Monday, May 31, 2010

I Love My Hubby, But Sometimes I Want to Kick His Butt

I love my husband dearly. And most people who know me can attest to the fact that I don't bash my husband. I'm not into men-bashing of any kind, but especially not of my beloved hubby. He's too good to me, and I love him too much to speak badly of him. Of course he has his flaws, but *NEWS FLASH* so do I.

That being said, I'm going to poke a little fun at him in this post. I told him I was going to, and he laughed, so it's all in good fun.

Here is the scenario. I've wanted to buy a lawn edger for a long time, because I really like a neatly manicured lawn. We've never had one, (a neatly manicured lawn, that is) but by gosh, I decided this was the year I was going to make it happen, so I started by purchasing a manual edger and some "weed & feed".

I started using my edger on Mother's Day - what can I say? I was in the mood for gardening I guess. I managed to make it down one side of the front sidewalk and then practically collapsed in agony. I've also been nursing a sore shoulder for a few years now and that little gardening spree made it worse.

I mentioned to my husband that I needed his upper body strength to get the job done - yes, I used a little shameless flattery, but he is indeed quite strong in the upper body department, while my muscles resemble a limp rubber band.

One morning, I went off to a meeting and I came back to find this. I seriously thought that some neighborhood dog, or perhaps a rodent, had dug up our yard. Then it dawned on me. My husband had tried to do some edging. However, I made the natural assumption that he actually knew how to do it. I had made the mistake of thinking he had noticed many other nicely edged lawns, and was salivating to have his very own neatly trimmed yard. But I was wrong. I was so wrong.

I went inside and tried to casually ask my husband how the lawn had come to look this way. In my mind, I was wanting to yell, "What the hell did you do???" But I managed to maintain control and simply asked what was going on in the front yard. He flatly answered, "I started the edging". OK. . . .So, I waited for the rest of the explanation, perhaps something along the lines of, "but then aliens came and started to control me with their mind powers so that I ended up flinging dirt every which way". I would have understood then, but there was no further explanation. And he clearly expected some gratitude.

I responded, "Uh, thanks, honey. Do you want me to help you pick up the clumps of dirt lying all over the yard?" His response, "Nah, I'll just leave them there and let the mower chop them up when I mow the lawn again."

Naturally, I thought he was kidding, but when I asked him again (a little more impatiently, I might add), to pick up the dirt clumps when he went to mow the lawn the next day, he asked, "Why? The mower will get them." That's when I lost my temper, furiously went outside and picked up the stupid clumps myself, and ended up saying something a little snippy to him about how I know a little more about yard management and gardening than he does, so he should just do what I ask him to do.

Sadly, so sadly, those very words came back to haunt me. After the declumping and the mowing, I set out to apply the weed & feed. I carefully set the spreader according to the directions. However, I guess I didn't realize that I wasn't supposed to go back and forth over the same area 3 or 4 times. (I'm going to blame that on my 5-year-old helper, who really did insist on going over the same spots time and time again.)

Two weeks later, I have a nicely mown, nicely edged lawn, with nice big patches of burned, brown and dead grass. I was going to take a picture of that, too, but you get the idea. No reason to humiliate anyone else in our family.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Am I Crazy?

Reader's Digest has an annual feature called "Normal or Nuts?" It explores a variety of odd behaviors and then determines whether or not they fall within the realm of "normal". (I'm not sure what standards they use: Normal is just relative, anyway, isn't it?) Well, I haven't seen too many of my personal quirks covered in these articles, so I'm going to make up my own list. However, I have yet to determine whether some of these would be considered typical behavior, or whether they would signify the need for therapy or, say, anti-psychotic drugs.

So, here's my list. If any of you join me in my bizarre or unusual behaviors, then I will consider myself among the "normals" of the world. If not, I will create a new normal.

1. Sometimes when I'm driving, I will crank up the music and pretend I'm in a music video. And then I'll strut into the grocery store, imagining that some guy is singing about how beautiful I am. And then I'll flip my hair provocatively while thumping melons.

2. I love sleep and I hate being inconvenienced by the call of nature. However, I do the civilized thing and drag myself to the bathroom. But sometimes I fall asleep on the toilet.

