Sunday, February 28, 2010

Guest Commentary

Today, Gigi, The Editor, and Busy Body are taking a day off.

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed are those of the individual speaking and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Dialing Home and/or any of its regular writers.

Ah, Haalloo! My name is Eva and I wear clogs. I come from somewhere else, but I currently live in LA, hoping to do something. I have a day job that I can't quit right now. I work in an office helping people find apartments to rent. There are a lot of apartments in LA and a lot of people who need to rent apartments. So, my job is to connect those people to an apartment.

I first take an application and find out where they want to live and what their budget is. Then I look in my computer and print out some options for them to look at. If they like something on the list, we go look at it. I usually drive my own car and meet them there because driving in LA is tricky. I like to drive by myself, because if I goof up on the rules, or get lost, it's only me in the car. Someday, I hope to have a GPS because that would help keep me found instead of getting lost and being late so much.

So we meet at an apartment (proper industry term is property) and hopefully I can remember which key it is to get in. I have a lot of keys and sometimes it is confusing, but if I'm not too late and I have enough time, I can usually figure it out.

After we get the door to the property open, I go into the kitchen and put my briefcase on the counter. I let the renters (potential residents) walk around and look at the property. I think it is better if I don't follow them around. They know I am in the kitchen if they have questions. So, I open my briefcase while I am waiting and take out a lease form and pen and clipboard, in case the potential residents decide this is THE ONE. I like to be prepared as much as I can. If the property is THE ONE, we finish the paperwork on the kitchen counter and they write a deposit check and we arrange to meet on their moving day for keys and, sometimes, garage openers or security codes. I really try hard to find good properties for the potential residents.

One time, I had a fabulous building of apartments that seemed like condominiums. The only problem was they weren't finished being built. The owner thought it would be good to start renting the units so they could get some cash flow to finish the property. The budget amount was very reasonable and some students thought it would be a great place to live.

When we met at our arranged time on their moving day, they started looking around some more. Some things the owner said would be finished weren't finished. The students noticed there were no electrical meters outside--the electricity was still coming from the construction feed. There was no gas hooked up, either. The faucets in the shower and tub were just pipes out of the wall. They were really upset because there was no hot water and no phone service and no way to set up electrical service for their unit.

I tried to explain it would be finished sometime. That just seemed to make them more mad and they wanted their deposit back. I opened my briefcase and took out my list of properties from their file and told them there was another property close by they could move into today. After all, they had all their stuff out front in a moving van. They said no. They still wanted their deposit back. I told them it was non-refundable: The deposit was accepted by my company to rent a property. They waved their lease in my face and said the deposit was for this property and it is unlivable without gas, electricity, hot water and non-functioning security gates.

Wow, some people. It was a brand new unit AND they did get to pick their carpet color.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

FPW: Having a Heart for My Children

Every Saturday, we are going to post a link to our Favorite Post of the Week (FPW). Not from our own posts, but what we've discovered while surfing away during the week. Sometimes, we click "next blog-->" at the top of our screen. Sometimes, we follow comments back to other websites. And sometimes, we get lovely emails that make us want to hear more from the author.

And, if you have come across a good post that you think is worthy of being called the FPW, let us know. We read all our comments and emails (

Without further ado, here is this week's FPW written by Jena. This was a feature article she wrote for Simple Home School. I read this post late one night after a very trying day with my three. Their father is traveling a lot for his job these days, so I am wearing many hats and having many adventures(!). That particular night, Stump climbed the lightpost out front and unbalanced the very heavy top that had somehow become disconnected. He jumped off and it crashed down less than 24 inches from him. I do believe it weighs about the same as he weighs. He wasn't hurt, but I yelled, I had told him not to climb it and it was a close call. I was really upset and lost my temper. Additionally, I was mad because that circuit is tied to all my kitchen outlets and the wires pulled out when the top fell down and wiped out the whole circuit. Late that night, after all were asleep but me, I was reflecting on my day and my handling of that whole incident was unacceptable. I want my very busy days to be happy ones, and remembered as such, not "The day the lampost broke and mama yelled." I spend a few minutes late each evening working on the blog and reading other blogs. That night, I found Jena's post. It made me cry, because it validated what I want for my children and gave me a clearer vision of how to move forward. Even thought it is titled "At the Heart of Homeschooling," I believe her central truth is applicable for any mother. This post resonated with me. I posted a comment for Jena and she emailed me with encouragement. I cannot say how much that gesture helped me adjust my outlook for this week. Jena's personal blog is Yarns of the Heart. I strongly encourage you to check it out, too. It really made a difference this week for me. And, this highlights one of the things I love about the Internet--kindness and generosity of spirit from people you've never met.

Thanks, Jena!

Posted by The Editor.

Edited to add:
This post has also been selected as this week's words to live by on Notes from A Cottage Industry.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Moment

From Amanda: {this moment} - A new semi-regular Friday ritual I've been thinking about. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Posted by The Editor.

Keep love in your heart

I am a huge, huge advocate for reading to your children. OK, so I was a 1st/2nd grade teacher and that makes me a little biased, I guess. I taught in a not-so-nice area of Los Angeles and English was the second language of most of my students. They started out at a disadvantage and it made teaching more of a challenge. Experts say that you should spend something like 2000 hours of “on the lap” reading for your children to develop the pre-reading skills they need to start school. Advertisements promote 20 minutes a day. I say, the more time your kids will sit and listen, the more you should read to them.

I have read to both of my girls, from before they were even born. Every night includes a bedtime story. Every day we try to read something else together, and because I have gotten them used to this, it’s usually a lot more. Joy has her own library card, and Marlo is due to get her own pretty soon. We enjoy our weekly trips to the library. Joy knows the librarians and loves to see “Miss Amy” and “Miss Susie” when we go. They know the girls by name and seem to be as excited to see the girls as they are them. They participate in the summer reading program and go to many of the extra activities, like story hour, arts and crafts, and family night. Getting the books is quite an experience…

I have a big bag from Michael’s Craft Store. I like to do crafts when I have more than one spare moment to myself. This bag is no longer a craft bag, though. It has been commissioned for our library books. We are allowed to check out 25 at one time. This means 24 for the girls and one for me. We walk into the children’s room and they head straight for the shelves. Marlo isn’t very particular. A few board books and a few with pretty pictures and she’s good to go. Joy is just starting to read some sight words, but even so, she is still a little more selective. Anything with wolves, princesses, or frogs really appeals to her. Anything with writing that is too little is out. Anything with a recipe to try out is in. She is amazingly good at finding exactly what she wants. My job is to keep Marlo from pulling every book off the shelves while running behind Joy and catching her selections in the Michael’s bag. Every once in a while we get a dud and we vow never to waste our time on that book again. But almost every trip we find a new favorite.

Here is a list of Joy’s favorite books, in case you are looking for a good read with your kids. Keep in mind she’s 4 so your older kids might not appreciate them so much, but they will probably be a hit with the younger crowd. (This is a small sample because I don’t want to take up all the space on the internet!)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Oh, My Baby Little One by Kathi Appelt
Hillside Lullaby by Hope Vestergaard
Frannie B. Krannie There’s a Bird in your Hair by Harriet Lerner
Gunnywolf by A. Delaney
Betsy who Cried Wolf by Gail Carson Levine
Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard
Tumble Me Tumbily by Karen Baicker
Hello Lulu/Happy Birthday, Lulu by Caroline Uff Walker

And now, there is a new one. Last night we reached into our bag and pulled out “Keep Love in Your Heart, Little One” by Giles Andreae. I didn’t even know it was in there—I’ve never even heard of it before. If there ever was a book that tugs at your heartstrings, it’s this one. We all loved it so much that I think we are going to have to buy it—it’s a keeper.

