Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu & My Offer to You

First,let me say that I have closely followed the updates from the CDC, my local Health Department, the hospital and the tabloids. I have hung upon every word spoken by Anderson Cooper, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric. It's times like these that people have to come together to help one another- be there for a neighbor, with offers of assistance.


What, you say? How can this be that this person, will be there for me, in my hour of need? Well, hold on tight.

Anderson, Diane and Katie have all told me (they speak to me directly through the TV) that this flu bug cannot be acquired from pork products. This is good news for "The Other White Meat" and pig farmers everywhere. OK, but aren't you just a little fearful of that slab of back bacon in your refrigerator's meat drawer? Do you run in fear when rounding the grocery aisle where the bacon sits, menacingly in the case? Wouldn't you feel so much better knowing that someone was keeping an eye on your bacon during this crisis, protecting you from it, just in case?


Send me your bacon bits, your back bacon, your hickory smoked slices. Send it all. I will watch over it for you until we have the "all clear" from Anderson, Katie, Diane and the Weekly World News.

Now for the fine print.... I hereby do agree to take custody of your bacon. I cannot, however, guarantee that it will ever be returned to you in any form fit for human consumption. Your bacon will become a topping for my salads and a close friend of my eggs (over easy if you please).

I live to serve.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Open Windows in Springtime

CAUTION: Open windows.

Spring is a good time for airing out the house, sweeping up the cobwebs and wiping the dirt from the windowsills. Sounds great? Not when you're all used to fighting with the windows shut, preferably in the basement where no one can hear the lunacy your family is dishing out about dirty socks, the placement of forks and maybe Jacksonian Democracy.

At various points throughout the past weekend, the chaos would reach a fever pitch and spill over into the garage. The garage is a terrible place to have a brawl about who ate the last Twinkie or why the shoes were left in the middle of the kitchen for someone to trip on them. Why? The garage functions as a giant megaphone of sorts broadcasting the mayhem to the entire neighborhood. Interestingly, I never hear anyone else's kids. We must be the loudest family in a four street radius.

Tonight, however, was the MOAF (Mother of All Fights). I was gone for the evening volunteering for this and that leaving the brood to fend for themselves. Tim was in charge. Things were nutty as usual but fairly under control when I walked in the door- everything was quiet. Wow. Until...

Andrew rushed by me, wild eyed. "I can't find my science homework."

"Relax, I'll help you" I offered fresh from my evening away from home. What a fool I am.

We looked and looked. For some reason Andrew was brandishing a flashlight to look for the worksheet. We looked some more. Peter appeared at the doorway.

"I put Andrew's science homework in the trash."

WHAT?!?!?! ARE YOU INSANE????? At this point, Andrew is seething like a wolverine in a bear trap. MOAF starts NOW. Doors are slamming and we're off to the races. I hope our house is far enough away from the neighbor's and that brick is a muffler.

In a fit of weekend frustration (Probably between garage hollering sessions) Peter "placed" his brother's science homework in the trash. This child, my offspring, put the homework in the trash knowing full well that Monday morning is trash day. The homework is long gone.

Thankfully, they have the same classes and we were able to make a copy of the worksheet and save Andrew from whatever befalls sixth graders without their homework. Peter managed an earnest apology with a hug thrown in at the end.

So, enjoy the springtime flowers but don't ask why my windows aren't opened. I think we'll run the air conditioner.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ode to My Administrative Assistant

This week is Administrative Assistants' Week. I think there should be a proclamation that gives these people, or one particular person, who puts up with all of their boss' garbage, a month of presents.

This is what she does for me:
  • Gives me pens so I don't have to write in crayon
  • Sends my mail so I don't have to walk to the mailbox
  • Writes my letters so I don't sound stupid
  • Guards my calendar like a mama bear
  • Force feeds me chocolate first thing in the morning
  • Talks to my husband about what's for dinner
  • Puts up with my mood swings and violent outbursts (OK, no she is not abused, don't even go trying to steal her from me)
  • Makes me smile every day

Let's pretend money and time are no object. This is the day I would plan for her...

  • Donuts from Wixey's
  • Shopping at her favorite stores including the smelly soap place- can't remember what they call it
  • A spa visit of some sort. Someone has to massage the stress of working with me out of her poor neck.
  • Lunch at the Mexican place on the river because its her favorite even though it's not my favorite. That's OK. It's her day and I won't complain- not one bit.
  • Dessert. We will get 4 kinds of dessert and spread them out and eat them all afternoon while letting the phone ring off the hook.
  • We'll need a nap.
  • Then I'd give her the "I'm surrounded by idiots" button even though it's sold out and I'd have to pay $500 for it on EBay
  • We'll be hungry and thirsty by laughing at the button so it will be back out for margarita's and some dancing. Yes, I will dance too. It will be dark so don't worry, no one will see.
  • We'll stay out late even though we know it will be hard to get up in the morning. Once a year we're allowed.

