Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

When the girls were small getting them to put even a little something in their tummies pre trick or treating was a real challenge. They would be in such a frenzy to get into those costumes and hit the streets. So long ago I started serving the same thing every single year, Mac and Cheese made with "Halloween" themed pasta. They enjoyed the novelty of shaped pasta, and I figured just half a dozen forkfuls would be enough to get them through the evening.

The trick however, is finding the pasta! A couple of years one of the Boy Scout troops went around selling a year’s supply of “Theme” pasta; Christmas Trees, Flags, Pumpkins, Acorns, Bunnies, etc. Some years I’d stumble upon it at a grocery store. Or I’d get on-line and track it down. And yes, I realize that my "baby" is sixteen, but the Holiday traditions continue on in Whoville.

This year we found this at World Market:

I think in California and other western environs World Market is called “Cost Plus”. It is a great store; take a Pier One and put a liquor store in the middle! Now that’s what I call one stop shopping!

Also picked up something special for me:

A nice "Vampire" Pinot Noir.

We carved our pumpkins last night.

Here are the finished results:

Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to who carved which Jack-O-Lantern?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Something wicked this way comes

This is the tenth fall for this "Autumn Flame" Maple. We panted it the first year we lived in this house. It replaced a giant Pin Oak that was struck by lightning.

Its had prettier years, but our weather has been wacky; a very late spring freeze, then too dry, then too wet (or so they say) for pretty fall foliage. Still, the last few days and into this week the weather has been gorgeous. Sunny, with cool crisp mornings and warm afternoons. Perfect!

My decorations have been up for weeks and I am all ready for Halloween. Over the years I've amassed quite a charming collection of unique Halloweenies. Like these:

And These:

But for me these are scary days. The days that are getting shorter, and grayer, and colder. Days that, in the past, I have slid down the slippery slope of anxiety, insomnia, depression. And I'm trying, really really trying, to keep a positive outlook. And I feel better this year than I have in a long time. But when I wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning and lie staring at the ceiling, the voice in my head? Does not have much confidence in me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

In which I am back on her shit list

Ah the capricious nature of the teen aged girl. So sweet, so funny, so well….just so darned easy to live with. Then OMG, Mommy Dearest makes a most unreasonable request and BAM. Just like that I’m back in the shit house.

My brother from New York (Sib# 5) is coming for a visit at the end of the week. For those of you playing along at home you’ll remember that Sib #2 lives here in town, so it was shaping up to be quite the party. Not to be left out, my sister who lives in Chicago (this would be Sib #3) decided to fly on down with her two kids. Who will all be staying at my house. Which isn’t a problem because we have lots of beds, and with a weeks notice I have time to swap out sheets and towels in places they don’t get used very much. No, the problem is the fact that Precious Youngest’s bedroom is going to have to come into play.

Her room is an absolute unmitigated disaster. Dishes, glasses, water bottles, food containers, clean clothes, dirty clothes, books, papers, on and on and on. I have tried various methods to get her to keep the room, if not tidy, sanitary. But I have yet to hit on a lasting solution.

And I vacillate. Should she keep it picked up out of respect for me and the fact that this is my home? Should she clean her room because it’s part of her “job” as a member of this family? Should I get over myself and let her live her slovenly lifestyle as long as her clothes are clean, her sheets get washed once a week and there is no pest infestation? Am I raising a lazy child because let’s face it, keeping a room clean is just NOT THAT DAMN HARD?

Since I went back to work my M.O. is simply “ignorance is bliss”. We live in a raised ranch. Our second floor consists of two bedrooms, a full bath, linen closet and storage closet. The bathroom is at the top of the stairs, and Precious Oldest's room next to that. I have to toddle all the way down the hall to reach Precious Youngest’s room (and I try not to). Now that the girls are older I don’t have essential reasons to go upstairs. I can sit on the top step and carry on a two or three way conversation without REALLY having to go into the bedrooms. (And let's face it, at this point the kids are usually tucking ME in at night!)

The problem to this approach is when I finally do go in, HOLY SHIT! And this is what happened last weekend. Precious Youngest DID NOT HAVE DAMN SCHOOL on Friday. When she returned home from her sleepover I was at work. She did however heed my note and called me at the office. At which time I said “Please clean your room, and I don’t mean shove things in corners and under the bed, but CLEAN your room. Your uncle and aunt & cousins are coming next week and I’m going to need every available bed, so PLEASE clean your room.” Guess what she said? “Sure mom!”

