Thursday, October 10, 2013

We Will ALL Work for Her Some Day

In fourth grade financial news, my daughter Brownie is building her empire.  She's already the saver in the house, and once she stops telling her brother where she hides her money stash, it's going to show some real growth.

Last weekend, I had one of my Origami Owl jewelry bars, and Megan came with me, handing out catalogs and order forms, helping people make lockets.  One of the women present was complaining about having to get the new hot kid item, the Rainbow Loom.  If you don't know what this is, grab a kid age 8-14 and ask.  You'll learn more than you ever wanted to know.  They're sold at Michael's and other stores.  The main complaint of parents is Michael's won't allow use of their 40% off coupon on this item.  They buy it anyway, and their second complaint is "how do you MAKE these &$#!*@ things?!" Then they are sent to youtube by parents in the know.

This mom found out Brownie knew how to make these horrific little things, sent her daughter down to her house to get the loom, and Megan taught two girls how to make them.  Fast forward a couple days, and my kitchen has been overrun with these accursed bands, as she taught her brother how to make them too.

Hubbster asks me yesterday if I saw the notebook on the table.  I had not.  Apparently, it had about eight names with colors listed next to them and $2 next to each one.  It seems Brownie is making and SELLING these things at school to kids who can't figure it out.  I asked why she didn't teach them to make them like she'd taught others.  She leveled me with a look and said, "then they won't PAY, Mom" and rolled her eyes at me.

Whenever she's taking applications, I'm putting mine in.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Day of Mixed Emotions

Today is the beginning of Suicide Prevention Week.  It's fitting, as it's also the birthday of someone we lost to suicide.  Every year gets easier, but that doesn't mean this young man is any less missed. While he took his own life, and I think of him whenever I hear of someone doing the same, he was SO much more than that one act. 

Denny's favorite character was Spider-Man, and that was later his nickname.  He could climb wall jambs all the way up to the top.  He had this funny little way of running where his legs would piston and rush, but his back would be ramrod straight.  His karate bag when I drove him to practice weighed almost more than he did, and watching him heft it in the car was funny.  He was caring and generous to my son the way pre-teens rarely are. He was surrounded by music his whole life, and he found his own ways to express himself through music appreciation and playing.  Art was another of his loves, and his drawings were everywhere in his home.  But in the end, he was still at the mercy of his inner demons, as so many young men and women are today. He had a host of people who interacted with him lovingly on a daily basis, which makes his choice so much more difficult for the rest of us to bear.  So many young people today don't have a support system, and that means they don't even have a sliver of a chance. 

I'll always think of him as Cubby's idol and wish he was still here. 

Happy Birthday, Denny.  We still miss you.  I hope you've found the peace you never had when you were with us. You deserve it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Words You Don't Want to Hear

In walked Brownie after school yesterday.  She immediately said, "Mom, can I ask you a question?" These words are part of her minute by minute questioning, so I wasn't concerned yet.  She continued, "What would you say if I told you I had a staple in my foot?" Of course, my response was "DO you have a staple in your foot?" She said no and burst into tears, clear indication she HAD a staple in her foot, but she's a drama queen, ya know.

After much crying and general ballyhoo, she allowed her dad to look at her foot.  Yep, there was a staple.  She'd been walking around with it all day, because she's not fond of the nurse who works at the school now, and she didn't want to tell her teacher, because it's FOURTH grade now, and she didn't want to look like a baby.  Ugh.

According to Hubbster, he could pull it out, but what if a piece was still in there?  I agreed.  Know what I was supposed to be doing?  Going to work.  I nearly gleefully handed him the insurance card, told him the numbers to call, kissed my little dramatic petunia on the head and went (ran) to work.  Immediately after, I went to the open house for Brownie's school where I was recruiting for Girl Scouts, then met with Brownie's (long winded) teacher.  Then I drove at breakneck speed to my first sales meeting for my new direct sales venture.  All during this, I was getting texted updates, pictures of Brownie in a wheel chair, with her roll of stickers, as they picked up dinner at McDonald's because the clinic took so long.  I didn't miss any of the experience.

When I came home, Hubbster was all TIRED from waiting and bath and homework.  Hmm, maybe there is an advantage to him being out of work.  But that doesn't mean I wouldn't kick him out into that cold cruel world at the hint of a job offer.

So! It was a full day round here.  It was also almost exactly a year after Brownie had to have stitches in her other foot from stepping on glass.  I told her she needed to mix it up next year and injure an arm.  She was not amused.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

This seems off

I'm sure everyone has seen the commercial for this product Rev by now. It features a young man awaking in the dead of night, committed to his sport, reaching into his parents' stainless steel fridge for a package marked "REV" in bold letters. He opens it, and inside is a fresh looking wrap with chicken or turkey, a little lettuce hanging out.  The boy eats it as inspirational narration plays, something about possibilities, even when others say it can't be done.

Now, I'm not an exerciser for the sake of exercising. I know I'm supposed to, but I just don't like it. Hiking around a lake to appreciate beauty, walking or bike riding as a mode of transportation, sure! But if you see me running, someone is chasing me.  So acknowledging this is not my foray, I take issue with this commercial. I'm under the impression, as a non-athlete, that a pre-made, in the refrigerated aisle for God knows how long, then toted home to lounge in the fridge for even longer CANNOT be a good thing for a working hard body. Wouldn't it be better to buy some deli meat, fresh tortillas and lettuce, take two extra minutes and have at least half the preservatives? Doesn't it seem like a message at odds to physically push one's body while filling it with crap?

Ah, advertising can make us believe anything is good.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Is Cubby going into the secret service?

You know the mountain of paperwork that gets sent home at the beginning of every school year?  The stack that has all the contact info for your family, and they ask if there are siblings, who has custody, and so forth?  I was looking in Cubby's stack for 7th grade.  I think they should have a question regarding how often my 7th grader loses his mind, but that's not mine to say.

A few of the questions, he'd already filled out, such as his name, his parents' names, his address, and his desired nickname.  Know what it was?  Chris.  His chosen nickname is Chris.  Problem is, his first name isn't even Christopher.  That's his MIDDLE name.  So he's essentially told a bunch of people who don't know him not to use the name his father and I gave him, but to call him a mini version of his middle name.

When teachers hand out this sheet, I'm sure they see it as a fun opportunity to get kids involved with telling about themselves.  MY son chose to use it as an opportunity to try out a new alias.  I wonder if he's done something heinous enough that we all need to enter the witness protection program.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

And so the semester begins. . .

Yes, a new semester has begun!  The promise of work submitted on time, all those shining faces with new books and pens and iPads and phones they're texting on!  As it begins, I've already had a winner of an email to share.  While classes for the university began on Monday the 26th, one of my classes is a Friday evening only course, in their attempt to accommodate our large adult learner community.  But hey, I'm not ditching a full week just because class doesn't happen until Friday.  So I posted in our learning management system the syllabus, info about the book, and some of the few assignments, telling them which ones could be done early if they so chose. 

