Tag Archives: family

Interesting times

Standard

Friends. I’m in a weird place (metaphorically speaking; I’m physically at home in my filthy little office) and I am also about to leave for Europe on a long-awaited ten day trip to three different cities.

Normally when at a crossroads I would not necessarily go on an admittedly expensive (though not lavish) trip but this was booked and paid for months ago, before Shenanigans Ensued About Which I Shall Not Elaborate On The Internet.  But a) it’s not refundable and b) it will be beneficial to heart and soul.  So off we go, The Lovely Rhonda and I.

In other news not related to any Shenanigans or metaphorical crossroads, my kid, along with her BFF, won first prize in their category for their National History Day project about Irina Sendler, the Polish nurse who rescued children from the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII.  The project consisted of a large display board with photos and information about Irina Sendler as well as an interview of both girls about their subject.  They will go on to the state competition in a couple of months.  Here are some photos of them jubilating:

First a thumbs-up:

NHD winner 2017

 

….And now with eyebrow.

NHD winner 2017 that one eyebrow tho

Naturally we could not be prouder.

Family Camp

Standard

So five years ago The Lovely Rhonda and I decided to drag the children to our church’s camp for a few days of Family Camp.

We took only the older two girls as the youngest was barely two years old and we thought summer camp + diapers = misery.  We were kind of correct in this regard.  The baby went to Grandma’s.

The camp is only about an hour from where we live but it might as well be on Mars, in some ways.  It’s set on something like 200 wooded acres, with a stream or two running through it, and sometimes you can see deer wandering along in the evening.  And every night the bats start flapping around after dusk, just in time for campfire.  The cabins have sturdy wooden bunkbeds in them (and, thank God, modern plumbing) and meals are served in the lodge.  College-age staff members keep the kids amused, and the boring old grownups sit around talking about boring old grownup stuff.  There is a lot of crafting.  It’s fun.

We have gone every year now for five years.  The first year, the middle child made it two nights but lost her ever. loving. mind. in the morning after the second night, when the pink Play-Doh was already in use.  She had such difficulty that Grandma had to come whisk her away.  She does not tolerate change well sometimes.

The second year we brought the youngest with us too, and it was she who required Grandma’s rescue services after a couple of nights.

The third year we all survived the entire ordeal.  Yay us!

Last year TLR felt that we should up the ante and stay the entire week.  By Thursday we were pretty much all losing our ever. loving. minds.

This year, TLR came up with the brilliant plan to go for the entire week but only bring the children in halfway through, thus enabling us to relax a bit before the onslaught of whining/bug bites/dissatisfactions/misbehavior that our children excel at.

Each year we get to know the other families a little better.  They are all fantastic people, and they keep coming back year after year; some of them have been coming literally all their lives — and they are older than I am.  We all look forward to this all year long.  There are certain customs: hand-cranked ice cream, afternoons at the swimming hole, crafts everywhere, night hikes, singing and skits at campfire.

We created our own customs.  One night at campfire, usually the last night, we (along with our delightful friend Kirsten) bring s’mores supplies and everyone makes s’mores after all the skits and songs are over.  We bring plenty so people can have all they want, and there’s a lot of chatting and spontaneous bursting into song that happens.  And kids with marshmallow and chocolate all over their faces.

And on the last night, if possible, we bribe the counselors into hanging out in the cabins that have small children in them so the parents can go to the lodge and play table games.  We bring snacks and junk food and everyone — even the salad-eating Knierim family — gobbles everything up so we don’t have to be bothered with taking it home.  We have a wonderful time.

This year was especially relaxing because I had just completed my BSN the week before camp.  It was a beautiful thing, to spend a week in the woods with such good people at this particular point in time.

Many frustrate, such sad

Standard

So the past few weeks have been fraught with turmoil.

We moved, and that’s good.  But stressful.

Rhonda’s ex-mother-in-law passed away rather suddenly.  She was not someone I knew well, but she was family to Rhonda for many years and was her girls’ grandmother.  That was sad, and stressful.

A good friend was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  That was really stressful, especially for her and her family.

