Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sew Happy!

Audrey's Girl Scout troop leader (my friend Jackie) asked me to teach a basic sewing class to the Brownies this month. It was a fun challenge and something I love to do. Plus I got to hang out with Audrey, so, bonus. It was supposed to be a one session class but because I have incredibly poor time management skills, it turned into a two session class. I didn't remember to take pictures during the first session. You'll have to use your imagination.

The girls learned a lot that first day. Namely, sewing a button on a piece of fabric looks easy. When sewing a button on a piece of fabric, push and pull the needle and thread up and down through the fabric. If you wrap the needle and thread around the fabric, Miss Amy will cut your thread and make you start over. They also learned about pattern instruction. Previous to the class I cut 16 long rectangles from pattern paper 6 inches wide and 30 inches long to make patterns for what would eventually become a fleece boa scarf. FOLD was the only pattern instruction we discussed. The girls learned that this end of the pattern piece is laid on the fold of the fabric. They cut three lengths from fabric that I had previously cut into 18 inch segments. The girls laid their pattern in the middle of their fabric piece and pinned it down. Then they cut on both sides of the pattern. Eventually they ended up with three, sort of equally cut layers of fabric.

If you choose to do this project with a large number of 7, 8 and 9 year old girls, be sure to have plenty of fabric scissors. It will save a lot of time and be significantly less tearful. That first class the girls, miraculously, completed the cutting of the fabric. And it was all ready for our next meeting two weeks later.

Two Weeks Later

On this day, the girls enjoyed learning about how to use a sewing machine. Many of them were a little apprehensive about the needle. The most common question I got was "Have you ever sewn your finger?" "No. I never have. That would hurt." I showed them how to thread the bobbin and the machine. They also learned how to work the presser foot and where the back stitch button was. When they had heard the basics, they took their three layers of fabric and did a straight line stitch down the middle of the layers, beginning and ending with a back stitch. A couple of moms, and an aunt of one of the girls (a real live seamstress) were there to help me for this session. We also had three machines available for the girls to use. We helped them as they guided their fabric through the machine. Some had a little difficulty with pressing the pedal and guiding the fabric at the same time, but they were all pros by the time they had sewn through 60 inches of fabric.

After they had completed their stitch, their instructions were to cut one inch strips down both lengths of the fabric, cutting through all three layers but stopping before the stitch.

We still could have used more scissors because, again, there was some waiting going on.

But in the end, we had 16 beautiful girls who flaunted their fabulous boa making skills.

Sew happy, and soooo cold. Well, except for her neck.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's just a box of wires.


"Hey," he called out to me, "How much do you want for this box of wires?" I looked over my shoulder and saw a man crouched low on the ground, sifting his hand through the old cardboard box. The garage sale was going well and there were several people crowding the driveway looking at the merchandise. Many of the items were the remnants left at our new home by the previous owners and I was patiently waiting beside a woman who was still making up her mind whether or not she wanted the old area rug we had found rolled up in the basement.

Jon had set the box of wires out before he had left for work, but hadn't put a price tag on it. I had shoved it under the table when he was gone, sure that no one would bother with something so unsightly. The box was familiar enough to me, it had moved with us where ever we went. Several times in the garage or basement I had kicked it out of my way, sometimes knocking it over, splaying the contents on the floor. The wires were all tangled and in disarray. Some of the beige and black rubber casings were split, and their copper and aluminum insides poked out like broom bristles. The box was ripped and faint water marks crept up the sides. The man's young son leaned on his dad's back while his father pulled the wires out and wrapped them around his hand, organizing the untidy mess. "Oh, you can just have that," I said, "It's just a box of wires," casually waving my hand in his direction before turning back to what I hoped would be a more lucrative transaction.

The man removed the wire from his hand, stood up quickly and with his young son in tow, walked straight to his car, shoving the box in the trunk. "Thanks," he called out, before opening his door, getting in and driving away. "Amazing what some people get excited about," I thought, as the woman I had been waiting for handed me thirty dollars for the rug.

March 12, 2011

We moved the computer and needed a longer cord, so Jon and I went to Micro Center. The parking lot was packed and when we entered the store it was evident by the zigzagging line that we would be there for awhile.

"What's so popular about Micro Center?" I asked him, with more than a hint of insolence.
"It's the ultimate computer store," he replied, "It says so on the sign."
"Ha. Ha.," I countered, "No, I mean, why are so many people here?"
"Didn't you know? They SELL wire."


