Friday, July 31, 2009

Don't cry for me, Marge and Tina!

Camp starts tomorrow--let the ritual eating of unpalatable snack foods begin!

I know you'll be bereft and listless without steady doses of my particular brand of inanity, so I won't leave you to wallow in misery. I'm going to share with you the secret to sounding like a total lunatic in just a few EZ steps. So, pull your computer chair closer, adjust your monitor to maximize your comfort, and away we go!

Mangle like Melia: a choose your own unpretentious blog adventure

Well folks, today I (insert completely trivial and utterly useless tidbit of information--it must have no relevance whatsoever to the human condition or current philosophical debate. Your object here is not so much to shine a light on human nature, as to really make people wish they had been born sensible hippos instead.) Seriously. You should have seen it. It was like (here's where you include a wildly hyperbolic comparison, hopefully cramming in as many hyphenated descriptives as possible. Be careful--make it flow! A little alliteration never hurts.)

You know, it was just like (this is the spot for a totally tangential reminiscence. It can't be at all relevant to the discussion at hand, but should probably contain the words, "folderol" and "metamorphic.")

No really, I'm just a (now, you need a completely honest, yet self-deprecating partial description of your character. Make it as obscure and highly colored as possible. And don't forget to refer to yourself as a "wack job" and/or a "nut noggin.")

Ha ha! Isn't life funny! (Sum things up with as many unnecessary adverbial phrases as possible. If at all possible, try for one totally superfluous word that you made up on the fly. Try to be as sincere in your usage of it as you can. Sell it to your readers. Make them question their own vocabulary. You get extra points if they hunt up their dictionaries to find a definition!)

(End here with a witty one-liner, just to keep people coming back for more--or at least to see if they've carried you away yet.)

See, you'll hardly miss me at all.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A letter to the part-time love of my life (not for impressionable readers!)

Amore mio,

How can I express the depths of my infinite sorrow at our soon-coming parting? I weep; I wail; I sigh; I despair. I will burn with the heat of ten thousand suns.To live apart from you is to feel myself melt with anguish. My soul quivers, aflame with the pain of being ripped from your cherished embrace.

Though we have existed apart before, it seemed a trivial thing, not to be feared or dwelt on. But those were different days, and now my need for you increases steadily. Having so long known your gentle touch, your ever-eager presence, your soothing hum, how can I turn to the sere bleakness that will be my life without you?

The cruel sun will beat upon me, and I will have no respite. The torrid night will close upon me, and I will have no relief. Bereft, I will swelter with desire for you. My parched lips will call your name. My heated dreams will be of you, and when I awake, I will moan with the agony of our separation.

You are my protector, my solace, my life-giver. You make my days possible and give me hope for a future filled with mutual care and affection. Gazing on your sturdy exterior, I have faith in your power and continued vigilance against the elements that would destroy me. Without you, I would be nothing--a mere puddle of pain, a smudge of sweat, a burning ember charred beyond recognition.

While I wander, others will surround me. They will be but pale imitations of you. Without your overpowering strength, without your miraculous abilities, they will be as nothing to me. No one can quell my burning as you do.

In five long days, I will return, and our steamy love affair will reignite, to continue always. Or at least until October, when I will hose the grime from your dusty exterior, and turn you off until the temperature reaches 100 again.

Beloved air-conditioner, until then, whirr a gentle song for me.

Ti amo,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Step this way

Yesterday I signed my daughter up for dance lessons. "How precious!" you may think. Yes, I'm sure it will be that. "She'll develop some skills and maybe show some aptitude," you may opine. Hopefully she will. "Every little girl wants to be a ballerina," you offer. Well, except those who want to be mutant space rangers. "You're hoping she's inherited some of your talent!" If I had ever had any talent, yes, I would pray fervently for it to have been passed on. These are not the reasons why my daughter will be taking dance lessons starting in two weeks.

She will be taking dance lessons because we have a basement.

Incomprehension is spreading itself across your face; I've dealt with that before. Explanation is on the way.

Most foundations here in the Beautiful Desert Southwest are laid flat on concrete slabs. We have no frost heave problems, so concrete foundations are economical and secure. (Very unlike the foundations in less blessed places, like Missouri, say, where they have to have crawl spaces to deal with ventilation and ground freeze . Also so the snakes and spiders will have safe habitats. We wouldn't want them crawling around in the cold, would we? Far better to keep them in a warm and homey place so we always know where to find them.) But my parents, being of a very different, and very Mormon, breed, decided that any house they built would have a basement--so necessary to store all the Young Women's, Elders' Quorum, and Primary stuff, you know. Oh, and for the thirty-year old wheat. (Sociological note: it may be possible to identify someone's religion based solely on their choice of foundations. It would make an interesting study for anybody on the verge of selecting a Senior Thesis topic. Go ahead and use it--just send me the results of your research so I can see if my hunch has been validated.)

When my parents built the basement-foundationed house in which I currently reside (please no snarky comments about people never leaving their comfort zone. I left it with joy in my heart and stars in my eighteen-year-old eyes, but ten years later the siren call of low mortgage payments lured me back. That and the fact that this is the only spot in town with no scorpions. Which was at the top of the home-requirements list), they covered the particle board subfloors with ceramic tile--ugly ceramic tile, it must be admitted. Ugly ceramic tile that cracked thirteen seconds after it was mortared in place, but that is neither here nor there. It was the 80s, and the choice of ugly ceramic tile it can be blamed on the general cultural malaise of the era. When the floors, which were not only non -attractive, but also set over a cavernous echo chamber and thus exceedingly good at carrying sound waves, were done and only starting to crack a bit in the more heavily-trafficked areas, they moved in with three daughters, ages 11-7.

It took my father exactly fourteen minutes to proclaim, "If I had wanted this much noise, I would have raised elephants! Are you young ladies or pachyderms?" (Well, I know he said something to that effect, but I was too shocked to believe it. Who was he calling ungraceful? I tripped over my feet fewer than thirty times per day! And then I figured he was talking about my sisters and started laughing too hard to get an exact quote, and was eventually too lazy to write it in my journal even if I had. So I'm working from an extremely faulty memory. You'll just have to take it on trust that there were elephants somewhere in his pronouncement.) The point was made: after paying for dance lessons for seven years, he expected us to make good his investment. No more heavy feet. Henceforth we would trip lightly through the house, swaying gently with the breeze as we tip-toed our way around. Being dutiful daughters--I was actually able to type that out while snorting emphatically! Ten points for me.--we accepted his word as law. Or at least as suggestion. (We were on the edge of teen-hood, after all.) Thenceforth, we wafted around corners, and glided about rooms. Our movements were studies in adolescent pachydermic grace. Unless we were ticked. (Which, as teenagers, was pretty much all the time.) Then we made the basement reverberate with the thunder of our ire. "You want elephants? I'll show you elephants!!!!! Take that, you tiles and shaking support beams!!!! Feel the weight of my wrath!!!!! I am half-grown woman, hear me roar!!!!! Metaphorically!!! Through my thudding feet!!!!!"

Fast forward twenty-some-odd years: I can still move about pretty silently. I've scared the blibbering jeebers out of my husband when he thought I was in a room far, far away, and then looked up, choking on his purloined cookie, to see me glaring at him. My kids think it's pretty nifty that I can jump and land without a sound except the shrieking curses of my knees. They know that when they can hear my tread, they're meant to, and doom is on its way. This whole step lightly thing is a very useful ability.