Now dear readers, was I skeptical? You bet, but it was Friday, I was tired, and when I came home from work she was already gone again. So it wasn’t until Saturday when I headed up to do some of the “deep cleaning” (ceiling fan, baseboards, window ledges, etc.) that HOLY CRAP people! True, the beds were “made”, the clothes were 90% put away and there was an area of carpet visible in the middle of the room. But she hadn’t even bothered to empty two overflowing trash cans and there were piles of shit around the perimeter of the room twelve inches high! It goes without saying that dusting? Vacuuming? Please! (I deeply regret not taking pictures, because seeing is believing!)

Even then I remained calm. It was later that day, when I asked why her room wasn’t clean and when I might expect it to be cleaned, and was met with a blank, slack-jawed stare, that I blew a gasket. And so with much sighing , weeping , gnashing of teeth, door slamming and general huffing did Precious Youngest stay home on Saturday night to clean her room.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

In which we are more like Best Friends than Mother and Daughter

This is what I came home to find Friday after work:

The note was left by Precious Youngest. And while I admire her choice of note paper (its mine not hers people, geez!), I'm not sure I'll ever see that fleece again damn it!

P.S. They did win the football game, I'm sure in large part to my fleece's assistance with the "blackout".

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's your party and I'll cry if I want to

Oh. My. Ever. Loving. God. I went to a jewelry “party” last night. And by “party” I mean a thinly veiled attempt to make me part with my hard earned cash. I despise pyramid schemes disguised as parties multi level marketing shindigs. I don’t care what kind of jewelry, kitchen gadgets, home d├ęcor, plastic storage containers, sex toys, or baskets you’re peddling. Unless your scam involves me tasting, then ordering, large quantities of wine? STOP.

But last night I found myself in a very odd place. It was a Thursday night and no one was home but me. Precious Oldest has permanently deserted me in the pursuit of higher learning, Precious Youngest was at work (and since they NEVER HAVE DAMN SCHOOL, was spending the night at a friend’s house), and the Saint was out of town. I was alone. Two loads of laundry were washed, dried and put away. The dog was fed. The dishwasher was loaded. Hell, even the coffee for the next day was staged in the spiffy machine with a timer thingy.

So I toddled up the street to view jewelry. Now I’ll give the “sales associate” this much, there was no sales pitch about the goods. Or joy of working for the company. But really, despite my presence and seeming lack of activity in my life? I do not want to have a party of my own! Really, I can’t. I like my friends. Way too much. And I’m sorry my neighbor didn’t have “her perfect party” because three guests didn't sign up to perpetuate the madness. But I'm a big girl now, and guilt? Doesn't really work on me anymore.

What did you do last night?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dinner is served

This is the dinner I fixed tonight:

Gemelli tossed with Alfredo Sauce (sprinkled w/ crisped Pancetta)
Green Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette
Fresh Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

The best part of this meal?

OK - yes, the wine. BESIDES that! The Bread!

Do you know why? Because at my local grocery the 13th loaf is FREE!!!!! (And let's just say I buy a whole lot of bread.)

FREE I tell you! And why does this excite me in inexplicable ways?

1. I don't bake. There would be no fresh bread in my home without the all lovely bread bakers.

And B. If there is a better feeling than running into the market on your way home from the office to pick up that last minute something to complete the meal you are feeding your family... and it's free? Give me a prescription and I won't need my meds.

"Adventure Ted"

I have a brother who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is Sib #4. After graduating from college he spent a number of years living out every young man's dream. He traveled through Europe; he was in a rock band; he windsurfed, snowboarded, skied and kayaked in Hood River, Oregon; he worked in various capacities at Glacier National Park; he led rock climbing and white water rafting tours; etc., etc., etc. There is a reason we call him “Adventure Ted”.

In his late twenties he settled down and made Salt Lake City his home, in large part because he can continue his life of adventure quite easily from there. Of course one has to earn a living. So, he went back to school to secure the proper credentials to teach …

wait for it ……


In middle school.

I know, right? But if you had a middle school kid, especially a boy? This is who you would want for their teacher. He’s smart, he’s committed and he’s FUNNY. Let’s face it; he is a cool dude.

