Monday, August 30, 2010

remember this?

Tonight was my first CALCULUS class. It was an algebra review and I know you won't believe this, but I could totally follow the discussion. I know!

Remember when I worked this problem for Jr on the white board? Algebra.

Audrey and Ellie came over on Saturday and this is Audrey's beautiful math (she is so her daddy's math girl):


Remember how hard it was to get a smile out of this girl:

She's starting to warm up to me and is totally all over my heart:


And finally, remember when I posted photos of JoJo singing:

The drummer casually informed us recently, in the casual way that only he possesses, that the first time JoJo sang was also the first time he practiced the oboe in the gardens. Something about that hauntingly beautiful oboe sound just opened up her heart and voice.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

you can call me

This is my bike, which happens to be the same color as my toenails.

I don't know if I've mentioned my new hobby--jewelry. Not purchasing jewelry. Making jewelry. I discovered this great store, Heart Beads, and now I have a new hobby.

I start with these:

and turn them into these:

and this:

I am so proud of me and my new creative outlet.

Speaking of proud, Jr and I are taking the same class this semester, but he's at the university and I'm at the college. We're taking Calculus for Business Application. Oh yes, you read right, I'm going to learn CALCULUS!!! I'm so mathy.

Back to my pride. I noticed a math problem on the white board this morning that Jr had requested help with. Click on this photo and check it out:

Yes. You may call me Mother Math. Or Creative Mother Math.

Friday, August 27, 2010

knees and road construction and of course math

I stopped by my parent's house on the day after my birthday to drop off some stuff to my mom. We visited for about an hour and then I said I needed to get going and stood up to leave.

That's when my mom said, "That skirt is too short." And as I walked over to kiss my dad goodbye, he said, "I'm going to tell you something, and you're not going to like it." And I said, "You can stop right now." But he continued, "I've always said that the only joint worse than a woman's knees is a beer joint."

Seriously. Is it so hard to find something nice to say every now and then? I mean, if I'm wearing a skirt (a cute skirt that brushed the top of my kneecaps), and a shirt and a cardigan, and cute heels, and a necklace, and my hair looks good, would it be so hard to just say something nice about the sweater or necklace or heels and bite your tongue about the length of my skirt and my knees? Even a comment about the bruise on my shin that is always there because I keep shutting my car door on my leg would have been easier to take, because that might have indicated a bit of concern instead of--well, what? What is that?

And while I'm complaining. Can I just say that as much as I miss my friends in my old neighborhood, as much as I miss my big yard and my little house, I am so glad that I don't have to deal with that traffic and road construction anymore? What is that all about? Two of the three roads into my old neighborhood are under serious construction, as in, open holes in the road so that it is closed to all traffic. And the third road into my neighborhood is so congested that it takes like 20 minutes to go half a block. What is going on at City Hall when they're approving all of the commercial development without improving the roads, and what is going on in the public works department when they decide to close two roads and funnel all of the traffic into one lane on the sole access into a huge neighborhood? What is that?

And finally. Can I just say thank you for not pointing out that my last post had a math error. If I truly wanted to post enough good things about my birthday to equal half my age, I should have listed 26 items. This is a good example of what happens in my brain during math tests. I either have serious crampage that causes me to forget everything I thought I knew, or I make simple calculation errors. What is that?

I don't want to end this post with such a sour taste in my fingers, so let me just say that I would not have even known about the road construction if I hadn't gone to my old neighborhood to get a haircut and a pedicure today. And since I now have ten pretty great looking hot pink toenails, really, how could I stay upset for more than a few moments about anything?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

what a birthday

Yesterday was my birthday and it was a wonderful birthday. This is my list of reasons why my birthday this year was so right:

1. My birthday actually started early early Sunday morning when Jack told me happy birthday just before I dropped off to sleep.
2. The celebration continued when Jr brought home a box of wonder from Banbury Cross donuts, which are the best ever donuts. Like eating warm, freshly made bread but with donutti delight on top.
3. Part of the birthday delight was also on Saturday afternoon, which I spent with old friends and Jessie and Cailin at a baby shower for a delightful young friend.
4. Back to Sunday. After the donuts, I went back to bed and slept until 11:30. That is almost afternoon. It was lovely.
5. Part of the birthday was also Friday night, Saturday morning, and Sunday morning when I primed, sanded, and painted these adorable toddler-sized bunkbeds that Jack made for these adorable girls.

