Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Maybe You Should Cook

I double-dipped on Saturday night. We were a family cleanly divided between Halloween parties. Yes, I do know that I should have said we were divided among parties since there were actually three parties that night, but do you really care?? Checkered was going to a party given by the absolute master of party planning, the Majestic Domestic. That, in itself put some pressure on me because she is a quick wit and does not suffer fools gladly. Then, I was told to bring some food. So I thought and thought for three weeks about what I should bring. But by the day of the party, I still didn't have any good ideas because I knew what the Majestic Domestic would serve would be beautiful, perfect, and popular. Anything I could send wouldn't work. Period.

So shortly before that party began, I went to and used their ingredient search. My first result told me that I shouldn't bother them anymore until I went grocery shopping. Then I looked around again and realized I did have cherry pie filling, crushed pineapple, and yellow cake mix in the house. That, in itself, is a veritable dump cake bonanza.

Ninety minutes later, my 30 minute cake was rock hard to the touch and slightly soggy in the middle. Checkered and the two oldest kids were already late for their party, but I couldn't send a failed recipe to the Majestic Domestic's party. The younger two kids and I were late for our other party, so there was no time to make anything else. This faux cake was actually a cobbler in a bundt cake. There was no way it could be inverted onto a serving platter. How would I know if it was done?

Thinking quickly, I dipped a spoon into the mess and sampled. It was okay! It would attend the party after all. Then I remembered that I had forgotten to really TASTE the cake, so I dipped the spoon in again. And that is when Checkered came to life with his accurate indictment of the double-dip -- and for a public gathering, no less!!

I acted embarrassed.  How silly of me to double-dip!  But all the while I was thinking, "Checkered, if you only knew ... "

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


To my children:

Have you every heard of Barbara Mandrell? She used to be a well-known singer when I was a teen. She had money, she had fame, she had talent, she had beauty, and she even had a television show of her own. She had a great life. But then she made one big mistake.

Take a listen to this song:

Do you understand what she said? She said people could eat crackers in her bed!

I was thinking about that last night when Daddy and I went to bed only to discover that one of you ate Wheat Thins while in our bed. You had successfully hidden the box, but the evidence was there. Had we been clear-headed, we would have changed the sheets, but we weren't. So we just brushed the million gazillion crumbs aside and slept.

Now, back to that lady. Remember she was a star? She was on t.v.? She was glamorous and famous? Do you know where she is now?

She sings in Branson, Missouri. It was one short leap from eating in bed to Branson.

We hope you've learned a valuable lesson today.

Your crumby parents

Monday, October 27, 2008

Maybe We Should Get Out the Fire Extinguisher for Those Candles

Happy birthday, my darling Checkered!!! And happy birthday to my old, younger sister, Red!!! (Please note the equal amount of exclamation points which are indicative of my unbending fairness.)
May your day be filled with laughter, chocolate cake, and maybe a bill or two paid off.
To Red:  perhaps it is the math major in you,  but could you possibly explain how your birth year remains constant, but your age grows progressively younger?
To Checkered:    I must warn you:  If Red shares her secret, you will pass right by my age within the next year or so.  And what our son said about your gray hair frightening him?  What does he know about sexy?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bad Memories Motivate

This is our new chin-up bar. Its arrival in our home is due to our daughter's recent completion of the Presidential Physical Fitness test. She did well despite having avoided most any type of physical exercise for the last decade or so.

It was also prompted by a conversation Checkered had recently with his friend. They were commiserating about their junior high and high school years when they couldn't do chin-ups in gym class, when they weren't nominated for any homecoming courts, and where maybe life wasn't so happy. But those guys grew up to be smart guys, and great husbands and dads. And Checkered grew up to be very sexy. But they never forgot those no-chin-up days. Nor did they forget the less-than sympathetic gym teachers.

So we have a new chin-up bar.

I watched in amazement as my oldest three kids did a chin-up or two or three. I watched as Checkered did lots of chin-ups and pull-ups, and my mouth fell open when my youngest guy did chin-up after chin-up after chin-up after chin-up...