As you may recall I had a couple of weeks from HELL busy week last week and made a small boo boo. Sib #4’s birthday was the day after my golf tournament. While I had purchased a card, I didn't manage to get it in the mail until the day OF his birthday. And I didn’t get a hold of him on the phone until the day AFTER his birthday. Here’s how the conversation went.

#4: “Hello.”

Me: All upbeat and positive“It’s your slacker sister calling a day late and a dollar short to wish you a Happy Birthday!”

#4: Sigh “Well gee, thanks.”

Me: Still with the positive “I was thinking about you yesterday! In fact I put your birthday card in the mail ON your birthday!”

#4: Pause (Here I think I detect an eye roll long distance) “You know I don’t accept late work.”

Me: Testily “How about if you just drop me a letter grade?”

#4: Slowly, with sarcasm“I don’t think that’s how we learn, and what kind of example does that set for the rest of the Sibs?”

Well for crying out loud, what a hard ass!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I want a new job...

It was actually chilly this morning. (Precious Youngest was just complaining about frost on her car windows this morning, BOO HOO!!) We’re teeing up the winter house “projects”. We spend so much time at the lake in the summer that its all we can do to keep up with the yard and the gardens. Everything else to has to wait.

First up, new paint job for the house. And before you go thinking we’re all impressive and shit please know that my involvement is limited to picking the colors, and the Saint’s to hiring the painters. I'm doing "Pegasus" for the house (white) and "Midnight Clover" for the shutters (green), doesn't that sound pretty?

But wait! We’re not lazy! We’re hiring that out so we can rip up a bathroom! We have a tiny half bath in our bedroom. I'm really the only one who uses it, but we've lived here over eleven years and it is time!

We replaced the toilet, sink and light fixtures when we moved in. Otherwise it is relatively unchanged.

Then there's the window. Useless. Really.

Before our time the window used to look out into the back yard. Then onto a screened porch. The porch is now fully enclosed so it looks out onto ... well... the sun room. So I want to tear it out along with the lemon yellow tile. The hole will be replaced with sheet rock. And the tile will be replaced by bead board. Painted Sherwin Williams “Dover White”. The wall above, a shade of green as yet undetermined, but I’m leaning towards a Sherwin Williams shade called “Gleeful”.

This is the first room I stumble into on cold dark mornings when I get up. Don’t you think if I painted it a color called “Gleeful” maybe I wouldn't be such a bitch?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Girl's Night Out

My GNO group started very informally about seven or eight years ago. We all met during our tenure with a women’s civic organization. We joined at different times and for different reasons. There have always been eight of us. (Not the same eight - I'll tell Connie's story another time.) Despite requests, we have not added anyone else to the group. We are 40 to almost 60. We are married, single, divorced. Some of us have children and some do not. Four are Republicans, four are Democrats. Religion? All over the map. Suffice it to say we would not have met under other circumstances. Our paths should not have crossed, but they did. Now once every month or so we get together, to share a meal, catch up, lend support, get advice and so it goes.

We used to meet at restaurants but it got a. expensive, and b. loud (as in we were shushed and/or asked to leave on more than one occasion.) Now we just take turns at our houses. S. has had October for I can’t remember how long. She decorates for Halloween but we fix fondue. Heaven only knows how that tradition got started! This year she insisted on doing a Murder Mystery Dinner because we’ve been talking about it forever, but it is next to impossible to get all eight of us in one place at one time. Life? Does not always cooperate! 89 e-mails and four spread sheets passed back and forth. A date was set and the only reason to miss was death, YOURS!

It was a hoot! The setting was a Chicago Speakeasy in 1928. The invitation included the “guest list” with character background. We had: Molly, the flapper; “Torchy”, the club singer; Ernie, the gambler; Eddie “Socks” R. Gyle, the golfer; “Scoop”, the reporter (that was me, complete with fedora!); “Silky”, the madam; Billy “The Kid”, a baseball player and T. Straighten Harrow, the District Attorney. We really got into the spirit of the thing and everyone showed up in costume.

During cocktail hour we read newspaper articles claiming that "Hal Coppone" was missing and presumed dead. (The “hooch” was exceptionally delicious bourbon slush and let’s just say after a couple of snorts the Chicago accents had slipped inexplicably into southern drawls.) At each dinner course everyone had further information to read about the other characters. Directives were included as to what you should “reveal” about the other “guests”. What’s amusing is that you are also given additional background about YOUR character, but you don’t know what, if anything, the OTHER characters know!

