Wednesday, March 31, 2010

There Is No Joy in Mudville

For two days, we had an involuntary fasting from the television. The kids had lost the remote.  No one was willing to look for the magic controller box thingy to make the channels reveal all their mindless glory and so they had to do without.  Mom wasn't interested in searching for it either.  I suggested that the desired object MIGHT be below the laundry that had piled up on the couch.  But the problem was, there remained the Wii and the gameboy DS and two computers so my kids were not hard up for screen entertainment. 

Still, the littles all recognized they wouldn't get a shot at the high tech stuff and trundled outside to play on bikes and experience a touch of spring.  I made dinner, silently basking in the glow of having my children enjoying the great outdoors.  Then I saw what they were doing.

One daughter had parked her bike over a large crater of mud.  Her training wheels straddled the asphault allowing her main wheel to skim the surface.  She then pedaled with all her furious four year old might sending a spray back onto her brothers and sisters who tried to get away but not before caking their white school shirts.  I banged on the window.  "No spraying mud." I shouted and went back to fixing dinner.  

Then while feeding the baby, I heard giggles and splashes and odd plunk sounds.  They were dismanteling the driveway and throwing chunks of the asphault they had broken free into the mud puddle.  I banged on the window again.  "NO Throwing Rocks! AND NO dismanteling the Driveway!" 

Unnerved, I began setting the table for dinner, mentally telling myself that I'd have to have a few shower before they ate or endure mud caked all over the kitchen.  Then I heard screams that had that touch of manic indicating they were having much too good a time.  Rocks and bikes had failed to get them sufficiently filthy such that they were now jumping into the puddle with both feet and pretending to squash grapes.

I went to the laundry pile and pulled out towels and four sets of pajamas.  I ran to the bathrooms and turned on the showers and began escorting the muddy little people in one by one.  I'd misscounted and needed one more towel by the time I was done.  Going back to the laundry pile, I picked up a terry cloth towel and there it was, the remote.  The bikes had been left outside blocking the driveway such that I had to send older kids out to restock the garage.  There was also a whole new two loads of wash awaiting as a result of outside play today, and several pairs of shoes that needed scraping. 

Putting the remote on the mantle to keep it safe, I privately vowed.  "I don't care if it's 80 degrees outside tomorrow and nature in all it's glory has burst into view.  They're going to be watching TV!"

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brave New World

When I was a teen, one of the coolest girls in the senior class drove me to school.  She always was perfectly dressed and she'd drive with her hands flexed on the steering wheel to allow her nails to dry.  With her best friend in the front seat, I got a glimpse into a more polished and avant guarde atmosphere than I would ever experience in high school as they punched the radio stations incessantly searching for the next song they'd allow to play through to completion.  They knew all the cool songs and all things artsy. I kept wondering where they found out all this stuff; like there was a secret club that only certain people were initiated into during those formative years, and that it was on a need to know basis.  I hero worshiped enough to imitate.

Being a first child, it had never occurred to me to be fickle with the radio. I'd always just waited for the next song.  Now, there were buttons to push.  I tried driving like she did with wet nails but I'd always forget and snag the polish on something such that by the time I got where I was going, my fingers were sticky goey ugly messes.  Three car accidents later, I became faithful to two stations for the rest of my teen years, but the temptation to engage in perpetual flipping from one station to another stayed.

Now as I enter the age of having a teenage daughter, a state from which I will not leave until some time in 2026, I am learning a whole new way to have ADD with music as she sat at my computer pulling up song after song from two radio stations dueling online playlists.  She was bopping along, cranking one cool tune after another of songs I knew we didn't own as she worked and I had to ask, "How do you do that?"  She indulged my ignorance and now, I will be even more distracted from life than before. But again, I'm peeking into a cooler rarer world than I normally dwell.  

It's as fun as I remember and while I know I still couldn't keep my nails dry and work the mouse at the same time if I tried such a thing, maybe with the next technological upgrade it will be possible. In the meantime, I'm hoping not to have any computer crashes as a result of my new found distraction.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What About....*

Struggling with writer's block, here's a piece from last May.

Conversations with five year olds are always interesting, even when they’re repetitive.

They understand that there is give and take, but never that a specific subject matter has been exhausted. We were at McDonald’s. The circumstance of getting into and out of that particular establishment on this occasion is worth a separate treatment in the blog, but suffice it to say, I’d managed to order and get all three, the 5, 3 and 2 sitting in a booth with the baby and me on the opposite side. Our food arrived and my son took the occasion to notice the warning stickers on the entrance, NO BARE FEET, NO SHIRT NO SERVICE, and NO DOGS ALLOWED.

“Can dogs come in here?”
“No, see the sign? They don’t want fur on the French fries or the chicken nuggets.”

“Or the chocolate milk.”

“Can horses be in the restaurant?”
“Well, they’re a little big don’t you think?”

“What about monkeys?”
“Monkeys? Can you imagine Curious George and his pals in this place? They’d be playing with the soda machine and making a real mess.”

“I guess you’re right. What about….jaguars?”
Maybe it was the hardening of the arteries from the French fries but I was starting to lose steam on fielding these questions. “Um…they’re endangered and prefer the jungle to a fast food franchise?”

“You’re smart Mom.” The two toddlers are nodding in agreement with their brother. I sipped my diet coke. Maybe I could answer a few more questions.

“Monsters!” my daughter pipes up. The other side of the table is collapsing into giggles.
“Monsters? They’d eat up everything. They’d drink all the chocolate shakes! There’d be no fries or burgers or cookies for anyone else.”

“Oh…right. Okay…how about cats?”
“Well, if we let cats in, I think the dogs would get very jealous and then we’d have to let them in and can you imagine this place with cats and dogs inside it? What do you think would happen?”

An elderly gentleman walked by, watching this 20 questions grueling of why an establishment of this fine caliber would be so discriminatory against all God’s creatures, great, small, endangered and imaginary. He gave a little wink. “I think they should let bunnies in young man.”

“I like bunnies. They’re soft and we could catch them.” My son happily agreed. “They should serve carrots with the happy meal so we could feed the rabbits.”

Now, the manager of the restaurant had seen to it that we got to sit and have our food brought to us. I was very grateful given the number of littles I was seeking to corral. She came by at this point, “Can I get you folks anything more?”

“Yes. We want bunnies allowed to eat at McDonald's.” my son explained.
Not missing a beat and earning my eternal love, she responded, "Oh...well, they could but see, they don't have any money."

I'm glad that the world can still bend to the nonsense of a five year old boy. Now I just have to come up with an answer to his follow up question in the car after the meal, "Hey Mom, the rabbits could work for the Easter Bunny! How come you didn't think of it?"

The-thee-the-the-tha-that's all Folks!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Today we finally celebrated my son's 17th birthday. It actually happened Thursday but he had school and play practice and so the cake song bit got held off until Saturday morning.  In passing out food, my daughter gave our youngest a slice with thick frosting.  He loved it.  He now looks like this:

She had only meant to give him a bit of a treat.  The result was a major mess.  A happy mess to be sure but a mess.  He is now wondering why we don't give him cake more often.  Next weekend when he meets the Easter Bunny's bounty....excuse me, I think I will go buy extra soap.

P.S.  I thought about parlaying this into a political piece about how the best of plans and most benign of intentions often fail to recognize the long term consequences of things but Paul is a great mitigator of my spirit.   He also needs a serious bath instead of a serious blogging mother.

Friday, March 26, 2010

7 Quick Takes

Spring is here..or was...

Three days ago, it was gorgeous and the frogs and toads and bunnies and 12 deer roamed through our back yard.  Today it is freezing.  In an unrelated event, three days ago my son announced that he was going to catch some frogs to show his siblings.  He marched out with gloves and a bucket.  Shortly thereafter, I heard the yip of joy that indicated a successful amphibian hunt. "I got two! I got two! They're huge and guess what!  They're stuck together!" 

I know it's just nature. I know I shouldn't anthropromorphosize creatures but I felt really sorry for these two toads stuck in a home depot bucket with five children peering down on them in their twitterpated state.  "Put them BACK in the POND." was all I could muster.  "Why?" was the obvious chorus outcry at the parent demand.  "Just trust me. They'll be much happier back in the water."  Oy.  Not sure the toad population will recover. 

