Category Archives: Children

Middle School and Menopause

Whaddya get for Valentine’s Day?  I got a Renuzit Air Freshener, lavender-vanilla scent, from my 12-year-old.

According to Renuzit, “Lavender & Vanilla is the perfect scent to fill your bedroom, or any room in your home that is your tranquil haven.”

Awesome.  Just one problem: There no longer is a room in our house that is a tranquil haven, BECAUSE I HAVE A TWELVE-YEAR-OLD.  The child I have loved, liked, adored beyond all reason is now a middle schooler with this super power:  At one hundred paces, she can make her dad’s and my heads explode with the force of an M67 grenade.  Just by glaring at us.  This child who mere weeks ago prompted me to describe her as a big squishy heart with arms and legs, could now more accurately be likened to Rambo–with permanent PMS.

Yeah, you don’t want to cross her.  If you’re her parent, that is.  Her teachers continue to describe her as “darling…so sweet…what a dolly….”  And her new friends tell me, “We love her.  We LOVE her.  She’s so funny and SWEET.”

‘Kay.

This is what comes of waiting to become a mother:  Instead of the 30-year-old who would be calling right now to see if I’d like to sip a latte while we watch my grand kids make kissy faces at the warty pigs in the zoo, I am living in a zoo.  I can’t tell if I’m having hot flashes or my blood pressure has risen to a stroke-producing high.   Probably both.

I wish I could call my mother and apologize, but she passed away before Karma began to have its way with me.

Ah well, at least daughter No 2 is only six.  By the time she’s going through pre-adolescent psychosis, my husband and I will be too addled to realize it.  That’s one of the bennies of being an older parent–a total break from reality just when you need it (or, the wisdom to fake it).

Good luck to all you menopausal middle-school mamas out there.  Let us know how you’re dealing with it.

–Wendy

 

 

 

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How I Met Your Other (Too Hot Mama)

Kids, over the years, many of our faithful readers have asked the thought provoking (and thoroughly legend…wait for it…dary) question, “How did you two meet?”

The simple answer is, we were standing in line for an awards ceremony at a writer’s conference (where Wendy was—as usual—up for an award) and I offered her some anxiety meds (which she politely declined), then I blathered on about my acute stage fright, and my total fear of vomiting or fainting in public to such an extent that the woman behind us (an anxiety counselor) offered me her business card.

If Wendy had been smart, she’d have picked up the skirts to her stunning cocktail gown, grabbed her husband by the hand, and rushed to her seat. But instead, we got into this hilarious conversation about how social anxiety gives us both humiliating verbal diarrhea, and a lifelong friendship was born.

Because this story is in fact, rather longer and more miraculously wild and wonderful than either of us can recount in a single blog, I’ll be tackling it in little Bob Sagget-esque flashbacks over the next few weeks.

So, kids, I’ll be back on Thursday, with my part of the beginning. Carolyn

 

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, aging, Bathroom Humor, Children, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Older writers, Writing

7 Habits of Ineffective Living

Hello dear friends!  This message is to let you know my new address!  Yes, I have moved!  I no longer live at my house anymore with my husband and family, as, well, it just became too impractical.  So, I moved into my mini-van.  Packed the backpack, the lunch box, the overnight kit with emergency floss.

Oh, sure, I try to get back and visit the old hacienda now and then.  Mainly between the hours of 1am and 6am.  I mumble to the hubby.  He mumbles back.  We snooze for a few nano-seconds.  Then, I fire up the coffee pot and hit the road again.

Yesterday, I was in the van, either driving or waiting for 7 and 1/2 hours.  Not even kidding.  It was the first day of college for my two eldest daughters.  Since they are still trying to master the art of driving (they haven’t hit anything in weeks), I am still serving as the family chauffeur.  But…that’s okay.  I’m organized.

Made lists for each of my five kids.  Passed them out.  Expected them to actually look at them.  Yes.  I am naïve.

Morning went like this:

ME:  Good morning!  Rise and shine!  It is 6 am!  As I am sure you consulted your evening list and laid out your clothing and lunches and books, all you need to do now, is glance over your morning list, gather your items and meet me out at my place (AKA: my minivan).

1 hour passes as I enjoy my coffee and the kind of Nirvana that comes from knowing the troops are organized and well rested.

ME:  Let’s go!

Them:  What?  Why didn’t you wake me!?  I’m not even up yet!

ME:  You went back to sleep?! Are you kidding me?  We’ve gone over this!  Up at 6!  Out at 7!

Them: (screaming) It’s SEVEN?!

Son:  Where’s my homework?  Where’s my shoe?  Where’s my lunch?

ME:  You told me you consulted your list last night!

Son:  I did!

ME:  (screaming) Then WHY AREN’T YOU READY?   WHY DIDN’T YOU PACK THE STUFF ON THE LIST?

Son:  You didn’t tell me I had to PACK the stuff.  You told me to CONSULT the list.

Them:  WE CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL WITH HORRIBLE HAIR AND NO MASCARA!  TAKE HIM TO SCHOOL AND COME BACK FOR US!

ME: (still screaming) BUT THAT’S 20 MILES OUT OF  MY WAY!   By then, I was talking to the bathroom door.

Which…(sigh)…after driving him to school, them to school, me to shopping, him home from school, them home from school, him to soccer, her to her job at the fast food place, him home from soccer, her home from the fast food place, really doesn’t seem like that much out of my way in the scheme of things.

Anyway, dear ones, if you’d like to visit me, you can usually find me whizzing down an on/off ramp of a high/free-way in one of 4 different cities.  You can’t miss me.  I’m the one with the bulging veins on her neck and the half-dressed, half-fed, half-awake people screaming in the back.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood

“I am so, too, old enough to date.”

So.  After my ten-year-old daughter announced to her friends that she was going to go on a date (“Dating in Low Heels”), she set about convincing her father and me.  We were a tougher sell.

“But every single girl my age has gone on a date already,” she argued.

“In Barbie Fairytopia, yeah.  You are not going on a ‘date.'”

“You guys are crushing my spirit.”

Woah.  First time we’d heard that one.  Had to give her props for outstanding achievement in manipulative skills.

“Define ‘date,'” I said.

“Well…we’re not going to kiss, if that’s what you mean.  I can’t even stand to watch you two do that.”  She shuddered.

After a great deal of discussion and assurance that the parents of her main squeeze were on board with a brief and thoroughly public rendezvous, we agreed that they could arrange a meeting.  The happy couple decided on the bench near the play structure at their school.  Recess, high noon.

The morning of the big day, she argued less than usual about brushing her hair.  Her socks almost matched.  And she chose a tee shirt with only one hole.

“How did it go?” I asked as soon as I picked her up from school.

“Okay.”  She shrugged.

“What did you do?”

“Sat.”

“Uh huh, and what did you talk about?”

She frowned.  “Talk?  We didn’t do that.”

“What did you do?”

“Sat.”

Time to put on the reporter’s hat, obviously.  “While you were sitting, did you hold hands?”

She wrinkled her nose.  “No.  Mom, c’mon, he’s a guy.”

“So, you think you want to date again?”

“I guess.  But this time, we want to invite more people.”

“Ah, a double date.”

“What’s that?”  I explained that she would have two more people on her date.  “Oh.  No, we want more people than that.  Like, enough for kickball.”

“Ah.  Good thinking.”

“Yeah.  So, see, Mom, I am old enough to date.”

Absolutely.  Last night, though, two months apres The Date, she told me she is through with men until she is at least fifteen.  “They’re too complicated.”

Indeed.

–Wendy

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Dating in Low Heels

kids datingMy ten-year-old is dating.  I found out by eavesdropping on the following conversation:

DD to her friends:  “Who are you all asking to the carnival, because I’m going with Z.  I have to buy the licorice, but he’s getting the cotton candy.  I had to give him a chicken nugget to get him to go, but now it’s for sure.”

Two other girls made immediate plans to give their crushes lunch at the earliest opportunity.

Say what?  It seems that just yesterday my daughter felt no need for a Ken doll to hang out with her Barbies:  “What for?  What’s he gonna do?”

Indeed.

Then she turned ten this past spring.  Ah, spring.  Such a ripe season, with little goslings following Mama and Daddy Goose on the pond near our house, rhodies bursting into bloom…and the girls from fourth grade quite suddenly figuring out why Barbie wants Ken.

One girlfriend, however, had a different take on the situation.  She sounded frankly appalled.  “You can’t invite a boy.  That’s called dating, and that is not allowed.  You’re too young to go on a date.”

Peer-driven mandates do not sit well with Miss, so she plopped her hands on her still boyish hips, whipping back, “I can, too, date.  I’m old enough.  I’m allowed.”

(Note to reader: Uh-uh.)