3. On a regular basis, everyday words will completely escape my mind. I realize that this is probably just a sign of aging, but my brain takes it one step further and substitutes an entirely different - and often unrelated - word into a sentence. For example, Child A may ask, "Mom have you seen my new shirt?" And I will answer, "Yes, dear, I just put it in the microwave." Of course, I actually put it in the dryer, so at least my brain was thinking of appliances. But what troubles me is that I don't even miss a beat when I say these things - the words tumble out as if I wasn't having any trouble thinking of the correct word at all.

4. I also forget people's names. Not the names of people I've met once or twice, but people I've known for years. I will say to my husband, "I talked to that lady across the street today; you know, the one with 8 kids." And he'll respond, "You mean Jane? Your dear friend whom you've known for 20 years, whose kids play with our kids, whose house you walk into without knocking, whose baby's birth you witnessed just because you asked to be there in the delivery room?" And I simply reply, "Yeah, that's the one."

5. I realize that a lot of people talk to themselves. I talk to myself incessantly. I guess I really like my own company. When I'm home alone, I talk to myself out loud all the time, and sometimes I will direct some of the conversation to the cats, just so it seems like I'm talking to someone else instead of myself. But when I'm in public, even, I will mumble to myself. People passing me in the bread aisle at Meijer will hear something like this, "So, if this one is 3 for $5, then it's $1.67 for one, but then the Meijer brand is cheaper and has more in the package, but my kids like this other brand better." I'm not at all trying to talk to someone else, I'm just babbling under my breath to try to figure out what I'm going to buy. It's like it's easier for me to think if it's not all jumbled up inside my head, so I have to say it out loud, but as quietly as possible.

That's enough craziness for one day. I'm sure I can create another post on this topic. But for now, I have to get ready for work.

I think I'll crank up the music.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pig Butt

Growing up on the farm, I got used to a lot of things that most people might consider repulsive: walking barefoot in the "mud", scraping cow poop off the milking parlor walls, having our freezer routinely stocked with beef, pork, and chicken from the farm, as well as venison, bear, squirrel, rabbit, and a variety of other wild game (and sometimes road kill - come to think of it, sometimes the venison was road kill).

Remember my post, Fragrant Memories? There were lots of "delicious" smells on the farm, too, that I still consider comforting, even though they may cause others to vomit.

I went shopping with my kids the other day. When they were little, they lived under the innocent delusion that beef, pork & chicken came from the Meat Fairy and not real animals, despite the fact that chicken doesn't have a nice euphemism for the meat that comes from the animal, like "pork" or "beef". But they gradually started asking questions, and I answered them as delicately as I could, so as not to force my children to become immediate vegetarians. (I could NOT support that habit, since I personally am a meat-a-holic.)

Anyway, when I took the kiddos shopping, I picked up a ham that was reduced in price. My children took no time in noticing that the ham came from the "butt portion". When they asked why it said, "butt", I'm sure they were hoping for a nice, reasonable explanation that didn't involve pig anatomy, but I bluntly told them, "because it's the butt of the pig." There was no more delicate way to explain it, so I left it at that.

A few days later, 5-year-old asked me, "Mom, when are you going to cook Pig Butt for dinner? Because I don't think I'm going to eat dinner that day."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Exercise and Energy

You know the exercise gurus who say exercise gives you energy? They're full of it.

Well, I'm sure it will happen e-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y. But I started walking this week, and I ain't feelin' no energy yet. All I'm feeling is *yawn* the struggle to stay awake. Literally. My son has the day off of school today and he has his friend over. I had dozed off on the couch and he came to me and said, "Mom, can we have some graham crackers and milk?" I mumbled something resembling "yes" and dozed off again. I finally woke enough to check on them and found out they had eaten a whole package of graham crackers (not a whole box, just a pack), half a jar of peanut butter, and they polished off the rest of the milk. And it's not even lunch time yet.

I'm glad they didn't ask me for the keys to the car.

You'd think maybe this has something to do with the fact that I'm taking a 30-minute power walk at 6 AM. But, I usually get up at 6:15 or 6:30 anyway, so what's the big deal? And I'm usually in bed by 9:30 or 10?