One of those was an email sent from their university email.  It's an easy peasy assignment, meant only to ascertain they can access their campus email--through with EVERYTHING is routed--right from the start. I received an email from one of the students.  I am paraphrasing and correcting spelling.  I'm not going to hold this person up for TOTAL ridicule, yet.

Hey Prof! 

Is this a distance learning class? Are we handing in stuff on Moodle and not meeting every week?  That would be great, because this is my last class on Friday. I hope we don't have homework on the weekends.

Ok, see you soon!

Name Withheld 

Yes, that's right, internoodles, this student doesn't even know if this is a brick and mortar, hybrid, or online course.  Plus, he is pretty much telling me he doesn't really want to come to class on Fridays, because it cramps his style AND he doesn't want to do homework on the weekends, because we're, what, NINE?!  Keep in mind, this is the first encounter of any kind I'm having with this student.  Oh, and this is an upper level business writing course.  Can you imagine if he sent something like this to his BOSS?!  Oy, vey!

I didn't point out the glaring issues I had with the writing, but in my head, my response went something like this--

Dear Mr. Withheld,

I'm totally psyched you don't want to come to class or do homework!  It frees up my schedule in a number of ways.  I am, however, totally bummed that I'll be seeing you again, and probably again and again in this class, because those who have crap attitudes are doomed to repeat.


The Prof who plans for months for each class

Yeah, I come off all valley girl, but I'm not up on the slang, and what I am has more swearing than I'd like to use. It's gonna be a fun one!

Friday, August 23, 2013

My husband is weird

I think most wives know their husbands have weird little quirks.  Heck, at one time we thought they were ADORABLE, even. With mine out of work coming up on 11 months, well, I'm seeing way too much of him. WAY too much. Or maybe I'm just tired of the kids AND my husband being constantly around.  I need the Fall semester to begin so I can talk to some adults I'm not related or married to on a daily basis.

With Hubby home more, he's watching more TV, specifically sports, which, granted, he had a high tolerance for to begin with.  The side effect is I, who really can take or leave (mostly leave) anything but basketball, and even that requires a team I really want to watch, I never. want. to. see. another. sporting. event. as. long. as. I. live.  So I realize that my saying he's been "watching a lot of sports lately" carries little to no weight.  BUT! I find him watching odd things that he's usually not even into, like golf.  I can't remember the last time he picked up a club and went to a course--which is ok by me, that sport is wicked money just walking out the door--and played.  But he'll watch it "when nothing else is on" he says.  Or I could even understand a little beach volleyball with nubile cuties playing.  That serves a purpose I can get behind. 

But I've caught him recently on more than one occasion watching the World Series. . . of Little League.  That's right, Little League, as in children playing.  First, why is this sport even televised?  It's a KID'S game! Way to blow something out of proportion, crazy sports parents! Because you just KNOW this idea was spearheaded by some parents who were all, "but Muffin's NANA can't COME to the game, and it's such a big DEAL, and wouldn't it be GREAT if it were on TV?!" Second, why is anyone who is not a blood relation of the people playing interested? I can barely hold interest for my own kids' activities.  Now I should care about strangers?  Um, no.

So explain to me, people, why he's watching this drivel.  I don't get it.  Meanwhile, the "honey do" list keeps getting longer.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I'm tired!

I'm SO tired and jealous of all these great pics of their kids' first day of school.  Know why?  Mine are still HOME!  That's right, we don't start until Monday the 26th round here, and I have officially thrown in the towel.  I'm not cleaning anymore, because they're just standing behind me ready to make another mess.  I'm not cooking anymore, because everyone whines about what's for dinner and asks to "pick up" disgusting alternatives instead.  I won't even discuss the fights over computer, TV, IPad, Xbox, air they are breathing.

We've had our fun, including multiple weeks of camp, one in which they were BOTH gone, thank you, Jesus, but if you ask the kids, we've done nothing but keep them from awesome activities that would bankrupt a lottery winner they SWEAR their friends are doing.

While I've tried to get them back into the bedtime routine, they insist on living like frat boys.  All I can say is teachers, I'm sorry, but they will be BEASTLY the first week.  Good luck with that. I'm thinking of creating a fictional event that takes me away from home next week.  Shhh, don't tell my husband.

The dog has become my favorite mammal in the house.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I've become my grandmother

You know all those little things you noticed about your parent or grandparents that seemed at the time, well, odd?  You vowed never to do those things, again, because they were odd.

Today, I caught myself doing one of those things. I was reading the obituaries in the paper.  No one I know has died.  There's no reason for me to read the obituaries, but I did.  From A-Z.  It's something I used to watch my grandma do.  She'd cluck and coo over the reasons people died, how young--or old--they were, if they left kids behind, what they did for a living.  It was like a cosmic sort of "Here's Your Life" with strangers. 

I found myself doing the same thing today.  Ugh.

Something weird did come through, though.  I saw many, many pictures with the obituaries, which isn't terribly new, but I have noticed many people's relatives put, well, NOT recent pictures of their loved ones in.  I mean, the Navy graduation is nice, but if it was taken DURING a war, it probably doesn't resemble who the person was in the present day, know what I mean?  I don't get it.  Maybe if I wait a few years, I will.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Us onlies

No, I'm not misspelling stuff.  Puh-lease.  I AM the grammar police.  No, I'm thinking about those of us who are only children.  When I tell people I'm an only child, I get the knowing look and the eye roll, despite the fact I'm 45 and no longer a child in any respect.  Often people feel the need to make the "oh, you must have gotten EVERYTHING" comment out loud, and some have the class not to say it, but their faces say it loud and clear.  Maybe that's true of some only children.  I don't know those people.  When I, in the wake of the comment, shake my head and smile, I don't bother to go into why I don't fit that bill at ALL, but I am here.

But after my post yesterday, I've been thinking about a comment a friend, who is also an only child made.  She said being an only "ain't for the faint or weary." In a lot of ways that's true, but it's especially true for the subset of only children that she and I both fall into, only children of single parents, in our case, moms.  See, we're a different breed. Not because our moms wanted to, but out of necessity, we became peers way too soon.  We skipped over most of the indignant tantrums and whiny demands, moving straight to the years most people make peace with their parents.  There WERE some tantrums and demands, but they were early on, and they were cut off quick, because there was literally no time for nonsense.  See, our little subset became partners in The Effort.  That effort of keeping those elusive, slippery, never long enough ends meeting.  We onlies knew when the light bill wasn't paid, because we needed winter coats, and there wasn't money for both.  We saw our moms worrying over the bills piling up on the kitchen table.  We maybe scraped through Trigonometry (okay, I barely scraped through), but by God we could calculate how much we had in the grocery cart and get within $1 of the total in our heads.  We knew better than to ask for anything--even if it was for school--on the 25th because there was only $10 left until payday on the 30th. We got jobs at 12 and used it to pay for things we couldn't ask our parents for, because we knew something else wouldn't get paid.  We studied harder than anyone we knew, because the certainty of education was pushed into our heads, right along with the certainty we'd need scholarships to get it.

