Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Apparently Anders is auditioning for the role of Santa at this year's Christmas party.

Oh, my aching wallet!

I believe I have already admitted my inherent and much-practiced frugality in previous posts. Some are born cheap; some achieve cheapness; others have cheapness thrust upon them--to mangle some quote about something completely different. I am the first type--born cheap (if not cheaply). I worried about family finances before I could pronounce the phrase. I also fretted about expenses, even while perpetrating some amazing blunders of monetary insanity. I'm cheap--not always wise.

Today my compulsion to save money ran head-on into the brick wall that is reality: we were out of wipes and shampoo. I couldn't put off the expedition any longer. The first I could have done without for a while. I have plenty of cloth wipes (some might call them washcloths--don't look so horrified, I won't give you one to wash your face with. They are very specific washcloths, in a very specific place, and almost never get mixed-up with the regular washcloth) stashed with the cloth diapers--which I may just pull out today after my shopping-induced coronary passes. The second, I have found no adequate substitute for--but if anyone has any suggestions, let me know. I'll try anything! (Hey--I use cloth diapers, for Pete's sake! After that, nothing else is a challenge.)

Okay--so shopping-induced coronary as mentioned in the paragraph above. Wipes and shampoo by themselves are not particularly expensive. Unfortunately they were not the only things I had to steel myself to purchase. Anders, as may be assumed safely, is getting bigger. He hit the 20-pound mark at the doctor's office today--whoo-hoo! But with larger baby come larger problems. Namely: the problem of where he will sleep, and the problem of where he will sit. We've pushed the limits on the sleeping thing: he was supposed to be out of the bassinet five months ago, but he managed by making sure he never slept through the whole night in the thing. I believe our record is two hours. The rest of the time I held him through the night. (He's the last baby, and I'm spoiling him rotten, but that's a subject for another post.) But eventually, even for adored last babies, reality asserts itself. And the reality is that I'm almost sure I'm ready for him to sleep on his own--like 75% sure, because this whole separation thing is much harder this time around. So the bassinet just will not do any longer.

Remember, the key word today is "cheap." That means I'm not adverse to alternate possibilities. I've done my research on sleeping spaces for the under-two -set. Cribs are ridiculous! Who wants to pay $245 for a tiny, plastic-covered platform, no matter how trendy or precious? (People who enjoy spending--ye gads, that's who, and if the store stocks are any indication, they outnumber us frugal people 10 to 1.) Just in case you were wondering why I didn't do the sensible thing and use the perfectly serviceable crib that had worked so well for children 1-4, I gave away said crib--which my parents gave us after buying it at a garage sale; I come by my cheapness genetically--to my brother and sister-in-law, who were pregnant at the same time I was, and I refuse to renege on a gift, cheapness notwithstanding. I just sort of figured we'd find something in time. No Luck. That's why I found myself weeping in the aisle of a major retailer this morning while Roberto took two of the kiddos to a doctor's visit (two birds, one stone, less gas-wastage; money saved).

The upshot of the story: we have a new playpen which will serve as sleeping quarters for the tiny tiger. Also a new high/booster chair combo ($19.99--gasp! hack!). So to assuage my guilt at spending, I came home and made laundry detergent in my food processor, out of bar soap and various powdered additives. Total spent: way too much. Total saved: $4.50.

I need an aspirin.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shameful admissions I'm prepared to make

Facebook is a entry-level addiction--sort of like glue-sniffing. You start it totally innocently, maybe after a few months of wondering why people would waste so much time on something so unnecessary--like I did, and then one day you realize that four hours have gone by and you've spent them all with people who are not only in another room, but actually in another state. (Or country, if your circle is particularly wide-flung, which mine isn't, yet. But I'm working on it!) It leads to all sorts of new distractions. Heck, the whole reason I'm here at my desk in my pajamas at 1:07 p.m. is because I got started on Facebook. When the thrill of telling friends all about the insignificancies of my life wasn't enough I had to find a larger audience--a "bigger high" in drug-parlance, if you will. (Sadly, my blog audience is actually smaller than my Facebook audience, so my increased dependency on telecommunications has not had the desired effect.)

But here's the thing: Facebook is the ultimate in absolutely useless introspection. It is the repository for information about yourself you never knew existed, and which I'm pretty sure you never hungered to know until a friend found the information on her/him-self first. You know what I'm talking about--all those personality tests created by the same psychologists who brought us the "Cotton-ball Rorschach" test, and the "What your sleeping position reveals about your future income" exams. The same psychologists who passed their first two semesters of psychology classes and then decided that they knew enough, that's who. They, in their infinite wisdom, and total lack of real standards to measure us by, have created for Facebook the "What is your Patronus?" tests (mine would be some sort of imaginary creature that I could never concentrate hard enough on to do me any good because I would get bogged down in the insignificant details. Yeti: three-toes per foot or four? By that time I'd be toast.), the "What color is your aura?" tests (I've been told that mine is white--by a budding psychologist, no less!), and my personal favorite, the "What Jedi Master Are You?" test (The one who dies in the first four minutes of the film for basic ineptitude and general un-Jedi-like goofiness).

I want to get in on all the fun my friends seem to be having, but with all I have to do (the whole pajama/1 p.m. thing notwithstanding!), and with my general distrust of computer-generated psychological analysis, I've resisted. But the urge is becoming more insistent. I. Must. Take. a Test. And in this case, a mere mathematics exam will not do! So, for those of you who are active in the Resistance to All Token Tests (R*A*T*T, because we couldn't find a more congenial rodent-related acronym) movement--or even if you just have a few spare moments of time and a burning yen to know yourself better--I present my non-psychologist-approved, not-at-all-scientific, totally-stun-your-neighbors-and-in-laws personality test:

What Refrigerated Condiment Are You?

