Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Albatross Room Gets A Floor

Our bonus room, that albatross room around our neck, has taken a huge step towards being complete! The new floor is installed, swept and mopped. Oh what joy, what bliss! All of our furniture has been moved out of the damp garage and back into the room. Ah, happiness!

The walls still are a work in progress, but the room is usable as is, evidenced by the kids. When I came home from work last night, four teenagers were sprawled out on the furniture, playing play station games, eating chips, having a good time.

When I went up to say goodnight to my kids, they were both in the bonus room doing their homework.

When we first moved in, and we stood on the bouncy floor in the extra room, with it's brick chimney and torn linoleum floor, this is exactly what I imagined: a hangout for our kids. A room for them to watch movies, play video games, do homework and just be.

It's already messy and that's totally okay with me. It's the mess of a room well used, instead of how it used to be....messy with unused junk and years of grimy dust. I'll take the mess of today, thank you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Last Of The Strawberry Jam

Hindsight is 20/20 and I should listen to my mother more.

She asked if I wanted to make more strawberry jam. I looked at the jars and jars we'd filled, the jars I had stacked next to the dog food and in every available space in the overflow food cupboard, and I said no.

If I could, I'd go back to that moment and kick myself in the behind.

Because there is nothing in the world that compares to homemade strawberry jam, and we finished the last jar this past week.

If I could go back to that moment, I'd move some things and rearrange some things and I'd make room for another batch or two of jam.

Then I wouldn't be in this jam-less position. Okay, it's not jam-less, and before I discovered how much I love to make strawberry jam with my Mom, I had loved Smuckers. I still have Smuckers. It's just not the same.

The jam I made with my mom evoked memories of summer, of standing in her hot kitchen, mashing berries and laughing together, of being an adult but still being her child, so when it came to taking hot jars out of hot water, she did it so I wouldn't burn my fingers, of that magic moment when you hear the lid ping....

The last of the strawberry jam is a very sad thing!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Super Glue + Me = Fingers Glued Together

I will start at the beginning. About six months ago, a local housing community held their spring garage sale weekend. I went as always with my sister and my kids and found some great deals, including a ceramic dog wearing a Santa hat and holding a stocking in it's mouth. It was designed to sit on the edge of a shelf with the stocking hanging down. When I set it on my shelf in my room, for safe keeping, I thought this isn't so safe. This puppy is going to be knocked off by kids tossing dirty clothes into the nearby hamper or something of that sort.

I warned everyone that it was there, and to please be careful. And everyone was. Until about a month or so ago, and I was carrying a pile of sheets to the linen half of my closet, and the stocking caught in a fold of sheet and CRASH!

Thankful, the puppy separated into two parts, the stocking having broken off. That can be fixed with superglue. Easy. But since it wasn't Christmas time, I put both pieces aside in a safer place and went on with life.

Yesterday I was setting out Christmas decorations and thought of my Christmas dog. I got out the super glue and within a second of taking the lid off, I had glue on my hand. I succeeded in gluing the two parts back together, but also in gluing my pinkie and ring finger together. Solidly together. To get unstuck, I needed help from my husband and some stinging solvent, and patience.

That did not stop me from trying to super glue a shepherd's head back on later. I did not glue my fingers together that time. I glued my finger to the poor shepherd's head.

I've put the super glue away now. I will either live with broken, headless shepherds or I will ask someone with some better glue skills to help. Super glue and me spells disaster of gigantic proportions!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Amazing Expanding Christmas Tree

Somehow our family has fallen into the tradition of getting our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. We didn't do this when we were kids, but in our grown up years, with the addition of husbands and kids, we all drive out to a tree farm, four cars, three dogs, five kids, two teenagers, 8 adults, and we all manage to find the perfect tree.

This year we went to a new tree farm, and while it didn't have a stone fireplace for a picturesque group photo, it has perfect tree after perfect tree after perfect tree. Which is a very good thing, since we are looking for four perfect trees.

I was the last to cut mine down. We'd find a good one, but then I'd look to my left or to my right or back the way I'd just walked and spy a tree that looked even better. So we'd leave one or both of our teens standing by the good tree and go look at the other good tree. Then we'd call the kids over and say okay, this new good tree is actually the perfect tree. This process happened five or six times. When we ended back at a tree we'd stood by before, I said just cut it down. My feet were soaked, everyone else had their tree and I was ready to have mine. Of course, after that ringing endorsement of it's perfection, I had doubts all the way home.

We get it inside, and it is very clear: it is perfect.

My only questions is, how did it grow so much on the drive home? I don't remember it being so tall or wide or huge at the tree farm.....
My big, perfect (amazing, expanding) tree!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lost And Found Miracle

We moved from state to state many times during my childhood, leaving behind belongings to lighten our load, through garage sales and donation bins. I regret some things, but none compared to a fairy tale book my Aunt Susie had given me the Christmas I was 6.

