Saturday, December 20, 2008
Once upon a time my mother-in-law remarried a wonderful man named Russ. His mom, Namie (pictured above at the wedding) and her husband owned a lovely yellow lake house (YLH) in New England. They bought the former hunting lodge ages ago and when Namie's uber wealthy brother-in-law, Mr. Ritz saw it, he and his kids also bought properties along the same neck of land. But the way they acted, you’d think they had been the first humans to settle the lake and condescended to let Namie and crew visit it as well. Every summer all the Ritz clan descend. Over time they bought up all the lots in that area to accommodate their ever growing families. For as long as I’ve known him, Russ has taken Namie to the YLH each August. Given our close proximity, we started going up in 2001 and have come to dearly love Namie and our time at the YLH.
The house is huge, charming and drafty and sitting on the best spot of the entire lake. Each stairrailing is intricately carved, the bathroom fixtures are antique, the back porch is to die for. But the kitchen floor also slopes, it gets mice (and chipmunks) and needs lots of expensive upkeep. A Ritz cousin, Ellen & husband Don, wanted to buy the place from Namie. Russ & sibs agreed to sell it but the contract stipulated that as long as Namie lived, she and her kids could use the YLH every August. She was already old and frail at this point. The Ritz's agreed, thinking within a year or two she'd kick the bucket and they could tear down the place and built a lovely McMansion for their Ritzy offspring, and in the meantime they rent it out during June & July at a hefty price.
Years go by and Namie is not dying. My mother-in-law provides such excellent care that Namie thrives. She has a stroke and dementia, but dammit, come August she's desperate to get to the Lake where she sits on the back porch facing the lake, flips thru magazines, and imagines she is with her husband and all her kids and grandkids. The ritzier Ritz's always visit, but to us Sundahls, there seems to be an air of condescension in it all. Like this wing of the Ritz's isn't Ritzy enough. When they come over, they don't knock; just waltz in like they own the place (which I guess they sort of do, but come on!). When we wonder onto their side of the neck, they slow their cars down, ask us who we are and their neon blond children look at our kids like they might have lice. Or scabies. Year after year this happens no matter how many times we are introduced.
Two summers ago we departed for the YLH with heavy hearts. Within 24 hours my dear friend Lisa has just escaped dying in childbirth, Millie almost caught her bed on fire, Russ got a call that his grandson has been diagnosed with a tumor, and the local cops phoned to say that Namie had escaped our house at 5am, wandered down our street and was trying to get to "a lunch appointment with her bridge club." We all drove to the lake in a bit of a stupor. While my in-laws stopped at the market to get supplies, Steph & Cece & Ousie, Aunt Sue, and I & my four made our way to the house as Millie had started hurling and needed to lie down.
We pull down the long drive and see that there are cars in the garage. There are bikes on the lawn and we can hear laughter in the house. We call Russ and meet on his cousin Ellen and Don's front lawn. We suspect we've been screwed. We talk in hushed voices as Russ calls Don at his home a few states away and Don informs Russ that he's rented the YLH. You can see Russ go thru several of the stages of grief: shock, denial, anger. "But it's AUGUST, " he says. "The house is ours in August."
Don goes on some tirade about how this year August first is on a Wednesday and if they hadn't rented it for that whole week, they would be out $3000. Plus, Don said Russ was supposed to call and say whether or not they intended to come and no one had called. Russ is trying so hard not to lose it. "Don, my brother told you that was a silly formality. He told you that long as mother is alive, we'll be there. She's alive. We're here. This is NOT acceptable." Don is getting snotty now and says there's nowhere to move the people, even though they own all sorts of properties around the lake.
Steph, Sue and I are agog at all this. These people are bagillionaires and they are willing to screw family and break a contract over 3k? Russ is losing it. Losing patience, losing face, losing dignity as we are all sitting on a front lawn, sweating and tired and in Millie's case, hurling into a zip lock bag. Steph and I nurse our babies on the grass.
At this point Ellen's mother Margaret, Namie's sister-in-law waltzes over from her 8000 foot mansion to greet us. Well, Namie and Russ. The rest of us are treated as lawn gnomes, best ignored. Dava says, diplomatically, that there must have been a mix up because Don & Ellen have renters in Namie's house. "That's odd," Margaret replies. "Ellen mentioned to me that you were arriving on the first as usual." So they KNEW we'd be showing up but just didn't care?