  • What is your skin color generally, without the aid of cosmetics or artificial measures?
a) pasty white--1 point
b) rosy red--2 points
c) sort of sun-kissed--3 points
d) mottled, like a lab-experiment gone wrong--4 points

  • If you had a choice, which food would you rather be slathered on?
a) white bread--1 point
b) French fries--2 points
c) hot dogs--3 points
d) Aunt Martha's "famous" meatloaf--the one most relatives avoid at the Reunion (the meatloaf, not Aunt Martha, who while a "kooky character" is a sweet soul with a mean mouth for family gossip)--4 points

  • Your secret life-long dream is to:
a) own a small pet rabbit, whom you would name "Mr. Ponsonby"--1 point
b) set off the fireworks for the Fourth of July celebrations in Washington D.C., making sure they were very carefully aimed at certain points of interest, if you get my drift!--2 points
c) finally tell the neighbor across the street what you really think of his "going to get the newspaper" attire, with helpful illustrations on a white board and relevant hand gestures --3 points
d) travel the length of the Amazon river in an inflatable swimming-pool-appropriate ducky float--4 points

  • Your guilty secret is:
a) you once called your teacher--the one with the flabby upper arms and buck-teeth--"mom" (and you still can't live down the shame)--1 point
b) your enormous collection of dentist-visit toothbrushes--each lovingly preserved in its original wrapping and none used!--you dental subversive, you--2 points
c) sometimes you sing along with ALL the words of the songs on the radio--even when you know they aren't church-dance appropriate--3 points
4) you haven't changed your socks since third grade--4 points

  • In your shower are:
a) one shampoo (fruit-scented), one conditioner (in a complementary scent). one razor (sort-of sharp), and one bar of soap (Irish Spring or Zest!)--1 point
b) one bottle of shampoo/conditioner combo (plus dandruff fighter!), two bottles of body wash ( citrus and lavender, respectively), one loofah--2 points
c) half-used bottles of whatever was on sale, partly-used hair dye, two razors, and six nylon scrubbies (assorted colors and stages of disintegration)--3 points
d) one tub of wet-wipes, six hairballs pulled from the drain, and a toilet brush for unspecified purposes--4 points

Whew! Now, total your points, and discover what your condiment alter ego says about you:

5-7 points: mayonnaise. You are bland, boring, and the perfect appetizer or sandwich mix-in. You work hard to cooperate with others, and strive to blend in with whatever crowd you find yourself in. Try to assert yourself more frequently and you may raise your status to Mayo with Zip! or even, if you try really hard, Miracle Whip.

8-13 points: ketchup. You are all-American, loyal through and through. You have zing, but are oddly comforting. You are dependable, if lacking in excitement. Work on standing out a little more, or at least add a little Tabasco for some kick.

14-17 points: mustard. You are bold, assertive, and when aged, a little too vinegar-y for endurance. You aren't afraid to be yourself, or to completely take over a situation. You come in a variety of styles and versions. (Including that painfully hot Chinese version that I can't get enough of, even though it clears my sinuses and makes me cry like a Miss America winner.) Try to restrain yourself, or your total dominance will cause people to reject you in favor of someone a little more "palatable."

18-20 points: relish. Face it, there's no explanation for you. I'm baffled why someone would want to be this, anyway. It's chopped-up pickles and gunk. If I want pickle taste, I add a pickle. Take the test again, and this time, lie a little bit.

There you have it: you personality analyzed by an expert who actually PASSED high school psychology. Feel free to enjoy your enlightenment.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Skip this if you have a fertile imagination and/or a sympathetic stomach

This is the weekend of the big family reunion. No need to hyperventilate--I know you're excited. Everybody's excited: there'll be games, and food, and crafts, and lots of Merkleys doing what Merkleys do best: namely, stand (or sit, if occasion allows) in groups and discuss things of vital importance loudly. (Vital importance is Merklish for items such as deep doctrinal discussions of whether one's Sunday sock color is indicative of testimony status--complete with mostly-accurate scriptural referances, and can-you-name-that-obscure-movie-quote challenges. They're vital to us, if to no one else.) I looooove family reunions.

But I'm stuck here. Not at the reunion.

But why? you ask. Haven't I warned you about this before? Must we do this every time? You have been warned.

Because I am the victim of extremely poor planning. My own, unfortunately.

Ha! You thought you got away easy that time, no? Think again, bucko.

Here's how it all went down:
I will occasionally admit to being in the Young Women's organization in my ward. I usually phrase it as "Serving with the YW." I try not to name the actual calling I have. Not that I'm ashamed of it or anything--I just hate the disbelief that creeps into people's eyes when I tell them I'm the president (small "p", please). I understand--I am not the stereotypical YW president. I'm not hyper-organized; I don't cross-stitch, embroider or crochet; and the depths of my wisdom couldn't swamp a paper boat. But for some reason I said yes when the bishop asked me to do it--and in my defense I love serving with the young women. I think they and the other leaders are amazing, and they reciprocate with a tolerance that surpasses belief.
So, knowing these fact about me, you can hardly be surprised that I accidentally scheduled the YW fundraiser for the same weekend as my family reunion. My thinking was somewhat along the lines of: Hey, look, the only free weekend ALL the young women have is the weekend of the 23rd! And we can actually use the church cultural hall for it! Whoo-Hoo! It is a miracle!! The gods of all planning and organizing endeavors smile upon me!!! How perfect is this? . . . What? (slowly coming to reality after the initial burst of adrenaline-powered euphoria and AFTER setting the whole thing in stone by announcing it to the entire world who was willing to listen--total count: six young women, their moms, and one lone pigeon who flew in for the refreshments.) That's Memorial Day weekend? That's the weekend of the family reunion? Why, oh all that is holy, why?

And so I sit in an almost quiet house--if you don't count the frantic and poorly-timed barking of Tibby the wonder-weirdo. And if you don't count Anders, who is actually cooperating at the moment by taking an extremely well-timed nap. (small, hushed whoo-hoo! for naps!)

I've decided that if I can't enjoy the family reunion, I'll at least enjoy the spirit of the reunion: the absolute thrill we Merkleys get out of the completely useless. I've watched old TV shows on the computer, stashed stuff for Christmas (find THAT, kiddos!), and torn out all the irritating and extraneous slips of advertising cardstock that my magazines are infested with. But mostly what I've done is watch Anders enjoy his day.