2.  Let Sleeping Parents Lie...

Yesterday I was tired. I didn't know I was that tired, but I was.  Helping my second grader with her homework, we were stationed on the floor going over her papers.  I put my head down.  I awoke to find I'd been tucked in under a comforter with a pillow and a stuffed bunny and she had finished her math. 

3.  Gotta Dance! Don't Have to Know How to Walk Before I Do.... 

Paul now groves to southern fried rock. If there's a piano plinking down with a base electric guitar, he pulls up in his crib and dances and sometimes just for a second, lets go of the railing.  So when Paul learns to walk, he'll owe it all to Eric Clapton, ZZtop and a few others who happen to be on this mix CD.  

4. Just Keep Swimming

Yesterday, I signed up six of the nine for lessons.  As a parent, there are times when you set your teeth, this is going to happen.  This summer, I have set my teeth, that four of the six signed up will have the skills necessary to swim a lap without touching the ground by the time September has rolled around.  

5.  A Nag from the Book I wasn't Reading about the Book I've not finished Writing

As some of you may know, I have a 3/4th of the way finished book, the Book of Helen.  I've been stuck for some time and not really wanted to address the you wrote without an outline so look where that got your mess that resulted.  But last night, I knocked over a book I'd received several years ago about the compelete writings of Leonardo DaVinci and it landed on a quote about Helen and her feelings about growing old.  So I started editing again last night.   Chapter 1.  Sigh.  I don't want to produce the next great American novel. I want to produce the next Great American Best Seller.  

6. When Toddlers giggle too much

When you hear sounds of song and laughter, how long is the lag time where you can enjoy hearing them before YOU know you must investigate because they are probably doing something unthinkable?  Answer: I'll be right back....they were singing and dancing on my bed. It made a splendid stage.  It right now does not look like a very good bed. 

7.  FYI

The Erma Bombeck Conference has one opening left. I can't go but you could and if you like writing, I highly recommend it, it's loads of fun and several of the presenters were there as participants last time around.  Bruce Cammeron and Suzette Standring are two of the speakers and valuable resources for any aspiring columnist itching to become a household name.  Go to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Conference. I know it will say it is closed. It is not.  If you hustle, you can go to Dayton April 15-17th and have a weekend filled with great tips not to mention a lot of laughs. 

Find other 7 Quick takes at

If I Ran the World You Would Read My Blog

Last week, I saw a fascinating program on the Narcissism Explosion. The professor revealed that the federal government had crafted via the advice of expert psychologists, a narcissism index.

At first, I thought it was a put on. So, using the Internet, I went to find the test itself to discover if I could know, to what extent I was living in the rosy colored world of self aggrandisement. I concede the irony of not being able to find the index, despite many google searches. One would think at least some of the Narcissists would want this known for things like parties, "Hello, my Narcissism Index rating is 125...what's yours?"

The thing is, the lecture indicated that our society is setting up to create a whole world of people staring into the mirror with absolute adulation. My space and twitter, hey, I just had a flash of all about it...did you read it yet? Why the hell not?

Youtube and ahem, thoughts, my life, my stories, my take on things, ought to be noticed, and not just noticed, acclaimed. Cue meme...did I tell you about me? What haven't I told you about me that is alarmingly interesting, at least to me?

Reality television, in which we discover the complete loveless intimacy of the external world. The broken, raw, fragile, frustrated, irritated isolated selfs that put themselves in this position can only win by not being destroyed in the process of establishing a false intimacy with however many viewers are watching. (See Jon and Kate for how not to, or the Balloon Boy Parents). Susan Boyle was amazing because she was real. It's odd, but we forget that we want that reality. If you watch American Idol, you see real people become whittled down and blown dry until they are polished stone, archetypes of their actual selves once we get to the last two.

With our current culture, we are becoming a world of personal islands. The absolute customization of our entire world through Ipod and TiVo, individual cell phones for everyone in the family, and a tv in every room is rapidly creating a world where no one actually has to share/sacrifice, such that each person can get into the family car for a trip and never have to interact with anyone except to ask for additional batteries. So what do we do with all this stuff, all these opportunities to ignore the very real presence of others via the wonders of technology?

Well, for starters, we could turn it off and actually write a letter, phone a friend or wow, actually talk to each other.

Well, except for, you should read my blog. Oh...and comment....because...well it's me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Small Success Thursday

This week was all about reconnecting with people. Motherhood often can create a profound sense of isolation, and winter and cold weather don't help. So when things suddenly become warm, getting out amongst people feels akin to being a crocus. I'm almost surprised at the pleasure of being out and about, stunned that I kept indoors and closed off for so long. Seasonal amnesia I suspect, designed to keep me from going cabin crazy by being stuck indoors.

My small successes for the week:

1) Made it to a daily mass and reconciliation.

2) Daughter was honored for getting scholarships and while we couldn't go in, we parked outside the cafeteria and I watched through the glass windows and heard because some of the windows were open. We were clapping for her. I even texted "I see you, you're on the end in the middle row." so she'd know, even if I wasn't going to bring all seven younger siblings into that setting, that we were there and rooting for her.

3) My son turns 17 today. He got up this morning extra early to catch the 6 o'clock bus so as to make it easier on me to get out the door with the rest of his brothers and sisters since their dad is in California a few days. I'm so happy and proud to know this young man and to call him my son. Stopping by the store to pick up steaks, French bread and an apple pie for his birthday dinner tonight.

4) Took two toddler daughters to get haircuts.

5) Scheduled a lunch date for next week with a good friend.

6) Mailed a letter and called two friends that no longer live nearby.

7) Scheduled the Fall Festival for September 18th, trying to get the school to add a mass to the end of it as a good way to close off the day.

Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord! Pray the Rosary for the hearts of all women, to say "Yes." to love and to life.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Law and Order in the Food Court*

The following is a future conversation coming to a municipality near you.

Sitting down at the local chain establishment known for its greasy cheap abundant delicacies that have been deep fried more than once, I prepared to enter that gastronomic paradise known as fresh fried chicken. My meal was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a staff member from the chain, dressed in the red uniform, wearing secret service glasses and holding a brief case.

“You ordered the trans-fat saturated high carbohydrate and sodium basted poultry with a side of twice submerged in canola oil high starch potatoes with a whole milk sugar enhanced frozen beverage?”

“It’s on the menu, #3.” I sputtered.

“Yes Ma’am, please sign these release forms.” He said as he produced a stack of paper an inch thick and placed them in front of my meal.

“What for?”

“Exemption from liability for any current existing known or otherwise health conditions that may or may not be exacerbated by the ingestion of excessive carbohydrate and fat infused food products, resulting in but not limited to heart disease, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, obesity, muscle fatigue, and gout.”

I looked around for a camera or someone to shout “You’ve been punked.” But everyone else in the store was ordering, eating or simply observing. The staff of the business seemed not to notice anything.

“Is this a joke?” I started.

“No Ma’am, no joke. We here at …have started a proactive policy of targeting 10% of our customer base at random to ensure that we show due diligence in warning our patrons about the dangers of eating these particular foods which the government has deemed exceptionally hazardous to the long term well being of its citizens.”

“And I’m…”

“This noon’s recipient of the information.”

"Why me? I'm not that overweight!"

"Ma’am, if we only spoke to people who were obese, we'd be accused of physical profiling. That's against federal law."

“I see. Well, you’ve told me. Now take these forms and go away. My food’s getting cold.”

“You will not sign these release forms?”

“No! I bought the food and I’m going to eat it.”

“I see. Thank you Ma’am for your time.” He removed the first form and my drink.

“What are you doing? That’s my chocolate shake!”

“Substituting a healthy soy-based, protein enhanced sugar substitute frozen beverage, flavored with carob.” He snapped his fingers and another employee in red with sunglasses appeared with a new drink and placed it on my table.

“But I ordered a chocolate shake.”

“If you had signed the release form, it would stay Ma’am.”

“Get me the manager.”

“Certainly, sign this affidavit indicating you wanted to initiate mediation rather than accept responsibility for your poor health choices.” He pointed to the next form.


“It makes you responsible for all potential legal fees involved in the negotiations regarding the return of your chocolate shake.”

“Get me the manager now. I’m not signing anything.”

“Very well Ma’am, I’ll alert the management. In the meantime…” he snapped his fingers again and away went my food. The second employee in sunglasses put an apple, broiled chicken breast and salad in front of me. “Enjoy your meal Ma’am.”