When I was 14 and unpacked my boxes in my new room, my fairy tale book was not there. I couldn't remember where I'd had it last, and this last move we'd done was hectic and crazy and I wasn't there to pack my belongings. Did I give it away? Leave it somewhere? All I knew was it was not in the boxes labeled "Michelle's room."

I thought it might be in my step-dads boxes of books that were being stored in his parents attic. For six years I had this hope that my book would be there, miss-boxed. It will not shock anyone to learn that when I searched the boxes, my book was not there. My step-dad promised to send it to me if I had accidentally overlooked it and he found it when he unpacked the books for good.

No such luck there either.

So I have looked at every fairy tale book at every thrift store I have ever visited. I have poked around the books in antique stores and at garage sales. I wasn't looking for My book, with Aunt Susie's handwriting in it, but I just wanted a copy of it.

Twenty-three years of looking, of my sisters and Mom looking, and we remained empty handed.

When I heard my dogs barking, I wondered who could be coming to our door. My hair was in a towel, I was wearing grungy cleaning the house clothes, and the kitchen was post Thanksgiving messy, I was not ready for guests. I opened the door to my grandparents, and saw my Grandma holding a book in her hands.

I thought, "That book looks like my book." But Grandma didn't know I was looking for a book I couldn't remember the title of. What were the odds of her finding a fairy tale book somewhere and thinking I might like it? Then she handed it to me and said my cousin, who we lived by at the time of our last great move, had it and wondered if I would like it.

I opened the cover and saw my Aunt's handwriting, and I started to cry. I never in a million years thought I'd ever see that again and to have the book show up out of the blue after all this time....When I was 9, Aunt Susie was killed in a car accident. I still remember everything from that moment in time when our parents told us she had open the book to see her handwriting after I'd long lost hope of finding my book in an unpacked box....

It's a miracle.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

I will give thanks not just on Thanksgiving (thus this day after Thanksgiving thankful post).

I will give thanks for my husband and kids, my mom and sisters, my step-dad and grandparents, my in-laws and out-laws.

I will give thanks for the sunshine and the rain, for the blue sky and the mud puddles, for the ever green evergreens.

I will give thanks for my life, the love I have been given and the love I have shown. I will give thanks again and again and again and will try to give thanks in all things, in all times, in all weather.

I will give thanks.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Am Thankful For My Dogs

I've never been so thankful for my dogs than I am right now; these three fierce protectors, these mice scare-ers, rat chasers, chipmunk corner-ers, squirrel haters. I know for a fact that a mouse might try to make a nest in our laundry room, pretty cushy digs with the furnace blasting hot air and the dog food bag left open, but for our three dogs.

It begins with the barking, so much more barking than usual. It continues with the youngest and smallest dog taking a running leap onto the couch to hide under the shelter of my husbands arms. Then the middle sized dog must position herself on the couch so she can stare intently, nonstop staring, in the direction of the kitchen. And that cycle of steps will continue for quite awhile until I stand in the kitchen and watch the dogs and realize they are on point. They think something is in the laundry room.

So I will call my husband, who will give it a look see, encouraging the girls to "get it" but they won't be able to "get it". He will give up and I will take over, moving bags of charcoal, beach shovels, and the like, and I will see the girls stick their heads into a corner and I will look in that corner and see a nest like thing.

At which point my husband will come back and tell me it's not just a nest like thing, it is a nest, complete with some mouse poop. I will then move far away, and stand there ready with a baseball bat, and watch the girls run in and out of the laundry room, noses to the ground.

And after all of that, when my husband cleans the mouse nest out and says it was fairly new and with all the rain we've had and the slight flooding everywhere, he thinks it was a mouse who had to move his home to higher ground. There will be no evidence of a mouse anywhere else and after watching the girls sniff around the cleaned out corner then return to their sedate, sleepy, night time routine, I will sit in the living room, with my feet tucked up under me, and be so thankful I have three dogs who are born to chase small creatures.

Our house is overrun with dogs and teenagers, but not a single mouse, rat, chipmunk or squirrel is allowed to stay here. Thank you, Emma and Sarah Beagle and Olive Badger!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Shook A Famous Hand

I like hanging out with my husbands motorcycle club. They aren't Sons of Anarchy, but they also aren't Wild Hogs. They fall on the cooler side of halfway between, with their flat caps, rolled pant legs, wallet chains, and leather jackets.

I'm often the only Old Lady tagging along, and I am very pleased when time works out and I can go. The club is funny and fun to be with, and standing with them is a pretty cool place to be.

Last night was a meet up to welcome an out of state club member who was in Seattle to play his guitar at The Tavern. At dinner, the guys talked about this new guys club creds: where he was from and how he's the only member in his whole state, between general talk of motorcycles and intense moments on said motorcycles.