"How much did you get for the box of wires?" he asked when he got home.
"Oh, nothing," I replied, shrugging my shoulders, "I gave them away."
"You gave them away?" he asked, his voice tinged with confusion and disbelief.
"Well yah, it was just a box of wires. Besides, you didn't put a price tag on it and I didn't know it was worth anything."
"Who took it?"
"I don't know. Some guy. He seemed pretty happy about it."


Two massive bundles of multi-colored wires lay on the living room floor. "Mom, what are these?" I asked. "Ken brought them over. He thought you kids might think of something to do with it." Our neighbor Ken worked for the telephone company. He and his wife Gayle were our surrogate grandparents and they loved to spoil us with little gifts and treats. The wire did wonders to spark the imagination and we spent hours winding and unwinding the pretty colored wire into stick figures, cars, flowers, shapes, and on occasion, tripwire. Since that afternoon so many years ago, it has been an unending source of entertainment, moving with me where ever I've gone. I've made bouquets of wire flowers to give to friends, used it as ribbon for wrapping packages, braided it into key chains and necklaces, and entertained my children with springy wire animals. All the wire I have left fits in a small box.

March 12, 2011

"So what was in that box anyways?" I asked, as we stood in the wire aisle of the store.
"Mainly coaxial cable and CAT 5 cables," he said, pointing to similarly looking beige and black cables for sale. "But I had speaker wire and audio cables in there also, maybe even an extension cord or two. And telephone wire."
"Not my telephone wire!"
"No, not YOUR telephone wire. Another kind."
"People sure pay a lot for wire. No wonder the man at the garage sale was so happy."
"Yah, no wonder."

March 13, 2011

"Diana had a cool object lesson at the board meeting tonight. She held up a new 20 dollar bill and asked who wanted it. We all raised our hands. Then she wrinkled it up and asked who wanted it. We all raised our hands. Then she stomped on it and asked who wanted it. We all raised our hands. Then she asked why we still wanted a wrinkled, stomped on piece of paper and we said it was because it's still worth 20 dollars. Her point was that people are like that 20 dollar bill. Many of us may feel like we are just a wrinkled, worthless mess. We make the mistake of finding worth only in the outside appearance and do not see the value of the soul."

"Kind of like our boxes of wires."

"Yes, kind of like our boxes of wires."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Taco Pizza is for me.

A few years ago, in an effort to appease the masses, we decided each family member would get to choose what's for dinner once a week. The other two days would be for leftovers. That means at least twice a week every family member is happy. The only rule is, it can't be something we ate the week before. Inevitably we eat pita pizzas every other week. Pita pizzas are a popular dinner choice at our house. Pitas are inexpensive and easy, especially with all the Middle Eastern markets by our house, where one can get ten freshly made pitas for about two dollars. Jon and Eli are cheese only pizza lovers, where as Nate and I enjoy the works. Audrey falls somewhere in the middle - as long as her mushrooms are arranged prettily, she's happy.

We were scheduled to have pasta salad and breadsticks tonight, but I was a little late on making the pasta. Having just returned from the market, I called our standby pita pizzas to bat. I could almost hear the shouts of joy and praise. That is until I decided to switch things up a bit with taco. pizza. You'd have thought I was sending them to bed without eating anything. What?! Something I've never tried before? How dare you!

The owner of Happy Joe's Pizza based in the Quad Cities is considered the inventor of the taco pizza. Yes. People in Iowa eat tacos, and pizza. And taco pizza. My first taste of taco pizza was when I was about 8. It was at a friend's birthday party at Happy Joe's at Northpark Mall in Davenport, IA. For a long time, Happy Joe's and Northpark Mall pretty much summed up the entertainment options for many Quad Citians, although, over the years the cities have worked hard to rectify that. I guess I just assumed taco pizza was a universal offering until I found out Jon had not heard of it. However, he's never been eager to venture a try.

So tonight instead of the usual toppings for pizzas, I put out all the fixings for tacos. And the pitas. The children were so confused. After much weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth, they reluctantly followed my lead, creating their own versions of the end goal. Eli was all about the cheese, but he did liven things up a bit with a salsa base. Audrey arranged her tomatoes just so, and I poured it all on. Jon and Nate didn't really care what they put on their pizzas; they were too interested in watching Ohio State annihilate UTSA. Go Buckeyes!

