Sunday, August 31, 2008

Something to Think About



Jane, 7, was angry --VERY angry --with her parents today and posted the above sign on her bedroom door. It says (mostly), "I am staying in my room forever. You can pass me food, day after day after day. Including desserts." (Note how she spelled 'desserts' correctly --I love that kid so much.)

So, Mrs. G. from Derfwad Manor has a very thought provoking post up about how she is pretty horrified by bloggers who discuss their children's very private lives on their blogs. (Click here to read it.)

I got that kind of uncomfortable, might have been sent to the Principal's office feeling.

I've been going through and re-reading my blog because I'm trying to find a post without pictures to submit to Sue's book project. I, um, use a lot of pictures as illustrations of whatever my particular point is. (Well, you know, when I have one.) And I don't know if you've noticed, but I talk a LOT about my kids.

I don't THINK I'm violating their privacy but I just don't know. It's a fine line. Like, I think that note by Jane posted above is HILARIOUS but will there be a point at which she's embarrassed that I posted it? I'm so proud of my kids and I just adore their decided personalities and the fact that they are so creative and such WRITERS but am I stepping over the bounds? I would never want to use my blog (or any of my writing, for that matter) to hurt ANYONE, but especially not my children, whom I love more than anything or anyone in this world.

My husband hates being anywhere near the blog and I try to tread lightly there but, honestly, I don't think he'd be happy unless I left him out completely. It's not the content to which he objects so much as it is the fact that he appears here at all. But I don't know how to write about my life without involving him since he's about 90% of my adult interaction since we moved to New York. So, I do write about him and he does appear here and I've told him that it's part of the heavy, heavy price he pays for having linked his life to mine.

I asked Ana (10) if I've ever embarrassed her and if she'd prefer not to be written about. She said, "No, I like being written about." I said, "What do you like about it?" And she said, "I don't know. I just do."

Mrs. G. made me think, though, especially now that I've sort of developed a little following. I'm not sure what I'd write about if I didn't write about my kids and husband. I guess it'd be another knitting/weight loss blog--assuming there ever WAS any weight loss (not that I'm bitter.)

Maybe I need to get a life.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It Was The Worst of Times; It Was The Best of Times

Okay, so raise your hands if you've ever canned tomato sauce.

Not many hands raised, huh? I think I know why.

Because it's a horrible, laborious, tedious, stressful thing to do, that's why. But MOST OF ALL, do you know why people don't do more canning of tomato sauce?

Because after a full day spent chopping (Thanks for the hints in the comments about involving the girls. They did most of the chopping. Well, you know, in a "running the food processor" kind of way.) and simmering:
and simmering some more
and then putting the mixture through a sieve and simmering some more:
and then bottling it and processing it in a water bath:
you might just look at the ten and a half cups of sauce that it took you all FREAKING day to make
and realize that you never added the lemon juice that would even out the PH balance and act as a preservative.


There was nothing for me to do but get dressed and go to Knit Night in an effort to restore my sanity.

So, today... I still have no idea what to do. Do I open all the jars (the reason I have such little jars is that I was preparing to make tomato relish and then I found out that you can't force a tomato to be something it's not. But since up here in New York, you have to order your canning supplies online, there wasn't time to order another set of larger mason jars.) and simmer the freaking sauce again and then add the lemon juice and process it all again? Or do I open up all the jars, cook up some spaghetti and get right down to carbo-loading in case I do a 5K in the next ten years?

PS: While Ana and I were staging the picture of me lying on the kitchen floor, Scout came by and stepped on my face. Because my day was not just not complete.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"What a WEEK I'm Having...!"

(Okay, not really a WEEK. Really, I'm just having a DAY. But I couldn't resist that quote from, yes, another eighties movie! Anyone?)

My day actually began at 4:00 AM when Ana's cough woke me up. She's had this dry, unproductive cough for several days now and my husband was out of town which makes me sleep even more lightly than I normally do. (If I wasn't so tired right now, I'm sure I could think of an analogy here but y'all are just going to have to analogize yourselves.)

I came down and let the dogs out. Sydney, in her dotage at age 15, has taken to using the carpet in the living room as her personal toilet whenever it pleases her and HOLY COW, I am SO NOT OKAY WITH THIS. Yes, I know that she doesn't actually WANT to misbehave. She's ancient and she's confused and her systems are starting to shut down on her... most notably that system which makes her fear repercussions for pooping in the house. Because, who am I kidding, what am I going to do, SPANK HER? Yeah, I don't think so. So I've just been trying to put her out to go potty as often as I possibly can.

Even at 4:00 in the morning.

After which, I hobbled back upstairs and slept for a few hours before I jolted wide awake with the Fear of Death upon me. Dudes! It is RECYCLING DAY! CANS AND BOTTLES!! I forgot to set the bin out!

See, in New York, the pick-up for recycling is every other week! Every. Other. Week. I think you know us well enough by now to know that our output of wine bottles and beer cans water bottles and cans from organic vegetables is sort of awe-inspiring. (We're in training for the 2016 Olympics because we hear it will be a newly added sport.)