Later we stood around, listening to music and waited to meet this guy. And then he was pushing his way through the crowd, shaking hands, calling me sweetheart, and all around being regular. We talked about how bad the weather was, and he said he said he got to experience great weather the last time he was here, when he played the Key Arena.

Um, what? The Key Arena? That place that hosts huge concerts?

Yes. Apparently his day job is playing the guitar in Keith Urban's band.

Holy Freaking Cow.

I surged between wanting to throw up and wanting to never wash my hand.

And really wishing I'd bought one of his t-shirts. Nothing says class like "Nutter" written across my chest!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Good Morning Cup Of Coffee

When I woke up this morning, I could hear the rain splattering against the window. Within 15 minutes of waking, it changed from a tap tap tap to the forceful sound of a full blast of hose water slamming the glass. We peeked outside and yes, it was raining that hard. The wind blew rain spray across the porch, into the house and we knew walking was out of the question this morning.

So it's pouring down rain, the street is a mini swollen creek bed, and we aren't walking.

I set my sights on the next good thing of my morning: a cup of coffee. I wasn't always a coffee lover, and even when I became a liker of coffee, it was sweet, milky mochas that got my attention. But through the years, a cup of black coffee has become a desired treat. No frills needed, just me and my mug of coffee, and the morning is back on track.

I will hold my cup in my hands as I stare outside at the wet mess that awaits me (ala a coffee commercial) and think on what I will wear to work today.....but that line of thoughts will derail my on track morning. I'll just sip my coffee and think happy coffee thoughts for a bit longer.

There is half a pot left, and an hour till I leave for work......

Monday, November 21, 2011

Taking Light Conservation One Step Too Far

We might be taking light conservation one step too far.
I'm not sure, but it sure feels like a line was crossed. I walked into the completely dark living room and found my husband sitting on the couch, playing his cigar box guitar, surrounded by our three dogs.
Did I mention he was shirtless and sockless?
I told him that just because we are making a concentrated effort to turn off lights when we are not in a room did not mean that he could sit in the dark like that.
It totally creeped me out and had me thinking of the banjo playing hillbilly from Deliverance.
Just saying. Not cool!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Have A Cure For The Sunday Night Blues

But I'm not going to let the cure out.

I like him too much.

I have the Sunday Night Blues, which happen when I realize the weekend is over, Monday starts tomorrow, and I've spent most of today on housework. The Blues occur when I've had too much work and not enough fun.

Enter my cure for these Blues: my husband. He steps in and helps iron our son's shirts. He washes dishes and disposes of raw chicken gunk. He praises the dinner I am throwing together and tells me the cookies in the cookie jar are the best he's ever had. He plays my iPod music, on shuffle, and doesn't complain too much when the first couple of songs are Celine. He does everything he can to help.

And while this doesn't suddenly dispel the blues, it sure goes a long way to making me smile and before I know it, I'm rolling into the home stretch of the evening, looking forward to dinner and sitting down with the kids and those last couple of shirts that need to be ironed.

Because while my husband finished ironing, turned off the iron and heaved a sigh of relief, I knew there were more shirts in the dryer. I'll just keep that my little secret and iron them later.

Thanks to my husband, I'm back in the land of Monday liking. I will not have it be said that I have a case of the Mondays. I'd have to kick my own ass.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Can I Hold Off Playing Christmas Music?

In my house, holding off playing Christmas music has never been an issue before. Each year I wait until we are putting up the tree, then I break out the CD's and put my favorites on to play and as we decorate the tree, the first songs of the season joyously playing the soundtrack for our night.

But this year, I have an iPod. This year, in anticipation of our Christmas tree hunt happening the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, I have downloaded all my Christmas music to my iPod a week early and have listened to many songs to make sure they were iPod worthy and now I've been bitten by the Christmas music bug and I'm really working hard to NOT play it yet.

Playing Christmas music heralds the start of the season for me, and I love the Christmas season, but I don't like to start it before Thanksgiving. I want to enjoy Thanksgiving and not let it be overshadowed by it's overbearing cousin, Christmas.

So. Holding off. It's just one more week. Not going to play my Christmas music. Out loud.

It may be that a continuous loop of "I'll be home for Christmas" is playing in my head, but that doesn't count as really playing Christmas music.....

Friday, November 18, 2011

We're Off To See The Dentist

When my sister asked if I could go with her to the pediatric dentist, to be the designated driver and helper, on the day my nephew was having oral surgery, I said okay. That's what sisters do. I'm a good choice, too, because I'm pretty calm and even keeled for other people. For my own kids, I'm a complete basket case, but that's why I'd ask my sister to go with me to the ER in the middle of the night. She'll keep me sane, and for this trip to the dentist, I'll do the same for her.

