Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day

Since Heather pointed out how I have blogged about the ridiculous "holidays" in February, I couldn't let this one go by. Extra day! Wahoo! But really, I find February to be a most annoying month, and I'd be happy enough if every 4 years we got to skip it altogether, instead of add an extra day. It's cold, it's boring, cold and flu season is at it's peak, and I can never spell the darn thing right without checking first about how many "Rs" it has.

I know, it's Black History and Heart Health Month but come on how do you celebrate that? And there's President's Day, the Oscars, and my mother's birthday in there, but they're not enough to bring old Feb up out of last place on my list of favorite months.

I'm just glad it's over, and I'm looking forward to kicking March off well with my Delta sisters as we head out on a glam theater/B&B getaway this weekend. Oh yeah!

So Happy Leap Day to you and to Pam's husband David: Happy 11th Birthday!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Old Argument, New Technology

The aspect of parenting that I find the most confounding these days is how to referee the endless arguments between the boys over fairness, ownership, and whose turn it is for something. I know that I had these same arguments years ago with my sisters, but the subjects were: Who gets to read Tiger Beat Magazine first; the curling iron; and use of the (one) telephone line.

Yesterday the conflict in our house centered around songs on itunes, here's how it went:

The boys were sitting on the couch consuming their daily dose of obnoxious cartoons, and a commercial came on TV for the CD of the songs from the movie Alvin and the Chipmunks. Timmy asked if he could get those songs on itunes. I agreed since for once the music he wants is age-appropriate, and it costs less this way than buying the CD for $19.99 plus shipping and handling. I suggested that Tim use the credit from an itunes gift card that he still has from Christmas. He dug out the card and downloaded the songs to the computer and his ipod.

Later, while Timmy was having a snack in the kitchen, he realized that Jeffrey was over on the computer putting one of those songs on his ipod.

"You can't do that those are MINE!" I ask Tim why not if they are already paid for, but he's just hollering at Jeff to stop. I explain to Tim that he should share, it's not taking anything away from him to let Jeff do that. "Well he owes me a DOLLAR then!"

I do not like this behavior. I begin a lecture about how "That is not how we are in this family" and don't you remember "Do Unto Others..." Meanwhile Jeffrey slinks off the computer and up the stairs.

I'm still trying to convince a grumpy Timmy that he should not be so selfish when Jeffrey reappears, and hands Tim a dollar bill, which he accepts.

"Tim you should not accept that!" I command.

Jeffrey batts his angel eyes and squeaks out in his sweet little voice: "It's alright."

"It is not alright! Timmy I insist that you hand that dollar back to your brother right now!"

Timmy softens his defiant expression and hands the dollar back to his darling little brother.

Then Jeff starts to dash away and says: "It's alright because that's YOUR DOLLAR! I took it from your room! hahahahaha!"

I remain confounded about this parenting task but at least they make me laugh.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Campsite Reservations

Last month my brother-in-law Mark called to talk about setting up another camping trip like the one we went on last summer. The campsites are available for reservations 6 months in advance, so now's the time to think about it. We picked a weekend in August, Saturday through Monday (because of Mary Beth's schedule) and decided to try to get 3 campsites in a row, my other sister Becky and her husband Hal are interested in going too. We decided to go to that same campground because there was a lot to do in the area. Last time we took a walk around and noted that there were some sites that were situated so that they could see the sunsets over the lake. Those were the best ones, I told Mark, let's get one of those! Mark explained to me that it's tricky to get the premium spots at the popular campgrounds, maybe I should try to do this one. "I am on it!" I assured him. Whatever those other people had to do to get those spots, I could do too. It's all about how much effort you are willing to put into it, and if it's fair then I should have an equal chance.

I promptly went to the DNR website and read up on what is required to reserve a site. OK, six months in advance, to the day, you have to call or do it online, starting at 9:00am. I calculated back from our trip and put it on my calendar to call.