It is the hottest day of summer so far and we are all desperate for shade and water. We are praying that Margaret will notice this and offer a little help. As if on cue, she says,
"My goodness. Why are you sitting on the lawn? Come on over to my house." Russ demurs a bit. We have babies and pukers. "Well," he pauses, "there are so many of us..." "Oh my no. I didn't mean for you to come into my house--you can use the porch."
Sue elbows me and says, "We rank somewhat higher than gypsies, but lower than hobos. This is getting good!" Stephanie is fuming. I can see her pissed-o-meter getting higher and higher. Stephanie does not take crap. And because she is registering our collective outrage, it means I don't have to. Sue doesn’t enjoy crap, but will let it roll off her back most of the time. Sometimes I push back, but on this day I was numb. I kept picturing Lisa in the hospital bleeding out and that kid with a tumor and Namie miraculously being found wandering around a busy street with no ID on her and I felt like I was having an out of body experience, like it was all happening to someone else and I was watching it from a few feet away. I did not rise above (when do I ever do that?!), I was in a state of shock that looked like Zen.
Meanwhile Dava takes Namie to Margaret's and Russ wanders over to talk to the caretaker of the Ritz's properties, Jed, a man in his early 50s who seems not surprised at all by the turn of events. Many phone calls are made. Margaret has better things to do so she makes Dava and Namie come back to the lawn. The house is unlocked and uninhabited, but we are not yet green lighted to wait inside.
One idea that is floated is that we stay in Juliette's house. Juliette is a cousin to Russ and Ellen and has a huge manse just a few houses down. Russ confers with someone and we are told that we will be permitted to stay at Juliette's place until Saturday when the YLH guests leave. We are a bit surprised at this since we couldn't even go in Margaret's house. Then it comes out that Juliette's house is slated for demolition. We think this is because her younger sister Maren just built a brand new huge monstrosity down the road and so Juliette needs to tear hers down and start over so that she too can have a shiny new house. Russ relays to us that since the house is going to be torn down, they said we can stay there since we can't really hurt it. So are we hobos, or an 80s rock band set to smash furniture and punch holes in walls?
Whatever the case, we are so relieved to have things settled and a place to stay that we pile back in our cars and head over to Juliette’s. Just as we start to pull away, Margaret comes RUNNING out her house, flags us down, and informs us that Juliette has changed her mind and would prefer if we did not stay at her place. We are not good enough for a condemned dwelling? I start to giggle.
Back to the lawn. More phone calls. I start chanting "I hate rich people" because it all seems so ridiculous, so petty and so pretentious and so stupid for people to act like this. And the only reason I can come up with for them to feel justified in their behavior is their wealth, like that's a license to crap on people. Russ is a Ritz after all, but clearly not the same category of Ritz, perhaps because there aren’t enough zeros in his bank account, or perhaps because he’s married into a non-Mormon-blue-blood-clan. It’s like they are the white meat Ritz’s, and we are the dark meat version, related but clearly inferior. Internally I am starting to feel again and but it's still more shock than anger so I am able to maintain a calm facade for the kids who are getting hungry and very grumpy at this point. "I hate rich people."
Meanwhile, Namie is getting more and more agitated. Remember that her day started at 5am. "Where is my house? Why won’t' you people take me to my house? Give me those car keys and I'll take us there!" Dava, the queen of kindness is starting to lose it too, going on this endless dementia loop with Namie over and over.
Once again we are told that things are settled, that we can stay at Don and Ellen's until Saturday when the other guests leave. It was always such the obvious solution but after spending 2 hours on someone's lawn you start to realize they really really really don't want you in their house. So we move our stuff in and clean it first. Don't ask me why. I'm not sure.
A half hour later as we are on the back porch Jed informs us that Don has arranged to move the YLH people to another location starting tomorrow, Thursday (so there WAS an alternate rental after all). They'll get cleaners in once they go and then we can move in. We order Chinese and wait for the next installment because at this point there have been so many plans we know more are coming.
