Friday, June 29, 2007


There's kitschy ugly, cool ugly, weird ugly, and then there's just plain UGLY.
I had my niece and nephew overnight while their parents took advantage of a business trip opportunity to go to Traverse City. I adore these children and always enjoy the chance to spend more time with them. My kids just love it when their cousins are here and it turns our regular life into one big party. We had all kinds of fun doing the things we do at this time of year, and I knew it was a successful visit when Cale and Ramona realized it was getting close to the time for their parents to come and pick them up and they kept begging me to call their cell phone and tell them to go on home so they could stay another night. But they came anyways and my eyes lit up when I saw Mary Beth get out of the car with a shopping bag. Oooh goody a thank you gift from TC! What could it be? Well, I guess my facial expression gave away how I felt about this, err... unique object when I pulled it from the bag. Mary Beth explained how she was in a store and saw it on the clearance rack for HALF OFF and thought it could go good with the Tiki bar that I am so excited about. I know very well how crazed she gets when in the throes of a good shopping spree, so I understand how the purchase happened. But there I was looking at it and there she was feeling all thankful for me watching the kids, and she felt bad and then ran out to the car and got all the goodies she bought for herself and started offering them to me, trying to make it right. So I also got a can a cherry jalapeno salsa and a bag of chocolate covered cherries! yum! I felt more than compensated but as they pulled away she kept shouting "thank you!" out of the car window over and over.
I am fine with how it worked out except I don't know what to do with the thing. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Too good to pass up

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was here, talking about her decision to leave her job to be able to spend more time taking care of her kids. Who better to talk to than me about that? Empathy! Support! Validation! When she drove away I felt so good about both her and my decisions. Then I walked over to my computer to check my email and there was one from someone at GM who I'd talked to about a job opportunity just before I left. Wanting to know when I'd be available and discussing the steps to take to see if it would work out. Dang!

I don't feel as if I'm very good at making major life-changing decisions. I am always very curious about how other people come about making them. A neighbor family that I like a lot just announced that they will be moving to Germany for a job transfer. After I get over my initial reaction to anything like this: No! Don't leave! Stay here with me! I had many questions. "It was too good an opportunity to pass up" was the justification. Hmm. Turns out there had previously been a position in Asia, that they did pass up. A bad opportunity? I think that what it really means when someone says that is: This is what I want. There are trade-offs, but I think they will balance out for the better. I get to make a choice about this right now, and don't know if something like this will come up in the future. I think if you can say those things convincingly to yourself, then you know what to do.

So Larry's cell phone broke yesterday, and he came home from the Verizon store announcing that since his contract was up we could get three new cell phones for free. Free? Since nothing is free, I went to the store myself to see what the real deal was. And I got talked to by the cell-phone guy about buy 1 get two free but there are rebates and accesssories, and start-up charges...and I could feel my head spinnning around like a blender. Could I have anything all written down? Well, no, but the thing he stressed is that this deal is only good for this month. What about next month? Well, there will be a deal of some sort but no one knows what it will be. This one is too good to pass up. Aha!

I am going to apply for that job, I'll let you know what happens. Right now I don't know enough about it to decide whether it could be too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Monday, June 25, 2007


It's great to be together all the time, but today it seemed necessary to go create a list of things that are not allowed, and go over it with Jeffrey. I thought of it as prevention, Jeffrey considered it a challenge. So the list keeps getting longer. Here it is:

  • NO hitting, punching, kicking, or poking your brother.

  • No pretending or acting out doing any of the above things to your brother.

  • No throwing ANYTHING at your brother.

  • No spitting at your brother.

  • No pulling his hair.

  • No calling your brother names.

  • No making faces, sticking out your tongue or mouthing bad names at your brother.

  • No repeating annoying sounds or words loudly near your brother.

  • No rubbing balloons or styrofoam together in earshot of your brother.

  • No touching the volume control on his Ipod.

  • No pushing the shopping cart so that it rolls and smashes into your brother.

  • No cutting in front of your brother on your bike and then slowing down.

  • No pointing the hose, or any other water-containing or shooting object at your brother unless he has his bathing suit on.

  • No putting the cat on your brother while he's playing piano.

  • No talking about disgusting things while your brother is eating to spoil his appetite.

  • No hiding anything that belongs to your brother.

  • No tattling on your brother.

