Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shameless Commercial Plug

Some people are not meant to take things easy. (Not me, obviously. I can lounge with the best of them if I have to.) My dad is one of those people. He tried retirement, and found that it only led to endless trips to Home Depot and micromanaging the organization of my mom's kitchen spices. Not a pretty situation.

Now he's got a new gig:

Pretty fabulous, no? That's my dad. He came out of retirement to give the masses what they want: super-chilled ice ream and a whole lotta smoke.

I now return you to your regular programming.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A jingle for my WC

(To the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey"/"On Top of Spaghetti", depending upon your generation or musical background)

I want a new bath--room,

not covered in pee,

with shiny clean fixtures,

and a shower for me.

I need a new bath--room;

this one is too small.

If I get much fatter,

I'll push out through the wall.

I've looked at new ti--le,

and pedestal sinks.

But am I the only,

for whom brown is the stinks?

I'm dreaming of whi--ite,

and azure tones, too.

But all of the ti--le,

looks like new baby poo.

Oh Angel of bath--rooms,

and mommies who scrub,

please rip up the flooring,

and blow up the tub.

I've got to re--mo--del,

and freshen the space.

Because if I don't

it may doom the whole race.

So if you like ti--ling,

and plumbing a line,

Give me a sweet phone call,

and my gratitude's thine.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Adventures with Sunny

You know how it is with most experiences--you head into them with excitement and enthusiasm, only to discover quite soon thereafter that things aren't quite as good as you had hoped. (As examples I can offer: High School, possessing a driver's license, owning any pet that sheds, drools, shreds, or requires feeding, and motherhood--which is very nice on the whole, but a whole bag of dried beans some days.) And with each new experience, you think, "Hey, this will be fabulous, and it will always be wonderful and exciting, and I will love every minute of it!" And then reality hits. Every time.

Except for this time. Because having Sunny in our family is fabulous every day. Seriously--who knew it would be so great to have a person in the home who can carry on an intelligent, non-argumentative, non-fourth-grade humor conversation? Who knew how amazingly refreshing it would be to have someone here who is willing to take a bath without protracted negotiations? How amazing is it to have someone polite and kind and positive around this place? This is soooooo much better than I imagined it. Thank you Sunny and parents--you have made my month.

One of the not-quite-fringe benefits is that we now have an excuse--no, a responsibility!--to explore the state and its wonders, even though we've pretty much sat on our tushes for the previous several years, procrastinating the heck out of in-state travel. ("The Grand Canyon? It's been there for millions of years--it ain't going anywhere soon. We'll catch it later.")

So, now we go places. (And since I was raised in a family that thought monthly road trips were essential to salvation, this is what I've always thought family life was supposed to be like.)

We've gone canoeing up on the Rim:

We've visited Montezuma Castle:

(Side note: there are a LOT of German tourists at Montezuma Castle. A Lot. I would like to take this moment to inform all those tourists that not all Americans are stupid hicks. Some of us even speak civilized languages other than our own. And if you're going to be so rude as to make fun of the American mom who has spent all her money on taking care of her children, and thus has none left over for trendy or even acceptable clothes, and thus must wear stripey pink pants that no clown would be seen in


then for heaven's sake, don't compare her to a tacky chameleon--because she understands you and will give you the glare of your life, you snobby, stupid, snooty assumer.) (BTW, I don't think your t-shirt was all that tasteful, either. So there.)

We visited--and thoroughly enjoyed--Montezuma Well:

And we even survived the traffic coming home. Thanks, Sunny!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This goes out to . . .

Do you remember the '80s? Seriously? Wow, you must be as old as I am. Sorry about that.

Anyway, the '80s were big on dedication nights on the radio. (If you don't remember the '80s, a radio is an old-fashioned device for getting music to your ears. Sort of like an MP3 player, but with an electrical cord, and the programming was done for you by guys in loud plaid suits and with no discernible taste. Just a little archeo-techno info for your more enlightened generation.) Dedication nights were entire evenings set aside so those bold/crazy enough to call in could proclaim their love/lust publicly and forever immortalize the object of their love/stalking in one song--thereby ruining certain classic tunes for those who found themselves dedicated to by someone they couldn't stand in the first place, "totally loved forever" but then later broke up with, or eventually had to get a restraining order against. (Il Roberto has a great story about dedication nights up at Ricks College [of Beauty and Automotive Repair]--sorry, private joke! Ask him sometime about it. Just be prepared to groan.) I used to listen to those dedications--knowing full well nobody ever was going to be daft enough to put themselves on the radio to dedicate "Forever Young" to me. (It seemed like a tragedy then, but now it's a major relief. How times and perceptions change.)

