Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tiki Time!


Remember the garage sale purchase of the tiki bar? Well we have had great fun setting it up in our basement. Who knew that tiki was "in"? Target had all kinds of decorative objects with a tiki hut theme, and Party America has an entire aisle dedicated to all things tiki. It was hard to decide what to pick! And then Becky contributed from her collection. I found a bit of irony in the moment when Larry was upstairs on the phone discussing his nomination to Parish Council while his wife and children were in the basement gleefully assembling what could be described as a shrine to tackiness, pagan idols and alcohol. It came out so cool. It's hard to get the full impact from the picture because the details don't really come through. But I have BIG PLANS for lots of parties centered around this thing, starting with Jeffrey's birthday this weekend, combined with his twin cousins who were born 3 days after him. For invitations we made a totem pole with their 3 faces on it. More to come. Maybe I'll invite YOU.

I don't know exactly why I'm loving this tiki theme so much. It could have something to do with what I once thought was the most magical place on the planet, the tiki bird attraction at Disney World. All those birdies coming out, singing in their little birdy voices. A couple of years ago we finally took the boys there, and headed directly for the tiki room, after memorizing the song of it on CD in our car. To my horror they had replaced it with this obnoxious Gilbert Godfried rap routine where they were (gasp!) making fun of the original. I wanted to cry. But I recently learned that the one in California is still intact. phew.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Houseguest

My Aunt Kathy came to visit this weekend. She spent Sunday night at our house. We love Aunt Kathy, and not just because she has a house in Ft Lauderdale with a guest room. When someone comes to visit, you want everything to go just right. I pictured us relaxing on the deck, observing the orioles, maybe using the bikes and boats. Of course it poured rain most of Sunday, the orioles have disappeared and our attempts at trying to use the bikes and boats were moments of terror for her.

But just like the things you can't control that seem to be going wrong, all sorts of unexpected occurrences pop up that result in true delight. Such as:

  • The Sandhill Cranes showing up to stand behind our house with their newborn baby (chick?)!

  • Buying s'mores ingredients with a bonfire in mind, and then getting invited to a "Today We Cut Down the Dead Tree" bonfire across the street and sharing with everyone.

  • Getting handed free flags on a stick at the Memorial Day ceremony and then waving them as we watched the parade go by.

  • Extra cousins we seldom see showing up at the family barbecue, and finally some sunshine.

  • Mrs. Magda getting to speak in Polish to the waitress in Hamtramck.

  • Aunt Chris treating for my lunch at Johnny Rockets, and getting to use a coupon for free french fries.

  • A housewarming gift of Pierniczki Alpejskie (chocolate covered gingerbread with strawberry filling)

  • Aunt Kathy attaching bells to her slippers, just to see what the kitties will do.

I couldn't have planned it any better.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Frosty Boy

On Thursday Tim came home from school with a request. He wanted to go to Frosty Boy on his bike, other kids were meeting there at 4:30.
Timmy is 12 years old, in the sixth grade and has always been very aware, yet reluctant, socially. He started Middle School this year and has been thrown in with a whole new lot of kids. I knew just about every child and family from his grade in Elementary School, but now there are 3 other schools combined in. I asked Tim what kids, he said names but none I had ever heard of. Frosty Boy can be accessed from our house via bike trail, but at the end you have to cross a road that is marked but no light. He has never asked to do anything quite like this before. I both did and didn't want him to go. We struck a deal, partly influenced by Jeffrey voicing his opinion about only Tim getting ice cream. Tim would ride over by himself, with Jeff and I would leave a while later, and when we got there we would pretend not to know him.
It started out as planned but when Jeff and I got to the road crossing, there was Tim, still waiting for a break in the heavy traffic. Across the road sat a group of boys eating their ice cream. I got us across while acting as if we were just a random group of cyclists. The boys greeted Tim and he got in line to order his slushie. Jeff and I stood behind him, next in line. The boys sat on a brick wall while Jeff and I went to a picnic table and joined a mom named Robin and her son Spencer, who we know from scouting. Spencer used to go to school with Tim but last year he started at a private school. Tim only barely acknowledged Spencer's friendly greeting. I picked a spot where I could try to watch the action through my dark sunglasses. Robin noted that there was some bad language being used over there. The boys started getting kind of rowdy, chasing each other and throwing ice cream. Timmy didn't participate in that but struck a cool pose and laughed along. When we finished, I tried to motion to Tim that it was time to go but he showed no signs of leaving. So we rode up the trail a little further and then back. At the crossing I caught Tim's eye and gestured towards the trial, trying to communicate that he should leave soon. Then we rode home and waited for Tim. And waited. Listened to sirens. Eventually, I got in my car and drove over to Frosty Boy. No kids. Drove home. No Tim. Waited. Finally, he came home. They had all decided to ride bikes around the village. I explained to Tim that he only had permission to get ice cream nothing else. He will not be doing this again in the near future. He said he understood, but also I could see in his eyes the happy excitement of having been included and having fun.
I am so not ready for this!!! But here we go.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Yesterday I took my new bike out for it's first long bike ride. Huge difference! When I got back and was putting my stuff away in the garage, Kendrea (from across the street) walked by, distraught. Chester escaped during the night. Chester is her parent's fat and sassy 13 year old persian cat, who has been boarding at her house while his loving owners vacationed in Hawaii. Could I help to try to find him? Happy to get back on my New Bike, I headed out to hunt. I rode all around the subdivision, peering under trees where a cat might go. I hoped he wasn't headed for his own house, miles away. I told a dog-walker be on the lookout. The water-quality inspector was around again, he agreed to watch too.