Whatever your kids are into, find them books about that. Be enthusiastic. Use different voices for different characters. Talk about the different parts of the book. Show them the copyright symbol and tell them that’s the book’s birthday—they love to know if the book is older or younger than they are! Make time to read to them everyday—it’s that important. Not only does it help them in school (up until 4th grade they learn to read, after that they read to learn),but it also helps to develop their imaginations, gives them something to do rather than watch TV or play video games (which actually inhibits their imagination), and it helps to build their vocabulary. It’s never too late to start reading with your kids. And it’s good for you, too—you get to spend some quality time with some of the most important people in your life.

Happy reading and remember…keep love in your heart!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Armpits, the windows to your body, or something like that

I have a confession. I haven't used deodorant in over two years. Why, you might wonder, or maybe you are clicking away right now...? Or maybe you can't click away now, so read on... Actually, after Samantha was born, I got on a natural kick to eliminate chemicals from our house. Have you ever tried to do this? Some Google internet research indicated personal care products are some of the worst offenders to our endocrine systems. I worry, a lot. About my health, my husband's health, my children's health and all the toxins and contamination in our food sources. So usually, I just do the best I can--buy organic when it's available, minimize junk food, take vitamins, and exercise and rest.

But, about two years ago, I eliminated shampoo and deodorant. Have you heard of no-poo? Check out this popular post. It worked well, I just haven't converted the rest of the house, yet.

As for the deo, I cringe when I think of the years and years and gobs and gobs of the commercial stuff applied usually on freshly-shaved armpits. Busy Body and I were both on spirit squads in high school and one of the many mortifying things that could happen to us in our sweater uniforms was to stink like B.O. So we kept our lady speed stick baby powder scented deodorant: in the glove compartment and slathered away at will...there is aluminum in it, you know. And, they say, aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's and I really don't want to go there, ever.

So, I switched to something else, applied sparingly, and never after shaving.
It is (embarrassingly) called "Stinky No More" and is available here. It works pretty good, even in the worst of the Southeast Texas summers with high humidity. Interestingly enough, it works better when I don't consume too much sugar. On weeks where I drink a lot of sugary sodas or eat lots of desserts, it doesn't work so good (translation: big stink). But, your underarm glands are there for a reason--to eliminate things your body doesn't need. So, it really isn't a bad thing after all, just a signal to me to curtail the sugar and then I smell sweet again. And now, you've probably read more than you ever care to about my 'pits, but if you're still reading, give your own 'pits some thought, if you haven't already.

Posted by The Editor.

A late postscript: Which 7 cities have the worst B.O.? Find out here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Defining a movement

Busy Body first spied "What you do matters" a video by Katherine Center when Rachel posted it on her blog, A Southern Fairytale. I also viewed it there after Rachel responded to Busy Body's comment and the notification was sent to our Dialing Home mailbox--I followed the linkback. Then, tonight, while clicking "Next Blog-->" to see what I could find, I came across a book review by Shannon for everyone is beautiful at Going Crunchy written by, guess who, Katherine Center. Does this connectivity thrill you or spook you? You can check out Katherine on her website. But for your viewing pleasure (and Dialing Home's first YouTube video), here you go...enjoy!

Posted by The Editor.

Lila and Merona

In honor of the month of February, I want to share a tongue twister:

Lila's love laughs loudly.

Once, when we were young, we had a teddy bear tea party at our house and invited the kids from the street. One little girl, whom we called Merona (not her real name--a twist on Ramona of Beverly Cleary fame) attended and she was the source of much merriment with this tongue twister.

The game for the tea party was to sit in a circle and, when it was your turn, hold the microphone and say "Lila's love laughs loudly" three times in a row. When it was Merona's turn, she took the mike and said, "Lila's love laughs" and we all said, "loudly." So, she did it again with more volume, "Lila's Love Laughs" and we all said, "loudly." So, she did it again, but yelling this time "LILA'S LOVE LAUGHS!!"

Game over, we all laughed so hard.

Posted by The Editor.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Enchanting Paty

Growing up, our next door neighbor, Paty (short for Patricia), was larger than life to me. She was quite a few years older than I was. She was animated and imaginative and full of spunk and full of life. Sometimes she was just full of it—but I didn’t know any better. She was quite a few years older than I was and I thought she was way cool.

Paty was always telling us stories, and several of them have stuck in my head. They still make me chuckle when I think back to hearing them for the first time—and being amazed at what a colorful and eventful life she led (AND that I actually believed them!). Here are a couple for your reading pleasure…

Paty’s family was from Mexico. Her grandparents still lived there and she would go back to visit every so often. When she came back she would tell us the stories of ‘old Mexico.’ Her grandmother lived there with her aunts. Her grandfather had been buried somewhere on their property—in chains because he didn’t want to die. At night they could hear the chains rattling. It was her grandfather trying to get out of the grave. (Yes, I believed that one. Couldn’t sleep for days.) One day her aunt was alone in the house and some spirits started chasing her. (She wasn’t ever very clear as to why the spirits were chasing her, but what was apparent was that there are a lot of spirits running amuck in Mexico.) Anyway, she was running through the house and she tripped and fell near the fireplace. The family came home later to find her lying on the floor, unconscious. They had to wake her up with smelling salts. When she finally came to she started screaming—her hand had landed in the fire and three of her fingers had melted off. (Yep, I believed that one, too. I believed it so much that every time they had company next door I would run outside to look at everyone’s hands to see if anyone had missing melted fingers.)

Another time Paty had this beautiful leather purse with all kinds of designs engraved on the flap. Inside this purse she had some foam curlers (I had never seen these before) and some bubble gum. She told the Editor and me that the curlers were magic make up. We sat on her front porch for hours while she painstakingly and expertly applied this magic make up to our faces. She even gave us a piece of bubble gum at the end for sitting still and cooperating while she did our make overs. The only catch was that the make up wouldn’t appear until midnight. (We fell for this one, hook, line and sinker.)

The last one she told us was more like an urban legend story, but her version was supposedly based on personal experience. She told us that if we went into a bathroom and put water on the mirror, turned off all the lights, and said “Bloody Mary” three times that she (Bloody Mary) would show up—whoever Bloody Mary was. (Maybe she hitched a ride back with Paty from Mexico--??? Who knows? What I do know is that I had trouble going into a dark bathroom for years because I was terrified that Bloody Mary was gonna get me!)

The Editor and I told Gigi the night of the make overs that we HAD to stay up until midnight so we could see our make up. Poor Gigi. Not only did she have to put up with our antics, but she also had to do damage control with the crazy notions Paty put into our heads.

I think we did stay up until midnight. It was a combination of a few things that kept us up that late—yes, we wanted to see our make up, but we were also certain we could hear chains rattling and spirits running around, AND we were deathly afraid of going into the bathroom, at the stroke of midnight, to look into the mirror to see our make up. We were certain Bloody Mary would be there, staring out of the mirror, right into our beautifully made up faces!

I don’t remember how the night ended, but I can imagine that at midnight something set us (me and the Editor) off—we probably heard a noise or saw a shadow and our imaginations just went wild. We were prone to screaming that high pitched little girl scream that can wake the dead—so that was another thing that we had to worry about…the whole thing was probably not good. I am sure we woke up Gigi and the Norwegian. We probably got sent to bed without getting to see our make up, with fears of monsters haunting us…

And probably all the while Paty was asleep next door, dreaming of some new stories to tell us.

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hover craft and other tedium...