But yet, I ain't feelin' that fabulous energy you're supposed to get from exercise. I hope it happens soon or I might be sending some hate mail to Jillian Michaels.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I'm used to jaywalkers. I encounter them every day. I have even jaywalked myself, on occasion. I don't think it's exceptionally wrong to jaywalk. But obviously, you have to be careful. And the woman I saw today, who was attempting to cross a busy street with her baby in a stroller, was being less than careful.

I live near the large and ever-growing Sparrow Hospital. I drive by it every day, at least twice a day, bringing my children to and from school. The hospital sprawls down an entire city block, and across Michigan Avenue is Sparrow Professional Building, another sizable institution. The two are connected by a skywalk. Behind Sparrow Hospital is Eastern High School which serves 1300 students. Michigan Avenue is a main street that ends at the Capitol building. It is a busy, 5-lane thoroughfare.

It is not unusual to encounter jaywalkers while driving down this particular stretch of Michigan Avenue. In other words, it would be unusual not to see jaywalkers, especially at the beginning and end of school hours, when hoards of kids are weaving in and out through stop-and-go traffic.
Once in a while, I wonder why people don't go the extra few feet to cross Michigan at a crosswalk, or why medical personnel don't just go up the 3 floors to the skywalk. They can even use an elevator, for heaven's sake.

But today, I felt downright indignant to see a mother, with her toddler in a stroller, edging out onto Michigan Avenue and then retreating until traffic cleared. Seriously. She could have easily walked the 20 or 30 yards to a crosswalk in order to much more safely traverse the bustling street.

I'm not a judgmental person. I try to mind my own business. But, twelve years ago, I had the unfortunate experience of seeing a pedestrian get hit by a car, on that very same stretch of Michigan Ave. In that case, it was a grown man who was trying to cross amidst stopped traffic. As he was waiting in the center lane, a car unexpectedly pulled into the center lane and hit him, sending him somersaulting over the top of car, which then sped off. (Luckily, someone else had the presence of mind to follow that car and get the license plate number. Meanwhile, I was sitting there, stunned and wondering what to do. I eventually pulled over to tell a police officer what I had seen, but the driver of the car that had followed came back to give him all the information he needed.) That man got up and hobbled over to the curb, most likely with a broken arm, since he was cradling it and whimpering as he made his way to the ER staff that was already rushing outside.

But I shudder to think what would have happened if it had been that baby in a stroller who had gotten struck. That is why I feel somewhat incensed at the carelessness of that woman crossing the street with her baby. That is all I have to say.

Monday, Monday (boo, hiss)

It seems to me, from reading a variety of Facebook status updates, that yesterday was a particularly bad Monday. For my family, it was no exception. I had a fairly decent day, but once the children descended upon the house, all hell broke loose. Every one of my children had excessive emotional issues; in other words, there were many unpleasant hissy conniption fits. Side note: did you know that "conniption" is a real word? It's an awesome word. My mom used to say that we were "ornery" if we were crabby, but that doesn't seem to fit the bill in this case. We had some genuine meltdowns, to the point of destruction of household property.

I got to thinking about the only song that comes to mind when I think of Monday: "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas and the Papas. (You know, I think my parents still have an old vinyl record of the Mamas and the Papas somewhere.) What's confusing is that the first line of the song is "Monday, Monday, so good to me."

But then it goes on to confuse us all:

Every other day, every other day,
Every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes
You can find me cryin' all of the time

Perhaps the lyrics of this timeless song are too sublime for my comprehension.

Whatever the case, most people agree that Monday generally stinks. Why is this? Of course, we all love the weekend, but do we fool ourselves into thinking that Monday won't come this time? Do we begin to think that, maybe, through some inexplicable temporal alteration, we may have finally entered the eternal weekend?

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could have a Venusian calendar? A Venus day is 243 Earth days. So, a weekend would be 486 days, with Friday night adding roughly another 60 days, so the weekend would be 546 days. I could handle that.

However, the work week of 1215 days would truly stink.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Catch a Falling Cat and Put it in Your. . . .Pocket?