It is exciting to be searching for something, but sometimes you are looking where it never was.

This is not the first missing pet in our lovely neighborhood. A couple of years ago there was a lost Iguana. Really. A teenage girl who is allergic to fur had it since it was young and would sit on her shoulder. Then it grew bigger. We're talking "at the zoo" sized iguana. It decided to slash though the screen and go out and see the world. My next door neighbor Michele had just moved in, unknowing. She called the police: "There's a dragon in my backyard!" I love his response: "Sorry ma'am, we don't come out for that." I kinda liked sitting on our deck scanning the trees for giant lizards with my binoculars that summer.

Well, Chester did come back last night, thank goodness! I'll go on another bike ride this morning, but without the noble purpose of yesterday. All is back in order in Glenmoor on the Lake, for another day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Bike!

I finally got a new bike! After my last shopping experience I decided to do some research so that I could determine what was being made for a person just like me. I took a graduate level marketing course once and learned about target markets. I like to reverse that and figure out what product is targeting me, then it should turn out right. So I had stopped in at a really good bike shop in yet another town where we were in to go to the birdfeeder store there, and a very helpful salesman helped me to pick out the Trek 7200, and then I went home and looked it up on the internet and read reviews until I was convinced this was it. Then I just kept thinking about it, while I rode around on my old clunker. Finally today I went to the bike shop right here in town and they had it in stock! I took a little test ride and the cute bike shop guy got it all ready for me, and put it in my car. He was nice to me, in a "the customer is always right" way. I tried to use just enough biking lingo to gain his respect but then I think I lost it again when I took the picture of him ringing up the sale. Anyways here is a picture of him and "wrench guy" getting it ready to go.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My, My, My

Something that happened recently reminded me of a conversation I'd had at work a long time ago about how we had been attaching ownership pronouns to things that weren't really ours. Such as my test fixture setup or my supplier. And then realizing it spread to people: my technician and my designers. I felt better about it when I was in the design room and one came up and said to another: "Stop asking questions from my engineer!"

The thing that happened recently involves what is itself a funny story about how a group of girls were at the dock and somehow managed to catch a fish with a makeshift pole they found laying there, and sent Patty (the mom in attendance) knocking on my door to help get it off of the hook before it died. I came rushing over with my hook-getting tools in hand but it was actually an easy release, just none of them wanted to touch the fish. Anyways, afterwards I found out that one of the girls, Chloe, who I have known since she was a baby, told her mom about the incident. Chloe has just started taking piano lessons at our house. (Larry does this a couple evenings a week) When her mom asked who it was that helped with the hook, she proudly said "My Piano Teacher's Wife!"

Yours truly,

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Food Poisoning

Today is an exiting day known as "last date of possible expected frost" for this region. To gardeners this means it's ok to plant tender annuals and other items that say to wait until today on the seed packet.