I'm up at 5:45 AM, as always, trying to get two teenagers and a husband to wake up and get up (which is actually the harder part) and I have to leave the house at 6:30. I have time to take three sips of coffee, flat iron my bangs (but just throw the rest of my long hair up into a messy bun) find clean socks and leave the house, with three dogs standing at the back door questioning whether I'd forgotten something like their morning walk.

Sorry, girls, but I don't have time to walk today.

My sister, nephew, and I get to the pediatric dentist at 7, right on time. It's a really great place, full of toys and kid friendly people and right away they put on Cars 2 for us, which I have never seen and now have not seen entirely (leaving several unanswered questions about how Mater resolved his mistaken spy identity) but it is a dentist office and we are all there nervous and hungry (since it was fasting for my nephew, and how could my sister eat when her baby was hungry and I, well, I don't usually eat until 8 so I was okay) and it was not quite what I would classify as good times.

But we did it. My sister did great, I did my helper duties (which included a mocha run) and my nephew came out of it fighting mad (which, frankly, I would be too) and we all survived.

Home now, with my Mom taking over helper duties and I thinking if ever I needed french fries, it is today. That was an experience I hope we never do again. Poor little guy. He can't even have french fries to cheer him up. I'll have to eat some for both of us then.

And maybe when he's better, in a week or so, there can be a french fry run just for him, with much love from his Oh-Cho.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Borrowing The City's Dog Duty Bags

I am the kind of dog owner who has been known to cut a walk short if I run out of dog pick up bags. I've been known to walk back to the scene of the crime to pick up what we left behind. I carry a little flash light in my pocket on dark walks so I can find what my dog is leaving and pick it up. I'm not wild about picking up dog mess (who is?) but if I don't like it in my own yard, there is no way I'm going to leave it behind in a neighbor's yard.

For years I just stuffed bags in my pockets and walked my one dog. But with three dogs and leashes and my hands full, I switched to one of those cute little velcro do-hickeys that hold a roll of bags. I'm not a boy scout, but I try to always be prepared for dog mess pick up.

Currently, I am cutting corners and rolls of dog bags are just not at the top of my shopping list. I can make do with grocery store bags but they are so big and bulky and I feel like I should be turning those back in to the grocery store...

Or, I can walk downtown to the paved trail that runs 8 miles north and 15 miles south and pull out several courtesy dog bags and stuff my empty bag full. At first I felt guilty doing that, but I don't want to leave dog mess behind, and the bag dispensers are usually not at the exact spot the dogs stop and even if I use one off the trail, I'm still using it in town and keeping our town clean is why there are bag dispensers, right?

It's not stealing, I tell myself, but I prefer to take four bags when it is dark out and no one is looking. It's just borrowing. I'll, um, give it back to the city when we are done. They can find it in their city trash can.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We Won't Leave The Lights On For You

I love it when Tom Bodett says they'll leave the lights on for me. When I was younger, travelling by myself and my dog, I'd stay at a Motel 6 just for the idea of the light burning bright for me. And of course, Motel 6 is dog friendly, so that was a huge plus. Lights on and dogs welcome, good place to be.

Our house is so dog friendly, it's almost crazy in our welcome of dogs. But, leaving the lights on? Not so much.

Suddenly, my husband and I have turned into those people....the ones who turn off every light and chastise the children for leaving one burning brightly when it has no need to be on. Where before, I would have thought nothing of having the kitchen, dining and living room lights on when I was the only one home, now days I turn off lights as I leave rooms. An unnecessary trip is made upstairs to the land of teenagers to turn off their lights after they've left for school.

The kids might leave their bedroom lights on all day if left unchecked, but there is one light they never turn on: the light for the carport and driveway. I'm not complaining exactly, but now that I get home from work in the dark, it's really, really dark out there without that light.

And it's a little hard to walk on gravel, with three dogs at my heels, and numerous car parts and tools strewn about when it is really, really dark. Not to mention, a bit spooky.

I will persevere and take comfort in the fact that the kids have left one light off. It's a start!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blessed Be The Love Letter

I've been blessed, although it didn't seem like a blessing at the time because love letters meant my husband and I were separated by distance, but I have been blessed with love letters. Lots and lots of love letters that strain box lids and tire the strength of elastic bands.

We spent most of our engagement apart, due to boot camp and him being stationed in California while I was in Washington. He was gone 6 months of our first year of marriage. He has been deployed three times for months on end and attended numerous academies for further schooling.

So we wrote. We wrote about every day life, we wrote about how much we missed each other, we wrote about our hopes for the future and we wrote our love for each other. We wrote of unhappiness, of bills coming due, of children and fellow soldiers behaving poorly. We wrote it all.