As for Lindy? Poor girl. She's the only young female in a house full of brothers. She needs the ability to move about gracefully and silently--for the pure-hearted purposes of scaring those boys half to death and collecting incriminating information. If dance lessons will give her a fighting chance, then I'm all for them. Bring on the tutus!

Monday, July 27, 2009

All that and a bag of chips

Four days to go until we head off to camp. I can feel the ulcer making its annual presence known. My dining room table is slowly emptying. (Good heavens! Who knew dust bunnies could live under two feet of stuff? Their standard habitat is under my daughter's bed.) I'm steadily checking things off the "to do" list. (Extra hot glue gun--because one is never enough while CAMPING!!!! Bought and binned. Extra-strength painkillers? Packed. Banners, multiple? Sewn, pressed, and placed carefully into protective receptacle.) Blue plastic RubberMaid containers are colonizing the front half of the house.

My one and only suitcase is out, and is crammed to the point of explosion. Or maybe spontaneous combustion will occur first. Whatever the ultra-extreme situation is for tortured luggage, my suitcase is there. And by "there" I mean lying on the counter by my stairs, bloated and strained, like a toddler who tried to compete in the annual Merkley "So you think you can eat Swedish meatballs" competition that other families refer to as "Christmas Eve." And this, you must know, is no wimpy little bag, bought on a whim for a quick getaway. My parents, when selecting this particular article, carefully considered my personality, my goals, and my propensity to consider everything within grabbing range as absolutely essential. They had seen the size of the purse I carried daily and took their luggage-purchasing cue from that. This is the amazing been-everywhere, done-everything, holds-anything Bag of Destiny. I was clutching this bag for dear life the first time I ever walked on foreign soil. (Amsterdam, 1997) It's the one I stuff for family vacations. (Disneyland, 2009) It has held all the supplies a baby can use for a week. It has never lost an article of clothing or busted a zipper despite the torture it has endured. I've had the thing for almost 13 years--far longer than I've had my husband, and almost as long as I've had the sneaking suspicion that if reincarnation were a true principle, then I was surely the re-embodiment of some obsessive-compulsive hobo. That or a cucumber. It's a toss-up.

When filling the suitcase I started working from the standard Camp packing list: clothing for five days, personal products, towel, journal, scriptures, UNO cards. That took up maybe half of the suitcase. Who were they kidding? This was too easy. Camp should be a test of one's powers of endurance, proof of one's abilities under atypical circumstances. Clearly, I would have think unconventionally. (In all honesty, when have I ever thought conventionally in the first place? This wasn't as much of a strain as it might seem. Normal is not my hometown, if you get my drift.) In desperation--because I cannot go to camp with a partially-filled chunk of luggage. It defied the laws of logic!--I started really considering what items I would not just need, but long for at camp. Therefore, the lesser portion of the packing is what everyone else brings, the rest of it is my personal spin on what is truly necessary for a fantastic camp experience. I'm almost certain that nobody in the world packs for camp like I do--but just to make sure, I'll give you the run-down, and you can tell me if this is excessive or not.

Into the bag have been placed:

Seven pairs of reading glasses, color-coordinated with outfits, and selected for daily themes. Included in the spectacle gallery are one pair of pick glitter-covered glasses; one pair of black polka dot glasses (for Sunday, when a really classic pair seems most appropriate); and one pair of tinted, Grace Kelly, 1960s-chic, white glasses, just to emphasize my hard-earned reputation of retro-hip modernity. The others are just your standard pink gingham, leopard print, and ethno-funky glasses.

Three carpenter's aprons; one printed with butterflies and flowers, one printed with the Sunday-appropriate black polka dots, one the standard Home Depot-issued orange-stenciled staple. Because I never have enough pockets at camp, and a girl needs a place for her folding fan, her camera, her spare toothbrush, and her emergency safety pins. Also her sixteen spare pens, with which to take notes on hands, because she can never remember to pack a pad of paper. Go figure.

Seventeen trial-size shampoos from the nice hotels my husband gets to stay in when he goes on work trips. Sure, he gets the nights on the town and the uninterrupted sleep, but I reap the reward in the form of itty-bitty bottles of magic beauty potion. Camp is more enjoyable if I can lather up my gnat-filled hair with something expensive and nice-smelling. And if you're going to bring something that good, you'd better have enough to share with everybody.

Two purple emery boards, even though I never use them at home (emery boards of any color, not just purple)--but, who knows, the inexplicable urge to file my nails might overcome me whilst I commune with nature, and that's not an urge that I'll be able to resist. Better prepared than trying to find an acceptable substitute amongst the flora and fauna.

One ball of yarn and four knitting needles, so I can use all my (fourteen minutes of) free time to start on my Christmas projects. (This year I'll be attempting stripey socks in cheerful colors.)

Two battery-operated Chinese lanterns for mood lighting. The mood may be uncontrolled lunacy, but it'll be more enjoyable if lighted well.

Star sequins. This is GIRLS' CAMP; there will be a time and a place for sequins. I will be ready for it.

Blue star-spangled ribbon, three yards, for which I have no intended purpose, but which may be useful in a ribbon-related emergency. Of said emergencies, I predict several for camp.

One pair of tap-dancing shoes. Because despite the dearth of hard-surfaced flooring at camp, I'm convinced that tap shoes will be not only helpful, but actually somehow needed. Tap dancing's not on the current certification-skills list, but mark my words, it will have its day in the woods.

Now tell me, doesn't that sound reasonable to you?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Things thought about while waiting for rolls to rise

  • More women need to donate their white dresses to DI. (Because there is NO WAY IN HECK that I want to see one there donated by a man.) I've cleared them out four times trying to accumulate enough white dresses for the Commitment Hike, and I'm still worried we won't have enough. Seriously, sisters, are your white dresses so classic that they never go out of style--or do you use them too infrequently to get sick of them? Search your hearts, friends. The answer to many of our problems could be solved by increased usage of those dresses!

  • Girls' Camp may last just five days, but the messes created in the pursuit of its success endure eternally. Mostly in my living and dining rooms. Please don't come to visit me anytime soon, I have a reputation to maintain.

  • Cute yellow T-shirts bought on sale may look fabulous for a while, but they will eventually pill something fierce under the arms. Another reason to keep the appendages close and movement limited. I'm not stiff, folks, just frugal.

  • If you can just stay awake until the kids fall asleep, the resulting quiet is almost worth the sleep deprivation.

  • A newly-mopped floor is worth the trouble. As long as I don't have to trouble every day. Becuase that'll never happen, reputation be hanged.

  • Rolls take too darn long to rise--especially when you consider that I'm going to bust the diet eating too many of them and will regret the entire process by this time tomorrow night.

  • I need to remember to keep my inner dialogue just that after ten p.m. if I want anyone to take me seriously. Nothing good comes of spilling one's guts after the late-night news.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A post from the bottom of my grubby little heart

Let me set up some previously overlooked--silly me!--rules for Date Night:

  • There should be no hairnets involved in Date Night.
  • Washing/drying dishes is not an acceptable date activity.
  • "Dressing up" should not mean changing in a cubicle into a white dress and shoes.