All that had a really odd effect on us.  Of the onlies I know of single moms, we're all more than a little heavy on the control freak thing.  Things need to be a certain way in our world.  We crave stability and security for ourselves and those we love. We're the ones breaking our legs to get to every kids' performance and riddled with more than average guilt if we can't. We're the ones trying over and over again to make things perfect.  Perfect family meals, perfect holidays, perfect outfits and parties for our kids, perfect memories, not because we're trying to impress those adults around us.  We're doing it because we're trying to give our kids everything we didn't have.  We want them to never hear the words "we just can't afford it" when talking about their dreams waiting for fulfillment.  We want them to travel a path we never even dreamed of.

So in our world of judgments made in a snap moment, the only child may not be what he or she seems.  Some may be heavy on the only and short on the childhood.  My friend was right, it's not an existence for the faint or weary.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

This blog post comes really as a response to one of my online friends who wrote this about her dad recently.  It immediately brought back a very powerful memory for me that I didn't think was appropriate for her comment section.  Given that this past week was the 12th anniversary of my mom's passing, I felt even more compelled to share. So here we go!

My mom passed away when my son, Cubby, had just turned 3 months old.  She'd gone into the hospital when he was only 3 weeks old, so I don't even have a picture of them together, except in my mind.  My mom only saw him twice. Add to this fun that I had an emergency c-section I was recovering from, and I exclusively nursed my son, so I was eternally sleep deprived while going to the baby sitter to drop him off, going to the hospital to visit, going to my mom's house to box up her things so she could live with us, trying to find a place big enough for our family plus Mom.  Then when things went south with my mom's health, contacting doctors who wouldn't tell me anything, talking to friends and family to give updates, planning and having a funeral.  Did I mention I'm an only child, and my dad disappeared long ago? It was all a ragged blur.  Caring for my son kept me both grounded and provided an escape.  Unfortunately, I did what I call surface level grieving.  I cried, I was sad, but I don't really think it penetrated to my core.

Fast forward to about a year later.  I remember it was in July, because Cubby and I had gone to Target, and it was warm, warm enough that I'd left shoes and socks off Cubby.  He had shorts on, so his gorgeous little chubby legs and feet were hanging out, aching to be squeezed.  That's just what a lovely little old lady did.  She squeezed his thighs, played with his toes, and suddenly she had moved her fingers up to play with his curls and squeeze his cheeks.  Now normally, I send off a vibe that says, "Look, do NOT touch" pretty loud and clear.  Rarely did people ever invade my space when I was pregnant to touch my belly or later with my kids to coo at them. My vibe must have been off that day, and Cubby was giggling, so I just looked at this interaction and smiled instead of walking away.

That's when it happened.  This sweet old lady looked at my baby and said "Do you need a grandma?  You look like it.  I think I could be your grandma." Oh, internoodles, I lost my effing crap.  I don't mean I teared up (like I'm doing right now remembering it) demurely.  I mean within 30 seconds I lo-ost my CRAP!  I was sniveling, crying uncontrollably, nose running, unable even to speak and tell this lovely old lady I was not a crazy person on most days, just that she'd hit a nerve.  I have a vague recollection of this woman with an arm around me, and her other arm still playing with Cubby's hair. I cried so hard on her shoulder I lost a contact that day.  Through my blindness, I remember little old lady with a huge wet mascara smudge on her shirt helping me to the check out.  I don't know who she was, and I can only imagine what she told her family, but it was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

And yeah, there are days when I'm angry at the unfairness of it all, and there are days that just make me sad.  The days between get better, Jules, but there's always the potential for being blindsided.  Maybe they're up there throwing those people in our path just to make sure we're thinking of them.  I don't know.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Who says I don't need an iphone?

Ok, this isn't a debate about droid (sucks!) vs. iphone (heaven!).  Really, it's not.  I just had one of those days when I realized this handy little iphone that I couldn't have cared less about four years ago knocked at least three hours off my schedule of running errands and put a big check in my productivity column.

What I accomplished today:
  • Added and calculated amounts for something I needed to buy for Girl Scouts, and I used my iphone because the THREE calculators in this house are, of course, all missing.
  • Received the email saying what I needed to pick up was in at the Girl Scout office, even though I was on my way out the door to drop of the boy at his library volunteering.
  • Able to check hours of operation for destination.
  • Found directions to drop off paperwork for the boy's summer Boy Scout camp, even though the subdivision in question is notoriously convoluted AND the house number was entirely missing (not good planning on home owner/Boy Scout volunteer's part, but not part of this post).
  • Received a call from my job on money that was not included in my last pay, leading into. . .
  • I was able to save the number, since it was her direct extension, which is never given out.
  • Able to use voice recognition so I didn't have to look up a colleague's number who is also teaching this summer to tell her to look up her status after talking to gal above.
  • Having my whole address book and not having to look stuff up is about the best thing ever, as I'm not one to remember numbers at ALL.
  • While I was at GS council, in an area with cheaper gas, I was able to find the closest and cheapest using the Gas Buddy app.
  • Received text from boy to pick him up.
  • Was able to text boy when he wasn't in front to move. his. behind.
I swear, that right there was a morning, not a whole day.  This part of technology, I love.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Change is happening.

I'm the parent of a tween.  It's official.  I know this happened in April, when my boy turned 12, but the fact hit home lately when our town had its local carnival a couple weekends ago.  It has been for at least the last five years that the kids and I walked in the parade with different organizations we're part of, and Hubbster would drive the car to the end, where there was a carnival for the kids.  We'd buy the "all day" or as I call them "ride til you puke" wristbands, and the kids would ride the rides while we people watched.  The day would be capped off with carnival food (there is something about carnival corn dogs that makes me just crazy!).

This year, Brownie was all up for business as usual.  Cubby wanted no part.  He got his wristband, asked for a few bucks, told me he had phone in hand, and asked if he could go off and find "friends" to hang with.  Yep, I was left holding stuff, watching Brownie ride things that would have induced a migraine in me.  AND they got rid of the nice ferris wheel we usually did together.  Plus, Hubbster had to be someplace, so it was just me.  AND it was really cold out that day.  I felt abandoned at the carnival.  It stank.

But Cubby sure came running when I texted we were getting something to eat, so he'd better come now or not get anything.  I still got it.  Until he gets a job.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Job is not a Job

As things get more and more dire with Hubbster's employment situation, we can't help but have discussion of job search related issues enter into our daily conversation. The kids obviously know their dad is out of work, but Brownie hasn't quite grasped that all jobs aren't equal. 

We had a friend of Brownie's over and needed to drop her off at her daycare, which happens to be in a strip mall. Also in the strip mall is a bridal shop with a rather large sign saying "Help Wanted" in the window. Brownie immediately got excited and said "Mom! Mom! They need people! Dad should work THERE!"

It took all I had not to laugh, imagining my hulk of a husband who barely owns dress up clothes of his own giving style advice to young brides.  Although Brownie would want to visit him every day at work. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Line at Walmart

Last weekend was a parade in our community that my kids have always walked in with various organizations they are part of.  This year, Cubby marched in the junior high band for the first time (sniff!) and Brownie walked with our Girl Scout service unit.  Only a couple weeks prior to the start of the parade, the person in charge of getting candy to throw at the crowd, water for participants, and badges for the girls had family issues and I stepped up to take care of things.  All this led to my presence in Walmart on a Saturday night with two carts full of candy and bottled water with the slowest checker in the world (that's a WHOLE other post).

