Thursday, January 31, 2013

Don't Mess with Me and My New, Blue Earrings

Helen has a box of blue beads. In that box, are some very fancy jewelry making doo-dads. And though she doesn't yet have pierced ears (and in honor of the band Eddie from Ohio, when she asked I sang "and we couldn't pierce our ears 'til we turned 12 no matter what!"), but that hasn't stopped her from dreaming.

Only recently did she become aware that I have my own pierced ears. Unlike Helen, I don't have a snazzy sense of style, and it wasn't until my sister gave me some cool silver earrings for Christmas that I started wearing earrings more consistently.

Armed with the knowledge of my pierced ears, Helen brought me into the craft room a couple of days ago and we set about turning her earring posts into "real, dangly earrings" and we came up with these.

The best part about making earrings with Helen is that she refuses to call a crimping bead - the last bead you put on which then gets smashed to keep everything else in place - a crimping bead. She calls it a "shove it bead", which makes perfect sense.

I love my slightly too-blue earrings with shove it beads. Every time I'm wearing them and someone annoys me, I just flick my head a little bit and think "shove it".


Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Light

Sometimes, all it takes is looking at a problem in a new way to find a solution. I was reminded of this a while ago when I posted on Facebook that Connor had gone to the Emergency Room. Again. This time, he was there to get stitches after his head collided with a square column in the basement. Because I cannot anticipate the next object Connor's body will come into contact with, I posited that it might be wise to just wrap the kid in bubble wrap.

But a friend of mine suggested that perhaps instead I should wrap the rest of the world in bubble wrap.

With snow finally surrounding us (ever thin as it may be), it seems like the world just got a little bit softer. Sort of like being wrapped in bubble wrap.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dude Ranch

I have no idea why I've wanted to take my kids to a dude ranch forever, but I have. Unfortunately, kids need to be at least 6 at most of the ranches to be able to go on a trail ride, and going to a dude ranch and leaving a kid behind seems pretty lame.

Tonight, I realized that we are only one full summer away from my dude ranch dreams.

Me: Will you be joining me and the kids on our dude ranch vacation the summer after next?
Ed: Huh?
Me: It's in Montana.
Ed: How are we going to get there?
Me: We'll probably walk.
Me: No, I'm just kidding. We'll teleport!

Ed doubts my ability to teleport to Montana, but in the few moments I've been typing this he's come around to the idea of going to a dude ranch. He wants one with a little stream running through it, maybe a little mountain nearby.

Mom, Dad, Linda, Bill, Anna, and Emily - it's time to round-up the family. Summer 2014.

All others - suggestions welcome. Must accommodate kids and teens.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Connor and his friend Elliott have decided to own a Lego store. They are quite confident that their creations are so unique, they will be able to sell them for a lot of money. The prototypes will sell for more than the sets they make.

As they were telling me their plans, they asked me to buy a piece of property that is at an extremely busy intersection about a half mile from my home. This does, indeed, represent an excellent piece of commercial property. Unfortunately, they're going to need a few more investors than just me to make it work. Please let me know if you're interested.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Tale of Christmas Money

Helen and Connor's great grandpa sent them money for Christmas. This prompted a trip to the toy store, which was extremely exciting for Connor and Helen.

Helen is a rather deliberate shopper. She gets few chances to go into the giant toy store, so when she's there, she makes the most of it.

This year, her eyes fell on an electric guitar. My heart sunk as I thought about the cacophony of noise that was about to invade my existence. But then Ed noticed a Dora ukelele nearby. Normally, I'm not a fan of branded merchandise, but when choosing between electronic and branded, branded seemed the least offensive.

Helen is now the proud owner of her Dora "guitar". She loves it.

The first thing she needed to do was make a proper case. We cut the top of the box the guitar came in, sealed the sides of the box, added a strap that Helen fingerknitted, and then put a button and ribbon on to lock the case. She added padding inside the case to protect her instrument.

Next, she needed a strap for the guitar, which we added last Friday.

Helen decided that guitar players need to wear earrings, so she sat down and made herself some long, dangly, pink earrings, that she figure out how to attach to her unpierced ears.

Finally, Helen is ready to rock!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Snow Day

I was really hoping Friday would be a snow day. I had big plans to take an adventure on the metro with Connor and Helen to a nearby bookstore and grab a cookie (with a coupon, no less!). Then, we were going to make the grandest of snow forts, make Helen a snow chair so she could watch Connor and I lob snowballs at each other, and then head inside to warm up.

It was going to be great.

Only there's one problem. We have no snow! Not a single flake decided to fall here, despite forecasts calling for 2 - 6 inches.