I hauled the recycling container down the driveway, all the way to the curb. It's a big bin and this is how full it was: This is the way to the curb:
I noticed the paper was lying by the mailbox but knowing our cow dog Scout's passion for retrieving it, I left it at the bottom for him to retrieve.

Unfortunately, he came back without it. ("There was one?") Because apparently, he has forgotten his passion for retrieving it. Of COURSE he has. So I had to hobble down the hill AGAIN to get it. I found it, not far from where it had been earlier, only now it looked like this:

Now, while I was limping up and down the hill and cursing Scout's very existence, I had left the front door WIDE OPEN so that Sydney could come and go as she pleased, no pressure.

Well, she WENT all right, all over the living room rug. Inside the house. With the door wide open.

And, oh yeah, I had missed the recycling pick up. No medal for me.

I cleaned up the poop, opened all the windows, made myself some coffee and woke the girls. We're getting ready for school so every day I've been waking them up fifteen minutes earlier, which should translate into fifteen minutes earlier to bed at night but it never does. They were pretty good-natured about it and ate their breakfast and got dressed.

We headed to the grocery store because today was supposed to be Tomato Relish Day and I was missing a few ingredients.

And there, my friends, my children exhibited the worst behavior I have ever witnessed from them in a public place in all of my ten plus years as a parent. I have never been so horrified and embarrassed in all of my life. I don't even want to revisit the details but suffice to say there was actual screaming in the self-check-out line and I ended up apologizing on their behalf to everyone in the store.

The ride home? THAT was fun, you betcha.

Upon arriving home, they were sent to their rooms to think about what would constitute an appropriate punishment. No consensus on that topic (Oddly enough, they didn't like MY idea, which was to deny them their allowances, desserts and all screen time until they are THIRTY YEARS OLD.) but I let them out for lunch and then they played in the basement for a while while I got to working on the tomato relish.

To make tomato relish, you have to blanch (plunge into boiling water for a minute and then put them immediately into ice water) and peel the tomatoes first. Our tomato crop was mostly Roma tomatoes this year because I had no idea what, if anything, would actually grow. I don't even really LIKE Roma tomatoes but we had a bumper crop and a homegrown tomato is miraculous, no matter what the species.

Blanching and peeling Roma tomatoes, however, has to be the most tedious job on the planet.

Except, perhaps for CORING them. Because they're almost entirely made up of CORE.

Here's what the peels of sixteen pounds of homegrown (mostly Roma) tomatoes looks like:

Here are the tomatoes themselves:

So, I was looking at all of this while I had my lunch ( ) and it occurred to me that I'd never known anyone to make tomato relish out of Roma tomatoes.

I bent over quickly and put my head between my knees. And then I breathed into a paper bag. My life flashed before my eyes. [Insert other appropriate panicking cliches here.]

So, I called the foremost expert on tomato relish in the Universe, my father-in-law, Wyatt. We had a fairly hilarious conversation, sort of like one doctor calling the specialist for a consultation. "I am concerned that the Roma tomatoes might be the wrong consistency for tomato relish, Doctor, do you concur?"

He pronounced the tomato relish DOA (big bummer, that) and suggested that I make and can tomato SAUCE instead. Which I will do. Tomorrow, when I am having a better day and my foot isn't hurting so much. At that moment, though, I felt an Enormous Sulk coming on.

The girls and I decided to watch a movie. But first, we had to go pick up Jane's new glasses. I don't know why hers were ready and Ana's and mine weren't but off we went.

We had just gotten back from that when the optical place called, "Mrs. Cooper? YOUR glasses and Ana's just came in!"

Well, we'll just turn right around and drive back then, shall we? Of course we shall. Because I live for that kind of thing. Because the entire freaking day has been a complete freaking waste anyway, what's ONE MORE DISORGANIZED, USELESS TRIP WITH MY UNGRATEFUL SPAWN???

Here's Jane in one of her TWO new pairs (don't ask me how that happened but I think she cast a spell on the optician because she got TWO pair for the same price that I paid for Ana's.)

Here's Ana who was so happy about her new glasses, she kept wandering around just LOOKING at things. "Mom, I can see the words on that box over there. And the leaves--I can see the leaves on the trees! Oh, I'm so happy! I can see!") (Mind you, the girls had just been to the eye doctor in November so it's not like she's been forced to go without seeing for very long... but it still made me feel like I should have gotten them this check-up sooner. The possibilities for guilt in motherhood are just ENDLESS.)

And here are MINE as I try to approximate what my face must have looked like in the grocery store.

Quite the week--er, I mean, DAY.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oh, the Technology!



See that? That's a picture of our driveway, taken by Ana this morning, in a rare overlap of her "pride" and my "goeth before a fall."

I'll explain, shall I?

Lest y'all were thinking that maybe I'd grown up, started seeing a REAL therapist and was done forever with my trademarked "Lucille Ball Develops a Twitch and a Drinking Problem Simultaneously" approach to life, dear reader, I give you today.

Well, actually, I give you last night.

At exactly eight-something in the evening, all of our linked communication devices --the satellite TV, the phones and, oh lordy, lordy, lordy, the INTERNET mysteriously went silent.

