Monday, November 18, 2013

A Colorado Autumn

Fall time in Colorado was magical for me when I was a kid, but it never looked like it was supposed to. This is because there are no proper trees in Colorado.

"What about aspens?" you say, and that is because you probably have never been to the part of Colorado that is not the mountains. Aspens are in Aspen, where rich people ski. We lived in the burbs in the flat part of Colorado.  I have never been skiing in my life.

Fall time on the flat part is a time of transition, from the sun-crisped lawns of dry Summer to the cold-crisped lawns of dry Winter. This was magical to me when I was a kid, mostly because I was a big dork and really loved going back to school. 

Autumn just didn't have much else to offer. The Colorado plains is not a natural habitat for trees  that properly turn orange and red and then shed beautiful piles of Fall time wonderland. Mostly, in Colorado neighborhoods, there are small decorative landscape plants and pine trees. (All evergreens are still "pine trees" to me. They all look the same.) A lot of people there don't even own a rake. 

Sometimes, when I was a kid, I did try to scrape pine needles into piles over the crispy brown grass, to emulate proper fall time fun.  It wasn't the same as the leaf pile of my dreams...but it did have its charm.

I was pretty sure that I was missing out.  We usually grabbed a few cozy weekends of woodsmoke-filled weekends at our favorite campgrounds just as it started to get cooler, and this was nice.  But I knew that in other places, kids waded joyfully through piles of leaves wherever they went in the Fall. They shuffled through this golden month or two, pausing to sit on giant pumpkins and drink cider in leaf piles, knowing that the ax of winter would not drop any time soon.

Fall time in Colorado means it is colder and browner, but not really nicer in any way. And then it randomly snows in October and you go trick-or-treating anyway, which, I do have to admit, is pretty cool.

I live in PA now, with the correct kind of trees.  I raked the maple leaves into a pile in our yard the other day. With a real rake.

Its a different part of the country, and a different kind of life.  There are heritage parades in small towns here instead of piles of flaming illegal fireworks in the street. We have deer and old German farmers in the field behind our house instead of howling coyotes.  There are moist gardens and soft grass instead of bristling carpets of pine needles.  On the other hand, if it snows here on Halloween, everyone stays home. Sometimes I wonder if I am giving my kids a childhood that is too soft.

Then I watch them fling themselves into the pile of leafy joy, crack their heads together and gleefully poke each other with sharp sticks, and I know that I am a complete idiot to think idiot thoughts like that.


This time of pretty much bliss.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Moose Do Not Kick Logs: a proven fact

Part of parenting is knowing when to BS your kids. You just have to sometimes.  There is a lot of crap going on in the world that they don't need to know about, and sometimes just a lot going on period...and kids never stop with the questions. 

I am pretty up front with Wendy. I tell her most of the stuff she wants to know. Babies grow in the uterus. Why ice is bigger than water.  You know. Stuff.

But she's also a bit of a worrier, so I have to know when to put on the brakes. For example, after watching The Wizard of OZ when she was four, she became concerned about tornadoes. Concerned in a way that prompted a few questions:
1. Do we get twisters?
2. Does grandma get twisters?
3. How about Aunt Mimi and Eddie?
4. Are you sure we don't get twisters?
5. Is it windy enough right now?
6. How about now?
7. Does that cloud look a little twisty to you?
8. Shouldn't we get inside and get in our bathtub with pillows over our heads?
9. Why don't you care about twister safety?

So I have learned when not to tell her the explicit absolute truth. Mostly for my own sanity.

Tonight, through the open window, we heard the distant popping-booming sound that is either people shooting at an outdoor range a couple of miles away OR detonations at a quarry also a couple miles away-I have never figured out which.  We hear this often enough, and, rather than suffer a barrage of kid angst re: local people with guns and bombs, I have always told Wendy that it is a moose kicking a log.

This is how you have to dish the BS. Simple. Elegant. Difficult to disprove using the research skills of a four year old.