Last night, as the hubs and I were winding down after putting the kids to bed, we heard a series of large bumps and bangs out on our front porch. My first thought was that my Mother's Day gift, a huge hanging flower basket, had fallen. I looked outside to find the screen from an upstairs window had fallen out. I rushed out into the yard to find out which of our mischievous children was responsible, only to find a very frightened kitty stranded on the porch roof. She was meowing in such a mournful way and looking at me as she paced back and forth on the roof, as if I was going to save her. I was just hoping she wouldn't get the idea to jump, in which case I would have tried to catch her or break her fall, resulting in multiple scratches, I'm sure. Luckily she's more intelligent than that. But she wasn't smart enough to go back inside the house.

I had yelled to my husband, "Annabelle is on the roof!", so he had already run upstairs and to the window to try to coax her back inside. I grabbed a bag of cat treats and a can of cat food and ran up to give them to him for bait. He tried the cat treats, but had no luck. Then I opened the cat food and handed it to him, and she came right up to him. He dropped the food on the roof and grabbed the cat - Whew!

But then, since we didn't want an assortment of other critters midnight-snacking on our roof, my hubs had to go back out the window after the cat food can. He slid himself out almost to the point of hanging on to the windowsill with his feet. "Oh, man, this could be bad," I thought, but he snatched the can and came back inside in a flash.

With a bit of comforting, Annabelle and our human children were calmed down. How's that for a bit of bedtime excitement?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thanks to My Readers

I have a small blog. Nothing big and fancy. No bells and whistles. No fantastic giveaways.

I just love to write.

But when I write, it's kind of nice to have someone read it. So, I'm grateful for my small band of followers (of whom I lost a few since I've taken some extended blogging breaks. . . oh well.) But what's really cool is having people come up to me in real life and say, "I enjoy reading your blog." That always inspires me to keep writing when I wonder whether writing is worth it. I mean, it is worth it to me because I love writing, but is it worth stressing myself out about creating a blog post when no one is going to read it, or I could just be writing in a notebook? (naaahhh, typing is much easier).

So, thanks to those of you who follow me and comment, because I love to know if my blog is reaching anyone. And thanks to those who go out of their way to approach me and say, "Your blog is great." Because I enjoy writing, and I especially enjoy writing for you.

Funeral and Wedding

This week, I had the privilege to attend a funeral and a wedding. And believe it or not, both were joyful celebrations.

We have some dear family friends whom we've known since college. Their children are fabulous friends with our children - they are like family to us. Last week, the husband's mother passed away at the age of 66, after battling with cancer for 2 years. Grandma S. was too young to die, but her funeral was still a joyful celebration for two reasons. The first is that we know where she is now - rejoicing with Jesus in heaven! Second, it was an amazing reflection on her life to see St. Thomas the Apostle Church packed with people whose lives she had touched. The Scriptures gave perspective, the songs were jubilant, and the atmosphere was one of hope. For sure, there were many tears and much sadness, but yet there is comfort in the Lord, knowing He will hold those who grieve. And I walked away feeling inspired to emulate this godly woman who left a legacy of love, service and self-sacrifice.

And then, the wedding. I enjoy weddings, but I really love Christian weddings. (I'm kind of biased because I love Jesus Christ!) The couple united in Christ is such a beautiful reflection of Jesus' love for us. There is something especially precious about two people who have preserved their purity and come before the altar of the Lord to invite Him to be part of their union. Plus it's just great fun to celebrate with friends over a nice meal and dancing, and without children in tow, I might add!

As I said, both were joyful celebrations, but I do look forward to the next wedding much more than the next funeral.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fragrant Memories

You know how the sense of smell triggers memories? I've been thinking a lot about this lately. For some reason, this became pungently clear when the chicken I was cooking smelled like raw chicken. For most people this would mean one thing: the chicken needs to be cooked longer. No big, right? But my brain took the whole "raw" thing one step further that day.

raw = dead

So, when I opened the oven to season the chicken and smelled "dead" chicken, I was just a little grossed out. How do I know what dead chicken smells like? It goes back to when I was maybe about 3 years old and we lived on a farm in Pulaski, Wisconsin. Our neighbors owned the farm and we rented a big old house from them. That's where the smell of dead chicken comes from: the neighbors' teenage sons were killing and gutting chickens and I was helping. I, in my little golden blond ponytails and frilly pinafore, was reaching down inside the necks of dead, headless chickens and pulling out their insides.