My husband, who really is a geek and is paid to be one, declared an OUTAGE. He made the requisite call to customer service, was promised a house-call on the morrow and went to bed.

I stayed up and tried to reconstruct my life. A life without Internet --it gave me pause.

But anywho, the next morning, there was still no .COM in our communication. Which left us with "unication" which means, um, NOTHING. As in, "Barb has no life without Internet! Nothing!"

So, I set about unplugging things and then holding my mouth differently and plugging them back in. And low and behold, it WORKED! First the satellite started working again and then my Internet. But the telephone? Still out.

Nevertheless, I was all cocky. I sent my husband an e-mail about how TECHNOLOGICAL I am and how impressed I was with myself.

And see? That's when the Karmic backlash became a necessity. Had I just mentioned that some services had been restored, perhaps I would not now feel like the biggest idiot on this planet.

The repair technician came in the early afternoon. He had to park in the street and hike up our hill because it's company policy that they are not allowed to park in the driveways of the clients. He was a little out of breath but perfectly, perfectly gracious about it.

So, he checked out the modem and it turns out that in all of my rebooting everything--you know, because I am SO TECHNOLOGICAL AND ALL-- I plugged the phone cable in upside down.

Took him less time to fix than it did to hike Mount Cooper.

His theory, not that he was TRYING to make me feel bad, is that there was some disturbance that resolved itself about the time I started my rebooting shtick.

I think I'll go out and steal someone's trash can and make my day complete.

Okay, I'm Over Myself

I awoke this morning with a renewed energy and zest for life in New York. I think yesterday was just a bout of normal homesickness for all that was familiar back in Austin. It wasn't a crisis; just a dull ache. Maybe that's to be expected--after all, I lived in Austin for more than half of my life. Things are good here, though.

This renewed enthusiasm today may or may not have something to do with the fact that it is SIXTY DEGREES here. In August. Sixty. Six-oh. In Austin, we'd see that in January. Maybe.

Also, I had to go buy bagels this morning and there is nothing like a New York Deli to convert you to nothing but love for your fellow New Yorkers. Dudes, the food here...! But it's not JUST the food. No, really. It's also that your average New Yorker, who has some sort of trigger (middle) finger in traffic? Is willing to wait, and wait PATIENTLY, to get his deli order exactly right. He wants one egg white and one egg with salt and no pepper and no cheese on an 'everything' bagel and he's not leaving unless the ratio of egg white to egg is exactly perfect. He might even make a little small talk while he's waiting. But he will NOT become impatient. Because getting your breakfast just exactly right is important.

I so respect that kind of commitment in a populace.

And then, too, at the bagel place, I discovered a new food. This does not bode well for the Booty Reduction Plan, which is sort of sucking wind anyway, due to some further foot setbacks. And now, this:

This, my friends, is a Cinnamon Stick. It's a cinnamon-raisin bagel that is coated in butter and cinnamon sugar. Did you already know about these? Because if you did and you didn't tell me, I am so crabby with you. Um, or grateful-- it's a toss-up.

Also this morning, I heard the counter clerk say "stayin' or goin'" to the guy next to me and she said it in such a strong New York accent that even HE didn't understand her.

After he asked her to repeat herself ("Whut?"), he gave the right answer. "Stayin'."

Me, too.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Homesick


(For those of you who read the blog via e-mail, there's a YouTube video on this blog post with a Tom Petty song called "Southern Accents." Little mood music.)

Mostly, you know, I'm all about blooming where I am (trans)planted. Mostly, you know, I can find my spirit of adventure on this new planet called New York and MOSTLY, you know, I can find my sense of humor in the juxtaposition of my southern, spastic self among all of these Yankees.

But, y'all, school is starting in Austin today and I find that I am sort of overwhelmed with homesickness.

I think it's really that I knew how everything worked there, you know? If we were there, I would know exactly what to do and what teachers to ask for and I would be confident of my kids' abilities to be both challenged academically and also find nice friends. I would know exactly where to go back-to-school shopping and I would know exactly what to sign the girls up for in terms of extracurricular activities. I'd get to volunteer in their school and walk them to class and make the office staff laugh. (The schools here do not welcome parents.)

I would have my own circle of friends with whom to celebrate the start of another school year. I would have called my friend Laura, whose baby started Kindergarten today. I'd have gone grocery shopping (by myself! Woot!) at Central Market and then shown up at my friend Lisa's house (Lisa's oldest started Middle School today), where there would be a glass of wine with my name on it. Or maybe we'd all meet at the local community pool and cook out. Or meet at my own funky (and still unsold, sigh) house and throw the kids in the pool...

Ah, Austin.

I just miss it. I miss our great street and the way we all looked out for each other. I miss calling my neighbor Erin and asking if she wanted to bring her girls swimming and the way she'd just give Jane dinner and a bath with her own kids without even thinking twice about it. I miss people who call me, "Hon" and the way everyone in Austin has an easy smile and a few extra seconds for courtesy. I miss Texans--as a species.

Please don't tell me that it'll get better here. I know it will. I'd lived in Austin since I was eighteen and it still took me almost a year to feel at home in Austin in that neighborhood. It'll take time for everything to feel right here. I had some deep roots and it's just going to take a while for them to take hold in this particular landscape. I know all that.