Well. Now shes six. I hand this moose-and-log line to Liam tonight, and I get this:

Wendy: Its definitely not a moose.
Me: how do you know?
Wendy: Moose don't kick logs.
Me: Sure they do. I know moose. They kick logs.
Wendy: How many?
Me: How many?
Wendy: How many do you know?
Me: Oh. Uh, six. Or seven. Yeah, seven.
Wendy: Well I know twenty. And none of them kick logs.
Me: Twenty? I didn't know there were so many around here.
Wendy: There are hundreds. I just know twenty. And if any of them kicked a log, it wouldn't sound like that anyway.
Me: Maybe they kick logs when you're not around.
Wendy: I asked my one moose friend to kick a log, and you could barely hear it. Plus, he really hurt himself doing it. I had to take him to the moose vet. So I know that moose wouldn't kick a log even if they wanted to.
Me: Maybe your moose friend has really wimpy hooves.
Wendy: No way. He runs moose races. He is like, a champion, first place moose runner.  Except not now, probably, after the log thing. I feel really bad about asking him to do that, you know?

So, now that I've been officially OWNED in the category of moose-related BS...I see that I am going to have to up my game.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

It Was Inevitable: Why We Can't Have Nice Things (Again)

Tucker is a puppy of discriminating tastes.  When he is not enjoying the evening on the veranda in his favorite rocking chair,


he can usually be found annihilating various items around the house.

While Duke chewed a vast array of inexplicable things like The Drywall and Potatoes, Tucker's preferences run a bit more refined.  For example, when he utterly destroys paper products, he enjoys a nice National Geographic between the teeth.

He does relish a good global human interest story.  He was mesmerized by James Cameron's submarine dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  Mesmerized to tiny, unreadable bits.

In the absence of thick glossy magazine paper, he goes for the lofty fluff of Cottonelle or the comforting touch of Kleenex.

He sometimes takes a break from paper to utterly demolish a nice hank of wool roving. I have to admit his good taste here, because out of all of the new hanks of wool roving to choose from, Tucker shredded and soaked with dog spit only my favorite colors, Dill and Amethyst.

Maybe I have it wrong here. Maybe it is not that he enjoys these things in themselves.  Maybe our dog is a bit of a Puritan, and does not approve of the decadence of worldly comforts. Perhaps he feels that people who read world adventure stories and use bottom-pampering toilet tissue are surely on the road to perdition.  Those who indulge in fiber art using bright colors are certainly going to hell.
Maybe we can't have nice things because our dog is concerned for our souls. 

This can only be the reason that this feather boa had to die.  Because we all know what feather boas lead to.

The calculated precision with which he made certain that no one would ever use this cord to charge a phone in the car again? Kind of chilling.  Perhaps this speaks to deep-seated malice for technology? Or resentment toward the attention payed to electronics and not to him?

I know that this phase shall pass.  Someday, our dog will move beyond his obsession/vendetta against these things, and we will once again be able to read while wearing feather boas, possibly whilst blowing our noses and preparing to wipe with fluffy TP.  We will be able to do these things without fearing THIS:

Yeah, OK.  That is cute, the way he piles up all of his things on his favorite spot du jour.  Notice my shoe under his butt.  My shoe is obviously now considered his thing, and clearly, is living on borrowed time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flowers in the Attic

Remember that book/movie? Yeah?  Me too.  Thanks a lot V. C. Andrews.  Thanks for the memories.


When Carl moved in to this house in 2004, there was still a lot of stuff left in the house from the psycho previous owner. Furniture in every room.  Clothes hanging in the closet.  Cross-stitch and family pictures on the wall. Laundry in the laundry baskets. And an attic full of stuff.

It is now 2013, and the time has finally come.  We have finally, FINALLY decided to clean the attic out. 

We are talking classic old attic treasure trove of horrors here.  This is the kind of attic where you open large trunks and suitcases gingerly, because there could be a petrified red-headed stepchild in there. YOU JUST DONT KNOW.
Here is one side, mostly cleared out of the boxes of stuff.   Just imagine it stuffed to the gills with moldering cardboard and randomness.  Yes, that is a barrel in the background.  I am pretty sure that it never held booze.