I have the feeling that I am not done with this list. Neither is Jeff.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Earlier Sunsets

This week contained the day where the days start getting shorter. I forget what it's called, Summer Equinox? You know what I mean. It's my absolute favorite time of the year, but days to be already getting shorter just when the fun of summer is getting going always seems sort of not fair.

I keep thinking about that dinner that we brought over to our neighbor's house on Wednesday. The situation is that a month ago they were a family just like the rest of our rather homogeneous subdivision, and then the mother died in the night. She was 36 years old with two very young children, not even in school yet. I didn't know her but when the rest of the women in the sub heard what happened there was a desire to do something to help, and it was decided that we would take turns making meals for the family twice a week, similar to what is frequently done when someone has a newborn baby at home. So I signed up for a day, even though I've never done something like this before because as you know I am just now learning how to cook. Well I made spaghetti because that's easy and I have no clue how to make lasagna or a casserole. And one of the strawberry pies. They came out totally runny but I had the idea to put a squirt of whipped cream and a strawberry with the stem still on it to snaz it up a bit.
So I had the boys help me carry it over there and we walked along like some goofy food parade, Tim with a tupperware of the spag, Jeff with a foil-wrapped log of garlic bread held out in front of him, and me balancing the pie plate to keep the runny parts from spilling while I watched that snazzy whip cream melt into a pathetic puddle. When we got there he was of course gushing with appreciation, but I felt compelled to apologize for the appearance of the pie. I told him that we picked the strawberries just that morning. Then he looked at me and my boys and said "She loved to bake..." I quickly grabbed their hands and said, "We'd better let you eat that while it's warm!" and we skedaddled right on home.

I have no idea whether I helped this man in any way or simply added to his misery, but I do know that I have since hugged my children even harder and for the past few days remembered to cherish the moments I have with them, even if it's when I'm yelling about no playing with water balloons inside the house and now who's going to clean that up? Because life doesn't always let you know when the days are going to start getting shorter.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Strawberry Fields

Today we went strawberry picking. The kids just love to do this. They could do it all day. If it weren't for those darned child labor laws I would have a real money making idea here. They just picked and picked and were happy to do it. I roamed around in the strawberry patches having my "free samples" when nobody was looking, wondering to myself how much dirt and pesticides it is ok to eat since I couldn't wash them. They tasted like sunshine. Not all all like the rubbery ones you can get in the grocery store. In fact, they reminded me of artificial strawberry flavoring, which is probably modeled after the way fresh picked strawberries actually taste, instead of the shipped across the country ones we are used to. When I dragged them out of there we were the proud owners of over 16 pounds of the lovely red things. That is a lot of fruit to figure out what to do with before it spoils. We made two pies, one for our dessert and one to give a neighbor we were making dinner for today. I hulled enough to fill 3 freezer bags for future smoothies. And we did step 1 for making 5 jars of preserves, they are in the pot right now. The kitchen was a crazy mess but we had fun working on it all. And still there is a huge tray of them left, I'll deal with those tomorrow, maybe strawberry shortcakes, strawberry salads, and strawberry ice cream. Berry Good!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The First Summer Day

Today was the first full day off from school. It was jam packed. We went on an early morning long bike ride, took care of the gardens, looked for berries, had a picnic, went swimming at the beach, went fishing, stopped at the school, I did chores while they played their computers/playstation, went to Target, bought a new inflatable pool, had a barbecue dinner, emptied the old leaky pool and had bucket wars, and finally settled down to watch the Sponge Bob Squarepants movie as part of their big plan to stay up as late as they could. They were both in bed (voluntarily!) by 9:45 and asleep by 9:47.

My favorite things that they said today were:

Jeff: "I already know this this is going to be a great summer because you're going to
be here."

Tim: "Remember when we went on the bike ride...wait, that was today?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And the winner is...

Regarding the contest for the bread I had originally wondered that there would be some concern over how I would ensure fairness in my random selection, but no! Instead the comments included ballot box stuffing, competition, and influencing the outcome with guilt! My goodness you blog readers are an intense group! I have however maintained my original intention to do this fairly and randomly. So I printed out the comments and cut them up. I did toss out the ones from the unknown guy from Austrailia and Larry's (I told him no commenting!) To ensure total impartiality I had my sweet innocent children do the picking. And the winner is....Kendrea!!!! I swear that I did not rig this thing so that I could avoid going to the post office since she lives across the street and all I will have to do is stand on the porch and fling it at her house. Honest.