Sure enough, Jed and another guy arrive and approach me, Steph, and Sue with the very creepy proposition, "How'd you gals like to earn a little extra cash?" And he says it with a lude smile on his face, like he's picturing Sue doing a pole dance. None of us can think of a response to that but he goes on anyway because of course we are the kind of "gals" who'd do anything for extra cash. His bosses don't even want us in a condemned house so we must be desperate. "The people at the yellow house are packing up as we speak, but there's no way we can get cleaners in tonite, and maybe not even tomorrow. But if you ladies wanted to make some good money you can go clean it yourselves right now and move in tonite." He smiles really big like he’s offered a kid a lollypop.
I thought that Stephanie had reached her limit on the lawn, and then on the deck when her daughter pooped and we are all desperately cleaning it up as if it's a symbol of our defiling the Ritz fancy pants home, but those were just warm ups to what I could see about to boil over. I leapt up and said to Jed, "Sue and I would love to go clean right this minute." Sue and I ran to the car and speed to the YLH. We knew this whole thing had to be over. For furious Stephanie. For confused Namie. For humiliated Russ. For barfing Millie. For angry but I'm not going to show it Dava. For exhausted beyond belief me who just kept thinking about Lisa's near death and I just need this day over so we can start fresh the next day NOT at the Ritz's where every finger print must be instantly erased lest we taint their abode.
So we clean. We wash. We launder. We scrub and wipe and finally were actually able to get the kids and Namie settled not too much past bedtime. Namie was delighted to be back in her home. She may have forgotten who we are, but she knew that yellow house the minute we pulled into the long drive.
Namie died this last week at 92. She held out that long due in good measure to the loving care of Dava & Russ. She passed in her sleep and while most of us were reflecting on the great life she’s lived, I’d bet anything that a certain faction of the Ritz family is jumping for joy that they can finally tear down the old lodge and put something garish in its place. I just hope they build a big porch so that if we hobos ever go up to visit they’ll have a place to put us.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My sweet Camille turns 7 today and is still as snugly as the day she was born. She was so thoughtful too in timing her arrival. I was teaching some writing classes at BU and my last day was December 10. I came home, filed away the grades, painted my toes and said to my huge belly, "Okay, NOW you can come," and went to bed. The next morning I awoke in labor and we raced to the hospital, leaving Joe & Georgia with Sande. Dave was so used to going to the airport that he nearly missed our exit. I looked up from puking (I hurl during transition) and screamed "FENWAY!" I closed my eyes as he skidded two lanes across Storrow Drive to just barely make our exit.
Nicknames: Millie, Mills, Judge Mills Lane, The Judge, Mildred, Millicent, Mao-Mao, Mao-ey, Chairman Mao, Me-Too Millie, Dolphin, Turtle
Here she is at Lake Winnepesauke trying to steal my Coke. She has always had a thing for bubbly brown water. She is like me in other ways too.
Millie has a huge gap between her front teeth and for years she told everyone she had lost a tooth because she is so determined to be like her big sister. Now those two teeth are loose and I know it'll break my heart a little when that Dave Letterman gap goes away.
Despite some fighting, Georgia & Camille are best friends. They share a room and sometimes get mad at each other and one leaves to sleep elsewhere. But within 20 minutes, one or both begs for a reunion. "I just can't sleep without Millie in here," Georgia will sob.
Millie is a superstar with Bea. Jonah will babysit, Georgia will roll her eyes and bring me a diaper if I threaten her, but Millie is truly a friend to Bea. She is solicitous and inclusive (mostly) and willing to do things Bea wants to do. It's been so hard for Bea and me to have Mills in school full day. Bea would give her last M&M to Millie. And Millie would deserve it.
I love this picture of Millie. She has always been so at home in the water and loves spending time at the beach. She swims like a fish and dives like a seal and isn't afraid to get filthy and gross. She kicks butt.
Funny story: Recently Millie has been bringing home a series of books about Rainbow Fairies. The books are simple, two girls have to find all the fairies to restore the rainbow so the whole book is just the girls searching for a fairy. After we finished, our conversation went like this:
Georgia: Mom, when they found that sparkling stream? I kept thinking, the fairy must be in there.
Me: Me too.
Georgia: And when they saw that Queen Bee, I was thinking it was the yellow fairy in disguise.
Me: Me too! And then when they saw the golden honey, I thought the fairy was hiding in there.
Georgia: I thought the same thing.