I grow weary of having to remind grown people how to behave.  That’s all I want to say about that, aside from the fact that it’s frustrating and stressful.

On the other hand, we watched two people whom I love dearly finally get to marry one another, and that was perhaps one of the most awesome things I’ll ever see.

I’m finishing my BSN in a month and that’s pretty great.  (but stressful)

My practicum is actually about something that interests me and I’ve met some neat people (and a few nuts) in the process, so that’s cool.

There’s still a shiny motorcycle in my garage and that’s pretty neat.

Right now life is a lot like eating bridge mix.

I don’t like bridge mix except when it’s raisins.

This bridge mix doesn’t have quite enough raisins, but the raisins it has are pretty great raisins.

More raisins, please.

 

 

 

Sew Happy

Standard

So my 9 year old giant kid, Delia, and I visited my mother on Friday.  It was a day off of school and I seized the opportunity to drag her down to Mom’s for a sewing lesson.  With a surprise.

I mentioned to Delia that we were going to Grandma’s for a sewing lesson.

“But I already know how to sew,” she said.  Meaning that she could thread a needle and hand-stitch little projects from a kit and had made her own creations once or twice.

“Grandma wants to show you how to sew using a sewing machine,” I told her.  She seemed pleased.

We arrived in due course and Mom showed her around the sewing room and we looked at some projects, mostly quilts.  There was a box wrapped in cupcake-themed gift wrap on the dining room table, which we passed several times but was never mentioned.  Eventually Mom left the room and Delia sidled over to me.

“Mama, there’s that box over there but I don’t want to be rude and ask about it,” she said.

Note: this is a first.  I would not have been even slightly surprised had she dropped broad, obvious hints about wondering who that present could be for.  In fact, I was rather surprised not to hear them.

Eventually Mom returned and in due course asked Delia if she knew the expression, “the elephant in the room.”  She didn’t, so we explained it to her.  “So, what do you think the elephant in this room is?” Mom asked her.

2014-01-31 11.12.20

And so it was that she was given the box, and opened it, and inside was a small, neat beginner’s sewing machine.

2014-01-31 11.14.10

We spent the rest of the afternoon having a basic sewing lesson, learning to load the bobbin and thread the needle and make stitches.  It’s a very nice little machine, easy to use and quite good quality.

2014-01-31 13.22.05

As we packed up to leave Mom permitted us entry into the Inner Sanctum where bits and scraps of this and that were selected from her very tidily maintained Stash.  2014-01-31 13.44.51

We returned home rich in material goods (literally) and the next morning found Delia getting into the shower as I dragged myself out of bed.  I commended her on her initiative, and she told me that she figured if she took care of getting ready to go, she might have time for sewing before leaving for the Girl Scout function we had to attend.

She might have time for sewing. 

I think we’re doing something right here.

2014-01-31 11.10.31

Room-cleaning day: a comedy in three parts

Standard

So The Lovely Rhonda and I give the children an allowance every couple of weeks, allegedly for chores that they do.  There are assigned chores (cleaning the catbox, taking out the recycling, etc) and there are “other duties as assigned,” such as filling the cat food dish or picking stuff up in the living room so I can vacuum.

Also a large part of allowance is cleaning your room, which we are dismal at enforcing and the spawn are equally, if not more, dismal at actually doing.

This morning TLR announced that rooms would need to be cleaned in order to receive the blessed allowances, and thus began our Morning of Travail.

As luck would have it, the eldest spawn cleaned her room yesterday at my behest, so she’s happily playing CADsoftwarewithastorylinecraftTM while the other girls toil away.

A sampling of the day’s activities thus far:

Madeline, the youngest at age 6, approaches clutching a calendar.  (We often refer to her in shorthand as M2 and Molly, age 8, as M1, denoting birth order)

M2: Mama, can we pwease put this up?

TLR: Yes, just put it on your desk for now.

M2: But my homewowk is on my desk and I can’t put this on top of my homewowk because my homewowk has to be on the top

TLR: Okay, so put this underneath your homework, on your desk.