Anxiety clutched my chest as I listened.  I’d been counting on the tween years to start around eleven or twelve or, better yet, forty.  I needed more time before I relinquished my baby and all her innocence to the likes of Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus.

I wonder if the Berenstain Bears have a book about dating? I thought as I prepared to step in with as much good humor as I could muster.

Before I entered the room, however, I heard my daughter’s voice again, this time tinged by a modicum of doubt.  “I can date….”  There was a pause followed by this conclusion:  “I’m not allowed to eat too much junk food, but I can date if I want to.”

Indeed.

As it turned out, she did go to the carnival with Z—and her friends.  More on that next week….

For now, sign me:  ‘Tween Mom

–Wendy

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We’re Baaaaaack!

Wonder where we’ve been?  Us, too!  The rumors of our break up have rivaled those of the Beatles, and I’m here to assure you, all is well!  Sort of.  Okay, the truth?  I think Wendy’s a bit miffed with me.  It all started about a month ago when she let me have a little peek at her work in progress.  I read it.  I wasn’t bowled over.  I may have been a tad snarky with some of my comments.  Perhaps the Zzzzz’s indicating the places where I’d drifted off to sleep weren’t exactly…helpful.  Or…polite.  Wendy laughingly referred to my remarks as passive aggression.

So, when she had to leave town and wanted to drop her little dog at my house, I thought, sure!  I’m a dog lover.  Bring it on.  For years I’ve looked after her big dog, Autumn, whenever they are on vacation.  Wonderful animal.  Love her.  Don’t really want to give her back when Wendy comes home.

How shall I describe Wendy’s new doggie?  The term Parana comes to mind, but that’s not really fair to the poor, sweet fish.  Wendy arrived, docile pile of poodle in hand, and she, all smiles, assured me that, “Oh, noooo!  Your comments were really helpful!  Wonderful!  Insightful!”  Yeah.  Right. I should have known something was afoot.  Before she drove away, she gave us a few minor warnings about this newest member of her family, “He tends to be a tad grumpy sometimes…Oh, and he loves to run, so be careful not to let him out.”

The burning rubber of her tires hadn’t even stopped smoking as she peeled out of the driveway, before Bailey (aka: Beelzebub) drew blood.  Seemed he didn’t like the idea of a walk and let us know it by taking a chunk out of one of our thumbs.  Screaming ensued and Beelz…er…Bailey’s lips curled back as, snarling and snapping, he treed all of us (my three dogs included) on the dining room table.  Thankfully, my eldest daughter (age 18) took matters in hand by announcing, “I’m not afraid of this bleeping animal.  Come here, you!  I’m alpha dog and you are going outside to the pen!”  She jumped off the table, bravely grabbed the leash and dragged Baily outdoors…where…his head slipped out of the collar and he took off.

More screaming.  A new version of the Incredible Journey was born as Bailey began his 20 mile quest for Wendy’s house.  Luckily, my 3rd daughter, age 13 is not only brave, but fast.  Arms waving like an outboard motor, she managed to head Bailey off at the pass, while daughter number 2, age 15, grabbed a brick of cheese and hefted it into the pen.  “Here, Satan!  We have cheese for you!”  The boys slammed the door and when the dog had finished the cheese, it sneered at us, passed gas, and passed out.  Being a terrorist takes the starch out, it would seem.

When Wendy and her husband, Tim, (who starred on a recent episode of Grimm, by the way) returned, I regaled them with this tale and Wendy seemed appropriately shocked…but she’s nearly as good an actor as her husband.  He on the other hand looked outraged…that we’d managed to catch the dog and bring it safely home.  Apparently he wasn’t very complimentary about Wendy’s latest manuscript, either, and shortly thereafter, she adopted the little dog.  Coincidence?  I think not, Timmy.

Carolyn

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Dogs, friendship, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood

MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

Don't worry, kids! I know what I'm doing!

As you may know, I am in the process of teaching daughter #1 to drive.  This came to a grinding halt (no pun) about a month ago and I’m waiting for my heart rate to return to normal before I ride with her again.

We were cruising along on the Interstate and I was riding shotgun.  Daughter #1 was doing an awesome job, relaxed, in control, confident.  I was impressed.  So much so, I relaxed, too.  Daughter #2 was sitting in the back seat and we started to gab about some juicy bit of teen stuff, I can’t recall, but it probably had something to do with cute boys.

Casually, as we all nattered on, I told Daughter #1 to switch to the center lane from the left (or “slow”) lane, as we needed pick up the pace if we were going to get to Portland on time.

My bad.

I didn’t nag her about looking over her shoulder.  Last time I did that, I got the eye-roll and the “Yeah, I KNOW, Mom.  It’s not like YOU look every time you change lanes.”

Hunh.  I thought I did.

Anyway, we were jabbering about 55 wpm and she executes a lane change with carefree abandon.  That’s when the screaming began.  #2 and I were shrieking and freaking, throwing ourselves on the floor and begging God to spare us.

“Whut?”  Daughter #1 asked, apparently not seeing the GIANT SEMI-TRUCK THAT SEEMED TO HAVE ATTACHED ITSELF TO OUR BUMPER.

We’re going to DIE!!!”  #2 and I screamed and clutched at each other.  I was chewing on my heart, trying to get it back down into my chest.  I’m too old for this kind of stimulation.

Daughter #2 is now old enough for her permit test.  Heaven help me.  Today, as I drove #2 to piano, she spotted a Help Wanted sign posted on a School Bus.  “Look!” she cried.    “Daughter #1 is looking for a job!  She should apply!”

As I am now suffering from PTSD, the look on my face must have said it all because she shrugged and said, “Oh.  No.  Probably not.”

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood

HOW TO PICK YOUR HUSBAND

STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of late, my 8-year-old has been giving a lot of thought to marriage—and more specifically, to finding a husband. To wit: When her friend turned down several snack options in a row, El sought me out.

“Mom, she is a PICKY eater.  She’s going to have trouble getting a husband if she eats like that.”

And later:  “I think it would be good to know geometry before you try to get a husband, because…” She pondered.  “Because then you’d both know it.”

Right-o.  I mean, I’m not sure that both people knowing the difference between an acute and an obtuse triangle would qualify as being “equally yoked,” but it couldn’t hurt.

El’s musings got me thinking.  I watch The Bachelor, I admit it.  And, yes, I disrespect myself in the morning, but I am fascinated by what young women and men assume will make a relationship work.  Two minutes into meeting the prize—AKA, the bachelor—beautiful, seemingly bright women are passionately kissing this virtual stranger and claiming they’re sure he’s the one.  By the end of the evening, these same girls are sobbing inconsolably, because the bachelor has given their coveted rose to somebody else

Well, duh.

To all past, current, and future ABC bachelorettes:  I’m going to give you a little advice, and you should take it, because I’m a romance novelist, and I know about happily ever afters.

When you meet someone you consider forever-after material, keep your lips clamped unless you are opening your mouth to talk.  To talk, ladies.  You will not know he’s the one for you simply because you feel goose-pimply after he kisses you and fifteen other girls at an alcohol-soaked cocktail party.  (I’d feel goose pimply, too.  Eew.)  This is romance 101: Save your kisses for someone who’s kissing only you.

From now on, I want you to heed the wisdom of my 8-year-old:  At the very least, find out if you both like geometry before you begin doodling your name together with his on a cocktail napkin.

I tell my daughter all the time, “Marry your best friend.”  At the moment she’s taking me literally and is considering walking down the aisle with one of her girlfriends.  “’Cause we talk about everything, and we could share the same wedding dress, and wedding dresses are very expensive, Mom.’”

I question the practicality of two women and one dress in the same wedding, but I appreciate that she’s budget-minded and, for the moment at least, wise enough to want to spend her life with someone she knows, likes and respects.

As for The Bachelor/ette, Too Hot Mamas must send the show to the front of its Doody Head line asap.  Of course, I suppose I have to walk it there myself.

Wendy

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DUDE, THAT’S RUDE!

In an ongoing effort to transform our dinner table from a trough to a haven of grace and civilization, I recently purchased the books DUDE, THAT’S RUDE and TABLE MANNERS FOR KIDS (of all ages).

When gas is released during the meal and elicits cackles of hyena-like laughter from all present (except me, and kindly do not refer me to Walter, The Farting Dog; I’m not gonna laugh at flatulence when I have slaved over lasagna Florentine)…well, that’s when I think we’ve gone too far.

I decided to read aloud from DUDE over a dinner of spaghetti marinara.  I chose that entrée deliberately as our spaghetti feeds typically resemble the Brown Derby scene in I Love Lucy, wherein Lucy tries to manage giant balls of pasta or endeavors to suck up endless strands, and Ethel resorts to snipping the noodles with a pair of scissors.

With the book as a guide, I modeled twirling a manageable forkful lightly against my spoon.  Twirling—that’s fun for kids, right?