Mystified, aren't you? Wondering just what kind of a cheapskate husband I married; doubting that any marriage in such circumstances can long survive. Worry not, good people. There is, as always, a plausible, probable, if somewhat unexpected, explanation. (And Roberto isn't a cheapskate. That would be my assigned family role. When we were first married, we divided up the unpleasant chores. He would have to sing and dance in grocery stores and clean the toilets. I would have to be the grouchy cheapskate and do the laundry. The secret to a happy marriage is in the equitable sharing of household duties.)

We spent our Friday night--that evening of the Great Mormon Date Night, recommended so highly by teachers of the Family Relations course and Bishops everywhere--volunteering at the Temple. In the cafeteria. Wearing the aforementioned articles (Can any one tell me why I bothered to do my hair?????) and engaging in the Washing/Drying activity stated above. (Although, to be honest, there was also the washing of tables, the precision-stacking of dishes, and the Lysol-ing of all surfaces. I'm telling you, when the scriptures say the temple should be a house of cleanliness and order, it's taken very seriously, even in places where you think someone might be slightly tempted to allow things to slip just a little. After tonight, I'm thinking of issuing recommends for my home, just so certain people will take better care of it. Do you think it would impress the kids into cleaning up their [unholy in the extreme] messes?)

I think we may have misunderstood the "Date Night" concept. Sort of like my parents, whose dates always seem to be spent at Home Depot. Because there's nothing better for a marriage than to spend an romantic evening discussing features on a garbage disposal with a scruffy guy in an orange apron. (Gets me all goose-pimply just thinking about it. When Roberto and I married I suggested that we hold our reception at the Depot, because of the tender feelings it always evoked. That didn't go over well. But I still maintain it would have been a better predictor of our wedded future than would the cultural hall where we eventually did have our reception . For one thing, we spend way more time looking for plumbing-repair items than playing Church basketball.)

Anyway, tonight we traded our free evening--the only one we'll have in a long, long time--for a fat wad of Celestial Savings Bonds. (Legal tender for all spiritual blessings and rewards in heaven. Good for laying the foundations of one's celestial mansion.) Only problem: I'm actually pretty darn content right now. (Not to worry; I doubt this is a permanent condition. I'll be back to moaning and ranting soon enough.) I suppose I could stash them away and count on pulling them out when I need massive spiritual assistance, but I'm going to earn a lot more tomorrow and the week after next. (Girls' Camp is my key to spiritual enrichment. Like they say, "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven." Trust me, camp counts in its own highly enjoyable way. Anytime I have to share my one shower of the week with two spiders and a lost grasshopper, I expect to be well blessed for it.) Call me Melia Megablessings.

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to take this thick wallet of promised blessings and distribute them to people who could use them far better than I right now. I'm sure the heavenly accountants will understand and balance my account accordingly.

I send my promised extra love and strength to my friends who are in turmoil today.

For those people who are weary, I give you the physical and emotional strength I'm sure was coming my way.

The wisdom and knowledge intended for me can go instead to those who are seeking same.

My friends who are in emotional pain can expect a quick delivery of sunshine and optimism.

Any of you who are wondering how you'll make it through one more day can have my hope.

If there's anything I forgot, just ask that it be put on my account--I'll make sure it's covered. And then some day, when you spend the most anticipated evening of the week scrubbing pots and pan for the glory of heaven, you can pay me back.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apparently, procrastination makes me creative

A song for my sisters in (YW) service

With just twelve days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Pack up six big plastic bins

With just eleven days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Buy lots of RAID
and Pack up ten big plastic bins

With just ten days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Get yummy snack foods
Buy lots of RAID
and Pack up fifteen big plastic bins

With just nine days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Stock up on Advil
Get yummy snack foods
Buy lots of RAID
and Pack up twenty-one big plastic bins

With just eight days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Christmas tree lights!
Stock up on Advil
Get yummy snack foods
Buy lots of RAID
and Pack up twenty-eight big plastic bins
(oh, mercy me!)

With just seven days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Scriptures and journal
Christmas tree lights!!!
Stock up on Advil
Get yummy snack foods
Buy lots of RAID

and Pack up thirty-five big plastic bins
(I'm going nuts!)

With just six days til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Camera for blackmail
Scriptures and journal
Christmas tree lights!!!!!
Stock up on Advil
Get yummy snack foods
Buy lots of RAID
and Pack up forty-two big plastic bins
(dear gosh, what have I gotten into?!)

With just five days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
More toilet paper
Camera for blackmail
Scriptures and journal
Christmas tree lights!!!!!!!!!!
Stock up on Advil
Get yummy snack foods
Buy lots of RAID
and Pack up forty-nine big plastic bins
(what was I thinking?)

With just four days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Cute stationery :)
More toilet paper
Camera for blackmail
Scriptures and journal
(and extra pens for all the girls who will inevitably lose theirs)
Christmas tree lights!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Stock up on Advil
Get yummy snack foods
(not the kind I brought last year--they wouldn't eat it)
Buy lots of RAID
and Pack up fifty-six big plastic bins
(Oh. My. Gosh.)

With just three days 'til Girls' Camp,
my schedule said to me:
Foofy decorations
Cute stationery :)
More toilet paper
(or else we'll end up using paper towels like last year)
Camera for blackmail
(I'll get them back for that shot of me in my pj's if it's the last thing I do!)
Scriptures and journal
Christmas tree lights
(We need to buy some more!)
Stock up on Advil
(and Valium)
Get yummy snack foods
(or else the squirrels up there will starve)
Need more cans of RAID
and Pack up sixty-three big plastic bins
(I'm getting scared)

my schedule said to me,
Make armpit hair for skit night
Foofy decorations
Cute stationery :)
More toilet paper
(please, heaven, don't let us run out!)
Camera for blackmail
(my revenge will be sweet)
Scriptures and journal
(when will I find the time to use them?)
Christmas tree lights
(whaddya mean, "they aren't in stock this time of year"?)
Stock up on Advil
(twenty bottles should do it)
Get yummy snack food
Buy a case of RAID
and Pack up eighty-five big plastic bins
(my knees are weak)

On. The. Night. Before. Girls'. Camp,
(when I was praying for release)
my schedule said to me:
(it's your only hope)
Make armpit hair for skit night
(next year we're doing this classy!)
Foofy decorations
(I need more lace! and sequins! and glitter!)
Cute stationery
(Dear Sister Green, we're sorry that we lost your daughter on the hike . . .)
MORE toilet paper
(I refuse to use bark this time!)
Camera for blackmail
Scriptures and journal
(my lifeline to sanity)
(and glow sticks, too)
Start taking Advil
STOP EATING the snack food
Buy a case of RAID Take an exterminator
and Pack up ninety-four big plastic bins!
Slight problem: we leave in ten days.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The post where gravity and slippery lettuce leaves conspire to reveal the inner me

I dropped a bowl of mashed potatoes on the floor tonight. Riveting news, no? Stick with me anyway, since the elements of the incident and its resulting follow-up are windows into my psyche. Smudgy, dog-snot smeared, long-over-due-for-a-wash windows, but windows nonetheless. (The nice kind, with the wood spacer bars, and maybe a simple linen valance.)