Nothing was left unsaid. I wanted him to feel connected to our life at home, he wanted me to know he was thinking of us always. Distance didn't mean I didn't need some help or advice, or that he didn't need encouragement in his endeavors.

It isn't just letters either. We are so used to writing, we write notes. When I used to make his lunch, I'd slip a note in almost daily. When he leaves for a weekend, chances are I will find a note from him taped to the mirror, or the coffee pot, or the computer. A for-no-reason-except-I-love-you card is pulled out from an inside coat pocket, or tucked under a pillow, and suddenly whatever is going on, the dinner not quite right, the truck wires crossed, the sick kids and dog, the chores and work that is never ending, all of that disappears and for a moment it's just the two of us.

I've got boxes galore filled with notes, cards, and letters. Some have been censored for our children (if you find letters with pages torn in half, you probably don't want to know) but for the most part they are whole and true. I can pull one out and feel that moment again, tiredly writing a letter before I fell asleep or giddy with excitement that a letter from him arrived.

It's a slice of our life from years past, preserved. We've been together 20 years, and I'm pretty sure he's made me fall in love with him a thousand times over just through the words he writes. Blessed be the love letter. Blessed be the love that these letters have tended.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Too (Insert Temperature) In Here!

This beginning of colder weather has led me to question our house and it's ability to regulate its heat. When we first moved in, there was a tiny gas fireplace in the dining room that supposedly heated the whole did not. The dining room, of course, was unbearably hot, and the upstairs was a land of frost.

So instead of new flooring or kitchen cupboards, we installed a furnace the blows hot air into every room downstairs, and if the kids leave their doors open, warms the bedrooms upstairs too.
I'm not sure that is working so well this year. After school, when the kids arrived home, the house is so hot and miserable, but a few hours later, it is so cold! The furnace is set to keep the house at 68 right now, but it's a 68 I don't recognize.

I'm either saying, "It's too HOT in here!" or I'm shivering and piling on blankets as I chatter out, "It's too COLD in here!"

I'm the one that set the thermostat. I thought I had to all figured out, but the extreme switch of temperature has proven that I do not.

Of course, that frigid breeze I just felt might actually be due to someone opening a window. Really? Who does that in winter?

Oh. Right. It was hot when the kids got home. Too hot to exist without an open window!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Fear Pajama Jeans

Today I learned if I love stylish, sexy jeans AND if I love soft, comfortable pajama bottoms, I can get the best of both worlds with pajama jeans. While my kids and I shared a good laugh and a couple of "oh my gosh, did you see that?" sallies, a part of me wondered how pajama jeans actually feel and look. I'm a huge fan of comfy pants and if they really looked like jeans.....well....I'd never go back to real pants again.

And that scares me!

I'm too young to go the elastic waistband route for most of my clothing choices.

And yet, I've thought about them all day long.

Curses on you, pajama jeans. You are unsettling on so many levels!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Miss The Sleep Sack

The first time I saw what my sister was making her baby sleep in, I thought she'd gone over, under and around the bend. It's a sack for crying out loud! I thought it must be some kind of newfangled Seattle parenting fad.

So I never in a million years thought I'd put it on my nephew and think this is the weirdest, most wonderful thing I'd ever used. Where was this when I had babies who refused to stay covered on the coldest night of winter? I'd have loved to put my babies in a sleep sack!

My sister's boys have moved on from sleep sacks and two are old enough to cover themselves when they are chilled, but the youngest one refuses blankets of any kind. I covered him, he threw the blanket out of his bed. I offered him a blanket of his choice, and he shook his head. I waited until he was sound asleep and carefully placed a blanket on him, only to find it this morning in a heap on the floor.

I really, really miss that sleep sack, and I never thought I'd say that.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's In The Monkey's Belly?

There are times when I am expecting extra special company, that I will pull out all the stops. I will sweep my bedroom floor (usually the room that I just close the door on because no one goes in there) and I will wash the cookie jar. I will bake cookies and make sure my old VHS movies are ready to play. I will wash old blankets so they are ready for use and make sure I have glue.

But only for certain extra special guests. Say, the kind who are 6 years old or younger, who might make beds up on the floor of my bedroom, who might ask what's in the Monkey's belly, who might have a love of all my favorite kids movies (that due to the age of my kids, are all on VHS), who might look for old blankets to use to build forts, who might sit at the table with glue and paper and make crafts with me.

I might have three cute, young nephews coming over for a sleepover. I might have three nephews so excited that they started to pack their bags two days ago and laying plans out for who will sleep where and bringing music because they know I will love song #7.

Guess, what boys? Oh-Cho is that excited too!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Getting A Gold Star In Frugality

Cutting corners and pinching pennies is not my idea of fun. Staying home and cooking dinner when I really want to be sitting in a booth at the local Mexican restaurant, being served chips and salsa and a margarita, is really a downer. But times are a bit tighter and I have to be a responsible adult and sometimes it isn't too much fun.