The creepiest stuff is the kids stuff. 

If you aren't familiar with V.C. Andrews books, the covers always featured some angelic girl with perfect hair looking through a cut-out window. You would turn the front cover, to reveal on the inside page that the girl was surrounded by her OBVIOUSLY crazy family-a severe, stiff-looking great aunt clutching her shoulder with bony white claws, an older brother lurking in the shadow behind her with too much white showing in his mad, mad eyes...

This is what that girl is wearing:

Most of the boxes that we pulled down were full of books and china and old National Geographics.  The ocasional box of dry-rotting linens.  But occasionally, there was a box of pictures or other sentimental knick knacks.  Actual bronzed baby shoes.  Oh.  And and the attire of an ENTIRE wedding party.  

Apparantly, this guy-who tried to have us evicted for no apparant reason in 2010, when I was pregnant with Liam-he does not give even one shit (let alone two) about his own family either, and what they might want with this stuff.

We plan to have a big yard sale this weekend.  We cleared our consciences by making a phone call to one of the adult children of said insensitive monster of a "human" previous owner, and she-the adult daughter-was in fact very happy to come and collect her mother's china and her own baby pictures.

The Piece-de-Resistance of this whole junk mine:

My feelings exactly.

What you can't really enjoy via photography is the fine dust covering everything here.  You can see a little of it on the floor in this last one.  You know the thing that people say about dust being mostly dead people-skin?  Well, the dust in OUR attic is people-skin, powdered mouse poo, powdered dead bird, for all I know, actual powdered dead people. 

We are attacking this like its all a bio-hazard.  Masks, gloves, etc.

Regardless, the whole process has been very cathartic.  We are exorcising some demons, and carving out more space for us, which is a huge relief.

Back to the purge.  I'll let you know how it goes. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Emotional Blackmail (What Marriage is All About)

I'm still not entirely sure how this happened.  It may be easier to explain it in pictures. 

So here. Just watch this. 


Friday, March 08, 2013

More Tales From Legit Matrimonyland

It seems that when you get married, a Kitchen Aid magically appears. 

It doesn't matter if you have been cohabiting in lustful sin for years and years, spawning shameful illegitimate degenerates (hi kids!) and inciting wanton behavior in all who observe...

When you become a legit wife, the Kitchen Aid fairies know that it's time to leave a motorized dough hook under your pillow.  Perhaps the Kitchen Aid fairy is an old fashioned prudish twit and thinks that only legitimate families deserve wholesome homemade food. 


What? Why, yes! That is a bottle of Godiva vodka next to my Kitchen Aid! You don't bake with the assistance of liquid happiness? WELL YOU SHOULD.

Technically, the K.A. was under the Christmas tree.  And technically, this is not the one the fairy brought.  The fairy brought a black one.  Also, the fairy's name is Carl. 

I was actually pretty cheesed when I opened this on Christmas morning.  Carl and I had agreed (seriously for real I promise) not to get each other any real gifts, as we were already experiencing this money drought in December, and barely had enough to scrape together a few things for the kids.  I stuck to this promise.  On Christmas morning, Carl had exactly one bar of hippie stink patchouli soap in his stocking and one set of thermal underwear from Target under the tree.  Both of these items were picked up back in November, when there was still money.  I headed into Christmas morning guilt-free, because I KNEW there was no money, and I KNEW that I wouldn't have anything good to open either.  We would just be content to share the morning holding hands, full of the virtuous nobility of our decision, Charlie  Brown thoughts about the true meaning of Christmas, and NO GIFTS.

But then.  THEN.
Kitchen Aid.

This was not a gift.  He had done this.  DONE this...this...Kitchen Aid.  I was pretty sure that this was entirely engineered to mess with me.

