Tuesday, March 31, 2009


To recap:

  • My parents welcomed a lovely baby girl into their lives 40 plus/plus and then some years ago this week.
  • Anyone older than I am automatically qualifies to be my newest BFF.
  • And then there's the party!
It turns out that "The Princess of School" has a real name. (I wish I had known that years ago. It was always so cumbersome writing, "The Princess of School," on all those notes I sent her and my daughter was exhausted from calling, "Excuse me, Princess of School," during second grade.) The Princess' real name is Jill, and one of her many hobbies/talents is quilting. And evidently, she quilts well because she has won awards.
I always wanted to own one of her quilts, but that never happened...

...until she surprised my daughter with this:

Jill now makes quilted pictures. She takes a simple drawing someone has done and turns that drawing into a quilted picture. The quilt in the previous picture was based on my daughter's self-portrait.

Here is one she did for my oldest son (also his second grade self-portrait - mysteriously lacking a body):

Here are some others she has done:

And this meaningful one:

And now I am giving you the opportunity to own your very own quilted picture custom-made by Jill!!

The prize:

One quilted picture (approximately 16" x 20") made from a drawing you submit.

How to play:
Just leave me a comment between now and Friday, April 3 at 9:00 p.m. EST.

  • If you really want to make me happy, become a follower (if you're not already) because I'm having some follower envy.

  • On Saturday, we will randomly choose the winner's name!

  • Now get commenting!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Laying the Groundwork

Option 1: Curling into a fetal position and sleeping the entire week away.

Option 2: Investing in a few dozen boxes of tissues.

Option 3: Find all those 20-something and 30-something parents of the other 1st graders and beat them up just 'cause they exist.

Option 4: A lovely, refined gathering of intellectuals virtual friends.

Option 4 it is!!

Helloooo: I'm having a birthday on Thursday, and you are invited to the party!!

If you're worried about who else will be at the party, here's a little hint.

Perhaps you remember The Princess of School aka my daughter's favorite teacher from elementary school? Perhaps you remember that we thought she was a gifted teacher with a terrific intellect and so many fascinating interests? Well, this teacher broke our hearts last year by retiring, and we moped around because a very nice part of our neighborhood school community was gone.

But September arrived and she was back. A different teaching assignment, but back. I was so happy she hadn't disappeared entirely that I put her on my short list of where to send some of those email forwards which come my way. (Gift-giving IS one of my talents, you know.)

If you're wondering how The Princess of School fits into my virtual birthday party, the answer is coming tomorrow.

Okay, I can't wait. The answer starts with a "G" and ends with a "Y" (and there's a little "IVEAWA" in the middle :)))

Friday, March 27, 2009

Be Here Next Week !!

I'm giving you a little hint- just a nudge in the right direction.

Listen carefully to what I'm not saying and read between these proverbial lines.

You might want to stop by this blog next week.

Yessiree, you read that right.

BIG stuff head this blog's way....

Fasten your seatbelt and check-in next week -- if your heart can stand the surprise, that is.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Keeping My Distance

Last summer, we were on an interstate when we were passed by what we were sure was a drunk driver.  His car was all over the road, swerving across four lanes of traffic and then back.  He ran other cars off the road. He brought traffic to a halt at times when his car would run onto the shoulder and then back across traffic.  He braked excessively and then accelerated abruptly.

Finally, we called 911 and reported the problem complete with his license plate number.  For 10 more miles we shared the road with him as his erratic driving continued.  At the end of those 10 miles, we again called, amazed that there had not yet been an accident.  The dispatcher was not certain if it would be within the jurisdiction of the local police or the state police.  Either way, to our knowledge that driver was not pulled over that night.

Today I read an article about another apparently drunk driver reported by a fellow motorist.  The drunk driver was all over the road, including several swerves into oncoming traffic.

By the time the police caught up with him, the driver was almost home and driving normally.  He was pulled over anyway and then failed several sobriety tests.

Now the case may be thrown out because the arresting officer did not see evidence of erratic driving.  He simply pulled the driver over because of an annonymous tip from another driver.  The defense asks why that tipster wasn't asked to provide identification such as an address or name. Perhaps that tip was really a get-even plot by an enemy! 

