Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dancing Santa 2009

Illuminated by the soft, pink-hued glow of hundreds of red and white Christmas bulbs, she calls, “More, again!” and throw up her arms towards Santa and his Winter Wonderland on the roof. The ferris wheel spins, the seesaw tips, the reindeers look back and forth and Santa, on cue, starts singing and swaying, standing tall against the night sky, showering the sidewalk below with familiar classic melodies of the season. She, in turn, starts her self-appointed role of dance partner, harmonizer and neighborhood greeter.

It has become a nightly ritual: dressed in her small pink coat, warm printed tights, coordinated dress and fleece boots, topped by the pink hat, she rides her carriage to the appointed corner and commands a seatbelt release. On cue, she high steps and jumps, hops and jives, twirls the skirt of her coat and marches up and down with her hands pressed together in the small of her back. The neighbors pass by in their nightly routines, to smile and comment on her evolving ritual--each night is a bit fancier and grander than the previous.

The air is quiet and cold, save Santa’s singing, and her occasional “Merry Christmas” and “Ho, Ho, Ho” to chime in with Santa’s song. She triggers the sensor again and again to continue the dance, never tiring.

Every evening, before bed she asks, “Go outside, see Santa, please, mom?” And every evening, until Santa retires for the season, I will take her, trying to savor and save the experience, never tiring of watching the dance of complete joy, staged on a sidewalk corner by a two-year old swathed in pink.

Posted by The Editor.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Project

New Year’s Eve is almost here. Another year has slipped through the hour glass. Where does the time go? I am not one for New Year’s resolutions…but I do love me a good project. What will my project be for this year? Hmmm….

Marlo is 15 months and Joy is 4. My home is a wreck. Things that should be placed are piled. Piles turn into permanent fixtures. The permanent fixtures begin to take on a life of their own. I have a really good memory…just not for anything useful. This “talent” certainly comes in handy in the “Babe/Mommy, where is the/my/a ________?” I just go into the corners of my mind and visualize whatever is being searched for and locate it. The kids think I’m part magic. Hubs thinks I’m part bewitched. We’re just going to let them think that. They don’t need to know that I am part crazy mixed with useless information. But anyway, this brings me to my 2010 New Year’s Project:

I am going to print out a calendar. Each night, after the usual daily tasks are done but before I fall into my nightly semi-sleep haze, I am going to devote 20 minutes to a chosen task. This will include things like, ‘organize the junk drawer’ (there are 17 of these in my house—at least there are 17 that I know of—there could be more, I just haven’t found them yet), ‘straighten the cupboard under my bathroom sink’ (sounds simple…until I let you in on a little secret…this cupboard is where the girls love to do their own organizing, daily, as I am attempting to get ready for the day), and ‘simplify the office’ (as in, throw away scraps of paper that have very important information on them that I cannot decipher—and haven’t been able to for the past five years). I intend to organize, straighten, clean and simplify my way through 2010, or at least make myself crazy trying! (Crazy isn’t really that bad…it makes you kind of dangerous in a “let’s indulge her because we don’t know how she’s going to react” kind of way.)

Hopefully by 2011 I will have my life a little more back on track. At the very least I hope to have a few less larger-than-life piles of stuff taking over my home. At the very most I hope to have a few more drawers, a little less chaos, and a little more peace/piece of mind. If this doesn’t work you can visit me in the local psych ward.

Here’s to finding yourself a New Year’s Project for 2010!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stumps's Birthday Story

One of our family traditions is that I tell each child the story of their birth on their birthday. Obviously, it does not have all the details, but they love to hear it over and over and over. This is the stuff their legends are made of. And this is the story for Stump, who turned five on Christmas Day this year:

The night before you were born, the house was full of family for Christmas Eve celebrations. About 8 o’clock, I got really sleepy and my sister said, “You’d better take a nap because that baby might be coming soon.” I really couldn’t keep my eyes open so I went to lie down and when I woke up, everyone was leaving to go home, except Gigi and The Norwegian.

We all went to sleep and about 2 o’clock in the morning, I got up and woke Daddy up to tell him it was time to go to the hospital because our baby was coming. I also woke up Gigi to tell her that we were leaving. I peeked into Bubba’s room to whisper “Merry Christmas” and then we got in the big truck and drove to the hospital. We waited and waited. Your aunts came to wait with us and we waited some more. Finally, at dinnertime, you arrived and they put you in my arms and I said “Oh, my sweet baby, here you are.”

Then you went with Daddy to get your little hat and shirt and I went to my room where they brought me a little boxed Christmas dinner -- I was starving--and then they brought you to me. All the relatives and Daddy went home to finish Christmas and get some rest too. We were alone in the room and it was very quiet that Christmas night. I made a little nest for you in the pillows beside me and we snuggled and slept but you wouldn’t open your eyes and look at me. I got up and turned out all the lights and opened the curtains a crack for a little bit of light. THEN, you opened one eye and then the other to peek at me and I said, “Oh, my sweet baby, there you are.”

The next day, lots of relatives came to visit and Gigi and The Norwegian brought Bubba to meet you. He wasn’t yet two and was more interested in the buttons on the bed than the tiny baby in my arms. The day after that, Daddy took us home in the big truck and it was a cold and gray day but in the driveway was a bundle of bags with balloons welcoming you home. Our neighbor had brought presents for you and Bubba: books, blankets, and clothes. Inside our warm house, the Christmas decorations were still sparkling and Gigi and The Norwegian and Bubba were there to welcome you home.

Posted by The Editor.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009

Said the night wind to the little lamb, “Do you see what I see?”

Christmas Eve was full. Full of food, full of laughter, full of happy children, full of decoration, full of music, full of cookies, full of family, full of fun, full of presents. Christmas Eve was full.

The cousins came from out of state to visit. They are great friends. All of the kids were too excited to nap, too excited to eat, too excited to listen. Someone convinced them, when it was present time, that there was a contest. The cousin who was sitting the quietest would be chosen to open gifts first. That was rough…the shiny wrapping, the beautiful bows, the mystery of the gifts made them all giggly and jumpy and wiggly. It was almost too much to bear. The 3 big kids (big as in almost 7, 5, and 4) managed to pull it off for a few minutes. The two little ones didn’t even try.

Then it was bath time. Each family of kids went to their own bathroom. There was a contest to see who could be bathed, pj’d, and brushed (as in teeth), first. The out of towners got a head start, but my girls came from behind like champs. In the end I think it was a tie.

Next it was a rush of thank yous and good-byes and hugs and kisses. The cousins and Gigi and The Norwegian were off—trying to get “home” before Santa. My little ones didn’t argue about bed. They, too, needed to get to sleep before Santa came by—because we all know what happens if Santa comes and you aren’t asleep! (I still have to lie down with Joy for her to fall asleep. Fortunately, it only takes her 10-15 minutes. Unfortunately, I only need 5-10 minutes to fall asleep myself! An hour later I emerged from her room…only to find Hubs sound asleep on the couch.) Hubs jokingly said, “What if we had stayed asleep and the kids woke us up on Christmas morning?” That’s not funny.

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, “Do you hear what I hear?”

The house was quiet once again. Silent night. Holy night. All is calm…just not at my house. First, Hubs and I cleaned up the kitchen, washed the dishes, put all the food away, swept, vacuumed, and mopped. It almost didn’t look like we hosted Christmas Eve. After the cleaning was done, “Santa” had to get all the gifts wrapped and under the tree. Finally, Hubs and I could crawl into bed, knowing that in a few short hours two excited little girls would be waking us up to see if Santa had made it.

He did!

It’s been a rough couple of years at our house. We work in the real estate industry. Times are tough. We have tightened our belts and tightened our belts and tightened our belts. We are going to have to make new holes if we have to tighten them any more! We know that things are going to get better. They always do. We know that there are worse things than telling your kids, “Not today, we don’t have the money for that right now.” We are healthy, our kids are wonderful, we are all together. All I can say is thank goodness for Dollar Tree and Big Lots! Our girls will never know that this Christmas was meager, that it was a huge struggle for us. We pulled off the magic of Christmas for them and that’s all that matters.

We went to Hubs’ grandmother’s house to see more grandmas and uncles and aunts and cousins for the day. The girls got more gifts, we had a delicious dinner, and we left tired and happy. It was late when we got home so we gave the girls a snack and got them into bed. (They thought no baths on Christmas was a great gift!)

Said the shepherd boy to the might king, “Do you know what I know?”

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays it’s easy to forget what’s important about the season. I was surrounded by the people I love the most. I got to see pure joy on the kids’ faces as they opened up their gifts. I am so grateful. I am so grateful someone was willing to send their only child to save the earth. I don’t think I could give up either one of my girls for any reason—even one as miraculous as saving the human race from hell. I am so grateful that God’s gift to mankind is the perfect gift…it’s the right size, the right color, the right everything. I am so grateful. Christmas was perfect this year.

I see a star, dancing in the night…I hear a song, high above the trees…I know a child shivers in the cold. I am so grateful for what I have in my life, what I am able to provide for my family, for what I am able to protect my children from. Christmas was perfect.

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saturday Quote

“Time always seems long to the child who is waiting - for Christmas, for next summer, for becoming a grownup: long also when he surrenders his whole soul to each moment of a happy day”

"Dag Hammarskjold"

Here's to trying to surrender your whole soul to each moment every day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Always Brings Wonder

I was born on a farm in the south. It was a small farm. I didn’t know that. It was a place of adventure and surprise and wonderment. The sky was an inverted bowl that touched the earth just beyond New Liberty Church and on the far side of Larraine and then encircled River Rock’s outer limits and rounded out across the back side of our farm. It was the world—my world. There were other places—I knew that. There was California. Hadn’t we lived there for a while? And there was Big Springs. My Grandma and Grandpa lived there. We got letters from them and once they came on the bus to visit us. There was Wisconsin. My Aunt and Uncle lived there. I knew about these places, but I didn’t have to make room for them under that bowl. I knew what I knew and the world was complete with just my boundaries.

We were poor. I didn’t know that either. I thought cornbread and milk for supper was the food of the gods. Well, I didn’t think that exactly, because that little church on the edge of my world wouldn’t have permitted me to think of God in a plural form. The church was small and poor (are you seeing a pattern here?) and could only afford a preacher to come once a month; but in the meantime, we had Sunday School and prayer meeting and someone led in a few inspirational thoughts. Theology was simple and would never have permitted the word, gods. Nevertheless, the food was…Heavenly? Divine? No, I couldn’t have used those words either about food. Vocabulary was important and you didn’t use words lightly. For instance, the word, liar, could only be used about the grossest of sinners who would be consigned to eternity in Hell. If you used it about your sister or brother or neighbor, then you might be the one with the consignment. And if not that, you’d certainly be the one with the slapped face or the spanked bottom. Giving children time out was an unheard of thing in those days, and wouldn’t have set too well with parents who were trying to raise their kids “right”. And that meant getting the meanness out of them as quick and as soon as possible. Nothing is quicker and sooner than a slap or a whipping to make an impression that the behavior is unacceptable. Back to the food… I guess you would have had to come home from the fields for dinner (which came in the middle of the day and supper came at night) and, while we were washing up at a tin basin out in the yard, be smelling candied sweet potatoes and fried ham and gravy and homemade biscuits to know why I can’t use mere words to describe the smells and tastes that have stayed with me for a lifetime.