Busy Body and I used to have very exciting lives before we had children. She worked in CSI and I was an engineer in technology development. Don't ask me what I did, it was top-secret, classified, super-important stuff. Busy Body's work also required a lot of decorum and discretion to carry out the investigations and send those bad guys to jail. To counteract the tedium and up-tightedness we had to put up with every day, we used to email each other all the time on a variety of subjects. One stretch was a series of quizzes based on childhood memories. My favorite one was: how many doors were in the house where we grew up? I won that one (actually, it wasn't a contest, but I remembered them all and wanted some credit for retaining that useless information because Busy Body usually corners the market on it). Busy Body has the results of that somewhere...she used to print out the emails and delete them so it wouldn't take up important space on her computer at work. It sounds silly now, but it used to make laugh and laugh in my dilbert cubicle. Silly in the same way describing some of the things I do now would seem--for instance, Bubba is obsessed with a lot of electro-mechanical devices, usually robots, but this month, it happens to be hover-craft. He has recruited no less than three grown-ups to help him build one.

The first recruit is the neighbor boy who comes to vacuum the pool once a week...he will be starting college to study engineering next year and he couldn't resist helping Bubba for the better part of two hours with the leaf-blower, a pool ring, a pool raft, a small dump truck, and a toy car. They considered their experiments a success, although it wasn't strong enough to ride on, which is what I think Bubba's ultimate goal is.

The second recruit was dad, who was home for a couple of days, and they took two paper plates, cut four small, same-size holes in one, and one the diameter of the hair dryer nozzle in the other plate and then taped them together with a short "skirt" made from a plastic grocery bag. This worked, but it was also small-scale.

I was the third recruit and have failed miserably. We went to a science birthday party (how timely!) where there was a hover board powered by a large motor that all the kids got to sit on and ride. After riding it, Bubba examined it and said, "Mom, you could make this!" Maybe someday, but in the meantime while he is waiting for me to deliver, he has designed a pretend hovercraft big enough for him and Stump and Samantha to journey upon and I have been demoted from inventor to videographer/photographer. The hover craft is a small toddler bed mattress, with an office chair back turned so the armrests form rails, onto that, a small cat scratching post is set with a small fan hooked over the top and a box fan behind it. Bubba stands by the post to manipulate the fans. He says he is the "spirit." Stump is proclaimed the captain and sits in the front. Samantha is the princess passenger and sits securely, sideways, in the middle. Spirit starts the fans and off they go, warding off fish attacks and marveling at the wildlife and scenery.

Here is the magical much more exciting than a cubicle, yes?

Posted by The Editor.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A New Thing or Two

Here at Dialing Home, we have three writers, Gigi, The Editor, and Busy Body. You can read more about us in the "ABOUT US" section link under the title. We are going to try something the beginning of each post, we will have our avatar so you know who is writing before you get to the end. From here on out, until further notice, or until we change things again...

Gigi's posts will be prefaced by this:

The Editor's posts will be prefaced by this:

And, Busy Body's posts will be prefaced by this:

Let us know what you think!

Friday, February 19, 2010

From the archives

He was my only child. Sitting small in his chair at the end of the dining room table, not even two years old. We communicated well through a series of special hand signs, sounds, and partial words. He had all my attention most days and things went pretty smoothly. Except this day. Maybe he was asserting himself using his growing independence, maybe I was tired with the new baby growing in my belly. Whatever it was, I was short with him when he was wanting yet something else for lunch. "Just sit there and wait!" I snapped. Sweet boy, he didn't get upset, he sat back in the chair, thought for a minute and raised his little hand and waved, like he was in a parade.

Posted by The Editor.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What's in a name...?

I am amazed that my children actually know their real names and respond to them. This amazement stems from the fact that almost every time Hubs and I talk to them, we call them a new name…not a new real name, but a new nickname. These are some of my favorites:

Little Miss Miss, Little Missy Prissy, Cupcake, Miss Crumble Bottom, Sleepy Cakes, Grumpy Pie, Chicker-Doodle, Messy Marvina, Buzz Buzz, Teethies, Stink Pot, Punky Bear, Love Love

Joy seems to have picked up this habit of making up new names. She likes to play “Babies” and her doll gets a new name each time she plays. Her name changes, too. Sometimes she is Malexica, sometimes she goes by Spina, and there are about 87 others, but my all-time fave is “Baby’s Mama.” I want to die laughing every time she says, “Hi, I’m Baby’s Mama…”. If I mistakenly call her Joy, she corrects me—“No, I’m not Joy, I am Baby’s Mama.” (Got it, Baby’s Mama!)

Barbies get new names on a fairly regular basis as well. The other night we were playing a few minutes before bed time. The Barbies had to go to the doctor. I was the receptionist who had to write their names down so the nurse could call them into the exam room. It was very busy that day. These were the patients who filled up the waiting room: Cinderella (she speaks French, actually—according to Joy, but it’s pretty evident because she prefaces everything she says with “Bonjour!”), Jasmine (Joy: she speaks Spanish—Choco-latte!), then there’s Cornchicos, Fraskie, Gossula (Joy: her pants are a little cranky), Carnsantos, Calanady (she’s the busser lady), Sarah Mohney, Marathona, Katrina, Garagossa, Marilyn, Pashawota, Malexica, Furner, Spina, Lena, Dabinas, Mariposa, Jassee, Jessa, Ashuley, Pinastock, Sheeda, Bistina, Gina, Bonacelli, Fairy Godmother, Seena, Mulan, Tinker, Pancake, Snow White, Melissesses, Painapoo, Sherlock, Ivan, Mitzi, Norco, Pita, and Jazza-Airy.

I am constantly entertained by her imagination and her name-smithing. I am just thankful that she does not completely take after me…

When I was little, or so Gigi says, I, too, made up names for my dolls. My favorite names, however, always started with ‘Sh’, e.g., Shannon, Shana, Sharon, Sheila, etc. That was OK, until I made up a name that rhymes with city. Gigi didn’t like that one too much—especially if I wanted to take her out with me in public!

(By the way, we were sheltered when I was growing up. I didn’t know any “bad” words—unless you count stupid and shut up as bad words, which warranted soap in the mouth. One time one of Gigi’s friends came over to visit with her. I always thought this friend was a little wild and a little dangerous—she smoked AND said naughty words. One time she was telling Gigi something and she said “There was $h_t all over the floor.” I went over and whispered to Gigi, “What is $h_t?” Gigi quickly explained it meant poo poo. That grossed me out and made me not want to say or hear that word again. So, my point is that I wasn’t trying to get away with saying a bad word. The name was completely innocent.)

According to Juliet, “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet”.

That’s right—unless someone is trying to call you “$h_t_y!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

Note from The Editor: It is entirely possible that Busy Body gagged when Gigi told her the definition of $h_t. Busy Body does not have a strong stomach, er throat, when it comes to these things. It is perplexing, though, how she can actually change a diaper and worked in CSI prior to becoming a mother. One year when we lived together in college and then I had to go on travel with work, I would have to come home periodically to clean out the drawers in the fridge (she couldn't touch rancid food) and take the trash out to the dumpster room in the alley. The dumpster room was pretty bad, in my opinion, but you could open the door and launch the trash and run away and miss most of the cloud of stench. However, it was the thought of the cloud that would make her gag and thus, I would make the three-hour drive back periodically to save her from retching...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A girl can dream.

Prior to the recession the area I live in was one of the fastest growing areas in the country. That is a good thing on many levels. (Not, necessarily that I live here, but the growth part is good, I mean.) It had created a lot of jobs, an influx of new residents and visitors, a lot of attention, and a lot of traffic (to the local businesses). It also created a lot of dust and dirt!