Thank you for everything you do for me. I am the luckiest person and I don't think you know how much I value your thoughts, work and just being you. I am so proud of you and I hope that you know this every day and not just the once a year that we think about it.

So, can you pick up some donuts tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Listening is Important

No Child Left Behind has definitely left No Child Untested. Today was the first part of several for the State Achievement tests.

With hyper vigilance, one twin has spent the last few weeks preparing and answering extra test questions to ensure his readiness.

With a calm that is nearly zen-like, the other twin has tumbleweeds blowing around in his skull. Test? Not worried, not one bit.

Our 3:00 Eastern Drinking Time ritual is their call to me to assure me they haven't been locked in the locker by roving bands of bullies or otherwise incapacitated at school. My phone rings...

(Note my first mistake: I cannot tell them apart by voice and I didn't ask who it was allowing someone to take serious advantage of my afternoon addled brain.)

Me: So, how was the test?

Kid: It was OK.

Me: Did you finish the sections? Did you get stumped? Break your pencil?

Kid: I lost focus. I stared into space a lot.

Me: WHAT? You lost focus? You were so ready! What happened?

Kid: The teacher said it's hard to focus for long periods so they said to take a break. I rested my brain by staring into space.

Me: During the entire test? Did they come clonk a cow bell next to your head to wake you up?

Kid: Na, it was OK.

Me: Wait, you're kidding right?

Kid: Ya, wanna talk to Andrew?


Me: Hey Andrew, how was the test?

Kid: Fine. Did you talk to my orthodontist?

Me: Yes, you have the first appointment Monday.

Kid: WHAT? I'm getting head gear on Monday?

Me: I'm hanging up.

Oh Please, when does the listening gene kick in? They are so totally messing with my head.

On the other hand, Henry probably never messed with his parents' heads- I believe they always had the woodshed to prevent such hilarities. Alas, poor Henry, dead at 10 in 1852, his grave sliding into the ravine, never would have pretended to be someone else on the phone. (Yes, anachronistic, but I still have a point!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Post About Nothing in Particular

I had about five different ideas for a post tonight. None of them are cultivating in my brain to any extent that would result in sentences or complete thoughts. Lots of stuff is brewing at the office- interesting- I unfortunately don't work in a brewery. Here are some synaptic snippets:

  • Two pairs of baseball shoes (I'm told they're called cleats), 4 pairs of baseball socks, some pants, some special underwear and I guess two boys are ready for baseball season.
  • I leave my best self behind at work, I think. I am nearly always on my best behavior there and I get a lot done most days. At home, none of us are on our best behavior and we don't get anything done. We do manage to eat dinner together. I actually lit the candles.
  • Endings are usually beginnings. Windows open when doors close.
  • I had a dream the other night that someone important was trying to tell me to do something that needed to be done, but I wasn't listening. I hope I listen better than this when I'm awake.
  • The very strong willed child who berates me in public for not buying the chocolate donuts is of stern character and will not live with me after he graduates from college due to his fervent independence.

Finally, Alas, Poor Henry! What of poor Henry. He had relatives here. One donated land that founded a church, but no one wrote anything of Henry, dead at 10 in 1852. It might have been cholera. I'm on the case.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Things that will Probably Haunt Me

I've done a few things that will come back to haunt me some day....