Amazingly (and completely unnecessarily), the '80s are making a MAJOR resurgence--hideous clothes everywhere!--so I thought I'd bring back the art of the dedication, but update it a bit for the digital generation. Thus, my dedications are not lame songs on an archaic analog technology, but fabulous full-color videos on your computer screen.


For el Jefe:

For Maya:

For Gina:

For Kate:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What are you doing at 10:14 p.m.? Are you heating milk to make yogurt? 'Cause I am, and if you are, too, we could be buddies in lunacy.

I've been waiting now for an eternity, it seems. It takes a while for the milk to reach 180 degrees--45 minutes so far, because I really hate it when the milk scorches, so I do this s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y--and then it takes a double eternity for it to cool to 115 degrees before I can add the culture. (Hey, if something has to be 115 degrees before it can have culture, then the Beautiful Desert Southwest is the best-cultured place on earth! Just a little desert humor for you there. Very little.) So I'm looking at a long sit here in front of the computer while the seconds tick by.

I wasn't planning on doing the eternity thing tonight. I was planning to read a little--some thing nice and literarily murderous, nothing too serious--but then I read something that struck the fear of breakfast into me: the weekly meal menu.

Somehow I had developed the insane notion that making blueberry coffee cake--and, yes, I know I will have to explain to my kids, again, that this particular carb-fest does not violate the Word of Wisdom. It just shatters the hope for balanced blood sugar.--for our morning meal tomorrow. Great idea. As long as someone else does the baking. But when I ask if there are any volunteers to take on the task, only the crickets respond. So it's me mixing up the batter and greasing the pans. And stupid me, I chose a recipe that sounded yummy. Which wouldn't be too bad, except that I'm sure most of the yumminess is due to the inclusion of sour cream in the batter. And--I'm sure I've mentioned this before--I'm cheap. And sour cream is expensive. So I substitute plain yogurt for sour cream. And I'm too cheap to buy yogurt. So here I sit, waiting for the stupid milk to come down off its frigid high horse and just warm up a little, darn it! Cause and effect really stinks at this moment.

Sigh. 175 degrees. Five more to go.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whew--the first semi-week of school is nearly over. (And, boy, doesn't that sentence reveal how much of a wimp I am? Whining after only two days of school. How do I survive whole months? That, friends, is the ultimate mystery of the universe!) We've made it through multiple Meet-the-Teachers (kids in three different schools!!!!!!!!), a multi-day high school registration experience (a BIG Thank You to the helpful staff at, dare I admit it?, Mesa High), and the truly frightening thrill of sending my teeny-tiny kindergartner off to school in a big yellow school bus. Again I say with complete sincerity, "Whew!"

And have I mentioned that it has been a little warm lately--just to add to the overall experience?

I've had a lot on my plate lately (can't seem to kick that anxiety eating habit. Some day they'll make me into one of those scare-you-straight PSAs: "This is you. This is you on anxiety-induced nachos. Any questions?"), but what keeps coming to me--in the moments when I can take a second to actually think lucidly--is that courage is a rare and wonderful thing. I saw it in the child who thinks she's in charge, who was determined to ride the bus--the only one on at the first stop. She was one weensy morsel of humanity in all that diesel-powered empty space headed into the unknown. Her mom, sad to say, was not nearly so courageous and spent most of the day praying no one messed with her daughter, 'cause then she'd have to go all momma-bear on someone, and I've never had to do that before.

Another one of the people who has the ability to ignore the fear is our foreign exchange student, Sunny. How many of you would have been willing to leave your home country and language for a full school year in high school, to travel half-way round the globe to live with a family you'd never met, to go to a school where no one understands what you're saying when you stub your toe, where you know no one? Strange place. Strange food. Strange(r than some) family. There's no way I could have done it: it takes guts, and I break a cold sweat just contemplating calling people I know on the phone. But this sweetie dared to leave everything normal behind, with only two suitcases of familiarity in tow. She took a chance on adventure and experience--she risked a lot with no guarantee of anything. Plus, she does it with a smile! Wow. I am totally bowled over. (And she hasn't even cried over the fact that we live in God's own toaster oven. Guts, I tell you)

She's amazing. And when I grow up I want to be like her.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Announcements: New Arrival to the Kydd Family!!!!!!!