A taco pizza purist would use a pizza dough crust, but remember, I'm improvising here. Below is my pre-baked pizza. Refried beans, pre-cooked seasoned taco meat, olives, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and cheese. Tomatoes are usually added after baking, but I like them hot.

We baked them for about 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven. The pita was nice and crispy and the cheese was melted.

After it had baked, I top it off with chopped lettuce and a handful of crushed tortilla chips. Happy Joe's uses what they call taco chips, but I think tortilla chips or corn chips work well too. Some people even use crushed nacho flavored Doritos. Remember to add a dollop of sour cream. Jon used lettuce, ranch dressing and taco sauce. I added some homegrown, homemade jalapeno salsa.

Taco pizza is for me!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Do you like leprechauns?

Having a tense conversation with your significant other? Not enjoying the awkward silence at your dinner party? Bored out of your mind sitting in class or a meeting? Looking for a way out? Well then, change the subject. I suggest the following: Do you like leprechauns? That'll throw 'em.

I know, it's probably cliche to write about leprechauns on St. Patrick's Day. But at least I'm not posting pictures of our corned beef and cabbage dinner. That would also be cliche. The question Do you like leprechauns? came up when Audrey was 4. She asked it in the same way that Virginia O' Hanlon asked the editors at The Sun if there was a Santa Claus, with a child's eye towards truth and acceptance. Because if we, her parents, liked leprechauns, then leprechauns existed, weren't creepy and it was ok for her to like them. Of course the question may have been more relevant if it had been asked in, say, March, but she asked in, like, August. I remember Jon and I were talking, when Audrey interrupted with her question. It was so startling in its randomness and sincerity that we probably didn't respond with the same insight or purity of thought that Francis Pharcellus Church used in replying to Virginia. Actually I think we laughed out loud. But we've used it ever since.

Here's how it works:

Him: Did you remember to pick up the dry cleaning? Me: Um, do you like leprechauns?

Me: Did you unload the dishwasher? Him: Hey, do you like leprechauns?

Her: So then I went to another store because I just couldn't find the right shade of aquamarine to match the color of my third child's eyes, and it was just a disaster, I mean, can you believe no store carries this color? Me: Do you like leprechauns?

Works every time.

I'm cool with leprechauns. They grant wishes, they save their money and the food they endorse is magically delicious, plus they hang out with rainbows. Although last night, Eli told me it was a leprechaun that messed up his room, but I think it was just his way of trying to change the subject. Unless it was this leprechaun:

And then, I believe him. And I think I like leprechauns even more.

Do you like leprechauns?

It's okay for me to post this picture. I changed the subject.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A rose by any other name . . .

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
- Juliet Capulet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

What if I told you my name was really Artemisia Tridentata? Would I smell as sweet? Because it almost was. Thank goodness for grandmas, right? Otherwise Juliet's argument for abandoning the family grudge would have been my life's mantra. I arrived in my family unexpectantly. Really unexpectantly. And with little time to think of a name, my father turned to his vast and infinite knowledge of all things scientific.

Maybe a little background might be helpful here. My father sometimes lives in an alternate reality, calling things by their scientific name with little regard to whether anyone else knows what he is talking about. "This sure is good oncorhynchus mykiss," he'd tell my mom at dinner. Or, "Kids, keep it down back there, or so help me I'll lecture you on the harmful affects of loud noises on the scala tympani, scala vestibuli, and scala media." Seriously, he will. My siblings and I were the only kids in our elementary school who knew all the intricacies of the inner ear.

Artemisia Tridentata is the scientific name for the common mountain sagebrush found in Idaho, his home state and where I was born. My nickname was going to be Arty. Can't you just hear the childhood taunts? Thankfully, his mother put the kibosh on that. "She's a baby, not a bush," I can hear my Grandma Lew say. Instead I was named after my parent's sisters. My mom's sister Amy and my dad's sister Jean. Saddle a kid with a name like Artemisia and she's likely to grow up and go to a hippie liberal arts college and get a degree in something useless, like, English.

When my sister arrived in our family, equally unexpectantly, I remember having a family meeting where we determined her name. My brother and I made many suggestions and it was fun thinking of all the possibilities. Artemisia was never suggested, although Princess Leia or Annie might have been. My parents finally decided on the name Marie, the middle name of my father's mother. Grandma Lew hated her first name, Almetta, as much as I would have hated Artemisia and always went by the name Marie. I think the name Marie is a very pretty name and is too often relegated to the obscurity of the middle.