Millie: Know what I was thinking during that whole book? Nothing. [she smiles smugly] Absolutely NOTHING.
I love this girl. She brings our family such joy.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Every year we are told we must scale back and make it more simple, and every year people try to do it, only what part do you cut back on? It's like a hostess' Sophie's choice: do you cut back on food, or decorations? Last year the fire department even tried to rein us in, making us take out a live Christmas tree and hanging lights. But wreathmaking, like charity, never faileth and this year's was as big and beautiful and fun as ever. My take is, nobody MAKES you go coo coo bananas in your part of the party. If you decide to write a new Christmas carol for it, fine. If you have to cut out life size silhouettes of the Nativity, go right ahead. (But I do draw the line on edible temples.)
1 lb butter at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup corn starch (yes, corn starch)
3 cups flour
Mix w/ mixer. If using cookie cutters, be generous w/ flour for rolling pin & surface. Don’t roll thinner than ¼” or they’ll get too crispy.
Cook for 24 min at 300. Watch for bottom edges to turn brown.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
-As my brother Lee is in Abany, we get together for holidays from time to time. Lee & I always make the mashed potatoes and gravy and always say the same bad puns every year. Our all time favorite: as I start cooking the drippings in the pan, Lee announces that I will "rue the day." After that all the jokes are just gravy until we start to talk turkey.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I went to a soup kitchen once and haven't quite recovered. Although that's more because of my dad than any of the people getting a meal. Here is my account that I shared in my eulogy at dad's funeral: 'My favorite food story with dad took place on their mission to inner city Detroit. They were scheduled to do their weekly shift at the soup kitchen and mom insisted that I go with my father, feigning fatigue, shoving us out the door. We get there, in the middle of the ghetto, with all manner of homeless people from the purely down and out to junkies and hobos. As the people came down the line, dad would greet each one uniquely, such as “Yo brother, what’s up?” or “Word to your mother” or “Give me five my man,” with accompanying hand gestures he’d probably memorized from thugs on Law & Order. I couldn’t watch. I admit I switched to dish duty so that I wouldn’t have to witness the looks on the faces of the people that my sweet dad was trying so hard to connect with. Or watch someone stab him. Truly the Lord was watching over him and keeping him safe.'
Then I thought about the Special Olympics. The preschool & elementary school Jonah went to have been "integrated," meaning the kids with special needs aren't segregated to separate classes but blended in with the "normal" kids (really, who is "normal?"). And Jonah has always been drawn to these kids (or vice versa). One time in first grade he went to a party for a girl with cerebral palsy and when I got there I realized he was the only one there without a handicap (or at least without one recognized by the board of education). I got all verklempt watching Jonah in the midst of a water fight. And thru my tears I couldn't tell who was "special" and who wasn't. And when I was pregnant with Bea and we anticipated some type of birth defect, I used to lay awake at night and wonderful what event my little girl would participate in at the Special Olympics. PF has volunteered several times, Ray Ray & Boo ran the bocce ball tournament one year, and back in our BYU days, Dave, his brother Scott & I helped with some Provo based events (the highlight for me was that Scott put "Bob Frapples" on his name tag). So this is a cause that's near and dear to us in a roundabout way and that's why I encouraged Jonah to do something for the Special Olymics.
So Jonah has created Team Hobos to participate in a 5k on December 6th. Jonah says, "If anyone wants to join our team I'd love having more people to walk with us or you can go to the website and donate to the Games. Go Special Needs!"
Monday, November 24, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
I declared this a no new costume year and I basically stuck to it. Jonah was...I'm not sure what. He picked the canes up at a yard sale (like his mother, he's a big believer in having a "spare" which he loaned to Alex). He and some buddies got into the spirit of things with cans of glow in the dark silly string. If nobody answered, he'd spray a frowny face on the door. My response? It's called trick or treat for a reason.
The girls were witches because that's what we had. If I were a more highbrow mom I'd have had the girls chanting "Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble" and if someone asked who they were they'd say, "Duh, the 3 witches from MacBeth!" But I'm more of a Wizard of Oz gal so I painted their faces green and encouraged them to say "And your little dog too!"