I've never had this chance before. Our first son was born with extreme developmental difficulties, and never reached this stage, and his care sort of took up all our extra attention. I loved my older children as babies, I just didn't get to stare at them all day with no distractions. So this is what it's like. Kind of fascinating, and kind of boring, with moments of sheer panic when an inquisitive baby takes a fancy to things like electrical outlets and cords.

So, after a good chunk of the day watching a baby's explorations, I can make one certain announcement:
my son is crazy for dryer lint.

(Explanatory note: our laundry room opens onto our kitchen, with only a doorway separating them. And we don't have a gate there, because the only gate is blocking the stairs--a much bigger baby booby trap, in my opinion, and because I go between the two rooms so frequently. I'm getting older and lazier about such things. The dryer lint in question has been removed from the dryer--obviously. Not even Anders, who will probably grow up to be a problem-solving genius, in a weird mad-scientist sort of way, if his older brothers are any indication, can get it out of its original location at only seven months of age! It--the lint, not the baby--is tossed after removal into a wastebasket which has been inexplicably placed above head level. Trust me, I've tried to explicate it, but alas, no success. Sometimes my tossing of lint into the designated receptacle is ineffective--no basketball scholarship for me!--and the lint falls to its doom among the brooms and mops, from which doom I rarely rescue it. I believe I've already explained the older/lazier component of my existence.)

Anders, in his wanderings about the house, has discovered that lying among all those amazing cleaning tools are golden nuggets of fuzzy goodness. Yum! He can find them, retrieve them , and pop them into his mouth faster than I can rush to his aid while simultaneously fighting a monster gag reflex. I have cleaned out his mouth three time already today--and those are the times I was aware of what he was doing! Who knows how many good-and-lintys line his stomach after the craziness that was this morning's packing and car-stuffing preparation. Please, don't think about it; it will only cause you pain, and maybe a small bout of empathetic vomiting.

So recap of my day:
Not at reunion
Rotten calendar-reading skills
Anders likes lint

Sometimes it's good to be the mom.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oh, what should I do in the summertime?

*Side note: I remember singing that song in Primary and wondering just what the songwriter was smoking, because around here the dominant summer color is not green. It's yellow and brown, and it's so stinking hot that it would have been a much different song if she or he had lived here. I suspect it would have gone a little something like this:

Oh, what do you do in the summertime,
when all the world is hot?
Do you play in the park,
when it's well after dark,
or crank the a/c to high?
Is that what you do?
So do I!

Oh, what do you do in the summertime,
when all the world is hot?
Do you gasp like a fish,
and sit still and wish,
that the sun would just go and die?
Is that what you do?
So do I!

Oh, what do you do in the summertime,
when all the world is hot?
You're still singing this song?
It's gone on too long,
and my brain is beginning to fry!
Are you crazy, too?
So am I!

Yup, that's the desert version of the song. Not quite as Primary-appropriate, but much more accurate. (And I suspect even the senior Primary would be willing to sing this version.)

Okay--so summer plans, that is the topic. I only have 12 weeks-- if you count the five days of YW camp, which I'm not, because it's not so much a part of summer vacation as the mother of all really efficient stressors. (I love it, but it enlarges my ulcer every year. I have a recurring nightmare that we arrive at camp, only to find I only packed the skit costumes and feminine hygiene supplies and left all the certification materials/decorations/snacks/necessary stuff at home, and then have to decorate the addie with things you don't talk about in mixed company while the other leaders shake their heads and just mutter something about "snack fob" or something to that rhymes with it. Trust me, it's more realistic-seeming than you think. That explains the extra ton of stuff I cram in at the last minute every year. It also explains why my basement is no longer adequate for the storage of camp-related items.) And in that almost 12 weeks I need to work in some goal-setting-and-achieving-type stuff, some educational stuff, some recreational stuff (without actually taking a real vacation, because it just doesn't fit into the schedule this year), and some of that organizational/cleaning stuff that we moms seem to feel is necessary to life. So, in no particular order, here are the things I want to do in the next somewhat less than 12 weeks:

  • Label everything in the house with its Swedish name to give myself a real chance to learn the language I've been vowing, and failing, to learn for two years now.
  • Sew my brains out (Commitment Hike costumes, pants for camp, cute dresses for my daughter, slipcovers for couches and chairs) even though it's 110 in the studio.
  • Install a real air conditioner in the studio. Something that reaches farther than two feet and which actually cools the room, rather than just making it just seem clammy.
  • Take the kiddos to an observatory. For Pete's sake, there are several in the state to choose from, and yet we've never been to one! Wasted opportunities!!!!!
  • Read something totally frivolous. Also try to refrain from snarky criticisms. After all, I'm not brave enough to attempt to write a book myself, so I have no right to snark at those who are.
  • Attempt to write a book. If I can choose a genre. And maybe a plot. If I don't fry my brain on choosing character names first. That always throws me.
  • Really get the porch converted into the kids' art/craft space. And make it inhabitable by installing a fan. And some shade. And make it Country Living-worthy. Or at least blog-worthy.
  • Remember to water and harvest the veggies in the garden. Not like the other years when I screamed out the back door, "Fend for yourselves," and then wept over the seared remains in October.
  • Totally immerse myself in creating an innovative/inspiring/exciting curriculum for the next school year. That way I won't feel so guilty when I abandon it two weeks into September. At least I will have tried.

Call me ambitious. Call me crazy. Just don't call me when I'm sobbing with exhaustion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We're loaded (with talent)

I'm so proud--Jobe took part in his school/ enrichment program talent show today. Unfortunately my videography skills are not equal to his musical abilities. My apologies for not getting the introduction and first part of his performance.

Gotta love that nose action!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The day I didn't ditch Swedish School

My attendance record at Swedish School hasn't been all that stellar, I admit. I've related my pathetic excuses for the extreme number of absences before. (If you missed that one it all boils down to I DON'T SPEAK SWEDISH! Big revelation.)

But how could I have missed today? Who misses the last day of the Swedish School year? I mean other than me last year, anyway. Not me this year! I was present for all the festivities, even the ones that were embarrassing to those dear to me. Make that ESPECIALLY the ones embarrassing to said loved ones.