But for today, I miss it.

There's a southern accent, where I come from
The younguns call it country
The yankees call it dumb
I got my own way of talkin'
But everything is done, with a southern accent
Where I come from

Saturday, August 23, 2008

NOT Random Saturday Stuff

I was going to post a lot of random updates today but I can't.

Because last night something really lovely happened and I can't get the vision of it out of my head so I have to tell you about it.

See, my girls have been playing with bubbles this week. Just those cheap bottles of bubbles from Wal-Mart or wherever, occasionally refilled by Dawn dish washing soap. The weather here has been incredible --dipping into the low sixties at night and peaking at around 80 degrees during the day--and the girls have really enjoyed being outside.

So, first the girls started playing a game where they would blow the bubbles and dance around in them. (I overheard Ana (10) ask Jane (7) in all seriousness, "If you had a butler, would you ask him to stand and blow bubbles so you could dance in them?")

Soon they realized that if they run as fast as possible across the yard, a trail of bubbles will shoot out behind them. Then they started pretending they were fairies and the bubbles were wishes. The fairies would READ the wishes and pop the ones they deemed "greedy."

Last night, as it was getting dark and just cool enough to think about coming inside, the girls began spinning around, enveloping themselves in bubbles and laughing like mad.

And right at that moment? The fireflies started to light the bubbles up. I've never seen anything like it. It was simply...enchanting. So incredibly beautiful.

Almost as lovely as the innocent, awed, luminous faces of my two daughters.
Sometimes I wish they didn't ever have to grow up.

Friday, August 22, 2008

MEMEMEMEMEMEME

DK sent me this and I was tagged for a meme about six random things but I figured this was more interesting. (Oh, okay, I couldn't think of six interesting things about me.)

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Nope. My mom just liked the name. Oddly enough, we named Jane the same way.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Hello, we're in the middle of the Olympics! I'm sure it was today some time.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? You know what? I always did really like it. But then my husband said something about how most people have CURVED lines in their handwriting and I don't, and ever since, I've been a little worried about it.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
Tomatoes.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
Yes. Yes, I do.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I don't know. I'm pretty damn judgmental. No, seriously, I think maybe I would. I hope so.

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
(Rolls eyes.)

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS
Yes and they are darned attractive.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
If one of my children's lives depended on it.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
I love cereal. Love it. I love it so much that I really can't keep it in the house. I like granola with raisins.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
I do now but I never did before my surgery.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
I do. I think I am much stronger than most people know.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
Coffee, I think. But in Austin, there's this great ice cream chain called Amy's and their home-made ice cream... especially the ones with flavored liquors added? DUUUUDESSS.

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE
Their hands.

15. RED OR PINK?
Red.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
(I had to pick and choose because I have quite the list.) I really hate it that I cry when I get angry. Sometimes I think of the best things to say and then I can't get them out because I'm all wracked with sobs and stuff.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
This is kind of a loaded question since we just moved away from all of our friends in Texas, but I really, really miss my thin, confident self circa 1995. (But shouldn't that be, "WHOM?")

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? No... but if you put it on your blog, maybe you could post or send me a link!

19. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? White and red Mizuno Alchemy running shoes.

20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Tomato sandwich and oh my gosh, it was. Sheer. Perfection.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? My kids playing on the computer, my old dog Sydney sighing and the wind whispering through the tall trees out back.

22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Today I would be periwinkle but I am usually magenta.

23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Basil after I've watered the garden, the girls' freshly shampooed hair, a baby's neck (any baby, I don't care), campfires and Zingermann's Earl Grey Tea.

24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? The dentist's office--I am making all of our back-to-school appointments. And have I mentioned how very much I hate to talk on the telephone? I. Hate. It.

25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Yes, I quite love her.

26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Cycling, Olympics (the coverage this year has been minus all the sappy back-story stuff and we are LOVING it) and Michael Phelps. (He counts as a sport, right?)

27. Hair Color? Brown and grey

28. EYE COLOR? Brown

29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Yes

30. FAVORITE FOOD? Homegrown tomatoes, sourdough bread, real mayo. (Did I mention that already? Are you sure?)

31. MYSTERY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Both. But I never watch movies.

32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Howl's Moving Castle.

33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? black

34. SUMMER OR WINTER? Weelll, this is a tough question because we just moved to New York from Texas. In Texas, I would definitely have to say Winter but in New York, this summer climate is PERFECTION and I haven't done a winter here yet. In general, though, I prefer being cold over being hot.

35. HUGS OR KISSES? Yes, please.

36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Hot fudge anything (or hell, just hot fudge by itself) and cobbler. (I don't like hot fudge on my cobbler, though, but I will take a scoop of vanilla ice cream.)

37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
I don't know, really.

38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND.
Coop

39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Howl's Moving Castle. I borrowed it from my daughter Ana (10.)

40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I don't have one so I guess, um, granite?

41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? Olympics and more Olympics.

42. FAVORITE SOUND? My children laughing, HARD. And running, babbling, bubbling, splashing, or falling water. Basically any time water moves, I like the sound.

43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? BEATLES ALL THE WAY!