Except when it comes to finding a good deal, then I am giddy with joy.

This week, our local grocery store is offering a 10% discount to military families in honor of Veteran's Day. When I saw that, I was excited. 10% is not much, but considering that I buy all of our fresh produce at this grocery store, and fresh produce rarely comes with a coupon, I was thrilled at the idea of adding a bit more savings to our bill.

I went home and found the weekly sales flyer, just curious if other things are on sale that I could combine with the military discount. Yes. Oh, boy, yes. Friday is a big mega sale and about half of the things on sale are things on my list.

The sale price plus the extra 10% off equal a joyful me.

There are times when being frugal seems like a big old pile of denied fun times, but there are other times when being frugal is like getting a gold star from the teacher.

Friday's sale feels like a gold star moment. I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Conferences Bring Out The Worst In Me

I have a love hate relationship with parent teacher conferences. I have been blessed with two really good kids and our conferences are the same every time. We sit down, introduce ourselves, the teachers tell us we have a really good kid, no problems at all, do we have any questions? Um, no. I don't have any questions. If I did, the teacher already heard from me because I do not believe in waiting for a conference 2 months into the school year. I address my concerns as they happen.

My husband questioned why we were even going. This year, with two kids at high school, we had 12 teachers and two advisers to sit down with and zero desire to split the list in half and met up at the end to compare notes. We hear the same thing every year, this year times 14, so why go?

I go because I am my child's advocate. I go because I want each teacher who interacts with my child to know that I am listening to what my child says about their day. I am paying attention to their school work. I am watching. I am an intense ball of fierceness, camouflaged by the cuteness of a fluffy kitten.

In the good old days of elementary school, we would show up at our assigned time and there was no question of picking this teacher or that teacher to visit. High school is different. It's an open forum, with teachers spread out all over campus, a map to guide you around and a teacher on the second floor B wing completely across the school from a teacher in the auxiliary gym, and both are teachers you'd like to visit. It's planning which teachers are at the top of your must see list and cross checking that with who has a shorter line.

And the lines. Oy! The lines.

I'm so thankful that we have the opportunity to meet with our children's high school teachers, but I hate the lines and the waiting in the lines and the prideful embarrassment I glow with when we wait in line for 30 minutes to sit at the table for a minute because the teacher has no concerns with our good kid.

Okay, that's a lie. I love that glow of prideful embarrassment. I've got good kids! I'm bursting with pride over them! And I want everyone else to know it.

Yep, I'm not only a fierce kitten ready to rumble over any slight to my child, I'm one who wants to rub other parents noses in the knowledge that my kids are super fantastic!

Conferences might bring out the worst in me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Start To Our Accordion Adventure

As my son and husband pursued their passion for guitar, and my daughter devoted all her time to piano, I joked we could start a family band, except I didn't want to be the tamborine player in the group. I said instead, I'd get an accordion and play it. Accordions seem to be a lost art, similar to a family band concept, and the two would go together perfectly.

My husband said okay. He'd buy me an accordion. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's slow this roll. I have zero musical talent. I'd take PE over music class any day of the week, and my year of piano lessons is seared in my mind as the worst experience of my life. Let's not waste money on an accordion I have no idea how to play, and let's not forget the aforementioned lack of musical talent.

But I appreciated the thought. How lovely to have a husband who is so into pursuing dreams and interests, he'd buy an accordion just on the off chance that I might enjoy it.

A few weeks ago, my Grandma mentioned in a casual "you don't know anyone who needs an accordion do you?" way that she knew of someone who was giving away an accordion. I do know someone, actually, who wants an accordion. Me!

I've had numerous second and third and fourth and fifth thoughts, none louder than the ones I thought as I looked at the accordion in my house, in my possession, in my care. What was I thinking? I don't know anything about accordions! And I have realized I have no desire to strap that heavy thing on and give it a whirl.

All is not wasted. I might have changed my mind and think a tamborine is just perfectly suited for my skill level, but my husband and kids and kid's friends are all wild about the accordion. It has been pulled out of the case and played and google searches done on "how to play an accordion" and "songs for the accordion" and it is a much loved hit.

This morning I heard my son and his friends of them needs to learn to play this so they can walk around the street fairs as a roving minstrel band.

Awesome. I'll be there with the tamborine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

He Packs A TV

When I was a kid, I'd pack a large suitcase for a one night sleepover at a friends house. Partly, I wasn't too keen on the whole sleepover thing. I'd be up and ready to go home at 7am. My suitcase was filled with clothes I might need and stuffed animals I might want and books I'd read if I was bored.

My son has never been that kind of packer. That became very clear when he was old enough to do his own packing and he wouldn't pack a thing. He'd just take off with his friends, no pajamas, no toothbrush, no clean anything.