And just to make sure I get the full measure of enjoyment from my attendance I'm sharing the embarrassment with you. Just think: all the hilarity, and none of it reflecting poorly on you! Consider it a little Swedish School gift from me to you. You're welcome!

There was dancing around a Maypole. (Frolic, Roberto, frolic.)

Complete with odd hand placements and movement.

Sadly, not all family members knew all the songs.

Have I mentioned the sack races?

Would you like to see the sack races in video form? Of course you would!

Yeah, that's not embarrassing at all! Funny, but embarrassing.

Luckily, at the end of all the embarrassment there were hot dogs to ease the shame. Hot dogs make everything better. Yum.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sing along with Sniffy's mom

Sing it like you mean it:

(to the tune of Hinges, page 277 in the Children's Songbook)

I'm covered in snot from my head to my toes.
And snot comes from noses as everyone knows!
There's snot on my front,
and there's snot on my back.
I've got to wipe snot off
before I barf--

An open letter to an uncaring Universe

Dear Universe,

We haven't always seen eye to eye, have we? The whole me not ending up 5-foot-10 wasn't quite like the deal we had, and I'm pretty sure there was some unfulfilled obligations on your part regarding the whole "Blondes have more fun" concept. I'd hire me a lawyer if I knew where to send the resulting court-related paperwork.

But this latest shenanigan of yours really takes the cake. Cake . . . yeah, that's the idea.

You see, dear Universe, dear sweet, well-organized-and-yet-cruelly-humorous Universe, I am starving. Unfortunately, perhaps, not literally.

Here's how it all started:
I woke up this morning, according to the rhythms of life which you ordained, and nearly scared myself out of my wits. I had inadvertently looked in the mirror, and saw not the lovely, svelte 25-year-old I am used to seeing, but something hideously distorted. When, O Universe, did I get this old and this fat?

Oh, sure, I may have craved the products of Messrs. Ben and Jerry--your evil minions of all that is yummy--through my first pregnancy, the resulting post-partum period, as well as my son's infancy, toddlerhood, and early childhood. I may have become the best homemade-bread baker in the world--or at least on my street. I may have indulged from time to time in a small snack or thirty of whatever chocolate was lying around the grocery store. (Not that I stole it--I've always been scrupulously honest about my commercial activities. I just bought in bulk. Thank you, Costco--I'm drafting my letter to you next!) I'm willing to admit my part in the current fiasco. But the majority of the blame lies with you, dear Universe.

Did you have to make chocolate and carbs so tasty and broccoli so green? Whose idea was it to make the dressing more enjoyable than the salad it drenches? Why can we send a robot to Mars, but not perfect the no-cal sundae? Seriously, what were you thinking?

And so I have been forced to take action. I have parted from the loves of my fat life: chocolate, bread, anything enjoyable, and have sentenced myself to veggies, chicken chests, and water. Humph! I'm hungry, and it's all your fault. I'm suffering for your sins.

I'm willing to negotiate. I'll stick this out for as long as I can, and in return, you'll remove the calories from cheesecake. We'll call it even. If you have a counter-offer, you know where to find me. And this time it won't be in the snack aisle.

Chubbily but determinedly yours,

Saturday, May 16, 2009

An overly long explanation of why the pictures at the end of the post look suspiciously like they were taken at a party

(Note: the picture above is not a spoiler. I just thought he looked cute. Look at those little legs flail! And it's my blog, so I can do what I want with it. Even post random, non-related photos. Deal with it. I don't whine when I read your blog, do I?)

Having four children can be a lot like being head of the circus. It gets crazy some times--nap times, breakfast times, dinner times, schoolwork times, etc. We don't live in a house so much as on a permanent three-ring stage. We have our resident monkeys, our occasional lion-taming act, our clowns, and even side-shows. (I have done my time as the fat lady, and Roberto does a pretty good zombie act--usually around four a.m. when the performers demand attention.)

That's all par for the course around here. We're used to it--even if the neighbors call to complain about the occasional stench or escaped animals.

What throws us for a loop is when we open the big-top flaps to audiences. Like, say, when we have a party. We're good in rehearsal, but poor in performance, if you catch my metaphoric drift.

The boys have been--I'd say pestering, but that has such a negative connotation, no?--attempting to coax us persistently to have a party for some time now. Every time a birthday would come up--nearly every month between October and April--they'd ask with big, wide, puppy-dog eyes (who taught them that trick? You know who you are, and you're on my "bad" list!) "Are we having a party for me?" Flutter, flutter of the eyelashes, winsome smile in place.

Unfortunately they tended to ask on the day on the anticipated event, and we--fat lady and zombie dude--would be caught in their traps, exposed as the rotten parents our children think we are. "Oh," we said, desperately looking for an escape route. "That's an iinteresting idea. But you just had a party sometime in the previous decade, and we're trying to keep it all even between you. You know how bad the others would feel if we threw a party for you and didn't throw one for them. And your sister didn't get one this year." (Ha! Quick thinking--use the old let's-make-it-even junk they toss at us regularly. How do you like it now, buster?????!) That worked for a whole year, thank you very much. You may congratulate us on our narrow escape.

Somehow, though, this year they caught on. (Drat those intelligent genes we passed on! This is one situation when slightly less-smart children would be a plus. As it would when I try to sneak-eat chocolate around them. The children who refuse to do math homework put two and two together pretty quickly in those cases.)

"MOM!," one overly-analytical child would state/shout, absolutely gleeful in his realization. "None of us has had a party, so we can start all over again and it'll still be even ." Foiled again.

So we compromised: no birthday parties, but we'd throw an end-of-the-school-year party at the appropriate time. (Which, interestingly enough, became subject to interpretation and debate. March, they pointed out, more than once, was close to the end of the school year, as was April. We had to define the party parameters more strictly.)

Slight problem: the only date available for an end-of-the-school-year party, actually near the end of the school year but not actually when school was out--dear goodness my fingers are knotted up after that sentence fragment!--was this weekend. Right between Saturday the pre-camp certification day and Saturday the pre-camp fundraiser day. Also it was after a week when Roberto had been out of town. Good planning.

