the message is similar to when you take off a band-aid quickly: the less time it takes, the less pain one will feel. That's right, this message inflicted no pain, and it's not because it said yes.
Not for nus. Thanks.
Yep, that's it...that's all. The literary agent sent a quick message, with a typo, and no signature. She couldn't bother to spend the time to write out even a slightly less perfunctory but feel good rejection. Not even a "Thank you for your submission, but it's not right for us," which would have been more appropriate, I think. (And something you could simply plug in as an automatic signature line.) I won't incriminate the guilty, but if an agent can't even take the time of day to make a polite reply, then I'd say just don't reply at all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Prime Real Estate

Know anyone who needs to move? Feeling like you want to visit us? We've got a lovely little guesthouse, directly across from our garage. Courtesy of Little Red.

"It's got a roof and everything!" Aaron said. An enormous smile filled his freckled face.

"That's the only thing it has!" I said, but only in my head. (See, I'm learning to use that filter from time to time.)

I'm proud of that boy.  Gosh darn, am I proud.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Big Mistake

I executed a grave parenting error on Sunday afternoon, and I'm hoping you can learn from my mistakes.

Let me set the stage. That afternoon, I had wandered into the twins' room to find something. I can't remember what that something was, because as soon as I placed one foot in the room, a wave of disgust rolled over me. Their room rivaled a disaster site: dirty socks hid under the bed, clean clothes lounged on the chair, wrappers stuck to the corners, and toys...well, those toys lay just about everywhere.

"My goodness," I said.

"This is bad. Really bad," Melina said. She'd followed me up the stairs because whatever it was I needed to find just happened to be hers.

"You're telling me." I pushed a few items around in an effort to out the piece I was looking for. No such luck.

"Zoe and Talia sure are messy, Mom." Melina stated the obvious in her usual style: hands on hips, eyebrows cocked, with all the wisdom of an adult, not a six-year-old first grader.

"That they are." I spun around in place, hoping to settle my eyes on at least one piece of decluttered dresser or carpet. I found nothing. Inside, I wept. How could these girls be like this? How could they live in such filth, such disarray? How did the sheer volume of things on their floor not overwhelm them on a daily basis? I shook my head.

And then, I made my mistake.

"You know what Melina?" I said. "If these girls can't keep their room clean, I'm going to put you in here and give them your room."

Melina's hazel eyes grew wide and a mischievous smile spread across her face. She tilted her head to the right and glanced up to the left. I half-expected to see a thought bubble appear in the air. Instead, she whispered, "Is their room bigger than mine?"

"Yes, it is."

Later that afternoon, after I'd mentioned to the girls that something (anything really) had to be done about their room, Melina set up shop on the kitchen floor and planned out her new room.

"I'm drawing a model, Mommy," she said. "This new room is going to be great."

And each morning since then, the first words out of her mouth are: am I getting Zoe and Talia's room today?

I'll be honest. I have no intention of cramming two soon-to-be teenagers into a smaller room with a tiny closet. While having to share that space would certainly teach them a lesson, I'm certain that new, unexpected consequences would arise. Ones that impact me more than any of the girls.

And so, I've learned my lesson. Either get a filter, or keep my mouth shut.

Monday, December 15, 2014

No Problem

I called her because I was worried. She had just visited me a few weeks prior, and I couldn't determine whether the memory loss I thought she had experienced resulted from years of depression, aging, or something worse--such as Alzheimer's. In the time since I'd seen her, I had written her a letter and sent it to her. The letter served as an outline of sorts, the symptoms I watched creep up on her like a stealthy cat: the repetition of stories, the look of confusion when I asked if she knew how to get to the store, the jumbled conversations that held no meaning. I refused to believe that these changes simply hitched a ride with the passing years and I felt compelled to plead my case.

"I don't have a memory problem," she said into the phone.