Since I'm new this whole camping thing, I'm still in the process of letting go of the impressions that I previously held about how it all works, gained from of course my reliable sources of TV shows and movies. They way I thought it should go is a family walks out into the wilderness with a couple of bags of gear casually thrown over their shoulders, and arrives at a clearing next to a sparkling stream with no other humans in sight. "How about right here, kids?" and moments later they are sitting around a crackling fire with a tent in the background. Not quite.

So last night I went to the DNR website to prepare my plan of attack. I decided to practice making a reservation, just up to the point of paying for it, so I'd know what to do. I put in Friday through Monday and hit "check availability." Green means "available." All I see is red. And a few blues. What is blue? Partially available. I figure out a way of clicking on the individual site numbers to see what nights are still available. I click on every non-red campsite. Only two are available on Saturday and Sunday night that have any lake view at all. They are sort of adjacent to each other. They back up to the highway. They are my only choice. I MUST HAVE THEM.

Now I am obsessed. In the all-American spirit of needing to get exactly what I want and beating the other guy to it, I think about what I can do. 8:45am I pull up the website and get to the point where you have to put the date in. Then I call Timmy over and show him how to do a screen refresh so he can man that while I get on the phone. I practice dialing the number, listen to the message, and then time out how many seconds it takes to get in from when I hit redial. We start watching the clocks, and I question whether they are perfectly accurate. I remember that my cell phone receives the time from some outside source, that must be the real time so I get that out. My cell phone! Another way to call! I get the rest of the family with a pre-dialed phone in their hands and we count down like New Year's Eve...3...2...1....NOW! We're all dialing and typing like mad and then Larry gets in on his cell! Hurray! I tell the lady the campsites I want and she says they're now on hold as ours. Hurray! Celebration! You'd think we just won a million dollars instead of the chance to pay money to sleep on a certain patch of dirt for two nights.

The phone reservations lady tells me that she must read me a set of rules before we complete the transaction. I politely agree. (Got this far, must not mess up now) She tiredly ticks off a long, long list of things you cannot do in regards to your reservation, such as booking ahead and cancelling the first part. I realize that these are all rules that were born from the problem of people obsessed with getting the exact campsite they want going to great lengths to get them. If you think in reverse about some of these rules it's clear that people were getting rather creative about it. And then she tells me the price that I have to pay. I try not to think of whether I could get a hotel room for that much. It includes an $8 "reservation fee" which I realize is to pay the reservations staff to be on the phone reciting the rules to prevent people from pulling tricks to snatch up the best sites....people like that are,um, like me. Never mind.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

Just when you think nothing interesting will happen...we get this: Lunar Eclipse!

We actually had a clear night and a perfect view of the moon out of each of the boy's bedroom windows. Since it was happening close to their bedtimes we kept looking out as they got ready. Tim used his new Christmas Present Telescope for the first time. Eventually I put them to bed and turned out the lights. Then I went back to check on them a little later, and since they were still slightly awake they popped their eyes open and asked if they could take one more look.

The cool thing about eclipses, and other celestial events, is that they occur on some random-seeming schedule, and they always say when the next one is. In this case, it'll be 2010 before another total lunar eclipse of this type. I know that there is a way to figure it out based on the elliptical orbital path of the moon, earth and sun but I'm not even going to pretend that I know how to do it now. What I like about it is that each time one of us looks up at one of these, we'll remember the previous ones we saw.

And so this time when I looked up at the reddish shadow creeping across the big white cheesy moon, I sent a little wish out to space, to bounce back to the future, older versions of Mindy, Timmy and Jeffrey when they look up at one of these. Remember this! Remember when we were upstairs in our house, wearing pajamas, looking, watching. Remember what it felt like. Remeber who we were. Remember us.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Go find something to do outside

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fancy Food Fingered for Free

On Wednesday I had to stop somewhere so I took a different route home from work. Since Larry was already dealing with the kids I made a couple of additional stops which included Target (of course) and then the Fanciest Grocery Store in the World. Well, probably not in the world but this place is really something. I feel like I'm on vacation when I go there. I parked my car next to an artistic sculpture and walked to the beat of the jazzy music past the firewood and rock salt pleasingly arranged in giant urns. Inside, everything is just beautiful to look at and they even have a wine bar where you can can purchase a sample and carry it around in a glass as you shop. It's all just so upscale.