Apparently not.

“I can’t do it,” my daughter complained, letting her fork clatter to her plate.  “Not to be rude, but I don’t like spaghetti anyway.  May I be excused?”

“Of course not!  We just started eating.”

Tim patted her on the arm.  “Mom doesn’t want you to take a huge mouthful, that’s all.  Here, try this.”  He forked up a couple of strands, puckered and inhaled—with agonizingly slow glee—so that the spaghetti looked like live worms, attempting to wriggle away and splattering marinara along the way.  Now our daughter liked spaghetti.

I kicked him under the table.  “Let’s work on our napkins.  They should be placed on our laps–”

“I don’t have a napkin,” dear child pointed out, searching around her placemat.  “You never give us any.”

“All right.”  I got up, scrounged in a drawer and slapped a few wrinkled napkins on the table.  “From now on we’re using napkins, and they should be placed on our laps.”

My husband wiped his mouth delicately then tucked his napkin under his plate.

“Your lap,” I reiterated.

“It’s easier to get to this way.  You don’t have to reach below the table.”  He demonstrated.  “Besides, did you notice how I raised my pinkie when I wiped my mouth?”

He and our daughter proceeded to entertain each other by seeing who could keep their pinkies raised longest while performing various tasks, most of them not dinner related.  I felt a different finger trying to rise, but that would have been rude, so I practiced not speaking with my mouth full.

Flatulence and cackles followed.

It may look like I’m defeated, but I’m not giving up on those books or on us.  And if you think I’m being a stickler, invite my family to dinner sometime.  You’ll thank me.

Wendy

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Filed under Bathroom Humor, Children, Humor, Marriage, Motherhood, parenthood

Ghost Child

At our house, we have a ghost child. His name is Jimmy. Jimmy is a clumsy, stupid child with an evil sense of humor. Jimmy is the one who makes huge, horrible, malodorous poop in the toilet, and never flushes. Jimmy is the one who never, ever puts a lid back on anything and in fact, hides or throws the lid away. When he actually manages to clean up after himself, he perches the lidless jar/bottle/tub at the very edge of the refrigerator shelf and carefully closes the door so that when some unsuspecting innocent wants to make dinner, BLAM-O! Broken, splattered, wasted, whatever…everywhere. Jimmy is also the one who leaves the lights on in both the house and car, leaves the doors unlocked, leaves the heater on and the door wide open. Jimmy uses the last of the shampoo/toilet paper/dry towels without replacing them. He has broken a Wii, lost cell-phones and iPods, screwed up our computers, scratched DVD’s…If it’s costly and irritating, you can be sure Jimmy did it, because none of my perfect darlings would ever be so dastardly. Or so they tell me.

It puzzles me, how Matt and I managed to raise 5 relatively perfect teenagers, and yet put up with the boorish behavior of this ill-mannered ghost. If we simply got rid of Jimmy, imagine how seamless our lives would be!

In fact, as I list my grievances against Jimmy, I am experiencing a bit of a hot flash. I think I’ll just run to the store for some garlic and a silver bullet. Invite Bill Murray and Dan Ackroid over for dinner… I’ll let you know how it goes.

Carolyn

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Teen Slanguage

Jeff Foxworthy’s Redneck Dictionary offers a crash course in southern slang.  Here are a few of his examples that got me to thinking about writing a book of my own:

bay • ou (bi´-ü), v. and n. to purchase for another. “I just walked right up to her and said, ‘Hey darlin’, lemme bayou a drink.’
doo • dle (düd´-el), n. and v. a male person and his predicted actions. “Don’t even look at him, ’cuz that doodle kill you.”
tor • toise (tort´-es), v. and n. to have imparted knowledge or wisdom to a group. “That stupid teacher never tortoise nothin’.

As handy as this book no doubt is, a conversation I overheard in my car the other day has me guessing more American households could use a Teen Slang Dictionary

I thought I’d begin with two phrases that initially had me stumped:

1.  Annie Slike and 2.  iMall Ike.

Translated:

1.  “And, he said.”  (Literally, “And he is like.”)

2.  “I said.”  (Literally, “I am all like.”)

Used in conversation:

iMall Ike “Where?”

Annie Slike  “There?”

iMall Ike “Okay.”

Annie Slike  “See ya.”

We welcome your additions to Toohotmama’s Teen Slang Dictionary,  cuz iMall Ike excited about this project, no waddam een?

Carolyn

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PREGNANT AT FIFTY

Too Hot Mamas has an announcement:  One of us is pregnant.

I looked that word up, and the dictionary definition is:  Heavy with child, significant, expectant.  I, Wendy, am all those things.  At fifty-two and fifty, respectively, my husband and I are in the process of adopting from U.S. Foster Care.  Our daughter is delighted and very ready to share her life with a sibling.  My husband is as scared as he was the first time around, I am cleaning out the basement (nesting), and our friends are, variously–supportive, excited, confused and aghast.

I understand the aghast part; I really do.  Our daughter is pretty darn easy, a delightful child with whom we share a terrific relationship.  Our careers are in flux—not easy, not secure, not gifting us with financial resources to spare.  And, WE ARE IN OUR FIFTIES.  So what are we thinking’?

I have many responses, but it all boils down to this:  It’s important to have parents acknowledge your birthday with joy.  To know you can go “home” for Thanksgiving and every other holiday.  To know that unconditionally loving parents accompany your walk through this beautiful, complex, wonderful, treacherous world.  And, far more selfishly:  Becoming adoptive parents is the best thing that ever happened to my husband and me or ever will.

It boils down to the article below.  I invite you to read  about Steven K. Walker.  Whether you’ve ever considered adoption or not, or are a parent or not, his story is a wonderful reminder that the greatest “success” in life is loving someone.

Wendy

From Summer 2011 Adoptalk

by Steven K. Walker

Steven was adopted from foster care at ten. Below he tells of the events that transformed him from an abused child to a national adoption advocate. Follow Steven on Facebook at the official page of Steven K. Walker, Adoption Advocate.

“He’ll never amount to anything.”

Would those words destroy or motivate you? For me, the words simply seemed true; I should be a failure. Statistics would predict that I’m in prison, but that wasn’t my destiny, was it? Who can know for certain if I will amount to anything, and why would they say that?

My story started in August 1987 when Alice, a mentally challenged alcoholic, gave birth to an undersized baby boy (me) in Niagara Falls, New York. There was no father listed on my birth certificate; it could have been any of the men she brought home from the bar most nights.

From the hospital, my mother brought me to a filthy four-room apartment that had only one outside window. There was no crib or baby formula, so Alice fed me whatever she ate. I often slept on a makeshift bed on the kitchen floor while strange men came over to abuse and take advantage of my poor drunk mother.

In November 1988, Alice gave birth to another boy, David. He and I shared everything and it was great because David gave me the attention my mother gave to strangers. Soon, however, life turned into a nightmare.

Alice kept bringing home men and some of them abused David and me physically, sexually, and emotionally. I tried to protect David by hiding us under the kitchen table, me covering him, and a blanket over us both.

If we refused to get out from under the table, the men would swear, rip me off of David, and beat him. When I tried to defend David and fight back, they beat me even more severely. Though I don’t remember specific men, all the abuse is like a vivid Van Gogh painting in my memory that can’t be forgotten or erased. Inevitably it defines, in part, who I am.

Memories ate at me and made me second-guess everything. Was the abuse my fault? What about my mother-why didn’t she defend me against abuse that left me with a dent in the back of my head and hand tremors? Alice never abused us, but she did not keep us out of harm’s way. Later, I came to realize that it wasn’t her fault, and believe now that she tried the hardest she could to keep David and me safe.

Through all the abuse, I cared for David as best I could. I always made sure he was fed before I was. I made certain he had a coat to keep him warm during the cold winters. Soon I became malnourished.

David and I moved into foster care when I was four years old. With our things in black trash bags, we were shoved into the back of county cars, and said goodbye to our mother. It was confusing. I felt like a prisoner, but prisoners know where they’re going and we didn’t. What if we obeyed instead of fighting and hiding?

David and I ended up at a farm, with a mother and father who seemed nice. It was a hardworking Christian family who prayed with us before bed and got us up early to work in the barn. David and I did as they asked.

One morning, the foster mom assigned us to milk the goats. We didn’t understand why this needed to be done and were struggling to comply. The foster mom tried to make it fun by squirting us with milk from the goat’s udder. Unfortunately, the raw milk hit me in the eye. Six years and several surgeries later, I became legally blind in that eye.

With my belongings in another trash bag, I went to the next foster home. My third foster home was supposed to be therapeutic. The mother had a Ph.D. in psychology and was a special education teacher. She claimed she knew how to care for David and me, but also told us that she really wanted a baby girl, not boys.