44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME??? My own brain. (And let me tell you, there are some really strange people there.)

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I have really amazing parking Karma. It's how I have managed to NOT need a handicapped sticker so far, 18 months into this foot thing. Also, I think I am very good at encouraging people.

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Stuttgart, Germany

47. WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK? I love them all!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Global Kitchen Gardens and Borders

I never realized it before but your basic kitchen garden is a microcosm of the Geo-political world.

Here, I failed to plan appropriately for population growth, and my support infrastructure leaves something to be desired. It's kind of like a Newly Industrialized Country of Vegetables.

Indeed, some of the inhabitants keep making a break for it, refusing to be kept imprisoned by their chance birthplace and seeking more freedom to prosper elsewhere.

Over in this corner is the New World. This extension was added with planning and forethought, and seems to have everything very tidily growing in the proper support structures. There is plenty of room for everyone to grow in an orderly fashion. We'll call this part of the garden "Germany."

The problem with Germany, though, is that the vegetables aren't really bursting forth in abundance, the way they are in, say, "Mexico." They have socialized health care, though --great augmented soil and a regular vitamin infusions --but with one or two exceptions () (Yes, I just used a parenthetical picture. What's your point?), they seem content to grow slowly and methodically. We've had something of a cool snap recently, so maybe the global climate isn't as conducive to mass production over in that side of the world. (This whole analogy is going up in smoke when the bell pepper crop comes in, though. Mercy, it's going to be HUGE!)

Meanwhile, in Mexico, we have huge, huge production but due to a lack of infrastructure, we're having a hard time harvesting before things start spoiling. (We have to hoist Jane (7 and tiny) over the fence and into the middle of the country--er--tomato patch to do our harvesting. She doesn't always feel like being hoisted and she has something of a point.) (Dang child labor laws.)

Due to an inefficient and apathetic border patrol, we have had some tragedies.

We've had some trouble from neighboring countries who have sent in armed guerrillas on raids. This, despite the fact that we've been throwing a certain amount of produce that doesn't meet export standards outside of the fence. (I know, I know, dumping our waste on unsuspecting third world nations!)

We've lost a few of the inhabitants due to border incidents.

Even more ominously, we've had a few air strikes from extremists who will fly over, stab one hole in a tomato and then flee. This makes NATO (North Atlantic Tomato Organization) very, VERY cranky and it has dispatched an unarmed peace-keeping force to the region. Everyone openly scoffs at the little fancy-pants flag-waver, though, so this hasn't proven very effective. NATO is considering building a large hawk-like structure as a deterrent but the idea is stuck in committee.

This pillaging is a very big bummer, as you might imagine, because the amount of spoilage due to these unruly thieves has some people wanting to declare WAR unless a peaceable solution can be found.

And, of course, in other parts of the world, Switzerland is remaining neutral on the subject.

(Um, just to be clear, no national slurs are implied in this post. It's all really just supposed to be a joke.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Letters from the Front

It is possible that Ana (10) will be an attorney when she grows up.

(This is the "welcome" letter she left for our weekend house guests, who were staying in her room.)

It says,

"Welcome to the Cooper Hotel!

Your room will be on the upper floor, number 3. Please use the [play] money enclosed to buy from the shops that will occasionally pop up during your visit. You are welcome to use the desk in your suite to put your luggage on, or use it for writing, drawing, etc., etc..

There are some things that we would prefer you to look at, and not touch, such as the doll beds in front of the bookcase. You are welcome to read books from that.

Please refrain from taking down drawings, signs, pictures, etc., etc..

We ask you not to take [play] money from the cash register and feel free to mess up your bed. We will make it up so that you will come in to a made bed, which (for us) is very relaxing.

Enjoy your stay at the Cooper Hotel!"


It is possible that Jane (7) will be a psychologist when she grows up.

This letter says,
"Dear Ana,

You didn't seem excited when I told you about my tooth. Is something bothering you? Are you jealous? If you are, then be jealous. It's all right, you can tell me. And if you ever feel that way about me, you can tell me. You won't be in any kind of trouble. And if you tell me the truth, guess what? You'll be the first to know how much money I got from the Tooth Fairy.

And you said you knew where Pinky, my Pacifier, was. How old do I have to be for you to show me where she is?

Bye!

love,
Jane

PS: In your next letter, I will write a story for you!

I [heart] you, you goofball!

[heart] Jane"


It could be that Ana will be a diplomat when she grows up.

(Apology letter after a game of trains went horribly wrong.)
It says,
"Dear Jane,

I'm sorry for not giving you one of those cars when you asked. Are we still friends? I will always love you, even if I say I don't. If we ARE still friends, maybe we could play mail, school, or some other third thing.

I loved you from the second you were born.

love,
Ana"

It is possible that Jane will be an actress when she grows up.

(Jane's response after being refused dessert and her statement that she was never going to eat again until she was given some ice cream. To which her mother lovingly responded that she would be waiting a VERY LONG TIME and be VERY HUNGRY. To which Jane asserted that she would STARVE TO DEATH and we would find her SKELETON in her room, then.)



It is possible we have some WRITERS living in the Cooper Hotel household.