I am about as good at saying thank you for unexpected extravagance as I am at saying "sorry."  As in, not good.  Especially when someone has dropped a flaming KITCHEN AID bomb into my Christmas morning, when I was expecting a steaming slice of truemeaning pie.  I didn't even open it.  Instead, there was resentful sniffing in the direction of the unopened box, and careful avoidance of all related topics. For Days.

Until Carl broke down and told me that his mom had helped him out with it and that it was mostly her idea anyway, and recast the Kitchen Aid as less a Christmas present, and more in the way of a wedding present.  For us.  Then everything was fine, because Carl's mom is an angel of kindness who can do no wrong. And if it is for us...

Then he showed me online that there were all of these other colors to pick from....and I was sold.  We exchanged it for the "pear" colored one in the pic and it's been true love ever since.

The first thing that I made was homemade whipped cream, which contains two ingredients, and takes less than three minutes.

The first thing Carl made was bread.  Which includes chemistry and two or three hours of waiting and uncertain results and, while very sensible, is kind of a pain in the ass.

Both of these things turned out delicious.  I feel that our choices probably say a lot about us, respectively.

What's the moral here? Never break the lets-not-get-presents promise.  Unless it is a Kitchen Aid or similar and you can blame it on someone else. Then it's totally okay.

Monday, February 11, 2013

February of Someday

Someday, it will be February, and instead of being poor, we will be having fun in the snow.  Or sleet.  Whatever.  We will be having sleetball fights, because we are so carefree and NOT POOR. 

We will be like "Tra la! It is sleeting, but who cares, because we were smart this year! Let us make sleet angels and then skip inside and make hot chocolate and be happy! This day is not miserable and treacherous like the foggy-gray queasy anxiety crawling up our throats. No, it is a perfect day for snuggling inside with each other, and we can! You don't have to venture out into terrible conditions to do terrible jobs far beneath your skills, because this year we looked ahead, and our bills are paid! Our bills are paid, our bills are paid, tra la tra lee, our bills are paid!"

Someday we will actually be working for ourselves, and not just working to survive the week.  We will be looking for somewhere fun to go on a Saturday instead of looking for stuff to sell on ebay.  We will have a plan, and not a desperate scramble to make sure the mortgage isn't late (it hasn't been yet-talk to me in a few days). 

We will spend more time loving our house, instead of resenting it.  We will spend these money dry spells having fun with our kids instead of bouncing off the walls and staring at the worry lines growing deeper on each others faces, wondering how we got here AGAIN.  Like we do EVERY year. We are both intelligent adults, each with a good work ethic. We can do this. Go team!

The pressure will not suddenly lift, as if by magic or by winning the lottery that we don't play.  Go team go team go TEAM!  It can be a mantra.  Someday can be today.  We can stop living the definition of insanity. We can come up with new answers...we can take the time to find a new way... As soon as we get a little money.  Then we can put turnips in our root cellar, so the next time we circle back to this place, we will actually be somewhere else, and not still wondering if Someday will ever come.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

We Celebrate With Lard!

Steph and Ryans 8th anual Faschnaghtapallooza took place today, and it was indeed grand!

For those of you folks not from PA or of pasty pale central European ancestry, a faschnaght is a kind of donut type thing, made with potato flour and fried in lard, then rolled in sugar.  Its the way the Pennsylvania Dutch celebrate before Lent.

Thats right.  Some people show their boobies and throw beads around, some people confess allof thier sins and celebrate thier Shriven souls with mass sugared lard consumption. To each his own, that's what I say.

Especially because Ryan shoves oreos and peanut butter cups in his faschnaghts, and I get to eat them.  I haven't gone for the past two years, so I was kind of determined to go this year.

I even pried Carl out of the house and to the -pallooza.  At some point (before he ate too many, while he was still in his fried dough happy place), he turned to me with gleaming eyes, and asked, "why don't WE do this???"

Friday, February 01, 2013

Continuing a Thought. Not Too Political. Really.

My friend Bethany sent this article to me on facebook, entitled "Farmers Markets and Home Births Are So Progressive, They're Conservative," By Emily Matchar.  