Isn't that a pleasant childhood memory?

But the memories didn't stop there. I started thinking about other things. Like the smells of cow manure and diesel exhaust. Believe it or not, I actually like those smells. Because, when I left the farm in Pulaski - after a brief stint in Krakow (are you sensing a Polish theme here?) - we moved back to my dad's hometown and his family farm. So, I grew up playing on tractors and making mud pies with "not mud" (ha ha, I'm just kidding. . . .sort of). And yes, I genuinely enjoy the smell of diesel exhaust.

Unleaded exhaust, however, brings back rather unpleasant memories of when my family had an old beat-up blue van with no rear seats. My grandpa had used it when he was doing carpentry work, so it was "functional". Not for carrying children, of course, but for carrying nails and 2x4's. This didn't stop my parents from forcing us to occasionally ride on the cold, unpadded metal floor of the old blue van, which had some kind of exhaust-disposal issue which resulted in the death of many, many brain cells, I'm sure. I remember one incident very clearly: we were on our way to go camping, and since Blue Bessie was the only vehicle that could tow our trailer, my little sister and I were forced to ride in the back with the exhaust. We stopped at a small store and my sister and I staggered from the van, gasping for air. As we walked into the store, my sister said, "Mom, I don't feel good. My ears are ringing." My mom hardly batted an eyelash and said to me, "Pick her up, she's going to faint." Um, so I did, and I brought her outside until she regained consciousness. Then we got back into the exhaust-infested van and continued on our merry way. I guess it's all part and parcel of owning a hand-me-down vehicle.

But that isn't even the worst story about that van. It always seemed to have exhaust issues, as I mentioned, and one particular time, we had been riding around town for weeks with the muffler hanging by a thread. So, then, not only were the fumes making us hallucinate, but the ensuing headaches were exacerbated by the roar of the unmuffled engine. One afternoon, on the way home from town, the muffler just fell off. Right in the middle of the highway. And what did my mother do? She told ME to go and get it. She was too embarrassed to be seen driving the van, let alone chasing spare parts down Highway 41. What she forgot to mention was that the muffler would be hot, and after I found out the hard way, I kicked the muffler to the side of the road. My mom had backed the van up by then and we both just sat there and waited until it cooled off so that we could hoist it into the back of the van and make a quick getaway.

Ahhh, the memories.

I have so many more to share, but alas, it's bedtime and I will share more scent-inspired memories in another post. Until then, fragrant dreams!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Belated Mother's Day Blessings

Well, I wasn't planning to write a post about Mother's Day, but my faithful reader (and IRL friend), Cristin, said she was eagerly awaiting a Mother's Day post, so here it is.

It's kind of hard to write anything funny about my Mother's Day, because it was a very nice day, and in my world, nice isn't funny. So, be prepared - this may be not funny.

My mother's day began with sleeping in until 9:30; in fact, my husband and I both slept in. It was around 9:30 that I began feeling the pangs of caffeine withdrawal, so I stumbled downstairs, only to be greeted by, "MOM! We were going to make you breakfast in bed!" (Weird, because I'm not usually in bed until 9:30, so I'm not sure what they were waiting for.) I quickly remedied the situation, saying, "I just want some coffee - I'll start the coffee and then you can bring it to me in bed." I went back upstairs, dropping helpful hints behind me, like, "I like my coffee with cream only. . .no sugar, ok?", and then, "and I like toast with butter and cinnamon & sugar". (So, maybe I am a control freak, but I wanted to make sure I didn't end up with Froot Loops for breakfast.)

Breakfast arrived - coffee with plenty of cream, eggs and toast. And a napkin. And a little white vase full of lilacs. And 2 kids lying on my feet, saying, "do you like it?" (I'm not sure where the other 2 were. They were playing Mario Kart, I think. Later, when I thanked the children for breakfast in bed, there were a few quizzical looks and one, "you had breakfast in bed???")

