Monday, April 30, 2007

Sick Day

Jeffrey started to come down with a cold yesterday, and today he was coughing when when he woke up. So I decided to keep him home from school. I so called the school and left a message that he wouldn't be coming in.

The astonishing thing about the above paragraph is how simple it is. ONE phone call. Previously, there would be many phone calls involved in making the arrangements for a sick child. There was the two schools, and their after-school arrangements, and transportation, and before that the calls between Larry and I to determine whether or not he really could make it through a day of class, weighed against possible contagiousness and the opinions of the teachers and other parents for sending an ill-looking child in. And the argument about who was busier at work that day, and whoever did stay home would have to spend a fair amount of time cancelling and rearranging meetings and appointments. Or else we'd get a relative involved but that meant exposing someone else to the possible germs, and their busy schedules. And then trying to tellecommute while entertaining a bored sicky who sometimes felt much better by the afternoon. Plus the dread of what if he's even worse the next day and having to do it all again? At the time we felt fortunate to at least have flexible jobs and nearby relatives, but man did I pump them up with vitamins and pray for good health anyways.

So far today has been kind of nice. It's hard to explain but sometimes I like being with just one of my boys at a time, and really paying attention. We spent about an hour cuddling and reading our birdwatching book, and talking about the ones we've seen and which we'd like to watch for, while listening to the symphony of chirping coming through the window. Then we made soup for lunch, and put out the birdhouses we painted this weekend, and right now he's taking a nap (ok resting in bed reading comic books.) I really hope he feels well enough to go to school tomorrow, but if he doesn't, well, that'll be ok too.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

People Judging People

The other day I stopped into a bike shop and told the supercool bike shop guy who greeted me that I am looking for a hybrid bike. He quickly directed me towards a Schwinn that he said would be just right for me. "And it comes with the fenders and a bell, so you won't have to purchase them separately!" It did have the suspension features I was looking for, and was in the price range I had in mind...but it came off as so...dorky! I told him I had to think about it. And I did. I thought about him seeing an over-forty out of shape woman who needs a haircut and quickly deciding what bike to sell her. I had been judged! My irrational imagined reaction was to somehow come up with $3,000 for a Real Serious Bike that would prove to the world what an accomplished and committed rider I am, who was he to say that I needed fenders and a comfort seat?

And then today a good friend from work called. She was in the area and wanted to come over to visit. Yes! I'd love to have some company and catch up on what's going on over there. But I had about 1/2 hour to get ready. I scrambled around putting things away, shoving papers into piles, no time to vacuum! And then there was my own appearance to deal with. Let's just say that my "around the house" look is a wide departure from my "going out" or work look. No time to fuss with that either. Of course we had a very nice visit, but again I had to reflect on why I got so freaked out in getting ready. Maybe because she is one of the people who seem to "do it all" successfully and I wanted to at least measure up, a little. Or else the fear that she would be reporting back on my condition to those at GM in a hushed whisper: "I think she's been cutting her own hair!"

It's interesting how, when suddenly confronted with a mental view of myself through someone else's eyes, I get a little defensive about what I think they might see. Shouldn't we not be judged about our appearance, or possessions, or housekeeping priorities? Well, maybe it serves to provide a little window into my own insecurities. And heck, I should know about judging people, I was after all once a sorority rush chairman. And the true reality is, it was just a guy trying to sell some extra bikes he had on the floor, and a friend coming over for a visit. The rest was in my head.