Monday, August 18, 2008

One Year

A year ago yesterday, our Austin next-door neighbors' son was tragically killed in a car accident.

He and his parents and sister have been very much on my mind this weekend. Just... missing him. Loving them and admiring their strength and, oh, wishing things could be different. We called them to tell them we were thinking of them and to let them know that we have not forgotten him.

We will never forget him.

It's been especially poignant because our good friends Ian and Kristi and their daughter, eighteen-month-old Mirabelle, were visiting this weekend from Austin. There's so much I'd forgotten about little ones and I kept remembering the babyhoods of my own girls. My girls seem so big now by comparison and (stop me if you've heard this) it's just gone so fast. When we moved into the house in Austin, our neighbor's son was the same age that Ana is now --ten years. I bet they saw us with her and remembered his toddlerhood.

And you know, that's how the circle of life is supposed to happen, each aspect of our children's growth graduates into the next phase and we leave the day-to-day of the old behind as we rise to meet whatever new challenge and joy comes before us.

Only, see, sometimes the circle is interrupted in such a terrible and inexplicable and shocking way that it rocks the very foundation of our worlds. I still can't get my mind around it. I still can't make any sense out of it. The grief I am experiencing feels totally inadequate as a response.

Jane(7) who has had a very hard time processing the death of her friend, blew soap bubbles to him on Saturday. I don't know why something so small made us both feel a bit more hopeful but it did.

Hug your babies if you've got them.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Tooth Fairy According to Jane


First she loses the tooth. This involves days of anguish over the tooth hanging by a THREAD and then going peacefully to sleep and having it fall out during the night. Because this is Jane, the tooth is found in the bed. (She leads a charmed life.)

Much shrieking ensues.

Very. Early. In. The. Morning.

Jane details the exact size of her tooth:

Her note says: "People! This is what my tooth looks like in front of the smallest coin. (Dime.)" and then she has drawn the tooth AND the dime just to make sure we dolts understand the size comparison.

She sends a flurry of e-mails in various fonts and colors to denote her excitement.

In case you missed the fact that she's excited.

Carefully, she plots her strategy with regard to the Tooth Fairy.

The Note:

It says (well, you know, more or less), "Dear Tooth Fairy, What Luck! Do you know how I lost my tooth? (Oh, and for my last tooth, where did you get my 2-dollar bill 'cause those are really rare.) (Oh, and my cousin told me she heard you one night. She heard footsteps.) Do you fly or do you walk or both? Please answer my questions.

PS: I know you're not in the habit to write notes, but this one is important! My last front tooth I am gonna lose! Oh, by the way, do you come when our teeth fall out when we are dead? Sincerely yours truly, Jane Cooper

PPS: Can I keep my tooth?

(The kid's digressions make her mother's heart proud. It's an art form, you know.)

She packaged up the tooth and the note, along with a pen and a little pad of paper into a ziplock bag and placed it under her pillow.

Now, I would like it to be known that I asked the Tooth Fairy--beseeched, really--NOT to write a note back because the last time the T. F. wrote back, I fielded a semi-irate phone call from the mother of one of Jane's classmates who was wondering where SHE was going to get one of those T.F. notes for her OWN child. However, the Tooth Fairy seems rather firmly under Jane's spell. So, she got THIS back:

It says, in very tiny Fairy writing, "Jane, you are very sweet! I love you. I only bring treats for sweet children. No one else! Love, T.F. PS: Keep the tooth, I've got plenty!"

The Hurricane was not so happy, though. "She didn't answer my questions. And I think she took my pen."

Lucky for all, in addition to the note, the Tooth Fairy left $2.46 and the tooth behind. (Don't ask about the lipstick.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Random Wordy Wednesday Stuff

As motivational as it is to look at the picture I posted last night (in an OH THE HORROR kind of way), I really can't stand it. Here's another one taken that same night where, oh, look! I have a waist.

There, I feel better. (Moderately.) (Sort of.)

Coop and I were out on a Date Night at a work function for his company when the photo was taken. It was the coolest thing--a cruise around Manhattan. (Not to be confused with a cruise around STATEN ISLAND which is what I told everyone we were doing. They must have been a bit perplexed because from what I hear, this is not really the stuff of celebratory work functions.) We came really close to the Statue of Liberty, which is just so incredibly amazing and impressive and regal, especially at night. I've seen six million pictures of the Statue of Liberty but there is really something about seeing it in person.

The tomato crop is starting to come in: I could not be happier. Dudes, my whole LIFE I've been waiting for this! I have visions of tomato relish!

The girls' basement book nook has taken shape. Initially, I tried to set one up in the basement and I ordered the bean bags, etc. only to realize, when my husband pulled out his golf clubs after storing them in the basement and found he had some kind of Chia Club thing going on (seriously, green stuff was growing on his clubs), that the humidity/moisture factor in the basement was NOT a good thing for books. But we bought a second de-humidifier and my brilliant husband found a way to connect one of the de-humidifiers into the drainage system so we don't have to remember to empty it all the time (a set-up to fail if ever I've heard of one) and the humidity is down to 40% now. So we moved the books down and set up the Book Nook.