My first recollections of Christmas are from that little farm.( Apparently, our theology permitted us to believe in Santa. After God, of course.) It was cold and the windows were frosted over. The house was heated by a little gas heater in the front room. If you stood near enough to feel the heat, you might get burned, and beyond its radius, you were cold. My sister and I stood by the window and, with our sleeves, cleared patches to look out. We were watching for Santa. I heard the sleigh bells first. And then I saw him. We ran pell-mell for bed—not even waiting for Mom to warm the quilt, which was freezing cold in that unheated bedroom. We didn’t care. We knew we had to be in bed and asleep for Santa to bring us anything. Although I had unshakeable faith in Santa, I wasn’t so sure of myself. I knew all my transgressions for the past year and was hoping against hope that he was watching some other child during those times I had transgressed and had somehow missed my misbehaviors. Sleep hurried the time and we ran to the front room and, Wonder of Wonders, Santa had been there! We set up a whoop and a holler that brought Mom and Dad running from the back bedroom with our little brother. In post-war farm poverty, it was a miracle. There was a doll for me. She was beautiful. She had a pink dress and bonnet that far surpassed anything that I had noticed at the dime store in town. She was the real thing. Designed and fashioned by Santa and his elves in faraway North Pole and transported to me by flying reindeer. She had that new doll smell that I would only experience four times in my childhood. Oh, there was MORE. We had hung a sock –a clean one—from the back of the kitchen chairs and they were lumpy. There was a candy bar in the top. We didn’t tear into it. We would have to look at it and find the perfect time and place to enjoy it. The next thing to be pulled out was an ORANGE. We only had those at Christmas; And at the bottom of the sock was a handful of mixed nuts. Later in the day, Dad would bring in a big rock and the hammer and crack those nuts and tell us their names and we would feast on their unusual and wondrous tastes. Mom sat in the rocking chair with the contents of her stocking in her aproned lap and said she thought she would make cookies and put candy pieces in them. Dad said no, we’re all going to eat our candy bars and be thankful for the treat and the abundance of Christmas. At the time, I thought my parents were old, but they were young: Too young, really, to deal with the hardships of their life, but apparently old enough to be brave and loving and good. Oh, what a memory!

Posted by The Editor for Gigi

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Foggy Bloggy

It is 4:35 am on Christmas Eve. No, I am not up early in anticipation of the day’s excitement. I am still up on a marathon sleep deprivation binge that started a week ago last Tuesday. My Christmas shopping is done (as of 12:35 yesterday morning). Most of my cookies are baked. My house is reasonably clean. My gifts are what is going to have to pass as wrapped. Hubs and the girls are all snug in their beds.

I am just thankful that red and green are the colors of the season.
The green tinge to my sleep thirsty skin and my red, bloodshot eyes should just blend right in!

Merry Christmas!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

Sonic pirates, continued

See here for part one and here for part two.

It was a cold, clear, still day in the month of December. The Skelty Jolly Roger ship and the Crackerish Jolly Roger ship were sitting in Ocean Number Three. Sitting because there was no wind. When there is no wind, there is nothing to power the sails and push the ship along so it just sits in the water.

The pirates were bored. They were just sitting on the deck of the ship which was sitting in the water. They needed something to do, "Arrgh, me hearties, I have just the thing!" shouted Captain Brown Beard Peg Leg (one on each ship). While the rest of the dread pirate crews sat on the deck, SJR ship=Captain Skelty, Captain Crackerish, Alien pirate, Captain Brown Beard peg leg, and Frye the Ferret, CJR ship=Captain Skelty, 5 Captain Crackerishes, Astronaut pirate, Captain Hank Hawk, Lemon-lime pirate, Frye the Ferret and Limey the Parrot, the two Captain Brown Beard Peg Legs descended into the deep dark depths of the ship's basements into the corner closet where the Christmas tree was stored. They sneezed a few times in the dank and dirty dark depths, but they carefully dragged the trees to the deck, one on each ship. The pirates ooohed and ahhhed and arrghhed over the trees, because they really enjoyed Christmas decorations. The trees were left decorated each year and just shoved into the lower closet for storage, so they were a little crumpled and crooked but the pirates knew just what to do to fix them up right.

On each ship, the pirates sat in a ring around the tree, and because it was a still day, they didn't roll around and could keep their balance easily, they used their feet to fluff up the tree and straighten the decorations. It was lots of fun to sit and talk pirate talk while decorating with your feet. Then Lemon-lime pirate, one of the lesser pirates, said, "I have an idea! This is fun but it would be even more fun if we took off our pirate boots and used our toes to decorate!" Yes! Yes, Arggh! they all agreed. So the boots came off. One thing you must know about pirates is, they never wash their feet. So when the boots came off, a great stink spread across the deck of each ship. PU! Wow, arggh, does that stink or what!?! Ewww, I think your feet stink worse than mine, let me smell...argghhh, cough, argghhh! Another thing you must know about pirates is that they like stinky smells. So they were happy stinking and smelling and decorating those trees with their toes. Except astronaut and alien (who are not proper pirates) argghed and choked and declared they had lost their appetites from the stench. They others decided that whoever had the longest, hairiest, stinkiest toes would have the privilege of straightening the star on the top of the tree. They all looked around, and sniffed, ewww! and Captain Brown Beard Peg Leg said, "it's me! I have the winning toes." So each Captain Brown Beard Peg Leg on each ship straightened the star and all the pirates sat back and admired their handiwork, er, I mean footwork. They were hungry after all that work, so they ate many bowls of soup (except alien and astronaut) and sang some Christmas Songs. This was their favorite: "Oh, Christmas Toe, Oh Christmas Toe, how stinky smelly are you..."

And thus passed another day on the twin pirate ships on Ocean Number Three. THE END.

Posted by The Editor

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Babysitting Instructions

TV Directions:
There are 2 remotes that control the TV. One is black and silver—this turns the TV on and controls the volume and if you want to switch to the DVD player. The other one is silver and has colored buttons. This controls the channels and anything that is recorded on the TV.

To turn the TV on, push the red button on the top right corner of the black and silver remote.

If the TV says ‘press the select button’, then push the big round blue button that says select. Now you should be able to watch TV. There is a small blue button that says ‘guide’ this shows you all of the channels and what is on. Use the arrow buttons to scroll up and down to different channels, or the right arrow to see what’s coming on later.

If you want to watch a DVD, turn the DVD player on (with the small black remote). On the black and silver remote, push the ‘AV’ button until it says AV 2 S video on the screen. Then use the small black remote to start the movie.

If you are done watching a DVD and you want to watch TV again, then turn the DVD player off, and push the ‘TV’ button. It will say ‘TV3’ on the screen and then use the colored remote to scroll through the channels.

If you want to watch something that is recorded on the TV, use the colored remote. Push the DVR (gray) button 2 times. This will give you a list of the shows that are recorded. Highlight the one you want to watch by scrolling up or down, then press the select button.

Fruit, veggies, pretzels, goldfish, cheese, yogurt…
No matter what Joy tells you, I do not let them eat candy and sugar all day long AND she has to sit at the kitchen table. Marlo sits in her high chair and she has to have her seat belt on. She also likes to toss the tray when she’s finished, so prepare yourself—it makes a loud noise!

Marlo drinks the Vitamin D milk (red cap), Joy drinks the 2% (blue cap). Don’t mix them up—apparently the difference in taste makes everyone gag!

There is left-over turkey in the fridge. There are left-over mashed potatoes in the fridge outside. (There is also stuffing and sweet potatoes outside, but Marlo doesn’t like the stuffing. She might like the sweet potatoes. I don’t know if Joy likes either one of them.) They usually eat around 6 pm. They might want another snack right before bed, but give it to them before they have brushed their teeth.

Baths are entirely up to you. They get a bath every night so if you want to skip it, then don’t worry about it. If you are feeling adventurous, then this is how I do it:
Get the pjs and diapers ready while the tub is filling up. (Just keep the bathroom door closed because Marlo loves to try to fall in.) When it’s about halfway full, you can undress Marlo and put her in her bath chair. Joy can undress herself and get in with Marlo. Joy can wash herself. (Don’t worry about washing Joy’s hair…it takes forever and she may or may not want to cooperate.) I don’t use soap on Marlo’s face, but I wash her hair every night because she likes to use it for a napkin after every meal. They are supposed to pick up the toys before they get out. Joy uses the pig towel. Marlo uses the white with green trim. Don’t mix them up because it causes a tug-of-war game. Marlo usually wins. Joy gets out first and goes into whichever room they are getting dressed in. Then get Marlo out. Get Marlo dressed first, then help Joy with her diaper. (Diapers are cheaper than pull-ups. I really don’t think she still needs it, but she is hesitant to try just BGPs at bedtime. She can get dressed herself.

Marlo goes to bed around 8pm. I read ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ (on the floor in her room) to her, then (with the lights out) sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to her, then I put her down. She might cry, but it’s OK (unless it sounds like she’s hurt…then you can check on her, but don’t pick her up…she never cries for very long.) Joy goes to bed between 8:30 and 9. I usually read her one or two stories. She will probably be asleep within 20 minutes but might want you to lay down with her. Otherwise it could be 2 hours.

The Park:
If you want to take them to the park, they will ride in the wagon. Marlo has to have a seatbelt on. Marlo does not play on the equipment by herself, so you will have to help her. Make sure that Joy stays where you can see her. She likes to play with the other kids, but if they run around to places where you can’t see them, she’s not allowed to do that. Joy should also go to the bathroom before you leave. If she has to go while you are there, please go with her to help her—they are not the cleanest in the world.

Playing at Home:
I don’t like Marlo to run around downstairs. She’s not very steady on her feet yet. If you let her, please keep her in the family room. (The kitchen floor is dirty and the living room has too many sharp corners.)

She plays really well in the loft. I just keep all of the bedroom/bathroom doors closed so she doesn’t get into anything she shouldn’t and doesn’t get hurt.
If you need to go to the bathroom or do something where you can’t supervise her, you can always stick her in the Pack n Play. She will be mad at first, but she will get over it.

Ok, these were the directions/notes that I left for the babysitter, otherwise known as the woman who is to Hubs what Gigi is to me. (aka, M-I-L) Is that cryptic enough?
Anyway, Hubs and I were gone for about 5 hours. Marlo was asleep. (Not in the sleeping attire that I left out for her to wear, mind you…the reasoning was, “She was warm at bedtime.” Never mind that I live here and know that her room is freezing during the night!) Joy was still awake. (Hmmm…several hours after bedtime, no less.)
The “babysitter” told me that the girls were great and had a blast running around in the garage and playing. Hold the phone! The garage? I know I didn’t specifically leave notes regarding use of the garage as a play zone, but I didn’t specifically leave notes about not playing in the street, either, or eating cleaning products, or playing with cutlery. I love her dearly, but maybe my Babysitter Screening Process needs to be a little bit more rigorous…or my notes need to be a little less suggestions and a little more mandatory…or maybe I need to be a little less controlling and a little more trusting. After all, the girls were happy and healthy when I got home. (OK, scratch that last idea. I don’t need to be less controlling and more trusting! I am the Mom!) I will just have to stand my ground, be tough, put my foot down, and tell M-I-L that what I say goes! Yes, that’s what I will do next time. If there is a next time. She is now officially on Babysitting probation. That will set her straight. I am not afraid of her. My house, my children, my rules.
(Good thing M-I-L doesn’t own a computer!)