(No, I did not have a baby, am not pregnant, and do not intend to be without an act of God.)

The Kydd Family--of which I am a founding member--is pleased to announce the imminent arrival--next Saturday, to be exact--of a healthy, happy fifteen-year-old girl. We're welcoming an exchange student into our home. Friends, as a way to expand one's family, this is definitely the way to do it--no stretch marks, no morning sickness, no colic, no teething. The hard work has already been done. And we are the lucky people who get to share the next year of her life. Yeah! ! !

In preparation for the exciting event, our house has been turned topsy turvy. Well, strictly speaking, that isn't quite true. Our house was already semi-topsy turvy as we prepared to change every bedroom and 2/3 of the bathrooms. And then we found out we were going to be able to host a student, and we accelerated into renovation warp mode.
[The rest of this post is mostly for Sunny, our new short-term daughter. If you aren't her, go ahead and read if you're interested. If not, check back later as the continuing--I hope!--story of my existence unfolds.]

Sorry, Sunny. Since I am totally technologically inept, and no matter how hard I tried I was unable to paste the following photos into an email, I had to post them this way. (Seriously, I'm going to learn as much from you as you will from us!) I apologize for being a complete numskull when it comes to anything with a power cord.

Here's what your room looked like before:

Totally and irredeemably brown. Ick. And it was Robert's office, which meant it had his stuff on the walls. I did NOT decorate this room.

One month--and a lot of paint--later:

So much nicer, no?

Also, the desk:

And the closet:

So much better--cool, crisp, BLUE!!!!!, and cheerful.

Aren't you excited to come? We're excited to have you!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Please excuse the possible jerkiness of this post. I'm writing it between bouts of "Bedtime Tag", which is a delightful game played by the parents of nearly-two-year-olds-who-can-climb-out-of their-cribs and the nearly-two-year-olds themselves. The rules are simple: immediately after Mommy or Daddy (parents are allowed to take turns in the initial stages of play. Eventually, one parent will dominate play while the other enjoys an extended penalty [for the other parent] phase known as "Just resting my eyes, Honey!") place the toddler/opposing team into bed with the pacifier, blankie, and twenty-three books (all of which contain the toddler-soothing words "bed", "night", "moo" and "dark"), the toddler climbs out of the bed/parental goal zone, and scampers for the couch-toy box-kitchen-bathroom-living room-hallway/child goal zone. The toddler scores one point for every 60 seconds he remains out of bed. Parents score one point for every 60 seconds the toddler remains in bed.

Current score: 34-36 (Slight advantage currently to the parents because the child is almost imperceptively wearing down, although I suspect the ten-minute nap he took in the car three hours ago will soon emerge as the decisive factor in his ultimate victory.)

Kids: gotta love them. The alternative is a rapid descent into chocolate-assisted madness. (It would be much more rapid without the chocolate.)

For example:

I grew up being told that Sunday was a day of rest, of spiritual rejuvenation--a time for meditation and spiritual contemplation. I believed this until I had children. In reality, for moms at least, it is a slow torture conducted in full view of the ward--depending on where you sit. As exhibit "A" I offer the following discussion, quoted verbatim, "enjoyed" only this afternoon.

Mom: (singing sacrament hymn, considering the role of music in creating an atmosphere conducive to the Spirit) La, La, La

Child (the one with the mischievous grin): Hey, Mom. Mom. Hey. Do you have a wipe?

Mom: (absently, but compassionately) Sure, honey, let me just pull one out for you. La. La. La.

Reaches into extra-large-grande-size, Super Mommy Bag of All that Can Be Carried Without Large Animal Assistance.

Mom: Here you go, Sweetie. La. La. La. (Pause after chorus and consideration, having been attempting to focus on the hymn and its spiritual conducive-ness, and thus not having actually looked at the child yet. But sensing, somehow, that all is not quite as it should be. Perhaps.) Why do you need a wipe, anyway?

Child: Well . . .

Mommy: (in--and I'm extremely proud of this--incredibly restrained pianissimo shriek) AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Why is there blood all over your face and hands!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that, dear friends, is why the one with the mischievous grin took the sacrament this afternoon with a blood-soaked wet wipe stuck half-way up his nose. Dangling, I might add, over his mouth, thus requiring a rather odd head toss maneuver to drink the water. Also, eliciting smirks and fascinated/horrified stares from the priests, speakers, bishopric, and member of the Stake Presidency.