So that's all for now, I have to go and make a haircut appointment.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Show and Tell

Now that I'm not going to work every day I can assist my family and help my children with their education. Such as today, transporting our cat to the elementary school.
Mrs. William's 3rd grade class has a behavior incentive system where if the children accumulate enough points (for not being bad) they get to pick from a list of rewards which includes "bring your pet to school" which is what Jeffrey chose to do. So our little cat got to have a whole new experience. She did well and let them all pet her fur. Jeffrey did well too, he received positive attention and got to go in front of the class and tell about his pet and answer questions. Maybe these teachers do know a thing or two about motivation. If the turnaround plan stalls out maybe GM should try this approach as a replacement for Enhanced Variable Pay. Hey! Someone put in a suggestion!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Writer's Workshop

"Learning is a lifelong process" is the kind of blah blah you usually find on pamphlets for continuing education but that I conceptually agree with. Which is why around this time last year I was downtown at the SAE Conference considering the Effects of Seatbelt Placement on Occupant Injury in Rollover Events, and this weekend I decided to attend a creative writing workshop at the nearby township's library. I have always wondered if writing might be something that I'd like to do, I might as well take this opportunity to explore that. I wore a black T-shirt and my glasses, creating an effect that I thought would go with the intellectual, creative types that I associate with writing. The ladies from the Friends of the Library greeted me at the door, and I found a seat at a table and surveyed the crowd. They looked mostly like friends of the ladies from Friends of the Library. The instructor was more of the sandals-frizzyhair-flowered skirt variety but that's ok I can do that look too. Then a woman from my neighborhood, Karen, came in. I said "Oh I didn't know you were taking this!" And she said "oh, no they are" indicating her 12 year old home-schooled daughter and her friend. I am slightly suspicious of Karen for signing her kids up for any available inexpensive activity that counts as school. "But you have fun!" So Mikayla and Emily joined me at my table. The class covered the subjects of poetry, and avoiding plagiarism, and writers block. All of which have not yet occurred to someone who considers a broken laundry machine knob acceptable writing material. We did an exercise where I got to write about my feelings for a petosky rock (it was like a window into my heart) Emily wrote about how a shell reminded her of a dragon's breath, and Mikayla drew a picture of a bunny. I think that me writing that great American novel is still a ways away, because writing a blog to be read by the dozen people who are really just checking in to find out if I've lost my mind yet is probably very different than writing to please an editor or the paying public. But I'm learning, and it's a lifelong process you know.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fixing Things

On Monday when it was so windy the little rain gauge that I had put on our deck flew down and broke. It has this little bird on it and he came off. So I got some super glue and put it back together. You can't even tell it's broken. Unless it falls again, but I'll be more careful about that. But the power of that tiny tube of super glue! It made me feel like supergluewoman. So then I went around the house looking for other broken things that I had always meant to fix but just shoved somewhere because I didn't have the time to deal with it. The knob thing on our washing machine also broke recently, but I don't know if the glue will fix it, because you have to pull on it. I may try to order a replacement on the internet, and meanwhile I have come up with a way to pry the thing out with a screwdriver so I can keep the laundry going. I feel so powerful!

And here is the Morley Washing Machine, also in need of a superhero:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cardamom for Life

So I've been working on my Learn to Cook and also grocery shopping objectives. Last week when I was at the store I remembered that when I was making fajitas that we were out of a spice that was called for. Starts with a "C." So Jeffrey, who was with me, helped to select a bottle of Ground Cardamom. When we got home Larry thought that the bill seemed high for what I got. Then he saw it. "Why did you buy Cardamom?" then, "It cost eleven dollars!" and... we already have Cardamom in the spice cupboard. Almost the same, except that the label says "Ground Decorticated." And it still has the price on it. $7.49 It's 90% full. So this week I took the unopened bottle and the receipt back to the store. The lady at the service desk said "Sorry you can't return food items, health reasons." So now I own a LOT of Ground Cardamom. I told Timmy that someday he will get some when he gets married and sets up a home of his own. I looked up cardamom in Wickipedia. I learned this: it is used as a food plant by the larva of the moth Endoclita hosei. And that it can be used as a flavoring in Turkish Coffee and Scandinavian baking. Does anyone out there have a recipe that uses a LOT of Ground Cardamom?