Audrey is also learning how much I like the name Marie, because I keep calling her that. Surprisingly enough, some parents have difficulty remembering their own children's names. Maybe Dr. Seuss' Mrs. McCave had the right idea after all:

Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons, and she named them all Dave?

Well, she did. And that wasn't a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one, and calls out "Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!" she doesn't get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!

This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves'
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.
And often she wishes that, when they were born,
She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn.
And one of them Hoos-Foos. And one of them Snimm.
And one of them Hot-Shot. And one Sunny Jim.
Another one Putt-Putt. Another one Moon Face.
Another one Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face.
And one of them Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate...

But she didn't do it. And now it's too late.

First of all, Mrs. McCave how do you get all 23 of them to come running with one call? Surely it's not simply saying Yoo-Hoo. But I'd rather have all my kids come running than endure the uproar that ensues when I call Nathan Eli or Eli Audrey. Ah, the indignity. They've learned to work around my lapses in memory, sometimes to their advantage. "You said Eli, not me." "Yah, but I meant you."

Back to my original thought, the problem lately is when I call Audrey Marie. I'm not taking the fall here all by myself. Jon has the same problem, only he calls her Lydia. Both of our sisters are somewhat younger than us and our theory is that because we left home when they were still children, they are eternally fixed in our minds under the tag 'the little girl that lives at my house.' So since Audrey is currently 'the little girl that lives at our house,' it's easy to see where confusion occurs. Easy for us that is - I've had to explain to my friends a few times who this Marie person is that I'm always taking about.

My parents probably decided on the name Amy Jean just like we should have decided on Marie Lydia or Lydia Marie. Because then we would be right, even when we're wrong. The names we chose for our children each have significant meaning for us, and we hope, eventually, for them. But I have to wonder if maybe we should have chosen more outlandish names, ensuring that Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face would never be confused with Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate. Or Artemisia Tridentata.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I <3.14 Pi!

Approximately 3.142
It is the circumference of any circle divided by its diameter.

A baked food composed of a pastry shell filled with fruit, meat, cheese, or other ingredients, and usually covered with a pastry crust.

Pi Day
3.14 = March 14th
A day that can be shared with friends and family, where those who come are required to bring both a sweet pie and a savory pie but who do not need to understand or even appreciate Pi.

The Savory Pies

Homemade Deep Dish Pizza Pie

Homemade Shepherd's Pie

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

A 'Cutie' Pie. Get it?

Cutting along the diameter.

Oh. yeah.

The Sweet Pies. From top to bottom: Fudge Pie, Banana Cream Pie,
Strawberry Pie, Whoopie Pie, Coconut Cream Pie

Eagerly awaiting his slice of the pie.

More cutie pies.

Nom, nom, nom, nom. Illustrating the proper use of a pie hole.

A slice of each please.

As nice as pie.

A finger in every pie. Seriously, these guys could eat.

Eating it all gone was as easy as pie.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The List

Vanilla Extract. The list started off benignly enough, looking much like any other grocery list ever made. I'd run out of vanilla flavoring while making cookies recently and wanted to remember to pick some up the next time I was at the store. More often than not I find myself standing blankly in an aisle, unsuccessfully prodding my memory only to eventually return home and only then remember what I had gone to the store for in the first place.

Eggs were next on the list, followed by cheese. The next time I walked by I noticed someone had added cubes next to the word cheese, drawn identifying pictures next to each item and had put Grocery Sheet at the top of the page. Great, I thought, it's a family affair. That'll make it easier on me, I won't have to guess at what they want. That is until I walked by the next time and noticed marshmallows was the next thing on the list, followed by Apple Jacks and Froot Loops. Oh, so this is how they want to play?

I can play in a fantasy world too. So I wrote 'a unicorn,' followed by 'turkey baster,' - because I really do need one of those. I didn't mention my latest additions out loud, wanting to see if the game would continue. This grocery list was turning out to be so much more fun than any of my previous ones. 'A puppy' was the next item I found on the list. Here the mischief maker must have hesitated, knowing the impossible nature of the request, because 'or a fish' was also included.