As we waited, the kids started to argue, as they will if they are unamused and left to their own devices for longer than two minutes.  Like I said, I had two overflowing carts and was negotiating a peace treaty with hostile parties when I spied an annoyed looking woman in her 20s behind my squabbling kids.  Saturday night, pretty girl in jammie pants and sweatshirt.  Hmm.  I looked in her cart surreptitiously.  Two packages of double chocolate cookies, pint of Ben & Jerry's, biggest bottle of vodka I've ever seen, People magazine, and a large package of feminine hygiene products. 

I smiled to myself and wondered if I should make her suffer behind us for now so she'd be thankful for that time of the month in the long run or let her go ahead of my squabblers and me.  I decided in the interest of all our safety to shoo her ahead.  She smiled, then went back to surly looking, but I'm not judging.  Some days, that's all there is to give.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I'm just a little afraid

Cubby came home today and said our local library had come to his school today to encourage participation in the annual summer reading program and remind them that this summer, since they'd technically be in 7th grade, they could volunteer at the library.

Immediately after he told me this, he got online and signed up as a volunteer.  Then he wanted to go to the library (which isn't REALLY unusual, but it's mostly to play games of the video and board variety with people). As I dropped him off, I asked what he wanted to do at the library, mostly trying to get through to him that he wouldn't be there for fun and giggles but to really help.  He said he could sign people into the computers or shelve books (he's known how since the age of five, price for being the kid of an English professor who also worked for a major library management software provider) or help with game days.

Again, I reminded him this wasn't about his fun level, and I asked why he wanted to do this. He said, and I quote, "well, other than Boy Scout camp, all I'll really be doing this summer is playing video games and playing video games with friends.  I might as well do something useful."

(Crickets. . . )

"Ok!  Good for you!" 

Could it be? Could the lifelong lessons FINALLY be kicking in? Could he be thinking of others?

Then he added "plus, if we volunteer the whole summer, there's a pizza and ice cream party at the end!"

Hopes. Dashed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Breeders VS. Non-breeders

A friend of mine recently posted an article about how someone with kids was fed up with the attitudes of her non-breeder friends.  Fair warning if you read the article, she's a bit bitter about a school situation and seems to have her own axe to grind.  The friend who posted is married, no kids, and I was amused at some of the comments that popped up regarding the audacity of this woman.  My friend, I should note, is not one of the people who thinks children are accessories and respects that additional arrangements may need to be made in order to have an evening out.

But then there are others.  My husband has a friend who, as a couple would routinely call and say things like "hey, in a few hours we're going to be in your area, so let's DO something!" With these people, I learned, "do something" is not a nice dinner we might be able to scrounge up a sitter for.  No, "do something" requires no less of a commitment than staying out until 4am.  Well, actually, that was when I put a stop to the nonsense the last time we ever "did something" with them.  At that point, it was like the Bataan Death March for Hubbster and me, except we were held captive as they were driving.  We have divulged ourselves of those happily childless friends, because we're in our 40s, and drinking until we're squishy to 4am and beyond is not nearly as appealing as it was in our20s.

Sometimes, we do enjoy getting out, with friends who have kids or not, and we save our knowingly adult activities for those times.  No, I'm not talking strip clubs or illegal activities, just ADULT places, like restaurants where there are white tablecloths and hushed tones, and we're not eating dinner as if it were a speed sport.  It can be amazing, though, that family members can sometimes be the ones who insist children can handle those places, when we all know they can't.  It's as if they've wiped the child years from their minds.  Hubbster and I were once at a swanky as heck place, enjoying ourselves immensely, when a table of seven came in.  Four kids, three adults, and everyone was miserable.  It was obviously two parents who were unwilling to bring their four kids in, and a mom/mother-in-law who had insisted.  The parents were trying their best to keep the kids quiet while simultaneously trying to find something they would eat on the VERY expensive ala carte menu, and grandma was looking like they were all raining on her parade.  As we were walking out, I mentally sent good vibes to the parents.

What SHOULD  happen is we should all be able to understand that we have different lives, suburban or city, with kids or without, and try to make plans more than a few hours in advance.  Then, we breeders will happily dump our kids and race for the place where we can dress in clothes we never get to wear because they're too nice.  Do forgive us, though, if our eyes are a little glazed and we stumble a bit.  It's pretty when we can pick our heads up and look at our surroundings.  We never get to, since we're on constant kid alert, scanning like we're the Secret Service.  We're stumbling because we never wear decent shoes, just the sneakers we throw on to get to the next item on the agenda.  Oh! And don't laugh that our "look" is outdated.  I told you, we don't do this often. Then we'll part ways, everyone happy, as the non-breeders go to their immaculate condos on the lake with the view and us breeders will go to our burb locales, trying to squish ourselves around the kids and dog in our bed because they missed us.  Is there a bed size bigger than king?  We might need it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Chicago that once was

All this rain in Chicago lately has brought me back to a time when I was but a wee sprout.  It's a vivid memory of rain, flooding, roadways, and the things that went down in Chicago on a summer night in 1975.  As background, I grew up in Northwestern Indiana.  Then, it was a place of steel mills, Ford manufacturing, and houses thrown up in the 60s to accommodate the rush from the south to fill those jobs, along with the rush of soldiers returning from Viet Nam happy to use the benefits Uncle Sam gave them to set up housekeeping and raise a family.  It was a suburban place, in the shadow of the city of big shoulders, but it was also gritty with the residue of those factories.  Most dads worked, and most moms either stayed at home or held nursing, teaching, or secretary jobs "in the city" which meant taking the train into downtown.  As it is today, people there root for the Bears, not the Colts, The Bears, not the Pacers, but Indiana University basketball was the only college team.

One set of grandparents lived on the north side of Chicago, in culture a universe away from my neighborhood in Northwestern Indiana, but only about 45 minutes in good traffic.  The land traversed between passes some lovely neighborhoods that look onto the lake.  It also passes neighborhoods that had become crime riddled and still have issues today.  The Dan Ryan Expressway wound through 12 miles of the south side, giving a view of some Chicago housing projects that were beginning to become bleak, hopeless places to live. There were also many, many viaducts that spanned the expressway, connecting both sides for cars to turn around or people to walk across.  These viaducts had large drains that connected to Chicago's underground drain systems that were far from sufficient.  It wasn't unusual for these drains to back up and traffic to be at an absolute standstill for hours.  Chicago was in the Mayor Bilandic years, where the budget was cut to the bone and services weren't really helping people (Fun fact for non-locals!  Mayor Bilandic was literally defeated by SNOW.  An epic storm accosted the city, and in more cost saving measures, Bilandic didn't mobilize street cleaning crews for side streets for DAYS.  No one could get out, the city was near paralyzed, and it wasn't until days later people were free of snow and ice, just in time to vote in our first female mayor, Jane Byrne, who only had until then a small amount of the vote).