I opened the fridge to get out a slice of cheese. Hey--it's 9:30, Sunday night, kids are in bed (sort of--you never can tell with mine), and naturally, I want cheese. Doesn't everybody under similar circumstances? Sadly, I can't say that I was peckish for some brie, or some Stilton, or something equally pedigreed. I actually wanted a slice of good old, processed-within-an-inch-of-its-unnatural-existence American cheese, which I intended to carefully place on my also way-too-processed hamburger bun. Haute cuisine, I have arrived!

Unfortunately the person who had closed the fridge before the cheese urge hit--that would be me, or this post would be about me blaming someone else instead of this verbiage I'm subjecting you to--had not done such a hot job of securing the bowl of potatoes. Secure as a way of describing their position is a bit of a stretch. Suicide jumpers on six-inch ledges are more secure than these potatoes were. They were precariously half-balanced on a pound-package of strawberries, propped up with some romaine lettuce leaves, which are known far and wide for their structural integrity, and which will make their way to the dinner table tomorrow. (See, I'm not totally kitchen-inept; my classy choice of lettuce proves it.) So when I yanked none too gently on the fridge door--because this puppy has a seal like an rusty old-time safe on it--the poor potatoes had no chance.

I'd like to say that everything slowed down and the potatoes' short life flashed before my eyes. Sadly, not so much; it was over too quickly for poetic reflection. The bowl landed with a low-class-sumo-wrestler's thud on the floor that I had mopped last night at 10:30, and which floor I had hoped against reality to keep semi-clean for another day. I barely had time to squeak out a half-decent semi-cuss before it was all over. (The half-decent semi-cuss, if you really need to know, started with d- and ended with -amnation. In retrospect, it was a poor choice--too many syllables to push out before the bowl hit. I need to find shorter semi-cusses.)

I once had a mission companion who--though being from Utah--was Jell-O-challenged. It never turned out for her: it was either too thin and unset (and made wonderful popsicles), or it was barely moistened and too thick in consistency. (In which cases it made highly useful, if colorful, spackle.) I used to laugh about it. Not anymore, because I have a similar problem. My particular ineptitude concerns mashed potatoes: I never make the right amount. If everybody is ravenous, then I make just enough to satisfy the baby, so long as he's not in the mood for potatoes. If everyone is heaping their plates with meatloaf and asparagus and pineapple--like tonight, yum!--then inevitably I have enough potatoes to feed the army of a decent-sized third world revolutionary army. I think the problem has to do with my unjustified disdain for measuring instruments. I have a well-stocked kitchen; there are quite a few--multiple sets of measuring spoons, lovely Pyrex measuring cups, even a nifty little food scale. All of which I refuse to use because I have the (admittedly inane) notion that cooking should be an intuitive, natural thing, and that my Swedish roots should instinctively guide me to the proper amounts without resorting to anything so artificial and arbitrary as teaspoons and quarter-cups. (Here's a handy household hint for you folks of Scandinavian heritage: never ever trust your Swedish roots in the kitchen. They have serious problems with portion control and size guesstimation.) So there were quite a few left-over helpings of potatoes available to besmear my semi-clean floor.

Are you still with me? Eyes glazing over yet? We're almost there--and I'll provide a handy summing up of the major points so you don't have to reread my rambling paragraphs. Namely:

1-Given the choice of a fridge stocked to the proverbial gills with fresh fruits and veggies, I will always choose the most unnatural thing contained therein. In a world of fresh peaches and juicy tomatoes, all I really want is the three-year-old Twinkie.
2-I have a sever case of "heck no, I don't need that ridiculous measuring cup--I've got a knack for this sort of thing"-itis, and the hips to prove it.
3-My real regret in all of this was that I chose my cuss poorly.

Here's the final bit of information you need to deduce what kind of person I really am:

I called the dog over to clean up the resulting splattery spuddy mess in her own detail-oriented way. And I was okay with the job she did.

Draw your own conclusions.

(The cheese on bun was delicious, by the way.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

The (not so)faithful correspondent returns

I'm back--did you miss me? Did you even notice? Shucks, people--sharpen those observation skills!

I have a good reason for letting the blog lapse for the past few days. And it isn't that Roberto was out of town, though he was--enjoying the excitement of the big city with its fancy-schmancy restaurants, its culture, its comfy hotel beds, while I was "enjoying" being the ultimate hermit mom. (We ate frozen pizza and I slept on the couch. The only culture I encountered was green and found in the back of the fridge. It may have once been a bowl of soup.) No, I blogged not because I was getting ready for camp.

Those of you who may be male or non-young women's organization-affiliated females may not fully understand the enormity of that last statement. You are perhaps picturing a slightly feminized version of Male camping. Male camping means taking a tent and some jerky into the wilderness. Pyromania is a recurring theme. Hygiene is disregarded to an extreme degree. Organization is minimal, and loud bodily noises are encouraged through a complicated rating system.

Young Women's camping is a whole 'nother planet. We start attending planning meetings in early January. A theme is carefully selected, and then the leaders blow through every penny of their budget finding just the right hair ribbons, bandannas, and poster board to express their excitement over the theme. Packing consists of 42 carefully labeled bins--each one containing precious cargo: skit costumes (6 bins. Except for the year when we made papier-mache giraffe heads; they required 10 bins all to themselves. The other costume articles took up 4 more bins and most of the back of a mini-van.), certification supplies (1 bin), journals and fancy pens (1 bin), banners (1 bin), Christmas tree lights (3 bins), etc. Songs are memorized. Skits are written and practiced to meet to Oscar-level standards. Endless conversations are held over whether the snipe costume for said skit should or should not include a feather boa . (Final decision: no boa, but the grass skirt is still under discussion.) Organization is the name of the game--from what ward cleans what area of the camp at what time of the day to which group of YCLs will make the cute signs for which bathroom. This is a serious thing, people. It only comes around once a year--we have to make it count!

Through all the preparations my part is relatively easy: I attend meetings and I sew. My machine and I bond, and my children forget what I look like without pins stuck to my clothes and tape-measure hung round my neck. I sew banners. I sew skit costumes. I sew doo-dads. I sew whatever needs to be sewn. Heck, I even sew what doesn't need to be sewn, and some things which almost certainly shouldn't be sewn.

Best of all--unless you ask my children, who have very little tolerance for anything which takes attention away from them--I get to sew costumes for the Commitment Hike. You've probably never heard of a Commitment Hike. It's an old stake tradition--going back to the days when it debuted during my fourth year of camp back when camp was held in Brother Brigham's backyard. Back then it really was a hike. Ward groups would set out, one by one at set intervals--no crowding, please!--and hike from station to station where scenes would be acted out, or stories told, or experiences shared. It was quite the experience. It was testimony building and tear-inducing . That's the way we like things at YW camp. A few years back, I have no idea when, since I wasn't living here then, the hike morphed into a play acted by the sixth-year YCLs--but no one got around to changing the name. So when I say I sew for our Commitment Hike, most people assume I'm sewing pink plaid shirts or embroidering puffy vests. Not so! Two years ago the Commitment Hike required a plethora of scripture-story costumes. We had a smashing Queen Esther, a sweet Mary, a pretty convincing Sarah. Last year I cranked out pioneer dresses and the aprons, bonnets, and accessories that went with them. This year . . . I'm not saying. The Hike is a closely guarded secret--we're all sworn to absolute secrecy on it.