Wine started flowing freely with the chicken spedini and fettuccini alfreo; despite my trusty notebook I was having a hell of a time trying to keep everything straight! During dessert everyone makes an accusation, and then the host opens the envelope to reveal the murderer’s identity. My deductive reasoning skills were a tad off, so my supposition was incorrect.

No matter. It was very fun and I highly recommend it if you have a group that can laugh at themselves a little bit!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In which reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated

DUDES! Not dead, just gasping for air. I work for a not-for-profit organization and we held our annual golf tournament on Monday. We only have three employees, so needless to say coordinating events is only a fraction of what I do. In a seven day time span (in addition to all the usual) I held a volunteer training and dinner, had a bimonthly Board of Directors meeting, coordinated a brunch for some of our golfers (complete with patient visits at a hospital), attended a dinner with event sponsors, and ran the golf tournament. My hair hurts, my bones ache, I need a vacation. Oh, and I have a grant due next week that is only about a quarter completed. GAAHH!!

I do however have some good news! In no particular order:

1. My brother (sib #5) is coming for a visit.

2. I am participating in a murder mystery dinner with my GNO group on Friday. The setting is a speak-easy in Chicago in 1928. YAY! FUN! BOOZE!

3. We FINALLY replaced our digital camera (it took a little “swim” on our beach vacation this summer), so in short order I’ll be able to include pictures with my posts.

4. Precious Youngest has her second Homecoming dance this weekend and despite many hints, I did not cave and get another dress. (She is however, borrowing one from a friend who attends a different High School.)

So despite my recent neglect, there should be tales to tell in the near future.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An open letter to a child abuser

To the person that left a sleeping toddler in their white van with tinted windows:

I’m sure that whatever you were shopping for in the mall for was critically important. I am also sure that waking a sleeping toddler (boy, blond hair, no more than twenty four months old) would cause you unbearable irritation. I remember well trying to wrangle children in and out of vehicles while running errands; it is not a fun activity. But WTF? Do you not read the paper or watch the news? Children die in hot cars all the damn time! It was sunny and 76 degrees out, not a cloud in the sky! And I don't care that your windows were "cracked". So were mine and it was fucking hot when I got back in my car. And no, it was not for “just a minute”! Because I sat in my car (with the air conditioning running) for five minutes trying to decide whether or not to call 911. (Yes, I am ashamed of myself. Fortunately, God, in his infinite wisdom, hit me upside the head in the form a security guard whose passing vehicle I flagged down.) By the time the second security guard arrived and decided to contact the police a full fifteen minutes had passed.

For your consideration I submit the following study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (The bolded points are mine.)

"Objective. Each year, children die from heat stroke after being left unattended in motor vehicles. In 2003, the total was 42, up from a national average of 29 for the past 5 years. Previous studies found that on days when ambient temperatures exceeded 86°F, the internal temperatures of the vehicle quickly reached 134 to 154°F. We were interested to know whether similarly high temperatures occurred on clear sunny days with more moderate temperatures. The objective of this study was to evaluate the degree of temperature rise and rate of rise in similar and lower ambient temperatures. In addition, we evaluated the effect of having windows "cracked" open.

Methods. In this observational study, temperature rise was measured continuously over a 60-minute period in a dark sedan on 16 different clear sunny days with ambient temperatures ranging from 72 to 96°F. On 2 of these days, additional measurements were made with the windows opened 1.5 inches. Analysis of variance was used to compare how quickly the internal vehicle temperature rose and to compare temperature rise when windows were cracked open 1.5 inches.

Results. Regardless of the outside ambient temperature, the rate of temperature rise inside the vehicle was not significantly different. The average mean increase was 3.2°F per 5-minute interval, with 80% of the temperature rise occurring during the first 30 minutes. The final temperature of the vehicle depended on the starting ambient temperature, but even at the coolest ambient temperature, internal temperatures reached 117°F. On average, there was an 40°F increase in internal temperature for ambient temperatures spanning 72 to 96°F. Cracking windows open did not decrease the rate of temperature rise in the vehicle."

If my math is correct, it was 116 degrees inside that van! The child was alright when I left the scene, but you? I hope you got your lazy ass thrown in jail.

Not in the least sincerely,
Fannie Mae

Monday, October 8, 2007

30 to 24

We live in a house divided. There is an enormous rivalry between two Universities in our fair state. The Saint attended one, and I the other. Precious Oldest has joined the evil at the Saint’s Alma Mater. Which I’m OK with because I’m hoping Precious Youngest will run to the light in Lawrence choose the right school .