“Give me back my chicken. I paid for it.” I stood up, I was mad.

“Ma’am, you may have back the entire meal on one proviso.”

I should have said “No provisos, I want to eat my food now!” But curiosity got the better of me, “What proviso?”

“Sign this form indicating a pledge enforceable by law that you will put in the obligatory 10 hours of cardio-vascular exercise necessary to erase the calorie-intake health risk represented by this meal.”

“I belong to a gym already.”

“Yes Ma’am, this makes it possible for the government to check into your gym records. You also will not be allowed to frequent another establishment of this franchise until those ten community service hours of exercise are served.”


“Oh, and one more thing.” He puts the remaining papers back in his brief case and my cold chicken and fries and melted shake back on the table.


“You owe an additional $4.25 for the heart healthy lunch.”

“But I didn’t eat…”

“Yes Ma’am, but federal regulations prohibit the food from being served to someone else, so it is yours to dispose of as you wish. Here is your bill. Bon Appetite.”

*Original run on November 12, 2007

Mary, Mary, Think of Mary

This year for Lent, I’m trying something different. After talking with my husband, I am attempting to ban a flaw that sabotages my capacity to love my family well. It’s my “personal gritch.”

My personal gritch shows up on Saturdays some time after lunch when everyone is settled into a recreational activity. She goes about cleaning the dishes in a huff or sighs audibly in front of the laundry. She claims she wants help but what she really wants is a reversal; everyone else working while she takes it easy and just yells. She is humorless, joyless and ultimately, a very annoyed cleaning martyr that no one much wants to help or hang out with; and she pops up like clockwork on the weekends. I don’t like her anymore than the rest of the family does, but try as I might, I haven’t been able to shake her influence despite trying diversion (Look Sherry, a blog!), inclusion (Do you want to play with us Mom?) and redirection (We’ll get to that later, did you get to look at that article I mentioned?).

Fat Tuesday rolled around and I asked my husband, “How? How do I beat her?”
He smiled, “Well first of all, don’t be too hard on her, because I happen to love that person even when she’s in a bad mood.” It was hard to stay on point after such a sweet comment but I persisted. “I’m serious.”

“Okay.” He thought for a moment and brought me the picture of our Blessed Mother. “Mary. Think of her. She’s the model you want to shoot for. When you’re stressed out, think of Mary. That will help.”
My oldest daughter agreed to help by saying, “Mary” to me if I seemed too overwhelmed or stressed out. She said it yesterday morning when I began to feel the time crunch of getting ready for school. She said it again today when I started ordering people out to the car and ranting about lost shoes.

This evening however, my daughter would not be with me as she and her sister and brother had altar training. I wasn’t happy at my parish for doing this project. Adding a mandatory four training sessions once a week for three of my most capable children at prime dinner/bedtime routine time seemed cruel and almost anti-family to me, but I dropped them off and started the errands I’d saved for the mindless ninety minutes I’d have to kill before pick up.

The remaining five younger children would just have to deal with the boredom. Well. We all know how kids deal with being bored; they fight. I drove to the post office. I got gasoline. I stopped the fights but they kept coming. Finally, I swung into the parking lot of the school and yelled. It wasn’t Marian. It wasn’t pretty and then I looked at their faces and the clock that indicated we still had an hour with each other. I couldn’t expect things to get better without a major attitude adjustment for all concerned. “Mary.” Think of “Mary.” I told myself and apologized to my son and daughter for yelling. They both looked grateful but the faces collectively were still glum. Part of getting rid of the “practical gritch” involves getting rid of the “practical” part that would have me running errands to eat up the waiting period, so I popped in Foreigner’s Greatest Hits and said we were going to do an exercise program in our seats.

I’m sure anyone who cared to watch got a kick out of seeing a 43 year old woman jab, cross and air box a punching bag in the first row of a 12 passenger van with four happy co-boxers following along. The exercise program devolved into a dance party within three songs before I had to reign it in. I didn’t want to surrender the fun but they were getting a bit too wild. “Mary. Think of Mary.” I visualized the picture my husband had referenced. “Let’s sing songs.” And we sang away another 25 minutes before my voice started to give out. “Tell us a story.” It was now effort, and the gritch wanted to quit. “Mary help me.” I thought; and a story about five puppies was created. Feeling triumphant, I buckled everyone back into their seats, put on some classical music and fed the baby. The older kids returned just in time to help keep the gritch at bay.

There were struggles unloading and getting to bed that evening, but overall, the day was saved by thinking of Mary. This one day of the 40 could be considered something of a success. Even so, with 12 more days to go and a crammed weekend schedule that includes two major band performances and a musical that goes on three days plus altar serving, I'm starting early. Mary. Mary. Think of Mary. Mary. Mary....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Came Charlie Brown!

Nancy: I got a gavel.
Stupak: I got an airport and an executive order.
Kucinich: I got a sweet plane ride to area 51.
Ben Nelson: I got a sweet heart deal bigger than Landrieu's.
Landrieu: At least I got more than Connecticut! $100,000,000 for a healthcare facility.  What a piker.
Leahy: I got $250 million extra per old person in Vermont over the next six years. 
Bill Nelson: I got the old folks in Florida grandfathered into Medicade Advantage so they won't lose coverage or benefits.

American people: I got a rock.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some Day, My Prince of Darkness Will Come...

I know some people love the twilight series. Having endured reading one and skimmed the rest, I don't.  I'm admittedly sentimental but not a romantic.  I never got Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights the way I dug Henry Fielding's Tom Jones and loved Austen's Emma or felt irritated but compelled to finish Flaubert's Madame Bovary.  This stuff is just fairytales with fangs but a very good friend of mine summed it up nicely so I'm letting her take the stage.  Besides, I love the picture on her blog.

What Parent Books Won't Teach You

Not talking politics today so don't bring it up.--Sherry

Today, my son had a wardrobe problem.  Specifically, he was very angry with his pants.  

"They're too long on the inside." he whined as I pointed out that they were 1) clean 2) his size and 3) relatively new. 

When he suspected I wasn't really moved by his complaint, he added, "They hurt me on my leg and pointed to a discreet place on his shins and they're itchy and they don't work."    Now I am working on not allowing the practical gritch to marshall through issues like this using emotional brute force.  Making said child get dressed by barking, "Just put the things on!" was my first, second and frankly third and fourth thought when considering options.  

Reminding myself that this person does not care that I think their problem is completely irrational and unreasonable, and that not seeing that they think this is insurmountable makes ME the irrational and unreasonable one in the senario, I told him to go to the bathroom and wait.   A quick survey of the laundry indicated there wasn't a Miss Congeniality version of uniform attire waiting and ready to take the dethroned pants' place.   I turned the pants inside out to see if there was in fact a reasonable reason for the pants being so  unsuitable.  Alas, there was no discernable reason that an adult could fathom why these clothes were so unacceptable today as versus last week when they were just pants.

Racking my brain for alternatives, I could 1) bluff and say this is a different pair of pants that I just got out of the laundry basket and hope he bought it; 2) insist on putting them on and pay the emotional consequence cost of having a miserable son cry about his mean mommy forcing him to get dressed or 3) somehow make the salespitch of my life to get the wearer and the said navy slacks reunited and in accord with one another.

Taking a deep breath because I knew option 1 wouldn't work since he had already done a search for an alternative pair, and because option 2 was really really really tempting; I knocked on the door.  "I want to talk to you." I said.  His eyes were a little wet from the struggle of that morning already.   "Can we try them on so I can see what's wrong?" I pleaded.   The seconds went by and I waited.  Like hooking a fish, if you pull up too quickly, you lose.   He nodded and I left the room.

Five seconds later, there was a knock and my heart sank.  "Can you come in Mom?" he asked.  This was it, he had changed his mind and I was going to have to do a grafting of those darn things onto my kid's legs.  I opened the door and there he stood, dressed. 

"Oh!" I beamed.  "You look nice!" He flowered into a smile. 
"Yeah, I thought these pants were too big."
"But it turns out you grew a bit bigger." I added hastily. 
"Yes, it must be because I'm six now." he explained. 
"That must be it." I nodded.

"It's funny." he added. "I've tried these pants on 1000 times and they've never fit."

Deciding not to correct him on his memory, I kissed his cheek and said, "Guess you need to try One Thousand and One times." 