And you wonder why my temple recommend interviews take so long.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

110 days to go--110 days to go! In only three and one-half (ish) months the Beautiful Desert Southwest will be free of the annual sweat-fest known as Summer. If I had enough energy, and enough construction paper, I'd make one of those wonderful Elementary school-inspired paper chains and cut off a ring every day from now until Halloween. (Which, incidentally is the typical cut-off day for heat around here. It's called a "cut-off day" because that's the day you'd be willing to cut off you own head if the thermometer didn't announce the arrival of something dramatically colder.)

50 days down. 110 to go. We can endure this, folks. Somehow we will survive.

On a positive note, extreme temperatures lead to creative thinking. I've discovered that aprons are THE accessory for the summer. Not for bar-b-cue-ing (because that would require being
which is, obviously the last thing I want this time of year. More heat is not the solution to any problem I can currently think of), but because the bib, if you cinch the waist ties tight enough (breathing is overrated at this point in the summer, anyway), makes a wonderful place to stash one's polar-gel pack. (Note: when running those errands that cannot be delayed until sometime around November 1st, there is a wonderful invention called a bra which will perform roughly the same cold-source retaining service. There may be a few side effects, but really--who complains about frost bite at this time of year? I think I'd welcome a little hypothermia right about now.)

Continuing that theme, gel-packs are my little summer survival tip du jour. I sleep cuddled up to them the way my husband wishes I would with him. (Sorry Honey, not this season. I have a heat-ache.) I sit on one when working at the computer. For some reason, that one doesn't last so long, though. I may soon resort to duct-taping them to my thighs before I walk the boys to their piano lessons. (Ha! All you skinny people could never get away with that little trick. But on me, a couple or twenty extra bulges--no one will notice. Fat can be our friend.) If they ever need a spokes model for polar-gel packs, I am theirs for the asking. (Wide-angle lens required.)

So, now that we've had our obligatory digression and some seasonal moaning, how about some cool and refreshing thoughts for your summer day?

See, here in the Beautiful Desert Southwest, climactic conditions aren't always as predictable as they might seem. Yes, you can basically depend on it being HOT in the Summer, and cool in the "Winter", and humid in August. But every now and then, we get thrown for a loop. This tends to happen mostly on my son's birthday. Seriously. This year we had a rain storm so fierce we lost power in our neighborhood. (Birthday candles--they're not just for cake anymore!) We slogged through foot-deep puddles on our way to buy him his birthday gift. (It also rained--less dramatically,thank goodness!--on the day he was born. Looking back, that seems like a sign. Of what I'm not quite sure.) But on his fourth birthday we had the mother of all Freak Desert-area Weather Occurrences. A picture will illustrate this better than any words:

That, friends, is the birthday boy in front of the snowman he made in my cousin's front yard. In the Desert Southwest. (Which was particularly beautiful that evening). His little hands were frozen--who carries gloves in the desert?--that's why his face is not as cheerful as one would expect of someone who has just participated in a miracle.

What I wouldn't do for another one right about now.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nothing to get alarmed over. Honestly.

Snack. Whack.

Don't worry--those odd and vaguely ominous sounds you heard in the wee small morning moments were only me, pruning my garden at 4:30 in the morning. Nothing at all to be concerned about.

Unless you're like my neighbors and get a little uneasy when you realize you live quite close to someone who may or may not be all there. After all, who in their right mind does yard work before the sun is even up? (Barring all other considerations, how, exactly, does one know what one is pruning at that time of day/night? And further, how can one prevent clipper-related injuries to one's self? Or is that all part of the fun? Answers: the human eye gradually adjusts the size of the pupil in response to available light, allowing one to become more sensitive to low light under exposure to dim conditions; years of semi-blindness have taught me to be aware of the position of my extremities in relation to personal activities; and, yes.)

My neighbors have nothing to fear, of course. There's a perfectly reasonable explanation for my quasi-nocturnal horticultural endeavors. Two reasonable explanations, actually.

First, I am the product of generations of raving insomniacs. Like most of those whose surname I share, I either cannot fall asleep in the first place, or after miraculously achieving sleep before one a.m. I cannot stay asleep. I can count on only one hand the number of people related to me who have the ability to sleep though an entire night. (One of them is my own child. Only one of them.) The rest of us are doomed to an endless cycle of wakefulness and exhaustion. A recent item for family debate was whether or not a good night's sleep is one of the promises of the Resurrection. (I cannot scripturally prove my position that it is, but there are vague hints in the relevant chapters in Alma. The whole "restored to its proper frame" concept holds great hope for me, suggesting as it does the thought that my REM cycles may be returned to what they were when I was a child. According to my mother I was a consistent 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. person until I went to school. Sigh.) The others saw our point, but quibbled over the idea that sleep will be unnecessary in a perfected state. To that I say Balderdash! I have several years of sleep unclaimed, and I cannot imagine letting them go to waste, perfected state or not. Besides, can you imagine what Celestialized dream might be like?