So that's why I was incommunicado this week; I spent those four days taking advantage of my forced isolation from the world. I woke up each morning with a long list of things to finish, and by gum, I was going to get them done or die in the attempt. Cloth was washed, ironed, and cut. Patterns were altered and/or drafted. Seams were sewn. Buttons were attached. I yanked my serger out of its sulks and impressed it into service. I stitched from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day. The baby got familiar with the view from his playpen. The older children refound their housekeeping skills. No obstacle was too big to meet, no task too small to obsess over. I jammed needles into my fingers. I went cross-eyed threading machines. It was a heroic performance by all involved.

We leave for camp in 14 days. I hope I survive until then.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Now I regret taking the time stamp off my camera

Rob is out of town. It must be time to PARTAY! --especially if you're under five years old and your mother is exhausted.

This was the scene a few minutes ago (that was at 1:18 A.M., people! After hours of rocking, cajoling, and pleading. The gods of sleep are vengeful tonight.):

Ironically enough, this morning I put Anders in the t-shirt that says, "Party at my crib, 3 a.m." He is still wearing it. I have GOT to find him one that reads, "Somebody find me a pillow, I feel a nap coming on." I'd pay big bucks for that slogan on an article of his clothing.

If you feel the need to call me tomorrow, don't bother. I'll be zombified. But if you can wait until midnight, well then, I'll be up and running. These two will make sure.

Friday, July 10, 2009

This soap won't get you clean

Do you remember back in the 80s--if you can remember that far back, GOOD FOR YOU!, and if you can't, well, just humor me--and somewhere in every Young Women's lesson manual was the counsel to avoid soap operas (daytime dramas these days, although it seems to me like an awful lot of anytime dramas are soap-opera-ish)? The teachers would bear solemn witness that soap operas stole days from their lives, set them a bad example for decision-making, and led unsuspecting females down the path to immorality. Remember that? I was secretly fascinated with the things after every one of those lessons. (So much for the voice of warning.) And, micro-rebel that I was, every summer I would attempt to cultivate the soap opera habit.

It never worked, of course. Poor acting, unfathomable "plots", rotten dialogue, impenetrable relationships--who had the energy? Besides, my mom had a fool-proof plan for foiling would-be soaper-in-training: chores. That's right, housework kept me on the straight and narrow. (It also gave me dishpan hands at the tender age of twelve, but grouse I shall not.)

If any of you had a mom who was less chore-oriented than mine, or if you were better at inserting earphone plugs than I was, you may remember the opening voice-over to Days of Our Lives, and wouldn't have to look it up on Google like I did: "Like sands through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives. . . ." [cue cheesy music] Okay--I have a problem with that statement. Sands through an hourglass make it seem like there is an order, a sensible progression to these days of ours slipping silently and calmly away. Yet more proof that the purveyors of media are not like you and me. My life is nothing like sands through an hourglass. If I had an overly dramatic voice-over introduction to my day, it would be more like this:

"Like electrons in a quantum mechanics model, like mood swings in a teenager, like gassyness in a toddler, these are the days of Melia's life. . . ."
[cue extraordinarily cheesy music involving cowbells, oboes, slide whistles, and random animal sounds]

Since we've waded whole-heartedly into the soap opera theme, let's stick with it, 'K? For those of you who may have (intentionally or not) missed the first 10,000 or so episodes, here's a quick run down of the current day of my life. As per the great sop opera tradition there is neither rhyme, nor reason to the plotting. But there will be lots of overacting.

Scene one: Anders has a cold--again. The cold has made him more clingy than normal. Typically, he spends his day in exploring the house--pulling down books, charting unmapped hiding places, attempting to reach the secret man-cave know as "the boys' bathroom." Not so today. His mother must spend most of the day "enjoying" Mommy-and-Me wrestling--in which she lies down on the floor and allow Anders to maul and baby-handle her.

Such enforced floor-level contemplation leads her to all sorts of profound discoveries:
  1. The floor smells like dirty dog. The dog smells like corn chips.
  2. The dust bunnies under the couch have bad attitudes.
  3. Baby barf, when puddled in the small of one's back, feels nothing like an icy-hot patch.
  4. Sound carries quite well through non-carpeted floors. You can hear a four-year-old in the basement smack her older brother in the head with a baseball bat surprisingly clearly.
  5. Lying face down on a hard floor is a better indicator of body mass than a scale.
Lots of shots of pained resignation and repeated murmurs of "Don't gouge the eye, sweetie."

[It's a slow scene, but its importance and relevance to later events will become apparent soon.]

Scene two: [partial flash-back] The basement has become a disaster zone on a post-tsunami-effect scale. With thunder in their voices and overemotion in their gestures, the mother and father had previously warned the children in no uncertain terms that IT MUST BE CLEANED UP OR ELSE! The children who heard these words have no idea what that means. Bafflement ensues. That phrase seems to translate into child terms as "Go and re-enact the Battle of Gettysburg with cars, blocks, and puppets as your troops. Extra points for realistic gore." They faithfully follow their parents' apparent orders to the letter, with realistic gore being supplied by the afore-mentioned baseball smack to the head. Two points to Lindy.

Optional: the Battle Hymn of the Republic played over slo-mo shots of miniature cars hitting walls and plastic foods being ground underfoot.

Scene three: A mom, clearly at the end of her rope, covered in various baby-supplied bodily fluids, summons the from the basement the re-enacting miscreants to justice. One--hastily patched up in authentic Civil War fashion--bless them, they've done some research!--slumps wearily against the wall. The mother--with wrath and exasperation in her eyes, sentences all the toys to immediate banishment! Close-up of children weeping and wailing--optional shot of teeth-gnashing.

Closing voice-over: Has evil triumphed? Will the toys get a last-minute reprieve? (Don't bet the farm on it!) Can our heroine--that's me!--survive another day, or will she succumb to despair and untidiness?

Tune in for our next episode to find out.
[re-cue cheesy, cow bell and slide whistle music; roll credits.]

Yup, this is the episode that's going to lead me down the path to Baskin-Robbins.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

This post's title is after the second paragraph. Don't worry, you'll get there in a few seconds.

Okay--I may have gone a little overboard on the snark and venom yesterday. (My apologies to whatever poor overworked peon had to read it and, ultimately, attempt to placate me. But seriously, if you could memo the engineers and ask them to look for alternative employment--I and the rest of the sewing populace would be grateful.) So here's the deal: for one day only--I don't think I can sustain it any longer than that--I will be all sweetness and light. I will be full of gratitude and cheer, and whatever the other stuff is that the Relief Society teachers always say we should have. (It's been a while since I sat in on one of those lessons. Allyson, can you remind me what the third thing is? Thanks!) I will be positivity personified.

In that spirit, I bring you today's post:

Stuff about which I can say nice things

Doctors--specifically the one who saw my son at 8 a.m. today, and who didn't chide me for being an over-anxious hover-mom. Even when the "worryingly high temperature" my child was running turned out to be 98.9. And who doesn't mind that I named this same child after him, sort of.

Penicillin. Wonder Drug, Soother of Achy Ear-Drums, Bright-Pink Panacea in a Bottle. I nominate its discoverer (Dr. Alexander Fleming--I checked it on Google) for my personal Hall of Adoration. Also-ran-sort-of-thing I can say something nice about: the fact that my children, unlike me, are not allergic to it.