Going down the stairs, I mused over what all had happened in the span of ten minutes.  1) I'd kept my Lenten resolution 2) He'd gotten dressed and 3) we'd experienced a touch of wisdom that seemed likely to stick if not for him, for me.   Feeling very satisfied, I started making lunches.  But the battle of virtue over orriginal sin within  the heart goes on undeterred.  When one opportunity for suffering and sin has instead become a moment for grace, a new opportunity must be presented.

"Mommmmmm?  I can't find any socks."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Metaphor for Healthcare Proposal

I have all sorts of feelings about this healthcare mess. 

We're attempting something we've never done before on a scale that's never been tried.  What could possibly go wrong?

I'll be properly ecstatic if it works.

Congressman Stupak explains how the executive order will work.

Pray for Life

Pray for this country, for the unborn and for those who must today cast a vote. 

I wish they had created a bill I could support.  |

Friday, March 19, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday

Happy Saint Joseph's Day! 

We're celebrating with delivery pepperoni pizza and soda and a game of Catan.  Also, their father comes home from a three day trip to California so the day will be all the happier once the kids get to see their Dad.

Yes, you're Lovely....

My son is in a musical and also a jazz ensemble band at his high school.  As such, last night was a late night with practices and performances.  Taking the metro home, it broke down at White Flint where my kid joined up with the touring Yale men's choir.  They decided to throw an impromptu concert for the other stranded victims of Washington's mass transit system and took requests.  "Hello Dolly" was problematic when they realized they lacked a Dolly; and there was some discussion about the actual lyrics of "A Whole New World" but "The Way You Look Tonight" drew appreciative applause from fellow passengers. 

Anticipated Joy

One of my daughters opted to give up all beverages except water for a week as a form of fasting and awareness that much of the world struggles to acquire even that drink in sufficient abundance for healthy everyday living.  She had one slip up where she poured a lemonade and drank it without thinking but other than that she held to her promise.   I'm terribly moved that she chose this fasting and am excited to see the young lady she will become in the next few years.  


We see grass. We see daffodils.  Bunnies and deer have returned.  I go outside and almost blink in surprise that it is pleasant.  Going outside into the sunshine is the best cure for listening to the political mess going on inside the beltway. My husband had the blessing to see a whale slap the water as he looked out over the ocean on the West coast.  It's curative to discover the real real world; as opposed to the real clear mess that is real clear politics.


Paul stood for a clear second today. Twice.  He is 18 months. What I love best is he knew it because he giggled as he tumbled into my arms. Then he applauded himself. Wish I could have recorded that sound for this little story. It is like a bubble of happiness when he laughs.  

Hopeful Thinking

Lent has resulted in the loss of 7 pounds. I may break the 150 barrier this weekend.  Maybe I'll keep to the lean cusine pizza and diet coke for myself tonight. 

Everything I Fail to Learn

Back when I was a kid, somehow I never mastered the state capitals. I'm sure we were tested but I just don't remember studying. Now, as I prepare my fourth grader for his capital test, I've become aware of the fact that I am gradually learning all the things I blew off in school, if only because of repetition.  Hopefully, the kids will get around to teaching me French, World History and Chemistry.  I really didn't get them the first time around.

Slaughter House Rules

The people of Congress have adopted the Slaughter rule. In a close vote of 222-203, the House now can deem to have passed anything the Senate gets through its august body. White House spokesman Gibbs has already hedged about whether the rule will be used for other bills than healthcare so I'd say it's a fair bet that all future legislation will be run through whichever party friendly chamber can pass it first to get rubber stamped by its fellows in the opposite chamber after a few pork laden adjustments. The entire legislative body will have mastered how to vote “Present” and still get major graft in the process.

Why have votes at all if they can be rendered unnecessary?

We deem Cap and Trade to pass. We deem Stimulus II to pass. We deem that all Republicans shall be taxed at 300% to pass. We deem that we are elected for life shall pass. We deem that this judicial nominee shall be seated. We deem that this industry shall become nonprofit. We deem that this nonprofit may not do what it does. We deem that the Fairness doctrine shall be in place. We deem and it is passed. The deliberative part of crafting a bill has been eliminated. The declarative part that requires people to stand up and be counted so they can be held accountable has also been circumvented. Laws need only be drawn up and approved by one part of the legislative branch to get to the Executive. Couple this mischief with Executive Orders and we don't have much of the legislative process left that actually concerns the whole of the Republic.

The pernicious element of the Slaughter rule is that it speeds up the rate at which legislation might be made. Pork deals used to undermine bills such that Congress would then opt for the leaner versions that could pass. Legislators now no longer have to worry about sinking a bill at all via excessive pork pet projects. The members of the House can just add in after the fact as much as they wish. Alternatively, they can gut an entire bill of its teeth if the body affects their political chances. The Slaughter rule establishes a procedure that will allow Congress to spend even more recklessly than before. (Hard to imagine but technically possible). It's a lot easier to pass a bill if you only have to persuade one part of the legislative body and it’s even better if you no longer have to worry about your constituents being made uneasy by your plans.

The whole purpose of having the two houses and the process of reconciliation was to help strip away pork from bills; to make sure that the people’s will was being properly represented before the bills became law. Now Nancy's statement about healthcare will make sense because it will become the norm. People won't know what has been put in the bill until it has been passed, because the stuffing of amendments won't occur until after a bill makes it through either the House or the Senate. The legislators from the opposite deliberative body shall stand poised at the ready once a bill gets through the voting process, ready to bloat it to satisfy their various cronies, flunkies, toadies, lobbyists and lackies. The vetting of the bill will take place prior to the application of deals; so a bill will appear far more pure and garner less public rancor before it “poof” becomes ready for signage by the President with possibly a whole lot of less savory extras that we only get to discover after they have the force of law.  If you're okay with this, just pretend it was the opposite power in party and pick a project you loathe and imagine how you would feel.  Again, the arguement that Republicans did it first or before does not mean they should have or that you should be okay with it then or now.   A corrupt sleazy process is a corrupt sleazy process.  The R or the D is irrelevant.

We are being taken out of the legislative process entirely; we just get to foot the bill. But I'm sure since they're all such honorable people committed to public service and the public good that we have nothing at all to worry about.

No nothing at all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Candy Ferret

With nine children, you have some that love salty and some that feast on sweet and like Congress, you have the undecideds.  My almost three year old today, after many months of discernment, has declared. 

She went into her sister's room who for some reason, hordes her treats from any holiday and paces them out until the next holiday so that there is always a steady if slow stream of goodies from which to feast.  She found the stockpile from Saint Patrick's day.  She feasted well. 

Her sister is none too pleased.

It's a good thing Easter is only a few weeks away. 

An Arrangement

So, you haven't seen him but he's big, he's expensive, he's demanding and exacting but trust us, we know what's best for you, you couldn't pick a better guy.

By the way, you're getting married tomorrow.

This is the argument being put forth now to sell healthcare. Yeah it's messy. Yeah it's expensive. Yeah it funds abortion. Yeah the Senate deal has loads o'pork. Yeah the house is busy buying off votes as fast as the Mint can print money. Yeah the CBO score is preliminary and incomplete. Yeah there are taxes the first four years before benefits kick in. Yeah 2,700 pages haven't been read; quote Pelosi "we have to pass the bill to find out what is in the bill." Yeah people have protested and 37 states have indicated they want to sue if this becomes law. Yeah and maybe the bill will cost the Democrats seats all over the place this year like in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts.

So the public is saying, "We don't want this.
So the Democrats and the White House can't not know; but they've decided.

Once we pass it, you're gonna just LOVE it.  And if you don't, that's your problem.

Yeah it's an arranged marriage but you'll love him in ten years and no, you don't get to opt out.

Small Success Thursday

Two nights ago, my toddler kept getting out of bed.  I know it was because I announced that everyone needed a good night's sleep for Tera Nova testing.  After a normal tuck in, a extra water tuck in, a I forgot to brush my teeth tuck in (she hadn't), a you didn't read me a story complaint, a I need my dolphin and monkey announcement, and the kicker, "I can't sleep" bulletin, I got mad.   There were four more runs up the stairs to turn off lights and demand that she stay in bed.  By the time all lights were out, I was exhausted mentally and emotionally.  Even worse, I knew that I would be a single mom for the next three days with their father out of town.