Where I live used to be primarily dairy farms. Every year the smell lightens a little. I am hoping the flies get the hint and take a hike, too. (This is my favorite dream.) I am hoping that the city planners, in their infinite wisdom, leave some of the green grassy areas instead of just filling in every square inch of earth with homes, sidewalks, and stores. (Still dreaming here.) Anyway, every once in a while I will deviate from my normal travel route and a former dairy farm will have suddenly vanished. The cows—gone…the farm house—gone…the barn and other milk structures…gone. And all that is left is a big pile of rubble. All of the concrete and other hard materials from all those years of life, toil, struggle is all that remains. Sooner or later one of those big machine trucks comes and pulverizes it into gravel. It’s amazing and sad and interesting and exciting and strange all at the same time.

I passed one of these ghost farms the other day and there was a hand-painted sign out front that said, “Clean Dirt Wanted.” It made me laugh out loud. Me, too! I want some clean dirt! I want it on the floors in my house, on my furniture, in the laundry basket, on my front porch, on my windows—I want it everywhere my dirty dirt usually is! I think it would save me hours and hours of time wasted on cleaning. Because I don’t know about you, but when I clean my dirty dirt (none of your business how often or seldom I clean)--it always comes back. Not that I really get rid of it—I just displace it. It goes from my furniture to the dust rag to the washing machine to the lint screen to the trash, to the floor to the dust pan to the trash, to the mop to the bucket to the sink or outside—and then someone tracks it back in again.

Hubs had to burst my bubble and tell me that ‘Clean Dirt’ is not what I think it is. He gave me the whole explanation of what it is and why it’s needed and where to get it. I prefer to pretend that there really is something known as Clean Dirt and that it could make my life so much simpler if I could only find it.

A girl can dream.

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A story about a story...

The Editor and Busybody have recounted the story of spelling bottom in the abbreviated form, butt. I could put my own appendage (no pun intended) onto that memory: However, for some inexplicable reason, it made me think of a storytelling incident from my very early years. This happened when I was about the age they were in that memory.

On that little farm of my childhood, we didn’t have storybooks. Mama and Daddy told us stories. Mama usually told us stories from the Bible and sometimes Daddy would laugh and correct the names and details. That would make Mama mad. She guessed she knew as much about it as he did. And then they’d have to go looking up the real facts of the matter and they’d get so engrossed that they would forget the story in progress and so we’d rather have Daddy tell the stories. His were much more exciting anyway. He read the funny papers to us with sound effects and with a different voice for each character. L’il Abner and Dagwood and Little Iodine and the Katz’n’jammer Kids were all real people in my world. Dad was usually chewing on a toothpick and he would point to the words with the toothpick as he read them. Sometime between my third and fourth birthdays, we realized that I could read. We realized this because I would read the last block and blurt it out and spoil Dad’s finale. I guess he didn’t care because he thought it was pretty smart of me to have learned to read all by myself. (Being smart was the next best thing to being good.) We also listened to stories on the radio. Baby Snooks and The Lone Ranger and Fibber McGee and other wonderful stories enhanced and entranced me. But Dad’s were really the best. He told one story that went something like this:

Once upon a time in a dark woods, there lived an old man and an old woman in an old cabin made of logs. It had been a hard winter and there was nothing to eat and no wood to burn and they were cold and hungry and the wind was howling and the rain was coming down in solid sheets. The old man HAD to go out to try to find some provisions for them. While he was gone, the old woman got so cold, and he wasn’t there to sit close to her for warmth, that she decided to chop up some furniture and burn it in the fireplace. It must have been the light from the fire, but all of a sudden, there was a knock at the door. (Dad would knock on the side of his chair and we would jump out of fright and the knowledge that something awful was about to happen.) The old lady would enquire in a quavery, old voice “Who’s there?” And a big, loud, growly, strong voice would say, “I’m a panther and I’ve come to eat you up.” Now the old lady was kind of hard of hearing and so she said, “Well, you’ve come to the wrong place. I don’t have any ketchup. I was goin’ to put some up last summer, but my tomatoes didn’t do so good and so I didn’t.” The panther was really hungry and wanted to get inside to the warm fire and a good meal and so he growled even louder, “Are you dimwitted? (I loved that word) I said, I’ve come TO EAT YOU UP.” The poor old lady didn’t know what to do. She thought she had told him that she didn’t have what he wanted and she didn’t want to have to get up from the fire, and so she told him again, “Even if my tomatoes had been real good, I probably wouldn’t have made ketchup. I don’t have that many jars and I don’t see no need of buying more since I’m so old and all.” The panther was pacing up and down in front of the door getting madder and madder and all of a sudden, he JUMPED against the door and broke it down. When the old woman saw a big, black panther coming in she started screeching and screaming (“Now, Gigi, you and your sister stop screaming and sit back down and be quiet if you want to hear this story) and jumped out the back window of the house and started running around the house with the panther right behind her. There was no place to go and so she climbed up on the roof and hid behind the chimney. The panther saw her and started running right behind her. The first time around the chimney, he got close enough to reach out a paw and snatch off her apron and the next time around the chimney, he got a little closer and he snatched off her dress and the next time around the chimney he got even closer and snatched off the rest of her clothes. The next time around the chimney (NO, No, don’t let him eat her up!), he was going so fast she could feel his hot, stinking breath and then he reached out a paw…and…TRIPPED and fell down the chimney and got burned so bad he ran howling into the woods and was never heard from again. (What a relief!) And as we were giggling in relief and appreciation for the story, Dad would look around and locate Mom and then say with a grin and a twinkle in his eye, “now wasn’t that a bear tale?” (Pun intended.) And I would say in puzzlement, “It was a PANTHER!.” Mom would scold, “You better stop telling them kids that story.”

And he did stop. Mom and I went to visit our nearest neighbors, the Wards. There was a Grandpa Ward who sat out on the porch most of the time. We’d see him when we passed their place and I’d think he must be lonely. That day, I got tired of the woman talk in the kitchen and went out to visit Mr. Ward. All of a sudden, it popped into my four year old mind that MAYBE he’d like to hear a story…and what better story than the one about the panther. To my delight (and I’m sure his) I was able to remember every word, every dramatic pause and every sound effect—just the way Daddy told it. Just as I was ending the story, Mom came out to check on me and started giving me that “GiGi, what are you doing!” look. It didn’t bother me, though. I just looked at her with that same smile and twinkle that Dad always did and finished up the story with a flourish. (Sometimes when Dad told us astory, he would end it by saying, “my, my. That sure must’ve been something. I sure would’ve liked to have been there and seen that.”) Well, it was a toss-up as to who was the most embarrassed at the end of my story, Mom or Mr. Ward. But when he didn’t laugh or say something or react in any way, I put the other ending on to it. “My,my. That sure must’ve been something. I sure would’ve liked to have been there and seen that. How about you, Mr. Ward? Wouldn’t you’ve liked to have seen that?”

Mom and I left quickly. As soon as we got home, I went out to the barn to find Dad and tell him how good I’d told the story to Mr. Ward. Mom must’ve told her own version, later,though, because he started finding other stories to tell us.

Posted by The Editor for GiGi.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Wink

Do you remember when you learned to wink?
Did someone teach you?

It's possible I learned how to do it when I was very young--the actual closing of one eye at a time. But I really learned when to wink and how to use a wink from my Grandpa, Gigi's father.

Just like Grandma, he was sassy and silly in his own way, strong and gentle, all at the same time. He could convey so much with that wink and accompanying twinkle in his eye. He had a hard life, lived through the depression, suffered heart problems and more. But all of those factors were irrelevant when he'd tell a good story and flash that twinkle and wink. You'd think he was living the high life, and I guess in a way, he was. Irrepressible spirit transcends all, if you let it.

I was the one who taught all my kids how to wink. And, I hope they see that spark of life sometimes in me. Life is not easy. We all toil with our own troubles, heartaches, and circumstances beyond our control. I do think, however, a bit of sass and laughter will help us see our way through.