I don't remember why we were at my grandparents' house that Sunday, but I remember waiting as long as possible for the rain to die down. It was late by the time we'd left, and we must have been out of town somewhere, because we were transporting my cat home too.  I had to get to school and my mom to work the next morning, so we left when it was still raining, but less. We got to about 59th Street, and things slowed and eventually stopped.  The viaduct was flooded.  The rain stopped, and it was still flooded.  People got out of their cars to investigate.  We all knew it could be hours.  No one moved to go onto the side streets to try their luck, because night time in the summer then, flooding would not be a worry, but it would be replaced with others.

I remember cars, big glorious American made boats of steel.  We had a Gremlin (don't laugh).  But THESE cars, these were not the tame blue and white and maybe maroon or tan of my neighborhood.  No, there were purple cars, yellow ones that were so bright, they could have been the sun, with windows dark as night so it would be impossible to know of one or ten people were riding within.  An ice cream truck near us waited about half an hour before turning on his music and starting to sell off his cold, melting treats.  He was sold out in less than 20 minutes.  My mom, alone at night in a less than fabulous neighborhood, even by expressway standards with her 7 year old and a cat wasn't adventurous enough to take me to get ice cream.  I was crushed.

That was when a lovely caramel skinned beauty with a Tina Turner wig (the long red, not the spiky Thunderdome one) noticed me.  She cooed over my cat, cooed over me, turned to her ebony toned friend with teased out hair, and soon both were cooing over me and my kitty.  They were dressed in the fanciest dresses I'd ever seen. They had spangles and necklines cut so low little was left to the imagination.  What was left would be erased when the slits that went almost to their waists were seen.  My mom started gulping when she saw what we had coming toward us.  A giant of a man with a white fur hat (with a long feather in the band), a full-length mink coat, and a purple suit underneath was headed for us, not looking too happy.

The women, who called him "Daddy" a fact I questioned my mother at length about for months to no avail, told him they were sorry they'd drifted off, pointing out the unmistakeable cuteness of cat and girl.  Holding about 10 ice cream items in one giant paw of a hand, he looked at me, looked at my mom, the beat up state of our car, and he promptly told me to "pick you some, baby" and held out the ice cream.  Years later, my mom told me she was gulping air, hoping not to hyperventilate, on the other side of the car, as she could see beyond the ice cream, the coat, and the suit to the full gun holster that matched his size this man had strapped to his side. 

All of this took place over the course of about an hour.  It stayed dry, and soon we noticed people getting into their cars and starting to ease forward, only to stop again.  The ladies talked me up, and my mom made pleasant conversation with them.  As the man sidled over to my mom's side of the car, we heard a cheer from closer to the viaduct, and people scrambled to their cars.  The water had gone down, and we could pass!  My mom fumbled into the car, the ladies made sad faces we had to part as they licked their bomb pops, and the giant man came to my side of the car. He said "take care, baby" and shoved another ice cream in my hand, shouting that the ladies needed to get in car, and we parted ways speedily.

I looked at the sloppy ice cream I'd almost dropped because it was nearly melted through, my eyes getting bigger.  Then I handed my mom the $100 bill folded and wrapped around the package.  Mom told me to "be quiet" even though I hadn't said a word and drove on home.

The things that happen on a summer night in Chicago in 1975. . .

Friday, April 19, 2013

There's just something wrong with tweens and teens

In case you didn't hear, the Chicagoland area (I have a friend who HATES that phrase, says it makes Chicago sound like an amusement park, to which I reply IT IS!) nearly floated away in the wake of torrential storms.  Parts of four major expressways, along with countless streets were closed.  Our school remained open, where some others did not, but busses were cancelled.  This didn't affect us, as we live three blocks from the kids' schools.

Because I'm not a heartless beast, I actually drove my children to school yesterday.  My newly turned 12 Cubby has lately been refusing to dress appropriately for the weather because, um, well, he's 12.  I specifically told him to put on a water resistant jacket, NOT the gray hoodie he's been wearing around for weeks.  Just as we pull up to the school, I realize he's wearing the hoodie.  I launch into a stunning commentary (really, it was) on how tweens lose their dang minds before they get to 6th grade. 

As I pull up to the school, along with countless others, I see one, two, three, four cars spit out various 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  Not a rain jacket or umbrella among them.  All in hoodies. 

They're all just brain damaged.  It's the only answer.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Are you tougher than a Boy Scout?

There's a show out new  many may not have heard of it you're not a devotee of the National Geographic channel or you don't have a Boy Scout in the house.  Obviously, I fall into the latter category.  We've been watching it like fiends, and while it has fallen into a bit of repetition, I highly recommend an episode or two.

Generally, it's a battle between present Eagle Scouts and men who are trying to relive their youth.  Sad but true, interviews with most of the adult men center around variations on the theme of "I almost made it, but I was just a few badges shy" or "I quit before actually becoming an Eagle Scout, and I want to prove to my son/daughter/brother/dead father I can still do it."  The problem with this premise is, they are adult MEN with sons/daughters/brothers/dead fathers.  They're usually in their late 30s or 40s.  One I think was hovering at the cusp between 20 and 30, but he's an anomaly.  And they're up against 16, 17, and 18 year olds.  You know, young men in the PRIME of their LIVES. There have been a couple adult males who won their individual challenge (all by only a small margin), but we've yet to see the adult males take all three challenges.  Usually, at some point, someone is wheezing and mentioning they thought they were in shape prior to the event.  I will also say, we've noticed the two who won their individual events had The Crazy Eyes, which you know when you see.  Even Brownie, who's only just turned 9, has commented on those individuals' rabid looks.

My point isn't that youth is great or to ask why no one in these adult males' lives informed them they were actually metaphorical lambs being led to the slaughter.  My point is, and I know I go on and on about the values of scouting, but here I go again.  Something has emerged in these competitions that warms my heart every time, and it makes me thankful for scouting.  Usually, the men--young and older--engage in a kind of relay challenge, where using the skills that would be earned in merit badges, they individually have to complete a challenge, then tag the next guy to go to the next location and do something else.  The scouts are usually off and running, but a small group of them stay behind until the adult male has finished too.

You'd think during this time there would be some significant trash talking going on by the scouts, but there isn't.  During the competition, there's a lot of "come on, you can do it" to their fellow scouts, but they don't negatively trash the other competitor.  While that may be the design of the show, I don't know, even more interesting, is they ENCOURAGE the other team.  The first time I saw it, it was after the scout competing had left the area.  The remaining scouts were giving advice about how to shoot a bag with a slingshot, telling the man to stay calm, breathe through the shot, etc. I made a point, in subsequent episodes, to look for this kind of interaction, and it came through every time.  There has yet to be a point where the scouts weren't gracious and exhibiting awesome team skills, even to those not on their team.

Think about that.  Extending team encouragement in the middle of a competition, to the OTHER team.  Where else do you see that?  Where else is competition had, and a friendly game is just that, a FRIENDLY game? I think about how we belittle helping others in our society, and we've become every man for himself.  The phrase "don't hate the player, hate the game" is really true.  These young men show that if we uplift the player, we uplift the game, and I'm glad that is being shown. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sexism! What fun!