The best thing of all about this place is that there are food samples everywhere. I mean like every couple of feet. I know that regular grocery stores and warehouse clubs have samples that people like to talk about but I've seen those and this is different. Just about everything they sell is there for the tasting. You really could consume at least a meal's worth of calories just by grazing your way through the store. I know I did. The only problem I encountered with that is I didn't do it in order of a meal, so I had some sweet things, and then some bread, then on to cheezes, meats, nuts, jellies, and near the end I was indulging in some pretty spicy salsas which made me want something sweet again. So I kind of started over but I was really just trying to neutralize my palate. Really. But am I the only one who gets a little bit sneaky feeling when doing this at dinnertime, and then start to wonder if someone is looking? Like, how many times is a person allowed to spread some artichoke dip on a full size cracker without arousing some suspicion about your motives?

I was glad that I was wearing my work clothes instead the way I usually dress to go to the grocery stores around my house. And to make sure that I didn't seem too much like a mooch I decided to purchase something for our dinner that night. I got a tiny little tub of bean salad ($6/pound) and the jolly man who gave me a sample of mahi mahi fish tacos talked me into getting those because they were buy one get one free. Ten dollars for four tacos, you can't even get the fish alone for that much, he told me. They were very good but I have a feeling I know where the money for all those samples comes from.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Valentine, I think you're the fly!

Jeffrey needed to get some Valentines for school but wasn't even interested in going to the store to pick them out. I knew if we waited much longer there would be only the most awful ones left and I wanted to spare my son from having to give out anything with Barbies on it. So I went to Rite Aid and Tim came along because he wanted candy. I got him Laffy Taffy Joke Valentines, and because they come in a box of 22 and there are 30 kids in his class, another box of Gummy Bug ones. Since there was (another!) snow day today he didn't get the list of names. A girl from his class, Alexa, takes piano at our house and saw what we were doing. She quickly advised us to get out the directory because it has classroom lists and that's what she used when she wrote out her valentines. Then she informed Jeffrey that she had selected one with a hippy themed tatoo for him. The ones we had turned out to require a difficult and complicated assembly and the spots to put the names were hard to write on without smearing it.
Next thing you know I was doing it all while Alexa rattled off her opinions of each of the classmates from the names list and Jeffrey made silly jokes to get her to laugh. I threatened to write "Jeffrey's Mother" in the "from" box but that still wasn't enough to get him interested.
I guess Valentine's day is more of a female thing. I know I remember carefully considering exactly what message should go to each classmate. And I'd do it days in advance and use a special color pen. Selecting the design of the card was a vitally important decision and it had to express the just right image. I still remember some of the ones I had, they used to come in books and you would punch them out like paper dolls. Jeffrey didn't even look at what I did. So then he won't know whether or not I drew a heart on one to a certain girl...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

One is silver and the other gold

Kerry wrote an excellent blog post about what it's like to be living far away from family and friends. She recently moved to Germany and says that the lack of history with the people she spends her time with now makes it lonely. I found that to be a very interesting thought.

It is always exciting and fun to meet new people, but it is different from when you're with people that you already know. I find that I feel a little bit more like myself when I'm in the company of someone that I've known for a long time. It's like I feel the image that they still hold of the person I once was reflecting back a little. Such as being in a new job, and then connecting with a co-worker who remembers me when I was more idealistic, enthusiastic, and energetic than I am now. They give a little bit of it back to me by including that into their view of the person I am today.

I think we get a different kind of energy from people who are new to us than from those we've been around for a long long time. You need both, in the long run. When we're with people who are new to us it's all about potential and discovery, and sharing the experience of whatever you are going through at that moment in time. You get all of that in addition to the compounded history of past experiences when it's someone you've known longer. That's why it's important to me to hold on to a connection to the friends that I have had through the years. They just can't be replaced.