Frustrated, I talked to my mom.  She suggested cuddling for ten minutes.  I confess, I didn't want to.  I wanted to threaten major carnage if she even peeped.  "I can tell that's good advice." I said.

"Why?" my mom asked.

"Because I really really really don't want to do it.  But I KNOW it will work." But good advice is hard to ignore.  I filed it away in my head for the next evening.

Wednesday, I took the kids to IHOP for dinner (as a bribe) for getting the oil changed and then picking up their older brother from the metro.  Impuslively after picking him up, I announced we were going to confession. 

The day had been filled with little fights and I wanted a clean slate, not to mention strength for the next few days of solo parenting.

Coming home, I had to rush through bed time but I made SURE we'd brushed teeth, read a story and said prayers.  I climbed into her bed.  She looked shocked.  "Why are you here?" she asked. 

"I thought I'd give you an extra snuggle to help you sleep." I offered.  She put her hand on my face.  "You are really beautiful Mom." she said.  I blinked.  Why had I not wanted this?  Sublimation if only for a moment understood properly, was everything.

I went downstairs where my oldest was playing computer games.  "Have you studied for the SAT?" I asked.
He gave me a "Don't nag look."  "You know, I just came from tucking in your sister."  I explained that the best advice is often that which we know is right but don't want to follow.  "You should study." I finished and left the room.  He sat there staring at the screen and then I heard "Man....that.....just.....rots."

He grabbed his book and set the timer. His smile at me said, "I'm going to do this." Grace works that way, at least in this household.

This morning, my toddler came in to wake me up and despite a lost shoe, despite a child having knots in her hair and an occasional mutter under the breath, there were no fights while we got all 8 loaded into the car.  (My oldest takes the bus).   

The oldest two daughters take turns occupying the front seat.  The oldest got there first even though it wasn't her week.  She wanted to argue about being able to sit in the front row.  I explained that she wasn't being fair to her sister.  She started to counter, but I admittedly shut it down, "If you say yes, but, you aren't done fighting, you're trying to win after the fact."  She sat trying to get around it.  "If you know it's the right thing and you are fighting it, you need to ask yourself why? It's usually about wanting what you want, about satisfying one's self."  She sat there with the same sort of wry closed mouth grin.

Like exercise, like saving for a big item, like all gratification deferred, it is a peculiar pleasure to chose grace.   I don't know how long we can keep this up, but it's 9:52 am and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the day. 

The theme of the day, "Less, less, less of me Lord, More, More More of You."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Government Run Health Care is Better Because...

1) The Government telling you "No" is better than an insurance company saying a claim is denied. I'm still waiting to understand how.

2) Insurance forms are nothing compared to Government forms; you get more frustration for your money.

3) Waiting rooms will be like the DMV only moreso.

4) If it's not good enough for's good enough for all of you.

5) It will be more fair and more just because people will get sick and not get the needed treatment regardless of income.

6) Unlimited benefits equal unlimited costs but of course, only selfish inhumane people bring up that little problem.

7) Medicare and Medicaid are bankrupt; social security is going bankrupt so the solution is, we need a new program on top of the old.

8) The fact that it affects 1/6th of the economy is of no importance, now if it had affected 1/5th, well, then maybe we might have something to talk about.

9) We can't export government bureacracy; so at current course and speed, government will be the only jobs available.

10)  Not a joke, just some serious food for thought. 

I understand the issue of injustice and the need to correct it; the mark of a society is how it treats its very least. 

So morally, the issue of healthcare resonates.  I would want someone who has a Down Syndrome child to be able to get their kid the care I received for my son when his heart needed surgery.  Emotionally, I'm on board in that I would want what any mother would want, the ability to get the care needed for my family when I needed it.  Not having money to get the care necessary would be heart rending and since not all needed care is emergency room based, insurance is one of those facts of modern life.  I get that part; but the subsequent pork laden mess is not legitimate in form, in value or purpose.

Congress shouldn't have done the stupid act of confusing policy (all should have access to healthcare) with procedure (the following surgical procedures shall be covered but not this one).  We need a more compelling narrative than simply we must do something so we'll do this.  We need a better "this" to do. 

Keep in mind, I disagree with the current monstrosity, with its cost, its pork, it's deceptiveness about all that it will cover, it's intrusiveness into our lives via the IRS, it's problems with paying it forward with respect to taxes but defraying actual benefits; with the 2000+ pages that few have bothered to read, and with the funding of abortion and other things.  But I sat there thinking, what would be a better "this?"

So, being a patriot; I went to the OPM to see what is available for federal workers. There are lots of plans, family and self, high and low, and even better ones if you belong to the Postal union. So I clicked on a few and did the math.   If we insure all 302 million Americans with a non profit policy --which is the ultimate goal of this President and his party, a one payer non profit system; it would cost the government (using the OPM's High Self  APWU nation wide plan)  rate of  $205.80 every two weeks or 5,308.00 a year per person).  The plan would cost $1,615,784,560,000.00 per year or 1.6 trillion for the whole country using a middle of the road OPM plan.  

In the interest of full disclosure; if we wanted a supreme version of insurance using the government program, we could pay 276.37 per person and shell out 7,185.62 for each individual; no family benefits; and the program would run about $2,170,057,240,000 without doing the heavy payouts to lobbyists, recalcitrant Senators and Representatives, pundits and the insurance industry. 

Now I'm not for doing this because I don't know how we could tolerate paying out 2.17 trillion per year and you know that number would go up.  However, I did think we might use this fact as proof that the existing proposal is wildly out of proportion cost wise.  The current bill in whatever form you look only covers 33 million of those who actually would need government intervention but it cost the same as if you insured the entire nation using the high end plan.  That's government efficiency for you in only it's theoretical form. I'm sure the actual execution of said policy will be much costlier and more cumbersome.

This bill isn't a morally pure quest for helping the poor who are needy right now as the advocates stumping for this mess constantly remind us. It is a political grab bag of pork for those in power; tax now, tax later.

Using my modest little idea: if we only paid for the 32-45 million who are uninsurred using the lowest end single person policy good enough for government workers erring on the high end of numbers but using the low end for plans, we could eliminate the problem of healthcare for the unemployed and uninsurred while maintaining the current system for the mere triffling fee of $128,962,080,000.00.  128.9 billion. 

128.9 billion.  What a quaint little number. 

No fancy payouts to Nebraska, Lousiana or the insurance companies in the form of subsidies.  If you collect unemployment or are under the poverty line or not currently employed and can document need, you get this card for the duration of the time you meet these qualifications.  Congress can make the fines for fraud or failure to report a change in status severe and clear and payable back into the program to defray costs; or they can just audit everyone who was going to receive graft from the existing bill pending and probably would be able to recoup any outlaying costs. 

But where would all the drama be?

If the Republicans or the Tea Partiers or the Democrats who are uncomfortable with the straight bribes, kickbacks, arm twistings, threats and demands that accompanied this monstrosity wanted to really score one, they should submit such a proposal; a bi-partisan alternative.  It would probably be only one to two pages long and cover every one of the 45 million as if individuals; it would simply lift the lowest end self option from Congress and provide it as a safetynet for those who are uninsurred who have filed with the government as unemployed or underemployed to receive benefits.

Then, they could say, "Sure, we're the party of No.  No Nonsense; No Excess; No Pork; No Payouts and No Excuses. All the things you say you agree with, none of the stuff you don't."

My 2 cents that don't cost 2.1 Trillion.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Too Much Knowledge

With my daughter entering high school, I began considering how our lives will change in the comming years when they start to move on and enter college. As a result, I began making an actuary table so I'd know when graduations from 8th grade, high school and college were happening. 

The results indicated the need to establish a few rules. 

1) Owing to the birthday overload that smothers March through May, resumes in July and extends through the rest of the year, please, no life changing memorable events in January, February or June. 

2) Graduations from 8th grade, high school and college, confirmations, first communions will preclude any other celebrations in all years except 2017 and 2028. 

3) Those two years, I'm declaring off limits so your father and I can catch our breath. 

Public Service Announcement: over the next 20 years, if you like to party, get on the guest list now.  If' your're a family friend and you'ld be on the guest list already, fair warning, pace yourself.

Things will slow down around 2030, when Paul is 22, just in time for our 40th wedding anniversary.  I will be 64 and finally able to start saving for my retirement.