Just when I started to get close to the father, they pulled the rug out from under me. They claimed that I was a bad influence on David and sent me away. David stayed behind.

From this home I moved to a Pennsylvania group home. At age six, I was the youngest kid there. We had to complete chores to earn rewards but no one taught me how so I often had to do chores over when I messed up the first time. The head of the facility told me I should never have been placed in the group setting.

Imagine my mindset. I was separated from my brother, lied to, and kept in the dark about my future. When I asked where I was going, the response was often, “Do you like ice cream?” People were saying they loved me, but then giving up on me in less than six months.

Next, I moved in with an older couple in Buffalo, New York. They made it clear they didn’t intend to adopt me; they were only fostering to get money for the husband’s heart surgery. I was eight, but was treated worse than the couple’s five-year-old granddaughter because I was “not blood.” This saying irks me. When humans get cut, don’t we all bleed the same color?

On weekends, I visited potential adoptive families-too many to count. They all gave up on me, even the three families who signed the adoption papers. My feelings of hurt and distrust grew.

Just before my ninth birthday, I moved in with a family in North Tonawanda, New York. I knew them a little from having been in respite care with them a few times, including a time when David was there because his family went to Florida. Before I moved in, the family sent me a letter with pictures of the family, house, and school. The letter ended with a question: Did I want to adopt them as parents?

I was hesitant to fall in love, but this family reached out to me. They wore patches to see what it is like to be blind in one eye. They put ice on their hands to simulate tremors. Still, I could not give in. I hit, kicked, spit, bit, and swore. I told the mother that I didn’t have to follow her rules because she was not my real mother.

Her response was always, “I love you no matter what.” She got to know me and saw my broken heart. She learned that I loved sports and invested in hockey goalie equipment so I could take shots at her whenever I was angry. Afterward, she would rock me in her arms, give me a freezer pop, and tell me she loved me.

The mother was always open and honest with me. She and the father tried to answer my questions as best they could without lying. Around the time of Halloween, after I turned ten, they told me that they would only answer my questions if I called them Mom and Dad.

On New Year’s Eve, Mom and Dad took me to Niagara Falls to see the ball drop. At the time, they said, “How great it is to be celebrating both our anniversary and our son.” The words caught me. I chose to be adopted. I got to pick a court date and even change my name. To honor my dad, I took Kevin as my middle name.

On Tuesday, April 1, 1997, I went into the Niagara County Court House as a foster child and came out as Steven Kevin Walker, son of Kevin and Jody Walker. It was a relief, though I still wish I could have been adopted with my brother.

Since my adoption, my family has grown to include another boy and six girls. I graduated from high school at the top of my class, was Student Council president, captain of the football team, and a three-sport athlete. At community college, I was in more than 20 clubs, served as an officer in the student government, and earned my associates degree.

Today I am an adoption advocate. I share my story in the U.S. and Canada, have been published widely, and have appeared on television and in videos. A man in Florida who heard my story donated more than 400,000 suitcases for youth in care so they can move with some dignity instead of having their things stuffed in garbage bags. In 2001, I helped write legislation to keep siblings together in foster care in New York State. In 2006, I got to share my story with then-Senator Hillary Clinton and leave copies of my speech with all 100 senators (including Barack Obama).

The message I hope to convey is: Don’t give up on us. You never know who we can become. Accept each of us as your child; I am simply your son, not your adopted son, or foster son. All of the adoptive families who stick with the children they adopted from foster care are my heroes! Walk in our shoes and you will understand; our love is deep and the best place we have ever lived is the place with the family who keeps us forever.

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A Marathon Runner Delivers a Baby

I’m jogging in place!

When I first saw this headline, I thought, “Isn’t that nice?  Some good Samaritan gave up their dreams of victory to stop and help a pregnant woman deliver a baby.”

Wrong.

The Marathon Runner had the baby.  She ran during contractions.  At 39 weeks.  Here is a snippet of this insanity:

Amber Miller, 27, had competed in two races while 17 weeks pregnant. But on Sunday she combined two major events in one day. Running while 39 weeks pregnant, she finished the marathon in 6 hours and 25 minutes, then gave birth to a baby girl about seven hours later. Miller said she didn’t feel any ill effects from her 6-hour and 25-minute effort during the marathon, except sore feet and a few blisters.  She set an easy pace, running two miles, walking the next two — finishing three hours off her personal best for a marathon. “I don’t feel anything from the marathon, but I do feel what you’d expect after giving birth,” she said during a Monday press conference.

Hearing this ruined my day.  Now, complaining about a hangnail doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse to skip out on exercising.  Apparently, unless I’m in the throes of labor, I have no excuse.  And, because labor is a thing of the past for me, I suppose any excuse that would put me in the hospital now…doesn’t cut it.  Thanks a lot, Amber.

Heart failure?  Shake it off.

Stroke?  Just do it.

Amputation.  No pain, no gain.

Amber, it’s people like you, who make the rest of us look bad.

Folks, it should also be noted, that Amber ran a marathon with her other two pregnancies, but only up till 17 weeks.

So, Amber, we can see that you are in the mode to stretch yourself.  What’s next? You have the baby at the half way mark, strap the kid into a jogger and press on till the finish?

And…how would you top that?  Give birth to your twin grandchildren during a marathon?
I wouldn’t put it past you.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Cussing, Exercise, Fifteen Minutes of Fame, Health, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood

The Food Network at Home

My family and I have become addicted to the Food Network.  Episodes of Sweet Genius and Halloween Wars find my husband and daughter glued to the set.  I simply cannot miss Chopped.

On Friday, I had the following conversation with my daughter as I set her dinner in front of her, or attempted to.

“Mom, serve it to me the way they do on Iron Chef.”

“What do you mean?”

“Tell me about the food when you put the plate down.”

“Ookay.  Well, this is a tortilla—that I got from a package—and I filled it with chili.”

“What’s in the chili?”

“Ground turkey, beans, tomatoes and a rich assortment of seasonings…I’d have to check the can to be sure.”

“What else?”

Seriously?  Generally if food is not televised, the child can hardly be bothered with it.

“Well, thinking the chili might be too highly seasoned for a young palate—“ I started getting into it, encouraged by her nodding  “—I added a dollop of sour cream to tone it down and stirred in a sprinkle of grated cheddar.  I warmed the mixture to blend all the flavors and then stuffed the tortilla.  On the side you will find small red chili beans, again mildly spiced for your pleasure, and brown rice with olive oil and salsa.  Please enjoy.”

I bowed.

“Thank you.”  But instead of digging in, she folded her hands on her lap and studied the plate.  “What I see is that you have a lot of brown on this plate.  It would have been better to use more color.  Red or green or orange.  A vegetable, perhaps?”

Get real!  When was the last time the child ate “a vegetable perhaps” without threat of losing Moshi Monster privileges for a week?

“And,” she continued, delicately tasting a corner of her Mexi-melt, “while the taste is quite nice, the presentation will count as fifty percent of your score.”

“Well, I’ll keep that in mind when I present your oatmeal to you tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you, Chef.”

“Thank you, Judge.”

Thank you, Food Network.

Wendy

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I Want to be Queen

It’s Winning Wednesday here at Toohotmamas…hang on just a sec…Okay, I’m back after having laughed myself half silly.  When we came up with the harebrained idea to hold a bi-monthly sweepstakes, I thought Wendy was going to run the contest and she thought I was.  We should have known it would be a disaster.  Just look at all the success we’ve had with the Pillsbury bake-off contest.

Anyway, I have an idea for a contest where the contestant would be…me.  I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, especially since Wills and Kate got married, and it dawned on me that we don’t have any royalty in the United States.  Oh, sure, there was that whole Kennedy/Camelot thing, but come on, we all know he was the president and not the king.

Where is OUR Wills and Kate?
Celebrities, such as Queen Latifa and Burger King don’t count.

I think I would make a really good Queen for several reasons:

1.  I would lobby to make all chargers (phone/iPod/etc.) USE THE SAME CORD!

2.  I have plenty of cellulite to mock and plaster across tabloid covers.

3.  I already have a scepter (okay, septic, so shoot me).

4.  I love hats.  And tiaras.

5.  I really, really, really want to be Queen.

So, I’m working on my platform (think battery chargers) and am wondering if I should simply appoint myself (since Queendom is not a  democracy) and throw a coronation party here, at Toohotmamas.

I welcome all ideas for change that you’d like to see added to my reform agenda.  Wendy would automatically be princess (unfortunately, there can only be one queen, and it was my idea and I am older), and heir to the throne.  We will have to establish a hierarchy for the kids, as they will be the ones running around creating scandal and playing polo.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to post my mission statement next Wednesday.

Long live the queen,

HRM Carolyn of Manchester.

(I love the name Manchester.  Reminds me of my bra size).