Then it was my turn.

I got my hand grip just right. I got Checkered to promise that the door frame wouldn't break. I pumped up my courage and pulled.

My Christmas gift to myself is going to be one chin-up by the 25th . Just one.

I hope I make it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Futile Facebook Journey

My SIL should get some sort of commission from Facebook. She loves it and thinks I should love it, too. She talks of being able to follow her college-daughter's life via Facebook. She talks of reconnecting with her college friends. She talks of finding friends from waaaay back. She talks of the ease of chatting with all these people without having to call or text.

So I sign up. How cool to see my nieces' and nephew's pages . How cool to "spy" on them.

Then I try to connect with high school friends and I find only one, and I don't really want to reconnect with him.

Then I try to connect with college friends only to find that none of them have listed themselves under their maiden names. Hellooo! People I want to find?? I lost contact with you by the time you got married. Please remember that you had a life prior to marriage, and a name, too. I can't find you if I don't know your name.

And then there's the little issue of my mis-speaking the name of Facebook.  So what if it came out, "My Face"?  Unfortunately, my audience for the mis-speak consisted of Checkered and my teen-ager.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This Has Got to Stop

Just when I had nothing to say, Mental P. offers a fantabulous link wherein I find myself.

And then, as if discovering my weakness wasn't bad enough, I took a quiz where I discovered that I am 77% addicted to blogging.

Maybe that is because I am chipper and perky in my caffeine level.

The good news?

According to a vast array of other time-wasting, responsibility-eluding quizzes, I could survive 60 seconds in the vacuum of space, I could survive in my trapped house for 83 days, and my body could feed 9 cannibals.

I am of worth !!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's the Only Aging Part of Me

I am admittedly older than many of the neighborhood moms.  It's simply a matter of basic math.  I earned an undergrad degree, two masters, and a doctorate all before Checkered and I found each other.  By the time we said, "I do," I had crossed the 30 year old  threshold.  Then factor in a baby or two or three or four, and the sum is a slightly older mom.

I wasn't too worried about the age thing early-on.  As a matter of fact, when my first-born was in kindergarten, I was on a schoolbus with her class for a fieldtrip.  One little boy yelled over to his mom, "Hey!  How old are you again, Mom?"  She grimaced, and then she answered, "Forty-five."  I turned my head away from her slight discomfort and comforted myself on the fact that I would never be 45 and have a child in kindergarten.

Imagine my shock a few years later to find myself recovering from the birth of my youngest child only to have my nurse and friend lean down and whisper in my ear, "At least you beat 40 by a few weeks."  I did not do the math.  Call it ignorance. Call it bliss.  But then one day five years later, my baby was in kindergarten and he asked,
"Mommy, how old are you?" 

 I answered, "How old do you think I am?"

"I can't remember.  You're either 12 or 21.  Which one is it?"

"Oh! You're such a smart boy!!!  Surprise! Let's go to McDonalds for lunch," and he was my forever friend.
So, you see, while many of our counterparts are wiping tears away as they take their children to college or walking them down the wedding aisle, we are happily awaiting another visit from the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny. 

All this works for me pretty well, but it's hard work.   I never want my kids to feel embarrassed because of my age, so I am trying to regain my body with Pepper the Puppy's help.  I am regaining my skin with my mom's magic potions which work beautifully for her, and I have reclaimed gray-free hair with the help of an interesting stylist named Jamie.

What is the saying?  "You can run, but you can't hide."   So here I smugly sit thinking of my youthful appearance and nature.  And here is my youngest boy playing with my droopy, poultry-like, elbow skin.  And he is not smiling.

Anybody got an elbow anti-aging formula?


Monday, October 20, 2008

Being It is Fun

How very sweet when someone I've never "met" thinks I deserve a little something. Thank-you, Miss Peach, for this sweet little surprise.

It does, of course, come with conditions. If I answer these questions, does it get me out of sending a formal thank-you??
1. Do you have the same friends since childhood?
No. We made a couple of big moves during my childhood and that is what I shall blame, thereby taking no personal responsibility.
2. What do you value most about your friends?
That they choose to sit by me even if other people are around. We're deep like that.