The major culprit in tonight's wakefulness was The Child Who Teethes Grumpily, a.k.a. The Happiest Baby in the World, when he isn't currently pushing molars through sensitive gum tissue. His wails at 1:30 doomed me to my present state. He is, naturally, sleeping soundly now. (Someday I will have my revenge. Let's just say there are several potentially hysteria-producing photos in my possession, and I am prepared to whip those puppies out at strategic moments during his adolescence. Nothing perks up a prom date like pictures of my cutie trailing soapsuds across a floor after a bath, if you know what I mean.)

Second reason for pruning before the (in these parts) whimper of dawn: I live in the beautiful desert Southwest. For those who abide in more temperate climates--say California, or Hades--this may not make sense. Allow me to whine/explain. Forget frying eggs on the sidewalk; it's hot enough here during the day to fry eggs in the palm of your hand while looking for a spot of sidewalk to demonstrate said phenomenon. It's only June and already I want to sob in surrender. It's 5:30 a.m. and 90 degrees outside! This isn't a climate so much as a solar-sponsored war. The only chance I have to do anything without burning major expanses of flesh and/or spontaneous combustion is during the very earliest of hours. Forget working under a large hat and regular hydration--this time of year my favorite gardening is done under a roof in front of the fan, preferably in a recumbent position. Not a lot of plants grow under those conditions. That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. What most people call "summer gardening", the kind done outdoors, with vegetables, trees, and such, is a strictly nighttime event for me. When you live in a place that doesn't cool down into the nineties until midnight you adapt. There's a reason the desert seems so empty: all the intelligent creatures spend the day and most of the night indoors, praying for another Ice Age. Let me tell you, Global Warming takes on a whole other and very personal meaning in the middle of a desert Southwest summer.

So, for the next while--120 days or so, but who besides me is counting?--I will be pruning, weeding, trimming, hanging laundry, sweeping, and in all other respects tending to outdoor chores while the sun is on the other side of the globe. If it worries you, I suggest ear plugs. They work for my neighbors.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dear Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living, Home and Garden, et al:

In view of the current economic situation, and in light of the fact that reading your gorgeous, glossy pages induces hours of weeping from this loyal but chronically cash-strapped reader, may I suggest a new feature to be included in your wonderful, but ultimately depression-producing publications:

Making Do with Melia

Honestly, I think the time has come to reassess our home-design ideals to reflect a more realistic approach to interior decor. Namely, the fact that NO ONE HAS ANY MONEY FOR FANCY DOO-DADS! (Features Editors: you know who published that fancy spread on French Rococo lamp finials. Aren't you just a wee bit ashamed of yourself?) A more current, socially-relevant path is needed these days, and I graciously offer myself as guru du jour. (Martha Stewart, eat your heart out with your exquisite Colonial-era pewter fork and knife. There's a new diva in town, and she owns Melmac plates! 1970s vintage. Pre-scratched. Top THAT!)

Allow me to present my credentials:

Age: Old enough to understand the beauty of Photoshop in a biography picture. Young enough to remember in which Mason jar I stored my marbles.

Education: Yes, thank you and my parents very much!

Experience: 12 years as wife in a single-income family.
9 years as mother to a ravening horde of children who prefer eating to staring at beautifully matted and framed artwork, although we offered them the choice when we overhauled the budget last year.
Significant time as Tightwad of the Month.

Skills applicable to this position: Can repurpose innocuous bedroom furniture as high-fashion living room objets d'art.
Have high degree of glue-gun aptitude.
Can perform and spell "decoupage".
Ability to use ludicrously low monthly allowance for purposes of good instead of evil.
Zealous commitment to never buy new when you can scrounge it free.

Ideas for features: Instant $anctuary--combining bedroom, office, and family art gallery into one serene space on a budget of $50 in less than two weeks.
Use It or Lose It?--the morality and aesthetics of retaining the inevitable detritus of family life. With special emphasis on recycling worn-out socks as furniture protectors, high-concept puppets, and sources of both artistic inspiration and mental breakdowns.
Art for the Colorblind--teaching one's husband to appreciating the nuances of hues other than white. Bonus: how to cope with "I don't care, Honey, they all look the same to me!"
Dinner as Decor--using the principles of design to create an inviting environment based on the spaghetti stains in the kitchen. Extra feature on the merits of differing sauce brands as inspiration.