A Washing machine that is on its last, second-hand legs, but which at least moistens my clothing 90% of the time. And the other 10% of the time it makes nice thunk-a-thunk-a-thunk,etc. noises, so it at least sounds like something in the house is working. (Because, you know, I go around this house working, silently, all day. Go ahead, point out the obvious inaccuracies in that statement. I can't--I promised to be sweetness and light.)

Window-washing fluid--the cheap, homemade stuff. (1 tbsp rubbing alcohol and 2 cups water--10 cents or so per bottle. You can even write Windex on the bottle with magic marker if it'll make you feel more affluent.) Because no amount of explanation is going to convince the--how can I say this sweetly and lightly?--endearingly dedicated pooch that the cat next dog is not on the menu.

Windows, which keep the cat next door off the menu.

Floors that are impervious to puddles of dog drool produced by a large pooch dreaming of recipes with cat-next-door as a key ingredient.

Because I live in the beautiful Desert Southwest. And it's going to be 116 by Saturday.

The fact that I only made my sweetness-and-light promise for today, because by Saturday I'll have a doozy of a rant coming on.

Clotheslines, with which to take advantage of the infinite blessings of living in the beautiful Desert Southwest in the summer, where it'll be 116 by Saturday.

Thermometers, to tell us just exactly how hot it is; because "hot enough to melt the tan off your be-hind" isn't specific enough for the 6 o'clock news. (But don't I wish it were.)

specifically ones that are made semi-regularly, because in a home infested/inhabited by children they are rare and precious things. Extremely rare and precious.

(Oooh, perilously close to sarcasm there. I'd better step away from that edge, because it's a long way down, if you know what I mean. And I suspect that you do.)

Blog platforms which auto-save, so when I totally inadvertently hit a wrong key while attempting to shift a paragraph and instead delete THE ENTIRE THING mid-way through another semi-coherent post it's there after I pull my quivering, blubbering self off the floor and seek a sensible, non-sledge-hammer-related solution.

English teachers who taught me that the above is a run-on sentence and should never be allowed in well-thought-out writing.

English teachers who followed up their admonishment with the statement, "But it's going to happen sometimes--just don't be excessive about it."

The fact that I know I can ignore the second part of that statement now and no one can do a darned thing about it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Venting my spleen--whatever that really means

Two days ago I described my various traumas with sewing machines. Today it's the serger's turn.

The email I sent to the manufacturer says it all--well, most of it all. Before I sent it off, I did some heavy editing to remove the swearing and the references to irregular parentage. (Yes, this is the real email--although I was gibbering and foaming at the mouth so badly that I misspelled several words. I doubt they noticed.)

I have waited several years to purchase a serger. I sew frequently, and at a proficient level. I have a degree in clothing and textiles. I am not a novice. With those facts in mind, please consider that my opinions on your product are not those of a neophyte or an unskilled individual.

I am extremely disappointed in this serger. I purchased it with the expectation that it would make my sewing easier and more enjoyable. It has created quite the opposite result. This serger has brought my sewing process to a grinding halt. Any serger which requires one hour of rethreading and testing before sewing a two-inch seam is not worth the trouble of taking it out of the box. I have spent approximately four hours sewing with this serger and sixteen hours rethreading it. Keep in mind that I have used sergers in the past. This is not my first time using this type of machine. I have read and reread the manual. I have followed every step and hint given in the manual (despite writing and illustrations that are complete rubbish and of no help whatsoever), and the machine refuses to stay threaded. It is unreliable, inconsistent, and frustrating beyond belief to use.

Please inform you engineers that they are incompetent.

A former customer

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Color me crazy (or maybe: Color? Me crazy!--it works both ways)

Do you have technical difficulties with the boxes on official identification forms that ask for hair color? That one always baffled me. In my defense, I am a reasonably intelligent individual, but some things are beyond human ken--like just what kind of answer they want. Do they want the color I was born with, the color it is now, or the color of the last treatment I applied? Do they want documentary proof? Do I have to prove the veracity of my color? Would doing so hurt? It'd be much simpler if they asked for the relative density of a nitrogen cloud at absolute zero. (That question has almost as much application to my driving ability as hair color does.) That I could at least look up and give a definite answer to--and seem smart and scientific as a bonus. The hair color thing, though--that's a stumper.

For years it was easy: blond--very, very blond. After the overly-extended bald period of my life (which my mom swears lasted until I was two--but I've seen photos, and it couldn't have lasted past 20 months--22, tops) I developed the finest, whitest, thinnest cap of hair seen on this planet. The family term for this follicular affliction was "halo hair"--I guess they thought "lint on a lollipop hair" would have been detrimental to my infant self-esteem. Fortunately, I grew out of that stage just before kindergarten. (Which was a blessing, because by then they had fastened thick glasses on my face, and I couldn't have handled the combined mortification of being the weird fuzzy girl and the funny-looking kid with glasses. Although, now that I think about it, it might have cut down on the taunts while the other kids blew their cranial circuits deciding which rhyme to tease me with.) For the next six or so years I went through the very blond, very straight, very cow-licked stage of hair-development. There are very few pictures from that part of my life.

About the time I hit junior high--glory be!!!--my hair started to darken up and exhibited a certain stringy quality. As if puberty, adolescence, and an absolute lack of social skill weren't enough to keep me from a total confidence breakdown.

I should explain here that I did my time in junior high during the 80s--the early part of that decade. Nobody had good hair, but most of them didn't realize it. There were the 70s holdovers, with their over-lacquered Farah Fawcett feathers. There were the protopunks. There were the chicks with the "large and in charge" hair--the responsible parties for at least 10% of the ozone-depletion scare. Me? I fell into a small subset of the embryonic very-early grunge movement (we had no idea that we were on the cutting edge of hip--back then it was just attributed to poor hygiene, and sadly, most of us outgrew it before we could use it to our advantage): limp and lifeless. Style we of that dark era may have lacked, but color was far more important. Blond was best--flirty, sassy, cheerleader-quality. Dark was desirable--intelligent-looking, witty, exotic. Vaguely indefinable blondish-but-sort-of-green-under-institutional-fluorescents color was nowhere on the scale of junior high acceptability.

By high school, I had developed hair schizophrenia: short and (accidentally--no joke!) dyed red one semester, long and almost natural the next. ( I had a brief fling with that stuff that was supposed to lighten your hair while you were in the sun--probably not the best color-altering option for someone who burns under 60-watt bulbs.) I spent a month teaching myself to French-braid my own hair just to get it mostly hidden. My hair was no longer blond in the classical sense--that sense being "like the color of well-ripened wheat" or even "vaguely honey-hued." I called it blond, but like most of my high school experience it was all a bluff. I knew my hair was less honey-colored and more the shade of botulism-infused pork and beans. But admitting that would have required infinitely more self-esteem than I had. (And can you blame me? Who states something like that in high school? My goodness, we were all seething masses of insecurity and sensitivity at that point. No one was going to admit to anything other than indifference!)

In college I discovered that even good girls can hit the bottle [of hair coloring]. I tried every shade of red--from deep auburn to slightly strawberry. No one knew how to describe me because they never knew what I would look like on any given day. If I had done the job the previous night I might look like an over-ripe eggplant. And if I was currently cash-free, I might look like a long-haired chihuahua with mange. (Perhaps my professors took pity on me and inflated my grades, figuring that anybody with hair color that bad needed something to keep them from despair. I'm okay with that.)