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Cinderella, Fifteen Minutes of Fame, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood

Kids Say The Darndest Things…Part 2

“Oh, darn!”

Darn it!  Yesterday, I couldn’t remember a darned thing that my kids say for Toohotmama’s KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS segment.  I thought and I thunk till my thinker was stuck and then I remembered!  My number one daughter is learning to drive!  I’m teaching her and she has said a few darned things while we are in the car.  This is probably the darndest thing she said, right after she crashed into a boulder in our driveway.

“Gee, Mom.  It’s lucky this car is old.  I wouldn’t want to learn in a good car.”

When I relayed this to my husband, he said a darned thing.  Can’t write it all here, but the jist of it was:

“Old?!  OLD?!  That THIRTY-FOUR THOUSAND DOLLAR CAR is only FOUR YEARS OLD!”

To that, my daughter said, “Oh.  Well, it looks old.”

To which my husband said some more darned (and unrepeatable) stuff about how she and her siblings treat it like a garbage scow and he was going to buy personalized license plates that read:  MOM’S SCOW.

I said a few darned things of my own.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, aging, Anxiety, Children

I LOVE THIS BOOK!

I love a book I can sink my teeth into!

Have you ever read a book that was so good you just gobbled it up?
My dogs have!
I bought this book at the Scholastic Book Fair for my son and after he was done tearing through it, the dogs did!
Maybe it was the picture on the front…maybe it was the element of suspense.  Maybe it was the meaty goodness of the cardboard, but when we came home after a shopping trip, Lovey Howl had chewed through it and Thurston was on the waiting list.
So Wendy, I’m thinking…We have neglected an entire audience!  Fiction for Dogs!  I’ll loan this sucker to you after Thurston’s done.  See if Autumn like’s it?  If so, I have an idea for a real tail-wagger!
Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Dogs, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood

Just Tell Me WHY…

Why, why, WHY…when I tell my daughter to get ready for church, she pulls a shirt so stinky it is practically smoking out from beneath her bed, where it clearly has been languishing for months and is now lathered in dust bunnies.   Maybe she likes the fur look?

BUT when this same child tries on a CLEAN blouse in the morning before school and decides, “No, I think I’ll wear my blue instead,” the first shirt is deposited instantly into the dirty laundry hamper despite the fact that it has been worn for two and one-half minutes.

WHY?

And why–this question is from my husband, who, I suspect is in a menopause of his own–do kids pour glasses of milk the approximate size of Seven-Eleven Big Gulps, take two sips, leave it, then pour grape juice into a thermos, take two sips of that before abandoning it forever all the while hollering, “Mom, we’re thirsty and there’s nothing to drink”?

As I get older, I seem to crave order and logic, two virtues that held no appeal in my youth.   Why?  Why do I want to impose order and logic on my life now when I am surrounded by children and filled with menopausal ADD?  How’s that gonna work?

My timing’s off.   Assuming I could impose a neat cause-and-effect rhythm to each and every day (or even half of them), what would I gain?  Sure, a kid who never smelled like a stable during benediction, but I’d also lose the hair bands attached to each and every doorknob in the house; houseplants lined up in the bathroom like thirsty soldiers, water and soil draining onto the floor; and the little thrill of the unexpected when I open the freezer to search for dinner and find, instead, a Groovy Girl doll seated between the lasagna and the peas (don’t ask; I have absolutely no idea).

I don’t need logic at this point in my life.  What would I do with it now that my memory’s failing?  And, really, if one is trying to stave off senility, what better way to exercise the brain than to try to figure out how a child’s mind works?

Sign me,

Happy Just Wonderin’

Wendy

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Humor, Writing

How I (Almost) Ruined Our Summer Vacation

Do you have to-do lists for your summer vacation?  Please say you do, and if you don’t, please lie to me, because I don’t want to be the only Type A, summer-killing, Wicked Witch of the West weenie who made a list, cracked the family whip…and didn’t get a darned thing done, anyway.

What is it with me and summer?  I have a friend who takes her kids to the coolest places and does the most interesting things over the summer school break.  They camp out in tree houses, fly to other states to attend fairs, go on field trips to meet rulers of the free world.

I told my family we were going to:

1.) Sand and paint the molding throughout the house.  It really needs it.

2.) Pull down the hall wallpaper, which we started pulling down 2 years ago until I gouged the wall with the Paper Tiger, and we realized we’d have to drywall, too.  It’s time to turn that mess into a proper hallway.

3.) Work on daughter’s spelling, reading and math—just fifteen minutes a day, but we must be disciplined.

4.) Organize all desks, bookshelves and closets so our mornings can proceed in a smooth and joyous fashion.

Of course I planned to reward us for each project we completed.  A long bike ride, a sleepover for my daughter, a night out for the hubster and moi.

I was excited about summer, because I envisioned its conclusion with us toasting each other in our clean, lovely, drywalled home while our daughter rattled off a few dozen perfectly spelled, three-syllable words.

Yeah.  So here’s what happened:

Me, resplendent in my husband’s tool belt, and holding a clipboard:  “Okay, troops, here’s the list of what we’re going to accomplish today!”

Husband:  “Great, honey, but before you read that, we’re going to go on a bike ride.”

Me:  “Well, actually, I was thinking…”

Daughter:  “Yeah, Mom, and when we get back,  (insert name of friend here) is coming over, okay?  Please?  We haven’t seen each other since school and we probably won’t be in the same class next year (she used this same pitch for every friend all summer) and her parents said she could have a play date if you say it’s okay and I promise I’ll learn any words you want me to as soon as she leaves unless you say she can sleepover too can she please?” 

I look at husband, who shrugs, not that he even attempts to follow that kind of run-on pleading.

And there I am, left with the drill sergeant and the pushover debating in my head:

We have to get something done.  The house is a pit. 

 Ookay, but it is summer.

 Yeah, well the hall looks like a still photo from Nightmare on Elm Street.  I’ve seen people tremble on their way to our bathroom.  And if DD doesn’t study a little bit, her brain will turn to mush and she’ll start the school year behind all the kids who are studying over the summer, and then she’ll feel bad when the teacher gives her “baby math.” 

 I know, but it’s summer.

 No buts!  The closets—

 Maybe tomorrow.

 By this time, of course, the husband and daughter have left for their bike ride, and I have decided to do something really useful like vacuum crumbs out of the grooves in the dining table.  And, probably, this wouldn’t be a bad thing (there was roughly the equivalent of a loaf of bread in those grooves), except that the debate continues inside my head and every time I see someone to whom I’m related, I grab the clipboard and ask them to commit to a chore and a time slot.

On a couple of occasions, I got them to join me for entire days devoted to one project or another, and when I wasn’t successful, I talked about all the work we still had to do.  Doesn’t that sound fun?

And then I heard my husband and daughter talking about the fun they really were having riding their bike rides and playing Karate Kid Meets Ninja Turtle and engaging in an eight-year-old version of Name That Tune.

Up to that point, the most fun my daughter and I had was writing her spelling words on the sidewalk with 3-D chalk.  (Well, I had fun.)  So I gave up.  I put the tool belt in the garage (though I thought it made me look kinda butch in a good way), ditched the clipboard and made plans to have a Halloween party in our hallway.

Tonight Carolyn’s sons are having a sleepover at our place.  I walked the dog three miles while the boys and my daughter rode their bikes up and down hills, shrieking like…kids in summer.  We got ice cream at the local store, came home to make giant chocolate chip cookies and built our own ice cream sandwiches.  Now they’re watching Surf’s Up.

They’re giggling.  I feel wonderfully relaxed.  And it finally feels like summer.

Wendy

P.S.  Someone will need to remind me about this next year when that hallway and I are playing “Six Degrees of Separation) from Freddy Krueger.

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Cooking When You’re MADHD

I love to feed my dog.  LOVE it.  She actually eats what I cook.  Licks her chops afterward.  Licks me.  The dog adores salads, sauteed kale, brown rice and quinoa pilaf.  I think she’s my soul mate.

My husband and daughter?  Not so much.  I know they wish our kitchen window was a drive-up.  This week, DD and her friend were in the front yard, saw me standing at the sink and yelled, “Can we have Big Macs, fries and lemonade?”

“No, but I have something so much better!  I made Hawaiian tofu wraps, sweet potato tater tots and sparkling apple juice.”  I waited for the shouts of joy.

My daughter and her friend looked at each other.

“We’ll wait,” my daughter said.

“For what?”

“Dad.”