So Cubby just told me something his science teacher said during their discussion of rocks and rock related fun.  He said when the teacher was talking about granite, he specifically said women really like it and asked if they knew why. 

Because it's expensive and heavy.  Women like expensive things and to make men carry around heavy stuff.

(crickets. . . )

What. The. Hell?! 

I know it was only a joke, but they're TWELVE!  Oh, science teacher I suspected was a douche to begin with, do we really need to put your bitter post-divorce archaic nonsense into the heads of sixth graders? Apparently, he feels that's a yes.

I feel an email coming on.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I'm disliking these junior high years more and more

I've said it before, and I'll say it again that public education was not made for most boys.  Most boys, unlike most girls, aren't people pleasers.  They aren't motivated by wanting someone's approval.  They are motivated by exploring what they find interesting, even if that interest occurs at an inopportune moment.  They need to feel movement far more than girls.  That movement is what keeps them connected to the interest.  I've seen it time and time again in my son, his friends, when I've worked with high school students, and even in my college men.

This is all a preface to the issues Cubby has been having in school this year.  Not submitting homework is high on the list, but his teachers all of a sudden are hinting at that four letter acronym of ADHD.  Mind you, he's been in school for 10 of his 12 years.  He's chatty and moves around a lot, but not once has a teacher sat across from me and said "Wow, this needs immediate attention."  But this year, they're all over me to "get him evaluated." That would be fine, except I'm not a big proponent of medicating kids.  I know there are kids out there who cannot get through the day without medication to help them absorb ideas.  They need that medication, and I don't fault their parents at all for giving it to them.  But I don't think that NEED is there for Cubby.  He absorbs material just fine, even stuff he's not really interested in.  I think the teachers would be happier if he were quieter, but that's their need, not his.

Unfortunately, "evaluation" seems to be their only paradigm for helping Cubby to succeed.  We've got software where teachers can input students' grades and parents can check whenever they want.  However, I find the teachers wait a couple weeks, then post a myriad of grades, so I can't really catch Cubby on the cusp of doing badly, when only one assignment is missing.  He's often plunged into three or four missing assignments by the time I see the grades, which I check every other day or so.  I've asked for a list of the assignments prior to the due dates so I can remind from home.  They responded with "we want him to be responsible for himself" which I get, but he's newly turned 12, and that method isn't working.

The last meeting centered on "evaluation" again, to which I finally responded that if the goal of the meeting was to fast track Cubby to drugs, they'd better come up with a new agenda.  Having done my research (I mean, research is in my BLOOD, man), I'm even more against drugs for Cubby, and something new needed to be brought to the table.  They said they were setting up a new during school study group they had in 7th and 8th grade, and they thought "some" students might benefit from it in 6th.  The counselors taught it, and the counselors were given a list of homework due that was upcoming, so they could closely monitor if they were doing it (Doesn't it sound like what I was asking for? No matter, sign him up!).  Better solution, by far, than just getting an assignment book signed, when it wasn't forgotten at school or at home.

This started last week when they returned to school.  How many students is "some" you might ask.  Eighteen.  Eighteen is "some" and that's only for one counselor.  There are four counselors at the school.  Is it a mix of boys and girls you may ask.  No, it is NOT.  Twenty BOYS, whose parents I'm fairly sure were probably encouraged to medicate.  I just love how both Cubby and I were made to feel like he's an absolute anomaly, and there was something seriously wrong, when in reality, he's pretty darn common.  I wish there would come a time when our education system--and by the way, this is a stellar school and district--realizes all kids aren't the same, and they don't learn the same, because we've got a generation of boys who are getting the short end of the educational stick.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Best NCAA Final Memory

In 2001 the NCAA final was played on April 2nd, when Arizona went up against Duke's power house.  Why do I know this? Because I was busy trying to bring a human being into the world. 

Cubby was due on April 9th, and Hubbster declared early on that he would be born during the NCAA final.  Saying "all first babies are late," I declared he would come after.  Sad to say, a case of pre-eclampsia meant an induction, and more onerously, that Hubbster was right.

So there we were, 20 hours into some hard labor for me (a fact I relish reminding Cubby on his birthday) where I alternately told Hubbster his breath smelled too strongly of coffee, then said it was too minty.  I'd cursed him and his male kind, and I think I'd begged him to get a butter knife and I'd get this baby out.  The TV was turned to the game in an effort to give Hubbster some relief from my crazies.  I may or may not have flung a magazine at the TV at one point.  Really, I didn't get any air under it, as I was mid-contraction, so it looked like it dropped and could go either way. At some point the doc decided an epidural was mine, mine, mine!

The epidural doc who walked in was a bear of a man.  I yelled at him to get the lead out.  He got.  As he's about to do his thing with the needle, and I'm curled into a ball, he asked if anyone had watched the game, because he was an Arizona alum and had a few bucks on it.  From my near fetal position, I admonished him to focus.  He did, and I finally got a nap, after I'd professed my undying love for him.  For about an hour.  Then the lights went on, and they said Cubby's heart tones were bad. I needed an immediate c-section.

Scary as it was, this team sprang into action, and within maybe two minutes I was in an operating room.  As Cubby was taken out of me, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and ankle, he wasn't breathing.  Hubbster rushed off with the nurses and Cubby, and I was left to still be worked on.  That bear of an Arizona alum held my hand the whole time, reassuring me that it would all be okay, and I don't even know his name.

In the end, it WAS all okay.  Cubby turned 12 yesterday, and there's almost no trace of that tiny little baby who gave us such a scare that day.  There is ONE spot.  They'd attached a fetal monitor to Cubby's scalp. In the effort to get him out NOW, they kind of ripped it out, creating a bit of a scab they assured me would go away.  It never did.  When his hair is short, there's a scar about the size of a dime in the shape of a heart on the side of his head.  It disappears soon enough, but I kind of like the first week into a fresh haircut when I can see it on the side of his head. 

I look at that spot and think of my little baby.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Her own drummer

My baby girl is an absolute original. She has her own way and style about her. Those who try to force her peg into a differently shaped whole usually end in defeat.

We had a rough year last year. While I try my best to respect her hodgepodge creative space, we clash sometimes. Unfortunately, as a teacher she had someone who only saw kids in very specific, certain terms (Is the Breakfast Club running through your head?). The year was spent with EPIC battles over in brushed hair, messy desks, dropped book bags, and mismatched socks, all battles I'd chosen as futile long ago. It was a looooong year.

Today, I thought about how much more relaxed she is this year, and during this ruminating, I happened to look down at Brownie's feet, and her mismatched socks.

Vive la difference!

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Yep, you heard that right, I'm apparently RICH!  Well, our household is, at least according to a columnist in the Chicago Tribune last week.  Discussing taxes and tax filing, one Jim Gallagher noted that "Tax preparation filing might be the only area where it's better to be a working stiff than to be rich.  For most working folks, tax preparation is cheap or free. . . if your income is under $57,000. . . "

Uh-huh.  $57,000 indicates a "working stiff" so by extension, since the comparison was to being "rich" I'm assuming Gallagher thinks those who make $57,001 and up are "rich" indeed.  My questions, if Jim Gallagher were sitting in front of me are as follows:
  1. Did you take a vow of POVERTY, man?! In Chicago, $57,000 can barely sustain one person!
  2. Are you eating Ramen noodles and baloney every night to do that sustaining?
  3. Is this a trick by mainstream media to make those who make $57,000 feel flush?
  4. This isn't so much a question as a thanks for giving me an all-out chortle this morning.
I'm sure there are many of you out there who are amazed by this new knowledge, so go out there and live it up!  Celebrate YOUR new status as nouveau riche!