The first bit includes this:
The current cultural mania for DIY domesticity—backyard chickens, urban knitting circles, the rise of homeschooling, the sudden ubiquity of homemade jam—shows no sign of abating. Across the country, progressives are embracing home and hearth with new vigor under the guise of environmental sustainability, anti-consumerism, and better health.

The movement has made for some very odd attitudes, especially when it comes to gender. The terms "liberal" and "conservative" barely seem to apply. The new progressive morality about food sometimes feels as retro and conservative as anything dreamed up during the 1950s. In many well-educated, well-heeled quarters, what you cook determines your worth as a mother (Is it organic? Local? BPA-free?), laziness in the kitchen is understood to doom your children to lives of obesity and menial labor, and the very idea of convenience is slatternly and shameful. In this culture, we have Berkeley heroes like Michael Pollan writing scoldingly about how feminism killed home cooking. Michelle Obama, every Democrat's favorite organic gardener, has been criticized for saying she doesn't like to cook.

This is a great article.  It has me written all over it, and kind of articulates something that I have been puzzling over, in an abstract kind of way.  I generally think its funny watch people try to categorize other people like this, scratching their heads in confusion when they can't, except that I totally do it too. I go to these events -OMG, I am AT the farmers markets of which they speak-and meet all these other women doing the same attatched parenting organic jam jarring quinoa eating home business things that I do.  I will have these lovely conversations with these people that I know are JUST LIKE ME! Yay! Maybe we can be friends and start a co-op together! We can grow organic broccoli and raise organic chickens and then I am completely FLOORED when they drop stuff into conversation like "the lord will show me the way through this Obamacare nightmare" and "I wish the gays wouldn't drag their issues into important politics, gah," and "well, you know-the lamestream media..."

My head kind of does that record scratching scrriiiiiiiiiizzt thing.  I am pretty sure that it shows on my face too.  My face that is suddenly all open mouth, twitching lip, and one crossed eye.

Preconceived notions=domolished. 
Absolute certainty that I am an open-minded and keep my prejudices well examined/in check=over.

I am a SAHM with an education, a stalled professional career and an Etsy business. I was in the Vagina Monologues twice, AND I am in love with my Kitchen Aid. Its okay. I don't need to scramble my brain trying to justify this.  I live in an era where I can be many things.

I feel a lot better about life when I stop worrying about what "kind" of woman I am "supposed" to be, and just worry about what is best for me as a person and for my kids. I think that most of these women that the article describes are just trying to make good choices for themselves and their families-regardless of the lables that they profess or are given.

When I manage to put my face back in order and reassemble my world view, I realize that I like how the lines are blurred.  I can be friends with them, even if their political ideas are totally wrong.

Let us hold hands, eat some granola, and sing about it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

While You Were Away

Dear Carl,

You have been away for a week.  Though I appreciate what it says about you that you would go stay in New Jersey to do a roof in 10 degree weather so that we can pay the mortgage...lets not do this again.

Some notable things about this week:

1. Wendy lost her first tooth!  To be more precise, she and I agreed that enough was enough, this thing had been hanging on by a thread for days, just taunting us, lets yank it out with some floss!  WHOO! GO TEAM! After much flinching and false starts and slipping of the floss, out it came.  It made a sound like slurk.  She wrote a nice note to the Tooth Fairy that asked her to please come back later, because she'd really like to show the tooth to her Daddy before it was taken away forever. This note had disappeared from under Wendy's pillow by morning, so we are pretty sure she got the message.

2. You would have enjoyed this pie that I ate.  You would have enjoyed this pie that was a) Pumpkin cheese pie b) half price c) from the Landis bakery, but I ate it.  After we realized that you were going to be a few more days than expected, I quit pretending that I was saving some for you.  I just left the fork on top of the plastic container, and ate it right out of the tin every time it happened to catch my eye. I did think of you, though.