M2: ‘K.  (races off)

Shortly thereafter Molly, the middle child, comes showing something else that must be looked upon immediately.  I can’t remember what because frankly it was so mind-bogglingly trivial that it barely registered in the first place.  TLR, a paragon of patience for reasons that I still cannot fathom, acknowledges the item and gently bids the child return to her room.

Approximately 90 seconds passes, after which Madeline returns announcing that she has cleaned her entire room.

TLR: That seemed kind of quick.  Did you clean the whole thing?

M2:  Yes.

TLR: So, everything is up off the floor?  Like, under your desk, and back by your toybox, and in front of your closet?

M2:  Well, no.  Not in fwont of my cwoset.  Because I never go there.

TLR:  You need to clean in front of the closet.

M2:  WHY?!

TLR (calmly): Because I said so.  Now go clean in front of the closet like I said.

M2 sighs heavily and trudges down the hall.

A moment later Molly appears.

M1: Mama?  I think Madeline is whining about something in her room.

TLR:  Oh?

M1: Yeah.  It sounds like she’s saying, like, “But I didn’t even do it,” or something.

TLR:  Well, why don’t you just not worry about it.

M1: But, it’s really hard to clean my room with her groans distracting me —

Me (at this point I cannot help myself): SO CLOSE YOUR DOOR.

At this point all of the rooms are reasonably clean and the youngest has bathed.  She emerges wearing a pair of jeans and complains to TLR that they are too big.  See?  And the jeans are touching my socks and I don’t like it when my jeans are touching my socks —

There is a beer-and-wine-thing tonight in downtown Bedroom Community, and TLR’s favorite vintner will be represented at a local independent theater we like to go to.  I think it’s safe to say we’ll be going.

 

The Grandma from Kalama

Standard

Okay, technically she wasn’t from there, but she did live there for a time.

Tonight I had occasion to dig out some little odds and ends that I inherited when my grandmother passed away.  This happened when my daughter was five months old.  She is now 9 and a half years old.

It’s really true that although you may get past someone’s death, you don’t really get over it.  It feels the same today as it did then.  There is not a day that goes by that she does not cross my mind.

I had not brought out these things in some time and at first I could not find them; this caused a small panic, that I could have let them somehow slip away from me.  I rummaged around in all the disused spaces of our house several times before the suggestion that might they be among my craft supplies?  jogged my memory a bit and so I found them, in a pasteboard box, down in the glass-fronted hutch cupboard.  I was relieved that I had not left them in the garage, which is relatively dry but cold in winter and hot in summer and smells like damp concrete and grass clippings.  It would be no place for an old lady’s trinkets.

It’s hard for me to handle these little items, physically I mean to touch them and have them out, because they still smell like her house smelled and that will cause the sharp little pang of stinging sadness like no other thing will.  But I needed something from the little cache, and when I couldn’t find it it suddenly became vitally important that I lay my hands on it, right now, tonight.

I feel better and worse, happier and sadder, for this little trip down memory lane.   These days as I find myself caring less and less for what anyone thinks of me I am reminded of her more and more.  She had her faults and her foibles but by God she was who she was.

And I miss who she was, tonight and every other day of my life.

Let the festivities begin!

Standard

So this morning we ventured forth into the 22 degree weather to get our annual Christmas tree.  This marks the fifth straight year that we have done so as a family, going to the same tree farm each year.  We like this tree farm because although the trees are somewhat more expensive than the ones at the gas station, they have a petting zoo and free cocoa and they drill a hole in the end of your tree and stick it on a patented “Marriage Saving Tree Stand” so that when you get it home you just stand it up and it’s ready to decorate.

Note: feeding farm animals a handful of oats for 25 cents — thereby transforming a fifteen dollar bag of oats into a veritable gold mine for the farm (note to self: THIS IS WHERE THE MONEY IS EARNED, THE TREES ARE JUST TO LURE YOU IN) is a major draw for the children, but it’s the tree stand that brings The Lovely Rhonda and I back year after expensive year.  No price is too high to pay to get out of having to apply a rickety pot-metal stand to the nether regions of a majestic fir tree, and furthermore get it to stand up straight.   It’s a miserable hobby that nobody enjoys, least of all me, the designated spider-killer, lawn-mower and tree-erector of the household.

