30 November 2006


Years ago (like 15) I worked on a fashion show which, for about five minutes, blasted (and I mean blasted like even my teenaged girl-self would have thought it was too loud) a mesmerizing song that imprinted itself firmly in my head. For a long time after, I'd walk into random record shops and sing the lyrics to employees in the hopes they could point me toward a recording of the song so I could listen to it obsessivly for a few weeks and GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD. Nobody could place it. Finally - FINALLY - I found it. I bought a CD and listened obsessively for weeks, until I could sing the entire song backwards and forwards and then, mercifully, it left me alone.

Chris is not merciful. Every few years, he finds reason (or no reason) to bring up the song and it enjoys a few days (weeks) romping around in my head again. Tonight, it was for no reason. Worse, he dug up a Muzak version online! EEEEEEEWW. It's worse than the girls who try to host an intelligent plot discussion during commercial breaks for Gilmore Girls! Make it STOP! Please make it stop! Mean. SO mean.

D(M)ental Heath

We invade our dentist's office twice each year by scheduling all our check-up appointments in a row. Her office is a bit of a drive from our house, so it makes sense to wedge all of us into one trip since we really like her and are not inclined to look for a closer dentist. For reasons unknown, we do this on a Thursday morning. Also for reasons unknown, we go just after Thanksgiving and right before our anniversary so we handily have clean teeth shortly after the two big eating holidays (Halloween & Tday) and in time to smile for all those anniversary photos we never take. After the spring appointment, we traditionally begin a long weekend trip for Memorial Day. After the fall one, we traditionally play hookey and this year was no different - we took the kids out for lunch (tacos) and then saw Happy Feet. We did wonder this year if we're corrupting the kids by not returning them to school for the last two hours...but not for long.

26 November 2006

In the Car

The boys are reading in the back seat. Lars is in the habit of spelling words he doesn't know out loud so we can help him out. "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I," spells Lars.

"M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I...Mississippi," Chris replies.

"Mississippi," says Lars, then spells, "H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H?"

"HALLELUJAH!" Chris and I shout in happy unison.

"HELLOJULIA!" shouts Lars.


Mama: Find the action word in this sentence: "Lucy plays the piano."

Lars: Piano.

Mama: Is the piano doing something?

Lars: It's being played.

21 November 2006

You're Missing What?

Excerpts from a note sent home from school:

"...rattlesnake head (in a small jar), was missing after the P.T.O. sponsored [presentation]..."
[how do you lose a jarred rattlesnake head?]

"...the fangs may still have venom and the chemical in the jar is not one to share with children." [but you may enjoy it a bit yourself?]

The note gives instructions to share with your child regarding the dangerous nature of the missing object, phone numbers to call if the jar is spotted or if you require additional information, and assurances that all teachers have thoroughly checked their classrooms and custodians are on High Alert for suspicious looking or unidentifiable jars. At least it wasn't another copy of the Peanuts Kill note.

20 November 2006

Sudden Food Needs

We used to throw biannual barbecues, one in January (first barbecue of the New Year) and the other over the summer sometime (the wet one - BYO supersoaker & towel). These grill events were great fun and very well attended, usually filling both house and yard with everything you'd like in a party - good friends, a lot of fun and fabulous food. One year, a group of six or seven family friends were travelling through town and stopped by unannounced on the chance we might be at home for a quick visit. As luck would have it, we were in full wet-bbq mode and before anyone blinked, so were they! Many hours later as the party wound down, we decided there was no way for them to reasonably continue their journey that night so we fixed everyone up to stay. That house had plenty of room for unexpected guests - each person got a spare bed, air mattress, or couch in a reasonably private place and there were plenty of bathrooms (five!!) to go around, too. That extended visit was a rare gift - I don't get to see that family very often at all, although they're in my heart always - and it made me aware that one of my goals in life is to always have room and provisions on hand for unexpected guests.