3. Everything is fine.  Your fish are still alive.  I only left the keys hanging out of the front door once.  I've kept the fire going in the stove pretty well. However, we have GOT to stack the firewood on the porch. I can be a tough girl prairie farm wife all I want, but when it is 58 degrees inside and 7 degrees outside, this sucks:

4. Our kids are awesome. And helpful. And fun. And brilliant. And really great company. When they want to be. I guess. 

No really, they are.  That Liam has become really iffy on naps and how that has pretty much blown a hole in my sewing production and set it on fire does not diminish his awesomeness.  He is very huggy this week, perhaps noticing the lack of a man in my life and trying to comfort me.  We are going to have fun evicting them back to their own beds, because the three of us have been puppy piled in our bed since you left.  

 5. Being the only adult in the house creeps me out at night. I am not used to it. All of those sounds?  We do have old floors and four cats and a dog to explain them away.  But.  Well....there are a lot of sounds, and I read a lot, so thus my brain is riddled with delightful ideas about what happens to people home alone directly after they ignore things that go snick or rustle or creak.  I am slightly embarrassed about this, but I really miss having you here to stomp around in the dark all manly like when the dog starts barking, ready to totally kick that innocent deer in the yard's ass for freaking us all out.  Oh. There were some deer in the yard.  They were pretty.

6. This is last, because it is the reason that I am writing. All of these other things are important too (okay, maybe not the pie), but really, I'm just working my way to this.  On Monday, I got word that a guy that I know had died in his sleep, very suddenly, aged 32.  I went to his funeral services on Friday.  This was a guy that was a best friend of my best friend-this funny, smart person that I've known since middle school.  In fact, he and his best friend were prodded into going with me and my best friend to our ninth grade dance.  There is an awkward picture and everything.  Anyway.  On Friday, I went to this difficult funeral, and watched his wife stand in front of everyone amidst what was surely one of the most terrible moments in her life and speak to us about gratitude. 

She told us about how often they said "I love you," and how she knew with every fiber of her being that she was loved.  She was grateful that they had been absolutely living the life that they wanted, together, and that he knew that he was loved too.  Her cup, she said, was so full, because they loved each other.  His death was not okay, but she was genuinely grateful that she had this beautiful thing in her life.  I kept my shit together there (because that is what you do), and through the luncheon (which I found to be bizarre), but pretty much lost it the entire way home (because that is what I do).  

We are not this love-at-first-sight inseparable fairy tale couple, and that is okay.  But...sometimes the anxiety and stress are the ruling forces in our house, and I tell you that I love you, but I don't know if you know how much I love our life together.  Right now, I need to tell you, and I need you to know, because...because shit.  SHIT. You are in another state, and it turns out that 32 year olds are mortal.  

I love that nothing is ever boring with us.  I love that we have so much to do and to look forward to.  I love knowing that you are here, regardless of frustrations and setbacks.  I love that we love the same pie, and that our kids look like both of us, and that we are imperfect, but perfect for each other. I am exactly where I want to be, with you, and with our kids, and I am grateful.

Now come home, damnit.

Monday, January 07, 2013

This is the Way We Get it Done

If I had resolutions they would be...

...all of the good stuff from last year, but bigger! Better! More!

I do have more specific goals, particularly re: taking my adorable little hobby business and making it into something that brings in a viable second income.  All I have to do is what I did last year, but double. No big deal. I can totally do that.  I totally have twice the time and energy that I had last year to pull out of my...hat. (You know, the hat that I keep in my butt.)

For feats of this magnitude, you need a plan, and as part of my plan, I turn to the wisdom of 1950s housewives, who did crazy things like cook a hundred meals at a time, and stick them in the freezer to save thier future selves lots and lots of time slaving over hot stoves.

Did I say crazy? I meant awesome.

My friend Steph and I are doing this together.  Her maternity leave is about to end, so her future self is also on a dog-tired, hollow-eyed trudge toward dinner time, desperately hoping that someone-anyone-cut her a break.  Enter us! Past Self Crazy Awesome Bitchez!

Now all we need are some heels and frilly aprons. And possibly super hero names.