I await your enthusiastic responses. In the meantime, I have a bathtub fiasco/artistic challenge awaiting my attention.

Creatively yours,

Friday, April 23, 2010

The camera never lies--unfortunately

Blogs are interesting things, ya know? They allow glimpses into lives we'll never live, into insights we might never have, into experiences we'll never fully share. I love that--mainly because it reassures me that I'm not the only one wandering around pushing on the "pull" doors all alone.

But here's the thing: the glimpses are carefully edited. Rare is the writer who puts it all into view and says, "Here it is, folks. Complete and uncensored!" Which is kind of a relief, both for the writer--because a little mystery makes a gal feel fabulous, and for the readers--who don't need to know exactly how the kidney stone felt as it scraped its way down the urinary tract. That's the role rightly filled by Aunt Myrtle at the family reunion, not bloggers.

But, in the interest of semi-full disclosure, I will allow a more-candid-than-normal peep into the glamorous but unpretentious life that is mine.

Ready? Got your glam glasses on? Are you prepared for the swankiness that I live daily? Don't say I didn't warn you!

This, my blog-perusing friends, is the perfect visual metaphor for my existence: a poorly-shot photo of the laundry line on my back porch. I told you it wasn't all Martinelli's on yachts and soirees in Paris here in blogland. Now prepare yourself for the one thousand words the picture was supposed to spare you.

Things you never would have known about me if you hadn't seen this blog today:

  • I am cheap. Really cheap. So cheap that when the dryer broke in January I declared it a non-necessary luxury item and chose not to replace it. Now, my lucky neighbors get a close-up view of the ever-changing art installation I like to call "Ephemeral Cleansings: a journey into the evanescence of a mother's work".
  • I am so cheap that when we replaced the back door of our house after 27 years of devoted protection from elements and bad guys, I determined it to be the perfect future gate to our vegetable garden. Every garden should have a bright blue portal, no? If only my husband agreed.
  • I have multiple jeans-wearing children. Children who will not be pried out of their jeans, even when said jeans are developing stress fractures in strategic regions. Even when those fraying denims are two sizes too large and falling from their non-existent hips or three sizes too small and showing inappropriate lengths of calf.
  • Also, one of those children has the courage to wear brightly green jeans. Thank heavens the child in question is the female of the bunch.
  • I love my backyard trees so much I am loathe to prune them, even when they start encroaching on my work space. It isn't logical--especially in the height of summer when I have to dodge potentially eye-gouging twigs with every article I hang, but the alternative seems like sacrilege, especially in a place where every tree is a leafy miracle.
  • We have waaaaaaay too many chests of drawers in and out of the house. Last count: 12. In various colors. And that's after giving some away. They are my storage system of choice. They store everything from extra sheets to hole punches around here. Some day I will achieve chest-of-drawer paradise: a workshop completely lined with drawers, with a big work table set on top of drawers in the middle. When that day arrives I will weep. And then I will immediately get hot glue all over everything.
  • I am apparently too busy to paint the porch. That's the gentle, face-saving fib I tell myself every day.
  • This lady is cool enough to cover tables with contact paper. The kids don't mind and the pigeons seem to approve.
  • Apparently, I have a subconscious desire to moon my long-suffering neighbors, but since I know that would be wrong--also potentially psychosis inducing (for the neighbors)--I allow my laundry to do it for me.

Don't you wish you were me? And aren't you glad you don't live next door?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dim the lights, raise the curtain

At some place on this blog I must have stated the case for me keeping my big flapping mouth shut. Now I wish I had labored less diligently on my sentence construction, and had heeded my own advice slightly more wholly. Because, friends, I am stuck in the mud pit of my own making for sure this time.

As always, a disclaimer is in order:
I am not a personal horn-tooter. The role of making me sound better than I am falls to my loving husband, who does so heroically. My job, as I see it, is to do what needs to be done--as well as possible--and then get onto the next task. Is that so wrong?

Somehow, though, this time I sort of volunteered myself--after being asked to do so, mind you!--onto the biggest, most ulcer-producing project of my soon-to-be-extremely short life: the Stake Anniversary Pageant. Oh. Dear. Goodness. And Calgon, take me away!