Dear Gigi: I have a new-found respect for your rules growing up—and for your babysitting finesse. Your adherence to The Rules is duly noted and greatly appreciated. I know it can be irksome at times, but after all, I am my mother’s daughter!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sonic Pirates, second tale

See here for part one.

It was a cold, clear day in December when the Skelty and the Crackerish ships sailed through the Fifth Ocean, also known as Ocean Number Five. The air was crisp and the crew started shivering. Then they heard bells and "Ho, ho, ho."

"Ay, mateys! Did you hear that?!?" said Captain Crackerish 4. "Arggh, arggh, yes, yes, what is it, arggh?" chimed the rest of the crew (2 Skeltys, 1 Lemon-lime, 6 other Crackerishes, and 3 Brown-beard peg legs and their pets, limey the parrot and frye the ferret, astronaut, but alien was still missing, presumed overboard.)

"Ay, it be time to get your pirate hats, your pirate gloves, your pirate scarves, and your pirate jackets. We be sailing near the North Pole." said Crackerish 4.

"The North Pole? What?!?" said they. "Yes, the Fifth Ocean takes us near the North Pole, where it is cold, and snowy and icy. Santa Claus lives there. At this time of year, he practices with his sleigh and reindeer in preparation for Christmas" said Crackerish 4. "But, Beware, me hearties, there is a danger of getting icelocked."

The youngest pirates, limey and frye, said, "Ooh, ooh, tell us, what is icelocked?" Crackerish 4 shook his head and said, "It be a bad thing. I don't even want to speak of it. Captain Skelty, you tell them."

So, Captain Skelty, boarded the Crackerish ship by jumping over from the deck of the Skelty ship and all the pirates huddled around to hear. "Icelocked. I've seen it once before and never want to see it again. The ship sails into cold waters that turn to ice and freeze the ship. The ship is squeezed by the ice and can't move. The wood of the ship groans and moans and screams like a woman until it cracks and splinters into tiny pieces. You might escape if you have snowshoes and an ice pick and can jump off the ship onto the ice and wait for a helicopter to pick you up. But if you don't, you will never be seen again."

The smallest pirates hid their eyes. The other pirates yelled, "Ahoy, Arrgh, turn the ship, QUICKLY! Put up all the sails and get us out of here." So the brave pirates, turned the wheel to turn the ship and harnessed all the power of the wind to speed away from the dangers of the ice. And they sailed out of the Fifth Ocean on to another day. THE END.

Posted by The Editor.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Last Big Christmas Tree, maybe

Today was tree decorating day. It said so on Joy’s advent calendar. (I am currently running about 6-16 days behind on everything. I am not sure why…maybe because there is too much on my plate and I have control issues.) Since it said so on the calendar, we did it.

Anyway, the tree is decorated. There are still storage boxes decorating the corners of my living room. I keep crossing my arms and blinking my eyes, but they will not go away. And I keep twitching my lips and snapping my fingers, but the rest of the Christmas decorations will not place themselves. And truth be told, it’s not my favorite thing to do.

I like the décor when it’s up and running—within a certain time frame. However, actually putting it up is clouded by the knowledge that it has to come down and get put away in a few short weeks. Everyone is all enthusiastic about making cookies and cocoa and putting things up, but no one likes to help with the putting away stuff. OK, actually, Joy likes to help, but this is her version of helping:
Grab hold of an ornament and pull until it comes off of the tree or the hanger comes off of the ornament. As you are trotting to the table to put your one ornament in the box, look out for the other 16 on the branch that you just took the one off of because the rebound effect has just sent them flying into the wall across from you and you will soon be showered with pretty shards of Christmas shrapnel. Go get the broom and dust pan. Knock 7 more ornaments off of the tree with the handle of the broom (it’s a good thing you have the broom to clean them up!), sweep up the mess and deposit them in the trash. Go back to the tree and grab hold of an ornament and pull, etc. etc. (I guess this is part of the natural selection of ornaments. Those tough enough to survive get packed away for next year. The rest get a one way ticket to the dump.)

My goal for next year is to get the girls their own mini trees and let them decorate them themselves. Then I am going to get invited (or invite myself) to a Christmas party every weekend day of December. That way I won’t miss the tree. (I will also frame a pic of this year’s tree to gaze at if, and only if, I start to miss having one.)

My goal for this year is to minimize and simplify. I have plenty of friends that I can visit to oooh and aaah over their decorating genius. My other goal is to have the stuff down and put away at 12:01 am on 12-26-09.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches…especially when they are safely packed away in their box and all snug in their bed… on the garage shelf.
I am not a Grinch, I just have a thing about cleaning to decorate for a few weeks to have to un-decorate and clean again. It kind of detracts from the reason for the season for me.

And while we are on the subject, I do not eat red meat, popcorn, or French fries. My husband calls me un-American. My friends call me crazy. You can call me anything you want—just don’t call me to tell me you are coming over…I still have decorating to do, and it has to get done by Christmas or it won’t get done at all!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body, who used to eat red meat a long time ago, ate popcorn every visit to Grandma's at 9:00pm for a bedtime snack, sitting on the couch with a stainless steel bowl but, really, was never very fond of French fries.

Living is the Art of Loving

Does spanking work or is time out the way to go? Does "Spare the rod, spoil the child" really mean we should spank our children or is the rod figurative for discipline? I know how Super Nanny weighs in on this issue, but what's a parent to do? After putting Joy in time out for 26 consecutive 4 minute time outs (for what Super Nanny would call "back chat), I have to wonder if time out really works or not. After the last time out Joy met me at the door and said, "Look, Mommy, I re-decorated this room for you!" (The time out area, affectionately referred to as the "Naughty Spot" is our guest room...and sure enough, she had rearranged and redecorated the room for me. Don't tell Joy this, but I did give her points for constructive use of time, creativity, and multi-tasking skills.)

This whole dilemma reminds me...When I was little, about 6 or 7, we went to Grandma's for the day. (Grandma = Gigi's mother) Grandma was very crafty. She sewed. She crocheted. She poured and painted ceramics. She liked to do projects. I liked to do projects. Grandma just didn't always like me to do her projects. I was little and messy and slow and probably talked way too much. And so, while The Editor was usually included in Grandma's stuff because she was not as little and very neat and quick to pick things up and knew when to be quiet, I usually found myself looking for something else to do.

Now, Grandpa had this hand-crafted bin in the garage. He was pretty crafty himself, but in a more out-doors-ey, wood-working kind of way. This bin in the garage was full of an odd assortment of pieces of wood. Being little and messy and slow and talkative was exactly what Grandpa liked. I was welcomed with open arms. On this particular day, I went out to the garage and found a piece of wood. It was light and light colored. It was about as long as a wooden spoon, and a little bit wider than a ruler. I thought it was beautiful. I worked in the garage on that piece of wood, sanding and smoothing, for several hours. When it was perfect, I went into the house and got a Hallmark bag. Around the bag it had some pretty writing that said, "Living is the art of loving, Loving is the art
of giving" (I can't remember the rest.) I thought it was beautiful. I cut out those pretty words so that they would fit on this gorgeous piece of wood. Then I went inside and ever so sweetly asked Grandma if I could glue the words onto the wood and then coat it with a shiny seal of some kind. Of course Grandma had exactly what I needed and she must have been feeling generous that day because she set me up at a table and let me go to town.

By the time Gigi came to pick us up from Grandma's my masterpiece was finished. I gave her this work of art that I had so painstakingly worked on all day. I was trying to guess where she was going to display it in our house when we got home. I was imagining her showing it off to my dad...

She displayed it on top of our refrigerator. On top of the frig she had a little antique coffee bean grinder. The drawer that caught the ground up beans (I guess) had a little knob on it and the decorated stick balanced charmingly on that little knob. I was very proud of my handiwork and would admire it every time I walked through the kitchen.

The fridge was next to the hot water heater closet. Inside the closet was where Gigi kept the fly swatter. Do you know what else a fly swatter is good for? Swatting naughty children-- and intimidating-ly swatting furniture and door frames as you march through the house to swat a naughty child with the fly swatter. I think maybe Gigi got a little over-zealous swatting the furniture one time, on her way to swat me, no doubt, and the handle on the fly swatter broke. Woo-hoo! I thought she would retire the fly swatter and that would be the end of that. But do you know what she did? The next time she went to get that fly swatter and realized it was on the disabled list, she looked around and the first thing that fell into her line of vision was that beautiful little piece of wood that I had created for her. And from that point on, "Living is the art of loving" was applied to my naughty spot when my mom felt it was necessary.

Now, having disclosed all of this--which I am sure has given Gigi grounds to dig up that spanking stick to reinstate on me---I do have to admit that we did not get spanked very often. I was deathly afraid of my mom when she got mad. She could raise one eyebrow and I knew, I knew, I was in trouble. BIG trouble. She never really had to do anything more than give me that look. To this day she has never shared the secret of putting the Fear of God into me by one look. You'd think she would so that I could use it on my kids. But no, I flounder around, trying to figure out how to make my kids behave, vacillating on the issue of spanking, cementing myself in the top 3 contenders for Worst Mother of the Year.

I think she is withholding on purpose. I think it's payback for my naughtiness and all the trouble I gave her. When my girls do something naughty, Gigi gets that "poetic justice" gleam in her eye. Oh, well. I'll figure it out one of these days. I guess for now I will just work on my art of loving. Living is the art of loving--my a$$!

Note from Gigi: You should learn to raise one eyebrow.

Note from The Editor: You left out one part of the intimidation factor--the noise her house slippers made on the carpet...zzshzzz, zzshzzz...or something like that, the noise would be really fast when she was really mad...and this brings me to another point, why were slippers such a big part of our life, the fly-swatter connection, cs-ing, skaypuh (skipper), and what not...?

Posted by The Editor

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Sonic Pirates

So we've never taken Bubba, Stump or Samantha Jean-Pocket to Mickey D's to eat. We did drive through one time on a cross-country trip from Texas to California. They were hungry, we had no choice, it was the middle of nowhere. Previously, they had asked sometimes to stop at McD's because they would see the playgrounds and it looked like fun to them. We would always tell them, "Oh no, we can't eat there. The food at that place gives you gas." And they bought the explanation, especially when the drive-thru experience resulted in just that. They said they never wanted to eat there again.

Before you think we shelter them too much, you must know they haven't missed out on the fast food experience altogether. We have visits periodically to local burger joints and they do love a good corn dog and french fries. They also have an affinity for Sonic Drive-in. We do not go there for the food, we go for the prize that comes with the food. One thing about Sonic, you can choose tater tots or french fries. Nobody likes tater tots, so we always get fries. But sometimes, the prize is a little soft, stuffed doll that looks like a tater tot with a face, costume, and legs. Prizes change frequently so we've accumulated a little herd of said tot dolls: Astronaut-tot, Lemon-lime tot, Alien tot, and from a recent campaign, a large crew of pirates. You can also request a prize suitable for children less than three and then you get a baby tot in pink, blue, or yellow--we have a small nursery of those, too. And another set was small soft pets, a ferret named Frye and a parrot named Limey. The boys wanted nothing to do with the tot dolls. They would moan and groan when they received one and would pass it off to Samantha. They liked the compasses and telescopes and paper pirate ship, but THEY DID NOT PLAY WITH DOLLS!