Each year we have also had to find our way to the tree farm as though we had never been there before, because we can only remember the vaguest details about it — “it’s the one with the goats, and I think there was a guy in suspenders?” — and certainly can’t be bothered to recall useful information such as, for instance, its name?  Or perhaps general location?

And so it was that we once again this year performed the traditional Festive Annual U-Turn when we realized we were, as with the previous three years, on the right road but going the wrong way.

Within moments of embarking from the Minivan of Justice we found a worthwhile adversary and, as always, I was elected to dispatch the thing.  We dragged its gory remains back to the van:

2013-12-08 11.46.06
Then as we drove it up to the barn for embalming shaking and baling, TLR said, Um, guys?  Look out the back window?  What is that?

And there was a llama being walked around the estate, all splay footed and knobbly kneed, and we had to pile out and meet it.

Her name was Shania Twain and we dutifully had a photo op.

2013-12-08 11.51.51

Once we’d exhausted the possibilities of the llama-tree-farm juxtaposition absurdity factor, we crept onwards to the barn.  We allowed the children to ride sans belts, on the floor if desired, and the eldest enjoyed a heretofore unprecedented joyride in the forbidden front seat.  Such is our carefree existence that this relaxation of protocol made them all giddy and unmanageable.

At the tiny guard hut where you pay for your kill tree, the cashier informed us jubilantly that the car ahead of us had gotten their tree for free.  One of the local credit unions was handing out envelopes with coupons in them for varying amounts off of the purchase price of the trees, and these lucky bastards fortunate holiday shoppers had received a fifty dollar coupon.  Ours was for twenty dollars for which we were pretty stoked, right up until we heard that.  THANKS FOR THE BUZZKILL, CASHIER LADY.

I kid.  The whole thing was pretty magical.  We had no idea they were doing that today and it was a really nice bonus to get the tree for basically one-third off.

We had that sucker shaken, baled and stuffed in to the MOJ in no time and proceeded on, as is customary, to the petting zoo.

2013-12-08 12.19.58

2013-12-08 12.20.25

2013-12-08 12.23.36

2013-12-08 12.24.46

Then we piled into the MOJ and drove our trophy home, to display it in all its grisly splendor until the day after Christmas, at which point I will become physically unable to stand the disruption for ONE. MORE. SECOND. and strip it of ornaments and lights and dump it in the side yard.  The end.

Horse Camp, or how I nearly lost my left leg (again)

Standard

So we have all these female children in our house and they are all girls.  Female girls of the girly female persuasion.

We made them all sign up for a certain Scouting Organization for Girls of the Female Persuasion, because we can.  We’re tyrants like that.

Last spring the two older girls went to an overnight horse camp where they did scouty things in the presence of, and briefly astride, gigantic hairy smelly animals capable of throwing them off and trampling them.  This is viewed, curiously, as a positive experience for them to have.

Earlier this evening I and my own personal offspring returned from “Mom & Me Horse Camp” which is similar except that we as mothers are obligated to attend as well.

We left yesterday afternoon.  I had to stop on the way and pick up a fast food burrito for my child because dinner was to be a “baked potato bar” which is where they give you a baked potato and various things to put on top of it and call it “dinner” even though it contains no “meat.”

As a meat-eating carnivorous flesh enthusiast, I was less than “enchanted,” but I like potatoes as much as the next person so I soldiered on regardless.  My child, however, is not a fan of the tuber.  So, bean burrito no onion please!  And off we went.

326

We were assigned to cabin 5, the “LOVE” cabin.  The other cabins were named things like “FAITH” and “JOY.”  This camp serves as a Christian camp part of the year.  I, however, chose to think of cabin 5 as the LOVE SHACK in that whimsical corner of my brain that won’t shut up.

The other two moms in the cabin informed me that they had managed to piss off more than one presumably humorless Scout Mom.  I’d like to go on to say that we became BFFs, but we didn’t.  We did get on tolerably well, though.

One of the girls had ADHD which handily explained why she was frequently obnoxious, but from what I can tell the other child was merely ill-behaved.  Both moms were of the shouty threat-spewing type and neither child seemed to pay any attention to them.  What fun!