The kids LOVE it. Little readers:

I went to the foot doctor last night and got a shot in each foot. Fun times. I'm hopeful I am on the path to pain-free walking, though. Because it occurred to me as I was driving home (very low blood sugar) that this has been the worst year of my life when it comes to physical distress, limitations and pain. It trumps the Cancer Year AND the year I did 20 weeks of bedrest, combined. If it weren't for that light right there at the end of the tunnel, I think I would just give up. Okay, maybe not, but dudes... what a long year it's been.

On the Bum Reduction Project (BRP), the past two days, I did 20 minutes on the bike (of which my sister requested a picture and so, in my patented picture within a digression/aside (soon to be an Olympic sport) I am providing a picture of same: Note that Jane's latest Iron Bead sorting project is going on behind the bike.) and yesterday I added 75 crunches and 15 push-ups. It's not much, but it's a start. Today I am having a bit of pain so I am skipping a day so that I can hit it hard tomorrow. Tomorrow I will also start my new eating plan, which isn't anything so complicated. I'm just going to do the "cut out desserts and eat smaller portions and up the steamed veggies and no eating after 7:00 PM" thing. And writing everything down. I'm not very good about that but it seems to be a key part of any successful reducing plan. And maybe I'll do some sort of weekly update so that y'all don't feel like falling down and swallowing your tongues every time I bring the subject up...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On the Launch Pad

So, my mother-in-law has been visiting and the Olympics have been on so I haven't had time to blog except in the recesses of my brain. Which, of course, ended up being eaten (drowned?) by the amount of wine I've consumed. It's a pity because there was some darn good stuff there. (Well, at least what I recall.)

The big news around here is that my husband threw financial reason to the winds and bought me a stationary recumbent bike. I've needed one (since I am so gimpy and cannot exercise in my old, breakneck, throw-some-Ben-Gay-at-the-pain fashion) but we've been treading a bit lightly financially since our house in Austin (stop me if you've heard this) still hasn't sold. Coop did the research (of course he did) and then found a bike he thought would be a good one on Craig's List for about a third of the retail price.

This all coincided with two other events. One is that Ei issued a challenge on her blog about daring not to label oneself, based on this book she'd read called The Daring Female's Guide to Ecstatic Living and I bought the book. I've been reading a little bit every night (so inspirational) and basically, the one that really spoke to me was "Dare to Rise to Meet a Challenge."

Meanwhile, Mrs. G of Derfwad Manor issued a fitness challenge which I cannot name here because this is a family blog. (Ana, do NOT click on that link.) It has something to do with her hiney and reducing the size of same.

THEN, my mother-in-law took the single most unflattering picture of me that has ever been taken --and that includes photos taken of me after my sister cut my hair when I was in second grade. I don't think my MIL took the photo maliciously or anything, and I also don't think that I'm QUITE as fat as this unflattering angle shows. (Maybe.) (I hope.) But the fact that I even HAVE this angle is totally unacceptable to my vain little (HAH!) self.

I can't tell you how embarrassed I am about that picture. I've deleted it and reloaded it about 70 times because I feel like it's important to keep it real here, not to mention honest, but also? I don't want y'all to think I'm fat.

I'm all deep like that.

So, Friends? I am launching my come-back. It's going to involve some tears and sweat and maybe giving up cream and sugar in my coffee (the horror!) and apparently, some really hideous pictures of me posted on the Internet because I.

Have.

No.

Pride.

I wouldn't count me out yet, though, because sometimes, being completely spastic and over the top in all things can be GOOD.

I am trying to come up with my own clever name for MY Booty-Reducing Effort but currently, I am in the "Trying Not To Cry Because I'm So Freaking Sore" mode. I hear name calling--er NAMING comes in the next phase.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Oh-Eight-Oh-Eight-Oh-Eight

A reader/friend wrote me to tell me that she'd heard on the radio that today is supposed to be a lucky day because of all the eights. (08/08/08 --Friday, August 8, 2008.) She said that we should light a white candle and say something like, “Please, Please, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE UNIVERSE bring prosperity to me through the sale of our Austin House.” The number 8 has some kind of “vibration” regarding money and all things surrounding money, and the triple 8 is a special prosperity day – supposedly.

You know me: immediately, I'm thinking, "Dude, how many candles should I light?" Because I am willing to try ANYTHING, even setting the dang house ON FIRE.

We're looking at having a family move into our house in Austin so that the house has furniture in it and shows better. There's a company there that places families in transition (the prospective tenants are building a house and waiting for it to be finished) in vacant houses in order to "stage" them. We've checked their references, etc. and they seem like a reputable company.

We really don't want to do this because we are worried about the liability. Granted, our house had four pets, two kids and one messy boy in it when WE lived there so it's pretty sturdy AND we do have insurance. But if someone trips on one of those stepping stones, or has an accident in the pool, I think our liability is much greater. (We wouldn't have sued OURSELVES if anything like that happened to US when we lived there, you know what I'm saying?)

So, if you all are lighting a candle for yourself today and wishing for prosperity, could you add a little coda and say, "I wish Barb's house in Austin would sell and bring her prosperity before she goes SMACK out of her mind and starts selling off her children to gypsies," I would really appreciate it.