I hope all you readers had a wonderful weekend. Ours did not quite go as planned...we had one with stomach flu, one with a fever, and one day that did not crack 40 deg F all day, followed by a day in the high 60's. But, we were all together. We laughed and played and smiled in the sun that has been missing for weeks.

What was the highlight of your weekend? Please leave a comment, we love to get them!

Posted by The Editor.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Help is a four-letter word

It was sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas that she became a part of my life experiences, my memory bank, my value system. The Norwegian and I were in a nearby city and were on our way home. To say we were on a tight budget is oversimplifying the obvious. We didn’t have enough to have a budget; we just tried to keep going. We had five dollars and we were going to make one more stop for milk and bread and then go home: That would be it for the week or until something else turned up for us, and although it was the Christmas season, we couldn’t even start to plan for gifts yet. We had kept a medical appointment and then we had gone to a store that was featuring a lot of early shopper specials and I had just wanted to look at the things that might be available if some unexpected windfall came my way. I filled my list with beautiful and impractical things (dream big) and reluctantly left the store—at least the store had been warm. Our house would be a chilly 60 degrees.

As we were approaching the freeway on-ramp, we saw her. She was thin. She wasn’t bundled against the cold. She was holding a hand-lettered sign that said, Homeless -- Please Help. Three words that conveyed so much…there wasn’t even a personal pronoun attached. Not Please Help Me—Just, Please Help.

Sometimes I have turned away from those requests, because I thought the ones making them must have somehow gotten themselves into that position and couldn’t be trusted to use my contribution for anything good. Maybe it was our present circumstances that made me see her differently. We were in warm clothes. We were in a vehicle. We had a home to go to. “I only have that five.” The Norwegian held out his hand to take the bill from me and then gave it to the woman as we slowly drove by. She lifted her head and, with tears in her big brown eyes, mouthed the words, “Thank You. God Bless You.’

All the way home (with no stops) I thought about her. How did she get to that point? Did anyone care? How did she feel? Maybe she had tried one plan after another—only to have them fall apart as time propelled her closer and closer to that intersection. Maybe there was no one to appeal to or maybe her appeals went unnoticed. Maybe she had counted on medical insurance that had found a loophole to exclude her coverage. Maybe she had used credit to bridge a gap of time to another means of income and the other means did not materialize. Maybe she always gave her time and energy away until there was none left for her. Maybe all of those things had happened to her in quick succession. I had a hairball in my stomach as I empathized with her. Would our circumstances ever force me to such a position? Would I be able to do something similar?

I was soon to find out.

The day came that the ends could not be held together and I was in confusion and desperation and my mind focused on her. What if I could do something like that and get enough together to just go on—I wouldn’t tell anyone and I wouldn’t make it a lifestyle but I had to do something. I enlarged my plan…we had two or three family favorite recipes that I had modified to make easier or tastier. I would print those recipes on colorful 3x5 cards and give them to anyone who would help me. With hope and determination in my heart, I went to a mall parking lot—alone—and suddenly my courage left me. The hairball in my stomach moved into my throat and I was nauseous. (Who would want a recipe card that smelled of vomit?) What if people ridiculed me? What if someone attacked me? And oh, mortification, what if someone I knew observed my complete humiliation? My carefully planned speech of entreaty left my head and tears poured down my face. (Now I understood her tears and why there was no sound behind her words.) People rejected my plea; they criticized me; they were rude beyond my expectations. I was cold and so alone. Was this really happening to ME?


Perhaps it is only my most vivid nightmare. And perhaps it will explain the stack of 3x5 cards in the drawer of my computer desk.

Help is a four-letter word when you must be on the receiving side of it. I cannot remember that week without milk and bread or what we substituted in our meals: I do remember her eyes and her blessing on my life.

Let us be grateful for what we have and truly grateful when we have enough and even enough to give. Truly, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Valentine love, GiGi

Posted by The Editor for GiGi

Friday, February 12, 2010

Weekend of Bliss

St. Valentine's Day is one of those days...if it's good, it's really good and if it's not, it's horrible. I, for one, do not like to get flowers or go out to dinner in celebration of the day. Flower prices are inflated and the restaurants are crowded. I suppose a girl should be grateful to get either one and I am in no way trying to be hurtful to those that don't even have an option. I like holidays, really, I do. Except I like them as special days, not commercialized checklists of what is required in order to have a perfect one. I want them simple, so I can be fully present and appreciate the beauty and love that surrounds me. So this weekend, wherever you are, I wish for you, one small moment of bliss. I invite you to come back Monday and share it in the comments section here.

I already have had mine:

Samantha was trying to fall asleep tonight after a long, busy, rainy day.
Tossing and turning she asked,
"Where is daddy?"
I answered, "Sleeping."

"Where is Bubba?"
"Sleeping, shhh."

"Where is Stump?"
"Sleeping, shhh."

"Where is the sun?"

"Where? In the van?"
"In the van?"

"No," she says, "in the clouds."
And with that precious, beautiful thought, she fell asleep.

Posted by The Editor.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Arm, Part II

Yes, I too remember the days of no seatbelts. One summer we went on vacation. We drove from California to somewhere really far away (Florida, maybe?) in our Ford Gran Torino. It was olive colored and for that trip The Norwegian made a seat for us. Yes, there was a seat in the back of the car, but not a good one for two little girls. (The Editor and I must have been 2 and 4? or somewhere close to that.) The seats were too deep for us to see out of the windows. So a seat was made out of a long, wide piece of plywood, I guess, but covered with green shag carpet. It sat on the arm rests/door handles of the car doors. This seat was a foot or so above the real seat which made it possible for us to see the country as we drove along—no TV/DVD players in the car, no video games to play. No, we played our driving games (points for seeing animals, different colored cars, etc.) and had our old-fashioned fun (coloring books, dolls and their clothes, etc.) which handily and conveniently fit underneath the make-shift booster. It was a great set up for two little girls, on vacation, out to see the world.

That booster did negate any type of seatbelt configuration there was in that car. And that was OK because there was no seatbelt/booster/car seat law in effect.

I, too, remember Gigi putting out her arm to hold us on the seat, when we were sitting in the front with her. I always thought that it was a good system. I was never scared that I might fly through the windshield because I knew her arm would stop me. It came up EVERY TIME SHE APPLIED THE BRAKES. I guess if you were sitting in the backseat they figured that if the car stopped fast and hard enough, the back of the front seats would stop you.

I can also remember driving around town with Grandpa (Gigi’s dad). He had a white Chevy Impala with a beautiful red interior. The front seat was a long bench. He used to let me stand up next to him while he drove, with one had on his shoulder, so I could see out of the front windshield. Every time we stopped or slowed, his arm went up too. Maybe that’s where Gigi learned it from.

Fast forward about 12 years. The Editor had her driver’s license and I was her co-pilot. We used to cruise around town, seatbelt-less, having the time of our lives. Those were, indeed, the good old days. We weren’t preoccupied with safety and potential danger back then. We just had fun. (***Gigi, just for the record, if you DID read that part that the Ed told you not to in her version of ‘The Arm’, I do not recall sitting on the open window of the car while we cruised through Knott’s Berry Farm. The Editor must be confusing me with one of her friends who was with her at the time. I swear.***)

Our kids will never know those days. They do know the motto, “Click it or ticket.” And they know that their seatbelts on their car seats/boosters and/or backseats (if they are under 12, because you can’t even sit in the front if you are younger than that) have to be firmly fastened before we start the car or we might have a brush with the local law enforcement officers.