Until, somebody had the idea to make the bed a pirate ship and mama could tell stories and we could use our props!

So, after all is said and done and teeth are brushed and water cups filled and blankets and quack are collected, we all head upstairs for a story. Bubba and Stump build a ship on the bed by pushing a blanket into shape and fashioning a crow's nest of sorts with a second layer of blanket. They arrange the crew and I spin the yarn.

This is the first installment for two little boys, one with chocolate eyes and cinnamon hair and the other with blue eyes and blond curls.

He was six. She was somewhat older. The other one was four, almost five. Age didn't matter. The dread pirate crew had been carefully recruited from the wacky packs of the Sonic variety.

There were 7 Captain Crackerishes, 2 Captain Brown Beard peg legs, an astro-tot, a lemon-lime tot, Captain Skelty (the skeleton pirate who was electricified), and Frye the pirate pet ferret. There was also an alien pirate, but he was missing, perhaps overboard.

They waited until the sea princess had sailed off in her pink ironsides to lala land and then they built their ships: two dark blue fleece blankets, one quilt, one light blue fleece blanket for the crow's nest, the light from the old Christmas walk jack-o-lantern and a stick for the mast, stored in the corner of the room for just that purpose (or sometimes a bird habitat.)

The Crackerish Ship sailed around Balulalula Island searching for lost treasure while the Telescope Ship, also known as Captain Skelty Ship, was accosted by a parched, croaking bird who needed a drink of water before delivering a message. The pirate crew was aghast that a bird could talk yet they made haste to help their brother ship in trouble. They did not know the bird was under the spell of the sea witch and their brother ship (Crackerish Ship) was not really in trouble, the sea witch just wanted to capture them so they would take the treasure.

The Captain Skelty Ship rendezvoused with the Crackerish Ship and shared their telescope so Lemon-lime pirate and Frye could climb into the crow's nest to look at the island for a proper beach landing. Alas, there was none to be found because of the witch. She lived in a cave under the island under the water guarded by 7 octopi, 10 stingrays, 8 jellyfish, and 50 sharks. With many "AARGHS" and popping up and down, the Captains collectively devised a plan to capture the witch and get the treasure. Then one Captain Brown Beard Peg Leg spoke up and said, "Aargh, it will never work, her magic is too strong." Captain Skelty said, "Let's just get her and throw her in the river." But Captain Crackerish 3 stood in the prow of the boat to explain his plan. He said he had built a "grrr" and a "grrr" and a "grr, did you hear that?" "What is it," asked Skelty. The Crackerishes 1,2,4,5,6,& 7 said, "Arrgh, it's me stomach, I'm hungry, let's have some soup!" for soup is the favored pirate meal on the Skelty and Crackerish ships.

Crackerish 3 brought out his soup kitchen invention and fed them all, efficiently and generously. Then he explained his plan (without growling stomach interruptions.) He had designed a magnetic robot that could be attached to the anchor and lowered in front of the sea witch's cave to blast her out and capture her without destroying anything else. Crackerish 5 wanted to give the sea witch to the bird so he could fly her out to the middle of the Black Ocean and wait for the whirlpool to start and then drop her in when the lightning flashed then she would go down to the bottom of the ocean and her magic would be broken. Skelty said to just flush her so they could get the treasure. So, Crackerish 3 said he could make a wizard robot that would take the witch's magic and undo her spells and use her power for good.

They all agreed heartily and Crackerish raised the robot's power and broke the witch's spell. The bird reappeared, had a pirate drink and turned back into a pirate. Then Captain Crackerish 3 buzzed over to Balulalula Island to pickup the treasure: a fancier soup kitchen helper robot. Captain Skelty also made a trip for gold coins and they celebrated on deck with many pirate songs and much soup. THE END.

Posted by The Editor.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Joy is Fired!

Joy is fired. Not as my child, but as my first child. As a baby she was perfect and easy. She was good and flexible. Oh, yes, she was opinionated. I can go back and look at baby pictures now and recognize the expression on her face—it matches some sassy or funny or profound or intelligent idea/comment/sentiment that comes out of her little mouth now that she’s (overly) verbal. It’s amazing. She’s amazing. She’s funny. She’s cute. She’s smart. She’s something else. I just thought that the first kid was supposed to break you in as a parent. I am a slow learner, otherwise known as the front runner for WMOTY (worst mother of the year).

Joy was born with a full head of hair-- so full that the internal monitor the doctor kept trying to put on her head during labor kept falling out. It didn’t have anything to stick to. Her little squished face was red for a few hours, then her beautiful complexion was clear, blemish free. She looks like a little porcelain doll. She took to nursing like she had been doing it forever and nursed, problem free, for 19 months. She mostly rolled, crawled for a couple of days, then started to walk. At 15 months she fell and chipped a tooth. It only made her more adorable. At 18 months she fell and had to get stitches above her eye—but she was very polite with the doctors and nurses. She thanked them for taking care of her. Besides these two little mishaps she has been an extremely easy child. She didn’t touch things she wasn’t supposed to, she didn’t put things in her mouth. She’s loving and affectionate and sweet and kind and generous. She’s fired.

Fast forward almost 3 years to when Marlo was born. Maybe I wasn’t listening when Joy was born, but I was listening when I was pregnant with Marlo and the doctor told me that you can be paralyzed by an epidural. Holy cow! Paralyzed? I guess that’s where the challenging aspect of Marlo began. I had her without an epidural. That part was OK. Seriously. It really wasn’t that bad. (Definitely not as bad as being paralyzed by an epidural.) And she, too, was born with a full head of hair. Not as much as Joy, but still a head covered by hair. (I was bald until I was 2 so I can really appreciate a baby born with hair!) But then she got cradle cap. She got these big scabs that yes, washed out with gentle brushing and apricot oil, but great big chunks of hair also washed out. Within 4 months her full head of hair was almost bald. I had no training or experience because Joy did not prepare me for the challenges of cradle cap. And did you know that putting a hat on cradle cap makes it worse? So much for my motherly instincts on how to solve the problem! And so much for full-head-of-hair-model Joy for helping me out on this one.

Marlo also took to nursing right away. But when I took her in for her 4 month appointment, my chubby little cherub had developed some eating habits that I guess the doctor didn’t approve of—she would nurse, projectile vomit 90% of what she ate, then have an explosive pooping “episode” which would necessitate a full bath and a complete wardrobe change. An hour later she would be hungry again. I just thought she was going through a phase…the doctor thought that perhaps she had an underdeveloped digestive system that might require surgery. Surgery? Yes, surgery. So, after my routine 20 minute, four month check up was over, I went to have not one, but two ultrasounds done on her chubby little tummy. They wanted her to drink some water, but she wouldn’t take a bottle. (Neither of my children EVER took a bottle—why would they? They were nursing fanatics.) So then they had me nurse her. The ultrasound was inconclusive. I went back to the pediatrician who decided that maybe they needed to do an upper GI—the whole tube through the nose thing. And that’s where I said no, because after 6 hours at the doctor’s office, I was not prepared to have something so invasive done to my 75th percentile for weight baby to check to make sure that her digestive system was functioning properly. I took Marlo home. The next day the doctor called to have me take Marlo to the lactation consultant. I made my appointment and took her the day after that. The LC called me in from the lobby. I walked into her office and took Marlo out of her stroller. The LC asked me if the little tuft of hair (the only hair left on her cradle-cap-robbed-of-hair head) always stood up to which I answered yes. Then she proceeded to tell me that Marlo probably eats very quickly then projectile vomits, has explosive poops that require bathing to clean her up, she belches like an adult, etc, etc…I felt like she had been watching us! As it turns out, our nursing dynamic was called ‘overproduction and milk ejection reflex.’ I produced a lot of milk. Marlo ate really fast, but was only getting the sugary part of the milk, not the filling part. That was why she was so gassy and poopy and barfy and possibly why she was so chubby. The not-so-easy remedy? Have her nurse up to 4 times on the same side for up to 4 hours before switching. OK, remember what side, how many times and how long we have nursed while being fully engorged (and lopsided) on the other side. Easy. Thanks, Joy, for the heads up on that one!

Marlo’s poor little face was red and splotchy when she was born. Then she got a few bumps. Then she got a few more. Then some of the bumps joined together. Then some of the joined together bumps joined some of the other together bumps. Then her face was just one big, red bump. This is kindly referred to as ‘Baby acne’. It wasn’t all that bad. It stopped at her hair line—right at the point where the cradle cap started. OK, Doll Face Joywith the perfect skin—how ‘bout some preparation in that department?

I can honestly say that these minor problems—the scabby bald head, the breastfeeding dilemma, and the baby acne—have faded to distant memories. The one thing that Joy could have controlled, (because let’s face it, no baby can control cradle cap, overproduction and milk ejection reflex, or baby acne) was the putting stuff in her mouth phase. She could have given me a few trial runs on calling the poison control center. (I have the number strategically placed on the side of the frig.) She could have given me some practice for the little oral-fixation I now have on my hands. You name it, Marlo has put it in her mouth. Oh, sure, Joy put a penny in her mouth once, but spit it out before I could even react. That’s nothing compared to Marlo…

Marlo has tried all of the following (and a lot more that I can’t remember, don’t want to admit, don’t have the time to write about, or can’t spell): dirt, sand, hair, hair clips, hair clips with hair in them—because she won’t wear the hair clip in her hair, flowers, leaves, bugs, plastic bags, paper bags, napkins, paper towels, Vaseline, lotion, soap, shampoo, bubbles, every single toy in our house, wallets, credit cards, clothing, her hands, her toes, Joy’s toes, Joy’s hands, Joy’s hair, Joy’s hair clips—because she doesn’t think that Joy likes to wear the hair clips in her hair, either—and the list goes on and on. The other day we were playing in the loft and Marlo was playing with a miniature china tea cup. (It is impossible to child proof your home when you have a four year old, so it’s also impossible to keep toys in the ‘not intended for children under 3’ range out of reach.) Everyone was having a good time. Then it was time for baths. Marlo was rather quiet, but I was getting PJs ready, diapers laid out, the bath water was running, I was putting toothpaste on toothbrushes, removing clothes, piling hair on top of heads, etc.—I was doing the whole mom-at-bath-time routine. So then the girls got into the bath. And I started singing and talking and playing all of the bath time games that we play. When I finally got around to asking Marlo a direct question and she didn’t answer, I took a second look. That’s when I noticed the look, the ‘I have something I’m not supposed to in my mouth’ look. When I finally got her to open up her mouth, a challenge in and of itself, I discovered that playtime wasn’t really over—she had smuggled the tea cup into the bath with her. My poor second child has a rookie for a mom.

And that is why Joy is fired. She did not prepare me for all of the trials and tribulations and challenges that Marlo has put me through. Nevertheless, I am going to keep her. I have to—I lost the receipt. I would keep her anyway. She’s too wonderful to live without. She brings me such joy. And I am going to keep Marlo, too. Because, even though I have had all of these new, different experiences with my second child, she is every bit as amazing and incredible as Joy is. She is peaceful and easy-going and impish and funny and silly in her own unique little way. I guess I just need to learn that she is going to surprise me at every turn and that I need to stop expecting the expected. Maybe I’ll write a new version of “What to expect when you’re expecting”, but it won’t be about pregnancy. And I won’t be using Joy as a model for what to expect—I did fire her, after all!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Day in the life of Busy Body

OK, so my day goes something like this…Marlo wakes up anytime between 5:30 and 6:30 (usually). So I go get her out of her crib and bring her into bed with me. she will usually snuggle for half an hour or so. Then we get up and go downstairs. She has a sippy (lovingly referred to as a pippy in our home) cup of milk and some “Os”. (That’s what she calls Cheerios.) Then we play downstairs until Joy gets up around 8 or 8:30.