We live on a very busy street so we headed to the "Mormon Ghetto" and ran into half our ward while trick-or-treating. Bea was delighted by the whole affair. She kept saying to herself, "This is all my candy!" She likes the unwrapping aspect more than the eating of it it would seem, as I keep thinking there are turds on the floor, but no, it's a gnawed on Milky Way or a Milkdud. The worst is the Laffy Taffy which you practically have to cut out of the carpet. To quote Ed Levine's tirade on bad candy: "I do not laffy when I get these. I sobby. I get depressedy. Because it gets all stucky to my teethy and doesn't even taste that goody." (for the full article go to http://food.yahoo.com/blog/edlevineeats/13401/the-10-most-disappointing-treats-for-trick-or-treaters )
One of the highlights for me is the great candy swap. My sibs & I would come home Halloween night and dump everything onto the living room floor, organize by kind, and then trade the stuff we hated for the stuff we loved. I'd always try to pawn off my Almond Joys and Milky Ways for Snickers and Reese's. My sister would trade anything nutty for Twix or Nestlee's Grand ($100,000 back in our day). I'd eat the good stuff first, and by December there'd be some random crappy candy forgotten in a box: vanilla tootsie rolls, a stale Bit-o-Honey, a Special Dark, butterscotch Lifesavers. My kids clearly have their favorites: Jonah loves Butterfingers, Georgia loves Kitkats, Bea loves lollypops, and Millie loves anything with sugar in it. Though I scoured thru their bags, I stole only two items year: Swedish fish and Nutrageous. Missing from their loot were some of my favorites like Baby Ruth & Bottle Caps which leads me to ask, are they not selling those anymore in "fun size," or did my kids just not snatch those out of the bowls? Abba Zabbas are all but extinct. Sigh.
Oh, a funny story about Millie. I got a call from the school nurse last week. Seeing that number gets me in a panic as all I think is LICE LICE LICE ANYTHING BUT LICE! But it was not any illness. "Camille stepped into some pudding at lunch," the nurse states all matter of fact. "I've cleaned it off as best I can but your daughter says she is 'too chocolatey' to go back to class." And though there is a box of clothes in the office that the kids can wear, my Princess refused to even try on someone's castoff pants. Nope. So I schlepped her over a fresh pair of jeans. When Georgia heard that Mills had turned down clothes from the nurse's box, she was incredulous. "But Millie, it's really awesome FREE stuff! You know my tie-dye Mickey Mouse t-shirt? I got that when I spilled paint on myself!" My little Hobo Georgie.
Since school has started Bea's watched her sisters head off to birthday parties and return with goody bags full of, well, goodies. This Saturday Bea was invited to a party and was just glowing upon her return. She insisted I take a picture of her with her hat and treats. I was thinking of not having any kind of party for her this year (the economy is also making this a no-big-parties year), but I may have to cave and at least pass out cupcakes and goody bags this month for her playgroup. I saved so much money on costumes, I'm sure there's some $ in the budget to celebrate my favorite 3 year old.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Since my girlfriend Stephanie was coming to visit, I decided it would be a fun outing for a Southern Californian whose only choice of apples are Red or Golden Delicious. Little did I know that Steph is an apple-a-holic. She eats at least 2 a day and would chose an apple over any other fruit whereas for me, apples are fine, but waaaay down the produce totem pole, below honeydew but above kumquats. Honey Pot was Apple Disneyland for her. She ran from tree to tree, plucking off fruit like Eve on speed, taking a giant bite then making all of us sample the many varieties. She fell in LOVE with Empire, those Snow White fleshy ones with an almost plum exterior and Golden Crisp, that are red like a hot house tomato. Sweet and sour yum yum. Then picture that dipped in carmel and rolled in roasty peanuts. Oh. My. Gosh.
Bea, who loves a juicy pear, was perplexed by the brown boscs. "It feels like a pear, it smells like a pear, but why is it paper bag colored?"