I would have liked to have been in the room with her when we spoke instead of 200 miles away. I imagined her knuckles, white as copy paper as she gripped the receiver, and the lines of her lips thin from the pressure of one against the other. Perhaps she even tapped her worn fingernails against the granite of the kitchen counter top.

"You don't think you have a memory problem?" I asked.

"No, I do not. I have so much to do, so much on my plate. But I don't have a memory problem."

How could she utter that statement and believe it? Hadn't she seen her own mother experience the same symptoms? Didn't she remember what it felt like to watch Grandma muddle her way through her day, trying to find where the knives belonged and to decide what to have for lunch? Denial had always prevailed in our house during my childhood. Obviously, times hadn't changed.

"Oh-kay." I thought I might as well probe the situation. Two hundred miles meant I would only imagine the look of disgust on her face as I pressed her. "You have to admit you were depressed all those years though. I mean, right? You were depressed. Depression can take a toll on your memory--"

"I'm not depressed, either. I was. Yes, I was. But I'm not now."

The tone of her voice told me she had completed the conversation. But my mind still formed questions, and to be honest, I wanted to know what she really thought about what was happening to her. Plus, we talked while I scrubbed the dishes, and the sink stood at half-full.

"I understand what you're saying. Maybe you aren't depressed now. But you were. That's the point. Depression could have affected your memory, such that we're seeing the consequences now. Don't you think you should talk to your doctor?"

"No, I do not. I'm on medicine anyway. For the memory loss."

Hadn't she just told me she didn't have memory loss? What the hell? Now, I pushed even more.

"What are you taking for your memory loss?"

" know, that Ginkgo pill."

I covered my mouth so she couldn't hear the snort that tumbled from my mouth. While I certainly believed in the merits of non-traditional therapies, the way she'd spoken, I'd assumed that any medicine she'd been taking would have been prescribed by her doctor. Maybe her doctor had mentioned Gingko Biloba, and maybe not.

"And does the Gingko Biloba seem to be working?"

"Yes. But you know, I just have so much to do. There are files to be put away and the mail. You should see all the junk mail that we get. Your father doesn't throw it away. I have to go through it and sort it and then--"

"All right. I know you have a lot to do. We all do." I paused, uncertain as to where to take the conversation. Nothing I said would sway her opinion. "Just do me a favor and the next time you go to the doctor, bring that letter I sent...the one with my observations. Maybe it will help with a memory assessment or something."

She was quick to answer. "They've already given me tests. And I do not have a memory problem. Why can't you girls just stay out of my business?"

We'd come full-circle. Now, there was no problem. No problem for which she took Gingko Biloba. No problem in finding her way in a hotel. No problem in remembering her sister's husband's name. No problem at all. The only one with the problem, apparently, was me. And my sisters. Because we cared enough to say something to her and wanted to get her help, if possible.

I stared at the receiver, knowing that all I had to do was hang up and the connection would snap. The tether linking us would dissipate like the smoke of her cigarettes. I would be able to pretend that the conversation had never happened, and she'd never remember it anyway. Press the button, my mind said. And yet, I couldn't do it. I had to give her the respect that a lifetime of sharing blood required.

"I guess I'll go. Have a great day," I said.

"You, too."

I hung up then and replaced the receiver into the cradle. Tears should have formed in my eyes. I should have felt distraught at the capacity of this woman to deny everything that stood out in front of her. I should have wept at my inability to help her. I should have wondered where to go next and what to do. Instead, I laughed.

"There is no problem," I said to myself. "There is no problem."

If I keep telling myself this, perhaps even I will eventually believe it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Beautiful Sentences

Our friends over at Buzzfeed Books published a list of the most beautiful sentences in literature. I think they might be missing a few really fantastic sentences, but considering the list was compiled from Buzzfeed readers, I think they did all right. I found myself nodding my head and whispering yes to many of them. Those I really liked?