When Joy gets up she wants me to check to make sure she stayed dry through the night. (That’s been a great big YES! for the past 2 months! Hurray!) Then we (as in she) go potty, and put on some BGPs (that’s what we call Big Girl Pants, but Joy often calls them PGPs, so would that make them Pig Girl Pants?). Then all three of us go back upstairs to the loft. About 30 to 45 minutes of rigorous playing ensues. About that Time Joy is hungry and so is Marlo because the appetizer of pippy and Os has worn off. So we head back downstairs.

Marlo goes into her high chair, Joy parks it on the couch. (Marlo goes to the high chair because she can find the loophole in any child-proofing that I attempt.) Marlo has another appetizer, usually sliced fruit. We usually watch a Sesame Street episode (Glory hallelujah for DVRs!) while I make breakfast. Joy eats at the table, Marlo eats in her high chair and I usually eat half sitting and half standing because one or the other is constantly in need of something and I am not psychic enough to know what that is ahead of time. A plate goes into the microwave for Hubs.

Around 9:28 I wash Marlo’s hands and face and attempt to make a few swipes at her hair (which she usually uses as a napkin) and then it’s time for Nap #1. I pass Hubs on the stairs on the way to put her down. I put her down for Nap #1 after Nap Ritual (turn on the background noise, close the blinds, turn off the light, sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, put her in the crib, tuck a blanket around her). I leave her room and go directly into Joy’s room. If she has miraculously remembered to make her bed then I straighten it up. I put away any toys that “jumped” out of their box, open the blinds, pull the curtains back, lay out an outfit for Joy to wear for the day. (In the meantime, Hubs has gone to the microwave, sleepily smiles when he sees the “magic” has worked yet again, then parks himself on the couch to eat breakfast, listen to his voice mails, look at emails, and watch the news.)

I then go down the hall to my room. I make the bed that is still warm from Hubs rolling out of just moments prior. I open the blinds, I put away any toys that have mysteriously migrated into my room during the night and early morning hours, I plug in my flat iron, choose some clothes to wear, and turn the shower on to get warmed up. Joy has usually joined me at this point because she is afraid I will leave without saying good-bye and hugging and kissing her 52 times. (I’m not gonna lie, I don’t mind the 52 xs and os at all.) Joy then finds all of my make up that she has smuggled away and sits on top of my vanity and does her make up for the day.

I shower, get dressed, brush my teeth, dry my hair, flat iron my hair, find what little make up Joy has not “borrowed” and try to remember how to apply it, put my shoes on, straighten up the bathroom, put Joy’s mess away and send her to get her clothes. Then I help her get dressed, wipe off her face (with much protest), help her brush her teeth, and do her hair. Then we head back downstairs. At the landing we pass Hubs who is on his way up to shower.

I try to collect my thoughts while cleaning up the breakfast mess and decide what I am going to throw in the crockpot for dinner. All the while I am helping Joy with a project or with coloring or with playdough or I am playing ‘Jalexa’ to her ‘Angela’ (alter egos she has created for us when we play Pretend). Gigi and The Norwegian (Gigi's husband, The Editor's and Busy Body's father, Joy and Marlo's Grandpa, simply called Pa) arrive to watch Joy and Marlo. I get my dinner thrown into the crockpot, grab my laptop, my briefcase, my purse, and if I am lucky enough to remember it, a snack, and walk out the door (after 52 hugs and kisses).

We get to work and I walk into our office. I sit down, fire up the computer, and basically stay in that same spot for the next 6 or 7 hours. On occasion I take a bathroom break or make myself a cup of tea, but only working 3 days means busy, full days when I am actually there. Hubs drinks 4 pots of coffee, makes 23 bathroom runs, talks to everyone in the office, checks out Facebook, chats on the phone. Somewhere during that time he calls his clients and sends out emails to them. I think. And somewhere during that time he picks up 3 new clients and 4 new leads. It mystifies me. And then it’s quittin’ time so I gather up my computer, my briefcase, my purse, and hopefully the jacket that I remembered to grab on the way out, and we make the 15 minute drive home.

I walk in the door, deposit my stuff, hug and kiss both of my girls and then I wash my hands to start getting dinner on the table. Marlo goes into her high chair and Joy helps. Sometimes. Hubs helps. Occasionally. (If Gigi decides to stay for dinner, then I get an extra set of hands to help with Marlo.) Anyway, then we have dinner and by that time it’s Tubby Time. I grab pjs and diapers and lotion and lavender oil and we go upstairs for the girls’ baths. They bathe together, but I have to get Marlo undresses and into her bath chair, then I assist Joy. I wash Marlo from head to toe—she loves the bath. I assist Joy who fights me at every turn because she doesn’t quite love it as much. They play for a few minutes, we sing a few songs, we write a few letters on the bathtub walls, and then I have to get Joy out first, wrap her up in a towel, and send her to her room to wait. Then I get Marlo out, wrap her up in a towel, brush her teeth, and take her to Joy’s room. I dry her off, diaper, lotion, and put her pjs on…then I do the same thing for Joy.

Marlo kisses everyone goodnight, then it’s Bedtime Ritual…turn on the “noise”, read ‘Guess How Much I Love You’, turn off the light, sing “Twinkle, Twinkle”, say a prayer, and put her down in the crib, all tucked in for the night.

Then I go get Joy, comb out her hair—which is like Rapunzel’s, help her brush her teeth, read her 2 library books, apply lavender oil to her feet, tuck her into bed, say her prayers, and then lie next to her very quietly until she falls asleep. Then I sneak out of her room and go downstairs. On a good night the dinner mess is put away. On a not so good night the kitchen is still a mess, the floor is a combination of crumbs and sticky spots, and Hubs is snoring away on the couch. And so, I attack the kitchen, knowing that once it’s cleaned up, then I am free to have some “Me” time.

When I finally sit down to watch TV or read some blogs or write a little something, I realize—“Who am I trying to kid? I am way too tired to keep my eyes open.” So I turn off the TV, make sure all the doors are locked, turn off all the lights, and wake up Hubs to go upstairs to bed. As we sleepily stumble up the steps he whispers to me, “I’m beat—aren’t you?”

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Someone gave Joy a makeup bag to play with. It kinda looks like a doctor’s bag. Since the moment she got it I have coveted it. Not that I have anything to put in it—Joy has swiped all of my makeup out of my bathroom drawer and uses it (multiple times, daily) for her, her dolls, her Barbies, and sometimes for miscellaneous projects that she has contracted herself to do. Nevertheless, I dream of the day that I can have a bag like that, filled with pretty little vials and compacts and bottles and palettes of beautifully colored makeup. A girl can dream.

Anyway, THE bag is in the loft, otherwise known as ‘the toy box’ in my house where most of the playing gets done by my girls. (My backyard was rudely taken over by a pool, and while I am grateful for it in the summer, the rest of the year it is grossly underappreciated and even resented.) Back to THE bag.

Joy just brought it to me and said, “Mom! I think there’s a bug in my bag!” (I am not afraid of bugs, spiders, dead bodies—I was a CSI in a former life—so bring ‘em on! Just DO NOT make me have to deal with vermin. Anything mouse or rat-like gives me the ick and causes me to crawling skin which perpetuates the problem because I then imagine that something vermin-y is crawling on me.) OK, so, being the bug slayer that I am, I reached into THE bag to pull out the bug. By this time both Joy and Marlo were concernedly and apprehensively watching to see what kind of bug I was going to pull out of THE bag.

I could feel that it was just a piece of lint, so when I pulled it out I pretended that I let it go and said in a loud, shrill voice, “Oooh-hoooo!” I thought this might startle or shock them a little, but no. This little outburst was apparently the funniest thing both of them have every experienced to date. So now I have done it 272 times and it never loses its novelty. Joy fell down on the floor, with big belly laughs shaking her whole body. Marlo was laughing so hard that she couldn’t shut her mouth and a long strand of drool started to pool in THE bag. (OK, maybe now I don’t want that bag anymore.) But pretending to throw a pretend bug at them is very funny.

When I was little we went somewhere (the whole family) and stayed in a hotel. And we all stayed in the same room. For some reason I want to say that The Editor and I slept in a bunk bed. (Are there bunk beds in hotels or did my over-active imagination just make that up?)* Anyway, there was a book on the desk with inspirational stories or something like that. And so The Editor was reading to me from this book and something had been written by someone by the name of Sanky. And for whatever reason, that was the funniest name we had ever heard. All night long we laughed and giggled about Sanky. (I am giggling right now—don’t ask me why.) We drove my parents crazy. To this day, all The Editor has to do is whisper “Sanky” to me and it starts all over again.

And so, seeing my girls laugh, over and over, at something that isn’t really all that funny, makes me smile because that secret “language” of sisters is one of the most beautiful things in life. And if you can’t have makeup, well, you gotta get the beauty anywhere you can!

*Note from The Editor: It wasn't a hotel room, it was a church retreat at Camp Arrowhead, I think. But some hotels do have bunk beds, Gigi and The Norwegian (Gigi's husband and The Editor's and Busy Body's father) and me (7 months pregnant) and my husband (The Italian) and Bubba and Stump spent the night in a room with bunk beds. We were supposed to stay awhile and we checked out 6 hours after we checked in. But, that's a story for another day.

Note from Gigi: I used to tell Busy Body that I was praying that someday she would have a daughter just like her, because then, and only then, would she understand some of my reactions. That I have lived to see the day has brought me great joy (through Joy--and Marlo) Don't you think my previous phrase is a vast improvement on "I told you so".

Rebuttal from Busybody: If I apologize profusely and with all of my heart will I be able to un-do the sassiness and the antics that I now have to deal with daily?

Posted by The Editor for All

Monday, December 14, 2009

Decorating the Empty Nest

The daughters call my house the Christmas boutique: I call it home. But decorating the empty nest. Not so fun. There is no lack of things to choose from: Over the years I have accumulated many boxes of Christmas treasure. The question used to be where to put it, now the question is how much can I leave in the boxes. As I was decorating, memories flowed. I particularly enjoyed my recollections of my first venture out into the world and my journey back home for the holidays.

I was over twenty when I started college and I thought I was the most independent of my siblings: The most adventurous; the most mature. Being the middle child, I thought I was the one that didn’t need the apron strings, but now I know that I had just pulled them off by holding them so tightly.