The girls were all freaked by pumpkin-a-saurus rex. We met a hilarious couple on the hay ride who told us all about their daughter's wedding. She got married in the fall and they decided to go for an apple theme. The wife describes the fruity center pieces, the desserts, the apple blossoms in the bride's hair. Then the husband starts talking about how they gave each table a secret name and seated people accordingly. "So the old people were at the Granny Smith table, and my nasty cousins sat at the Crab Apple, and my wife's brothers who drink too much were all at the Winesap table. You had your Pink Ladies, your Goofs, your Delicious..." We about died laughing at this hilarious old Yankee.
http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/ild/2007/1107/tarte-tatin-apple-pie.html I have since made apple pancakes with apple syrup (thanks Aunt Deb for the recipe!), sent a million slices in w/ Bea for nursery snack, and tonite the kids made an apple crisp. And we still have a full produce drawer.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Said bed has been languishing in my garage, waiting for a serious cleaning and Bea to be ready to give up the crib. When my dear childhood friend and doer extraordinaire Stephanie came to visit this week, I knew it was time. Stephanie can do ANYTHING: cook, build, make jewelry. She's an art director and if it involves hands, she can do it.
After buying several brass cleaning supplies, we set to work on the headboard with some "help" from Bea. Notice how filthy the railings are.
After several cans of "Bar Keeper's Secret" and more elbow grease than I care to remember, we hosed it off and began the polishing process. Once it was shiny shiny, I wanted to lacquer it but Stephanie and the guy at Ace Hardware forbid me. "WWGCD?" (what would Grover Cleveland do?) You can see that both Stephanie and the bed clean up rather nicely.
The bed is so tall Bea has to use a step stool to get up. It both scares and thrills her.
Now if only I could get her to never touch her brass bed with those tiny little fingers....
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
But the Exponent talent show was not what I imagined. One woman read funny poems. Another belly danced. Sure there was traditional singing, but there was also Lou with her guitar playing a Reba McEntire version of "Let us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each Other" that had me in stitches. So at the end when Cheryl asked if anyone else wanted to share a talent, I got up and sang my Mormon version of the Brady Bunch theme:
It's a story, of a special Lady,
Who was bringing up 3 very special girls.
All of them read the Book of Mormon like their mother,
The D&C, and The Pearl.
It's a story, of a Bishop named Hansen
who was bringing up 3 righteous Eagle Scouts
All of them were up by 5 to go to seminary
and do their paper routes.
Til at the Storehouse when this sister met this bishop,
and the Holy Ghost gave them a little hunch,
That in Zion they'd become an eternal family.
That's the way they all became the Hansen Bunch...
It started an annual tradition for me of making up wacky lyrics and then cajoling my buddies into making fools of themselves with me.
This last August while at Girls Camp, I came up with an ode to Diet Coke. I've always loved my brown beverages. My Uncle George gave me my first taste of Dr. Pepper when I was 4 and I spent a better part of the 80's chugging Big Gulps of Dr. P or Coke to get thru high school and college. But I never fully appreciate the magical healing properties of my fizzy drinks until I had kids. After kid #2 I started calling Diet Coke "Nap in a Can." There are days when I'm running on 4 hours of rest and as Frost said, "have miles to go before I sleep." I pop open a can and just that sound alone starts my synapses firing. Dave is a much bigger Diet Coke junkie than I am. While I wonder from Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper (aka "triple threat") and Coke Zero, he is absolute in his devotion to plain old Diet Coke. Do not buy him a citrus "this-tastes-like-lemon-Pledge" variety. Do not put a shot of regular Coke in his cup at Costco. And do not run out. No no. Bad. Very bad.
And if you are one of those people who swear that Diet Coke from the fountain tastes different from the bottled stuff, you are not crazy. When it's on tap they add our old friend saccharine to the mix. It helps stabilize it. In our town, White Hen Pantry is the one place to get fountain cokes. And I swear the Mormon Mommies are the most frequent customers. I pop in there once a week (while we have no year supply of wheat or powdered milk, we do have a mountain of 12 packs in our garage. People randomly stop by for a drink. Sometimes they stay and chat, sometimes not. It's all good.). Every time I go in I see a Honda Odyssey in the lot and know one of my sistas is getting her Diet Coke fix. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
Our performance was awesome. 2 of us wore Diet Coke t-shirts that we had randomly packed. And we had cut the bottoms off 20 oz bottles and placed battery operated candles inside. We dimmed the lights and walked out with our sodas aglow. So on behalf of all us lovers of brown elixer, sing the following to the tune of "O Tannenbaum." And do it with reverence.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
How Fizzy are thy bubbles.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
You take away my troubles.