The next suggestion made me pause. 'Time,' it said. "OK, that's it," I thought, "which kid is getting all meta on me?" Here we are just playing a silly game and then someone has to start being the philosopher. How old are you people? But I have to admit it would be nice to be able to just pick some up at the store. I bet you'd find it in 'the universe' aisle, wedged between 'space' and 'relativity.'

Next, 'a maid' was added to the list. That was my suggestion. I bet the kids thought it was as funny as I found marshmallows to be. "A maid?" they probably thought, "Oh Mom, we already have one of those." The game ended shortly after someone wrote 'another kid (a girl).' I enjoy a good fantasy as much as the next person, but my fantasies don't involve giving birth to another ten pound baby. How do I know it would be ten pounds? Precedence has been set. Three times.

I'll take my list to the grocery store tomorrow. I know exactly where the vanilla extract is located. But that unicorn might be hard to find.

P.S. The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan have devastated a nation, killed thousands and displaced millions more. Could you take a second this week and add something to your list of things to spend your money on? Please go to or charity of your choosing and donate what you can to help in the relief efforts. Or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Thank you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Deal of the Day, sort of.

I stood in line with about 200 other people at 5am on Thanksgiving morning in 2006 for a steal of a deal. If you're going to stand in line that early in the morning on a holiday, whatever it is you're after better be good. In this case it was a silver 2GB ipod nano. And I wanted one really bad. Of course I could have just gone to the store during normal business hours and purchased one at full price, but who does that? The advertised price was 150 dollars. If you know me, you know I either didn't pay that much or got more than just an ipod for that amount. In this case, the ipod came with a 50 dollar gift card to the store from which I was buying it. I read an article about a celebrity who was quoted as saying she never bought anything on sale. It made me feel sorry for her. Such a terrible way to have to go through life, always paying full price. A crying shame.

I'll admit at the time it was a novelty purchase. I was more excited about getting more for my money than I was about the ipod. It's not about what I'm buying necessarily, but about what kind of deal I am getting. It's why I have more than one label maker. Hey, when it's free . . . During the summer of 2007 I started running and my novelty purchase became my closest friend. We had 3 1/2 good years together. After dropping it one or ten times, it developed a kind of twitch that just couldn't be ignored and eventually I had to call its time of death in June 2010. Since then I've relied on Jon's old Sansa Disk player that is neither as cute or as easy to navigate as my old ipod.

Jon will attest that one of my biggest faults is if I don't have something, I (and my family) will do without until an absolute need arises. That includes things like furniture, cars, my wedding ring, TV's, etc. We have a TV because my mom and dad came to visit last February and it became quite clear my father was more than mildly disappointed he wasn't going to be able to watch the Olympics. Fine, we'll buy a TV. I'll replace the lost diamond in my wedding ring when four more people hit on me. Or when that rest stop in Peru, Illinois finally calls me back and tells me they found it in the drain pipe of the third sink over from the door. I know it's in there somewhere. See, it's all about priorities.

This morning I was looking on Craigslist monitoring the two things I've determined we can't live without. An ipod - preferably a new(ish) 5th generation, and a piano. Nathan's earned the right to move on from the free starter piano and I've decided the ipod was a necessity when I got tired of putting the Sansa in my bra when I ran. It got all sweaty and made my boob look lumpy. See, priorities. So this morning when I saw someone was trying to offload the ipod I wanted, for a price I was willing to pay, I did what anyone else would have done - made a Starbuck's date with a perfect stranger. He turned out to be a teenager who had purchased the hot pink ipod for a girl he liked. But alas, it didn't work out between them and he was getting rid of the memories. Poor kid. After determining it was everything he said it was (plus 14 of his favorite rap songs) I paid the boy and came home, happy with my purchase and looking forward to being able to run again - when I'm not rockin' a killer cough.

The Craigslist page was still open when I returned home. Before I exited, I reloaded the search. There, at the top of the list, was a purple ipod exactly like the one I had just purchased 20 minutes earlier, but for 40 dollars cheaper. I'm currently making a list of reasons why I should be happy with my new ipod. I'll start with the fact that its color perfectly matches the stripes on my new running shoes. Jon suggested the purple one was probably stolen. He always knows exactly what to say to make me feel better. Please, feel free to add to the list.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Car Games

Last summer when Nate came home from Scout Camp, he brought home more than just a week's worth of dirt and unused shampoo. He also brought home a game called Yellow Car. The premise is simple enough. During a car ride every time you see a yellow car, you shout "YELLOW CAR" and earn one point. The person with the most points upon arriving home is declared the winner. At first play it's a charming little game, one where the kids are playing together, looking out the window, and finding joy in simple entertainment. But soon, points are being disputed, the term car is being loosely interpreted (School buses are not cars!) and someone's crying. Usually me.