I chose a small, religious-based southern college hundreds of miles and several states away. Glad to be going: Happy to be on my own. It was fun. It was exciting. It was different. Ah, college. Time rushed by. It was Thanksgiving. There was a mass exodus of students going home. I wasn’t one of them. All of those states and miles were not in my favor, now. I caught up on my sleep, my papers, my laundry, my letters, my dorm room cleaning, hmmm. On Thanksgiving Day there was a big dinner in the campus cafeteria. I didn’t go. I went for a walk in the woods and I was (choose one:)

1. Impressed by nature

2. Homesick

3. Ready for more challenges

4. None of the above

The correct answer is (2). Homesick. Everything reminded me of home--even sights and smells that probably should not have been included in the category, I could somehow relate to that perfect spot on earth. Well, now, the only remedy was to go home for Christmas. Did I want to exchange snow at Christmas ( a new experience) for sunshine(the same old familiar stuff)? You betcha. I needed to inform my parents that they needed to send tickets for whatever--bus, train, plane—just get me home. I had to wait in line for the one phone in the dorm hallway (the college thought we were there to be studious, not talk on the phone) and I smiled in anticipation. My mom answered and I jumped to the middle of the reason for my call, because every minute was metered and they really valued brevity during phone calls. She listened and then said, Here, you better talk to your dad. He listened. He went to the middle of his reasoning. He reminded me that we had decided, before I left for school, that I wouldn’t be coming home during the school year. It was less than a year’s time that I would be away; it was too far; it was too expensive; our three minutes are up. Call over. Smile gone—new plan.

I had heard that one of the guys who happened to live in an adjacent town to my hometown was going to drive home and was taking paying passengers. I had an emergency bank account in town. What could be more emergency than going home? I put on my coat and gloves and knee socks and struck out for town. It was all downhill easy, but going back uphill was a little breathtaking. Not so much so as to deter me from my appointed task, and so I went straight to the boys’ dorm and had the young man paged. When he showed up, I waved my money around and begged incoherently and randomly for one of the seats in his car. Yeah, o.k. (Wow, that was easy.) BUT, there’s no eating or drinking or chewing gum in the car. You can bring one small suitcase and one small purse. You can have a pillow and a blanket (small, as I remember). Rest stops will be timed and you must be ready to go at the appointed time. Hey, I’ll type this all up and leave it in your campus mailbox. (Great, there is now a car code. Going to a small, religious-based southern college in the early ‘60’s meant there was a dress code, a dorm code, a dating code, a study code, a moral code, and now, a car code. I finished that school totally encrypted. Oh, well, small price, right?)

Skipadeedoodahing back to my dorm, I thought of my next requirement. I would have to tell my parents. I would much rather rush up to the front door and yell, surprise, surprise, but the car code required that someone pick me up at a designated parking lot in Driver Boy’s hometown. And so, I wait in line, dial home, bypass my mom, put dad on the phone, please, and sure enough, my definition of emergency is not the same as his. He does, however, agree not to leave me stranded on an unknown parking lot beyond walking and carrying my own suitcase, purse, pillow and blankie distance from home. I am homeward bound! The visit was HYPER (one of my Greek vocabulary words, look it up!) I’ll have to save those stories for another session of visiting with” you all“(one of my southern expressions). At the end of the two (too) short weeks, we kept a predawn rendezvous on that same parking lot. My dad wasn’t a huggy, kissy kind of man, and so our leave-taking was brief, but when he shook Driver Boy’s hand and his voice was full of tears as he said Drive with care, I knew our definition of emergency had blended.


Did I say empty nest? It actually is very crowded with all the precious people with whom I have shared my life. Including you. Have a blessed, down home Christmas--wherever that may be.

Posted by The Editor for Gigi

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday Quote

In these chaotic, hectic, joy-filled days, Saturday's quote has shifted to Sunday.

Packing for a month's sojourn for 5 (three of then under the age of seven), welcoming daddy back from a two-week business trip, making homemade fudge for neighbors and mailman, and celebrating as much Texas Christmas as possible before we leave to celebrate more Christmas, Southern California style, I leave you with this:

Wishing you all joyful preparations and safe travel in this season.

Posted by The Editor.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Turkey day recap

I said I was going to write about Thanksgiving after the fact. I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Under promise, over deliver is my new mantra.

First of all, I think they moved Thanksgiving up this year. It came really fast and I simply wasn’t prepared. The shopping got done on Tuesday, in the wee hours of the morning, by my husband. (See my previous post about Thanksgiving, specifically the challenges that husband- shopping poses, to understand my issues.) Anyway, if you have ever cooked a Thanksgiving dinner, you understand that it really does take more than 36 hours to thaw a frozen turkey. A turkey to feed me and my husband and my 1 and 4 year olds probably could have thawed in 36 hours (or less), but we did not get one of those. Nope. My husband got a turkey that would feed our usual household of people, but, as luck would have it, we did not have our usual multitude this year. Family members got sick, others had to work, friends went out of town. It ended up being just us. It was cozy, intimate. I’d like to say peaceful, less work, and quiet, too, but that would be a big fat frozen turkey lie.

Even though we had about 16 fewer guests than usual, my husband could not seem to be able to negotiate the menu. I tried to cut out dishes. I tried to pare things down. He simply was not able to forego the ambrosia or the mashed potatoes or the potato salad or the sweet potato casserole or the asparagus casserole or the green bean casserole or the stuffing or the cranberry sauce or the orange carrot bisque or the dinner rolls or the pecan pie or the pumpkin pie or the budge. (Budge is what Joy calls fudge. Actually, Joy was the one who couldn’t live without the budge…but I am certain that my husband would have insisted if she hadn’t.) Yes, I made all of this, in addition to a 22 pound FROZEN turkey, for four of us, two of which have stomachs the size of small citrus fruits. (Incidentally, after touching and handling a raw, albeit frozen, turkey, I kind of get the ick and can’t really eat all that much. I have issues. I know.)

This year, for a fun, new holiday twist, I decided to get sick. Actually, I got sick about 5 days earlier. It started with a sore throat, and then it turned into chest congestion and a cough. I never felt bad enough to stay in bed, but I wasn’t my usual Energizer Bunny self. The cherry on top of the cake (or the whipped cream on top of the pumpkin pie?) was that I coughed so hard that I cracked a rib. I don’t want anyone accusing me of not going all out. Heaven forbid! (Maybe it wasn’t to appear to be a super hero, but rather to show my sympathy for the main dish…who knows? Next year I’m going to add spare ribs to the menu in case I crack another one, AND because my husband doesn’t want our Thanksgiving table to look bare.)

All’s well that ends well, I guess. Joy helped me put up my decoration, so my house did look Martha-esque. You can cook a frozen turkey safely. The leftovers heat up pretty well and you don’t have to cook anything new for a long, long time. Marlo went to bed early. She got all tuckered out from the excitement of the day. Joy fell asleep on the couch watching a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Then I fell asleep watching Martha Stewart’s Holiday Special. I was thankful for a lot of things, but mostly that it was over.

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sister of My Heart

She has always been there. My first playmate. My roommate. My best friend. My rival. My supporter. My cheerleader. My tutor. My teacher. My wingman. My partner in crime. You name it, she has probably played that role in my life. She has always been there…she is 2 years older than me.

We went to school together. We double dated. We got into trouble together. We know each other like twins know each other. I know what she’s thinking, she knows what I am thinking. We laugh at the same things. The same things make us cry. We have shared clothes, food, cars, pets, friends, and memories. She has always been there…she is my oldest friend.

We went to the same elementary school, different jr. highs, different high schools, and rival colleges. We have been on vacation together, in car accidents together, and lived together during college and even after college. We’ve been bike riding together, boogie boarding, dancing, swimming, roller skating, to aerobics, shopping...she has always been there…she is my big sister.

We know each others’ secrets. We were in each others’ weddings. We have swapped recipes, maternity clothes, baby clothes, horror stories, advice. We’ve spent holidays, birthdays, and plain, ordinary days together. She has always been there. She is my soul sister.

Two years ago she moved over a thousand miles away. We still had the phone, email, cards, postal packages, vacation visits. Now she is moving another 100 miles away. We will still have phone calls, emails, etc…this just wasn’t how I envisioned our lives going. I thought our kids would grow up together, we’d always live a few miles away from each other. She has always been there. She is my best friend.

Time, space, distance…busyness, marriage, housekeeping, child-rearing, cooking, cleaning, working, shopping, laundry, driving...all of these things may try to come between us. But she will always be there. And I will miss her, but she will always be there. She is the sister of my heart.

Posted by The (verklempt) Editor for Busy Body.

Paty, the Witch

When I was 3 or 4 we moved from an apartment to a house in a quiet little neighborhood. (Well, it was quiet before we moved there.) My older sister (The Editor) and I were pretty sheltered. We hadn’t had many friends besides each other until this new chapter of our lives. (She is, to this day, one of my best friends, but I’m not gonna lie—back then it was nice to have other friends in the mix.)

I have no idea what time of year it was when we moved there. I would like to say it was shortly after Halloween because my recollection is of us LIVING in witch costumes for the first couple of months after we moved in. However, it could have been April or June—I don’t really remember, I was 3 or 4—but, nevertheless, we were witches in a new, magical land. And, if you were ever a little girl, or have a little girl, or know a little girl, you know how silly little girls can be. The whole witch thing was how we met our new next door neighbor, Patricia. (Note: Her family called her Paty in a thick accent. The Editor)

(On a quick side note, which really has nothing to do with this story, I have an amazing memory. I really do. I just don’t have a good memory for anything that really matters. I can recite commercials from 30 years ago. I know the words to most songs on the radio from about 1980 to present day. I can tell you the name of my first grade teacher’s fiancé’s mother’s brother’s cat. I just have trouble remembering anything useful or important, like where I parked my car, what day of the week it is, or that I actually need to take my grocery list to the grocery store with me to remember everything that is on it. Maybe Gigi or The Editor could enlighten us on when we moved into that house, but I cannot. I was 3 or 4 and that bit of information falls into the “useful” category, so my brain discarded it many moons ago, I am certain, in order to make room for something completely d-u-m.)

When we moved to the house that is the home of all memories childhood, The Editor and I were constantly outside, running around, riding our bikes, climbing the trees, roller skating (in the roller skates with metal wheels that clacked every time we went over the sidewalk cracks), making up dances, singing songs, etc., etc. in our witch costumes during daylight hours, and part of the night, too, until the street lights came on and Gigi called us inside. But anyway, during these hours of new-found freedom, we noticed that there was another witch in our neighborhood. And all of a sudden we realized that she was outside, running around, riding bikes behind us, climbing adjacent trees, roller skating (in the roller skates with metal wheels that clacked every time she went over the sidewalk cracks), making up dances, singing songs, etc., etc. The witch get-up was how we found our common ground and started forging a friendship with Patricia.

Remember that I mentioned I was only 3 or 4 and that we had been pretty sheltered thus far in our little lives? Well, even though we were running around in our witch costumes from sun up to sun down, it never occurred to me that Patricia might also just be wearing a costume. For probably the first 6 or 8 months that we lived there, I really thought she was a witch. It might have had something to do with her being new and mysterious because we didn’t really know her. It might have had something to do with her long, thick red hair and cinnamon colored freckles—something I had never really seen before. But mostly I think that I thought she was a witch because she was wearing that costume AND she (and her family) spoke Spanish. In my little mind that made her exotic and a little bit dangerous and very cool—but a witch nevertheless.

Patricia was 4 or 5 years older than me, and 2 or 3 years older than The Editor. We were all great friends for many, many years. We played dress up, did backyard shows, played Charlie’s Angels, played office, and had countless adventures together. As I got older I realized that her witch outfit was just a costume like ours and that she spoke Spanish because she was Mexican. When Patricia was in high school she moved away. Before she moved I told her about thinking she was a witch. She told me that she thought there were 6 of us little girls when we moved in because we were so all over the place (and also that we were always changing our clothes/costumes. T.E.). Funny. Little girls think funny things.