At the risk of seeming like some screwball reverse Ellie Mae Clampett, I want to go on more about the parade of critters we've had through our backyard the last few days. I've already talked about the squirrel who has now practially become a pet, and we've also had the usual assortment of rabbits and chipmunks darting through the yard, but then on Saturday a medium sized racoon lumbered though, which is a creature that's not too uncommon but has never made a daylight appearance in our yard. Two days in a row there has been a herd of 4 deer making their way across the lawns at dusk, and on Sunday when the weather was so bad a small black cat started making it's way towards our house. The more imaginative family members have speculated that it was a baby panther but I'll leave that up for discussion. And then last night I look out and see this guy looking back:And this morning I went out to take a picture of the geese I wrote about before standing on "a mound" which we have now determined to be the habitat of a muskrat. We've only seen it a couple of times but it swims around really cute.

Now with all this animal action at home we were also captivated by a story in the news last week about a coyote running around the streets of downtown Detriot. Well he was captured and sent out to the wilds of... guess where! Here!

So maybe this infusion of creatures is due to importation from the "city." That's ok I guess.

Anyways, today I might try to get out on either my bike or the Kayak, although it's still awfully cold. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Best Day

This weekend was my niece Ramona's birthday. She had her party at a place full of inflatable bouncing things. You gotta love a party invitation that comes with a detachable injury liability release form. The kids were just going all over the place, having a ball. Adults too. (Let it be noted here that I beat Mark on the obstacle course.) After everyone had reached the point of total exhaustion we were ushered into the party room for the birthday cake. They sat Ramona on a giant inflatable throne and wheeled over a cart with her double chocolate ice cream cake with orange frosting and flip flops (?) on it, and...a candle shaped like the number 7. Her new age! That's when it hit me, little Ramona is SEVEN! That is an age I can remember being. But everything before that is kind of vague, mostly memories from pictures or stories that other people have told me. Will Ramona remember very much of her life before this day? Such as the day last October when Ramona and her brother Cale were at our house for a sleepover, and I took them and Jeffrey for a long bike ride on the trail that has been made out of old train tracks. We rode and rode until Ramona started to complain, so we stopped at a little wooden bridge. She asked me how far we'd gone and I said two miles. So she said "well I can't go any more because that's the longest I've ever ridden my bike, two miles." But we had to get back! I convinced her that a rest would make it seem like two different rides. "And we'll take lots of breaks." So Cale and Jeffrey went off to explore another bridge and Ramona and I sat and threw rocks into the creek and tried to make the biggest splash noise. She told me about first grade. "It's awful," she said. "Why?" "Well there's lunch!" After a while we all started back. Not very long at all there was more complaining. I wasn't sure what to do. We stopped again, and I saw something that I somehow knew about. Milkweed seed pods. I showed the kids how to open them up and let the fluffy seeds float away. They kept riding until they found more. Jeffrey had the idea to fill up his hood with seeds and then fling them out as he was riding. Ramona filled up her handlebar basket and tossed them as we rode. The sun was shining that deep golden color of fall, and we were just laughing all the way, seeds floating everywhere. Ramona looked up at me and said: "This is just the best day!" The best day! And this girl has been to Disneyworld! When she saw my expression she qualified it: "Well, you know" But still. What makes a day best? Is it easier to have a best day when you have had so few of them already? Do we keep having them, getting more "best" as they go? I don't know what my Best Day is, or if I've even had it yet, but I'm sure it would include being with someone who listens, and laughing, and sunshine! I suspect that Ramona might not even remember that day when she's older, but I'm hoping that someday, somewhere, she is outdoors in the fall with a child and sees a milkweed seed pod, and opens it up and shakes the fluffy seeds out to float away.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Conflict of the Creatures