The game works because there aren't that many yellow cars on the road. In my many months of looking out for yellow cars, mainly so I can veer onto a different road, I've noticed most yellow cars are sporty, convertibles and driven by people with serious emotional needs. I mean really, a yellow convertible? And yes, I can tell all of this from 50 yards away.

The other car game I love to play involves sneaking up on cars in pre-production, always at high speeds. It is not uncommon on the streets of metro Detroit to see cars that aren't available to the public yet, their highly secret curves and lines camouflaged by bizarre patterns of tape or vinyl. The first one I saw almost made me laugh out loud, but before I could turn to Jon to point out the silly looking car ahead, he was already maneuvering our car into optimal viewing position. Which, as it turns out, is either dangerously too close on the left, or dangerously too close on the right. Apparently the recommended distance of two car lengths doesn't get you close enough to measure the gap between the trunk and the body panel. Duh.

Jon is currently designing the trunk for the 2013 Chevy Malibu. We saw the first one on the road just the other day. Well, he did. You see unless it's yellow, all cars look the same to me. No one's playing a game called TAN HONDA CIVIC or GREEN FORD TAURUS. That would be boring and you'd have to be able to tell the difference between the two. In college I worked for a company that did employee surveys. Our biggest client was General Motors. It was then I learned there was even a difference between make and model. Also it's ironic that Jon works for a company where so many of its unclassified employees told me so many of its secrets. The car game they played then was called BLAME.

In 2007 a nationally distributed magazine held a contest where the goal was to identify 45 different cars by their exhaust pipes. Their exhaust pipes. Jon won, earning the honor of being called a Bona Fide Car Guy. He also won a t-shirt. I'd be hard pressed to even find the exhaust pipe on a car. Also, shouldn't you win something more for that kind of talent, like maybe a car maybe.

 That day we saw Jon's car it was too late to change lanes and get a closer look. A large truck obscured our view and by the time we were moving again it was too far ahead. I'm sure we'll get another chance. Its big reveal is next month at the New York Auto Show and it's going to need to do a few laps around town to get ready for its close-up. Maybe next time it'll be yellow and I'll notice it too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March Malaise

Yesterday afternoon I conceded defeat, assumed the curl up and die position and stuffed tissue up my nose. Valiant efforts were made to ward off the impending infirmity but I was declared the loser, weakly waving a Kleenex in surrender.

Laying on the couch I fell into the fitful sleep of the sick, huddled under a blanket that wasn't warm enough to fight off the chill and feeling too weak to go find another one. Since childhood I've had two recurring nightmares, one for when I'm sick and one for when I'm stressed. The nightmare I have when I'm stressed showcases an approaching tornado from which I cannot run fast enough. The nightmare I have when I'm sick is all about a cotton ball. A giant cotton ball. It's fluffy softness descending gradually until it covers me. I am swallowed up by its size and then I am smothered. It's pretty disconcerting. Fully anticipating Revenge of the Giant Cotton Ball Part 2 when I went to bed last night, I was pleasantly surprised when in my dreams I merely went door to door in my neighborhood begging for tissues.

My Grandpa Lew had a cure for feeling like this. It was a mixture of lemon and cayenne pepper and other things that shouldn't be swallowed together. Guaranteed to cure the common case of malaria, smallpox or diphtheria, it also, as I remember my mom saying it, put hair on your chest. But cayenne pepper shouldn't be swallowed like that and I don't want a hairy chest. My mom's cure requires a cup of bleach in the dishwasher, a suggestion that has always annoyed me until I talked to my Grandma Mac and she suggested the same thing. Audrey's going to hate me. I prefer a more natural approach to regaining my health, which mainly involves whining to Jon about how awful I feel. He loves that.

I've watched many of my friends fall to the misery that has overtaken me. The good news is they've all recovered. So today I'll lie down on the couch, clutch my box of tissues, bemoan my fate and fight off the approaching cotton balls. It should be fun.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Detroit Love: Paczki Day!