The much anticipated rival football game was played Saturday and guess who WON?!?! That’s right, not the “ranked” team, but little ole us. Now I’m not much of a football fan, but when the stakes are high I get a little excited. Since….. well…. forever, the Saint and I bet a dollar on each and every football and basket ball game played between our respective schools. It is a tad lopsided since we meet quite a bit more during basketball season than football season, but let’s just say I’ve amassed an astounding stack of $1 bills. Oh, what’s that you say? Did I KEEP them all? Oh, HELL yes!

I try not to rub it in too much when we win in basketball, but football? BWAHAHA! (My father even left me a message warning me not to gloat. Too bad I didn’t hear it until Sunday.) Sib # 2 and I went out Saturday night with her little man. She too attended the same fine, prestigious University as I. So we called Precious Oldest to gloat sing our fight song. I mean really, what else could we do? At first I thought Precious Oldest hung up on us because there seemed to be a little static on the line, but when she realized the call was from me she immediately put me on speaker. Why? Because as soon as the game ended she turned to her friends in the stands and said: “You know what the worst part is? My mother will call within the next 24 hours and she won’t say a word, she’ll just start singing the damn fight song.” Man, that kid loves it when she’s right!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Meanest Mother Award # 289

I have felt uninspired to write of late. What with raging-female-teenage hormones and raging-40ish-perimenopausal hormones, life in Whoville has been less than magnificent. But today I was lurking on a few other blogs and I came across two different posts with reference to kids having cell phones. And so feel inspired to write about Meanest Mother Award # 289.

Precious Youngest turned sixteen this past July. And do you know what she got for her birthday? If you guessed a new car, you would be WRONG. She got a cell phone. Just as Precious Oldest did when SHE turned sixteen. And no, not a new and upgraded phone, but her first.cell phone.ever! I know, the horror! Call child protective services! For Pete’s sake fourth graders have cell phones! Don’t I know ANYTHING!?!?

Slap a tag on us that says “Preposterous”; there are things that the Saint and I can afford to give our children, but choose not to. It will shock and maybe appall you to learn that we believe coping with delayed gratification? Is a life skill. (Repeat after me: just because I can give my children something doesn’t mean I should.) I’ve heard all the arguments for giving cell phones to wee tots, but our parental decision was to wait until they turned sixteen. When they started driving, they would be going further a field and with less supervision. A cell phone would come in handy in case of emergency, car trouble, need of directions, etc.

We set in place a few rules too: “No use of cell phone while you’re driving” (I will admit to following them on occasion to make sure they were complying) and “Call as soon as you get there” (Not terribly successful as “I forgot” is one of the most used sentences in our house).

(And a word to the wise on that second rule. If you live with a wily teen? Make them call from a land line so that Caller ID verifies that they ended up where they said they were going. I'm just sayin'.)

Hmmm. I feel a bit better. If you're still reading because I haven’t bored you to tears with my little tirade I hope you take comfort in the fact that no matter what your son/daughter says? You are NOT the meanest mother in the world. She lives in Whoville and her name is Fannie Mae.

Monday, October 1, 2007

In which Monday sucks again

No school in Whooville today. Why? Who the fuck knows. Mind you this is a Parochial school, the tuition for which rivals a State University, but I digress.

Things Precious Youngest DID NOT Accomplish Today:
  • Bathe
  • Bring in the trash cans and recycling bin from curb
  • Make Bed
  • Pick up Bedroom
  • Empty her bathroom trash even tough stench could knock one on their ass
  • Carry up and put away clothes that Mother Dearest offered to throw said laundry in with a load she did last night then washed, dried and folded
  • Act like the grateful child she should be

    Things Precious Youngest DID Accomplish Today:
  • 9:30 Arise
  • 10:30 Visit to library for "squad" day. (Yes, debaters have “squad” day)
  • 12:00 Trip to McDonald’s for lunch
  • 1:00 Give self manicure
  • 1:30 Collapse in leather recliner to watch television comforted by Halloween themed fleece blanket Mother Dearest purchased as spontaneous gift over the weekend
  • 5:10 Give Mother Dearest dirty look and pull blanket over head when Mother Dearest inquires as to why above mentioned things have not been done
  • 5:11 Piss off Mother Dearest and drive her to drink

    How was your Monday?