I loved my mother’s cooking.  Everyone did.  My husband tells me that my mother was able to make even packaged food taste better than the manufacturer ever dreamed.  So that got me thinking…

I pulled out my mother’s personal cookbook, packed with the recipes of my youth.  In her later years, she began altering her recipes to reflect a simpler cooking style, and I think I know why:  Menopausal ADHD–Attention Deficit Hotflash Dissorder.  I don’t have the attention span to make anything elaborate.  We eat raw half the time, because five minutes after I turn on the flame, I will forget that I was cooking at all and burn the whole meal.   HOWEVER…

Here’s a recipe I believe I can do.  We ate it for breakfast or dinner when I was a kid.  I’m going to give it a whirl.  I know the dog’s going to be ecstatic, and perhaps my two-legged family will look forward to eating at home.  They might even lick me.

BUBBE’S BLINTZ SOUFFLE

12 frozen cheese blintzes (use the tofu kind from Trader Joe’s and non-dairy sour cream for a dairy-free version, but don’t blame Bubbe if it’s not as good as the original recipe)

1 large carton sour cream

4 eggs, well beaten

1 tsp vanilla

Your favorite jam

Place blintzes in casserole so they touch, but are not more than 1 layer deep.  Mix remaining ingredients together–pour over blintzes.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Dab a little jam over the top of each serving and accompany with fresh fruit.

L’Chayim,

Wendy

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Cooking

The Best Dessert You’ll Ever Eat…or The Best Kiss You’ll Ever Have? Take the survey and WIN

 

 

 

 

It’s time for Winning Wednesdays at Too Hot Mamas.

All righty, you’re menopausin’–pre, peri, in it, post, whatever–the point is you’re sweaty, a little ticked off in a permanent way, you’ve got kids, a job, you’re tired, so if you could choose only one of the following, which would it be:

THE BEST DESSERT YOU’LL EVER EAT (what is it?)

OR

THE BEST KISS YOU”LL EVER HAVE? (with whom?)

Reply and we’ll enter you in our bi-weekly drawing for a five-buck STARBUCK’S gift card.

Too Hot Mamas will answer this, too, of course.  We’re an open book.  But we want to hear from you first.

Carolyn and Wendy

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, aging, Children, friendship, Humor, Motherhood, parenthood

Moms Say The Darnedest Things

Heard this week from my mom friends:

“If I see you trying to drown your brother one more time…”

“Don’t hit your sister with that lizard.  That is not nice.  That poor lizard.”

“Well, how did you get bird poop in your cereal?  You’ve been inside all morning.”

“Buddy, please don’t rinse your mouth again with that water.  That’s where the geese go poo.”

Your turn!  Share some crazy mom talk!

Wendy

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HE LIVES! The fish, I mean.

Okay, for you, Carolyn, grinding little guppies in your Insinkerator.   But our fish, Bluestar, has been SAVED!  His pretty blue fins are unclamped, his I’d-as-soon-kill-you-as-look-at-you personality is back in full force, his appetite…

Oops.

As you all know, the family and I were prepared to go to extreme lengths to help our little Betta friend heal from the multiple fungal, bacterial and depression issues he appeared to be having.  (We change his water regularly, use water conditioner, warm his bowl to the appropriate-for-Bettas temperature, etc., I swear.)  Well, after many a run to pet stores and calls to ichthyologists, we found the right combo of treatments.  And Bluestar, bless his fishy heart, responded.  He even turned to stare at us with what we all agreed was gratitude.

Tim and I high-fived, wiped our tired brows, kissed our relieved and teary daughter, promised not make any more tuna melts lest we inadvertently ingest Bluestar’s cousin (whatever, she’s eight) and got some sleep.  And, uh, you know, forgot to feed the little guy.

For a couple of days.

Maybe that wasn’t a look of gratitude. 

We finally remembered the meal issue after he began ramming his nose into the glass.  This time he looked like he wanted to phone PETA, pronto.

Listen, Mr. Fish, I am menopausal and you are soooo lucky I was able to focus long enough to medicate you.  You are not the first family member whose dinner has been a day or two late.  Just grab a Snickers like the others and chill.

I just gave him a few Top Fin pellets and am now off to find dried worm things or some other Betta delicacy to express my apologies properly.  My husband says we’re too old for any more live things and has asked me to let everything not on two legs die out without seeking its immediate replacement.

We’ll see.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Wendy

 

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Filed under Children, Death, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Pet fish

Fish tragedy, a three hanky tale

Don’t they look like angels when they sleep?…wait…they ARE angels!

Luckily, my mother does not read this blog so I can add my fish tale to Wendy’s aquarium misery.  Plus, it’s been two years and we’ve managed to recover nicely.

Number One Son really, really, really, really wanted a pet fish.

I said, “But honey, you know you are only ten-years-old and won’t take care of it and the poor little fishy will die of starvation.”

“No way, Mom!!  I’ll feed it and change its water and play with it and everything.”

“If I let you have a fish, you must realize that I don’t want it, and its life will be in your hands, got that?”

After he pledged allegiance to the fish, we went to Wal-mart.  Price of fish?  10 cents.  Price of bowl, rocks, food, fish net, special chemistry set to keep the bowl from rotting, exotic housing units and plastic trees and kelp in unnatural neon colors?  $89.50.

Day one was glorious:  Son diligently set up bowl, named fish Alice, fed Alice 3 squares, checked chemical balance, dragged family and friends in to admire how clever Alice was whenever she swam through neon cave and, before bed that night, told Alice bedtime story.

Day two:  Son invited to sleepover at neighbor’s house.  Forgot Alice existed.

Day five: Alice failing.

Day eight:  Alice, near death, discovered by eldest teenage daughter.  “Mom, I’m going to take over Alice’s health care.  Brother is going to be my
co-owner.”

A shame-faced brother agreed to the arrangement and within days, Alice was her spunky old self.  Daughter taught brother that the best way to clean Alice’s bowl was to transfer Alice to a salad bowl and run her regular stuff through the dishwasher to sterilize it from time to time.

Unfortunately, daughter and son neglected to tell Grandma their bowl cleaning method.  And—because my mother is one of those people who cannot stop cleaning for 5 minutes—when she came over for dinner, Alice was inadvertently tossed into the garbage disposal and whirled into the great beyond as my mother hummed Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

We all stared at each other in horror, as Alice had become a rather cherished member of the family.  However, we also knew that Grandma would never forgive herself and would inundate us with replacement fish for the rest of our lives and so, choked back the tears.  Needless to say, dinner was a tad subdued that night.  Now and then, a family member would pause at the disposal and murmur their respects down the drain.

Wendy, hurry.  Invite my mother over for dinner next time you clean Bluestar’s bowl.  Grandma, without fail, will leap up from the dinner table and begin tackling the dishes.  Rest in peace, Bluestar.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Anxiety, Children, cleaning, Cooking, Cussing, Death, Health, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Pet fish

Kids and Pets, part 2…till death us do part…

I have this thing about death:  I like to avoid it.  In people, in pets, in the tiny ants my husband tries to send to the great ant farm in the sky while I race around, scooping them up (I have a method) and removing them to the outdoors before he can commit mass ant murder.

If you’re ever ill, call me; I will be right over with an arsenal of home cures.

When my 16-year-old poodle was dying, I begged the vet to do his best to help my puppy.  “His best years are ahead of him.”   As my father’s 23-year-old cat lay gasping, his breaths numbered, I held him on my chest and implored the frail guy to rally.  “We can play with your mousie.  I’ll make fried chicken (his favorite).”

Yeah, I need therapy.

In the meantime, we are still working hard in my house to keep the Betta fish, Bluestar, from turning into Mr. Limpet.

My blog mate is, as many of you undoubtedly know, far more practical than I.  She has  suggested that when the life of a finned pet is hanging in the balance, the parents should make an emergency “vet” visit…to Wal-Mart.

“Wal-Mart doesn’t have vets,” I thought…ohhhhh.

Carolyn (I hope her kids aren’t reading this) has apparently taken many a sick fish to the “vet” at Wal-Mart, where they are miraculously healed and returned to their owners better (and younger) than ever.  I don’t even want to think about what happens to original.

I can’t quite give up on Bluestar yet, so we’re continuing to medicate, and I must say my daughter seems to be more accepting of any outcome.  I think that’s because her friends know best how to comfort her through times like these.

One sweet nine-year-old put her arm around my daughter’s shoulders and offered solace.   “You have to remember, he did a lot of fun things in his life.”

Someone else comforted, “We’ll never forget him,” and another looked in the fish bowl and nodded gravely.  “Yup, it’s his time.”

The best comment, however, and the one that cheered my daughter the most was simply this:  “As soon as he dies, you can ask your parents for a ferret.”

Kids.  So practical.

Hang on, Bluey, the chicken soup is on the stove.

Wendy

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It’s Raining, It’s Pouring…HELP.

I love rain in summer.  The rhythmic tapping on the roof and rain gutters, the glassy droplets bouncing off bright pink rose petals.  The four kids who don’t know what to do in my 1100 square foot house–

AHHHGGGHHHH.  When I said yes to the sleep-over, I was counting on sunshine, the yard, a sprinkler, the banana chocolate chip bread I stayed up till midnight baking last night…and which my husband ate when he came home from work.  How can one thin man eat half a loaf of banana bread?