Joy now plays in my witch costume, the one I wore when I was 3 or 4. When she runs around in it and it rustles, I can almost hear the metal wheels of my roller skates singing the sidewalk songs of the magic of childhood.

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

Note from The Editor: I recall the move as occurring in the summer of 1975. I was just out of first grade and was 6 years old. Is that right, Gigi?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Birthday party for me, by me

Third grade brought the onset of birthday parties. It seemed everyone in my class was having one. . Oh, now that I’m trying to recall the details of that year, maybe none of the boys had parties. But all of the girls were thoroughly captivated by the idea and participated or planned with equal commitment. I soon realized that my birthday came right at the end of the school year. A bad thing; I’d have to wait. A good thing: I could borrow ideas and explain them to my mother in terms she could understand.

She just didn’t “get” a lot of the things that seemed crystal clear to me. I had one pair of shoes in third grade. Brown. With Buckles. Brown so they wouldn’t get so dirty and with buckles so shoe strings wouldn’t have to be replaced. Every Sunday morning, my dad would take our shoes and polish them for church. Although I would feel very clean and dressed up, I had my heart set on a pair of black patent shoes. Mom turned a deaf ear. Not practical and not necessary. Those were the guidelines.

I had a lot of work to do when it came to getting a birthday party. The school year went by. I won the school Spelling Bee and went to the state finals; I was chosen to participate in a series of radio programs and was given a lot of attention at school, but at home my parents were quietly proud of me. “Pride goeth before a fall” It didn’t change our economic position or the guidelines (practical/necessary).
The time was approaching for my birthday, spelled * P A R T Y. *

Mom had finally agreed that I could have some friends over after school that day(she didn’t call it a party) but I had to tell them not to bring presents She didn’t want to financially impose on their families. Ok Ok, Mom, but there needs to be a cake, and there needs to be paper birthday napkins, there needs to be balloons, there needs to be games.

We walked home from school that day. A select group of five plus myself. We walked past all of their houses, and some of them ran inside to drop off stuff so they wouldn’t have to carry it.. My mom would probably be wondering where we were and why it was taking so long. We got to my house and I started to open the front door; hmmm, it was locked. Well, we never lock the back door,. Just stay here and I’ll run around and let you in. I went through the back porch and there was a sense of quiet about the house, I opened the back door to the house and felt the wrongness of the afternoon. The blinds were closed in the front rooms and as I hurried through the kitchen, I saw the dirty breakfast dishes in the sink. The dining room table did have a cake. Whew. I hurriedly pulled the blind strings on my way to the front door and carefully left the door open so the “closed up” smell of the house would go away.

Where was Mom? Well, we could play games. I had prepared several game components on shoebox cardboard but suddenly, they didn’t look very "partyish". One of my friends asked the question I had asked while I was putting together the games, what are the prizes? In my most confident voice, I repeated the answer I had been given, we are playing for the fun of playing.

Where is my Mom? Oh, yeah, I think it’s Missionary Society day at the church. Once a month, all the ladies go and piece quilts or roll bandages or pack clothes for children in other places who live sad, little lives, and my mom never misses the meeting. She’ll be home any time, now, though.

We are all hungry and so we decide to just move to the cake phase of the afternoon. A whole new set of problems. I had seen the dishes in the sink. That means there aren’t six clean plates or glasses. Oh, no, I didn’t see any kind of drink to put in glasses. I’ll think of that after I solve the glass problem. It was very trendy in the fifties to have “snack sets” for ladies' get-togethers. They were composed of a rectangular glass plate/tray with a ridge of glass in one corner that kept a petite glass cup from sliding around the plate/try. The tray was just the size to show off the dessert, like, like A PIECE OF CAKE. God and my mom only know why we only had six glasses, six plates and two coffee cups (from the Goodwill store), but EIGHT snack sets. They were on the top shelf of the cupboard in the kitchen, but I was a determined little girl and could climb up there and get them down. Not only was my problem solved, but it was solved with a flair (and my heart always rejoiced in flair). In getting down the snack sets, I felt that they were a little sticky. Oh, no, not a little sticky, quite a bit sticky as only dishes in the kitchen that haven’t been used can get sticky. Where is the dishtowel?

Please, all of my friends, just stay in the living room, and I’ll be out in a minute. I would rather they notice the unpolished state of that room than notice that it isn’t practical or necessary to buy dishtowels. Not when everyone is wearing three yards of material gathered onto a waistband and when it is too faded or if it gets torn, just rip it up into the appropriate sizes—hem it if you have time or use it in its ravelly state if you don’t. The dishtowel that day was a skirt I had worn to school all the last year,(ravelly) and certain to be recognized.

Here, I must interrupt my narrative with a household hint. Do not attempt to wipe off that greasy residue with a dry cloth, especially if the dishes are clear glass with a raised design. It simply won’t work.

And so, I was faced with several obstacles to just washing those dishes which I certainly could have done because I started learning when I was three. The first thing, sinks weren’t divided in those days and ours was full of dirty dishes (as you may remember me mentioning previously); second, there wasn’t enough time; and third and most insurmountable, the last time my very best friend had come over, there were no clean glasses and I started to wash one. It wasn’t practical or necessary to buy both clothes soap and dish soap and so we only had clothes soap. I took the box from under the sink and gave it a shake sufficient to dispense an adequate amount of soap, and what came out were coffee grounds. Before recycling was a buzzword, my mom recycled everything. But how was I to know that the box had transitioned from soap container to trash sack? That same friend was in the next room, but she might exercise her best friend’s right and come in the kitchen at any second to “help” me. The risk of a repeat mortification was too great. No washing.

Oh, I remember going to my great-grandmother’s house and loving the looks of a smoked glass set of glasses that she had. They had stems and I would even drink buttermilk to get the privilege of using them. So, I would put water in those cute little petite cups, cake on the tray and make a subtle comment about having smoked glass.

I found some birthday candles in the cupboard next to the snack sets. They were probably there to keep them and us safe. Them, because you shouldn’t squander the whole box on one birthday; simply put a representative number on and save the rest.) But, oh well, desperate times call for desperate measures and so I put those candles(not 9, but the contents of the box) on my cake and lit them and we were as safe as a group of nine year olds without supervision can be. Alas, my mother had not considered birthday paper napkins practical or necessary, either. No inspiration or substitution hit my brain, and so I just ignored the fact. We were all so hungry by this time, that we disposed of the cake without leaving a lot of crumbs on plate or mouth.

Oh, no, Everyone was ready to go home, but I was reluctant for my special day to end, and so I decided to walk home with the group. The routine was to walk the furthest one all the way home and then she walked halfway back and so on until, with much meandering, everyone finally was dispersed.

When I got home, my mom was back. She told me that if I wasn’t going to be there when she got home, she would appreciate it if I would leave a note. And also, young lady, never get the snack sets out of the cupboard without help; they’re for the ladies missionary society meeting when they come here.

Posted by The Editor for Gigi.

Note from The Editor: When my grandmother (Gigi's mother) was de-cluttering her house and passing things on to her granddaughters, my sister and I had the choice of the punch bowl or these pretty little snack plates. I chose the pretty little snack plates, because they were retro 50's, frou-frou girly, and I thought they would be handy for all the socials I would someday hostess. I have actually never used them. I tried once to get them out for serving cake and cookies at the holiday, but I couldn't get rid of the sticky on the scalloped edge.

In other news...

I have three children, two boys and a girl, Bubba, Stump, and Samantha Jean-Pocket (not their real names.) They are currently 2, 4, and 6 years old.

Bubba was born a little old man...he talks and thinks ahead of his time. He was never a baby-baby but he is my first and I always called him "Love-love" because one love was not enough.

Samantha JP was also born with a full head of hair and her mind made up about everything. She was the biggest baby of my three, almost 9 pounds (I'm 5'2"), and she grew like a rocket. She is the size of a four-year-old at 2 years, 3 months and is the sassiest little pistol I have ever seen. She has two big brothers to protect her, but sometimes I think maybe she will protect them. We can blame her spunk on the red highlights in her hair or maybe the Italian-Irish-Norwegian heritage.

Stump is my baby-baby. He is smaller in stature with a head of golden ringlets. He is introspective by nature, tenderhearted, generous to a fault, and beholds beauty wherever he looks. He also is attached to his security blanket, named quack for the duck design, and his binky (pacifier, dummy, nubby, bap, gookie or whatever you call it.) I have tried many times to get rid of the pacifier without luck. Many grand-scale, life-altering events occurred during the time it should have been eliminated (house remodel, dad left to start new job, move across country, and new baby sister within a 7 month period) and I decided not to push it, but the looming 5th birthday has been weighing on my maternal instincts. Note: I did have multiple discussion with pediatricians and dentists regarding the binky use and they reassured me that it would be over in due time with no lasting ramifications (nobody goes to college with their binky, somebody told me).

So, Stump had a fever last Friday & Saturday (104 deg F) and he was better by Sunday. He didn't feel like going to school today (tired with a little cough) so I kept him home. He kind of moped around all day. Driving to pick up Bubba, he said his teeth hurt. I forgot to check them when we got home but at bedtime, he showed me his loose tooth. I had to tell him "no more binky" and he cried for it and then freaked out that his tooth would fall out in the night and it would hurt. Poor little guy, he kept asking why he couldn't have it and I told him a binky was for baby teeth, it might hurt the big boy teeth and make them crooked. And he said, "I don't want to be a big boy," then he said, "Ok, give the binkies to the binky fairy, have her take them." And then he said, "Will she take quack, too?" Finally, while I held him, he fell asleep.

The Era of The Binky is over.

Posted by The Editor.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

In loving memory of Marilyn DeCarlo.

Another one of my September/October marathon events was the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I started doing this event because one of my good friends was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 ½ years ago. She was only 36. Because of this, a walking team quickly formed. The name of our team was Keepin’ the Faith.

The walk is pretty rough. You walk a marathon the first day. You camp. Overnight. In a tent. The next morning at o’dark thirty, you have to get yourself up, pack up your sleeping bag and tent, then walk a half marathon. By the end of day two you have walked almost 40 miles. Not impressed? Next time you take a drive, clock 40 miles on your car. It’s either impressive or insane. Oh, and did I mention—you have to raise $1800.00 before they will even let you participate? (These are the not-so-fun aspects of the walk.)

The bright side of the walk is that you are surrounded by hundreds of women (and a few brave men) who are all walking together for one cause. It’s fun—there’s pink everywhere: pink ribbons, pink clothes, pink hats, pink hair. One guy had shaved his head, except for a pink ribbon. Another person had a dog with a pink ribbon sculpted into its fur. People speak freely about breasts—and every name in the book is used for them. It’s quite comical, really. A group of Harley-Davidson riders provide crossing guard services. Their club name is ‘Scooters for Hooters’. People in the community come out to support the walkers. They handout drinks, food, stickers, bandanas, buttons, tiaras, balloons—almost anything you can think of—to help the walkers along the way, physically…emotionally…psychologically. If you ever have the chance to do it, I highly recommend it.