6. I realized over the birthday holiday that Jack is the maker of wooden stuff, but I am the finisher. He doesn't do finish very well, but I do finish nearly magnificently.
7. Sunday night, the actual birthday eve, was an eating event with all of my children, their spouses, friends, our grandchildren, Jack and me. We dined on steak and potato salad and baked beans and spinach salad and fruit and of course, freshly made berry pie.
8. Bath time for the girls. You know how much they enjoy splashing in the tub together and how much I love to snuggle them in their towels and lotion afterward.
9. Jack and I headed to work on Monday morning after the early morning rendition of happy birthday to you by my mom on the phone.
10. The Red Cross emailed birthday greetings.
11. Both of my brothers called with birthday wishes. And Jack's sister emailed greetings.
12. Jack and I left for lunch and agreed as we drove out of the parking lot that we couldn't see ourselves going back after lunch, so we didn't.
13. On Sunday, Jack asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I thought about that a lot as I lounged in bed. The only thing I could think of was a piece of wood to attach to my black three-legged table that has no top so I could mod-podge the Wheaties box I saved that has Dale Earnhardt on it in commemoration of his admittance in the inaugural group of entrants in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But I didn't tell Jack about it.
14. On Monday, after a quick lunch, Jack drove to the hardwood shop to buy a piece of wood for my Dale Earnhardt table.
15. After dropping off the piece of wood in our garage, we picked up the beds for the girls and headed to their house. As we pulled up, I saw two little faces looking out the window from the sofa that by the time we parked were already outside on the sidewalk calling out, gramma, grampa, we've been waiting for you, you brought our beds and we have a present for gramma's birthday (all said by Breanne except for the part about the present, which came from Janey. not the present. the words).
16. A lovely present of strands of beads, picked out specially by the girls, Breanne, Janey, and Jessie, and a roll of Necco's that we shared after Janey asked gwamma, you gunna share doze?
17. Bed assembly followed by a quick drive to Cafe Rio where we met up with Jr, the drummer, and his girl.
18. Yummy shared pudding cake at Cafe Rio and then Snickers cake back at our place because Jr couldn't stand one more birthday where I didn't have a cake and singing. With more singing. And a singing voicemail from the drummer and his girl. And a card from all three.
19. I almost forgot. Sunday night, we were all gathered in the living room when Jack came in and somewhat sternly told Jr to come to the kitchen. Now. Which caused me to wonder what Jr had done this time, but not for long because everyone in the house joined in the chorus of happy birthday to you with pie and candle. And Janey walked up close to me after the singing and she wanted to give me a hug. And she did.
20. This morning I called and asked about the first night in the new beds. Jessie said they played in their room all evening and all day. I mean in their "neighborhood," the new name for the extra space in their bedroom. Breanne got on the phone and said she and Janey slept weally good in the new beds. Then she said, "Well, Janey slept good. I never sleep in this house." Jessie told Jack's mom those very same words when she was four. Hilarious. I told Breanne that her mom had said the same thing when she was four and Breanne said, "That's amazing, gwamma." She is amazing.
21. I didn't know when I started this post that I would think of so many reasons why my birthday was so right this year. Turns out, I came up with enough to equal half as many years as I am now. Mostly, if a picture says a thousand words, this is how I felt about my birthday this year:

Monday, August 23, 2010

early morning

Almost every morning I wake up around six and as soon as my eyes open, or even think about opening, the dogs both startle awake and begin their stretches, which is the reminder that I need to get up and herd them outside for their morning constitutional. Okay, I don't even know what that means. I race them down the hallway to the back door and go out back, closing the door behind me, and remind them that they need to go pee. That is what I tell them. "Go pee!" And I say it with quotation marks and one exclamation mark.