In 2031, all children will be out of the house and educated through College.  They may then feel free to marry.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seven Takes Friday

First, hello to all the new people who have decided to follow my blog. Leave a comment, introduce yourselves. I hope my stories, rantings, ravings and musings bring you a smile, if not an outright laugh.

This Lent, I've been focusing on my personal Gritch.(My personification of the original sin version of me). Some days it's easy. Some days, it's not.

One of the things Lent does is call us not simply to reform/repent, but to begin to consider what it is that brings us to the point of making the wrong choices; if you think of sin as the alcohol, think of the sinner as the addicted soul who deliberately choses to drive to the bar in the first place. I'm trying to work on not getting into the car to go somewhere away from God in the first place.

"Lead us not into temptation," isn't simply a plea for God to rearrange our world so we never struggle, it's also a request for the grace to deliberately embrace obedience; to NOT lead ourselves to those places we fail most often.

I have lost my keys.  It is now day five. Given the last post, this might be God's way of assisting me, but I live in perpetual fear that I'm going to go out somewhere, lose the half a set I have now and wind up with a vehicle that can go nowhere and the kids in the back saying, "We need a snack." If you have good connections with Saint Anthony of Padua, please petition him. I have but I also pester the poor man daily for kids shoes, time, inspiration, patience and any number of things that I find I have in short supply.

Yesterday, I tried to impose the 7 to 7 rule about going on the internet. I didn't make it. I checked three times for emails but didn't look at any news sites I normally haunt; and the thing was, by 6:45, I was jonesing for a break and I could hear the words, "Could I not stay." with the kids who were chattering and playing and asking to help make the birthday cake. We made the cake. Two kids wrapped the presents. My oldest daughter decorated. Then we took a break and it was 7:30; the kids were watching shows and I went to the computer. After ten minutes, I was bored and went back to being with people.

So we'll try it again today; but I've already messed up because I started writing and it's now 8:16 and I do have to do some writing work for a grant so I won't be able to be computer free; so it feels like I've driven to the bar but I'll just order a diet coke.

Printing up the grant so I can make the edits in pencil so I will keep to my promise as much as possible. I'll just drive to the place but I won't go in; yeah. I'll bring my diet coke with me so I won't be thirsty.

New York State is thinking of banning salt; granted it would be for restaurants and bakeries but this sort of ruling has unintended consequences. To anyone who cooks or bakes, they understand that salt is necessary. Such a ban would eliminate almost every baked good there is in existence except for the Eucharist. Hey wait.

My daughter felt very proud of her gift to her brother for his birthday. It was fun, it was inexpensive and she thought of it herself. Water balloons.

I may have to institute a pre-approved and no-fly list for birthday gifts in the future. Oy.

My Non Winning Erma Column

Giving birth to my first son, the doctor had to induce labor. I suppose I never really wanted to give him up or share him with the world from the start. After delivery, the nurse asked, “Do you want to cut the cord?” and I gave an emphatic “NO!” I felt the sad at the deliberate disconnect nature required. When he was six months, I didn’t like surrendering nursing, but his teeth settled the matter. Mommy could not abide being a chew toy.

Toilet training was a protracted affair with me feeling positively reckless the first time we got in a car and didn’t bring a change of clothes for the lad. His first day of school, he bounced happily in line. I stood taking his picture and blinking back shock at the very idea that these strangers were going to take my son away for a whole seven hours five days a week!

Parenting is largely the adult induced illusion of being control, reinforced by the child’s belief that adults control everything. Only reality in the form of suffering, like broken bones, 0-12 soccer seasons and failed quizzes intruded on that blissful notion that I could do much to incubate his life other than just be there. Over the years, I’ve come to terms with my son’s willingness to grow up. I let him read books not preapproved. (I read it after the fact, so he knows I’m paying attention). I let him cut his own food (with a butter knife). But letting a teen drive or go out feels like holding a newborn’s beautifully soft head for that first time. It is those untested moments that define the limits of a mother son relationship.

Thus, when my oldest announced he’d been asked to a dance, I felt the attempt by my firstborn to declare autonomy. My son had been stalked by a female. Who was she? What was she like? What did she look like? I worried. If she was too attractive, would she lure my son into situations for which he and I were not ready? If she was not attractive enough; why weren’t the beautiful women pursuing my son? What was wrong with these ladies? They hadn’t gone on the date yet and already I’d morphed into the mother-in-law from hell.

Fortunately, my teen and I are still friends on Facebook so I clicked his page and there she was; chatting up my son about Pok√©mon and how she’d loved it since 2nd grade. Pleased and as appeased as the Goddess Hera, I smiled benignly at their innocent discussions of childhood. “She’ll make a lovely daughter-in-law.” I cooed and emailed her, “Be my friend?”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday's Small Successes, Big Graces

1) My daughter finally got to experience the sacrament of Reconciliation this week, it was delayed by the snowstorm. Watching her go and watching her smile and cope well with some stresses from her brother that loves to tease and sometimes torment, I attributed to the extra grace.

2) My son asked me to go for a walk yesterday, and I did.

3) Instituted a 3 hug a morning policy in an effort to keep everyone in the right place as we rush through the morning. It has had a measurable effect already; melting some bad moods that could have made morning car rides a misery for all. It even works on the bigger kids. (Shhhhhh). May have to put three hug policy into place in the afternoon as well.

4) Practiced piano, wrote poetry and ordered a plane ticket to go the week after Easter to see my folks and sister and brother and any other family, very psyched.

5) Introduced kids to the Flying Karamotzov Brothers. Have to occasionally stun them a bit with something flashy, five long haired slap stick jugglers counts.

6) It's birthday week; actually it is the start of Birthday paloozah (five birthdays, one Easter, first communion and Mothers Day all in a ten week period) as my kindergartener turns six on Thursday. He's very excited. We've been to Chick Filet for shakes, and Wednesday after school, we went to the park.

7) Our culture currently encourages diligent sloth via a virtual world. One need look no further than the couple who let their daughter die while raising a virtual one by devoting 24-7 care. A friend spoke of having to give up Facebook because her virtual plants were in better shape than her actual ones. Listening to others talk about their struggles with the consuming quality that television and the internet and blogging and twittering and Facebooking and Youtubing can bring, felt like a little push from the Holy Spirit.

Banishing the personal gritch has required me to assess triggers lead me to chose being angry and pressed rather than loving; being pressed for time is one and being interrupted from something I'm really focused on is another. When I'm writing, the world drops away. The same is true for reading, playing music, anything where I have to focus.

So I'm putting the laptop away during Mom working business hours, as a means of "lead us not into temptation" frittering away time searching for clever things to watch instead of watching my clever things 1, 2 and 3 that have the run of the house when things 4, 5,6,7, 8 and 9 come home. For those of you wondering what Mommy hours are and when I'd ever blog again; not to worry, I'm just putting the self imposed ban on myself from 7 to 7 for internet surfing/blogging purposes. But I will be armed with a pencil and paper so that first drafts of funny stuff can continue.

I tried alternatives like just an hour here or there, but as I've said before, Moderation isn't something I excell at, and the purpose is be properly present; which a laptop also requires, but not when there are kiddos around to take to parks and read books. I know it's the right thing to do because, I don't want to do it. Even now, I'm thinking; well when the baby naps. I'm not sure I'll be able to hold to this promise, but I'm going to at least hold it through the rest of Lent.

So you're wondering, "Sherry, this post is listed and it's Thursday, how did you do this without breaking your word from the get-go?"

"Ah hah! I wrote this post Wednesday night and scheduled it to run so I'd be on time but not pressed to create this piece when it is prime breakfast/dressing/serving toddlers and baby time!"

"How did you link it at Family and Faith Live when she doesn't post until around 7 in the morning?"

Okay, maybe I haven't solved all the problems.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's on the Menu?

An oldie but a goodie re-run for today.

Each week I post a menu, including Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snack, plus notes of who has hot lunch and if there are any specials –like a team Pizza Night or some such. When I first started the Menu, there were of course, complaints.

“I …DON’T…LIKE...CHICKEN!” Ignoring the fact that pasta was also listed for that evening, such that he didn’t have to eat the chicken, he howled at the injustice of it all. Having chicken simply available was tantamount to a poisoning of the dining experience in my seven year old’s mind.