I might still make a few more loaves of bread and use that as an excuse to get together with some old friends, or maybe I'll even surprise you with some in the mail, who knows!

A few other thoughts on that topic:

Who knew there were so many closet green belts and bread machine owners out there? The things we learn about each other!

I still can't recall Lynn's bar name but when she said it at the wine tasting party last month I thought it was hilarious. Although after a few rounds of tasting everything was hilarious. Ashley Birmingham or something like that. I thought that maybe if the names got put out into the internet through my blog then some poor rejected men who have been googling them for all these years might finally find out the truth... Anyways I never seemed to have a need for a bar name, could have been due to a lack of men in bars wanting to talk to me...

Here is the bread recipe:

1 cup cold water

1 Tbs oil

1/4 cup of honey

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp of ground decorticated cardamom (still perfecting this amount)

3 cups Whole Wheat bread flour

1 Tbs Yeast

Dump in machine in order, press button for cycle 5, wait until finished and garnish with green ribbon.

Thank you all for reading and commenting on my blog, it's always great to hear from you!

Roll over

I had to take my car to the dealership for air-conditioning repairs. It is just outside of warranty and too soon for this kind of thing, (Greta) but at least I had the time to go there and sit and do my reading for book club. On the way back I stopped to look in a store, since I could. Didn't see anything to buy, so I headed home. For those who know the area, I was waiting to do the U-turn to go north on Baldwin at Brown Road. First I heard a big smashing sound. I saw crushed up cars in the middle of the intersection. I looked at my radio knob to turn it off (can't think with music on) and at my purse, wondering how long it would take to dig out my cell phone and turn it on to call for help. Then another noise made me look up and there was a green SUV rolling over right before my eyes. I watched it flip side-over-side a full 360 degrees and land right back on it's wheels, facing me. There was junk all over the road and an incredible hissing noise coming from the truck. Would it blow up? I looked for the driver and there he was, upright in position. He proceeded to drive the smashed up hissing thing around and into the bank driveway on the other side of the road. People were shouting asking if he was alright, and a lady on a motorcycle was holding back the traffic on Brown. Some other cars pulled into the driveway after the green truck, and then everything was frozen. It was my turn to do something. So I made the U-turn and went over where the green truck was. I saw people in cars with their phones, calling for help. Someone already had the man out of the green truck, he was holding up his hand, it was bleeding but not too bad. I asked if there was anything I could do to help. He just said "I need an ambulance." Then a lady came out of a white minivan that had pulled in just before me. She was babbling fast about cars coming out of nowhere, and she was shaking. I told her to calm down and I gave her a hug, which seemed to help. I went and made sure the green truck wasn't running and was very tempted to inspect every aspect of it. Over the years in my job I had researched rollover kinematics, watched videos of simulations, tested sheet metal structure for stiffness in crashes, and even done a study on seatbelts in side-over-side rollover events. And here I just had a front row seat for a live one. But I couldn't hit "replay," or do a frame-by-frame slow motion. The police then came roaring up, checked on the man and then looked at me. "Did you witness this?" "Yes!" I said. "What did you see?" "Umm, there was a crash, then this truck was rolling..." "was the light green?" No, the truck was green and that's about as useful as I could be for him. He took my licence info and phone number and told me I could go.
So I drove home feeling shaken and not very useful or observant. But I did hug the minivan lady...was that enough?

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Magic of Generosity and the Disembodied Head

Friday was yet another field trip for the 3rd grade, this time back to the old-time village when it's fully open for touring. I had volunteered to drive of course, and Jeffrey told me that we would be taking his friend Aaron, since he gets to pick when his mom drives. I like Aaron, he's a nice boy that we know from scouting and baseball, should be a good time. When we get to the school we are also given Quinn for our car. I guess they distribute the kids that weren't picked into the extra spaces. That's ok, I've taken Quinn on other field trips, he's alright.

When it's time to leave I remind the boys to grab their sack lunches. The teacher had sent home a memo instructing the parents to pack a picnic lunch and to bring extra money for rides and the gift shop. Quinn holds up an envelope, telling me that his mom gave him money to buy a lunch instead. I felt a little put out since this would mean that we'd have to seek out a place to buy food instead of picnic-ing with the others, but whatever, let's go.