My color epiphany came on my mission. (One of those blessing of missionary work rarely admitted when speaking in church.) I served five months on the Navajo Reservation, in a trailer which was located in the center of the rodent cosmos. One day I noticed a strange funk wafting from the couch--the very cushion, in fact!--where I typically sat to study. My former mission companion tells the story better, but the upshot of it was that the funk was emanating from a squashed mouse. That's not the worst part, so stop gagging. The worst part was the realization that my hair and the fur of the flattened, slightly oozing mouse were the same color! That, my friend, is not a realization to build confidence on.

There is no box on the driver's license form for "rodent colored" hair. No one goes on TV and admits they take a small rodent for their colorist to match. There are no boxes of L'Oreal labeled "Rongeur Brun." (Go ahead, use Google Translate--I'll still be here when you're done.) But there it is: my hair was the color of furry disease-carrying pests. (Some would argue that I am a furry, disease-carrying pest, but they would be exaggerating.) I lived with this knowledge long enough to learn to laugh at it--sort of a follicle-related coping mechanism--but the laughs were a pale imitation of true mirth.

Still, you know, life has a way of evening things out eventually. I may have lived 37 years with really bad hair, but my time is coming. My son--the one with the majority of the future inheritance--showed me with a picture he had colored in Primary the other day. "That's Dad," he explained, "that's me, that's Lindy, and that's you, Mom." He had given me red hair--"Because that's what you have, Mom." Ha! I knew he was a genius. And from now on, if anyone asks what color my hair is, I know. My hair is red; my son said so. It's easier than explaining the mouse thing again.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The sewing machine suicides

I never intended to pray to the iron idol--I'd had the scriptures quoted to me enough times. The meaning was very clear in those passages: don't rely on false gods to save you or to provide your eternal happiness. I must have gone wrong in the early, formative years.

My first sewing experience was with my mother's 50-year-old Singer. That machine weighed a ton; it had exactly one stitch type (straight--zigzag hadn't been invented yet); and it gave me a headache every time I went to thread it. It still does: the dratted thing refuses to die. (It will, however accept expensive tension repairs, light-bulb replacements, and quarts of sewing machine oil. It's the mechanical equivalent of a crabby miser who lingers at death's door for years, all the time enjoying the fun of making his downtrodden heirs miserable.) I was ten, and my mother had determined it was time for me to learn the feminine art of sewing. Or maybe I just complained too much about never having something new to wear. Whichever. She picked out the pattern--the fewest possible seams, no zipper, no buttons; she had realistic expectations of my aptitude. I chose the fabric--the brightest sock-you-in-the-eye yellow with strawberries I could find. We set to work. She demontrated the cutting, I tried my hand at it. She bought more fabric and cut it out herself. She showed me how to sew a seam. I copied her movements. She taught me how to unpick the seam I had sewn. The pattern (ye gads! terrible yet unintended pun!) of my sewing life had been set. I still have that dress folded carefully in my cedar chest, as a reminder of how far one can go astray even while using a pattern.

My next project, using the same machine, was required for a Home Ec grade. I received a D-.

I figured that nowhere in the rulebook of life did it state that Melia had to sew. All the sewing machines in the land breathed gratefully.

I went to college with a firm declaration of majoring in International Relations. I was going to bring peace to the world and enjoy the diplomatic life. My clothes would be expensively made by someone else. That was the plan. Until I learned a little something--almost enough for a D--about Economics, which was my downfall. I needed a new major. Flipping through the university catalog, I saw a class that sounded good--Costume History. Practically a guaranteed A, since I had been studying my mom's costume history textbook for years. (Three years later I earned a C+ in the class. It's a long story.) On the frail foundation of that one course requirement I selected my major: Theatrical Costume Design. I figured I would get some good, stimulating challenges, and there weren't too many sewing classes required.

The writers of university catalogs should be spanked.

I started sewing in classes the very next semester, and wasn't allowed to graduate until my fingers were callused, my eyes were squinty, and my posture was permanently ruined. Each time I turned in an article I had sewn, my teachers would wince, close their eyes--I swear they all went to inservice training for this maneuver--and say kindly, "You know, your creative ability exceeds your sewing aptitude." I persisted regardless of professorial pain. I sewed until 3 a.m. on graduation morning and had to sign a contract pledging myself to sewing my own wedding dress, blessing clothes for all my (then future) children, and prom dresses for at least 13 needy young women.

Along the way I acquired my first sewing machine. I received it from my mother, who had been given the beast five years before, and who had refused to touch it. Now I knew why. The tension was permanently off-kilter, the internal computer was programmed by a mad scientist, and the thing weighed 42 tons. On the plus side, I was able to take it in to the Physical Education department and receive a Weight-Training grade for lugging it around campus. Somehow, we came to an agreement and it--unwillingly, to be honest!--sewed all of my projects (some of which are still in wearable shape), all of my "I'm so sick of my clothes and tomorrow is Sunday" dresses, and some of the clothes I took on my mission. One week after I graduated, while I was in the middle of a tricky seam, it died. Out of sheer cussedness, I assume.

My second machine was bought soon after because I was getting married and needed to fulfill the terms of my graduation contract. It was bought for $99 and the price reflected the absence of anything resembling guts. It spluttered when I sewed chiffon, for Pete's sake. I had to drag thin cotton through its works, muttering curses under my breath. None of my children have hand-me-down homemade jeans, because fabric that thick would have spelled instant flaming death for my machine. It finally gave up the ghost while on my husband's workshop operating table. Its last whirrs were feeble and relieved. "At least she'll never flog me with a zipper again," it whispered in its last moments.

I searched the Internet for machine recommendations. The next victim would be sturdy and strong, capable of tearing through upholstery material, ripping through denim, and still delicate enough to make sweet Easter dresses. I chose and bought one, and loved it. I praised it to the skies. It had a self-threading mechanism! It had stretch stitch! It could sew anything! It gave up the ghost after 18 months! The repair man called it a bent bobbin spindle. I still maintain it died of jealousy. I had bought a serger the week before, and my poor Janome couldn't handle the division of affection.

I opened up my new machine's box today. I have costumes to make and banners to sew. Camp is coming up and my machine and I will become very close. My husband is already considering taking out a life-insurance policy on it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

I am an American

I'm going to be totally serious here--no snark, no curiously inverted sentences, no hyperbole. Just honesty. If you tuned in to be amused, read the earlier posts--I'll be back with my own brand of lunacy later. Promise.

Here's the thing: I really love America. Tomorrow's the Fourth, and I know everyone and the cowboy next to them will be writing their opinions and perceptions of this country, and so it's probably a stale topic already. So what? I have emotions, and I will not be stifled! (Real quote from a real argument--you fill in the cast of characters and the scene.)

My husband, il Roberto, is not an American. (gasp!) He hails from the frozen northlands. He loves America almost as much as I do, though. Yes, he sings O, Canada on Canada Day, and cheers occasionally for the Canadian hockey team during the Olympics, but that's really just to set a good example for the kids. We met in Ukraine, outside the airport. We've done a decent amount of travelling together, in and out of the country. There have been places where I would gladly plunk my rear down and stay for a few years. He and I have talked about moving to foreign places for many years now. No luck yet. (If anyone knows of a really good job in Sweden, let us know!) But even if we did get such an amazing opportunity, we wouln't stay there forever. We couldn't. This is our home--everything else is just adventure and distraction for us.