I don't know the law, but it does seem to me that if someone reports a driver, and the driver does fail sobriety tests, then ethically the right thing was done in pulling him over.  And what if the driver was, in fact, sober?  Wouldn't the sobriety tests have proved that and the driver would have been sent on his way - no harm done?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Double-Checking the Insurance Coverage

On Christmas morning, after all the gifts had been opened and the excitement began to wane, we discovered one small note. Really, it was not so much a note as it was a cryptic clue. Puzzled, we worked together to understand that clue, and eventually found a second clue. That took us to the third clue and so on.

At some point in that process I thought the house felt chilly, but caught up in the excitement of the mystery, I put that chill aside. It was later that I heard my dad whisper to mom that our house was 66 degrees! Stricken with embarrassment, I bumped the heat up to a tropical 70, and the fun continued. The next clue was, "Look up."
Eventually we ended up in the garage, and there it was. Santa had flabbergasted us by bringing a trampoline!!!
We laughed and screamed and danced.

And then we did nothing else because there was a snow covering of 12 inches and the temp was hovering around zero.
But this week the snow melted and the rain stopped. And that trampoline went up.

Checkered says we are now certain to get on America's Funniest Home Videos. And that frightens me greatly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Where Does He Get the Smarts?

Sometimes, even a mom who is tired of empty awards is proud to say,

"This is my son, nominated by his teacher to become a Great Lakes Scholar."

Monday, March 23, 2009


We can't believe we did it, but... we had our dog's DNA tested to determine just what she is.

It appears that she is:

Over 75% Labrador Retriever (you WERE right after all, Humane Society!)

10-19% Dalmatian:
And up to 10% Beagle:

I do believe that equals 100% Pepper:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Fragments: The Not-So-Perky Edition

Okay, Mrs. 4444, I'm playing this week.

~I read Melanie's thoughtful post about her reaction to seeing a pregnant AND smoking mom and began to think about the diet I feed my own kids, I thought about my own kids riding their bikes sans helmets, I thought about them playing video games when it's 70 degrees and sunny outside, and thought about them doing flips on our very dangerous trampoline ... I remained silent.

~Buying a floor model bike at Toys R Us is no bargain. No discount for the torn decals and scratches. No discount for scuffed seat and dirty tires. But wait; there's more. They ADDED $10 to the price because it was already assembled!

~How many days until the end of Lent???? Tim Horton's, my beloved Lenten sacrifice, I miss you.

~Why do I only see the dust in this house when company stops by?

~Parent/Teacher conferences for my kids this week. Two of the three boys' teachers wanted to cancel my conference - not necessary when a child does this well. Nope and no thank-you. I decided to keep my conferences; don't they know it means a lot to me to hear what they have to say?

~How true the saying that we can always tell where an ADHD child has been by the trail he/she leaves behind!

~My son just crossed over from being a Cub Scout to being a Boy Scout. Checkered was excited about their first camp-out until the boy decided he wanted to go without a parent this time
:( Redemption, however, by the teenaged daughter who wants her dad to be one of the drivers for her church youth group activity.

~To tell or not to tell my local friends how to find my blog?

~We live near an international border and 5/6 of this family own no passport. Isn't June the deadline?

~And lastly, I listened to an Eminem playlist on YouTube yesterday. Great narratives, but my innocence is lost forever. How did I get this far in life with so much innocence anyway?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blogger Butt Be Gone!

When I got my driver's license renewed I was sad to see how things have changed since the last time I got my picture taken courtesy of the Michigan Secretary of State. Things are a little wider. A little softer. A little fuller. And that was only my face.

Time to get serious and reexamine exactly what I've been doing to fix the problem.

Plan A: Pepper the Puppy

When Pepper arrived, I vowed to be the best dog owner ever. She would be pampered. She would be loved. She would go on walks with me every day.

Then winter happened. Pepper is still pampered. She is still loved. But she is pampered and loved from the comfort of my house.

Plan abandoned.

Plan B: The Wii Fit

Oh how I glowed with love when the Wii Fit joined our family. I was working out daily and had the sore arms to prove it. In no time at all, I was certain to be thin, tight, and ... something else that starts with a "T." Then someone moved the Wii into the den, and I determined that the den is not a very hospitable place to host the Wii.

Plan abandoned.