Straight from the can or over ice
When I am tired you make me nice.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
How Fizzy are they bubbles.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
I cannot live without you.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
I love everything about you.
You are the juice this mommy craves
I love to ride your caffeine waves.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
I cannot live without you.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Jonah: His hair is not greasy but wet since I forced him into his weekly shower a day early. He reminds me of Mikey (Dave's youngest bro) who at this age would brag about his pungent foot odor. We also battle brushing teeth. He went to this week and afterwards complained that his teeth felt "naked without their plaque sweaters on." I am so sicked out by that. Dave was gone all week (more on that later) so Joe was my faux adult company much of the time. We rented "Son of Rambow" together and loved it. We also love "Psych." The highlight of his week was going to a Halloween store on Saturday. He's been making lists of gear needed for pranks and saving money. He got a fake rat, gorilla hands, and a retractable knife. He and Dave have started a fitness routine which involves a daily bike ride and then a million push ups. (Note to self: buy Jonah deodorant.)
The absolute highlight of Georgia's week was on Thursday when we rented her violin. The school starts string instruments in 3rd grade and she is elated. (Millie is green with envy, stamping her foot and shouting, "I've GOT to get an instrument!") She came home and serenaded us in the backyard as I mowed and the kids ran around. She slept with the case. The hard thing with Georgia right now is that she gets migraines. If she's too hot, hungry, tired, any extreme can trigger a bad headache. It breaks my heart to see my little bird suffer.
Millie was very worried about going to school all day but is doing great. She is my lifesaver with Bea. She is so kind to her and will spend lots of time playing with her. As a result, "Mowee" is Bea's favorite sibling and every time Bea hears a bus she says, "Is that my Miller? Let's go get her!" The girls begged me to take the bunks apart so now their beds are side by side and for whatever reason that makes Millie feel more grown up. She lost another tooth this week and I had to have two different people promise to call me after 10pm to make sure there was $ under her pillow. Dave does tooth fairy duty so I was terrified I'd forget and have to use my cousin MaryAnn's story about the tooth fairy being a single mom who can't always find a sitter to watch her kids while she takes care of lost teeth.
Bea is such a crack up right now. She has no intention of being potty trained and is always trying to get us to carry her. With a four year gap, she is definitely the baby and mostly loves it. She loves her friends, going to nursery, chocolate milk, and her new obsession is to dress up in G & M's old ballet clothes.
Here is Georgia with her dear friend Ellie in their matchy matchy dresses.
As for Dave being gone all week, for his 40th birthday I sent him off to tracker school in the woods of NJ. As most of you know, over a year ago Dave embraced his inner Hobo and when traveling for clients, instead of staying at the Marriott he'd pitch a tent in the forest and cook over a stove made out of a Coke can. So he decided he wanted to really go primitive and convinced his buddy Jim to go with him on this New Jersey "walkabout." After months of prep (ie buying gear gear and more gear--in fact, I'm convinced it all about the gear), they took off last Sunday and returned 7 days later smelly and hairy and happy as clams. They carved bows out of wood and then make fires from them; they built shelters; distilled water; tracked animals; foraged for edible roots; ate deer one of them "harvested" ("hunt & kill" are not part of the eco-mother earth vocabulary apparently). And no phone calls the whole time. Honestly, I don't know when I've seen Dave so pumped by an experience. I awoke this morning to find Dave in the backyard, everyone but Bea with a knife in hand, carving fire-making tools. I'm married to a nerd version of Grizzly flippin Adams.
And me, well, I'm getting ready for Dave to take off for another week and to come home just in time for me to leave for the Exponent Retreat on Friday. That will mean going 2 weeks with only one day overlapping. At least when he's gone on business he won't be radio silent and I won't worry that he'll be attacked by a rabid raccoon. While he's been gone I've painted the side entry, done endless loads of laundry, drunk lots of Diet Coke, taken a friend's senior portraits, relied on the kindness of Lindy, and highlighted my own hair. This week is filled with 2 Back to School Nights, dentist & ortho appointments, soccer, birthday party, apple picking. Just the usual manic stuff that comes with mothering. As long as the weather holds their is no flooding in my house, we'll all be fine.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Kids, like adults, cycle through their toys. My son phased through dinosaurs, superheros, Star Wars. And though he won’t admit it, he still loves his bin of Legos and his glow-in-the dark light saber (ah, boys and their swords…). My girls had Little Pony and Polly Pocket obsessions. One flirted with American Girls but it never went anywhere. But the thing my daughters keep cycling back to over and over is Barbie.