I was going to deep clean the house today.  Catch up on work.  Bwah-hah-hah-hah.  Obviously God wants me to get to know these kids.  Real well.  In an enclosed space.

Quick!    I need ideas that DO NOT involve the Disney Channel.  (Don’t get me started on Selena Gomez and the pre-sexualization of ‘tween girls.)

I found this on line:

JUST FOR KIDS: PEANUT BUTTER PLAYDOUGH
Read more about it at http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,199,149163-237203,00.html
Content Copyright © 2011 Cooks.com – All rights reserved.
1 c. peanut butter
2/3-1 c. nonfat dry milk
2 tbsp. honey
Mix ingredients. Add enough powdered milk to make playdough dry enough to handle. Shape into balls. Add raisins to make a face. Or stir in chow mein noodles and make a bird’s nest. Or stir in Cheerios or chocolate chips for fun. Eat and enjoy!

Too little-kid for the nine-year-old crowd?  What if I tell them it’s Peanut Butter Clay?  We could study the world’s great sculptors and turn it into a learning experience.   They’d love that.  (NOT.)  I could have them pretend they’re potters and then fill the “pots” with strawberries or chocolate chips or dollar bills.

It was so easy when they were really little and thought finding shiny wet rocks was as exciting as a trip to The Magic Kingdom.

Hurry with your ideas.  They are waking up now.  My house is shrinking….

Wendy

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Filed under Anxiety, Children, Cooking, Motherhood, parenthood

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Recipe

I promised you this recipe many a blog ago.  Here it is, better late than never…which is pretty much how meals arrive at our dining table.

I made this in an effort to get my daughter to school with something resembling a whole food in her tiny belly.  She loves this breakfast; she loves anything that sounds like dessert at 7 a.m.  I know it’s summer now and cold breakfasts taste better than warm, hearty oatmeal, but we’re in the Pacific Northwest; we can eat this stuff ten months out of the year.

Like Edith Piaf, Je ne measure rien.  (I’m sure that’s what Edith meant. ) Just put in as much as you want of the following.

Oh–one more thing;  If I were Carolyn or anyone remotely able to post a photo, I would.  But I’m not, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Libbi’s Carrot Cake Oatmeal

Steel cut oats–organic.  One quarter cup dry measure equals one serving.  You’ll need four times the amount of liquid.

vanilla rice milk (You can use all rice milk –or soy or almond or coconut or whatever–or part milk and part water.  Or try orange juice and water.  Or all water,  But that’s kind of boring, and you’re not boring, are you?)  Remember; 4 parts liquid to 1 part steel-cut oats.

organic raisins (Pay extra; imported grapes are on the list of most toxic fruits.  CostCo usually has a good deal on organic raisins.)

grated carrots–yeah, organic

honey or agave and/or mashed banana for sweetness

shredded coconut (optional)

chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

pinch of sea salt

Toppings:  Many options.  See below.

METHOD…and we do have one…

Before you go to bed one night, measure out your oats and the liquid you’re using for the number of servings desired.  I combine these in a PYREX glass bowl.  Add some raisins (the golden kind are super in this), cover and stick in the fridge.  The raisins will plump deliciously and sweeten the cooking liquid.

When you get up the next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Add grated carrots and sweetener to your oatmeal.  Libbi likes a lot of each.  Add your pinch of sea salt  plus coconut and nuts as desired.  Slide this in the oven uncovered and go about your business for 35-45 minutes.   When both it and you are ready, serve the oatmeal as is or with a little more milk, maybe stir in a little nut butter for protein if you want, some maple syrup or sprinkle with chocolate chips and top with a little whipped cream. We’ve tried all that so far and it’s all yummy.

Try it and tell Too Hot Mamas what you think.  Bon Apetit! L’Chaim!

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Cooking, Fitness, Health, Writing

Kids Say The Darnedest Things

I’m currently in sunny (scorching) Southern California, visiting my in-laws.  I always love this trip as my in-laws are fantastic people and they all live in one ginormous, bee-autiful home.  I don’t have to travel anywhere in order to see them all, a plus as I was never a California summer-lovin’ girl, even when I grew up here.  The other reason I love this trip:  I have adorable nieces.  This morning, the seven-year-old awoke early to hang out with me and we chatted about vacations.

Niece:  It’s hard to sleep on a plane.

Me:  Not enough leg room?

Niece:  Yeah.  When we flew to Florida there was an old man behind me, and he kept kicking my seat.

Me:  That must have been frustrating.

Niece:  Oh, it was!  He was old.  He should have known better.  And he did it the whole way to Florida.

Me:  Did you ask him nicely to stop?

Niece:  Yeah.  No.  I don’t know.  He never stopped.  He was old.  He should have known it was not right and it was not polite.

Me:  True.  But if he was old, maybe he didn’t realize he was doing it.

Niece:  Maybe.  He wasn’t so old old, though.  Maybe…at least eighteen or nineteen.  Yeah, maybe he was too old to know what he was doing.

She’s so wise, don’t you think?  It just proves nineteen is the new one hundred.
Wendy

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Filed under aging, Children, Humor, Motherhood, parenthood, politeness, Travel

Sliding Doors

Steady...steady now...

On the 4th of July, we had the kind of company you want to impress.  (My agent and her family).  Yet, my hard-working hubby saw the day off as an opportunity to strip the house of every interior door to patch, prime and paint.  I’m sure the bizarre impact of no bathroom or closet doors  didn’t occur to him when he hatched this amazing scheme.  Isn’t the closet where you cram everything when company comes?  The bathroom problem is self-evident.  Anyway, as you can imagine, what with 7 people and 3 dogs at our house, our doors can get pretty shabby looking.

He has a clever way of spreading a giant tarp over the driveway and arranging the doors (think dominos) vertically with supports holding them at the top.  In the past, on a windless day, this has worked beautifully.

Because of the barbecue, he only had enough time to get the doors in domino stance, then he had to go to work for me.  (I love this man).  After the fireworks, we all had a great night’s sleep, but woke to find that the doors had toppled.  Some broken.

Yet, my intrepid hubby (after some pithy verbiage and a moment to sulk in my arms) strode back outside to face the door dragon.  Thankfully, only 2 of the doors were damaged.  He spent the day patching them and putting them back up with reinforcements. Then, off to work to make a living the next day.

While the kids were splashing in the pool, the first row crashed.  The kids started screaming.  “Mom!  THE DOORS!”  They thrashed out of the pool and raced to the driveway only to arrive in time to watch the second row fall.  My thirteen-year-old daughter burst into tears.  “Poor, Dad!”  The boys, (including one of their classmates) all looked on morosely.  “Man, that bites!”  The older girls were mad and verbal.

“Come on, you guys!  Grab a door, let’s get this cleaned up before Dad gets home.”

In no time, the doors were stacked and sorted (only 2 more broken this time) and it was up to me to make the scary phone call.

Stony silence followed by expletives deleted.  Yet, he came home, figured out a new way to arrange the doors (like tables with short legs) sprayed them, flipped them, sprayed them again and now…taaaa…daa…I have beautiful, shiny, amazing doors in my house.

Thank you, sweetheart.  You are awesome.

Carolyn

PS:  If you haven’t seen Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s fascinating.

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Anxiety, Children, cleaning, Cussing, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Writing

George Clooney is single!!

If I could only decide between the too hot mamas. Eenie, Meanie, Miney...

I know, I know, I promised that Wendy and I would be updating you
all from the Big Apple. But, we didn’t have time. As we were leaving for the
airport, the news broke that George Clooney was newly single, possibly in Manhattan… and the race was on.

It’s obvious that the boy is barking up the wrong tree with these super-skinny, super-attractive, super-young, super-models.   And, now that he’s 50, we’re guessing he’s
going to realize the error of his ways and start looking for a well-seasoned,
less-than-perfect woman to provide arm candy.
We think a little cellulite and some wrinkles are fine, because hey, we’re
not perfect, either.

So now, the question is, me or Wendy?  We asked our husbands and since neither of them seemed threatened in the least, it’s a horse race.

When we weren’t stalking Georgie Porgie Puddin’ Pie, we took a ton of pictures, visited 5 states, actually DROVE IN MANHATTAN (thank you, Darla, you rock), met with agents and editors, talked book deals, ate waaaaay too much, walked barefoot in Times Square at midnight and laughed ourselves half silly.  We came home speaking with distinct New York accents and are energized and ready to write.

Wishing you all a fab 4th!

Carolyn Clooney

Sounds good, huh, Wendy?

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, aging, Children, Geroge Clooney, Marriage, Menopause, New York, parenthood, Travel, Weight gain, wrinkles, Writing

My Fantasy Life

Muuaahahahahah! Alone at last!