We all managed to get through the night without much drama although somebody left the heat on “comfort zone.”  This might have been all right but it seemed the comfort zone was one that originated in the tropics.  We all came through it somewhat sweatier than I personally felt was necessary.

In the morning we had breakfast and then there were various blocks of “free time” during which we were expected to “bond with our child.”  This meant “sitting around doing whatever we brought from home to do.”  In our case, this was Yahtzee and some crafty sewing projects, or books and Candy Crush, depending on which block of free time you referenced.  At one point we were urged to visit the BIG SWING.

I thought this would be a BIG LAME SWING but actually it was very cool  It was indeed a big swing, chained to two towering evergreen trees, and the hapless rider was not just strapped in but attended by two staff persons who were harnessed to the platform.  My child declined to ride the swing but did consent to be strapped to it.  Considering that this child would not ride any attraction that left the ground at Disneyland, this was a pretty big step and I was satisfied with it.

336

I rode the BIG SWING and found it to be quite satisfactory, and indeed it was BIG and also a SWING, and therefore as advertised.  The first swing out over the ravine made my stomach get all wiggly, but after a moment that wore off and it was very peaceful and swooshy and verdant.  I was urged to follow tradition by spitting, and furthermore enhanced my BIG SWING experience by doing so on the way back thus avoiding spitting into my own face.

Eventually we were allowed to mount a horse, which as I understand it is the proper term despite sounding vaguely naughty, and an only slightly self-important teen led us around in circles up and down nearby hills for the better part of an hour.

349

My horse’s name was Cricket.  I think this is rather a laugh, as crickets are known to rub their legs together of a warm summer evening to make a wee tiny chirping sound that is beloved by all.  This horse’s favorite pastime, on the other hoof, was to meander a bit too close to the occasional tree in an ill-disguised attempt to dislodge me from my seat.  When that proved less than fruitful, she resorted to a different game.  A large stick was protruding into the trail and given the nature of our jaunt, which is to say circuitous, we passed it twice.  On both occasions she skirted the stick by just enough to avoid getting stabbed by it, but by not quite enough to ensure that I was not stabbed by it.  Twice it jabbed into my leg and ground into me as we wandered, slowly and painfully, past.  It therefore left two large horrible swollen bruises on my leg, and managed to break the skin both times right through my trousers.  These little souvenirs of my Horse Camp Experience stung like the very dickens when I got into the shower on my return home.  THANKS A LOT CRICKET, YOU BIG BROWN JERK.

346

Still, my kid enjoyed the ride fairly well.  She was very distracted by the prospect of the new Pokemon X and Y game that awaited her at home, so pretty much everything about the camp was more or less merely tolerated rather than truly experienced, thus making the sixty dollars per person money well spent, no?

342

 

Why I Would Not Make a Good Stay-at-Home Mom

Standard

So I have pneumonia and am at home.  I don’t feel well and I don’t rest well even if I don’t feel well, so I’m a very reluctant stayer-at-homer.

Since I am at home attempting to recuperate, The Lovely Rhonda didn’t feel it was worthwhile to engage a sitter as we normally do on Thursdays and Fridays.  This means that I am home with The Children.

Also, the house is kind of a mess because we got home from the beach on Sunday and I was already sick then.  And we both work.  And there is a fridge in the dining room because the new one was delivered yesterday.  The guy from the place is coming to get it, in fact he should be here momentarily, but in the meantime it’s looming over me as I sit here at my desk.  I’m fairly sure that it’s trying to make me feel guilty for replacing it.

Let’s recap:  I am not feeling well.  I am home.  With.  The.  Children.  In a messy house.

Today while making lunch I asked the spawn whether they would like a full sandwich or a half.  One of them, who will remain unidentified, declared, “Half.  Half a sandwich.  Turkey.”  This in a breezy way that implied just the sort of entitlement that we do not put much stock into around here, to put it mildly.