I know, I know. I’m a feminist. I should HATE Barbie. I have lots of friends who loathe her waspish waist, her platinum blond cornsilk hair, not to mention her slutty little shoes and micro mini clothes. And I can see why lots of moms might want to banish Barbie and her "Made in Taiwan" bootie from their daughters’ toy chest. These friends feel Barbie sends a terrible message to girls: beauty=skinny and big chested, happiness=clothes and Ken. I admit they have a point. She is a freakish Glamazon with her 36-18-33 figure. In recent years Mattel has attempted to make her more of role model by creating "Astronaut Barbie," "Dr. Barbie," "Teacher Barbie" and a host of other career themed dolls. They even gave her plastic surgery in 1997, widening her waist to make her more “real.” Even so her very name still conjures images of a blandly attractive and vacuous woman.
Why, then, do I LOVE Barbie? I still walk down that Flamingo Pink aisle of Toys R Us with a strange combination of desire and reverence. Part of it is nostalgia. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a Barbie. One of our first ones was a hand-me-down from a much older cousin. She had short reddish brown hair, plastic protruding eyelashes, and no smile whatsoever. My older sister and I agreed she looked just like Lucille Ball when Lucy was mad at Ricky for not letting her sing at the Copa Cabana. Since then I’ve had dozens of Barbies and played with them long after it was "cool" to play with dolls. My favorites were the non-traditional Barbies: Christy with her Foxy Brown hair; my Hawaiian Barbie in her sassy hula skirt; and Donny and Marie in their shimmery purple unitards.
I just don’t see Barbie as the anti-Christ in stilettos (that would be Brat Dolls who look just like some prostitutes from Vadivostok I once saw—I know, I’m a hypocrite). Mostly I like Barbie because she could be whatever I projected onto her. My Barbies were Superheros, adventurers, detectives, Olympic athletes. Okay, so I never pretended they were nuclear physicists or Rhodes scholars; that doesn’t mean I didn’t create fun and intelligent imaginary worlds that may or may not have contributed to my current status as a pretty good person (hey, I may not have written the great American novel, but I have read all of Shakespeare thank you very much). And as for Ken, Barbie’s life does not revolve around that 12" dude with a washboard belly and a plastic coif. Mattel even had them “break up” a few years back. For every Ken doll, we had at least 4 Barbies–and no, never once did we play "Brigham Young Era Barbie" where Barbie, Midge and Skipper were sister wives to polygamist Ken. On the contrary, Ken was an accessory, like her white go-go boots or the little sombrero my aunt brought me back from Tijuana.
Growing up Mormon, I always wanted children but didn't spend a lot of time playing "little mother." And though you could buy tiny plastic babies, my friends and I never made Barbie the Mom. Was it that she seemed too young (we could have played "Teen Pregnancy Barbie" but that wouldn’t have been fun)? Was it that the Magenta Corvette had no room for a carseat? Certainly I was too ignorant to know that of course Barbie has never had kids because even if she managed to maintain that itty bitty waist, no one’s chest could stay THAT perky post childbearing. Barbie was not about caretaking. She was her own woman, defined neither by men nor children, changing careers like she changed those trampy shoes, free to explore and create her world. Is that really so wrong?
I’ve watched my girls play Barbies, and sometimes wonder if I am encouraging materialism, immodesty, selfishness. But mostly their play makes me happy. This summer Barbie did lots of skydiving from our tree house with plastic supermarket bags as parachutes. Millie has had Barbie catching and training wild mustangs. Currently, Georgia spends hours designing dresses out of baby wipes and rubber bands. Honestly? Some of her designs rock. And Bea likes to make her swim in the tub. So while Barbie may not be an ideal role model, as long as she fuels little girls’ imaginations, she’ll always have a place in my heart.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
(as if Sue could make anything NOT beautiful)
I'm sure soon enough we'll hit the skids again when I decide to potty train her or she decides that she needs to be velcroed to me and I have to seek a restraining order. But for now, I'm loving my Bea.