Forget what you think you know about pageants--there will be no tiaras. Sashes will be kept to a bare minimum, and will be tied solely around waists. The talent portion will consists of pre-memorized lines, delivered to an audience which I pray will consist of more than theater-loving crickets. It's somewhere in the wasteland between really hopeful home-grown theatrical and heart-felt tableaux vivants. And I have landed smack in the middle of it, right up to the hair on my chinny-chin-chin. (Mostly kept unnoticeable by steady applications of Nair and tweezers.)

You see--and I am loathe to toot this particular horn--I seem to be in a directorial position here. I, the woman who has never directed more than a single roadshow. Who managed to graduate from university in a theater-related field only because she was too afraid to fail. Whose biggest stage triumph to date was as "popcorn" in the annual dance recital--and even then I forgot to put on my toe shoes!

I am so doomed.

But, the show must go on. I think. Most people assume.

Auditions start tonight.

This can only end in tears.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Go ahead and Google it!

In case you ever have a serious need to discover the exact number of Google results for the term "exploding guinea pig" don't bother searching: I got your number right here. It's 55,800. That's about 53,000 more than I would have estimated, but, let's face it, there are a lot of sickos out there.

Count me one of the sickos, because I'm about to push the number up to 55,801.

This is the story of our own exploding guinea pig.

If you are a card-carrying member of PETA, or just really serious about the sanctity of animal life (even those things that I'm sure even Linnaeus wouldn't have considered animals--sea cucumbers come to mind) fear not: the guinea pig in question never breathed a breath of air, never gave one of those endearing little guinea pig "squeaks", never chewed up a $80 textbook in a burst of sheer joie de vivre like some mice I once kept for a science experiment. (I got my revenge. And the high school boa constrictor got lunch. I was cheap and vengeful even then.) No, the guinea pig whose guts now waft over my back porch was a toy.

You see, my kids go to Swedish school. (I believe I've mentioned that before--maybe you've seen the photos or watched the embarrassing footage.) So, there are many occasions when they take part in activities at the local IKEA. I love those occasions, because it gives me a chance to wonder what my life would be like were I to move across the Atlantic and have carte blanche to outfit an abode. (I love my home, but one does get to "if-ing" occasionally.) I ponder deeply the psychological implications of my fondness for certain lamps over others, and wonder if the over-the-sink-strainer would really change my existential outlook on life as it seems to suggest. And then I usually buy a couple of inexpensive sheets. I'm cheap, and I'm a mom.

My children also enjoy these occasions, but not for the same reasons. They love them, because IKEA--being a very progressive company--rewards its Swedish School helpers well. And thus it was that this year, after the Lucia procession and singing (sorry--no embarrassing photos this time, but whoo-hoo, did el Roberto look fab in that white dress!) the children were given very large IKEA bags (which I have appropriated. The grocery baggers' eyes always fall out of the sockets when I whip those babies out. Current record: three gallons of milk, five pounds of rice, and a half ham. Thanks, IKEA!) and cuddly stuffed guinea pigs. One for each child. (Even the one whose sole contribution was to grin and sweetly drool.)

And now for the exploding part.

The other night--being the night before Valentine's Day--my husband and I hired a babysitter so we could do something REALLY romantic: return to the used book sale at the state fairgrounds, and then go to buy a wedding present before grocery shopping. Try not to be jealous. Especially about the part where the book sale mostly smelled like llama pee. Well, at some point in the proceedings/general chaos that prevails around here, the dog found the absolute love of her life: one of the guinea pigs. It was apparently a tender tale of dog meets pig, dog licks pig, dog gnaws hole in pig's neck. Ah. L'Amour. And then. my children being the most helpful brood in the world (most of the time. When I threaten to yank all privileges, including indoor plumbing) tossed the sadly disappointed and unsatisfied guinea pig in the washing machine, where it reposed--probably thinking deep thoughts about love and the inevitable decay of mortality--until I dumped in a ton of laundry and started the washer up.

Poor pig never had a chance. Death by centrifugal motion. Sounds like a physicist's secret suicide fantasy.

And I didn't know until when, in the act of hanging out the laundry (16 days without a dryer, and counting!), I started shaking out piles and piles of pure white fluff.

I am a decent woman. I hung the emptied corpse up to dry. And since I'm both cheap and a believer in the afterlife, I fully intend to make the poor thing into a hand puppet. As soon as I can wrestle it away from the dog.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Normal? What is this thing normal of which you speak?