The village south of ours holds a "Flower Festival" where they close the streets and sell flowers and other gardening themed things from booths. So the 4 of us went there but we needed to eat and I didn't want to make a meal for my children out of Kettle Corn so we stopped into the "Village Cafe" for lunch. My menu had a paper tucked in it that listed some lunch specials. When our waitress came she snatched that away from me and said it was not supposed to be in there today. But not before I noticed that it said Chicken Salad Sandwich on it so now I wanted one. I asked her if I could have that and she said she'd check if they have any left, usually they only serve that on weekdays. She came back, "Good news! There's some left!" (I need to mention the unrelated fact that this woman had a floral tattoo that went up the whole length of her leg, and she was wearing shorts)

The rest of the afternoon I was very sick. Larry, today's voice of hindsight wisdom, said it just might be a bad idea to order the thing on Saturday that they only sell Monday through Friday. Stupid stupid me. I didn't get to finish planting my flowers, maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Garage Sale Mini-Blog

So now it's time for our garage sale. I dragged out as much stuff as I could think of to sell sell sell, most of it toys and things the boys have outgrown. We needed to put price tags on the things and Timmy remembered seeing pre-printed tags at the local drugstore so we hopped in the car to go buy them. Well, the stickers cost me $1.99. And each boy wanted some candy (well they did get good grades on progress reports today) And Jeffrey needed a folder for his science project. And Tim needed refill leads for his pencils. And mentos for a science project he wants to do at home. So now we are out $9.16 plus the gas to drive to the store. We better sell a lot of stuff.

Watch this space for more exciting updates! LIVE

So we had "neighborhood preview" and while I was setting up our stuff Tim and Jeff took off on their scooters to scope out the goods in the rest of the sub. They came back to report out that that someone was selling a BAR. Jeff was so excited I walked down to look at it. Well it was at Patty's house and it looks to be from the seventies and has a TIKI look to it. I have always wanted a tiki bar. It can go in the basement, which already has a decorating theme built around the singing fish we have mounted over the fake fireplace, but I think I can segway into a tiki theme for this. I had Patty put a SOLD sign on it. Then I went online and looked up the tiki themed stuff I remembered seeing at Target. Looking for Monkey Head string lights, I have a vision. Now down another $40 and counting.

Karen stopped by with one of her children and I convinced her that she needed the pull-behind bike that we were selling for $50. She tried to call husband Bob from the garage but no answer. I told her that it would be for him so how could he disagree. Now at break-even!

I need something to think about as I sit alongside the garbage cans ready to conduct business. So I study the people coming into my garage. Who are they? What are they looking for? And will they find it here in my garage? Mostly they have been taking children's toys and books, going for 25 and 50 cents. Sometimes they ask. One man was eyeing my fishing gear in the corner. Sorry, not for sale. Then another guy strode in, all purposeful, and inquired "Do you have any old guns?" Sorry, just toys. "Oh, too bad, well what about a sewing machine?" No, just what you see here. (!?!) What was he looking to do, rob a bank and sew his own disguise?

To keep busy, I started to sort out some stuff I had set aside. One was a bag of toys I had lent to my Aunt Vicki for when she was taking care of our new baby cousin Bruno around Easter while his parents vacationed in Belgium. She told me not to sell the 2 nice touch-and-feel books because they had been inscribed by Aunt Kathy as gifts to Jeff. OK, I'll keep those...what's this underneath? A pink box with a gold ribbon...Belgian Chocolates!!! Must have been a thank-you gift from Mike and Cora that I hadn't noticed in the bag. Now sitting in the garage happily munching on very good chocolate. mmmmm hazelnut.

A Cadillac pulled up and a lady in a very nice suit came in and went through our box of children's books very methodically, checking every page for stray marks, making a pile and rejecting some on the second check. She was talking on her cell phone the whole time. Something about real estate. I felt justified to stare at her while she shopped. $1.50 for 6 books, only good ones.

Inspired by the fancy sign from last week, I decided we needed advertisement. I asked Timmy to make a sign and then looked for something eye-catching to stick onto it. Here, this old Baby-Bop dress-up toy I can't believe we still possess. It was always kind of disturbing to observe my sons playing with a talking doll that says "Button my dress!" and "Hee Hee that tickles!" So here is Tim's work, not exactly what I had in mind. Baby bop looks like she's about to be burned in effigy. It is eye-catching though.