JoJo runs down to the grass and within seconds, squats, relieves herself (and me actually) and runs back for her pat on the head and praise. Gus, on the other hand, races out back to find the flying insects that HE.MUST.CATCH. Usually that means he has forgotten about my instructions, as well as any other information that might have been stored in his teensy little brain, so I have to go sit on the steps and wait a while (read: wake up outside, enjoy the sunrise and the cool morning air) until he finally settles down enough to lift his leg. If I'm really lucky, JoJo will trot over to the side of the house to her designated pooping grounds and returns after a few moments ready for a really big heap of praise. If a miracle occurs, Gus will eventually circle around three times and then squat in my flowerbeds. Miracles of this sort do not happen often. Wah.

Yesterday morning was just a bit different. JoJo followed her usual routine, tossing a bit of luck my way. Gus continued in his usual preoccupied state, darting and leaping here and there after flying buzzing creatures.

All action ceased instantly though when we heard: er-a-er-a-ooo. Then again: ER-A-ER-A-OOO.

The dogs went nuts. Screaming and hollering and barking and trembling. Trampling each other to hide behind me.

Apparently, they'd never heard a rooster before. Apparently, our neighbors to the north and east have acquired a rooster. Apparently, roosters really do crow at sunrise.

I couldn't tell if any other dogs in the neighborhood were as (a)frightened, (b)frazzled, (c)threatened, (d)all of the above and more, as they were. I don't know anything about roosters (I'll be googling to learn) but I think this one was having a great time waking up my dogs, who probably woke up the neighbors for him.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

pretzels--who knew?

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving up north with a killer headache raging in my skull. Somehow, I'd neglected to refill the bottle of ibuprofen I carry in my purse, so I pulled off the freeway and headed into a Maverick. I didn't want to take ibuprofen on an empty stomach and I was feeling a bit--you guessed it--anxious about the planned meetings and required work effort, and before I knew quite what I was doing, I'd purchased a dark chocolate Milky Way, a roll of Necco's, and a one pound bag of pretzels because I didn't want to eat only sweet treats with my Diet Coke, right?

Oh, and a 24-count bottle of Advil.

I started by tossing back some Advil and then consumed the Milky Way with a couple of gulps of Diet Coke. Mind you, this was before 8:30 am. Over the next 30 miles, I crunched down half of the Necco's and a couple of handfuls of pretzels. By the time I arrived at my destination, I was feeling it from my overstuffed belly, but my headache was easing.

One pound of pretzels is a lot of pretzels. I bought the pretzels because I wanted something salty that wasn't as high in calories and fat as Sun Chips.

If I'd known how long that pound of pretzels was going to last, I'd have bought the Sun Chips. I've been eating those pretzels every time I go anywhere in my car and I still have at least a fourth of the bag left. I keep finding myself feeling that overfull feeling because I can't seem to leave them alone once I start eating them. I keep telling myself, just one or two, but before I know it, I have no idea how many I've eaten, and it doesn't matter whether I pop them into my mouth whole or bite off the little edges and then eat them one side at a time--I just keep eating them.

I bought the pretzels because I thought they would be a healthier treat, but I'm growing weary of pretzels. I can't bring myself to look at the nutritional content of the pretzels, which probably doesn't really matter since I have no idea what a serving size is or how many servings I've eaten. Probably would have been easier on me if I'd bought a couple of those grab bag sized bags of Sun Chips or Cheddar and Sour Cream Lays or Cheetos. Or all of them. And a big package of Red Vines.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

what is more delightful

Rising at 5:17 after falling asleep at 4:45 because you forgot to pick up your prescription of Ambien the night before your kid was to undergo yet another procedure, which you were trying so hard to not stress over (anxiety control 'r us or in this case, me), and then after successfully arriving at the hospital at 6:00 am, waiting for three hours, getting the astoundingly good news that the procedure was exactly the right procedure, exactly what he needed, recovery should be quick and will quite likely eliminate the need for the bigger, not really all that desirable surgery.