Aside from of course family I'm fortunate to have a best friend that I've known since before I was born. Our mothers played bridge together while they were pregnant. I like to say that Susie and I are exactly alike except for the ways in which we are completely different. Since we live in different cities we rarely see each other but it's nice to know that friendship will always be there no matter what.

This summer when I had more time I got to reconnect with my best buddy from high school. We have kept in touch but somehow hadn't manage to get together for so many years that I had never met her son who has now started kindergarden. Renee was always there to join in with all my crazy schemes, we did everything together back when there was everything to do. My boys were intrigued to meet this person who I've known since long before I was a mommy. I intend to keep that friendship forever too, even though distance means that it will require some effort. It's worth it.

I've found that life circumstances change, people move, interests diverge, and it is easy to let a lot of time go by without connecting to those who were once important to me. But when we do get together, it is always very powerful to be in the presence of those that shared the experience of growing up, going to college, starting our careers, having our first children, or living in the same neighborhood. We have overlapping chapters in the stories that make up the big book of our lives.

My wish for Kerry is that she keeps her connection with both the people she knew before she left, and those that she meets over there, long after she comes back. The same goes for couple of my other friends who are about to take off on similar journeys. And I'll try to make use of the wisdom of her comments about her experience to take advantage of the fact that I am not seperated by an ocean from so many of the people that I'd like to spend time with, and just make the effort to go and set that up. Listen closely, your phone might be ringing soon!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Eat a Paczki, it's Fat Tuesday!

Yet another important Holiday is upon us: Fat Tuesday. In case you don't know this one it's always on the day before Ash Wednesday. The theory is that you are going to go into 40 some days of fasting and "giving up" of something, often sweets, and so you PIG OUT on the day before to help tide you over.

I like having a religious and cultural reason to eat a 1000 calorie donut called a paczki. (Say it "POONCH-KEE.") There were of course a whole selection of these in the coffee room at work today, and I skipped breakfast just so I'd have extra space for my sugary feast. I picked the flavor "apricot" although there were others including the tasty sounding "red gel." It was like spooning an entire jar of fruit preserves into my mouth and eating a donut at the same time. Afterwards my stomach felt like there was a rock in it. Ah, tradition!

The whole paczki thing is actually a rather recent, and regional, phenomenon. It orginated in Poland and for years the bakeries in Hamtramck would make them. I remember hearing about my Uncle Zenon standing in line to get his once. Then the newspapers started running stories about the lines outside the bakeries and now they're everywhere on this day and it's a big deal.

So Happy Paczki Day to you! I hope you got one! If not, get yourself some other high-fat indulgence and celebrate!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl of Chips

It amazes me how Superbowl Day has become this sort of National Holiday. Where the entire country is supposed to sit in front of their TVs and do the same thing at the same time. If only it could be for something more interesting than football! I have a hard time paying attention when there's no band playing the fight song when something good happens, so you know when to stand up and sing. Like at the Spartan games, I could get into those.

But I do like the part about the really good snacks. Always glad to participate in that Great American Tradition. Just doing my patriotic duty!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Just Shoot the Groundhog

I flicked on the TV so there would be something to occupy my brain while I fold a load of laundry. Bill Murray is sitting in the Punxsutawney Bowling Alley asking the tired looking man: "What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"
And the man drawls: "That about sums it up for me."

This is a tough time of year around here. The boys missed school the whole week both because of being sick and the schools closing because of the weather.

Cabin fever has set in pretty bad and the sky is the color of the white laundry when it's been washed with one navy blue sock. Not a pretty one.

I would be fine with it if we could just skip February, March and April and just get on to May when life is sunny and good again. The bears have the right idea in my opinion.

Sorry about all the griping here but maybe you know the feeling of every day just blending into the next: commute, work, commute, laundry, sleep. It'll get better, I know, and there's a trip to the beach in our future for spring break for the specific purpose of breaking this up.

I am recalling a quote I saw in a magazine, I think from Ellen Degeneres:

"Lather, Rinse, Repeat. OK, but for how long?"