Hubs, being former law enforcement himself, usually prefers to re-live the good old days. I have to remind him, especially if he’s in the passenger’s seat, that he needs to “Buckle up for safety.” And I have to gently remind him that he is setting an example for our kids. Begrudgingly he straps himself in.

Even so, every time we slow down or stop suddenly, my arm flies out across his chest, to keep him from hitting the dashboard, like a vestigial appendage of when times were simpler.

Yes, those were the days!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body

Note from The Editor to Busy Body: **GIGI, DISREGARD THIS NOTE. STOP READING NOW!** It WAS you on that ledge...circa when the muffler was making that horrible noise but we didn't care because it meant more people were looking at us when we cruised through...I do believe you might have been waving.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Arm

I was driving the kids home from school and the front seat was piled with jackets, scarves, gloves, papers, lunch pails, and the show-and-tell lollapalooza. Show-and-tell is Bubba's favorite part of school and he takes it very seriously. He often crafts special displays to lecture about...usually mechanical or robotic in nature. But, I digress. This post isn't about show-and-tell, nor is it about the large styrofoam box that was on top of the pile in the front passenger seat leaning against the dashboard making that irritating squeaky jiggle noise. "What's that? What's that noise?" all the kids start shouting from the back. "Just the box, I reply." And, I put my arm out across the front seat to hold it off the dashboard and thereby eliminate the squeaking. "See," I say, "The noise is all gone..." But the motion of my arm going out across the seat brought back a memory and that memory is the subject of this brief post.

I told my kids, "Look at my arm. See how it's across the front seat? When I was little, we didn't wear seatbelts and there were no carseats. Busy Body & I used to sit in the front seat next to Gigi as we drove around town or home from school. Whenever we would slow down or stop, Gigi would put her arm out like this to make sure we didn't slide forward and bump the dashboard. After the stop, she would put both hands back on the steering wheel until the next time her foot went to the brake and then that arm would come back across the seat. That was safety for us." And Bubba says, "That was a long time ago, right?" And it was. Those were the days of just jumping in the car and taking off, all the way through high school even. When I got my license, seat belts still weren't required and Busy Body and I used to cruise all around town, looking for fun, Busy Body hanging out her window and **GIGI, DO NOT READ THIS NEXT PART, SKIP TO THE END, THANK YOU** one time I even remember cruising through the main street at Knott's Berry Farm and Busy Body with the window rolled all the way down, sitting on the door, holding onto the edge of the roof. Me? I was being a safe driver, going slowly, keeping my eyes on the road and putting my arm out at all the stops.

Yeah, those were the days.

Posted by The Editor.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mother Scouts

It’s Girl Scout Cookie season. No matter where we go or what I do it seems that someone we know is selling Girl Scout cookies. And don’t get me wrong—I love Girl Scout cookies. But that’s the problem. I love Girl Scout cookies. They are tasty and little so it seems like you aren’t eating that many. But after a few short minutes with a little box of GSCs, that’s all that’s left—the box! And at $4 a pop, those are some expensive treats! My favorites are the Samoas which I guess are not called Samoas anymore—they are called Caramel Delights. Oh, my heart! I can make those disappear in 4 minutes flat. That’s a dollar a minute. Too bad the Girl Scouts don’t pay me to eat them. I’d be rich!

I do feel like I have a lot in common with the Girl Scouts except I am not in the Girl Scouts and I never was. (I am probably a tad bit too old.) I’m more in the universal “Mother Scouts” troop and I have badges that I have to earn.

First, there was the pregnancy badge. 9 months of fatigue, invasive doctor visits, and growing out of successive clothing sizes at an alarming rate. You earn that badge on Delivery Day. The badge is a wrinkled, stretched out stomach—stretch marks for the over-achievers.

The next one is the D-Day badge. This one is earned by going through the pains of labor. Some go the C-section route and their badge is an abdominal scar. Over-achievers have scars that get infected. Some go the alternate route: labor, back labor, epidural or no epidural, breathing, bearing down, pushing. The badges are broken blood vessels, excessive bleeding, and/or exhaustion.

Other badges aren’t as serious. You get one for the first time your baby vomits down your back and in your hair, one for the time they have an explosive diaper in public, one for the baby mouth marks on your shoulder that you didn’t realize were there and you walked around all day displaying.

Some are on-going—they upgrade to bigger and fancier for each time you do the required task: staying up all night to nurse a sick baby/child back to health, wiping a nose that is running like a faucet for the 11th day in a row, putting a band-aid on a boo boo.

As the kids get older, the badges can get trickier. Teaching your kids to drive—then watching them drive off the first day they get their license. You get one for having your heart broken when they have their heart broken. You get one for all the hours of worry when they go out with their friends and are late getting home. You get one for stressing through tests, papers, projects, SATs, applying for college, going away to college. The badge for these is usually a single gray hair—for each separate event. When you have a full head of them, now that’s a badge of honor.

Apparently you keep earning these badges as long as you are a mom. You even get them as a grandma. Last week Gigi was watching Joy and Marlo while I was at work. Joy was tired, a little under the weather, having a very bad day, but wasn’t afraid to verbalize it. I hadn’t been gone even 30 minutes when she called on my cell phone. She was crying, asking me to send Gigi home and get her a new baby sitter. No amount of reasoning with her could change her mind or placate her. (She was begging me to call someone, anyone to come watch her—she just did not want Gigi in her house anymore.) This went on ALL DAY LONG. I got the red-face badge (for being embarrassed that my child was being so insensitive to her grandmother). Gigi got her “I thought this phase of my life was over” badge. Hopefully Joy’s feelings about the situation will resolve themselves before next week. If not I might have to have a bake sale and try to raise some funds for “Mother Scout” cookies to send my child to full-time child care outside our home.

OK, I’m going to go polish off the Short Bread GSCs. (It’s my final badge of the day. You get it by finishing off anything the kids don’t like/want/are too full to finish. The actual badge is extra pounds.) Maybe tomorrow the little angels will help me out with my fitness badge. All I have to do is run around after them all day long, jump for joy, lift any weight off their shoulders, and laugh my bottom (spelled B-U-T-T) off.

Here’s to earning your Mother Scout badges today!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I love me a big piece of cake

Grandma. She was somethin’ else. She was crafty. She was funny, even though she didn’t mean to be. She lived close to us my whole life, so we spent a lot of time with her. I guess I don’t really remember if she always said this, but later in life she’d start a lot of conversations with, “Say, wouldn’t it be fun if we (fill in the blank).” And she was usually right—whatever she had thought of was fun…

She hosted countless slumber parties at her house. She would even stay up to make “midnight snacks.” She liked to shop. She liked to attend whatever we were involved in. You could always count on her to want to go out…shopping…to eat…to do whatever. She was a party girl—but I mean that in the most lady-like way. She always had her hair styled, she always wore dresses and stockings. (She literally never wore a pair of pants.) She always carried her ‘pocketbook’ and she had a trace of a southern accent. She was every inch a lady, but she was always ready for a party. I think I got my sweet tooth from her--she was always game for whipping up some tasty treat. I didn’t know the lady that Gigi describes as being stern and strict. She was my Grandma—and she was somethin’ else.

My Grandma never spanked me. I can’t even really remember a time when she got upset with me. What I remember most is her laugh and the complete delight on her face when she’d open the door to see us standing there for a visit.

One time Gigi left the Editor and me at Grandma’s for the day. I was craving something sweet and I knew if I asked she would make something. That particular day she made a cake. And she let me eat some. She let me eat a lot, actually. When Gigi came to pick me up Grandma told her, “That little thing (I was super skinny when I was little) ate a whole cake!” and Gigi’s question was, “But why did you let her?”