Monday, March 11, 2013

People are crazy

8yo Brownie comes home today all jazzed up that one of her friends is SO lucky. Why? Because she got to go to a friend's birthday party in. a. limo.

Take the time to reread that. A limo. For a 9th birthday party. I have now crossed into the zone where I have a desire to smack people I don't even know.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ah, the irony

I volunteered at Brownie's school today. It was some winter carnival, open call for warm adult bodies for crowd control. As a result, there were about 15 of us moms wandering up to the school entrance, then waiting to be led to our area.

The ENTIRE time, one mom who had five obvious name brands at my count was talking on her phone loudly. The general idea was that she was slamming a family member who did not behave according to her very high standards at a dinner outing.

She mentioned FOUR times in about 10 minutes, "God! He's so SELF-INVOLVED!"

Irony. At its finest.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I have issues

One issue is that I am a klutz.  I mean, I can walk and chew gum at the same time--most days--but let's just say I'm not known for my "graceful as a gazelle" countenance. I once had a co-worker and friend comment she LOVED when I came to work, because I immediately straightened up all the bulky things we worked with behind our desk.  I finally clued her in that it was because if things were left all humble jumble, I was SURE to bump, walk into, or trip over it.

My other issue is on my best of days I'm a sub-par house cleaner.  I used to be fairly good at this task, and then the children came.  Now that I'm flying in 17 different directions, I simply cannot bear to spend time completing a task  that will be undone by the heathens I live with by the end of the day.  I don't have that kind of time to follow them around and wipe, disinfect, pick up after them.

Often, however, I feel a domestic spurt coming on (read, avoiding grading desperately, often after reading the first paper that depresses me).  When I go domestic, yo, I GO! So I WENT.  I had chicken soup bubbling away on the stove, I'd chopped up and cleaned all the fruits and veggies from the store and put them in their little air tight boxes, stacked up neatly in the fridge, filled the dishwasher, and I'd decided to clean my kitchen sink.  I'm a devotee of the Soft Scrub with bleach product, so a scrubbing I went.

Somehow, while leaning over to really get a good scrub on, I scrubbed vigorously, and a sloppy gush of Soft Scrub runoff splashed back at me, missed my glasses and landed IN. MY. EYE. So I've got Soft Scrub all over my hands past my wrists, in my eye, and I can't use my hands to put water in it to flush.  What did I do?  I screamed for my husband, who was thankfully home.  However, trying to explain what happened quickly, run for the bathroom, and get his hands with water actually TO my eye was another comedy of errors. And it wasn't easy to do while keening like a panicked howler monkey.

Eye is stinging, but fine.

Tell me other people have these issues.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'm not sure if Jealousy is the right word for this

I struggle with even letting this little "secret" out, because I don't want others to feel bad about crowing over their kids' accomplishments.  They should.  Being proud of our kids is great, and all kids should feel great if they get good grades and feel that sense of accomplishment.  Even better if it extends to their parents.

But, Lord help me, I wish there were something that would delete every one of those comments in my life without my ever seeing them.

I don't begrudge people who can say "so PROUD of Muffin! Muffin has ROCKED it this quarter with straight As."  I really don't.  I, too, applaud Muffin's effort and know exactly why Muffin's mom or dad is bursting at the seams.  In the same moment, I despair I'll ever get to publicly acknowledge pride for that particular kind of action for my kids. 

I'm proud all over the place of the people my kids are.  They care about people they know and their community, even those they don't know.  They're good to others and don't consider the "cool" factor of people before declaring them best friends.  They don't see race as a reason for friendship.  People's race is simply a descriptor as in "I wear glasses, and she has brown skin." They're both comfortable in their own skins, stand up for what they believe in, aren't afraid to use their voices, and as people with global sensibilities, I think they are wise beyond their years.

But (you knew it was coming).

And it's the ultimate knife in the gut for an educator like me, my son doesn't care at. all. about homework.  Or sitting in class.  Or information that he doesn't find interesting.  This has always been a minor problem, teachers commenting occasionally that he's not "engaged" in the class (buzzword for he's not focusing rapt attention on them), yet he'll get As on tests.  It's obviously sopping in there somewhere, so it meant Bs instead of As. Now that he's in junior high, they're making a big show of how they need to be responsible for himself (which I GET, but tossing him to the wolves isn't working) and knowing what has to be handed in when. They also tend to nickle and dime the kids with a ton of little homework and classwork turned into homework assignments, a process I've never liked. Problem is, turning in busy work doesn't concern him, even when he's actually done it.  This has caused his grades to plummet.  We've taken all fun away, and it's still not improving.

Of course, as a parent and teacher, I worry that this will be a lifelong attitude, and he can't exhibit this behavior in the future, because it will only continue to get worse. As an outsider, I also tend to view this situation and think "so ALL the other 11 year old boys are handing in their work scrupulously?" Because a number of them routinely end up at my house during the evenings and weekends, so I observe them fairly closely, and I find that hard to believe.  Sigh. We're trying organization techniques and mandatory study labs, whose real advantages are the teachers KNOW when he has homework and he's allowed to go to his locker if he forgets something.

My daughter? She's a different issue entirely.  She tries hard, loves school, enjoys the material and her teachers, but it takes her a much longer time to internalize the information.  As a consequence, she goes through a few tests and class activities where the grades aren't great before she hits sustained understanding, and it affects her grades.  I worry she'll never be an A student, not because I demand As from her, but because I don't want her to tune out from school and start to dislike it, because she doesn't have that report card validation. It doesn't help matters that the district just switched to a new math program that is stinking HARD! Even my son saw some of her work recently and pronounced they hadn't covered that until 5th grade (she's in 3rd).  The teacher even said much of the class had severe difficulties in the beginning of the year.  For her, I just want her to stay motivated to be a good student, because she could go off the rails easily if she's not dedicated.

What is it they say about the children of police officers?  They're always the kids getting into trouble?  Does something similar  hold true for the children of educators?  They're the ones who reject traditional education?

Parenting, it's not for the faint of heart.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is the day my mom would have been 69 years old. 

I really try to celebrate the birth days of my loved ones who have passed, because it makes for a cheerier me, and I find I'm more apt to share good memories when I do that.  But I have to say I'm angry.  I'm angry because she's been gone for almost 12 years.  Not only was I robbed of a mom when I was new to marriage, having kids, all the times when mom is the go-to person for advice, but my kids were robbed of a really special relationship with their grandmother, like I had with mine.  And my mom was robbed too of maybe being able to just coast.  She'd scrabbled a lot through life, and it would have been nice to see her sit back and enjoy it.