When we get there we go on a train ride and then I see the cafe on "main street" so we go in there to get Quinn's food. He gives the envelope marked "money for Quinn's midday munchie" and I find it contains two dollars. The lowest priced item on the menu board is a hot-dog for $2.25 so I add a dollar of my own and send Quinn into the line. He buys the hotdog, pockets the change and joins us to eat. After that we went around the village as I tried to get the boys to focus on the educational buildings and displays while Quinn keeps bringing up the rides area in the back. I was trying to avoid that because it costs extra. Somehow, we end up there in front of sign that says "Rides $1.25 each or 4 for $4.00." I say: "Quinn doesn't have enough for this let's go see the blacksmith" but Aaron says: "I've got ten bucks! I'll buy the tickets!" So Aaron and I each get a 4-pack. They all ride the carousel and then the venetian swings you do in pairs so Aaron and Quinn get on one and then I get Jeff to find another kid to treat to a swing ride so they all get a turn. After that they are eyeing the ferris wheel but there's only 1 ticket left and it's starting to rain so I drag them out of there and back towards main street to catch the magic show. I run into mom friend Sian and try to offer her that leftover ticket. "No we're avoiding that area since it costs extra" she says. grr. While I was distracted with that the boys had darted into the candy shop, and are now in line with giant jawbreakers in their hands that cost $1.50 each. I ask Quinn how he is going to pay for that and he says Aaron gave him the money.

Next we go into the theater for the magic show and Aaron looks down and finds a ride ticket on the floor. Cool! The show goes on with Baffling Bill the magician picking volunteers from the audience. For the grand finale trick he looks out and picks Aaron, who happens to be standing on his chair with his hand thrust high into the air Horseshack style, shouting ooh oooh pick me! The trick involves Aaron standing behind an X-ray machine and then a cloud of smoke comes and his head is changed into a skull that B-Bill takes out and shows the audience. Once Aaron's body parts are reattached Baffling Bill gives him a gift of a magic mouse and announces that it is also available in the gift shop for $3.00.

We had just enough time time left to take a ride on the ferris wheel, and I had to think about the saying that when you give you get even more back in return and that Aaron sure is a nice kid.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Field Day

I had learned to dread this time of year, the last few weeks of school. There is an event almost every day for 2 weeks, field trips, parties, 1/2 days, and field day. The last couple of years I attempted to "get through" the summer without full time child-care by alternating between camps, relatives and friends, and as many vacation days as possible. But then I wouldn't want to use any up on all this end-of-the year not learning revelry. So this time I'm doing it all.

Today was field day at the upper elementary school. A blistering 89 degrees, no clouds, and winds gusting up to 35 mph. I had signed up to help, and reported to the young new gym teacher to receive my assignment. He put me on "Frisbee toss" and showed me where he had painted the ground with a starting line, and measured out and painted lines at 25, 30 and 35 feet. And he had dragged out 2 gym mats, and told me to stand them up for the frisbees to go over, and explained how the 3rd graders would have to get to the 25 line, 4th graders 30 and 5th graders 35 in order to "master" the challenge and get a mark on the cards they carried around. Then he went away.

Well I tried to get those mats to stand up, but they kept blowing over. And let me tell you all the fresh air in Michigan is not enough to get the stink of decades of sweaty kid feet off of those things. P.U! Suddenly, a woman came bustling up and introduced herself as Judy. She announced that she has run the frisbee toss for the past two years. And then she informed me how it was to be done. Except that her way was in direct conflict with the lines that had been painted on the grass, and then there were those blasted mats. Much discussion, especially considering that I didn't really care all that much how it was done, and I was already starting to sunburn and there were 2 1/2 hours to go. We finally settled on a system of laying the mats down on the grass and if a frisbee landed on the correct one, then it was "mastered" at each grade level. Judy went on the establish rules for if the frisbee bounced or touched the sides of those stinky mats. I picked up the clipboard and took the job of recording the results on the kid's cards, and Judy could deal with explaining her complex system of rules to 300 spastic overheated children as they darted up to our station.