But we persisted. Goaded on by our party-desperate children, we sent out (limited) invitations--no way was I going to invite all 49 of my boys' nearest and dearest classmates to a party in our minuscule backyard. We began accumulating party supplies--which in this case meant collecting water balloons and bags of ice. (It's full summer here, and the only way to survive is to get soaked regularly. And I don't mean by the prices at the grocery store. That has the opposite effect.) Also, I learned how to make origami boats. Because nothing says PARTAY! like an origami boat-making lesson.

And then the big-top went up, and the crowds filtered in to see the spectacle. The monkeys and the clowns were very much present--and the fat lady and zombie dude did their best to keep it together despite. It was 102 degrees, but the show went on. Balloons were tossed; water weapons were squirted; ice was picked up by toes. Ice cream, cookies, and watermelon were consumed. Fun was had.

And now we can use the experience to beg out of a whole year of pleading looks. Success!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Not quite W.T., but slowly sliding that way

So the Southwest is known for a few things:

  • heat (it's 100 degrees out there today, and we still have six months to go. If we're lucky. We wore flip-flops to Thanksgiving dinner last year. Heck, we wear flip-flops year round. At least my sister who lives in the Midwest insists on doing so when she visits. Even if her toes are turning blue, they're a lot warmer than they'd be in Missouri.)

  • cactus--some of which my neighbor insisted on planting too close to the sidewalk, and now her yard is a threat to our clothing and skin when we walk to church. Some days I wish we lived where people landscaped with lilacs and juniper. Make that most days, except in winter, because I don't do the whole freeze-your-tush-off thing anymore, as proven by my very existent tush.

  • gated communities

As for the latter, it's not like people here are less friendly that they would be in other regions of this great country. It's just a bonus that developers like to include in order to convince buyers that they're moving into an exclusive enclave--one that will encourage a certain life-style, while discouraging riff-raff and pizza-delivery persons. I'm not sure what the life-style it's meant to encourage is, unless it's the life-style lived by those who don't mind attempting to punch in access numbers to open a gate at three in the morning after a long car trip to the nether ends of the civilized world with a screaming baby and whiny kids who just want to get into their own beds! Sounds like a treat! Sign me up!

As for me and my house, well, we're not quite so fancy. Said house is in an older section of town--one that is becoming more economically diverse, interpret as you will. Our street is straight and runs due east and west--no hoity-toity curves for us! It has no landscape flora-/olde English-/quasi Mediterranean-inspired name. Plain old numbered streets will do for the plain old likes of us! Houses on this street are completely individualized. There are two two-storied homes--both of which I've lived in (such nomads we are!), one cream-stuccoed house, several block/brick homes. There are no gates, except leading into the back yards. Trust me, no developer every took a gander at this site.

Every now and then I get posh neighborhood envy. "Look at them there," I think to myself, "with their cozy, curvy streets and their private community parks. Look at the landscaping on that block--such precisely-trimmed cypresses. And how quaintly named they are! I want to live in Meadowgreeene Towne Village and Estates." Rats.

I got back a little of my own this week. HA!

With Anders crawling around here like a slightly shaky but very determined millipede (seriously, I have no idea how he coordinates those hands and feet, except that there is a rather deliberate placement of each) we have had to take defensive action. Non-board books have been banished from the lower shelves. Floors are patrolled with extra vigilance for Legos, marbles, and stray hair chihuahuas.

But my finest moment was the move I made when I realized electrical wires had the same attraction for the tiny tiger that ice cream and brownie dough have for me:

Even if I don't live in a gated community, I live with a gated desk. I'm moving up in the world.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chez Melia

When Rob is out of town I sometimes lower the standards a bit.

Tonight's high point: dinner a la frazzlement:

Elegant dining at its finest!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We're Baaaaaack!

I wanted to write last night--really I did. My brain tried to talk me into it.

"C'mon, Melia, you'll feel great once you get going; it's only the beginning that hurts a but. Just think of how accomplished you'll feel afterward, and you could really use a chance to burn off some frustration." Oddly enough, my brain tries the same speech when it wants me to exercise, with identical results. That's why no entry was posted last night, and it's also why I'm still carrying baby fat from a pregnancy ten years ago. (Apparently it's the last fifty pounds that are the hardest to lose. Who knew?) My brain, it seems, is a poor motivational speaker.

The brain was willing, but the rest of me didn't give a flying fig.

Actually, for a flying fig I might have made an effort, but alas, no figs, and therefore no altitude gain from said nonexistent fruit. (Note to brain: Next spring, if you still hold out optimism to get me on the treadmill, remind me to plant as fig tree first. Apparently I'll do anything for seedy purplish fruit with unsuspected aviation talents.)

Still, fig or no fig, why would I have passed up a chance to broadcast my every insignificant thought? (I have no pretensions about my place in the grand scheme of the collective cultural consciousness--the blog name says it all.) After all, it's not like I've shown any hesitancy before in commenting endlessly on the trivial minutiae of Melia. Ah, but this time I had a good excuse. His name is Anders, and he's a tiny cranky tiger.

I thought he was just getting feistier when he punched me in the face from three a.m. until five-thirty. (Perhaps he's having extra-tigerish dreams. Awwww, isn't that cute.)

I passed it off as grooming reminder and nothing else when he spent an entire evening clawing the skin off my chin. (Time to trim those nails. Dear me, how quickly they grow.)

But when he spent an entire sacrament meeting asleep I knew something was wrong. This is the boy who spent the previous Sunday using the sweet sister who sits behind us as his personal jumpy seat. This is the child who has to be pulled out from under the table twenty times in one dinner--not bad when you consider that our average family meal only lasts ten minutes. (They're polite, but chewing just isn't their style.) This is a baby who will not quit. Until Sunday.

And of course, he had to do it the day before his father left for a four-day trip to New York. He has timing. (Take your pick as to the antecedent on that sentence; it applies equally well to both.)

So I've spent the last three days trying to keep the older three children occupied, organized, and on schedule while constantly jiggling up and down to soothe a crabby tiger. It has not been pretty. Avoid the mental image if you can.--Sorry, too late.

I dosed with Tylenol. I administered ibuprofen. I encouraged liquids--thank goodness that's the accepted wisdom, because encouraging a steak dinner would be impossible at this age. Monday night I got desperate for relief--his and mine--and wrapped him in wet towels. We spent a soggy, sleepless night on the couch. I believe we dozed between one and two a.m.