This year is made harder by the fact I just found out someone I knew from high school passed away.  While she wasn't a best buddy, she was someone I always remember as having a smile on her face, and I can't think of anything bad she ever said about anyone.  Her family shouldn't be planning her funeral today.

I guess I'm a little angrier this year, but I'm just seeing a lot of really bad people--both on a big scale and a small one--filled with nastiness and hate, and it's a daily fight to keep that negativity out.  I can't help but think a whole karma cleaning is in order, but when things like that happen, it seems the good ones go first.  I don't know.  I'm just sick to death of the seeming injustice of good people going young and bad ones sticking around.

In any event, happy bday, Mom!  I'm thinking of you today, and I love and miss you.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cheap wins!

I've officially thrown off all vestiges of vanity in favor of my gnawing frugality. These vitamins pictured? $2.35! That's right, $7 less than average vitamins. I'm still 5+ years from crossing into 50, yet I didn't hesitate for even a moment before putting it into my cart.

I've got friends--closer to 50 than I am might I add--who would speed out of the aisle for fear the vitamins would spontaneously leap into their carts.

I bought two.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Support Girl Scouts!

Yes, internoodles, it's that time of year again here in the Midwest--Girl Scout Cookie Time!

I've got scouts of both the boy and girl variety, and Lord knows my kids have hit up everyone they can think of to sell, sell, sell.  Yeah, my kids are born marketers.  This year, Brownie made her own video on my phone, showing cookie options and texted it to random people in my contacts.  Some she knew well, some not at all.  It's made for some funny texts in return.

This isn't about a plea for more sales (but hey, if you don't HAVE a local girl scout, LET ME KNOW) but to publicly appreciate and explain the connection scouts has had in all our lives and tell you more about what you're supporting. 

When I was a kid, my mom was a single parent, my dad flitting in and out at unexpected and random moments.  We were both very fortunate that my grandparents were involved and in the picture, but they lived about 45 minutes away--in good Chicago traffic--and since my mom was the oldest of seven, there were still kids at home for my grandparents to raise when I was a child.  My mom also had a fabulous network of friends who helped out by keeping me overnight while she went to her night job.  But my mom felt guilty, possibly treading into using those options TOO much.  Summer Girl Scout camp was her break.  Not that my mom didn't love and worship the ground I walked on (I mean who wouldn't?!) but every parent needs a break.  My mom would scrimp and save all year to send me to at least one full week of camp in the summer.  As I grew older, multiple weeks were saved for.  They represented her chance to rejuvenate and come back to parenting fresher and better.  It gave her a chance to miss me.

Did I mention I LOVED girl scout camp? I was able to assert my independence without being told "no" unless it was something flat out dangerous.  I learned how to ride horses English style, I sailed a small boat by myself then taught others to, I took a three day canoe trip with 10 other girls, I built fires, planned and cooked meals by myself, and on rainy days, I mastered the ability to French braid hair (something I've put to GOOD use with a daughter), and I started a real love affair with camping and the outdoors that's lasted me my whole life, all by age 14.  Had my mom tried to give me all those opportunities individually, the costs would have been monstrous, and I wouldn't have been able to do even half those activities.  But Girl Scouts provided a way to give me solid skills in all those areas.

For my kids, I look around the world today, and I see how heavy competition to the point of crushing one's opponent into dust is valued.  I see the disconnect between people and their communities, and I feel acutely the ways our children no longer value our connection with nature.  We recycle and all, but there's little to no appreciation for nature anymore.  There's teamwork, but the end result doesn't always translate into having humanity for one's opponents--win or lose.  Scouting provides children, no matter what their income levels are, a sense of purpose not just for the self but as a part of a community.  It teaches girls and boys to lead with compassion and respect for ALL others--people and nature.  Specifically for girls, in a world where youngsters from the earliest ages today are overwhelmed by examples of how the world wants them to be women, and the overwhelming majority of those examples do not involve thinking, Girl Scouts teaches girls to lead, think for themselves, and not to be afraid of their own voices.

So please, if you have a girl scout in your neighborhood, or you see one at the store selling cookies, help to support this cause.  If you don't want cookies in your house because of that spiffy New Year's resolution, donating to send cookies to our overseas troops gives individual Girl Scout troops the same benefit as buying a box for yourself.  Help us to continue to create girls of courage, confidence, and character, and thank you in advance for your support.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Really wealthy celebrity? Really?

Free admission, I used to be a big fan of Oprah back in the day when she was new to Chicago's talk shot concept, and she was closer to transvestites and relationships gone wrong than she was angels and giving out her favorite things.  Somewhere along the way, however, I've noticed that while she believes in her heart of hearts she's still a "regular gal," she's wrong.  "Regular" kicked her off the bus long ago.  I've seen bits of shows where it's obvious she doesn't understand the struggles of daily life at all.

So keep that in mind as you read along.

I've been a little absent.  The holidays usually hold a fair amount of melancholy for me.  I miss key members of my family who have passed on, and I spend way too much time worrying I'm not giving my kids the Norman Rockwell Christmas I, at least, had a taste of, if, you know, Norman Rockwell painted about Eastern European immigrants and their progeny.  This year had the added excitement of my husband's joblessness and cringing at every gift request my kids made. 

I'm folding laundry last night, being all domestic and what not, and the TV is on for noise.  Now, this was an edited commercial I heard, so I'm HOPING there was more humility to it than I heard. 

Oprah is on screen, and she says, "Really, I have the most stressful life of anyone in the world." I will freely admit there is probably great stress involved in maintaining an international media presence, along with the company and employees that go along with that branding effort.  But of ANYONE? In the WORLD?  Like I said, I'm hoping in the original that's followed by "but still there are many worse off than I am" or something akin to that sentiment, but I'm guessing not.

Specifically for Oprah, then.  (Feel free to pass this along if you are intimate BFFs with Oprah):
  • There are people who are stressed beyond belief because they lost their children in either recent super storms or senseless killings.  They feel more stress than you do.
  • Soldiers who couldn't be with their families this holiday season and wonder if today's the day they might not come back in from maneuvers, they have more stress than you do.
  • My friend's 24 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer and was given 2-3 years to live. I'm sure there are many like her.  They have more stress than you do.
  • My husband has been out of work for three months, and only two years ago he ended an almost 3 year long streak of unemployment.  There are COUNTLESS people like us.  All of us have more stress than you do.
  • There are people who feel defeated in life for no other reason than the chemistry in their brains isn't right, but they don't know how to solve it.  They have more stress than you do.
I pretty much consider this the short list. Perhaps Oprah needs to start employing censors to keep her from sounding stupid.  It would be money well spent.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Confidence? Yeah, she's got it

Brownie: I think I want to be a chef. I'm good at cooking.

Me: Yes, you always help me cook. You could do that.

(Insert big sigh from Brownie)

Me: What, dearie?

Brownie: It's so hard to decide what I want to be when I grow up. I'm SO talented. I like to dance, I like art, my singing is great, and I write great books. I guess I'll need to be more than one thing. People deserve it.

Me: Okay! (I'm actually a little afraid we'll all be working for her one day).