3. Are your friends your sounding boards?
Yes, and just so they don't feel pressured, everyone else with whom I have contact during the day also is drafted as a sounding board.

4. What is your favorite activity to share with your friends?
Talkinglaughing. (If it's written as one word, it counts as one item = an old English teacher rule)
List 5 things under the following headers:

10 years ago:
Size 8

5 things on today's "To do" list:
Pull Pepper the puppy around the block,
Funeral visitation for Checkered's beloved aunt,
Make an apple pie,
Grade 56 essays and 28 quizzes,
Sell our travel trailer
5 snacks that I enjoy:
chocolate ice cream,
Cherry Cordial ice cream,
plain banana splits
upside down banana splits
right side up banana splits
(When does the Dairy Maid reopen???)

5 things I would do if I were a millionaire:
Fully fund my children's higher education, currently non-existent savings accounts,
Buy the house next door and move my parents into it,
Run for the local school board,
Fully fund a program for hungry children through a missions organization,
Fret about money.
5 places I have lived:
5 cutting-edge, uber exciting jobs that I have had:
receptionist at Chemlawn,
legal secretary,
library clerk,
ESL teacher,
English professor

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Child Surrendered in Nebraska

There is a news story this week which is stirring-up more emotion in me than any political coverage could. It is the story of the Detroit mom who drove her son to Nebraska to surrender him. The story says that the mom, her sister, and her mother made the 12 hour drive to leave the 13 year old boy because the mom was dealing with a great deal of stress and couldn't cope with him any longer. Nebraska has a law which allows for parents to surrender a child under the age of 19 without the risk of being charged with abandonment. The boy was given extra clothing and $10 and then was left at a hospital. The boy's father, according to local news accounts, was aware that the trip would take place and condoned it.

The firestorm this has ignited amazes me.

Michigan authorities are embarrassed, and have gone on record explaining that they have facilities in each county prepared to take a child in. But Michigan authorities fail to add that Michigan child-surrender laws only cover a parent until the child is 72 HOURS old. After that, the parent may well face charges of neglect, abandonment, and more.

Nebraska authorities are lashing out at Michigan and citing Michigan's lack of mental health resources and imply that the mother needed intervention. If that is, in fact, the reason for this surrender, then are the Nebraska authorities also implying that the extended family members were in need of mental health care as well?

Nebraska authorities are frustrated because this is the second out-of-state child left since their surrender law became effective months ago. One spokesman said,
"The intention of the Nebraska law covering children up to age 18 was to help
families with young children who may be in danger, not to give parents of
out-of-control teenagers an out

I don't know who would be in greater danger than a 13 year old boy whose mother, father, aunt, and grandmother all agreed would be better off being driven 700 miles and surrendered rather than remain in their care. Now an investigation is underway in Michigan to determine if the mother should face charges.

My heart breaks for that boy. My heart breaks for the family. The fact remains, however, that they needed help and they made what must have been a difficult decision. They chose what they believed was a safe solution for that child. It was a far better solution than the one given to the 4 children who die every day in the U.S. as a result of abuse or neglect. Four a day! 1,400 a year!

Kuddos to you, Nebraska. You provided rescue for a child in need. Please stop pretending to be the victim.

And to the other states, when a parent begs for help by saying, "I can't parent this child any longer. Help me," is that really a criminal act ??

UPDATE: The local Michigan prosecutor has now determined that the surrendered boy is a "typical, normal boy," thus, the parents' other 3 children have now been removed from their custody.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Trauma of a Walk

You've met Pepper the Puppy.  She is smart and sweet and very fond of ear lobes.  She is also very fond of her bed.  Stretched out, upside down is her favorite way to spend the day.

But one of the reasons I bought Pepper is because I have a little excess luggage around the middle, the chest, the thighs, and the under arms which needs to find a new home.  That luggage is going nowhere fast, so I need to do something. 