It seems I don't function well with that little sleep.

So there was no way in a small town in Michigan that I could have constructed a coherent sentence yesterday. (Yeah, I know, it's never stopped me before. But this time it was exhaustion rather than just mental catharsis that I had to consider. I was being kind to everyone involved.)

Today, though, is another story. I had a full TWO hours of sleep last night, and Anders' fever broke sometime around three a.m. We're both back in action.

Roberto owes me BIG TIME for this week.

Feeling fine and back to chewing on innocent insectoids.

Anders isn't too bad. either.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Questions for the universe

  • Why does the baby only feel better after barfing all over me?

  • How do one hundred pounds of children translate into two tons of laundry?

  • Can I pass off the dog-snot smear on the windows as a new "frosted" look, or will I have to clean it today?

  • Why is mac and cheese with hot dogs hot stuff, when mac and cheese with ham is kid cuisine suicide?

  • How is it that after five sweepings I STILL have dust bunnies playing tag on the family room floor?

  • Where does my patience go when I lose it completely? And why doesn't my weight accompany it?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Life in 21,000 words or less

It's funny how life sort of takes odd turns. There you are, metaphorically walking down some shady lane, thinking, "this is pretty good--I could deal with for a while," and then <KAPLOOOIE> the shady lane become a roaring highway and you, my friend, are the roadkill du jour. Things never quite turn out the way you planned them.

Take me for instance. Please. Take me somewhere--especially if you have Hawaii in mind, or maybe a walking tour in Yorkshire. (I promise to bring lots of blister ointment!) Because there are things in my life I'm certain I did not sign up for.

For instance, I'm reasonably certain that when the buyer's form which detailed my life was brought to me in the pre-existence, I did not read a sub-paragraph about living in the desert for the rest of my mortal experience. I would have definitely stricken that bit out and initialed very neatly my having done so, just like my business law teacher taught us to do in high school. And I would have done so because I am not really adapted to desert living. I am, in fact, a vary pale person. So pale as to be ethnically impossible. If there is a race of glow-in-the-dark cave people, science hasn't found them yet--but if they do, I will become a footnote in the monograph written shortly after their discovery. I'll be cited as the link between the "glowies", as they will be called in the popular press, and the rest of humanity. So, no, desert living is not optional for me. (I get sunburns from sitting too close to North-facing windows in July, for Pete's sake!) I had planned to live in a slightly shadier clime--London or Colossal Caverns, for example. Some place where my shadow would be a semi-occasional visitor. But here I am, living in the very sweaty armpit of the American Southwest, and anticipating the inevitable skin cancer for the sake of my family, immediate and extended.

But the thing that really blows my mind--or at least makes me consider the whole "life is funny" thing--is the fact that I am the de facto roadshow writer for my ward. (This is almost as hilarious as the previous casting of me as branch/ward/ all-purpose pianist--all too funny for those in the congregation, not at all for me. ) I am not a writer through any effort or training of my own. (If, though, the ward had perennial need of a costume designer, well then, I'd consider myself to be first on the list of people to call. That was what I intended to do all along--or at least the along part after high school graduation and before marriage.) Me playing the role of writer gets me all kerfuffled.

Here's what I think happened: genetics--or at least the LDS concept of adaptive genetics. Allow me to boil it down for you who may be new to or hazy on the idea.

Let's say a woman, call her Sister Suzy, has a mother who is known for her amazing funeral potatoes. It then stands to reason that Suzy will always be assumed to make amazing funeral fare, even if the poor woman cannot create a stable dish of jello without extensive coaching. Cheesy funeral potatoes are in her genealogy; they are her eternal destiny. And if several generations of her family are known for the impossible cheesiness of their potato casserole, then plead though she may, no one will ask her to do anything else. Ever.

My apparent destiny comes courtesy of my grandma. The woman is incredible. Whoever said Mormon women are oppressed never met a Merkley, and certainly never conversed with my grandma. She tells whomever whatever needs to be said, gently and sweetly of course, but never with a hint of submissiveness. Don't try to tell her you have no time to do your family history work--you court disaster in the attempt. She tells a mean, if somewhat interestingly-timed joke. Her ability with a camera is (in)famous. But her forte--her pinnacle of power--is roadshows. She wrote them for longer than I can remember, and they won prizes almost every time. There were roadshows with Western themes: "Stringtown Tied in Knots." There were romances: "How Peanut Butter and Jelly Got Together." There were dancing mice and my father as Twinkletoes.

And when I grew up, I moved into the ward she had vacated.

When roadshow time rolled around, it was a case of, "Hey, she's vaguely Merkley-ish. She can do it." And I did. It was not a stellar achievement. (Consider the following elements, and YOU be the judge: a Greek chorus, a biker group called "The Wails", and a reluctant fellow named Jonah. Not my finest work.)

Ha! I am a failure, and no one will ask me to do it again, I thought. It was the only time I have revelled in failure. It was my deliverance from something that seared my guts and disturbed my ability to breathe.

Wrong. Three years later roadshow season came again. And I made the mistake of answering the phone. The requirement were simple: one fifteen-minute playlet, on the theme of Emergency Preparedness, and remember to make it a musical. And just for kicks, be sure to use the following props: a tree (???), a vacuum cleaner (?!?), and a mattress (!!!!!!!!!).

I wrote it while in line at a book sale, woke up every night screaming the tunes to corny 70s songs with poorly-altered lyrics, and performed a re-write in twenty minutes the week before the performance.

I barely survived.

And now roadshows are coming up again. They aren't due to be presented until October, but I have been informed that my talents (ha!) are requested. I know somewhere at the Stake Center the following conversation is happening:

"So, thought about the theme for this year's roadshows?"

"I was going along the lines of Etiquette Do's and Don'ts."

"That could be fun--nothing perks up a roadshow like songs about the proper addressing of thank-you cards."

"And we should require some wacky props. Otherwise it'll be too easy for the writers."

"Sure, why not? We could ask each ward to use a caged monkey, an inner tube from a semi, and an 1880s bank vault. Those're sure to be real crowd-pleasers."