Similarly, my oldest groaned when he saw pasta without meatballs listed, and another day where eggs were the primary source of protein. He lives on red meat and potatoes, or would if the budget allowed. When the nine year old stamped her foot in protest of seeing beans as the selected vegetable for a night with hamburgers, I instituted two new rules regarding meal time.

Complaints equals Kitchen Patrol.

Reaching back into family lore, I took a tip from my Granddaddy’s days as a herder in Southeast Texas. Cowboys had a simple rule about meal time. If you complained, you got to do the dishes. Granddaddy had made it a point of honor to never get stuck with KP duty. One evening, so the story goes, his fellow cowboys and field hands plotted to get “Green” to do clean up. They laced his scrambled eggs with enough Tabasco to kill a Bull.

Granddaddy sat down to his eggs and took a bite. His eyes popped and he stood up quickly, “Boy That’s HOT!” he gasped.

Everyone’s eyes were on him as he stood. The he smiled, “But it’s just the way I like it.”

Granddaddy never did have to do dishes.

My children are inspired by his wit and such a devotion to avoiding unnecessary and unpleasant tasks, and thus have learned not to make such announcements in the presence of their Mother.

The second rule is a concession on my part to the legitimacy of not agreeing with the menu planner’s choices. It also eliminates sullen faces at the table. If a child objects strongly to the dinner on tap, they may request the option of cold cereal, provided they make the request before the meal is actually served. This also prevents my getting overly frustrated at having fixed a meal which no one eats or fretting over the fact that someone did not eat at all.

Special Orders Upset Us.

I admit, the mistake was ours to begin with, we wanted to raise strong minded individuals. We now must cope with their individualized opinions about how food should be prepared and augmented. We have learned that the transitive property that works so well with algebra (if a=b and b=c then a=c) does not work with children and food.

Take hotdogs as a prime example. All of my children will happily scarf down up to three hot dogs a piece, or as many as money and parental patience will allow, sans condiments or any special preparation techniques, if we are at a ball park.

At home however, their appetites become a bit more selective. The oldest likes his grilled with the buns toasted and then adds ketchup or mustard, depending upon his mood.

The second prefers hers sans bun with ketchup or chili on the side for dipping.

My third wants her dogs boiled and in a soft bun, no condiments.

The forth likes two in soft not crunchy buns and will accept boiled or grilled if the grilled have no black. He also uses ketchup excessively.

The fifth likes hers to be obliterated by ketchup but for the bun to be absolutely “clean” but toasted. I don’t know how this is possible physically.

The sixth howls for a bun but eats his dog cut up, dipping it in ketchup and usually rips the bun into shreds and molds it into a gooey inedible red ball of dough before asking for seconds.

In the interest of self preservation, I haven’t introduced the toddlers to hot dogs yet.

The Trifecta List

Some of this knowledge has become so routine for me that it is institutional memory. As such, I forget that when visitors like grand parents show up, my frame of reference for meal time is radically skewed from most people’s reality. As such, I tried to create a list of meals entitled, Trifectas. For babysitters and grand-parents and any other friends and family who for some reason have to take on the task of cooking for my horde, these meals were guaranteed successes.

Upon examining my first three choices, Pancakes and Bacon, Spaghetti and Meatballs and Fietas with Beans and Rice, I found each involved a level of complexity that rivaled the Hot Dog senario.

Looking at the list, my in-laws opted to run the kitchen like short order chefs, cooking each child’s meals separately and my parents when they visit, just order out.

I revised the menu for babysitters and Grandparents: Cold cereal, it’s what’s for dinner.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shill Shell Game

The President is out shilling for his healthcare plan because after sixteen months of discussing it and multiple speeches and town meetings and countless articles, he needs to get people wee-weed up about passing this bill.

What he either does not understand or willingly ignores, is that most people would be amicable to the careful crafting of healthcare reform and even the full funding of Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP; but this bill is so messy and intrusive and full of pork and backyard deals that cheering it for its original moral pure intent (if not now, when? What should I tell these people?) can only be the foaming at the mouth true believer or the cynical manipulator of the masses. (Actually, he'll have to tell them, the services won't be available until 2018 but that's a mere trifling detail).

The deals are endless and myriad and complex. President Obama says Insurance companies are evil because they work for a profit, and that government is good, even though it works for the accumulation of power. However, the President undermines his argument by giving those evil companies 330 billion dollar subsidy. Is he buying their complicit silence as he thumps them with one hand and lines their pockets with the other? It SEEMS like that would be the case. The brother of Representative Mathewson, an undecided, is nominated to the Court of Appeals; 10th circuit but there's no quid pro quo. Every undecided or No that the government thinks it can shave has suddenly won the Ben Nelson Mary Landrieu lottery if they just keep it under the table.

If this healthcare bill is so morally pure, such muddy messy total bribes shouldn't be necessary. If all of America is writing letters beseeching the leader of the free land with ceaseless weeping, rended garments and howls of pain, shouldn't this bill be a shoe-in? But the idiosyncratic tales of individuals who need actual help are being co-opted for political cover. Every letter the President holds up is in complete favor of his program. All these parallel stories are only unsubstantiated and coincidental. They prove we need reform and these people need help; they do not prove we need THIS bill.

When Planned Parenthood and Emily's list and tons of 100% NARAL approved politicians are the chief architects and cheerleaders of a program, one can't just believe that there aren't shenanigans about funding abortion taking place. When you can look at page 118 and 119 of the Senate Bill that the President is shilling, it's obvious. Abortions shall be funded by the Federal plan for those circumstances as determined by the Health and Human Services Secretary. You have to wonder why they even bother to lie so stupidly; but they want THIS bill and we're the mark they have to get to agree to buy into the game.

The part of the population that agrees with the current proposed policies by the Senate, House and Executive branch should not be puzzled that those who do not agree, suffer from a "deficit of trust," that could only be bridged by the willing suspension of disbelief. You can't triple the deficit and add a new massive entitlement program and claim that by adding taxes and cutting waste, you'll have a deficit neutral bill. Unless you pre-pad the deficit such that when you don't spend as astronomically in one area as you planned (say cutting the Moon project of NASA for example), the money you originally estimated to spend in that area is shell game switched to pay for healthcare then technically it is deficit neutral. The Queen of Hearts was palmed before the shuffle even began.

It's being done right now with the stimulus funds and the TARP money. It may be clever. It may be accurate. It's still a total sham and a lie, with money being pre-allocated for one need, held until the crisis abates and then funneled to the program of the politician's choice. It's just been preplanned as part of the con.

We've been the front money for the game. We will not win in this three card Monty. Our best bet is to walk away. It's the only way we won't lose anymore.

Petite Fours and Discreet Twos

It was an odd discovery; an entire bag of Chips Ahoy! cookies demolished and yet still there. 

I didn't think it strange that my children had found and devoured the bag of chocolate chip cookies, I found it odd that they'd found and sort of eaten the bag of cookies.   I followed the trail.  There were crumbs everywhere.  The trail had pieces that had been carved out, broken intentionally, showing deliberative thought about how the cookies were to be destroyed.  Every cookie had been partially consumed and looked poxed and excavated; like a mountain side into which mines had been carved. 

And then it hit me as I spied my two year old daughter beaming a chocolate smile.  She only wanted the chips.  The cookies she left to share with the rest of us. 

From the file of "What do they think I'm doing?"

Yesterday, I discovered my two toddlers had done a number on their sister's room. Not wanting the despair and anger that would ensue if this trespassing on private property was discovered, I helped repair the damage. My toddlers were safely ensconced in front of the television. Dora the Explorer ended and I was still in the room cleaning.


"I'm upstairs cleaning your sister's room."

"Oh. We thought you'ld been eaten by a bear."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Whoops! Sorry about that extra 1.3 Trillion

The White House projections were disputed by the Congressional Budget Office in a recent report. Specifically, the CBO indicated that the President's report was short by 1.3 Trillion in its 2011 estimations.

10) The CBO reported that "The cumulative deficits would total $9.76 trillion, and debt held by the public would amount to 90 percent of the nation's gross domestic product by 2020."

White House response: "You wanted the cumulative effect? My bad."

9) "But, but, but we had all our data and numbers carefully vetted by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore."

8) "Let me be clear, there's a very simple reason that the estimates we put out concerning the full scope of the federal deficit were so very wrong; and that reason is incontrovertible and inexcusable: Bush did it."

7) Some day, I promise, we'll look back at this number and laugh.