Well, my friends, I now have three laundry lines hung above the stage in the basement.

I'm sure something about that sentence sounds odd to everybody who isn't a member of the immediate family, so explanations are in order.

First: the drier broke Saturday. Perhaps broke is too nebulous an explanation; gave up the ghost may be more appropriate, but until we can call out a diagnostician whom we trust and who will appraise for cheap (usually, that would be my dad, and he's unavailable currently--something about the desire for a vacation, although I can't imagine why someone would want a vacation when he has a daughter with extremely needy appliances, can you?) we'll just have to call the thing comatose and find a temporary work solution. Thus, the four laundry lines on the back porch were inadequate to the unimaginable washing load this family produces. (Three boys, one girl, one dog. You do the laundry math. If Tide ever wants to sponsor a family for promotional purposes, I'll be pushing to get at the front of the audition line.) Additionally, I must mention that as I was setting laundry out to dry--counting (overly-optimistically, as it turns out) on our wondrous desert aridity for it normal effect--it started to rain. Timing is everything, friends! So, seeking a largish, openish, dryish space--which would eliminate all bathrooms in this house (designed in the 1980s by a male whose ablutions consisted solely of wet wipes and travel-size toiletry supplies to judge by the square-footage and workability of the bathrooms in this house--40 square feet, 40! And you have to sit on the toilet to close the door. You can't tell my a woman drew up the blueprints. No way.), as well as rooms currently taken up by sleeping arrangements, schoolwork, cooking, and normal in-house movements, we (I) came to the brilliant solution that the only truly available space was the basement. And the best spot in the basement was over the stage.

Second: the explanatory bit about the stage. Yes, there is a stage in the basement. It isn't terribly large--slightly larger than a bathroom, though--nor is it professionally equipped. You might call it a stage in embryo. It exists--raised by eighteen full inches above floor level, but no productions have been staged as yet. But they will be. They will be. Mainly because I am who I am, and because we have the darn thing and are going to use it if it kills some of us. Also, because I have a daughter with a very feminine penchant for dressing up and dramatics. (Her bedtime soliloquies are wondrous to behold and be-hear.) The stage in the basement is tradition. It was there when I was a child growing up--the pride of my heart, and the setting for many brilliant productions. One of which, if I remember correctly, was called "How Sun and Rain Got Together." I believe I still have the original script somewhere. It was a triumph of juvenile theater. Naturally, I wrote, directed, costumed, and starred in said production. There are some advantages to being the oldest child. Not many, but some.

So, recap: laundry lines above basement stage. All in all this is whatever passes for normal around here.

And that brings me to the real point of this post (it isn't really about laundry or dramatic production spaces--too bad!). The real point is that there is no such thing as normal around here. Really.

I realized this yesterday as I was walking home from dropping off the boys at their enrichment school. There I was, halfway home on what is usually a three-mile walk, but which yesterday stretched to four miles because of errands which had to be run, crossing a freeway overpass, when the thought struck: "No wonder we have a hard time with our planning--we have no normal to plan around!"

Chalk one up for freeway overpasses as places of inspiration!

Honestly, though, what day would you consider our average day: the one where I wake up at two to write on whatever project is currently at hand, then supervise school until ten, then attempt to motivate the kids to do chores until it's time to hop on a bus, and then the light rail to get to Swedish school and eventually return home at 7 p.m. for dinner? Or the one where I wake up exhausted from a night attempting to teach the most stubborn child in the world to sleep for more than four hours at a time without my physical presence (sixteen months of failure, and still counting!), then rush one child off to his school, then supervise the chaos of the remaining three while attempting to maintain home and sanity until child and spouse return from their respective activities? Or is it the day at the end of the week when I'm frazzled and pooped, but have to teach lessons, and then catch two buses to take a daughter--and her unwilling brothers--to dance class, after which the weekly grocery shopping must be done if there is to be both peace and food in the house the next day? Is there an average in there somewhere? Is it so carefully hidden as to escape my careful scrutiny?

The thing is, I always seem to be making plans (trying to fit in exercise, personal study, reading more than one paragraph at a time, etc.) based on the elusive "normal"--supposing, I guess, that one day all these weird aberrations such as sleepless nights and teething and wildly differing workloads will cease. As if next Tuesday everything will magically fall into place and our life will become predictable and calm on a daily basis.

HA! I know something about what next Tuesday brings--and I'm sure involves at least one child complaining about what is served at dinner. Because even if there is no such thing as "normal" around here, at least a few things come standard.