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
—J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”

“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

“‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.’”
—Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”
—Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

and finally

“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”
—Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thought for the Day

If your idea of happiness does not match up with your partner's idea of happiness, it might be a good idea to reconsider if we shouldn't really be I.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tell Me How You Really Feel:12

Last week on a Korean Air flight headed from New York to Seoul, a problem occurred. I'm sure you have heard of this situation's been all over the news. If you haven't read about this yet, simply Google Korean Air and'll find several pertinent articles.

Apparently (and I hope to get most of the facts, as reported, correct here), Cho Hyun-ah, who is a vice president in charge of Korean Air's in-flight services (and daughter of the company's chairman), was on that flight. Of course, she sat in first class. Of course, first class customers have come to expect certain perks. When a flight member served her macadamia nuts in a bag--as opposed to on a plate--Cho Hyun-ah decided to ah, go a little nuts. (Sorry, other people have said the same thing, and really, it's an appropriate pun here.)

Her actions that day led to a delay in departure of the flight, and eventually the ejection of a crew member. Wondering why? Supposedly, flight members are supposed to ask if the customer would like to be served. And as I stated already, I guess in first class, you don't get bags. That action would be like serving chips to your friends straight out of the bag, or not putting beer into a mug and simply using the bottle. We do that all the time here at our house, but we also don't fly first class.

I'm not here to comment on much. Were Cho Hyun-ah's actions those of a prima donna? Yes, I think so. But I encounter people like that all the time, and most of the time, I roll my eyes and move on to more significant issues. What I'm more worried about with this circumstance is the fact that most people don't find those nuts worth mentioning. As a friend of a child who has nut allergies, I'd focus less on the person and more on the nuts. Keeping the nuts in the bag might have offended one person, but those actions might have protected more than one person on that flight. Let's focus on the important things, people, like the health and well-being of everyone.

Just my thoughts, just telling you how I really feel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Just a Plate

I open the right cabinet door, and reach for a plate. The small plates lay stacked on the wire shelf, the larger ones rest beneath. I hesitate, wondering which plate will be necessary. In that moment of hesitation, I realize that it has been months since I've taken a plastic plate from the cabinet. They live in the same space as the ceramic plates, but to the left of the divider. We have a set of five matching plastic plates in pink, green, purple, blue, and orange, as well as tiny, saucer-sized plates in the primary colors. Years ago, the kids used these plates at every meal and snack. And now, my fingers haven't touched one in a very long time.

I stop myself and think about the importance of this moment. How when I bought those plates--the set of five, especially--I thought of the fact that all of my children could eat from them, plus a friend. Those plates have seen tea parties with homemade cookies, leftover pizza, spinach enchiladas, and too many sandwiches.We've used them as trays for paper appetizers, sleds for dolls, and Frisbees. The simple act of reaching for a plate has forced me to admit that my children, all four of them, are moving forward, growing older, and leaving behind many items from childhood. Aaron just turned ten, the girls will be teenagers in January, and Melina, my baby, reaches the ripe old age of seven come July. The kids no longer automatically reach for the plastic plates, and clearly, I no longer have babies in the house--that much I know.

But I'm loathe to give any of those plates away. If nothing else, they are a reminder of so many of the moments from childhood that will be difficult to remember someday. The times when the twins would gravitate toward pink and purple (Zoe liked pink, Talia purple) and Aaron preferred blue. The days when the children used to eat small portions and when balancing a plate, even a plastic one, was a skill that required practice. I remember the moment we bought those plates, how excited the children all were--dancing around and clapping their hands--much like they might if Santa Claus walked into the room. Now, it would take the gift of iPhones to warrant a reception like that.