Picking up your Ambien prescription, a garlic herb roasted chicken, salad fixins' and four chocolate chocolate donuts, from your local grocery store and hearing the pharmacist nearly squeal like a girl as he described how much he enjoys cooking and eating brown rice with frozen veggies cooked in his rice cooker, mixed with a deboned roasted chicken and a dash of hot sauce.

There is no contest. They are both great. Yes, I win for using eliminate in a sentence (I'm so funny!) and there is Ambien and chocolate chocolate donuts at my house. Winner winner. Oh! Chicken dinner!!! (So funny again!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

for me

the next post and the one from yesterday may be more information than you want about me. they are posted for me. i want to remember how and when i realized these things.

just a bit more than you might want

Like most kids, I had no understanding of my parent's marriage. I mean, I never considered it. They got up every day, my mom made breakfast and coffee for my dad, sent him off to work in his red truck with the camper he built when I was a kid, with his lunch box and thermos of milk. Dad was a carpenter in a one-person shop that was noisy and dusty and smelled of freshly-cut wood. Every night, he came home and either headed out to his garage to putter around or headed over to June's Cafe with his younger brother for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie before dinner. Sometimes, the puttering involved refinishing our piano by covering it with his favorite building material, Formica. He spent hours and hours building a playhouse for my brothers and me. It matched our house on the outside but was bright yellow inside with plexiglass windows and tile ceiling and floor that were probably made of asbestos. It was a Christmas surprise for us, but it wasn't long before all of my dolls and girl toys were settled in it and it became the dollhouse, where boys rarely visited, usually only after being invited in.

I don't remember my parents ever bickering when I was young except one time out in the garage when my mom was brushing my hair and I was complaining that she was pulling it and she bopped me over the head with the brush and it broke. My dad said, "My God, Jeri, take it easy on her." My mother still enjoys telling that story. To everyone.

But they didn't fight or yell that I remember. As I think back, I believe that is because they were apart most of the time. He worked. She raised the kids. I suppose he must have mowed the lawns and such, but I don't remember. It is so different from now. They are at each other constantly now.

So, you see, it isn't like my childhood was awful. Yes, I made a conscious decision to be a different mother than my mom. I tried to say yes more often than no. I tried to be loving and nurturing. I tried to spend my time with them. But still, I worry. I did give Stu a bloody nose a couple of times, though not in anger, just roughhousing with him. Through all of the spankings and such, my mom never gave me a bloody nose. And I regularly sang "You can't always get what you want" to my kids, and Jessie grew up with the constant refrain "It isn't all about you." Somehow, singing a Rolling Stones song doesn't seem nearly as harsh as those words she lived with. The girls were outnumbered in our house, and over time, it became acceptable.

I think everybody comes out of childhood with their stuff. My stuff was feeling like an anxious victim and a caretaker. In the last week or so, I've read a lot of articles on the internet about anxiety and victims and caretakers, and you may have heard more than you want, but much of it was eye-opening to me.

From the ever reliable Wikipedia:

Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. These components combine to create an unpleasant feeling that is typically associated with uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry. Anxiety is a generalized mood condition that can often occur without an identifiable triggering stimulus. As such, it is distinguished from fear, which occurs in the presence of an observed threat. Additionally, fear is related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.

and from the Zur Institute website:

In claiming the status of victim and by assigning all blame to others, a person can achieve moral superiority while simultaneously disowning any responsibility for one's behavior and its outcome. The victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable, and forever entitled to sympathy.

Identifying oneself primarily and over long periods of time as an adult child of abuse is to embrace the permanent identity of a wounded victim. While becoming conscious of the original family dysfunction and its effect on the individual is often necessary for healing, it is only the first step. Remaining indefinitely in the mode of the victim also prevents one from growing to a place of empowerment and choice.