I walked in 2007 because my sweet friend, Marilyn, was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). This is a rare form of extremely aggressive breast cancer which does not present itself in the “normal” breast cancer symptoms. The tumors do not come in clumps or masses, they come in sheets or nests, so you won’t feel it if you are doing your monthly self exams. (Please tell me you are doing them!) IBC actually feels more like mastitis. Your breast can be hot to the touch and it can get red. Then it can start to swell. Sometimes it can swell up to 2 cup sizes, virtually overnight. It’s important to educate yourself on what to look for, both with IBC and “regular” breast cancer, but especially IBC, because by the time it is diagnosed, it is usually in Stage 4 (the final stage). This happened to be the case with Marilyn.

The 2007 Walk was exciting because it was new. I walked with a team of 15 women, Marilyn being one of them. We wore our pink shirts. We walked together, until blisters claimed one of our girls. She met us at the end of the walk. We had fun. We laughed and talked and joked and it was hard to believe that Marilyn had chemo two days before. Every time the other 14 of us started to get tired or started to feel a pain, we would look at Marilyn—and we’d push on. Our team started out dead last the first morning. Not that it’s a race, because it’s not, but we were mortified. Last? We had psychologically crippled ourselves before it even began…and so, we decided that we needed to step it up. And, thanks to Marilyn’s sister, Kathy, we started to pass the other walkers. We skipped lunch (lunch at 10 am) by putting our food in a bag and eating while walking. We turned into a hard core team of Breast Cancer Warriors…which was all fine and good until about 12 pm when my stomach decided that it never agreed to do this walk and tried to slow me down by getting my bowels to gang up on me. Since Kathy only authorized rest stops for grabbing a snack, grabbing a drink, or (quickly) going to the bathroom, this did not bode well. By this time we were in the top 200 walkers, many of which were adhering to this militant mind-set for the walk, so that was the good news—we were ahead of the pack. The bad news was that potty breaks were in—you guessed it—port-a-potties. (Note: I find port-a-potty use tricky…the phone booth size rooms are always hot and smelly, so I start to sweat the moment I shut the door, and I have to hold my breath because I do not do well with the smell, and being a germophobe, I have to hold onto the interior handle and balance my backside over the black hole to do my business, then (in this particular situation) there were other challenges to consider, such as the water bottles attached to my fanny pack that had to be strategically placed out of the line of duty, the time factor due to the lines of hundreds of walkers waiting impatiently on me to hurry, etc.) I am so glad that I was not a walker who had to use the toilet behind me! But I guess my dire need to use the loo helped me to walk a little faster. Diarrhea on a 26 mile walk is not pleasant, so if you decide to do an Avon Walk, which I highly recommend, just try to do it without having diarrhea, because walking 26 point something miles, with diarrhea, is something that I recommend not so much. Even when the walk was over for the day, and we were back, safe and sound at the camp site, my stomach did not let up. I had to go continually until 10 pm. This also posed unique challenges because, when was the last time you used a port-a-potty that had good lighting—if it had any lighting at all? These did not. The camp site toilets also happened to be at the very edge of the park where we stayed, which was probably a good half mile from the tents. So, even you weren’t impressed with the 40 mile distance back up there in paragraph 2, you can add another 36 miles onto my total mileage…because I had to go that many times…in the dark…in the port-a-potty. You do the math. Day 2 was much more pleasant. I had the good sense to eat small amounts of very bland food—and carry a bottle of Immodium with me. We finished around 12:30 and we carried Marilyn over the finish line. We felt amazing—tired, yes…sore, some of us…but we had done it! And right at the end of the finish line was a booth to sign up for the next year. I think the runner’s high most of us were on—or the delirium—made most of us do it.

2008 was going to be another great walk. We added 5 people to the team. We knew what to expect, we were seasoned walkers. I only had one problem. No, I was not diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was going to be 8 ½ months pregnant at the time of the walk. My doctor said she would clear me to walk, but Avon could not guarantee that their medical staff would as well. So I decided to sit this one out. I went to the team dinner the night before the walk started, and I was there at the finish line, but I wasn’t there for the blood and guts (and sometimes diarrhea) of the walk. Marilyn, however, walked again. She had appeared to be cancer free in January of 2008, but by May, it was back in full force. It had spread to her stomach, her liver, her spine and her brain. This inspirational woman had been through more chemo, radiation, gamma-knife radiation on her brain, full brain radiation, several surgeries, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, and a number of other assorted procedures, but she still walked the 40 miles. I had baby number two seven days later. (I might have had her sooner if they had let me walk. Maybe, though, they were thinking that I would have to come up with another 1800 dollars…?)

In 2009 Marilyn had a number of set backs. One of the tumors in her brain grew so much that it caused her to have a seizure while she was driving. She lost the use of her left arm. And then the DMV revoked her license. This beautiful mother of 4, ages 3 to 11, was then relegated to having friends and family taxi her and her kids around to their various activities and appointments. She regained the use of her arm, but never got to drive again. She started holistic treatment, alternative treatment in other countries, went on a religious pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. She did everything within her power to fight this insidious disease. And this beautiful, courageous young woman did it all with a smile, with grace, with unwavering faith in God, and total acceptance. She never said “Why me?” but rather, “Why not me?”. And then in July one of the tumors on her spine caused her to become paralyzed from the waist down. She underwent a brutal series of radiation treatments to shrink the tumor, but it didn’t work. She went home and then her chest cavity started to fill up with fluid. She underwent surgery to drain the fluid, put abrasions on the cavity wall, and place talcum powder to prevent the fluid from returning. She said it was the most painful thing she had gone through so far. That surgery was unsuccessful and they had to do the most painful thing she had gone through so far—again. Finally, at the end of August, Marilyn made the decision to stop any further treatment. Her doctors felt that all possibilities had been exhausted. She decided that she wanted to focus her attention on being at home with her family, enjoying the remainder of her days, surrounded by loved ones. Hospice care was called in and put in place.

In 2009 I walked again. This time with 3 other girls—one was a former roommate of mine, Hilary, whom I had worked with along with Marilyn at a home for abused children. Hilary had also gone to college with Marilyn. The other two girls were friends of Hilary’s, Dana and Kelly. This walk was different from the very beginning. I walked with a heavy heart. I walked without Marilyn. There was one similarity to the first walk. No, it wasn’t diarrhea. I adopted Kathy’s walking schedule. We skipped lunch, we stopped only to fill our water bottles and to grab snacks, and we kept a pretty brisk pace. We chatted and laughed and walked our 26 point something miles…but somewhere along the way, Dana started acting funny. She stared giggling for no reason. Then she would stop and get really cranky. People driving by would honk and yell stuff like, “Keep going! You’re almost there!” and she would yell back, “Shut up (choice name) you’re in a car!” Now, granted, her feet were covered with blisters, but she was acting a little crazy. (On a side note, at all of the rest stops there are sandwich boards with signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion posted on them. Dana’s behavior fit a number of these signs, but she insisted that her feet hurt, she was drinking enough, and she just wanted to get to the camp ground…and so we pressed on, girls behaving badly and all.) With a little over two miles to the end of Day 1 we came upon a fellow walker who had collapsed. Some other walkers were calling the emergency number on our wristbands to get her some help. We should have known something was up when Dana just stepped over her and kept walking. Finally around 3:30 we reached the Day 1 finish line. We stopped at a tent to get our feet massaged and our backs massaged. We were doing OK, but Dana and Hilary had blisters—really bad blisters, so we went to the medical tent. They put their names on a list to have an RN tend to their blisters. When they called Dana, she went to the nurse and sat down. Then we saw her stand up and start to stagger around like a drunken sailor, to the tent exit, where she stared to projectile vomit. The medical staff helped her back in and put her on a cot. For the next 15 minutes, she vomited. The paramedics had been called in for another walker, but when they saw Dana, they went to her first. By that time she had been given an IV. (Yikes!) She was severely dehydrated. (Wait! What about all that water and Gatorade she insisted she had been drinking? Maybe she just thought she drank it—who knows?) She tried to convince the paramedics and medical staff and me and Hilary and Kelly that she was OK and could just rest for a few minutes and be fine. She had everyone convinced, but then she tried to stand up and started vomiting again. That’s when we insisted that she had to go to the hospital. Kelly went with her. Hilary and I went to the dinner tent. My husband and my mom brought my girls to visit me. Appropriately enough, I spent the entire visit nursing Marlo while Joy ate my dinner. (She was really hungry.) We walked them to the car and kissed everyone good-bye and had just enough time to walk across the 5 mile campground to catch the last shuttle bus to our hotel. Yes, hotel. I camped once, no need to do it again. Didn’t you read about 2007? I needed a real bathroom, with lights. Actually I just needed an electrical outlet because I had to pump breast milk for Marlo. The bus was an hour late, of course, but worth it when we were in the comfort of our hotel room, having taken hot showers and lying in a soft, comfy bed. Kelly was already there. She had showered and ordered room service and was watching TV. Dana was at the hospital for 3 hours. Her husband (get this), a paramedic, had to pick her up and take her home. Our group was now down to three. Kelly greeted us at the door and said, “I don’t think I am going to walk tomorrow.” (She has a charming English accent, so you want to agree with almost anything she says.) We tried to convince her to just do it, but she was out of walk mode. I went in to take my shower and I noticed that she had cut her wristband off—and they won’t let you walk without it. So now our group was down to two.

Hilary and I got up at 4:30 the next morning, took the shuttle to the campground, ate our breakfast, patched up her blisters, and started our 13 mile walk to the finish. She was a trooper! Her feet were covered with blisters. She stopped every 3 or 4 miles to apply moleskin, but she walked. At the lunch stop one of Marilyn’s friends met up with us. She took pictures and a video to show to Marilyn. It was very emotional. We were very proud of ourselves for toughing it out. (Incidentally, I did not get any blisters. In fact, I wasn’t even that sore. I don’t have time for being sore, I have two kids. And I just simply don’t believe in blisters. Hilary, Dana, Kelly and about 20 other Keepin’ the Faith team members would like to hurt me for this, but it is what it is.) I had to walk to the hotel from the finish line because I wanted to skip closing ceremonies. That was another 4 mile walk. When I got home, my husband told me that we were going to the neighbors for a barbeque. He thought it would be nice for me not to have to make dinner. (But he did offer to bring homemade cookies. Guess who made them?)

After 2 ½ walks under my belt I was feeling very conflicted. I guess the exhaustion of it all was weighing on me. I hadn’t expected Marilyn to last that long, but she was hangin’ tough. She was down to about 80 pounds and in extreme pain, but she held on for her son’s birthday, her baby’s first soccer game (which she actually attended), she got a tattoo with a pink ribbon and hearts colored the colors of her kids’ and husband’s birthstones, her 39th birthday, her husband’s birthday…she was OK with dying, but anxious about how her kids and husband would fare without her. And so my very lame solution was to leave my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer wristband on, as a reminder of the pain that Marilyn was dealing with daily…I know that’s kinda gross, but I wasn’t ready to cut it off. Then, on October 12th, exactly one month later, I was playing with Marlo and she reached over and pulled on it. It was so brittle from 30 showers and daily wear that it just fell off. On that cloudy, rainy afternoon, I received the message that Marilyn passed away.

And so, let us all remember that life is precious. Love every minute. Every day goes by so fast and there are no guarantees for tomorrow, or even your next breath. Hold your loved ones close. Walk with a friend who is in need. Believe in a cause. Hope. And be inspired by those who fight courageously, to the very end, and learn from them. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step…make your journey meaningful.

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body