This sort of preparedness isn't tested that often but the tests are generally a lot of fun. That first time was seven unexpected overnight guests. Sometimes it's just a friend stopping over with a book or to watch hockey and all that's called for is snacks or lunch and beer. Ginger, who'd otherwise be stranded at the airport (bad way to finish off WTHS...). Heather, alone or not, for dinner because facing the meal together that day suddenly seems the best idea for all involved. Whatever the reason, I can be sure of time with friends and happy memories whether I have enough food on hand or not.

Today's prattle is brought to you by the kindergarten class mother who interpreted my checking off "Juice" and "Paper Plates, Napkins, Bowls" on the Things You Are Willing To Send In For School Parties form as a willingness to send in corn muffins. So much for the juice and paper goods I stocked up on...but woo-hoo for my single little pantry cabinet which, in addition to not falling off the wall today, yielded all the makings for corn muffins without my having to run to the store. Today's Sudden Food Need Preparedness test score: A!

14 November 2006

Beware...Frogs Are Next

I managed to walk about twenty blocks through midtown Manhattan today without finding a Starbucks. Not just an indication of the Apocalypse, it was awful especially because I was looking for coffee and didn't have any cash (I'd already spent my emergency $5 on a black scarf - much nicer and 1/3 the cost of the one I saw at Target last week). After sixteen blocks, I phoned a friend (Chris) and got him to plug my location into the website for a list of nearby fixes. Traffic on 7th Avenue was loud so I ducked into a corner shop while he looked - BAD PLAN. My afternoon latte cost an absurd amount of money and came with an amazing face polisher, mud mask and moisture lotion (I also got a ton of decadent samples). If you happen to be in the city tomorrow, find me and rub my cheeks - they will be unbelievably soft and glowy. Do it fast, though, the world is surely about to end.

13 November 2006

Happiness Is...

...A two-for-one sale on Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips! Such a nice surprise after day that could generally be characterized as annoying.

Climbs With Monkeys

Climbs With Monkeys is off to school this morning wearing his fringed leather vest and feathered headdress. There was some discussion over how many feathers he should have - all the important indians, like the Chief, wore more than one. When I pointed out that he only owns one feather, he sighed but accepted his single-feather status like a true brave. Happily, he made the bus with molasses cookies, potato peeler (Climbs With Monkeys is on the Potato Peeling Team and will be making mashed potatoes for the Feast), brushed teeth, and clean fingernails. Thankfully, Lars has a regular day on deck so we've planned a morning of games before his bus comes by.

11 November 2006

Fire's Burning

Our house is on a very wooded lot, in a very wooded neighborhood, which means every autumn we have a lot of leaves. Last year, we managed to fill over 40 bags before the town collection date and we'd only worked on two sides of the house. This year, we decided to try mulching instead. It was so much faster! If it doesn't totally kill the lawn, we'll be all set. Along with leaf cleanup, we collect an enormous pile of sticks and branches that I burn in our fire bowl. This year's burn went very well. The boys helped with the collection and sorting and Chris helped break everything down to burnable sizes.

We had about five hours of active fire and I didn't get to burn anything from the dead tree stack in the lower yard. Once everything was stacked and ready to burn, I enjoyed the late afternoon reading my next book group book in the porch rocker Chris got off our neighbor's trash pile. The kids were all over the place today, playing with friends in every yard but Ross came out to sit with me as dusk fell. We watched the bats and looked for stars and talked about what he wished for, "the best Mama in the world and ALL the cowboy stuff (except the horse...and the gun)." I said that was really two wishes and Ross said it wasn't because he already has the first part. Moments like that make all the rest of it worthwhile!

10 November 2006

You Say It's (not) Your Birthday

Suspense kills five-year-olds. Literally. Mine, at least, can't contain himself when he has a secret. He KNOWS he's not supposed to tell. He KNOWS the date he will be able to tell. He even tries hard to keep the secret by telling you everything but the very secret itself. I'd been in the door about four minutes this afternoon when Lars appeared next to me. "Bend down your ear, Mama, I have to tell you something I can't tell you." I bent and he whispered something urgent and utterly unintelligible into my ear. Ross paced nearby, trying to overhear, and glaring at his brother. I had Lars repeat his whisper and managed to gather that he was not about to tell me anything until my birthday but whatever he was not telling me about was in his brother's safe bank. Then they both darted away, Lars giggling and Ross admonishing that Lars was not to tell until my birthday.