It made me crazy! How can he survive like that? My husband just shrugged and told me he was a boy. Boys don't need all that stuff. Our son would be fine. It was only a night, not like he was walking to Alaska with nary a thing packed.

I'm used to it now. But what I'm not used to is what he has decided he needed to start packing.

His TV.

When I was a kid, the TV was a big, bulky thing, with so many wires, and a terrible buzzing noise that gave me a headache if I ever got to close. I tried to imagine myself unplugging wires and lifting our TV just to take to a friends house. Nope. Not even in my wildest imaginings could I see myself doing that!

But my son does. Of course, he has his own TV so it's not like he's taking our family's one and only. And he and his friends have some sort of video game system (yes, I am so out of the video loop I can't even guess what it is) that they hook up and all play together. So I guess having an extra TV is needed?

It's still big and bulky and I was horrified to see how dusty it is, but he is a teenage boy...what does he care about dusting? Listening to the boys talk about the party as I drive them home, TV stowed in the back, the wrestling, the pizza, the video game they'd rigged up, well, I can see why it's worth lugging the TV back and forth. The party was a success, in part to my son's willingness to pack his TV wherever he goes.

I'm more concerned about the wrestling. It almost has a fight club aspect....which of course, means I'm not supposed to talk about!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

If You Love Me, Mom, Please Don't.....

If you love me, Mom, please don't are words that could be followed by things like: please don't embarrass me, or please don't make me, or please don't spit bathe me. But when my daughter uses those words, we are usual standing in a thrift shop and I am looking at bowls or glasses or even, gasp, serving spoons.

If you love me, Mom, please don't buy used anything that will touch my food and then my food will touch my mouth.

Of all the quirks for a kid to have, my daughter has a thing about silverware that is not hers. It's not just used silverware, it is the silverware belonging to friends and family. If she thinks too much about it, it is silverware at restaurants, but to counter that I have told her stories about the industrial dishwasher I used when I worked at camp, to let her know that it might not be some guy in the back with a dirty rag haphazardly wiping off forks. I never told her about the kernels of corn that got baked on silverware sometimes when the loader person didn't rinse things well. That is her idea of the worst thing ever.

It got so bad at one point, I was seriously considering sending her with a set of plastic silverware just so I knew she would be eating while she was away. But she said that would make her look crazy. Instead, I told all friends parents not to worry if she picked at her food and didn't really eat. She wasn't going to starve in 24 hours and she didn't.

And it's worked. She's learned how to navigate the horrors that is silverware she hasn't washed herself, but she draws the line at me purposely buying used silverware to use in the our home.

Okay, but what about bowls? Or glasses? I'd love to buy some cheap drinking glasses, matching not a worry, just because we are going through a glass shortage at our house, and I don't want to buy NEW ones and then suffer the heartbreak that is a brand new glass breaking.

But it's a no go. Please Mom, if you love me, please don't buy used glasses.

Okay, darling daughter. I won't. Unless they are super cute and retro looking. With a vintage star-burst pattern. I'll buy that and you don't have to use it. Deal?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Could've Coughed All Night

I could've coughed all night, and still have coughed some more. It was a never ending night of tossing and turning and coughing and coughing and coughing a wee bit more. Even a dose of that magic "so you can rest" syrup did not help. I remember after one coughing fit, whispering to my husband "I'm sorry" while he sleepily rubbed my shoulder. When he's got to get up at 4:45, the last thing he needs all night is a restless bed companion, and even sick and tired, I am so aware of that.

Poor little fella.

Poor me.

Because now he's gone to drill, and I am here with the kids and the dogs and I am exhausted. I know if I can just push past this morning blah fest, I'll feel okay. I don't have a sore throat or a headache, I just have a ticklish dry cough that is trying to suck my will to live.

Oh well. It's nothing that a hot cup of tea and a slow, meandering walk with the dogs around our neighborhood won't kind of fix. Or at least, make me feel like getting dressed in real clothes and at least peeking out of my door to view the land of the living.

My goal is to be all the way back into that land by Monday!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Everything In Its Place

I have a crazy hatred of clutter. I can't stand it. I really, truly, believe that there is a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. And yet, I am currently looking at six scraps of paper with notes written on them, strewn about the computer desk. Two pieces of paper that look like homework. A note pad, a wallet, a flashlight, a magazine, piano music, and an empty grocery bag.

Three out of five dining room chairs have coats hanging on them.

One chair has a shirt draped over it that doesn't even belong to a member of my family and when I tried to figure out who it did belong to, both my kids said they didn't know. No one noticed a friend taking off his shirt? That makes me worry about what exactly the kids are doing while I'm at work.

Shoes all over the floor, papers that have fallen and not been picked up, and something the dogs dragged in, which looks nest like and solid, and I'm a little afraid to investigate.