The last three paragraphs are the things I've discovered of late in therapy. Finally.

and there's more

Do you know what else is wrong with mice living with or dying near humans?

Parasites. Yep. Don't read this if you're eating right now, but what do you know about tapeworms and dogs?

It's a good thing Gusgus is so cute, because he is becoming the most costly dog we've ever owned. He cost almost as much as any purebred dog we've ever paid for, even before the kennel cough (that he shared with JoJo resulting in the pet ER visit) and the vaccinations (which, to be honest, were expected), and the most recent issues with worms (requiring visits to the vet, then the medication aisle at Petco, and who knows how much more before we're done, and the washing of bedding, and, of course, the ick factor that obviously comes with anything that includes uh, worms).

Yes, he did report back with the dead mouse. And his messes in the house are considerably smaller than any dog we've ever had before. And he is adorable fun for JoJo. And there's that trick he's learned where I pat my thighs twice and he leaps into my arms.

Jack keeps reminding me that Gus is an ex-con, so I shouldn't be surprised by these events. But still, worms?

Friday, August 13, 2010

things to remember

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted more than anything to not be in trouble. You tried so hard to be a good girl and be seen and not heard? And the part about playing with your little brother and being nice to him was huge? You actually liked to play school with him and teach him everything you were learning in school even though you were three years older? So he started school already knowing how to read and count and add and color in the lines and before long, he was reading the World Book Encyclopedia because he loved to learn?

Remember how you wanted so much to be good? You sat quietly in church and tried to sing just like your mom sang and walked in the hallways and never played on the stage or ran in the cultural hall.

Remember how you didn't get to help with the dishes or the cooking because you were too little and might break something, but all of your friends hated doing dishes and you could never understand how they could feel that way?

Remember how nervous you felt in school when the teacher called on you even if you knew the answer, because you would get so flustered that before you knew it, you were nearly in tears for fear that you wouldn't give her the answer she wanted to hear. And she would ask "are you okay?" and you would lower your head and nod and hope she would just disappear. And remember the time you fell on the playground and skinned up your knee so blood was running down your leg, but when you went back to your classroom, your teacher asked why you were in the school during recess and told you to go back outside, so you did, but later she couldn't apologize enough when she saw the dried blood on your knee.

Remember how you tried to remember all of the rules and play by all of the rules and be exactly what everybody wanted you to be, which was, after all, a happy nice girl who would just go outside and play. But sometimes, when your uncle came over to work on the camper he was building for his family, he would let you help out by sweeping up the sawdust for him? Like almost every other adult you knew, he was so kind to you.

Remember that time you got in the car with your mom and shut your hand in the door? And you cried but your mom was certain that after you held it in cold water for a while it would be fine. If only you'd known that was the end of your hand model career.

Remember though that cute little suitcase you packed and stowed under your bed in the third grade because one of those days you were going to leave and go live in the field behind the church where you could do whatever you wanted. Not that you'd even thought about what you would eat or whether or not you would be safe in that field that is now a mall. Just having the suitcase ready to go was enough. But remember that one time when you thought most seriously about pulling out that suitcase but heard your mom coming through the house so you slipped under the bed with your suitcase and laid very still, breathing ever so softly while your mother called out your name and even came into your room and sat on the bed, finally rising and leaving you alone in your room and you realized you didn't have to leave your room to find a place to be alone and you felt so clever laying on the cool hardwood floor under your bed.

Remember how as you got older, you were always grounded. And how there were times when you felt certain that your mother had grounded your friends and maybe even their parents as well? The spankings had stopped, but the grounding and the threats were constant. And you realized at some point that it was easier to take the heat if you got caught then to ask for permission because if you asked if you could go or do something with your friends, it was always no. Without a pause. But if you were careful, you might not get caught. And amazingly, you came through it all, stupid kidstuff and sneaking around and Ted Bundy on the loose, but you survived, intact.