A while later, I overheard Lars asking Chris if he didn't think I deserved a present now, even though it's not my birthday. After all, it will be my birthday. And I've been being a very good Mama - I eat my dinners and do my work. A present now would seem, by Lars standards, very well placed...especially since he's prepared to give one. I'm not sure if Chris was convinced but Ross seemed to swing his vote to the give now side. Shortly after, the boys cornered me in the hallway. Ross said very ceremoniously that they KNOW it's not my birthday but they wanted to give me what they and Daddy had gotten for me at Home Depot anyway because I've been so good and it will be my birthday one day and so they got me HOCKEY KEYS! Woooot!

09 November 2006

007 1/2

I'd long thought "mystery shopping" was a fictitious scam made up by people who write spam content until I read a magazine article comparing various jobs with flexible schedules. It turns out that mystery shopping is an actual profession! After doing some initial research, I signed up with a company listed by the mystery shopping standards organization. In addition to the standard job application information, I had to list two character references (yes, there are two people willing to say I'm a good shopper...) and write no more than 50 words about why I wanted to be a mystery shopper. Surprisingly, I managed to come up with several more words than the obvious two, "Who wouldn't?"

Logging in to the assignments website for the first time was exciting - they don't tell you which companies you will observe before you are accepted, so I was very curious to see what options I'd have and was pleased to see
several places I regularly patronize listed. I ran through a brief general orientation program and then an additional training session specific to one of the companies I wanted to shop for. After passing the tests, I got to select my first assignments! I picked a store that I needed to get something from and then, feeling ambitious, I signed up for a second assignment on the same day - what the he**? I get paid per assignment and get a small reimbursement toward anything I purchase while mystery shopping, so hitting two stores on one trip seemed like a good idea.

I had a few days to wonder what, exactly, I've gotten myself into and then today was the big day! I waited until I'd gotten my actual work done, reviewed my assignment paperwork, and then set off on my adventure. I was mildly apprehensive but it turned out to be fun! I had to remind myself of one or two things - for example in the first store, I forgot to try to identify the manager and see what s/he was doing - but on the whole, I did quite well. It wasn't hard, I got something I needed, filling out the evaluation form afterward took maybe five minutes and in a few weeks I'll get a little bump in my savings account. It's too bad I'm only discovering this hobby now, as I have an ironclad policy not to go into a mall between Thanksgiving and Epiphany. Maybe I'll try restaurant evaluations between now and then?

07 November 2006


Humor for today, thanks to xkcd for a good laugh!

Ross came home needing a Pilgrim Name. He wants Huggable or Hockey. I've suggested Constant. He also needs an Indian Name. Plays with Sticks and Climbs with Monkeys are in consideration.

Lars has taken to offering a toast each night as we sit down for dinner. Instead of offering a compliment or well-wish to someone, though, he uses his moment of attention to present something he would like to have happen. For example, "I would like to propose a toast to Daddy for playing a game of Memory with me after dinner. And for trying hard to win but not being sad when he doesn't win because I am GREAT at playing Memory."

Chris made our menu and shopping list for the week! He had to do it twice because I'm an impossible spouse and pointed out that the five dinners he'd first selected contained four pasta meals, one of which we'd already eaten just the night before. Then, because he's wonderful (or he just wanted to get out of the house) he did the shopping and he only called me twice from the store. Once was to ask where they've put the ham (moved it a few months ago) and the second time - bless his heart - to ask where he'd find Chicory. Chicory? We're not exactly sleeping on mattresses of cash but I hope we're not consigned to depression coffee quite yet. Thankfully, he let me convince him not to keep looking for the stuff.

I filled out even more forms for the credit card fraud thing and learned the name, e-mail address, and telephone number of the person who used my card from Priceline by calling and asking for information about the reservation my card had paid for. Then, I Googled the phone number and got the address. If jail is not in his immediate future, I predict he will be flooded by spam, telemarketing offers, and Fuller Brush men. Who steals a credit card and then uses his own actual information to book travel reservations with it?