Although, actually, I think selling the kids to the gypsies isn't such a great likelihood. Because yesterday, Jane and I were doing a puzzle and she connected a huge portion of the frame together and I said, "You are so CLEVER. Gosh, that's awesome, Janie."

And she said, "Yes. With my sharp eyes and good brain and YOUR charm, we make a pretty good team."

Well, there ya have it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Love (Joy Rush Alert!) Thursday

So, when I first posted my Joy Rush list, this incredibly nice blogger named Miriam entered the contest and her list was so wonderful that I sent her a copy of my book. (Yea! A chance read more about ME. And, um, my LIFE and my CHILDREN and my NEUROSES! I am sure she was thrilled.) And then she and I kind of got to talking (e-mail-wise) and discovered that we are really the same person, only she has FOUR girls and a farm and lives three time zones away from me. And she's younger. Also, thinner and more accomplished and a better driver. And probably, a better mother. But other than that, we are practically mirror images. EXACTLY the same.

So, then we talked some more (e-mail, because I don't really do the other kind) and she wrote me some very kind words when I was feeling particularly down. I know, I know--you are shocked, aren't you? I'm usually SO SHY about showing my feelings that you never would have known I was down about things like my dog dying, my best new friend moving, my endless gimpiness and the fact that our house in Austin still hasn't sold...y'all are shocked that I was feeling down about all that, right? Yeah, I know. So PRIVATE, that would be me.

(BWAHAHAHAHAH! Ah, me.)

So, I knitted her a bag.

And I sent it to her, along with another copy of my book because her mother took the first copy and because I still have about 200 of them and I'm all unselfish like that. (Protest is futile.)

But then you know what she did?? Do you?? Do you???

That WENCH!

She made me cry. By writing THIS.

See, there's something about knitting something for someone --some kind of wishful thinking that what you are making will be something precious or at least appreciated by the giftee. That the person will feel all the hope and good wishes and love you put into every stitch. And gosh, that feeling when the other person really GETS it? Well, it's why I give away the things I knit. I guess it's a selfish thing, really.

I want to learn to give from some place where my joy remains intact no matter the response. I'm not there yet. Until then, this is a tremendous joy rush.

And Miriam? As rare and miraculous as a ladyslipper in these parts.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Well, THAT'S a bummer

My MIL is coming this week so we had our house professionally cleaned yesterday. I've been so gimpy that I never quite got it back to spic and span after the family of five (three teenage boys!) stayed in our house for the first five days while we were on vacation.

Dudes, you cannot even imagine how much I was looking forward to having that cleaning crew in my house again. Remember? I documented the amazing job they did here. (Go ahead and click on it --it will open in a new window (because HTML R Us) and you won't even lose your place. Go on, click. You need the background.) I woke up early to do the prep for the guys and they showed up at 8:30 on the button.

And they cleaned, right, but just nothing like the first time.

I was sooooo disappointed.

The owner of the company wasn't with them and they just didn't have the same attention to detail AT ALL. They didn't dust the tops of my pictures. They didn't get all the way into the corners of the mirrors and the sliding glass door. They didn't even fold ALL of the toilet paper rolls to points.

I did NOT want to take pictures. I did NOT think they had done a better job than I could have done. In fact, after they left I spent most of the afternoon going back over things they'd missed.

It was good to have it all done at once but it just wasn't at all the experience I was hoping for. You know what it was like? It was like my tomato sandwich yesterday. I decided that if I was going to keep eating tomato sandwiches (with my own homegrown tomatoes!) at every single meal, then I needed to find a way to do it without all of that mayo. So I bought LIGHT mayo and I ate my sandwich and it just wasn't the same. It just flat out wasn't as good. It was still GOOD but it wasn't anything at all like the taste of real mayo on real tomatoes.

My house cleaning was just like the light mayo.

So, I called the owner.

I know, y'all are all falling off of your chairs all over the country. I don't even telephone people I LOVE and I'm not exactly known for my confrontational style. (I'm more of the "Brave Sir Robin Ran Away" school of confrontation.)

I have not been replaced by some alien replica--well, at least as far as I know. But I called him. Because one thing I've noticed about being a New Yorker --if you don't speak up, the other guy is never going to voluntarily make it right. People here ENJOY the Art of the Haggle.

I SO do NOT enjoy that.

But, in the spirit of When In Rome, I called him and he told me that in the future, he would come himself. I didn't get any offers for a re-do or a discount on the next cleaning but he was not defensive and I was strong. For ME, I mean. I was strong for me. My entire goal was not to end even one sentence with a question mark--you know what I mean? Not to say, "So, they didn't even dust my mantle? And they didn't move the furniture back into place once they'd moved it?"

I met my goal.

Of course, I completely sweated through my shirt in the two minutes we were on the phone but at least my voice didn't go up into that register that only dogs can hear.

I'm on my way to the kitchen now to make myself a tomato sandwich with real mayo. I've earned it.

As a total aside, here's a picture Edward looking like he's dreaming of being a super hero. He's asleep with one arm held parallel to the floor in mid-air. Doesn't that seem like it would be uncomfortable?