None of them recognize the significance of the plates. I can't really ask them to, nor can I expect them to understand my point of view if I tell it to them. But I can ask them to use the plates from time to time. We'll brush them off, rinse their skins, and eat our meal from a plate that to me, is not just a plate.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Morning Meow

About a week ago, we welcomed a new animal into our lives. His name is Heathcliff and he's an orange tiger cat. If you're not sure about what an orange tiger cat looks like, imagine Daniel Tiger on Mr. Rogers, or better yet, the cat named Heathcliff. (We didn't choose the name Heathcliff, but I'm guessing whoever did thought he looked like that cartoon cat.)

At the time that I stumbled across Heathcliff (and his brother, Chester), I had no intention of allowing another cat into our house. But there they were, playing in a cage at our local pet store, with a paper that said the Humane Society was hoping to find forever homes for them. I'd been in that store many times, I'd seen many cats, none of them drew me in. Except these two.

At first glance, they reminded me of Lucy and Ferdinand when they were kittens. My two original babies, the ones I'd scurry home to after a long day at the lab. Something about the stripes or the set of their eyes maybe. I'm not really sure. All I know is that I found myself applying for two cats. Not one, but two.

To make a long story short, Chester found a home with the family that applied before we did, and Heathcliff came home with us. Peace reigned on the transition to three animals: Shadow sniffed him, Lucy came out of hiding to say hello, and Tim picked him up, presented him to the air, and said, "Simba!"

It's good to have a little one around the house. When I'm home, I watch him play with a cotton ball or pick at the string on the edge of the rug. He bats his paws as Lucy, who, since last week, has become as outgoing as he was before his brother died. The new little guy has infused a life into this house that we haven't seen for a while. And when I stare at him, I see Ferdinand. As if in this new little Heathcliff we've got Ferdinand's spirit with us again.

Stranger things have happened.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

How Not to Repair an Oven: 5

I really hope this is the last of my posts on my oven. I'm sure you feel the same. And because of those feelings, I'm keeping this post short.

The repairman arrived this morning, bright and early. I let him into the house, showed him to the kitchen, and left him to work his magic. In a few minutes, he had replaced the temperature sensor, heated the oven, and deemed the whole repair a success.

After I signed the receipt, which acknowledged that he had performed the work and that I didn't pay for it (since we had a warranty), I thanked him.
Him: You're welcome.
Me: I hope this works. Seems like this was a tough repair.
Him: Huh. An error of F10 means temperature sensor. It should have been the first item they replaced.
As I said back in the third installment of this saga, the problem here wasn't with the parts. It was with the repairmen.

Or I'll believe that statement until the error occurs again. When that happens, I'm asking for a new oven.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Wearing What You Want

Over at Rant Chic, Kallie Provencher talks about what women shouldn't wear after 30. I Googled Kallie, because I wanted to know just how old she is. From her photo, it's hard to tell. She could be in her mid-twenties, but she could also be in her early forties. But Kallie's age isn't my point. What is? That we should be able to wear whatever we want, when we want. And if that means I'm going to wear a graphic T-Shirt and my sparkly boots, then so be it. Or maybe I'll put on a leopard print scarf and socks that don't match. Or maybe, just maybe, I'll wear my infamous striped fleece. Who's with me?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

#PitMad: 1

Have you ever heard of #PitMad? Don't worry, I hadn't either until my friend Cindy poked around for ways to catch literary agents' eyes. If you go here, the entire #PitMadness will be explained. In short, you create a pitch for your book (in 140 characters or less). You tweet that pitch, along with the hashtag #PitMad, on a certain day of the year (today would be one of those), and you hope that an agent finds interest in your pitch. If he or she does, that person can request pages, a partial, maybe a full manuscript. The whole process is similar to pitching to an agent in person, but on a quicker and grader scale, and with a little less fear involved.

Well guess what? Cindy convinced me to try my hand at this #PitMad thing, and so I've got a few pitches ready and two manuscripts that are prepped.

Will I get any bites? (This whole scenario seems like fishing to me.) I have no clue. But there's nothing, and I mean nothing, to lose. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Here We Go Again

For two years, I've been wedded to a first chapter. Over the course of several revisions, said chapter changed very little until my writing group said, "Have you thought about..." I trust The Plot Sisters' intuition and experience, so I hunkered down and hoped to pull out some magic.