06 November 2006

Static Ritual

The rituals of Halloween Candy haven't changed much since I was a kid. The candy is wildly different but the rituals surrounding sorting, trading, selecting and eating are exactly as I remember them. For weeks after Halloween, the collections must be viewed and sorted each night. The sorting will be done by type of candy, by wrapper color, or by whether the collector has ever tasted that kind or not. Sometimes it is lined up in the order in which the collector intends to consume the treats, sometimes by piles according to how jealous another collector might be of the items. There is a lot of vocal admiration and it's facinating to watch bazarre trading skills develop. If a particular candy doesn't garner the expected amount of apprval, the shrewd holder of the candy might guess that a good trade might be made for any of that kind appearing in the other person's pile. A disparaging comment might provoke a trade of astronomical appeal and the urge to outdo another collector can instigate something very near war. In this fashion, one packet of Necco wafers might be exchanged for two or even three Mounds bars (dark chocolate being currently out of favor, since the neighbor girl has managed to lodge the idea that it's actually made of mud into their heads...bless her heart!). One brother offering Mama a Heath bar (remembering how she asked him to put on another costume and go around to that house again...) can inspire the other to extend his entire stock of KitKats because he knows she likes them. Top level diplomacy skills are required for Mama to make it out of the exchange without a lapful of candy or anyone in tears. To her great credit, not only did she manage, she also came out of the transaction with hugs, the Heath bar *and* the life-size 100 GRAND bar. She is (if she does say so herself) good!

P.S. Can you tell which kid is a little bit compulsive? I took the picture before he got to moving them into position by colors, with each color spaced one life-size Butterfinger length away from the others...

04 November 2006

White Hibiscus by Cheryl Meehan

I stumbled on the blog of artist Cheryl Meehan one day and found myself intrigued by some of her paintings. I was also impressed by her vow to do a painting each day, as a way of improving her skill and focusing on her art - I admire dedication like that quite a bit. Mid-September, Cheryl painted White Hibiscus, a painting I couldn't stop looking at! The colors are gorgeous and the way she captured the light is fabulous. I sent her a note and a short while later, became the owner of the lovely painting. It is just back from the frame shop and now hangs over my desk, where I can see it often!

03 November 2006

Sound Bites

In conversation over dinner tonight I mentioned Barbizon, a company I work with on occasion. Ross perked right up, "Barbizon? Is that a Transformer?"

I couldn't help but grin, "No, it's a company I know from work."

Wistfully, he sighed, "Oh, too bad. 'Barbizon' would make a cool Transformer!"


An acapella quartet of Firemen
sang the anthems before the Bruins-Sabres game yesterday. Chris asked how they'd be classified (I think he meant musically) and Ross immediately offered, "Non-fiction, animal." Made me realize I have no idea what really goes on in his head sometimes...

02 November 2006

7:43am: Too Early for Poor Grammar

I have a Starbucks affliction. Actually, it's a coffee affliction...but Starbucks is a particularly gratifying way to satisfy it, especially if you say, "Triple grande latte for Karen," to the person in the green apron with the Sharpie and the stack of cups. If said person is also wearing blue tint glasses and manning the early morning line in the NYP station branch, I don't usually have to speak - a watery smile demonstrating my lack of caffeine is enough to get him writing my standard order on a cup and waving me toward the pastry case. This morning started off well enough - much too early but well all the same. Train mostly on time (despite rain), transfer uneventful, watery smile, apple fritter, swipe card, get GTL, grab a few napkins, head for subway.

Standing on the subway platform, I started to fold the napkins into my bag when I noticed they have a new design. It's light green print on unbleached recycled napkin stock, so you have to look closely to see what it says: Less napkins. More plants. More planet. Less napkins.

Less napkins? LESS? And did they have to write it twice? FEWER. FEWER NAPKINS. Less/fewer errors bother me even after I've had coffee but they turn out to be particularly annoying before coffee, in a subway station at 7:43am. It's almost enough to send me back to carrying cash for corner cart coffee.

01 November 2006

Post Halloween Observation

Kit Kat snack bars seem smaller this year. Good thing there were a lot of them!


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