I could diet.  NOT.   I could just stop complaining about it.  NOT.  I could exercise! I could use that big balance ball I bought last year.  NOT.  I could use the Ablounger I bought this summer.  NOT.  I could use the Gazelle I bought two years ago.  NOT.  I finally figured it out.  I could just walk, and for that I would need a dog.

Now that puzzled Checkered immensely.  He is just silly like that!

So now I have Pepper and we know that dogs love their walks.  Here is a picture of Pepper.
No, she is not in our yard.  Yes, we are taking a walk.  No, she is NOT WALKING.
We have adopted the only dog who despises moving.  Researcher that I am, I spent some time with the topic. Here is what I learned:

  • Offer the recalcitrant dog a treat.

  • Never offer the recalcitrant dog a treat.

  • Tug on her lead.

  • Never tug on her lead.
SO then, after putting that cutting edge research into action, I dragged Pepper around the block.....
....where another dog ceremoniously peed on her.
She and I managed to get home.  She and I survived her immediate bath.
She is now recovering in the sock basket.
And I am recovering in the ice cream container.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


You know I love signs, and as much as I like my Jehovah's Witness sign, I felt the need to freshen-up my collection. Enter my new favorite sign maker: The Nevues Art Studio. Checkered doesn't get it. "Some guy with a stack of boards and a paint brush ..." is how he reacted to my purchases. I like Checkered and I like my signs anyway.

For my front door:

For my bedroom:

Above the mantle:
For two other bloggers who love their signs, check out Pam and Ladies of the House. Their signage might be bigger or even in neon, but with therapy, I'm moving forward.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Caution's Precise Cooking

Last week, I used this slow cooker recipe and it was a great success with my family.  The significance of this is that more picky eaters per capita live in my home than in any other home in America.

Into the slow cooker, place:
  • chicken (I used boneless, skinless breasts)
  • 1/4 cup (I used far more) chicken broth (I used beef broth)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • mushrooms
Four hours passed before I realized the slow cooker was turned on, but NOT plugged in.  DON'T do that.

After the chicken has cooked 5 or 6 hours in the slow cooker, in a different pan mix 1 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup flour.  Add that to the juice in the slow cooker and allow it to cook 15 to 30 minutes further.  I allowed it to cook for 5-10 minutes.

Whether you follow the recipe or my meanderings, it will be dee - lish!!  That's a promise :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Candidates Who Matter Most to Me

Despite their mother's inherent dislike of elections and her fear that one brother would win and one would lose, two boys from this house ran for Student Council. 
Candidate 1:
His speech:
My name is ****. I do not lie.

If you’re looking for a council member, I’m your guy.

I’ll be at every meeting without fail
And I’ll tell you what went down to last detail.

I’ll keep you informed of all the stuff.
Ask me for the truth; I’ll never bluff.

I’ll sell Valentine suckers to our class first,
And I’ll get you a drink if they cause thirst.

I’m a go-to guy if you need a friend.
I’ll stand by you till the very end.

We have a great teacher, I have to say.
Don’t you love how Mrs. **** gives us time to play?

I’m a scout. I’m a pal. A hockey goalie, too.
But let me say this and then I’m through.

Please vote for me for the council this year.
I’ll be a good rep. I hope that is clear.

Candidate 2:

His speech:
When I was just a baby at my parents’ knee

I learned a lot of things as you will see.

I learned how to walk, laugh, and tell the truth,
I learned what to do with a wiggly tooth.

I learned what’s good and polite and right,
And I learned how to talk instead of fight.

I learned it’s important to always think
And when something’s not fair, to make a stink.

To be a student council guy
The representative must not be shy.

They must be clever and kind of fun,
And have ideas that have never been done.

Instead of just suckers, we could sell cookies, too
We could add all sorts of new things to do.

I have lots of new plans for our school
Maybe we could even install a really big pool.

Vote for ****.
I’m the one who will get it done.

Their relieved mother is proud to announce that BOTH boys won their elections !!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Let ME Have Five Minutes Alone With Those Bullies!!