When I finally got around to dragging my rested and fed body out of bed, I came to the living room to find that my children had prepared a space for me to veg on the on the couch while they rubbed my feet. And then they rubbed my legs. And my hands. And my ears. And my hair. It was actually quite relaxing, but I had to stop them before they got to my nose. And then they rubbed my back. . . for as long as I wanted them to. And as if I wasn't pampered enough, I then proceeded to take a hot bath. No bubbles, just a hot, relaxing bath.

I sent my husband away for the afternoon, however, which was a small downside to an otherwise perfect day. I sent him to honor another mother - the mom of one of our close friends passed away and the visitation with her family was on Sunday afternoon. (I went to the funeral this morning - a wonderful, sorrowful, beautiful and blessed celebration of the life of a godly woman. But, that is a story for yet another post.)

When my husband returned from his trek to Ann Arbor (about an hour away), we hopped in the car and drove across town just in time (um, well not exactly) for 5 PM Mass, since I had spent the morning being appropriately lazy. We rushed in at 5:20, just as the priest was honoring mothers during his homily. I've come to realize, at my wise old age, that I have to let go of concern about being judged by others for walking in late to Mass, or having my children humiliate me during Mass, or whatever. Ten years ago, I would have been exceedingly self-conscious to walk into Mass 20 minutes late. Yesterday, I was only mildly self-conscious. Yay for me!

On the way home, we got my favorite food in the whole world - Nachos! - and Death by Chocolate ice cream from Quality Dairy (for which there is NO substitute).

So, a nice, relaxing, low-key Mother's Day. Sorry I couldn't come up with anything more witty or funny, but hey it was Mother's Day, and it takes a little work to conjure up some humor.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Judge Not

I am writing this entirely out of personal experience, lest you think I am judging others for being judgmental.

Yesterday, as I was checking out at the grocery store, there came the sound of crying - tantruming, really. A young girl was sobbing and whining loudly that she wanted something her mother was not going to give her. And her cries persisted. She went on until I left the store, which was at least 10 minutes from when I first heard her.

But as I stood there in line for that entire 10 minutes, I felt sick with anxiety for the mother of that child. Because when you're the mom in that situation, you are absolutely certain that every eye is on you, wondering why you can't control your child. People look with disdain and others mutter under their breath. I know this because I used to be one of those people thinking that mother must be doing something wrong because this isn't the way children should act in public. And I sincerely, humbly apologize to anyone I ever passed judgment on, because my erroneous thinking came from the fact that I had never fully understood a 3-year-old child, who, at the end of the day, is overwhelmed with busyness and is hungry and tired and just wants some quiet and comfort.

I've been in that situation, like that young mom in the grocery store yesterday. I was in that stage for what seemed like endless years, when I would be forced to drag many young children to the grocery store; young children who would undoubtedly start fighting, playing tag in the aisles, or try to hide from me just for fun (and not realize that it caused me to have a full-blown panic attack). Those were the days that I promised little treats at the checkout for good behavior, and I was fully prepared to withhold the treats if their behavior didn't measure up. I was also fully prepared to leave my cart - half full of all the items I had searched for and price-checked and found coupons for - in the middle of Meijer and just walk out because of my children's negative behavior (which I did exactly one time.)

But my children were never perfect. And there were many moments when I was on the receiving end of the disdainful looks and judgmental muttering. I remember one time that I had a 3-year-old, a 1 1/2 year-old, and either I was hugely pregnant or I was carrying a baby on my back (my memory is fuzzy, probably because of all the brain cells killed by stress). The second child, who has consistently been the best tantrum-thrower I've ever known, was having a screaming fit about something and I had to keep buckling her back into the cart so that she wouldn't run away. Another mom, a kind soul, walked up to me and kindly said, "You're doing a great job."

Now, THAT is what every mom needs when they are dealing with children who exhibit less-than-perfect behavior in public. She doesn't need to look around at all the people who are showing their annoyance at her obvious lack of parenting skill, she doesn't need to hear people whispering, "my child will never act like that". She needs someone to look her in the eye and say, "hang in there, you're doing great." If you've never fought the battles of parenthood, you won't understand how huge such small words of encouragement are.