So the first kids arrived just as the principal of the school settled down on a bench to watch the action. A frisbee went flying high into the air, caught a blast of air, and flew directly into the principal's head. (I swear I am not making this up!) The frisbees were zooming willy-nilly all over the place, none coming anywhere near the measured lines or the putrid mats. Judy was getting hoarse from shouting her directions out into the blowing air. I developed a system of making the kids scramble around fetching their wayward frisbees before I would mark their cards. (I certainly wasn't going to get them) Judy got all excited when some kid finally rolled a frisbee that smacked into the side of a mat. I made a big deal of congratulating that one, although I had been marking almost every card with "skill mastered" all along anyways. Judy will never know.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Design for Six Sigma Crispy Crust

Just before I left work I was involved in a project that I really liked. It involved doing a lot of thoughtful preparation and then using a statistical tool to set up and analyze a series of experiments. But the best thing of all was that after taking the training and then completing your first project you were awarded a "green belt" certification. A rare dash of obscurity, borrowing martial arts promotions for an engineering skill. But since I left before completing the project, I didn't get that green belt.

Flash forward to now and I have dragged out our bread machine, an impulse purchase from the late 90's when these were all the rage. We were out of bread and I didn't feel like going to the store, and thought I would try this thing out. Well I pull out the instruction manual (I always read instruction manuals, I just do) and lo and behold I think that they have done a DFSS project to develop the bread recipe. I just know it. Look:

The manual even makes references such as "When developing these bread machine recipes, hundreds of loaves of bread were baked..." and "Usually there are several ways to improve baking results. We recommend you make adjustments one at a time and keep track to know what changes were made to create your perfect loaf."

I can exactly envision what the House of Quality and P-Diagram would look like. (Please excuse the jargon, but I got excited)

Then, in a perfect example of all things coming together, I get a comment on my Cardamom for Life posting from Danielle (who just might be part Scandinavian) suggesting that I use cardamom in making bread. So I ran a few experiments from the matrix and have come up with a honey-wheat-cardamom bread that I think is quite good.

Mmm! Fresh homemade bread. You know you want some. So now I have another one of my great ideas. Since you want bread and I want to know who is reading my blog, I am going to have a CONTEST. I was going to have it be prediction of the signal to response curve, but since I don't want to bake that many loaves of bread, I'll simplify. I will mail (or possibly deliver) a delicious fresh-out-of-the-machine loaf of Cardamom Honey Wheat bread to a lucky winner randomly chosen from whoever leaves a comment on this posting. It could be you! Your comment can say anything, such as breadmaking tips, your opinion of the blog, or whether you think I should go back to work. If you want to be anonymous (such as if you are at work) just make up a fake name (Lynn and Alisa you could resurrect your old "bar" names) and email me with your true identity in case you win.

A couple technical notes on leaving a comment: if you are not already signed in to blogger, make sure you click on the button next to anonymous before you hit the "publish" bar. Otherwise it erases what you wrote. Also, if there are posts newer than this one, you can still put a comment here. I'll pick the winner in about a week.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Little Miracles Every Day

Yesterday was one of those evenings where timing and coordination are crucial: Jeffrey had a 5:30 baseball game and Tim had a band concert at 7:00. We figured it all out but I hereby salute any family that has more children than parents when it comes to these kinds of things. Anyways, I did get to watch Jeff's game for a bit, I am so very proud of the little slugger, he has come a long way in learning this game, and I have learned a lot too. Like I hardly ever yell out "watch out!" when a pop-up ball heads his way, and I can keep myself from using the terms honey and sweetie pie or commenting loudly about how darn cute they all look in those uniforms. Now I just holler "yay!" whenever someone throws, hits, or catches something. I tend to do this for the kids on both teams, which seems to confuse the other people in the bleachers.
So this week Jeff was selected to represent his team at the All Star Game. Probably because due to a change in the age cutoff he is one of the older kids in his division but I'm so happy that he gets a turn to shine since his first year in "coach pitch" he ended up the youngest, smallest member of a team with a super-intense winning-is-everything coach. There was crying at every game. Here's a picture of Jeff at bat.

(interesting side note: remember Matt from the schoolhouse field trip? Well here he is again, it appears that he didn't have time to go home and change, so he's wearing business clothes and a baseball cap)

Then it was on to the 6th grade band concert. This is just their second concert ever, and they too have come a long way. I just felt struck with a sense of total awe looking at these goofy gangly children all managing to play the right notes at the right times, and actual music coming out of it.

I know that these things aren't huge in the grand scheme of existence on this planet, but in the context of my teeny tiny life, they seem enourmous. Maybe because sometimes it just gets too hard to think about the big important things happening in the world, such as War, our Economy, and Lindsay Lohan.

Every day a child somewhere hoists up a bat or an instrument, and it's like a miracle, a chance to think about how life is in little ways wonderful and huge.