My genetics are out to get me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Toujours l'amour!

I am not a romantic person. Not from any lack of training in adolescent swoonery--I had my crushes, and no, I will not tell you about them!, nor from any dashed dreams--although that would make a fabulous title for a poorly-written Victorian romance novel. It's simply that romance is too time-consuming and inefficient for the life I choose to live. There are things to do and places to see, so why are you insisting I stroll slowly along this beach? Let's pick up the pace a little, shall we? I am a major disappointment to my husband, who signed onto this marriage with hopes of better things.

Roberto was born with stars in his eyes and romance in his soul. He looked for his one true love for years before settling on me, after very little arm-twisting on my part. He would love nothing more than to dance the night away while whispering sweet nothings into some one's ear --preferably mine. Instead he gets evenings of debate and intense planning, sprinkled with humor and witty repartee if I'm in the mood and not too tired. The closest we come to dancing is when we meet in our narrow hall and have to shuffle around each other. ( I shuffle very precisely, a legacy of years of tap-dancing classes. Roberto took social dance and leaned toward Latin styles. He shuffles with excessive hip action.) Whispered sweet nothings result in requests for q-tips, because they always make me feel like a fly has flown into my ear canal.

He tried for years to convert me. He bought roses when he could afford them, poor guy. I asked him to bring me potted herbs and rose bushes instead. He tried to hold my hand, which was fine until my nose itched (fondling phalanges has that effect on me. It's some sort of coping mechanism, I think) or until I wanted to make a comment which required the full usage of my upper appendages. Hot dates were spent at Home Depot. He gave up in defeat.

It's taken us eleven years, but we've come to an understanding: romance will be defined in strictly non-fairy-tale terms. I watch his carb intake and remind him to exercise. It's my way of saying, "hey--I want you to stick around a while." He cleans the bathrooms and throws away the moldy stuff from the fridge. Better than dragon-slaying and far more hygienic.

Occasionally he does things for me that are the Merkley/Kydd equivalent of "Dearest darling one--you are the light of my life." This week he did one of those things.

I chose to be my own camp director this year--I know: I'm an idiot, that I'm already over-stressed, and that three hours of sleep per day is inadequate, but there are some things that just have to be done!--and scheduled our pre-camp certification for today. Ummmmmmmm, slight problem: our backyard is not a pre-camp-friendly spot--far too many doggie deposits, far too few places to build fires.

Roberto to the rescue! In one week he dug a foundation, poured a concrete slab, and constructed a pre-camp-worthy Dutch-oven space/ fire pit/ barbecue. My hero. Our pre-camp was saved, and my reputation was preserved. (Sadly, the reputation is that I'm an utter goofball, but at least no one had to adjust their concept of me.)

Tell me, isn't that better than a dozen roses any day?

2 p.m.--102 degrees--is it love I smell, or just excessive sweat?

10 p.m.--95 degrees and still going semi-strong!

1 a.m.--almost done!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lemons into lemonade . . . sort of

Announcement: I'm cheap.

How cheap? you ask. (Haven't you learned not to do that? It only stirs up all sorts of problems, and usually begins another rambling rant from yours truly. So stop doing it! We'll get through this a lot faster if you just sit there quietly and nod your head at appropriate intervals. Like now. Go ahead and nod. Good.)

Very cheap. Oh--you want examples? I warn you, what you're about to read may not be appropriate for all ages, especially those ages who prefer to think money grows on trees. Okay, here goes.

I'm so cheap I:

  • made most of my first son's baby and toddler clothes. From remnants. Which were bought with coupons.

  • occasionally make my own laundry detergent.

  • eliminated the dishwasher from our kitchen ON PURPOSE .

  • endure the heat until it gets to 100 degrees.

  • asked my husband to give me a used engagement ring. (He did. What a sweetheart!)

So you can understand my absolute frustration when perfectly lovely potatoes head south and start developing appendages. ARRRRRRRRRGH! I hate it when that happens! I spent a whole $1.75 for those things, and they do this in return. Ingrates.

Here's the romantic part of the story: my sweet husband, party to and enabler of my insanity, took the latest batch of tentacled taters, cut them up, and planted them. Isn't he dreamy?

Two months later, guess what we found lurking under one of those leafy things behind the garage:

So, it isn't lemonade, but it'll make pretty fabulous potato salad.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Please ignore the nut case in the background

Date: May 6, 2009, 2:30 p.m.
Place: my house--because I almost never get out of here
Occasion: The tiny tiger crawls for the first time

Bar the doors, 'cause they're all a-movin now!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

El poocho es muy repugnante!!!! (How's THAT for a cinco de mayo headline?)

Run. Run for your lives!

It's that time of year again. The time I dread. More than dental visits. More than OB/GYN appointments. More than the monthly call from my (very sweet and absolutely lovely) visiting supervisor--who has never ONCE chided me for my lack of visiting teaching zeal, but who is disappointed in me, nontheless.

It's time for the shedding of the chihuahuas.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. (Ten points for the correct movie identification!) We have a dog. She is a large, hairy specimen of her species. I'd say breed, but what that may be is any body's guess. (I'm betting on a German shepherd-rottweiler-yeti mix, but I'm no expert.) She is the subject of punch-lines--literally: she actually followed my aunt home one day. We were given the fabulous opportunity to adopt her, and we thought, naively, "Hey, free dog. Cool!" Idiots.

Tibby is, in fact, a very good dog--as far as untrained, affection-starved pooches go. She doesn't attempt to sleep on our bed. (She's deathly afraid of stairs.) She doesn't climb up on the couch. She is a very effective door-to-door salesman deterrent. She eats what we give her without complaint. (That's a better attitude than three of the four children in the house have.)

Alas, no pooch is perfect. Some dogs smell odd; some look odd; some are odd. Tibby is of the last variety. She is a keen hunter of home-baked goods, having eaten whole pans of cookies and brownies--and once a frosted cake--left on counters to cool. (Not that the cake was cooling, of course. It was left out accidentally. No matter--the effect was the same. As were the eventual results and the clean-up.) She has a thing for feet, burrowing under them in desperate and annoying attempts to get belly rubs. She is driven insane by the sound of the doorbell, by knocking on doors, by knocking on wood, by knuckles accidentally tapping on tables, and even by knuckles merely passing millimeters above hard-ish surfaces.