Except maybe not so intact. Really pretty much clueless about why you behaved as you did or why it mattered so much to you that everybody around you felt happy. That was, after all, what everybody said about you, "You're always so happy." And you never realized that you didn't let yourself feel. Because if you felt or expressed your feelings, it made others uncomfortable or uneasy and you didn't want that. You wanted everybody to be nice and happy and just get along. And you wanted calm, not contention.

Possibly the most stunning part about it all is that you raised four amazing children. Of course, you had help. Good examples. Great pediatrician. Lots of self-help, how to raise amazing kid books, re-reading the ones that felt right and tossing out or at least filing away the ones that felt too oppressive, offering advice and methods that you could have never used with those four beings you treasured.

Remember that time--wait, you don't remember these things? This wasn't your childhood? Anxiety wasn't your constant companion, best friend, soul mate? See until this week, I thought everybody lived with constant anxiety. I thought everybody had the knot in her stomach, the clenched fists, the nagging worry and nonstop effort to take care of everybody else's feelings and needs.

This week was another epiphany at therapy. Victim complex, caretaker complex, anxiety, powerless to change or control anything.

But wait. It isn't true. I am not powerless. I do not need to take care of everyone else's feelings or needs. I cannot control the universe.

I can only care for my feelings. I can only tend to my needs.

The caretaker in me is screaming out, "WAHWAHWAH!!! SELFISH--YOU SOUND SO SELFISH!!" But it isn't true. The caretaker needs to take a break. Let Jack do dishes and take out garbage and hire a college student to vacuum and dust and clean bathrooms. And the victim needs to forgive herself and get over herself and love herself and live life.

And see. That is all good.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

plans change, okay?

I planned to blog about a completely different topic today, but well, Gus stole the show when he ran into my room, dropped something on the floor in front of my dresser, and hopped up onto the arm of my chair next to me.

As usual, I couldn't tell exactly what it was that he'd dropped on the floor because I wasn't wearing my glasses, but it looked creepily like a dead mouse.

Which was enough to cause me to curl up into a tight little ball in my chair, while asking Jack, well maybe it was more of a demand, that Jack investigate, immediately, in case I was wrong and it was really a live mouse.

As usual, when you think you see a mouse, you've seen a mouse.

Jack disposed of it--dead mouse flushing--and I spent the next few minutes composing myself, trying to figure out where Gus found it, whether he killed it or simply found it after its run in with a cat downstairs, and of course, wondering how many more of its family are in the neighborhood or the basement or under the deck.

I will get out of my chair eventually. Probably.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

reminders of miss jane

The last two times Janey came to play, she had definite ideas about what she wanted to do during her visit. Two visits ago, she wanted to take a baff. I thought she wanted to get into the hot tub but it was stinkin' windy so I distracted her with some other event like getting a drink or drawing on the white board.

After she left, I went into the bathroom and was immediately aware of how very much Janey had wanted to take a baff. All of the bathtub toys were strewn about the tub, just waiting for me to add water so Janey could stir. Oh sorrow, we missed a perfect water time together.

When Janey came to visit on Saturday, she played and we read stories and did all kinds of fun things, and when it was almost time for her to leave, she came out of the toy room carrying a pair of giant sunglasses that needed to be placed on the nose of the rocking horse outside. Of course. Where else would you put a pair of giant orange sunglasses if you were two? She must have been planning for a big race on gack booty that day.

it's august and then there's the dogs

August is the best month.
Two reasons:
my birthday
floral glory

These are on my list of favorite dog parts:
Jo's white toenail
Gus's curlicue tail

This year's garden includes old friends and new

old favorite black-eyed susans
and a new grande variety

did I mention the new variety is grande?

In case you didn't follow that, these are not sunflowers.
They are black-eyed susans that are taller than Jack.

Then there's the dogs.

which lead to this:

And the dog, the neurotic bug chasing dog

which leads to this:

This is the nonstop, all day, all night activity

yep, lots of pictures today
how to chose? what to eliminate?