Second day of the sale and I am getting bored with this. Today is a much nicer day, but there aren't as many people coming by. I shut the door for a while and took a bike ride. I have been practicing my "chit chat" skills. I talk to everyone who walks up about the weather. I read somewhere once that this is important to social functioning. I have never been very good at it (engineers are not known for their social skills) and haven't worked in retail where it's part of the daily job. But I do find the weather fascinating. Kendrea pointed out that the people going through the sales have to have that exact same conversation at every garage they visit, and are probably bored with it too. But it's what you do. And when they leave without buying anything, they always say "thank you" (for what?) And then I say "yep!" I hope I have that right.

Well Friday and Saturday were much slower and our total gross profits for the sale were $119.25. Now we need to figure what to do with the money (something special for the family) and make sure that the leftover stuff gets stored or donated.

I found the garage sale to be just a weird experience. The whole thing of things you don't want that other people do, and what anyone is willing to pay for it. I do like it when I'm getting rid of something and then seeing someone else all delighted to be getting it. But I'll never forget one time at a garage sale of the past, when I put out these old pastel-colored palm decorations that I'd had since my first apartment, and some ladies came in and bought them, and were walking down the driveway chattering about how nice they were and what they could use them for, and all I could think was that they had spent the last couple years standing in the corner of the basement by the cat's litter box.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lisa's Oriole

There is this truth about any hobby which seems to be that you start out small, with one thing maybe, and then it progresses to MORE...BIGGER...BETTER. I've seen this with my father's collecting hobby (coins, jugs, pens, to name a few) but I think it applies to a spectrum that includes camping (from simple tent to a block long 5th wheel) scrapbooking (cropping some pictures to creating a 3D pop-up page) and even things like knitting or racing cars. Has this ever happened to you? I just realized that it applies to birdwatching. We started out just noticing whatever flew by in our yard, or landed in the lake, but then once we put up the birdfeeder it turned into changing the kind of seeds to attract different birds, and getting special feeders for each type. A neighbor that lives a few houses down the street from us once mentioned that she would put out oranges to attract Orioles. At the time I didn't know what an oriole was but now I wanted one. So we put out oranges and eventually even bought an official oriole feeder. I didn't use to have time to take care of things and ants would take over but this year I've been able to keep up with it and we have a pair of beautiful Baltimore Orioles that I think are nesting near our yard. I feel a little guilty if all I did was lure them over from Lisa's yard but these are NICE birds. They are so pretty to look at and their song is bright and musical. Enough never being enough we tried putting oranges right outside our doorwall on the deck and sure enough they now come right up so I could get these pictures.

I am, however, not the only one watching the birds:

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day! I got to go on an outing to a historical house with my mother, sisters, aunts and cousins and have a fancy pancy tea/luncheon. It is always nice to go out dressed up and and do something all "girly" like that, and also to celebrate motherhood with these particular women, all of whom have had a mothering role in each other's lives, in my opinion.

Even though being a parent is a major part of my life, and I write here about the differences I notice due to the recent changes I have made, I have never bought into the idea of "The Mommy Wars" that pits working vs stay at home moms against each other. Here is an article that I ran across that explores the subject very well :

The point of it is that the media likes to play up a conflict that doesn't really exist. I tend to agree with that because I have put on the hat of working full time-part time-stay at home all at various times and none of it changes the fact that I'm always trying to do the best I can raising my children, and I think that's true of every mother in different circumstances. I was interested to learn that my mother was cared for by her grandmother while my grandma worked in a factory during WWII. The generations aren't as different as we think they are.

Here is a picture of my mother. Don't tell her.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Today the weather is just gorgeous! The sun is bright and leaves are popping out everywhere. Jeffrey rode his bike to school today and I rode along to help him lock it. Then I went for a short ride on the path in the park on my way home, and when crossing from the park into our sub I encountered my neighbor's garage sale. I had been in her house once for a candle party and recall that it was a showplace. So I stood there in her driveway admiring her castoffs and how beautiful they all were and so artfully displayed on the tablecloth covered folding tables. She asked if I wanted her to hold anything for me, but I declined. I've always felt a little weird about the whole garage sale process, the exchange if possessions unwanted and wanted. But I am going to do it next weekend when I participate in the sub-wide sale. I don't have anything ready for it yet but I am planning to participate because I can. In the past it was difficult to do this when the sales started on a Thursday. It was once pointed out to me that if I took a day off and actually managed to sell every single object it would still not exceed my day's salary. When I worked part time (which really meant work all the time) I tried to do a garage sale and ended up sitting in there on my phone arguing with a supplier in Mexico about how they were conducting a run-at-rate and scaring away all my customers. And another time we decided that Larry would man the garage for that important first hour of opening day, and he called me at work to proudly announce that he'd sold our stand-up basketball net for $5. Except that it wasn't for sale.