Some cities call it Mardi Gras. Detroiters call it what it is. Fat Tuesday. Around here there's even another name for it. Paczki Day! Before the start of Lent, Polish Roman Catholic tradition dictates a clearing out of all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit from the house. And as any Polish busza knows, lard + sugar + eggs + fruit = Paczki! I know it's still not clear for some of you. When I first moved to Michigan I didn't get it either. In fact, I didn't make the connection for a few years that when translated to English, Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday. And it was a few years after that, that I embraced the paczki. Maybe embrace isn't the right word, more like devoured.

If you're really serious, you'll stand in a pre-dawn line at a bakery in Hamtramck and order two dozen, or, even better, you'll already have a Polish grandmother. But I'm not Polish. Or even Catholic. So I don't feel the need to piously uphold tradition. But no matter how you decide to celebrate the day, if you're buying paczki, you'll still have to wait in line. Polish, Catholic, or not.

On the way to taking the kids to school today, we made a quick stop at Sweetheart Bakery to join in the celebration. It is neither on the way or quick but it was closer than Hamtramck. Hey, when in Detroit, right?

Making their choice.

Other people called in their choices, but still had to wait in line.

Not a popular choice. They should call it Plum.

"Wait a minute," you say. "Is paczki just a jelly doughnut?" "No. It isn't," I say. "Why would I stand in line for a jelly doughnut? That's just crazy."

Speaking of how you say it, it's pronounced poonch-key.

They decided their father and brother might want one also.

A powdered sugar smile.

Yes, they were a little late. But Paczki Day only happens once a year, so . . .

. . . I went home, found the proper plate and the only sunny spot on the living room floor, and enjoyed my lemon jelly doughnut paczki.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lions and Lambs

March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.

-Olde English Proverb

I realize the lamb and the lion paired together have inherently religious overtones, but for the purpose of this post and for a little clarification, I use them from a social or political perspective, symbols of war and peace. The majority of this post was written on March 1st but I thought it would be more apropos if it were posted on March 4th. See what I did there. Comment if you think it was clever.

The song Lamb and Lion by a L.A. punk rock group called Mae Shi was released a few years ago. It made it on to a mix CD Jon made me back in 2009 and promptly became one of Eli's favorite songs. It's quite a treat to watch him rock out to it while we are driving in the car. It's also one of my playlist songs for running. Anticipating what I was going to write for this post, I wanted to share the song, the title falling nicely into my theme. I looked up the lyrics to be sure they wouldn't offend any of my more gentle readers. And while there aren't any offensive words I interpret their meaning to be vaguely anti-religion. What's a girl to do when a favorite song goes against everything she stands for? That's right, reinterpret the meaning or hang on to what she always thought it meant. Take a listen below, what do you think?

The Mae Shi - Lamb and the Lion

Here are the lyrics so you can follow along:
I predict a decline in the price
of lamb & lion international
The lamb's gone missing and
the lion's sleeping peacefully
We've lost our quorum

In respect, second thought,
this merger was established rather hastily
We thought we read it in the book
but we couldn't find the verse now
The storm clouds roll in

Bow your head to the lion
Chant the name of the lion
Burn the mane of the lion into
Every mountaintop

Build a cage for the lamb
Dig a grave for the lamb
Set a place for the lamb
On every altar

Peace is all too often sacrificed for the sake of ego, power and greed. The roar of the lion is louder than the gentle bleat of the lamb. And as I watch national and world events unfold, I struggle with my own position. Neutrality can often be confused for apathetic, or for that matter, just pathetic. Can I stand disinterested, an impartial spectator to the fray? Where does my commitment lie, to which side does my allegiance bend? Is naiveté a defense when I wonder when lions and lambs will finally cast off tradition and, as another song suggests, “lie down together without any ire”?

This month seems a perfect battlefield. Named for a god of war, its very utterance a command. The frozen earth against a spring wind, the fight between for and against, an elbowing for bracket position, the cries from a far away country; they will all struggle in March’s arms, like a flailing child. The old English proverb that March comes in like a lion is fitting as we watch war rage on all sides, from the political unrest of Libya to the capital steps of Wisconsin. This first week of March 2011 has shaken its mane in protest and fury. As I lay in bed on Tuesday morning contemplating the growing turmoil, the words in my head tumbled about, searching for place until I rose from bed and put them in order. I write them here in an effort to assuage the guilt, hoping others feel a common helplessness when faced with what seems like an impasse of complex debate and contention.