So...I guess we just have to relive the memories of when we were in Kansas, and at least got to see snow, even if it wasn't that much and didn't stick around for long.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sad Day

This afternoon, everyone in Connor's school received a note that Mrs. R. - Connor's beloved gifted teacher - would not be returning to school. She has pancreatic cancer. I read the email and then my heart just broke in two. Literally. I can feel a hole right in the middle of it. It's a hole that holds anxiety about public school, worries about Connor's future, and the part of me that wondered would he always have a teacher who loved him. Mrs. R. filled all those holes so nicely. She kept all those worries to a minimum.

Mrs. R. loves Connor, and he loves her right back. I had always thought that the singular best thing about his being in the gifted program was that he'd have a consistent teacher for all five years of elementary school. He meets with her a couple of times a week, and more than once she has remarked to me that she can't wait to see how far he will go. Her eyes dance when she talks about him. She believes in him - and in my book - that belief goes a long way towards ensuring he'll have a successful elementary school experience.

Every time I have seen the two of them encounter each other at an after-school activity or in the hallway, she smiles and Connor is happy to see her. I just know she made Connor comfortable in school. Connor really grooves on seeing Mrs. R. with only 1 - 3 other students. It's a nice small group, it's not noisy or chaotic like his regular class can be, and she teaches him things that occasionally blow his mind away. Most recently, he came home with a set of problems about Jane sitting next to Judy and across from Jill and when Ed and I looked at them, we had flashbacks to our days of taking ACTs, SATs, and GREs. Connor loves figuring stuff like that out.

Mrs. R. is an artist and a totally free-form thinker. Just like every other gifted teacher I've ever known, her thoughts don't come to her in a linear pattern. She is a hoot to chat with, because she always has interesting ideas. I know Connor benefited from her tutelage greatly, even if their relationship was brief.

At Christmas, I was up at school volunteering in Connor's classroom and I ducked out of the room to see Mrs. R. I'm so glad we were able to chat that day. I hope we get the chance to do so again.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Lockdown - Lockout

Recently, parents at my son's elementary school were informed of a new safety protocol. All classroom doors are to remain locked at all times. The theory behind this measure is that if a teacher doesn't have to fumble to lock a door, precious moments might be saved, should something like the recent Sandy Hook shootings be repeated at my son's school.

When the policy was announced, my first thought was that it does not make children any safer. (I kvetch about that and other safety measures over at today.) My second thought about the measure was wondering whether children would actually be less safe. I'm concerned about the straggling kid who unintentionally gets locked out of the classroom, rather than locked in.

I fear this, because I am / was that straggling kid. In the documentary "March of the Penguins", there is a scene where one penguin gets left behind because of its seemingly poor sense of direction and relative slowness. Ultimately, this penguin marches to her death. When we saw this scene together, Ed looked at me and said "that's you". And I agreed. Directionless and late - only because I'm not a penguin, these traits don't generally put my life at risk.

The issue of locking doors was discussed at the PTA meeting (and at least one other woman felt like me - that the straggler was who we needed to worry about, not the bulk of kids already tucked away in a room). But in the end, the principal - whose opinion I trust - thought the current measures were the best measures. So doors remain locked.

Last Thursday, the first "post-lock-your-door-at-all-times" lockdown occurred. There was an armed robbery on a bike trail about a half mile from the school.

And guess whose kid was in the bathroom, and didn't make it into his classroom?

Yep. Mine.

Parents received a note that the lockdown occurred right after recess. Several children were finishing up in the bathroom when the lockdown was announced - "code [some color that I don't know]". So rather than going to their classroom, the art teacher nearby the bathroom shuffled them into her room, and they spent some time in what seemed like a closet / or some sort of passageway.

And though the whole event was deemed a success - "school procedures worked!", I sat at my desk thinking  - this is not the way our children should be spending their day. And more than that, I crossed my fingers that my child was not one of the ones left behind because that? That seems like a great way to make a kid feel unsafe. And that is not how I want my kid to feel at school.


Friday, January 11, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments or at

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Dad -and Grandma M

By many accounts, this has not been a good year for my dad. He started off the year watching his beloved KSU wildcats lose in the Fiesta Bowl and today, he will watch his 97 year old mother be buried. But if you see my dad in the next few weeks, he will be the same as he was when I was home at Christmas - mellow, happy, and ready to chat.

If you are a child and want to play Monopoly, just set up the card table and he'll join you. He'll go geocaching with you - if it's not too cold and windy, and he will have a story to tell. Always, there is a story to tell. No matter what you tell him, you won't rattle him. It's just not his style. My mom told me there was a fan of the team that beat KSU in one of the golf clubhouses my parents visited after the game who couldn't help but make nasty remarks to my parents. My dad just shrugged and told him "we've lost before, and we'll lose again".