Plan C (for current): The Gazelle

When I first brought home my Tony Little Gazelle, we were greeted by a host of naysayers. "It's worthless!" "I don't even sweat on it!" "HOW much did you pay for it?" Yes, that's just a portion of what the naysayers said.

After a couple of years of it being moved farther and farther from any room where I might use it, my gazelle was in danger of being listed on Craigslist. Then, the epiphany.

What if... What IF... WHAT IF I forced myself to walk to your computers every day while I blogged? What if I had to physically move in order to visit with you?

I went to the chief naysayer, and because he loves me, he said, "Sure. I'll revamp the Gazelle. Let's build a desktop on it." One trip to Home Depot and a little brain power later,

I present the 2009 model year Gazelle-Pimped:

When I get your computer each day, please have a snack ready. I'm sure to be exhausted after walking all that way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday's Wisdom

In high school, I had a teacher who wasn't so sweet. I was quite shy and struggling to find out who I was and where I was headed in life. One day, the teacher asked me to do something during class and when I understood what it was that she wanted me to do, I began to move in that direction to accomplish the task. The problem was that she was still talking.

She erupted in a verbal mess all over me. She told me (and all the other stunned students) that I was immature, that I was disrespectful, that I was arrogant to think that I knew what she was saying before she had even finished talking. She humiliated me that day.

In the ensuing years though, I've come to understand what she was saying.

  • How many times have I been speaking only to have someone else rush in and finish my sentence?
  • How many times have I been in the middle of asking a question only to have someone cut me off with their answer?
  • And how many times have I wanted to share my own experience only to have someone else follow-up with, "But MY experience was so much worse than yours!"

I'm tired of it happening to me. I'm tired of doing it others.

Every year I adopt a mantra. My motto for 2009 is, "Just listen."

Although it was inarticulate in delivery and poorly timed in choice, I suppose that really is what that teacher was trying to say all those years ago.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just a Little Snip

I once got a tearful call from a friend who was heartbroken over the fact that her husband had scheduled a vasectomy without discussing it with her. She was grateful for their two children, but always thought there would be more. I was shocked that the husband would make that decision without benefit of her blessing. When I suggested that perhaps he would postpone the procedure if she shared her broken heart with him, she replied that if getting snipped would make him happy, so be it. My response of what about her being happy fell on those proverbial deaf ears.

Later, I listened as another friend announced her husband would get a vasectomy - or else. Her husband was the one in this case hoping to add one more child to the family, but for the sake of peace, the appointment was made and kept.

And because all things here come back to me, I was thinking about the, "How many kids shall we have?" discussions Checkered and I had. We liked the number three. But after our second baby was born, I had a miscarriage and decided that two babies were enough. But Checkered really wanted three. And although I could have lived happily with two, we had that third one. And he is such an enrichment to our family.

I do wonder what would have happened in my friends' lives had the "We're done!" spouse been willing to have one more.

Of course, we ended up with a bonus #4 baby. And the day that baby was born, Checkered and I both knew: it was time to make the appointment.

Life surely is a fun ride, isn't it?

P.S. Not that the topic of family planning made me think of her, but http://noenoegirl.blogspot.com/ is the new Heloise. Her little salt trick helped my frying pan! I was going to drive down to Virginia and give her a thank-you hug, but then Google maps said it would be an 11 hour drive. A virtual hug will have to do. Then again, I am on spring break this week...

P.P.S. What I made was a variation of PW's Pan-Fried Ribeye. I suspect it turned out better in Oklahoma.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Heloise, Where ARE You?

I tried one of PW's recipes with so-so success.  My GreenPan, however, is the worse for wear.  Any suggestions? And if you're planning to say, "Eat out," I'm waaaaay ahead of you there!

Friday, March 13, 2009

They Found Her and Then Some

My daughter was quite happy to wear her new sweater to school last week. It was not stained, stretched out, puppy-chewed, nor was it too Walmarty. So she was in a good mood when she got to school.
About two minutes after the bell rang, a boy called out from the other side of the room, "Hey! I just found Waldo!" There was laughter and a couple of more Waldo comments were exchanged, but my girl sat oblivious to it all. She had never heard of Waldo. Then the teacher got involved and postulated that, no, it couldn't be Waldo because his shirt was red and white and *gasp* my daughter's shirt was red and gray.
WAIT A MINUTE! The teacher just said her name. Could all this talk be about her?!
Horror of horrors. It was.
My daughter said that she stopped counting the Waldo comments at lunchtime when the 60th person said something.
It was such a nice sweater, too. I suppose the thrift store will appreciate the donation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Racing to the Checkered Flag

My kids don't care much about their dad's job. That he has one and gets paid is enough for them. Of course, Checkered is a very popular presenter at the school career day, and that is quite cool. But then it's back to "whatever."