Every time I watch the news
I picnic at the Battle of Bull Run,
entertained by the battle and
fed by the constant protest.
My hope for a
met when it's over
and I turn my attention
to the laundry.

If the lion is sleeping peacefully it is because we have made him a soft bed. We have fluffed his pillows and set the temperature for perfect. Many of us, like me, watch with a mere passing interest, unwilling, unable or unsure of taking the next step in search of the lamb. Other interests grab our attention, entertain our fancy and the lamb wanders away. To clarify, laundry has never held my attention or entertained my fancy, I just do a lot of it.

If the lamb is sacrificed it is because we placed him on the altar and thrust in the dagger. I’m tired of the rhetoric and the talk of concession and sacrifice when people continue to point at each other and cry “You, not me.” Sacrifices will be made in other ways as the lives of good and brave men and women are laid down for freedom’s holy grail. Or when children’s futures are cast aside for a chilling display of petty adult decorum and hypocrisy. On both sides.

The second half of the proverb says that March goes out like a lamb. I do not suggest that centuries of political turmoil and unrest in any country and for any reason can be solved in a month. I may be naïve but I am not stupid. However March’s battleground and the month’s that are to come, do not need to be so bloody if we can commit to at least trying to protect the lamb. Come on, if he’s going to be able to walk out of here at month’s end, he needs to be at least a little cared for. Let’s cheer for those who heroically stand in defense of their freedom regardless of color or religion and let go of what we think we deserve or are owed by our mere being and work harder to serve the common good.
Go ahead, March forth.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

12 servings? Yah right.

I don't buy fun food, except the occasional case of girls scout cookies of course. I have views on things like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Yep. I'm that mom. And while most of those foods are always on sale, even with the added benefit of readily available coupons, I can't bring myself to buy them. If by chance I do inadvertently bring something home, my children have fun food radars that zero in on the exact grocery bag and they'll begin an immediate devouring - like crows on carrion (excuse the mental image, I liked the alliteration). Those poor, poor, children, so deprived of empty calories. Please see the following archived posts: Easy Sell, Valentine Phantom, I love China Food, Snow Day, Half a Birthday etc., and don't feel sorry for them.

I'm not a totally horrible mother. I brought home 4 boxes of Eggo Waffles this week, not a store brand and they weren't even on sale. Audrey was with me at the grocery store. I put them in the cart and she cautiously asked what I was doing, as if I had momentarily lost my mind. Then she asked if she could have some when we got home. Then she looked lovingly at them through the rest of the store. Then she wanted to be the one who put them on the checkout belt. Then she wanted to put them in the car. Then she wanted to carry them into the house. Then she wanted to be the one who buried them deep in the freezer to hide from her brothers. Why can't it be this way with apples? Now there's only one box left. 30 waffles divided by three kids in three days. Maybe that's normal, like I said I don't buy fun food. I do have a pantry full of dried fruit, Cheerios, and peaches that I CANNED MYSELF, that unless I eat will forever remain in the pantry.

Most moms know that the first words out of a child's mouth after arriving home from school are usually "Can I have a snack?" My usual response: "Sure absolutely, there are fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator." Their usual response: "Isn't there anything else?" Nate can be incredibly passive aggressive on the subject. "I sure wish," he'll begin longingly, out loud, and to no one in particular, "I sure wish, I had a box of double stuffed Oreos in my lunch." Implying the rest of his class doesn't have to suffer through a 'healthy' chocolate chip granola bar for a lunch dessert. I'll spare you the emotional trip it always takes me on as I infer he means other moms are nicer.

Our current dilemma is whether to continue buying breakfast cereal. We go through phases. Sometimes I buy it, sometimes I don't. Kellogg's cereal has the dreaded HFCS and I refuse to consider Fruity Pebbles and the like as legitimate breakfast options. But the average box of Honey Bunches of Oats lasts 1.2 days in this house. 12 servings a box ,we've learned, really means "you better not be the last one to come down for breakfast in the morning." Sorry Jon, that means you. Oatmeal is the go to cereal when all other options are gone, but I feel like the sugar police when I tell Eli "No, you can't 'sprinkle' half of a cup of brown sugar on that." You want a overly sugared up oatmeal? Well kiddo, I hear McDonald's recently added it to their breakfast menu and you just got your allowance.