I know it's not cool to be respectful of the Founding Fathers. I've done the reading; I've heard the scuttlebutt. They weren't perfect. Again, So What? Who's perfect? They were determined, though. And they were courageous. Who in their right mind takes on the superpower of the day and says, "Hey, you know what? You guys are a bunch of morons, and we're just going to go our own way, thank you very much." Think about it! No standing army, no navy, no centuries-old way of organizing these things, and they still did it! And they started without knowing if they would win or if they would die the next week. And they won! How incredible. And to go from there to writing the most innovative governmental document ever? WOW--were they cool. (And don't even get me started on their wives. You have no idea how much I respect Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison, and all the others, who said, "No, honey, I'll be fine taking care of everything. Just make sure you do a good job and don't catch malaria there in Philadelphia." Although, to be strictly accurate, Dolley didn't marry James Madison until after the Constitutional Convention. And John Adams helped with the Declaration of Independence, but was our ambassador to England during the summer of 1787. Just some helpful facts you may need if you're ever on Jeopardy or something.)

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to watch 1776--the musical (which is not at all historically accurate, but which I love anyway. I'll try to ignore the blatantly anachronistic waltzing scene), and that BYU production that we had to watch for American Heritage on the writing of the Constitution. And I'm going to shout historical facts at my kids and possibly the dog--because everyone should have a working knowledge of the country in which they reside. And I'm going to bawl my eyes out just for the sheer joy and thankfulness of getting to live here. You can join me, if you wish. There'll be space on the couch. Bring your own hanky.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Helpful mothering tips your mom couldn't share with you because she was laughing too hard when you asked

Our topic today: bathing the bouncing baby boy in no more than fifty-seven EZ steps

1) Fill bath with scant 1/4 inch water--any more than that is asking for trouble.
2) Add assorted toys: ducky, measuring cups, teething ring, shoes.
3) Take out shoes that the four-year-old helpfully added to the toys.
4) Lay out supplies: towels (2--one for baby, one for you), washcloth, soap, lotion, wet wipes, broom, mop.
5) Take baby into bathroom.
6) Shoo out helpful four-year-old and inquisitive dog.
7) Brush Cheerios off baby's clothes, diaper, face, hair, hands.
8) Invite helpful dog back into bathroom to take care of Cheerios mess.
9) Shoo out inquisitive four-year-old.
10) Take off baby's pj's.
11) Run to get camera for cute shot of baby stuck inside his pj's.
12) Miss cute shot of baby stuck inside pj's, but get shot of frustrated baby crying his curly head off because his arms are stuck.
13) Brush off Cheerios stuck to chest and upper arms.
14-15) Repeat steps 8-9.
16) Take off baby's diaper.
17) Hastily re-apply diaper when fragrant surprise is found lurking therein.
18) Grab wet wipes.
19) Repeat step 16.
20) Clean up baby.
21) Dispose of diaper.
22) Fend off commentary on stinkiness of discarded diaper from helpful four-year-old who has re-entered bathroom.
23) Repeat step 9
24) Place baby gently in water.
25) Hold baby down on his tush to discourage standing up in tub.
26) Desperately attempt with toys to distract baby from standing up .
27) Demonstrate chewing on plastic duck to give baby the general idea of the fun he can have if he doesn't stand up in the tub.
28) Repeat step 27 with each of the toys in the tub.
29) Accept gracefully the fact that the baby would rather gnaw on the wet shoe.
30) Convince self that the two-second dunking of the shoe has washed off any germs accumulated through three previous wearers.
31) Fill measuring cup quickly and dump on baby's head.
32) Wrestle measuring cup away from baby.
33) Repeat steps 31-32 five times.
34) Pour small amount of baby shampoo into palm.
35) Curse quietly when too much dumps out.
36) Add baby shampoo to mental shopping list.
37) Quickly soap down baby, getting in all nooks and crannies. Especially the crannies.
38) Gently dissuade baby from standing up in the tub.
39) Use washcloth to gently wipe baby's face.
40) Attempt to dissuade now crying baby from standing up in the tub.
41) Repeat steps 31-32 five times.
42) Place towel #1 on lap.
43) Remove violently squirming baby from tub and place on towel in lap.
44) Catch baby after he rolls off lap, and repeat last half of step 43.
45) Quickly towel down baby while repeating step 44.
46) Apply diaper while fending off suggestions from helpful four-year-old.
47) Reapply diaper that only covered one cheek due to distraction from helpful four-year-old.
48) Repeat steps 34-36, substituting baby lotion for baby shampoo.
49) Attempt to wrestle baby into clean outfit.
50) Catch escaped baby.
51) Repeat step 49, this time with leg across baby's chest to hold the squirmer down.
52) Implore helpful four-year-old to distract baby while step 49 is repeated yet again.
53) Release baby back into freedom.
54) Apply towel #2 to self.
55) Survey damage to bathroom.
56) Apply broom and mop to surveyed damage.
57) Make mental note to pawn this "fun" off on husband tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Questions of the Day

Why--Oh, WHY--was there a caterpillar in the pile of dirty sheets this morning?

It was not one of those cute, furry, tiny-teddy-bear-with-multiple-legs caterpillars, the kind that pops up in the cartoons that seemed so hilarious when I was a kid, but which now are just annoying. It was fat, green, and decidedly hairless--less teddy bear than nasal discharge. And it was mixed in with the pile there on the laundry room floor.

At first I thought it was a carpet shred--an oddly-shaped, lime-green carpet shred. Which would have been plausible in a house with light green shag carpet. We do not have such a house.

I bent down to get a closer look. (One of the beneficial aspects of slowly losing one's sight is that it forces one into unplanned and healthful movements, like stooping to see anything farther away than one's chin. It's a simple exercise, and I enjoy the benefits of frequent reps throughout the day.) When my eyes reached waist level, I discarded the carpet shred theory, and began to hypothesize on the possibility of it being a cucumber slice--such as one eaten out decoratively by a four-year-old learning her letters. As my eyes finally made it down to knee level, the poor thing gave a wiggle, and my eyes rocketed upward, eventually reaching basketball hoop level, in that type of involuntary self-defense reaction that all moms develop at some point. I had (foolishly, for someone who lives with multiple sons) not considered the possibility that the green squiggle on the white sheet might be alive.

The way I see it, there are two probable explanations. The first is that this was no ordinary caterpillar, but a heroic invertebrate adventurer, seeking his fame and fortune--whatever that might translate to in caterpillar terms. (The largest leaf at the caterpillar conventions? A very small and very slow parade? A tiny but posh cocoon mansion? I hope it's good, because any bug that risks entering my house deserves rich rewards for his daring, if it survives.) If that's the case, I wish him well in his future travels, as long as they are conducted outside my home.

I'm banking on a far more likely possibility: the boys/girl/dog were/was playing with mud/dirt/sticks/rocks and unknowingly brought the thing into the house along with dusty foot/paw prints and about two tons of dirt and assorted souvenirs. I can imagine that in the chaos that is the boys' room, a hitch-hiking caterpillar might find himself a cozy, unnoticed spot. But this begs my second question:
Just how long was that thing inhabiting my children's sleeping space?

Which, of course, leads naturally to my third question:
What exactly do my children hear when I say "Clean up your room?"

Whoever said motherhood was endlessly educational was a real joker.