My birthday was last week and my MIL brought over a cake. Not knowing that she was going to bring a cake I also made one for myself. So with two cakes in the house what’s a girl to do? Well, for starters I offered a piece to every living soul who walked through our front door. I took some to the office to share. And then my only other option—in the spirit of not being wasteful—was to cut off a sliver every time I walked through the kitchen. And even though I tried to share as much as possible, I do feel like I practically ate the whole thing.

I’d love to have Grandma back—to share a piece of cake with her…to see the look of delight on her face when she saw me…to hear her laugh. She had Alzheimer’s and Gigi took care of her, bless her heart, before she passed away. Lots of family didn’t want to visit because they said it just wasn’t her anymore. Gigi didn’t have that option. She patiently and lovingly took care of Grandma better than anyone else could. And although I was busy I tried to visit as much as I could because it WAS Grandma, just most of the time she couldn’t remember us, couldn’t access her memories to recognize her life. One day I went to visit and when I walked in her face lit up and she got that look of delight she always got and said, “Well, if it isn’t BusyBody! Say, wouldn’t it be fun if we visited awhile?” Yeah, wouldn’t it?

I miss Grandma. She was somethin’ else.

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Cloak of Doom Is Lifting

The last two weeks have been challenging...we endured a round of viral fever/cough followed by strep throat all around. Being a pseudo-single mom for the time being, it has been tough. You can't even ask the neighbor girls to come and help when everyone is sick. Only a mother could love the fevered, cranky, grouchy bunch of kids that have been in residence here lately. Still, we've managed and if we escape the stomach virus that is now going around, next week should almost be back to normal and daddy will be HOME!

The recent days have not been completely without laughter, thanks to Netflix on the computer. Bubba, Stump, and Samantha Jeanpocket all enjoy watching AstroBoy (and there are 20+ episodes for their amusement).

My amusement and delight is in their coaxing Samantha to come and watch with them. She speaks pretty well for a 2 1/2 year old, but does shorten words to single syllables sometimes.

The boys, bless their hearts, imitate her dialect to make her feel like she's one of them. They say, "Samantha, want to come and watch A$$Boy?" and Samantha replies, "Yes, watch A$$Boy!"

And I just laugh--not at them, I delight in their innocence and just wish it could last forever.

Posted by The Editor.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Work with me here!

I got a client from our company’s referral service. Who cares, right? Well, I haven’t had a client of my own—ever. All of our clients belong to me AND Hubs. Since someone has to watch the kids while we are showing properties he usually takes the clients and I take care of the kids. This client, however, specifically wanted a female agent. So between me and Hubs, that would fall to me.

And so in a sort of “Freaky Friday” role reversal, Hubs stayed home to watch the kids and I went out to do the whole Realtor thing. This, of course, meant that I had to get ready and dressed like a realtor and not a mommy—jeans, tee shirt and Ugg boots were not going to cut it. Hubs, on the other hand, was jazzed about the Mr. Mom attire. BUT, being a little out of practice for watching the kids while I get ready, Hubs wasn’t being as attentive and watchful as he should have been. It took me twice as long to get ready as it should have.

I’m not gonna lie, I was a little stressed. There was a list of 28 properties that my client was interested in. We decided to focus on one city at a time, so that narrowed it down to 24. Of the remaining 24, 6 were not longer active. So I called on 18 properties to set up showing appointments. Of the 18 that I called, I was able to set up 9 appointments. Then I had to figure out the most logical order to map out our route. Then I printed out the agent information sheets, printed out buyer home viewing scorecards, and put everything into a folder for her. I was ready about 10 minutes early. (I was only done early simply because I did all of this from the office. If I had done this from home I would probably still be setting up appointments now!) My client arrived and we set out. It went relatively well. Out of the 9 properties we looked at, it took us 3 ½ hours, and she only really liked one of them. (This was not the stressful part—keep reading…) We’ll be going out again…maybe

I only say maybe because apparently watching the kids is not as easy as it looks. This was evident when I got home. Let’s start with the house. There were toys and clothes strewn about like a small interior tornado had hit our family room. No beds were made. Remnants of lunch (El Pollo Loco take out, because how can you possibly cook AND watch the kids at the same time?) were still on the table. And there were about 7 sippy cups in the kitchen sink. (???) I didn’t ask.

Joy’s hair (which is down to her waist) was still in the messy pony tail she was wearing when she went to bed last night. Her face was not visible—she looked like Cousin It. She was wearing denim capris with tennis shoes and no socks. The shirt she had on belongs to my 16 month old. Joy is 4. The shirt looked like a “Girls Gone Wild” crop top. I asked why she was wearing it. Hubs said that he asked her if it was hers and she answered, “I’ll wear it.” (Try checking the tag for a size?) I suggested that she change into something more comfortable, meaning something that actually fit, but she told me, “No, Mommy—I wore this all day. It’s good. I even wore it when we were outside in the front yard.” (Oh, yes, that is good…let all the neighbors see that we can’t properly groom or clothe our children.)

Marlo was marginally better. She had on a dress--no matching bloomers (that I am pretty sure were on the same hanger as the dress) but at least she had on a diaper. Half of what she ate was still on her face. The top portion of her face was covered by her hair. Her socks didn’t match, but at least she had some on!

When I got home, Hubs turned the reins over to me. In about 2 minutes flat he was snoring, loudly, on the couch. During that time I cleaned the girls up, combed their hair, put weather-appropriate, matching, correctly-sized clothes on them, and took them for a walk with the dog. When we got home, Hubs had not moved.

After dinner, baths, and bed for the girls Hubs asked me, “Does Marlo not like Sprite?” (OK, well, let’s forget the fact that she’s 16 months old, has never had any kind of soda…ummm—NO!) In the calmest voice I could muster I said, “No, dear, we don’t give the baby soda.” And he said, “Yeah, I kinda figured that when she took a swig of my drink and spit it out all over the floor.” (That explains the big sticky spot in the kitchen.) He then told me, “Wow! It’s fun spending time with the girls, but they can really wear you out.”

Bless his heart—at least he tried. I am hoping that when he has recuperated he will still retain some of the lessons of the day…the most important one being: Just because you stay at home with the kids does not mean that you don’t put in a full day’s work.

Welcome to my world, Hubs! Take your coat off, stay awhile…

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Color Purple

At sixteen, they were sure they were meant to be together. It took them five years to realize their goal, but they married at twenty-one. She wore a blue dress with lace collar and cuffs that she made for herself on the family treadle sewing machine: He wore the best he had. They went into town and stood before the minister of the local church and vowed their vows. They went back to her Mom and Dad’s farm and her Mom had prepared a home-cooked meal and baked a cake—coconut. It was always her favorite. He helped his new father-in-law with the evening chores and, sometime, managed to pick a bouquet of wild flowers for the table. Later that evening, they walked back to their place--a house that was too old to repair properly with the means they had. The spaces between the boards of the siding and the holes in the roof occasionally afforded a view of the stars. He was not dashingly handsome nor was she ravishingly beautiful, but they knew love.

They shared a life together that encompassed most of life’s experiences: want and abundance; good times and bad; sickness and health. Fifty-one years later, he left her. She didn’t complain. She didn’t cry. She didn’t question why God had let this happen to her. Maybe I was the only one who noticed that the index finger and thumb of her right hand gripped the band of gold on her left hand as she sat quietly, in a blue dress, at the edge of his grave.

She had learned to sew as a young girl and made all of her clothes until her later years when her eyesight and manual coordination didn’t permit her to do so, and she always had a blue dress to wear to important functions or just to please him. His favorite color was red and she seemed to approve his choices. Almost every item in a house can be found in red, and he found them. Red wallpaper in the dining room, ok. Red furniture in the den, ok. Red, red, red. The only car they ever bought brand-new sported a white exterior and, yeah, a red interior. Maybe she did get tired of the color, just not of him. She had another twelve years without him and she filled them with all the things she couldn’t do with him or for him. She didn’t want to be a burden.