And then March arrives. To other families, March means basketball and spring. To us, it means Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. Thus, it is in March when having a dad who works in automotive design is a very good thing.

Presenting the Flag boys' derby entries for 2009:

Son #1: Bobsled/Soapbox racer
Son #2: Speed Racer
Son #3: Space Shuttle
And the mom of this family? She's still stuck on being grateful that Checkered has a job at all.
Postscript: We've been notified that two of our boys will win design awards. One will NOT. You know, I am against the design awards altogether. My plan? Take one meeting. Hammer some wheels into a block of wood. Send the cars down the track. See which cars still have wheels at the bottom of the track. Go to Dairy Queen. The End.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday's Wisdom

Checkered and I survived our first high school orientation for our daughter. On the ride to the high school, we were commiserating over our shock at how quickly the years are moving. So it was two slightly sad parents who sat through the presentations that night.

Later, during our tour of our girl's new school, I ran into an acquaintance whose daughter graduated last year.

I asked how she (the mother) was doing, and when she said, "I choose to be excited," I was puzzled.

She went on to tell me of her daughter's graduation and how other mothers were crying and lamenting the passing years. The new grads were full of excitement, anxiety, and a little guilt about what the mothers were saying. That was when my acquaintance decided to see these changes through her daughter's eyes. And what she saw was excitement, limitless possibilities, and a desire for a mom who wasn't crying.

Now that girl is headed to Russia for the summer. Is her mom nervous? Is her mom aware of the potential troubles? But is her mom choosing to see the experience through her daughter's excited eyes? You bet.

I'm trying. I really am :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ouch, I Think

I asked my youngest son if he had given any thought to getting a girlfriend. He asked, "Do I have to?" Since I had just watched the movie, Juno, I thought the prudent answer would be, "No. Not now. Not ever."

Thirty seconds later he said, "I've been thinking about the girls in my class. The teacher is the best one. She's my favorite."

I prompted, "Is she the best one because she reminds you of me?"

"Not even one bit!" he laughed.

Oh! Be careful, little mother, what you ask!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Boys Stink

When our first son was born, we proudly brought him to church and were greeted by a woman who bluntly said, "I must warn you: boys stink."

For the next several years, I pondered that pronouncement. Surely, she meant it in the most figurative of ways. Let's see: boys don't understand emotion, boys don't like girl drama, boys are messy, boys are rambunctious. Okay, I got the "boys stink" thing.

Then that first boy got a little older and more independent, and he was followed by another boy/brother and then a final boy/brother.

As each of the boys got old enough to dress himself and provide for his own hygiene, a phenomenon of sorts began to form.

It sounds like this on the way to school:

"Did you brush your teeth this morning?"

"No; is that something I'm supposed to do?"
"I thought you took a shower last night."

"Uh huh."

"But something's not right. Did you wash EVERY part of your body?"

"No; is that something I'm supposed to do?"

"I can't breathe. Whoa. Everyone, open your window before you pass out!!"

"Excuse me. It was just a little gas."


"Why are your shoes melting?! Have you changed your socks this week?"

"No; is that something I'm supposed to do?"


You know what? That lady from church was being literal.

Friday, March 6, 2009


At my daughter's middle school, there's a very simple little system in place for dropping our children off.  We just pull up to the door, and our children get out.  Then, the cars leave one by one.  It works.