  • Wearing rainbow embroidered gauchos in 3rd grade. (What is a gaucho anyway? Oddly reminiscent of the "slanket" but real clothing worn that should be forgotten. Someone at work asked what you would call a blanket with a hole in it for your head. A poncho, of course, but "Blancho" sounds much cooler. I should totally sell these on line. Want one?)
  • Recycling. (How can this be? It is so good for the planet! True, dear reader, but hard to explain to the kids who have been indoctrinated by the 3rd generation of Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" officers. It's hard to dodge the following week after week "Hey Mom, the bin looks like you had a really big party, but no one's been here." At least no one you know about, my very observant child. And no, there's no reason to tell your school counselor.)
  • This conversation... ("Mom, you swear a lot." "What the H8!!, no I don't." "Yes you do. What's going to happen when I come home when I'm in my 30's, Mom? I'll swear and you'll still try to smack me." Nice. )
  • Another conversation... ("Mom I need some birthday candles." "In the cabinet." Time passes.... "STOP LIGHTING FIRES ON THE DECK, YOU WILL BURN THE HOUSE DOWN." "It's OK Mom, I'm taking these candles, some matches and my knife with me on the Scout camp out to the nuclear power plant." )
  • Teaching critical thinking skills to my children. (Emphasis on CRITICAL. My parents joined us for a weekend a while back and were amazed by the spectacle that two 12 year olds and their father can create while discussing Greek City States. Seriously, it got ugly and resulted in Tim actually pulling out a college text book to prove his point. My parents laughed at me, for hours, whilst I drank.)
  • Wednesday night's margarita. (They served in a glass the size of the bucket I use to wash my car. Should have been my first, freaking clue.)
  • The animal cracker I dropped in my toaster.
  • Henry Van Hellen. Where art thou, Henry?

Haunted and it's not even close to Halloween...

Friday, April 17, 2009

All the News from Blogburg

It was a quiet week here in Blogburg, except for all the times it wasn't. I haven't posted in a week, I guess nothing was as newsworthy as the crazy squirrel.

A&P were gone again all week- at camp. (Last week they were away on Spring Break.) They have returned with their laundry, but only for about 4 hours. They head out again tonight for a Boy Scout adventure at the nuclear power plant of all places. I'm sure they'll have lots to tell us about atomic energy, and maybe a handsome green glow, upon their return.

I ran into my dance partner. He wasn't mortified to see me. I think the dance actually helped my career, not only because I did not fall on my butt, but because now he will never, ever, ever forget who I am. For some strange reason he had a hard time remembering who I was before. After a few bars of "Love Shack", he'll think of me always, as disturbing as that would be.

I have a few new friends over to the right, golly I mean left, of the page. (Never have been good with the right or left thing.) Certainly nice to meet you all and I'll make my way over to see you as soon as I get out from under this pile of muddy, 6th grade boy, camp laundry.

For the newbies, there's nothing too extraordinary about me or this blog other than the rate at which I can swill martinis. I am also a good typist, cattle wrangler and snake handler. Ok, the last one was a lie.

Lastly, I have a bit of a mystery on my hands. I've put on my Nancy Drew pencil skirt and my thinking cap. She could always solve everything in 20 short chapters. I'm not that much of a whiz, but I am very concerned about my friend Henry Vanhellen, dead, age 10, April 24, 1852. He's all alone off by himself in the cemetery near my house. His stone is right along the ravine where I walk lest you think I've been spending too much time trying to commune with the spirits. He does not appear on census records and his age is listed incorrectly in the cemetery records. So, I've taken it upon myself to find this boy and I'll keep you posted on Henry.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mr. Nutkin's Aggravation

We awoke this morning with two winter frocked deer lounging under a pine tree by the pond. The tree, right at the edge of the woods, provides some screening, but the two nearly blend into the brown leaves and dirt. In the woods behind the tree and the pond there were at least 5 more deer, but you can only see them when they move, their limbs completely camouflaged by the bare sticks and branches. Sometimes if you squint to blur the branches, you can see their black noses and white tails.

Above the pond and the pine tree, way up high in the long straight trees, are numerous squirrel nests. You would never know they were there in the spring and summer. In the winter they sit precariously in the crooks of the trees. On warm winter days the squirrels venture away from home and bounce around the trees.

A few minutes after we noticed the deer, a squirrel appeared on the deck. He was one irritated squirrel. His rapid heartbeat was visible right through his fur. Nutkin perched himself between the slats in the railing and glared at those deer. Finally, making his move, he creeped over to the right along the back of the house, under the swing, and through the pine trees on the other side of the yard. And then, we saw him perched on a pond rock. Picking his footing carefully and never, not even for a moment, taking his eyes off of those giant deer, he knelt down for a quick drink.

Then, in an instant, he flicked his tail and sprinted up the Redbud tree. Spooked, the deer sprang to life and raced into the woods. Nutkin hung out in the nook of the Redbud for a minute, flicking his tail and then continued up the maze of branches to his clump of leaves in the crook of his fine straight tree, obviously victorious.

The deer are still back in the woods. I can see them move as I type this- like ghostly branches picking their way through the mud and fallen logs with their pointed toes as if four legged ballerinas. Sometimes I catch the glimpse of the black velvet nose or the white flipped tail.