But the worst trait, as stated previously, is the shedding of the chihuahuas.

Tibby is a thick-coated dog--obviously one of those hardy Northern breeds whose fur enables them to survive in extreme cold. Slight problem: we live in the desert. Fur here is a problem. So, when the temperatures start warming into the 90s, Tibby starts to shed. Chihuahuas. Disgusting, grody, fuzzy-matted hairy chihuahuas. (Happily--if such a tern can be used appropriately here, this answers the question of where chiuahuas come from. They are, in fact, a Tibby by-product. like drool, or deposits on the lawn. Just in case you thought they were some sort of dog or something.)

The chihuahuas, knowing I don't smile kindly upon them, scuttle away as soon as they are cast into the world, taking refuge under the refrigerator, under the couch, and under beds. They come out at night to hunt dust bunnies and to exchange tales of survival and non-grooming tips. When dawn arrives, they scurry back to safety. Occasionally one fails to make it back to its lair, and I pounce on it, screaming my war-cry: "AIIIEEEEEEEEEE!!!! WHERE THE HECK DID THIS THING COME FROM???" sweeping it into oblivion. "DIE, YOU FILTHY THING! DIE!" Another day, another hunt, has begun.

I'm on the prowl. Take cover while you can.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jobe Joy

Saturday was a red-letter day for us: Jobe was baptized. This is BIG. I've never been the mom at one of these occasions before--the sister, the aunt, even the teaching missionary, but never the mom.

Let me tell you how it feels: un-tell-able. There's the disbelief that this child is really old enough --how on earth is he 8?! Then there's the absolute joy that he's prepared himself for this step. And just when you're about to burst from overly-mixed emotions, the actual baptism takes place, and it's overwhelmingly perfect. That's the only way to explain it: perfect. The Spirit testifies, the heart answers, and strange watery stuff starts leaking from eyes.

Moms. We're moist about things like that.

The baptizer and the baptizee. (The rose? An old Merkley tradition. But not as old as I am, since I didn't get one on my baptism day. I am the un-rosed one of legend.)

If it has to do with LDSs, it involves food, right?
Jobe wanted a blue cake, "because water looks blue. right?"
(It was originally a Barbie cake--but we eliminated the incriminating evidence. Lindy loves the incriminating evidence. It's a win-win sort of thing.)

"Aw, man. Two more years until I can have a baptism/Barbie cake."


Friday, May 1, 2009

Cereal Killer No More

The fridge is dead! Long live the fridge!

In Memoriam:
Clyde the Fridge, ?-2009

Devoted chiller and family message center, Clyde the Fridge passed today. He is survived by the Kydd family, who barely survived eating anything that came
from his innards.

Clyde was a good fridge, a humble fridge. Of unknown origins and of uncertain vintage, nevertheless he strove to do his duty, remaining cooler than room temperature almost eighty percent of the time.

He came into our lives on a hot August afternoon in 2000, when we purchased him at a used appliance store as part of a package deal. ($600 for Clyde and his siblings, Mabel Washingmachine and Randall Dryer.) He was enthusiastic, eager, and kept our milk nice and cold. He was a bargain hunter's friend.

He slowed down a bit in his later years. In 2004 his lower shelf cracked in two, and he had a replacement shelf inserted using the revolutionary plywood technique developed by Dr. Rob. In 2007 his motor was replaced after a summer of buzzing so loudly he interrupted conversations. In 2008 his door shelf bar was lost, and his grasp on bottles of ketchup and jelly became tenuous. During his last month he required weekly defrosting and was only kept alive by frequent administrations of the blow dryer and ice scoop.

We know he has gone to greener pastures--or at least a dump that someday may be covered over and become a pasture. His space may be filled, but his odor lives on.

And so, in with the new! Meet Mandy, a dandy newer (we're still cheap!) model, sporting a fashionable and eco-friendly bottom freezer, as well as clear-view drawers--no more games of "what's in drawer number three?" ! (It was usually something green, moldy, and unidentifiable.) Mandy comes to us via Craigslist and is already purring away in her corner. We do not expect food poisoning to be a factor in our future food-related events. An open house will be held in her (and Jobe's) honor tomorrow after Jobe's baptism. Cake will be served.

Just a little daub'll do ya!

It's Friday, the first day of May, and I am sooooo done with teaching for the year.

We love homeschooling--really!--it's just by this time of year we've exhausted my meager stock of patience, and the kids are antsy to do something else, and NO ONE WANTS TO DO SCHOOLWORK! (You want proof: it took Jobe five hours--FIVE HOURS!!!!!!!--to do 40 math problems yesterday. Don't even ask. Just send carbohydrate-free chocolate.)

So here's what I figure. I figure we've accomplished all we needed to do August through April, and let's make May a fun month, with all the stuff I wanted to do during the other months, but which the children made impossible by their dawdling. I mean, hey, Jobe has already learned to multiply multiple-digit numbers and to do long division, and Charlie is adding and subtracting like there's no tomorrow, and they both read incessantly. (They'll even pick up a history or a science book if I request it.) So we've done well. I hope.

Therefore, this month we'll be making paper, and using quill pens to write our history books. And we'll create a play and produce it. And we'll bake some alphabet cookies and see if Lindy can remember which one is "A" and which one is "B"--and there will be much rejoicing if she does.

Today's activity: watercolor self-portraits. (I still have supplies left over from college. And you wondered why I was too poor to eat during those years. Perhaps I overbought.)

Gosh, doesn't the garden look verdant. That's the magic of photography, folks! And , yes, that is my daughter in the viking hat.

"Just a little more red . . ."

The finished portraits. Suitable for hanging in the finest salons. Or at least filling frames in the entry. Mine is the one that looks like it was done by a precocious kindergartner. The boys were VERY impressed. I love an overly-appreciative audience, don't you?

So that's the plan: education through creative expression. (It sounds very official when put that way, no?) I'll keep you posted.