It works sometimes.  But there are days when a passenger is a tad bit slow getting out of her car.  That means she has only one foot out of the car when the two cars in front of her mom's minivan leave.  The driver behind the minivan needs to wait only two more seconds before he can pull forward.  But, no.
He must pull around the sexy minivan to get his passengers 10 feet closer to the school door.
And the sexy driver of the sexy minivan must wait for rude car to unload its 72 passengers - two of whom are certain to need to get musical instuments out of the trunk. 
 And what of the sexy driver's passenger?  She has already gone into middle school school, moved on to high school and graduated from college by the time the last of the rude driver's passengers emerge from the rude car.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Thanks to my sister and her support, I passed my test!!!   On behalf of my own students, I promise, promise, promise to never forget the frustration and discouragement I felt working through this certification process.

Now, bring on that second job :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday's Wisdom

Throughout the years, I've been blessed to periodically receive wisdom in the form of someone else's words. I've been thinking a lot about some of those words. So, that means that by default, you have to think about them, too.

I used to have a boss who was brilliant. Her Ph.D. was from one of "those" universities we all hear about but few can pass the admissions criteria or even afford. We were in a volatile work environment that year and there was never any certainty who was a friend or enemy. Then again, that differed on a daily basis.

In that midst of that horrendous emotional stress, I gave birth to my first child. Checkered and I were one of several couples in our circle of friends having a baby that year and there was surely a lot of unspoken competition. Whose baby could sit up first? Whose baby could talk first? Which preschool would their baby attend? Should we participate in those Mommy and Me classes? What about the Baby Einstein videos? You probably know the routine.

One day, while briefly chatting in the hallway at work, this brilliant boss gave me a quick bit of parenting advice which has guided me through some foggy parenting times.

This was the advice:
Almost every child will eventually walk, talk, and learn to read. Those skills happen naturally. How early your child begins to do those things really doesn't matter. But isn't it just as important that those children know how to make and be friends? Isn't it just as important that kids have time to just be kids?

A decade-plus and three additional babies later, those words are still resonating with me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Girls' Week-end

The men in this home went away all week-end long to recharge their testosterone by doing things like ice fishing, playing ice hockey, telling ghost stories, and other Cub Scout stuff.

My daughter and I gratefully stayed home.  But what to do to make our week-end special?  How could we celebrate us?

1.  A quick stop at the library to get the last book in the Clique series.  My girl later won my heart by telling me that the girls in the series made a lot of bad decisions.

2.  A stop to buy a cherry pie.  Yes, one for each of us.  Yes, they were both gone by Sunday.

3.  Dinner at Olive Garden and entertainment by a flirty waiter who was undertipped by me.

4. Attendance at the Detroit Kennel Club dog show where we met a couple of thousand perfectly behaved dogs and I fell in love with a Bernese Mountain dog. 

I didn't get to bring him home, but my daughter did win a gift card by throwing some bean bags through some targets.

5.  A little shopping.

6.  Dinner at Max and Erma's.  While eating, my daughter thought she saw our long-lost precious friend.  She wasn't sure, however, so she surreptitiously took this picture which we then studied throughout our dinner.  Finally, we decided it was indeed our long-lost precious friend and we had a lovely reunion.

7.  Breakfast at Biggby coffee AND Big Apple Bagels. 

8.  An inability for mother or daughter to button their pants on Monday morning.

It was perfect!

Monday, March 2, 2009


I don't have a jealous bone in my body.  No, not even a jealous cell.  Not I.

Then again, let's talk about Pepper the puppy and her love of my husband.

Every morning, Checkered makes his way downstairs to get ready for work.  I would like you to believe that I have preceeded him downstairs to make a nutritious breakfast for him, iron his clothing, et cetera.  Yes, you go right on and believe that.

Each morning, while the kids and I continue to slumber, Checkered lets Pepper out of her crate and strongly encourages her to go outside.  Then he shaves, and a grateful Pepper comes back inside.  She patiently waits for him to put his aftershave on, and then she rests her head against his knees.

Sweet, huh?

On Tuesday, I thought I might be jealous.  In order to prove that I wasn't, I let Pepper out of her crate after a long night.  I sent her outside, and put a little fragrance on.  Then I opened the door, and in my sweetest voice called, "Pepper!"

This dog - the one I lobbied to buy, the one I fought with Checkered to buy, the one I cared for and nursed back from the brink of death - this dog came into the house.  I slowly reached down to pet her, and this dog ducked away from my hand, ran around me and charged up the stairs to curl up on Checkered's pillow.

The fact that I told Checkered, "Of course that's NOT dog hair on your pillow," is the only solace I have.