Nutkin is either settled down for a nap or regaling his family with his exploits.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This is your brain: Home Alone

WARNING: This is my brain. (OK, it's a replica, relax. How could I type this if that was really my brain.) Random thoughts on being left home alone. No need to call the authorities. Really.
While home alone I have:
  • Organized my socks
  • Worked
  • Had a few martinis (or 18, whatever)
  • Did my own laundry
  • Had a phone conversation and was not interrupted, not even once
  • Turned off the lights and they stayed off
  • Listened to Yo Yo Ma and did not get harassed
  • Hit my snooze button a few extra times

Sounds pretty successful? OMG, don't let this fool you. When are they coming back?

So they called last night. I had a conversation with Peter, but I thought it was Andrew. Does that count as having conversation with both of them? I felt terrible that I had mixed them up. My normal foolproof way of not messing this up is starting every conversation with "Which one are you?" I was feeling over confident, queen of my twinless domain and I blew it. This is so going to add years to their therapy. In my own defense, they sound totally alike, but for a little bit of attitude on that Peter kid.

Once when they were little, Tim and the boys picked me up at the airport in Detroit. I had been gone for about 5 days on a business trip. I opened the side door of the minivan to find two very similar faces staring at me from their car seats. I HAD NO IDEA WHICH ONE WAS WHICH. So you say "Hey Boys!"

What a loser. Even people at the grocery store or school say things like: "Hey since you're their mom you probably never mess them up." But I do, all the time. I must be lacking some sort of identical twin Mom never messes up the kids ever or they'll be in therapy for years gene. Yep, they really drew the short straw when they ended up with me.

Wow. Where exactly did I put that drink???

Monday, April 6, 2009

Home Alone with Monet

Say what you will about Toledo, but at least we have lots of museums within a few hours.

So if you're left home alone in Toledo, left to your own devices, you could hop in your car and within minutes or an hour be staring at something very fine like the above Monet.

This Monet surprised me a lot as it feels cold to look at it. He painted this in 1880 at Vetheuil, 30 miles north west of Paris along the Seine. His debts were high and his wife was gravely ill. The winter of 1879 was particularly cold and harsh and he painted the break up of the ice on the river- over and over and over. He was fascinated by the changes in the ice even in the bitter cold.
During the previous two years he painted many happier things around Vetheuil including the Cathedral, but now he painted in despair. Not only was the winter harsh, but Monet had just lost his wife Camille to cancer in September 1879. He painted with a bleak, unrelenting grief and now harsh, cold reality. He painted a final portrait of Camille on her death bed, covered in a violet shroud.

This painting of Camille was for Monet alone. He never sold it and it is now owned by the Musée d`Orsay in Paris and they rarely lend it out for exhibition. Monet said "Painting should simply be the expression of what I have personally felt."

So there it was, on a cold, wet Sunday afternoon that we stumbled upon the painting with the broken ice in the gallery. The blues, grays and greens, the stark lonely trees on the riverbank revealing a cold, unrelenting landscape and a transcendence of human thought and a pain I had not expected to feel through the canvas coming from the man who painted it long ago.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Home Alone

(Cue creepy ghost town music. A tumbleweed blows down the driveway. The lights are on, but no body's home....)

Yes, we're home alone. I vacillate between my thirteen year old (Omigosh I've been left home alone self) and my older (doesn't matter how much older, but it's nowhere near 40, ahem) more responsible self.

13year old me: Whoo Hoo! I am inviting over my friends and watching whatever I want on TV while simultaneously bouncing on the couch, talking to someone on the phone, drinking pop in the room with the white carpet, and wearing red lipstick. Awesome!

Regular me: Huh?

So here we are, sitting around in our underwear, blowing off our friends, watching basketball and drinking gin & tonics. Where are they, you ask? Where are the lovelies? Did you send them to the military school down the road? Guam? A detention center?


(Cue Beastie Boys "Fight for your right to Party", dance like a wacko in the kitchen and eat the sushi that you don't have to share with anyone but the spouse.)

I won't bounce on my furniture since I know what I paid for it but I might:
  • Eat all the raisin toast and Lucky Charms without being accosted.
  • Forget how to do laundry, except for my own which is kind of overdue.
  • Read a book
  • Research my book "52 weeks, 52 Martinis: Essays on Twin Parenting"
  • Do my Snoopy happy dance
  • Wait for the phone to ring- why haven't they called all day?
  • Sleep with their stuffed animals

Those last two were pathetic.

My 13 year old self is telling me to paint my toe nails bright blue and make some nachos. Talk at ya later!