Eight years after he was gone, she turned eighty. I asked her if she would like a party and she got this little grin on her face and said she’d never had a party. I searched my memory and finally concluded that she was right. Through the years, we celebrated their anniversary and, also, her birthday in almost the same way each time—with a home-cooked meal and a coconut cake. Since we all enjoyed it so much (she did all the preparing), we didn’t think to change. After we three offspring married and had families of our own, we would have them and then, just her, to our homes for the same format. But a party, no. And so we started planning. At some point I asked her what her favorite color was and she said, “I don’t think I have one.” “Oh, c’mon, Mom, everyone has a favorite color.” “Well, your Dad’s was red and I always liked it too.” “So you want the color of your party to be red?” “Well, now that I think about it, I guess I do like purple.” “Well, ok, then, purple it shall be.”

It was fantastically fun to plan a party for someone who has never had one-- but who was more childlike than many children ever are. We invited the family and her very closest friends and I hoped I was up to the task of a party of this size on such short notice. We ordered a beautiful cake (that she didn’t have to bake) and had it sprayed with a lavender tint. We bought things for the house like towels and toss pillows and throw rugs and picture frames in all the shades of purple. We shopped for a new outfit for her that turned out to be a purple dress and a lilac sweater. She was pleased. And even more pleased that she had thought of a color that so delighted her.

Then, my husband and I had to take a long weekend trip all the way across the country to attend a family celebration for one of his family. It was a very emotional trip because he had not seen many of his family members for years. Memories and almost forgotten feelings abounded. On the plane trip home, I remember thinking, well, I am very tired, but at least most of the things are taken care of for Mom’s party next week.

The answer machine light was flashing when we got home and I thought it was broken from the number of calls it was registering. As I started listening, it became apparent that people were coming to the party that I didn’t know. Mom had used my absence to invite every group at her church in which she participated or ever had participated, and all the senior citizen groups at the community center and everyone in her neighborhood and at the grocery store and that did her hair and that delivered her mail and that read her utility meters and that mowed her lawn and anyone else that she happened to notice. They were all coming. I went over to her house. “Mom, do you know that you are going to have 2 plus people for every year of your life?” “Well, honey, won’t that be something?”

And something it was. In my memory’s eye and in the pictures of that day, everything is in a haze of purple. What color is love? In all my growing up years, it was blue and red. Is it just a coincidence that together…they make purple?

Posted by The Editor for Gigi.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

One year on my birthday, Hubs had not said a word about it being my birthday. I didn’t mention it, either, because I thought maybe he had a surprise planned. We worked together at the police department. We got up, got ready, went in in the morning, had lunch together, drove home together. Not a word. I think I made soup and cornbread muffins for dinner. Still, not a word. We watched TV while we ate dinner. There was a commercial about someone having a birthday. Even that was not enough to jog his memory. We went to bed early because he was tired.

The next day he had to work but I did not. I decided that since my birthday was forgotten the day before that I would indulge myself by staying in bed a little later than usual. That was cut short, however, by the phone ringing. It was Hubs. He had a list of errands that he needed me to run. After giving me numerous chores to do, I snottily asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Clueless, he said “No.” Then I asked, “Is there anything else you want to say to me?” And, of course, he started to get a little irritated with my attitude, so he said, “Like what?” in a rather snotty tone of his own. When I said, “Oh, I don’t know, like ‘Happy Birthday’ maybe?” he said, “I didn’t forget! I was going to do something—“ and I said, “Really? When? Because my birthday was yesterday!” (Crickets chirping…pins dropping…)

We laugh about it now, but ever since then he has been very careful to remember my birthday, on my actual birthday. I just had another one—the darn things seem to be a yearly occurrence!

(After a very long day of laundry, cleaning, kids, and making my own cake…) Hubs had arranged for his mom to come over to watch the girls, made dinner reservations, and even got me a gift.

I am the one who just turned one year older, but I think Hubs might be starting to grow up.

MIL brought me a cake. (I had made my own, of course, but if I hadn’t she wouldn’t have brought one.) Dinner was at CafĂ© Sevilla—anyone living in So.Cal or visiting HAS TO GO! It is fabulous!

And when I got home, Joy had fallen asleep on the couch with Grandma. I turned down the covers on her bed and Hubs carried her up to her room. Just as he was about to place her in her bed she sleepily opened her eyes. She smiled, clapped her hands twice, and said, “Oh, Mom! I didn’t know you were going to be home so soon!” Then she kissed me good-night and went to sleep. Now that’s a good birthday!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The British Invasion

When Joy was about 2 ½ she was looking at her naked little self in the mirror and she pointed to her chest and said, “Mommy what are these?” She caught me completely off guard. I hadn’t prepared myself for how I was going to answer these “human anatomy” questions. So, in that split second, I had to make a decision. And I decided that I was going to give her the correct word for “them” and I told her, “They are called breasts.” And in her sweet, little 2 ½ year old voice she said, “Mommy, I have ‘brits’ just like you.” I almost (stupidly) corrected her, but then I decided that her mispronunciation could possibly save me some embarrassment in the future, and so I let ‘brits’ stand.

Fast forward to a few months later when Marlo was born and I brought her home from the hospital: I sat down on the couch and began nursing her. Joy looked over at me, totally alarmed, and said, “Why are you letting that baby bite your brits?” (That baby? --like Marlo wasn’t our new baby, the one we had been waiting for for 9 months!) I had to explain nursing to Joy, who was a little indignant, but totally interested. And so the fascination with brits began.

Suddenly, all of her play incorporated brits. We would be sitting there, Joy playing with her dolls, and out of the blue she’d pull her shirt up, put her baby to her chest, and say, “Bite it, baby!” Or I would look over and the doll would be under her shirt, she’d be tapping her foot impatiently, looking up to the sky, and then she’d tell me, one mother to another, “I have to feed my babies my brits, all the time!” This went on for weeks. (Luckily for her, she didn’t have any problems with the babies latching on or with her milk production—if she had she would have been in BIG trouble. She has a lot of babies!)

Finally it dawned on her one day—why was Marlo the only one who got to eat from my brits? So she started asking, “Mommy, can I try your brits?” And I have read the books and the websites and I know that the experts say you can let your toddler try nursing if they ask. I, however, am not one of those moms who is comfortable with that so I explained to her that when she was a baby she “ate my brits” too (for 19 months, in fact!). And that apparently appeased her.

Then Joy’s curiosity branched out…and the questions started up again. “Does that baby (Marlo again) eat Daddy’s brits, too?” “Do brits have different flavors?” “How come she only eats your brits?” “Do your brits ever run out of milk?”

One day we went in to the office. Marlo was getting fussy and a woman remarked that maybe she was hungry. Joy was sitting at Hubs’ desk. She stood up on the chair, put her palms on the desk, and said in her loudest, clearest voice, “Yeah, she’s hungry—that baby eats Mom’s brits!” (So much for not being embarrassed by Joy’s obsession with breasts!)

Marlo is now 16 months old. She only nurses once a day—the last feeding of the day, right before bed. I think it’s more of a security/comfort thing for her than anything else. One of these days she’ll just quietly let go and move on to nursing-free toddler-hood. And though I’ll be ready for it, it will be an end of an era…no more biting of the brits, no more babies in the house.

We move on, we grow, we change, we evolve. Joy will learn that brits are breasts. Marlo will go to sleep without nursing. My body will be my own again. And (sadly) the ‘brit-ish invasion will be a thing of the past…

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.