Because that's my dad. And that's been my dad for 60 years, I suspect (I've only known him for nearly 40, and I have very few memories of those first couple of years).

It's been six years since my grandfather died. The moments of lucidity since then (and before) for my grandma have been reportedly few and far between. Alzheimer's took her mind, and eventually the rest of her body followed. I don't think she had any major health issue prompting her death, her body just stopped working. And of course, at 97, that's a pretty reasonable thing for a body to do.

NINETY-SEVEN. Just ruminate on that for a minute. That is a crazy age to live to. Yet, my sister and I have both admitted we hope we have a parent around when we reach sixty - and thanks to the way math works, that means my mom will need to live to 89 and my dad will need to live to 91. So, not quite 97, but still...

My grandma played organ, liked to sing a bit, and was a champion speller. She fussed over invisible dust bunnies, dyed her hair, and clearly felt like she needed to wear make-up. I have no idea if she agreed or disagreed with my grandfather's conservative politics because she was a lady, and ladies do not disagree out loud.

The irony of having just taught Helen a Peggy Seeger song about wanting to be an engineer and fighting for fair wages is not lost on me, as I type this. No, Helen, I don't want you to be a lady. But I think it suited your great-grandma.

My grandma didn't say a lot, didn't smile in photos, and should've stayed out of the kitchen. Her two kitchen legacies are the ability to turn tin-foil into gravy (how else to explain the similarity in taste?) and burning rolls.

Years ago, we were eating Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents' home. My brother-in-law put into action the tried-and-true practice of smothering the turkey and potatoes with gravy, because that? That would make everything taste good. My mom, sister, and I all stood there in shock, because we had spent so many years avoiding the gravy, that I think we had forgotten how powerful the stuff was. We have had more than one laugh reliving the look on my brother-in-law's face when he took a bite.

That same dinner, my grandma had put a pan of rolls in the oven. Mind you, these are just the store bought rolls that come in packages that essentially need to be reheated or browned a little bit. The rolls were done, and my Aunt came into the kitchen and removed them from the oven - right on time. I observed the bold act, thinking that for the first time ever, the rolls would not be burnt. Only, before my aunt could set the pan down, my grandma put them right back into the oven and admonished my aunt that the turkey wasn't done yet. And that pretty much sums up every cooking memory I have of my grandma.

She might be the one person for whom canned goods were truly a blessing.

In retrospect, I think her mind might have been leaving her even then. All those times my grandpa talked over her (and I assure you, my angry feminist college self thought this was awful) were maybe just cover for something my grandpa recognized that he was keeping from everyone else.

People who visited my grandma reported that she wanted to go back home to Mankato and years ago, she told me the same thing. Her mind has been in Mankato for a long time. My dad assures me my grandma is in a better place and deep down, I'm grateful that her body has caught up with her mind.

I hope my dad's year turns around. He deserves it.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Second Lost Tooth

The teeth are shedding quickly, it seems. Connor's total tooth loss count doubled this morning, with two upper teeth remaining loose. The number of teeth I have pulled in the last two weeks also doubled. Do I qualify for a DDS yet?

Last night, Connor pointed out how loose his remaining lower front tooth was. It wasn't quite loose enough for me to rip it out and after asking me to wiggle it a bit, Connor decided he'd rather lose it at school. Apparently the nurse sends you home with some tooth-shaped container that you wear around your neck so you don't lose it. I instructed him to start wiggling the tooth and told him I'd leave it alone unless I saw another tooth coming in. If that happened, I'd yank the tooth.

This morning at breakfast, Connor decided he didn't want to wait any longer for the tooth to exit his mouth. He'd been wiggling the tooth through the night and it had become uncomfortable. So I grabbed a paper towel and freed the little bugger from Connor's mouth.

I'm guessing another poem and gem will appear in place of his tooth before he wakes!


Friday, January 4, 2013

{this moment}

From SouleMama: {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Share your own moment in the comments or at

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Beware the Ides of March

I don't know if Helen is a soothsayer or not, but I'm hoping she's not. While we were in Kansas, my mom asked Helen if she was ready to come for a visit sometime, under the pretext that it would be without parents. Helen responded "Yes, that would be fun. I'll come live with you after my mother dies." My mom did agree that were I to die, Helen would be welcome to come live with her. I guess that's a relief?

Later, Helen nonchalantly mentioned to Ed that maybe when he married someone else and she had a stepmother, they could get a cat, because maybe the stepmother wouldn't be afraid of or allergic to cats.

I'm not sure this bodes well for me!