6) I've appointed a government panel to look over our options, put Bo on generic brand chow; defunded the RNC and put the Nobel prize up on Ebay so technically, I've done all I can.

5) I know the CBO projects the debt at 20.3 Trillion by 2020, but I've got it covered. The world ends in 2012.

4) I know you are all concerned. So am I. And I am open to any and all ideas from anyone on any side of the political aisle, but one thing is certain. I'm not going to listen.

3) Our math got messed up because we were distracted by the visceral image of Massa and Emanuel shouting and naked in the shower. I mean, who wouldn't be?

2) Yeah, I know it's pretty deep but remember, Republicans and Fox news and talk radio still exist and they must be stopped before we can get anything done.

1) Publically held debt will be 90% of the GNP in eight years? I'm really sorry. I messed up. But it’s fixable if we pivot. Once we pass healthcare and cap and trade, we'll take care of that remaining 10%.

Musings on the Olympics

My daughters love the Olympics and one of them even dresses her American Girl dolls for the occasion and keeps a count down.  She's suggested we get up to watch live the opening ceremonies. To get ready, we've watched a few Youtube clips of prior years performances in Ice Skating and Ice dancing.  She also discovered the sports channel that shows all the qualifying events and reminds us of the most recent Summer games in China.

After watching the opening ceremonies and the first few days, one of my daughters came to me and announced she wanted to train for the Olympics. "I think I could be up there Mom." she said, eyes shining.

Not wanting to burst her bubble, I tried to be gentle. "Sure, I'll sign you up for classes if you wish, but I should tell you, most of those athletes are 15-21 years of age and have been training since they were about eight." I was proud that she wanted to do this, and hopeful it wasn't beach volleyball.

She did not appreciate my tact.
"Well thanks Mom for shooting down my dream with a sniper rifle!"

"Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow." I thought. My Maternal ego felt bruised. "Well you know, there's an Olympic event with skiing and shooting..."I started but her face said to stop so I did and asked, "How exactly did I do this?"

"If you knew this, why didn't you sign me up then?"

"Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Again." Answers scrolled through my head. "Because I've always prided myself in not treating you as an extention of myself designed to manifest glory to the world. Because I believe in having children be children. Because it is expensive. Because we had lives that were full without this. Because you've shown no interest in any sport for more than the season when it is in season, because, because....because." I had all these good reasons and what did I say?

"Ummm." Don't say it Sherry. Don't rise to the bait. Darn it I'm weak.  I said, "What sport are you interested in?"  Sherry! You are an IDIOT FOR EVEN SAYING THAT SENTENCE! Me was screaming at me.

"Ice Skating."

This was before the paralyzing 7 day snow storm.  Now after two days of shoveling, she announced she was going to move to the dessert when she grew up so she'd never be cold. She also offered to do all sorts of chores inside the house so as to avoid helping with the big dig.  I could see her being signed up to skate and deciding it was too cold and I remembered, "All suffering has purpose." The snow had protected me from the charge of bad parenting for leaving her Olympic gold dreams unfulfilled. At the very least, I had a defense.  "We'll talk after I get back from working on the driveway.  You could join me, build up some Olympic muscle."

She promptly left me for the computer.

Being inside the house, my daughter researched the ages of the members of the American team.  She also googled past performances and pulled up the German Mom who was 31 and on the gymnastics team and Torres, the US woman who at 42 won the Gold in swimming.  Of course, my inside daughter printed them up and brought them out to no longer shoveling me and said "HAH! Sign me up!"

I watched as the tractor plowed the driveway and waved bye bye to the 150 dollars I'd just surrendered.  "Well, I would honey but I just payed to have the road cleared.  I might have not asked for the plowing of the driveway if more people had helped."  Okay, so I don't play fair either, the apple and the tree are very related.  Looking at the five foot drifts on either side of the driveway, she shook her head, "Hot Chocolate Mom, we can watch the ice dancing?"  Peace and good will through the Olympics had been restored, but thank goodness these events only come every 4 years.**

**Lost this piece as an Untitled Microsoft number 5 and then it was in limbo with the computer, hence the dated references.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

You can't Watch this often enough to take everything in....

Have a great Saturday!

7 Takes Saturday because....last week was National Procrastinator's Day


There is nothing on the schedule this weekend.
Parents who suffer from front loaded and overtaxed kid schedules will understand the serene quality of that first sentence.  In fact, it's so soothing, I think I'll say it again.  
There is nothing on the schedule for this weekend. 
No basketball. No parties. No meetings. No play practice. No make up music lessons.
Ah.  I'm trying to stress over what we could be doing or should be doing and I can't.  Ahhhhhhh.
There is nothing on the schedule for the weekend.


Two weeks ago, my laptop died.  I took it to a store where the computer wizard that was to aid me pronounced it beyond repair and charged me a tidy sum to recover all my documents.  He suggested I buy a new one and throw "Lappie" in the trash. 

I couldn't do it. 

This piece of non working machinery had been a gift.  She'd helped me craft two stories that got in the Washington Post.  She held 3/4ths of my unfinished novel.  I don't know why I didn't listen, but I didn't.  Then the computer guy at the school was directing traffic in the afternoon when I pulled up for pick up.  I asked him if he could maybe salvage the laptop and he said he'd have a look. 

Adding a new plug and double the memory and voila, my lappie and I are reuinited and it feels so good.    

Epilogue to #2

I called the 1-800 number of the company in question and they were very upset that this happened and refunded my money and offered free tech support if I discover that there is anything wrong with her in the next month. They're also launching an investigation to determine if this was bored indifference or something more sinister.  The person who handled it was very nice and very professional and so I'm not naming names but I would say, if you have a friend who knows something about these machines and yours has a problem, go to the friend first.  As for the tech guy at the school, he has validated my never forget to give a giftcard to the auxillary teachers policy.


It's been a busy week of blessings.  My daughter was accepted at a very lovely high school last Friday and they gave her a partial scholarship which made it even more wonderful.  Having visited the place and met the faculty, I feel very welcome and pleased that she will have the next four years in such a place.  She is currently so happy about this, that every scrap of paper has the initials of the school drawn with deliberate ornate flourishes and she is writing poetry. 

As she said, "I'm really really really happy.  And that's not normal.  At least not for me."  She's 13 so this is true as a matter of course. 

Apples near Trees

In parenting, there are silent shock moments when you look at this person and you glimpse something of the future in their present. 

My third child always tries to play things close to the vest but one thing she's taken to doing is creating a school world with the youngers. She does lesson plans and has arranged a classroom and gives homework and even drafted her very enthusiastic younger sister into the role of teaching assistant.  Yesterday, she used those natural skills to coax our youngest to cruise from one end of the piano bench to the other. 

Since this goal was on Paul's weekly I.E.P. notes and has been for several weeks, this was a big deal. When I told the physical therapist, she put a note of thanks to my daughter on this week's write up and I decided, she gets a briefing on the stated teaching goals each week.

Homework Cake

Every weekend, we get to Sunday and someone hasn't done their homework and it stinks because it prevents us from really relaxing and enjoying the last parts of Sunday before the work week consumes our every minute. 

I reached back into my summer camp experience where on Sundays, they served fried chicken.  You weren't allowed into the mess hall even if it was raining unless you had a letter written and signed and sealed and stamped and addressed to your parents.  These epistiles were called "Chicken letters." 

So Friday, instead of fish sticks or pasta or scrambled eggs or cheese pizza, I made two yellow cakes with chocolate frosting.  I informed the children that no one was getting dinner until their homework was done.  Last night, everyone enjoyed their meatless dinner and the weekend is now homework nag free. 

Dancing in my Head

My daughter that struggles finally turned a corner. She came home from school with a chapter book and talked all the way home about how it is wonderful to find yourself lost in a world while reading.  After watching four children make that turn at varying points, it was a great relief to see her do the same.  Thank you Mary Pope Osborne for the Magic Tree House series! It has coaxed three of my children to become fluent readers who enjoy it. 

Epilogue to #5 and #7 and #1.  The "teacher" used her newfound authority to tell the teaching aid to pretend she was sick and therefore not come to second period.  The assistant came to see the principal.  I told her that I would "discuss" the matter with this future educator and in the meantime, to go read a book.  

Then I considered, there might just be a reason why, we normally have very scheduled over maxed weekends.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!