A lifetime or two ago I attended a college with a visually challenged student. That student had a service dog to help her navigate the campus and life in general. I don't know if the dog was poorly trained, a dumb dog, or if the woman was a weak dog-handler, but that poor woman was pulled all directions but the one that was best for her. She was pulled into the side of parked cars, into snow banks, into on-coming pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Sometimes the dog would get tired of walking and would simply stop anywhere he pleased, while his owner stood helplessly by.

It really was a terrible thing to see. So a few of us stepped in to gently alert her about the dangers her dog was choosing. When we saw the dog heading off the sidewalk into a heavily wooded area, we let her know. We screamed when he was pulling her into traffic. We helped wipe her off when he would decide to plow through the deep snow even though the sidewalk was perfectly clear.

But, funny thing is, the woman wasn't so appreciative of our efforts. In fact, she became rude. Maybe it was fear or embarrassment or denial: I don't know. I do know that after we stopped helping her, we would see her in the middle of a snowy field standing helplessly while her dog took a nap. We would see her pulled abruptly off the sidewalk and into the road. And we shook our heads and walked on by.

I've got a precious child now. This child is socially passive and a "great fit" with other aggressive personalities. This child has been and continues to be bullied. My child's decisions are always impacted by the question, "How will the bullies respond if I do that? I don't want to make them angry." They make my child miserable at lunch. They threaten my child after school. They call my cell and demand that I make my child do what they want. They have pushed my child physically, emotionally, and socially.

Calls to their parents are pointless. "Oh well, children will be children," their moms answer.

We have pleaded with our child, fought with our child, laid down "the law" with our child, reasoned with our child, interceded for our child, prayed for our child, and been willing to do almost anything to help get our child out of the path of those bullies.

My child is still very much controlled by them.

I see now that like that poor woman with the rotten service dog, my child has to ultimately be the one who gets tired of being pulled off the path. My child has to be the one who says, "I'm sick of this. No more!!"

Until that happens, I can move the parked cars, remove the snowbanks, and stop the on-coming traffic, but how long will it take my precious, precious child to feel strong enough to let that miserable service dog go?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Caution Loses Patience With Jehovah's Witnesses

When I was a young teenager, I would occasionally see signs on houses.  The signs read, "No Solicitors."  I always thought that meant that the people who lived there didn't like lawyers.  As I got older and wiser, I was surprised to learn that those signs meant the people who lived there didn't like Jehovah's Witnesses.

I am a homeowner now, and don't think those "No Solicitors" signs are very nice.  Since I am all about being sweet, I have my own notice I am going to put out:

Dear Jehovah's Witnesses:
 I am not home.  If my garage door is open and I am standing on my driveway or if my front door accidentally opens, I am not home.  If my children look out the front window and yell, "Mom, someone's here," it is meaningless because I am not here.  If you ring my doorbell once, twice or even your requisite 6 or 7 times, it won't bring me home, nor will it work if you try to fake me out by ringing once and then standing on my porch quietly for 10 or 15 minutes afterward.  When I peek out to see if you're gone and find you still there, I will not be home.  I will not be like my former pastor and invite you in to painstakingly translate a Greek New Testament because I don't have one, I can't read any generation of Greek, and I'm not home, of course.  I am not home so I can't tell your perpetually deaf ears that I am happy in my faith and my church.  Nor can I tell those same deaf ears that I do not want your Watch Tower magazine.  You see, I would never have time to read it because I have never been, nor am I currently, nor will I ever again  - be home.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Taryn

It was about three lifetimes ago that I last enjoyed shoe shopping.  I was childless.  I worked full-time.  I was flush with cash.

So there was no better hobby than to find the most exquisite store and deliver myself to the shoe department.  I could spend hours there slowly examining one shoe after another thinking, "This would be lovely for that date, but this shoe would work well for that other date."

I always bought both pairs, and sometimes more.  When I got home, I would put the shoes out on my dresser so they would be the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I saw the next morning.

Then my life changed, and I got the desires of my heart.  I also got poorer. 

Now I shop for shoes while pushing a shopping cart and fretting because I know I have too many frozen groceries in the cart and there won't be enough time to get home and put them away before I need to be at the kids' schools.