Anyways, I'll let you know how our sale goes. I usually just either hoard or give away our extra things, but whatever I do find I will try to set out in an appealing fashion. I'm not a person who is naturally good at that like some people. My cousin Pammy made a career out of her talent with display. Since I'm a left-brained engineer I tend to like things lined up, tallest-to-shortest, like soldiers. I took a decorating class and learned that is not the most appealing arrangement, so I try. I noticed back when we had a cleaning lady who possessed this skill for display that when she had to move my things around she would replace them at jaunty angles instead of square to the wall like I did. I would study this and try to replicate her work, but eventually the troops fall back into formation if I'm not careful.

Tonight I am hosting book club so for my decorations I got back on my bike and went and cut off lilac branches from some bushes by the road. I also took a picture of the sign for the garage sale I was talking about, notice how she put flowers on it and the letters have little curly-cues. Gorgeous!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Olden Days

Today I went on a field trip with the 3rd grade to an old time school house. I thought that Jeffrey looked just adorable in his overalls, and that I looked rather ridiculous in the costume that I borrowed from Sian, a mother who's son went here last week. I like watching the children pretend that they have traveled back in time, and for me it's like going live into "Little House on the Prairie" which I was a big fan of the books and 1970's TV show as a kid. (Did you know they show repeats of it during the day on cable now?)
There were a lot of other mothers who dressed up, but my friend Matt, a former coworker from GM and also a parent of one of Jeffrey's classmates, did not. So I stuck an extra hat I brought along for just this purpose on his head. He showed me pictures on his digital camera that he took last in Germany and Paris while on a business trip for his new assignment in Advance Purchasing. At one point as I was wandering around the schoolhouse (there wasn't a whole lot for the parent chaperons to do while the children were doing their lessons) I saw Matt off to the side, hunched over talking into his cell phone. That's when I realized the difference between us. I always used a lot of my vacation days to attend as many field trips as I could, but because they weren't always scheduled very far in advance, there always seemed to be some critical thing to stay on top of, and I would have had my pager tucked into my lunch bucket just in case. This time I was just there, and I was able to enjoy the day without simultaneously stressing about what I wasn't getting done at the office. And I'm pretty sure I like that better, even if the most recent pictures on my digital camera were of our backyard.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Fluid Dynamics

This morning I went on a bike ride, and after that spent an unreasonable amount of time fussing with the water pump on our little backyard pond. I wanted to make the fountain look like one I saw in an advertisement, and I dug out the alternate pieces that came with the kit (but not the directions, long lost) and fitted it on the tube. It succeeded in making the "bubble" shape I wanted but then the water stopped coming out of the froggy's mouth at the waterfall. I systematically testing each component in the series to find any plugs, but nothing. I carefully studied the fountain head that I took off, it has this little ball thing in it that when I pushed on it...broke. Then I realized, with more soggy experimentation, that the problem was one of pressure equalization, somehow controlled by that ball thing in the one fountain head but not the other. So I went inside and cut up a sponge from a wrong floor mop attachment, and shoved it inside the head, and voila! It worked! Exactly like I wanted it to look! Here's a picture:

Also, here is a picture I took on my bike ride. It is looking into the backyard of an auto parts place that I could see into coming over the bridge. I just thought it was cool. Reminded me of a junkyard. I always wanted to play in a junkyard as a kid, didn't you?

See ya later. I need to clean up, pond slime everywhere.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Scientific Knowledge

Jeffrey is better from his cold so I took him to school today. He looked at the ground and asked: "Mommy where does dew come from?"

I can't remember the exact explanation for this, something to do with evaporation. Plus I have a slight headache, possibly a residual effect from the beverages consumed last night at Kendrea's Big Yellow Box home demonstation party.

"The Dew Fairy puts it there while you sleep."

Skeptical look from the Jeff. "Then what about in winter, why isn't there dew in winter? There would be puddles everywhere!"

Go to school.