This sort of clutter makes me nuts. Made worse by the fact that I have been sick all week, with just enough energy to go to work, to come home and cook dinner, and to put on pajamas and go to bed.

Today I have grand plans. The recycling bin is empty so all those loose papers will now be recycled. The shoes will find their way to the shoe rack, the coats will go back on their hooks, and I guess I'll throw this unknown shirt into the dirty laundry.

It may not belong to us, but it does have a place in the hamper. And today, everything must find its rightful place, or I'll go bonkers. Or back to bed. Yes, bed does sound good. After all I am still sick, and for sick people, the right place to be is bed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Let The Count Down Begin

It is a torrential downpour out there this morning. I knew last night we were in for some wet, cold times, and seeing as how it is November, and I live in the Pacific Northwest, that is to be expected. I realized last night that I have accepted the end of summer.

Yes, it is November. Yes, it took Halloween and a drenching of cold rain for me to accept it, but I have. Summer is over. It's time to look forward to the things fall and winter have to offer.

Turkey and stuffing, Christmas, birthday celebrations, and of course, Spring.

The first day of Spring 2012 is March 20. Only four and a half more months to go.

I can see the glory in a crisp fall morning, I can be awestruck at the red and gold explosion that covers our hills, I can snuggle under a quilt and watch glee the first snow fall. I can do all of that, and enjoy it.

But I'm a warm months kind of gal, and nothing makes me smile more than the first warm spring day, buds budding, weeds sprouting, and the world waking up. Let the count down begin.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Albatross Room

From now on, the "bonus" room will be called the Albatross Room because calling it a bonus room implies good things. A bonus is something extra, something above and beyond, something that could be construed as a gift or reward. Our bonus room is not any of those things. It is an Albatross around our neck.

Seven plus years ago, we moved into this glorious fixer upper old house, with it's one bathroom, three bedrooms and a bonus room. The bonus room is upstairs, more of an attic storage area that someone floored, stretching across half the house. It is huge and completely unusable for anything other than storing attic things, but as we stood on the bouncy floor, we saw the potential.

This would make a great play room. Or a family room. Or a master bedroom. Our ideas were grand, including the promise of gables punching out the sloping roof. Someday.

Well, seven years later, it's still a storage room. Only now it's got sheet rock up and new flooring ready to install and a new window and it's not even close to being done. We've had a storage unit for two years, with the idea if we weren't storing things in the bonus room, it would be finished faster.

Apparently, renting a storage unit is just another excuse for us to get even more junk to store in the bonus room. But now we are serious. We letting our unit go, we are finishing the floor upstairs, we are determined to get this Albatross Room back into it's dream potential of being a true bonus room.....

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I'm excited again. I think this time, unlike all the previous times we've thought we were close to finishing it, this time we really will! Seven years too late to be a playroom, but just in time to be a hangout for teenagers. I'm thinking the room never wanted to be a kid room, but thinks teens and scary movies and all it's creaking floor glory will be just about perfect.

But until the floor is finished and the furniture moved back in to be used and not just stored, I will think of it as my Albatross Room. Our past records shows a shocking lack of stick-to-itiveness!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Buns Are Burning!

So to complete a trifecta of posts about food (it would seem I've been hungry the last three mornings I've been writing), here is a true story of burning buns.

Yesterday was Halloween. I woke up with a sore throat and as the day dragged on, dragging me behind it, I knew I wasn't up to driving down to Seattle to trick or treat with my nephews. This is the first Halloween I haven't and I missed them so much! Besides, staying home wasn't me vegging on the couch in a pile of crumpled tissue and cooling cups of tea.

It was me coming home from work and learning I was feeding extra kids and trying to figure out how I was going to stretch a soup meant for our family (and by that I mean it was a made up, thrown together soup that looked like it would fill four bowls and for just our family it was fine, but for company it was lacking) and the kitchen was a mess and the house seemed filled with extra coats and shoes and clothes and lets not even start talking about the candy wrappers already littering every surface!

I made an intense study of the end of the paycheck cupboards and came up with nothing special to add, either to the soup or to the table. Okay, un-special things were going to have to work. The last of the lettuce for salad, cut up apples and Asian pears, and wait! I have hot dog buns in the freezer. In a pinch, hot dog buns make nice garlic bread sticks.

I whip up the butter and garlic, I toast the buns, I spread the butter on the warm bread and toss it back in the oven to brown up.

And here is where a universal truth made itself hideously known to me.

The more I am depending on toasted up garlic bread to flesh out a meal for a bunch of people, the more likely it is that I will forget to check it, burning it beyond redemption and filling the house with the smell burnt toast.

At least it was Halloween, and I was sending the kids out trick or treating. They didn't stay un-full for long!