It was not the first time that I had had to remind these particular children to use those common words of politeness and gratitude, “Please” and “Thank you.”  It was not the first time TODAY that I’d had to do so.  And so my response was swift and not terribly subtle.  The pauses (…)  are where I almost but did not quite use a profanity to get my point across, because although I was angry, I was not quite over the edge far enough to actually drop the f-bomb in front of impressionable children.

“Okay, so the next kid who does not say PLEASE will be standing in the corner.  Because I am not your (…) SERVANT here to do your (…) BIDDING.  You can start saying PLEASE and THANK YOU, or you will find yourself making your OWN (…) SANDWICH.”

I rather doubt that this is the kind, gentle approach favored by child development specialists nowadays, but I’m pleased to report that nobody forgot to say “please” for the remainder of lunch.

This thing that happened today

Standard

So this evening I took it upon myself to finish the project I started yesterday.

Yesterday evening I got a wild hair to clean the minivan, Moby Titanic.  It had been a while and the filth level was teetering on the brink of acceptable levels of sloth.  It’s one thing to say, “Oh dear, sorry about the mess, you know how it is with kids” to the poor co-worker who has been forced to hitch a ride to lunch with you, as you toss a few library books and a stray sandal into the back seat.  It’s quite another to say, “Oh, you’re riding with me?  Give me about ten minutes to stuff all the crap into the stow-and-go compartments and hang half a dozen Little Tree air fresheners to hide the smell of moldering graham crackers and despair.”

And so it came to pass that I spent a carefree ninety minutes clearing away various bits of domestic detritus from the van’s interior,  vacuuming every last crevice and cleaning various of the grimier bits with spray cleaner.

It was during this time that I spied something between the front passenger seat and the mini-console next to it, something that I had long since given up for lost: my car keys.  They disappeared around New Year’s, because the last few days before you get married are obviously the ideal time for your keys to come up missing.  Evidently they had fallen there at some point during the frenzy of preparation or possibly the night we went to the drag show where I had a certain number of adult beverages, numbering perhaps three.  For me this is something like depravity.  Don’t judge.  Anyway, a stray Home Depot receipt or similar had then fallen atop them, concealing them completely from view in the narrow dark little space.

So this means that for seven months we drove my keys around, wondering all the while where they could possible have gotten away to.

I didn’t have time to wash the van’s exterior what with all the OCD detailing and lost-keyring-finding exultation going on, so this evening I fired up the garden hose and went to town on that thing.  It turns out that beneath the crusty layer of filth, it’s a fairly nice white minivan that we have.

My nine-year-old joined me in this which is to say that she pranced around with a soapy washrag taking swipes here and there at random locations on the van and then entreating me to spray her with the hose.  I enthusiastically reluctantly agreed  and thus was she soaked to the point of drippy saturation.  When she wanted to go in the house a bit later I got her a towel and brought her around to the back door so she could strip down out of view of the neighbors.  If we let her drip all over the newly-installed floors our handyman would probably kill me on sight.

My kid is what you could call an enthusiastic nudist, charmingly free of self-consciousness and all too ready to get naked whenever the occasion calls for it.  In another year or two this might become cause for alarm but for now it’s just the exuberant innocence of youth and I for one applaud it.

The Lovely Rhonda might have applauded it also up to tonight, but maybe not so much any longer.

I am not sure what in the world caused me to say it but my mouth opened and words came out:  “Hey Delia, I dare you to go over and press your naked butt up to the patio door.”

Perhaps it was that I remembered seeing a perfect print of her nose and mouth to the glass surface of one of the French doors a couple of days ago, and perhaps also it was that I possessed the knowledge that TLR was seated at her desk just on the other side of the doors.

Very possibly it was just the whispered voice of mischief keeping me from getting too close to sainthood.  Nobody likes a goody-goody.

My child doth not disappoint.  She raced over to the door and gave it the full moon, laughing and grinning like the juvenile delinquent that I am evidently raising her to be.

I am sorry to say that I then dared her to wave it back and forth, which she did.  At this point TLR came over to the doors and under pretense of unlocking them,  lowered the blinds in each one without a word and then yelled through the closed doors that she would never be able to get that sight out of her mind.

I laughed until I cried.  Eventually she let us in.

I am still laughing.  I am a terrible person.