So for entertainment we have been staring out the window at our backyard birdfeeder. Because of the snow I thought it would be kind to provide food for the birds plus this time of year there are even more varieties around. I decided to put cherry-scented seeds in because the package said that will attract cardinals, "premium birds." The cardinals have been around but so has this overweight squirrel. He has managed to get past the cone-shaped deterrent (I even put grease on it) by leaping from the nearby tree. It is about 7 or 8 feet away so he only makes it about every 5th attempt. Here is an Artist's Rendition: (note Enriching and Educational activity of drawing) So Jeffrey and I went to the store and bought a special feeder for the squirrel, it is this corn-cob shaped thing that goes into a spiral holder. The squirrel went up there and licked it and then continued to go for the bird's food. So then the activity is to scare him off of there. We have a new-year's eve horn that is good for a startling loud noise, and Jeffrey has tried throwing snowballs and even got out his super-soaker water gun. But sometimes he just goes out on the deck and makes a sound that he thought of to scare the thing away (think tasmanian devil cartoon) But then yesterday a giant red-tailed hawk landed on one of the tall trees back there, and was eyeing the squirrel. By now we had grown kind of fond of the persistent little guy, and didn't want to watch him get snatched. So now we know that big bold hawks go away when little boys make tasmanian devil cartoon noises too. phew.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter + Math = Love

This morning the Easter Bunny came and left wonderful treats for my boys. They were inspecting their candy and Tim said "look I got peeps!" Jeff replied: "Well I got blue bunnies and mine's bigger!" So then Tim started doing math: "five times three I have fifteen." Jeff, who is younger, did four times times four... Hoping to avert an Easter Morning argument, I said, check the weight! Tim looked at both and determined they were each 4 1/2 OZ and therefore equal. Jeff looked skeptical about that but then he said "well just to make sure I am giving one of my bunnies to MOMMY."

Alleluia and Happy Easter to you!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Gray and White

The weather has decided to pull it's own April Fool's. The sky is the color of gloom and the ground is covered with that horrible white stuff. The kids are out of school for spring break starting today. They are trying to decide if they got gypped out of a snow day. We are going to do Educational and Enriching activities. Ok so right now they are watching Spongebob but we will.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Not Anymore

Now that I'm into my second week of not working, I'm noticing that there isn't some huge important thing going on so much as I feel relieved about the things that I am not going through any more. It feels different than a vacation too, because there isn't this urgency to hurry up and do everything before it all goes back to the way it was.

I am no longer:

  • Having that dread feeling on a Sunday afternoon about having to start a whole new week all over again.
  • Tucking in my children at night and realizing that I will not be seeing them again for 19 or 20 hours.
  • Hearing my alarm go off at 4:50 am and using all my will to haul myself out of bed to get ready to go.
  • Frantically rummaging through my sock drawer jumble to find two that match, realizing that I am now running late for...
  • Slumping in the pain-inducing seat of my car (metal prison on wheels) burning up expensive environment-poisoning fuel while I sit and wait for the vehicles ahead of me to creep ahead...for over an hour.
  • Schlepping across the parking lot through blasting winds dragging my rolling computer case up and down curbs and then getting stuck in the too-small revolving security doors while others line up impatiently and watch the spectacle of it.
  • Settling into a drab soul-sucking cubicle and booting up my computer while hoping this isn't a day I have to call the dreaded help desk of compounding confusion.
  • Sneaking off into the never-all-the-way-clean bathroom stalls where I can cry without anyone noticing.

And that doesn't even get into the actual work or some of the personalities I had to deal with. But there are trade offs, such as no more long lunches out, wearing glamorous professional clothes, exotic business trips, technical recognition awards, promotions...ok so those things weren't exactly happening for me anyways. But the potential for them has faded. I will also not be traveling anywhere exciting and warm over spring break, but for now, I'm ok with that.

Monday, April 2, 2007

April Fools!

Had a great weekend. The Spring Fair decorations were a vision to behold. And the fair itself was fun, mostly for Jeffrey who kept slipping away to buy more cotton candy with his stash of tickets. In the end he had 3 cotton candies and 3 sno cones. When we got home I made him eat vegetables, so that the nutrients would battle the sugar and artificial blue coloring in his system, somehow. Then yesterday we had the family over for a birthday barbecue and cake. Since it was April Fool's Day that was my theme and I handed out little gag items that I got at the dollar store. They were a big hit. We discovered that there is a certain art to the inflation and placement of a whoopie cushion. And that the only thing better than a little girl with a fake can of candy where the spring-loaded snake comes popping out is putting her in a house full of people who love her enough to play along and act surprised. Every time.