In that frame of mind, I found myself once again contemplating a couple pairs of shoes at our Walmart equivalent last week.  I tried them on a rediculous number of times.  I walked in them.  I gazed in their reflection in the mirror.  I took pictures of them with my cell phone.

I just couldn't decide.  Then something amazing happened.  I noticed that one pair was named Taryn. 

We used to know a Taryn.  She was a wonderfully talented vocalist, but what made her so very special was her demeanor.  She was absolutely lovely.

You already know what I did, don't you?  Yes, I bought the Taryn shoes.

I would tell you how I make my other financial decisions, but I'm afraid your heart couldn't withstand the shock.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The value of email

I read my work email last week after an email absence of some time. In the email were:

  • the typical entreaties from students asking for a private lecture time because they had things to do and couldn't "cum to class" - seriously.
  • Invitations to "gentle people" to watch the movies a campus pastor was showing. They all sounded terribly entertaining and tempting. "Election Day" - Filmed in 14 different locations, this movie chronicles the ordinary citizen determined to vote, to turn out the vote, and to see that voting is legally and fairly done in the 2004 elections. "On the Line" - An inside look at the people behind one of the largest non-violent movements in America today.
  • A wordy update from our union VP using just over 100 words to remind us that we still have no contract, but the negotiation team will meet later this month. No mention of what the problem is.
  • And a reprimand sent from IT that "2 of you" fell for a scam and sent your personal log-in to Nigeria thus allowing criminals to shut down our mail system. And if "any other people did that, you need to call us right away."
I shall take a moment here to clear my name. It wasn't me!! I couldn't have sent my log-in info to anyone because I haven't been able to remember my password for a while now. The computer automatically enters it for me. I am the ideal employee.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Further Futility

Do you suppose the pumpkin leash will keep the pumpkin safe from the would-be pumpkin smashers? And do you think I could work a few more pumpkins into that last sentence?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Home Away From Home

My new friend, Ms. Living on the Spit, posted yesterday about a local motel in her neighborhood, and that made me think about one in our area. This motel lives in the middle of a commercial strip.

We used to laugh about the am/fm feature, but always explained to our kids that this was on old building and we were sure the owners were holding out for a better real estate deal. Then we realized that the sign stays freshly painted, so the am/fm feature must still be a big deal.

One of our boys used to ask to stay at the War-Del. We tried to explain that maybe it wasn't intended for over-night guests. That explanation went a little over his head. We explained that we were only a handful of miles from our own house. We explained that we had a pool; the War-Del did not. We explained it looked a bit yucky.

Then our boy pointed out the one feature that our family loves. The War-Del is right next door to :

Very good point, son. I'll make a reservation.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Does She Look a Little Hung-Over to You?

I kid you not.  Yesterday, while all my children were at school,  our puppy returned to the house dressed like this after a jaunt in the backyard.  She was not so adorned when she went outside.  I've always wondered what she did out there.  I guess that is one mystery now solved.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sitting Pretty

A couple of neighborhood moms have been courting my daughter.  They are solicitous are cordial to me, but I know the truth.  They want to get to my daughter and make her their own.  My daughter is a babysitter.

How is it that although I still feel she can't function without me, that other parents entrust the lives of their children to my own child?  How is it that while we can't see the floor of her bedroom because of the layers of clothing covering it, that other parents turn their houses over to her for hours?

But a natural babysitter she is.  She is creative.  She is sweet.  She is fun.

Here is where we need you all.  We honestly don't know what is the going sitter rate per child.  We've asked her friends, but their answers vary by $20/per hour.  Honestly.   

When the families ask my daughter what she gets paid at home, she thinks she should answer, "Nothing."  I, of course, would answer, "A roof over her head, food to sustain her and then some, enough clothing to carpet her floor, and pretty much anything else one could imagine."  Somehow, my answer doesn't work for the families who want to hire my girl for three or six hours.

So, please help us.  We need answers.
  • What is the going rate for a young teen sitter per child? 
  • Do you expect your sitters to clean at all?
  • What characteristics do you LOVE in a sitter?