I'm not sure if I found any magic, but I do know that yesterday, I sat back (literally) and said, "That's a damn fine first chapter." A euphoric feeling bounced through me for a few moments. I brushed the scone crumbs off my chest and took a long sip of coffee. I mentally patted myself on the back. Then, the world screeched to a halt when I realized that yes, I should redo the last chapter.

I know it will benefit the story. I know I will feel better about the whole manuscript when it's completely done. I know this, I know this. So, here we go again...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What I've Learned about Myself during My Hiatus from Running

Four months ago today was the last time I strapped on my running shoes. Four months. That means, I haven't felt the wind in my hair or the beads of sweat on my back since August 2. Since the drops of sun rained down and the grass laid on the ground like a carpet of green velvet. Since the blue sky above me and the humid air hugged me with their comforting arms. Four months. One hundred twenty-two days. One-third of a year.

I thought when I first considered a running hiatus that I'd never make it through whatever magical number of days it took for me to heal. That I'd pull my hair out and morph into a crabby witch of a person and most people who called themselves my friends would claim to no longer know me. Shoot, I thought my family would no longer want to admit they were mine, although they'd be forced to suffer through living with a new, non-running me. I've always held to the belief that running serves as therapy for me, and that the action itself combats my genetic tendencies toward depression. Therefore, if I took running out of the equation, I imagined days full of anger, sadness, and irritability that would spill over to Tim and the children.

But if there's one thing I've learned over the last 15 years, it's to not dwell on the negative, because you waste more energy than you should. So when the shoes had to remain off my feet, I decided to embrace the extra minutes and find something else to do besides running. Perhaps I'd have more time for writing, or a few more moments with the kids. Maybe I'd get more laundry done, or more cleaning, or spend more time with Tim. Maybe, instead of thinking about a life without running, I could envision a life with something else. More positive, less negative. And may I say that the mind is a beautiful thing.

I still salivate when I see runners out on the road. I long to feel the stretch and strain of my quads, the pull in my hamstring. I can't wait to hear the slap of my feet on the asphalt and the fingers of the wind as they tickle my cheeks. But the past four months have been a lesson in who I am and what I can handle. I've learned that I'm able to hold myself together without running, and that even though I miss the activity, my personal mental health does not depend on it. I've learned that if I allow myself to do so, I can sleep until 7:00 a.m. I've also learned that many good conversations occur early on Saturday mornings and that for years, I have been missing them. Most importantly, I've learned that I'm a stronger person than I thought I was.

The worst thing that has happened due to this hiatus from running has to do with my writing. I used to think on those runs: toss ideas in my mind, attack plot dilemmas, and mull over character development. Many times I'd leave the house with a blank slate, only to have it filled by the time mile 3 or 6 or 10 came into view. And now that I'm not running, my creative streaks have dwindled. But if having to work a little harder at writing is the worst thing to come out of it, then I think I'm pretty lucky.

People used to ask if I could live without running. "Of course not!" I'd say. "There is no way I could ever do that." I guess I was wrong.

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 1

The days crept by and here we are, at December 1. I can't believe it. The whole of 2014 is almost over, and what do I have to show for it? Quite a bit, thank you very much. I hope you do, too.

Just in case you weren't aware, December 1 is:
  • the 335th day of the year
  • the day the government reinstated the draft lottery (for Vietnam, the first since WWII)
  • the birthday of Jan Brett, author of The Mitten and many other lovable picture books
  • the day I start to worry that I'm not ready for Christmas
You can find an entire list of what has occurred on December 1 on the internet, of course, so I'll stop there. If you find something exciting and want to share, please do.

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!

  • 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)  

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


One thought for this Thanksgiving Day (as shared from

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

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 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 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.