I have a rich fantasy life.  But, it’s not what you’re thinkin’.  Sorry.  This time my fantasy involves planting the “Family Garden”.  Oh, yeah.  I could just see me in my floppy garden hat and a gauzy white sundress.  The kids, frolicking at my feet, digging holes and planting veggies that they would consume with relish, because they grew them with their own two hands.

(Wavily dream sequence music here).

“Oh, Mother!  Look at the beautiful broccoli plant I grew!  I can’t wait to eat of its
bounty!”

“Mommy, dearest, may I please harvest a zucchini from the lush depths of my little patch?”

“Why yes, darling, but remember, though eating from the garden is good for you, you must include other nutrients, such as sugar, in your diet.”

“Oh, Mumsie, but must we?  I prefer Brussel-sprouts!”

Sigh.  It all started so well.  “Kids! This year, I want each of you can plant your own raised bed with whichever vegetables you want!”

“Yay!  Oh, goodie. I get watermelon!”

“No!  I want watermelon!”

“What about me?  Don’t I get a watermelon?”

Heavy sigh.  “I’m sure there will be other things we might want to plant.”

Blank stares.

“Okay, kids let’s go to the nursery to get your plants.”

“Do I have to?”

“You don’t want to go?”

“If I have to…”

AT THE NURSERY

“Mom, look!  Let’s get this!”

“We can’t eat a flower basket.”

Mutter, mutter,cheapskate, economy, flowers, mutter.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing, Mom.”

“Great.  Let’s load the car.”

“Do we have to?”

AT HOME

“Okay everybody!  Hang tight while I go get my floppy garden hat!  While I am changing into my gauzy white garden dress, you guys take the plants out to the beds and start digging some holes, okay?”

“Do we have to?”

IN THE GARDEN

“Hey, Liv why are you the only kid in the garden with me?”

“The other kids are all asleep.  Mom, why are you dressed like that?”

“Shut up and weed.”

“Do I have to?”

Wavily dream music here.

And so, I spent another afternoon in solitude, planting my garden.  Note to self:  Want much sought after alone time?  Ask for help with the garden!

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, aging, Children, Cussing, Fitness, gardening, Humor, manners, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood

My carpet is disgusting

Wendy!  Get Rich Quick Scheme number 197,322!!!

I am thinking of calling it Nature’s Carpet, a revolutionary new flooring manufactured with the family in mind.  Envision this in your
own home.  Orange cat?  Nature’s Carpet will incorporate random tufts of orange hair into the weave!  Have a baby?   Imagine haphazard patches of mustard yellow and baby burp white!  For you dog owners, muddy paw prints in chocolate and caramel brown and some ‘oopsie’ spots for the puppy years.  I’m thinking the ketchup and pizza stain pattern is a must for a rumpus room.  And every guy will clamor for the barf and beer stain look for his man room.

Husbands?  Go ahead and take that motorcycle apart in the living room.  She won’t care.  Not with Nature’s Carpet’s “Garage Floor Stain” pattern.

Get that new carpet smell with the user-friendly feel.  No more need to chase that wet pet through the house.  Screaming at the kids over muddy boots is a thing of the past.  Peace and tranquility abound as you ‘go green’ with our bark dust, rabbit droppings and moss chunks pattern.

Your friend’s will turn puce with envy!

Wendy, my family will easily be able to do all of the design work.  You look into the patent deal.  I’m thinkin’ we’re on to something big this time.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, cleaning, Cooking, Cussing, Death, Dogs, Geroge Clooney, Humor, kids messy rooms, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood

Furious R-rated Don’t Read, Pt. 2.

"Make my day, doo-doo head!" This bad boy don't need to cuss.

   Why is it, when you make a decision to rumble with someone, to knock heads (I’m talking Bill Murray’s Ghostbuster rant about “disaster of biblical proportions, old testament, real wrath of God type stuff, fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria”–okay maybe not that bad), that you end up having to like, I don’t know, sit next to them on a plane, or be their lab partner or neighbor or something? 

Well, that just happened to me.  Remember the kid I was so hot under the collar over several blogs ago entitled Don’t Read, Rated R?  Yup.  Ended up spending a week with him at outdoor school.  (This year, we took on rocks and planets out in Eastern Oregon).

Yes.  I was scared.  I’m guessin’ he was too.

You know that theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly that always plays when outlaws are in the middle of a shootout at the O.K. corral?  The one where they squint at each other just before they draw their guns?  Here.  I’ll try a few bars for you:  Doo-doo-doo-doloo, Bah Wah, Wah. Doo-doo-doo-doloo, Bah Wah, WAH!  A big old ball of sage brush rolls by?  Yeah.  That song. 

It’s playing as I get on the bus, where I had to spend the next four solid hours.  And just who do you suppose is the first person I see?  The cussing eighth-grade rap-artist!  He was already seated.  The last empty seat was within spitting distance.  We eyeballed each other, brows a’see-sawin’.  Who was gonna draw first?  As I strolled down the aisle, we never broke eye-contact.  Didn’t smile.  Didn’t speak.  Slid into my seat.  Pulled down the brim of my hat.

Days passed.  Bumped into him every time I turned around.  I didn’t mention the obscene ballad to his mother he posted on Facebook.  He didn’t mention my vitriolic response.

I carry candy.  Lots of candy.  Especially when I’m forced into confined spaces with hormone-crazed middle-schoolers.  One blazing hot afternoon, he was hungry.  I had candy.  He wanted some.  I gave him some.  He said, “I love you!”  I said, “I love you, too.”

I think I got my point across.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, Clint Eastwood, Cussing, friendship, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Outdoor school, parenthood, please and thank you, politeness, The Bad and the Ugly, Travel, Young Love

Life Is Hard. Now Go Play.

Here at Too Hot Mamas, Carolyn and I have ever-so-humbly dubbed ourselves the Lucy and Ethel of Menopausal Motherhood.  (If you had any idea how many whacked-out schemes for one thing or another my blog mate comes up with on a near daily basis, you, too, would suspect Lucille Ball of staging a walk-in.)

But Carolyn is in Central Oregon roughing it with her kids’ school, and I…well, dear reader, I am not feeling funny today.  Hey, I can laugh at a toothache, but as my hilarious Great Uncle Henry used to say, “Some things ain’t funny, Magee.”

My last blog touched on the extraordinary grace under fire of one of our neighbors.  Since then the nasty stuff hit the fan in another neighbor’s life when she awoke to an intruder who assaulted her, brutally, in her home.  The police caught the guy, but will the judicial system keep him off the streets?  Will she find the peace that defies understanding and feel safe in her home again, or out of it?  Will the children who usually run up and down our block as if it’s Mayberry be allowed to play as freely this summer?

And then, on Tuesday, I went to juvenile court to support a friend who has raised her granddaughter since the child was born while her parents struggled with meth, domestic violence and parole violations.  For five years, this grandmother’s refrain regarding her granddaughter has been, “If I do my job well, she won’t realize [how much chaos and fighting surrounds her].”  Being the eye in the storm can’t have been easy, but the five-year-old is a happy, stable child, as innocent as she should be at her age.

Juvenile court—whew.  Stay out of there, if you can.  For what was probably no more than thirty or forty minutes (but seemed like hours)—we watched this lovely five-year-old’s fate be tossed about by a bunch of lawyers whose chief agenda appeared to be Don’t Bother-Me-With-The-Facts-I-Have-A-Case-To-Win.  I watched my friend attacked as the wicked interloper instead of thanked for her love and devotion.  Yeah, so much for that pesky commandment about honoring our parents.

My Uncle Henry had a tough life.  Thirty-five major operations beginning at age three, cancer more times than I can count, heart disease, went blind for a time, broke his back, yadda yadda.  None of his siblings made it much past sixty.  When Uncle Henry was ninety, a waitress (he loved to eat out) asked him if he’d lived in Los Angeles all his life.  “Not yet,” he deadpanned.

Uncle Henry was the happiest person I’ve ever known.  Like any Jewish fellow worth his salt, he knew how to grieve heartily, how to bemoan the fact that bad things happened to good people.  He was not shy about asking, “Why?”  But he had a philosophy of life that was as much a part of him as his brown eyes, and he taught it to us in everything he said and everything he did:  Life is hard, kinderle.  Now go play. 

A mother dies, leaving three young children….  A woman is attacked in her home in the quiet area she trusted….  A little girl may lose the only stability she has ever known and face an uncertain future….

Life is hard.  Sometimes it’s bitterly hard.  But in the midst of it all, there are people willing to be God’s hands here on earth.  On Sunday night, eighty people gathered around the home of the young mother who lay dying on her forty-third birthday.  With candles lit and their voices raised so she, her husband and children would hear them inside the house, they sang Happy Birthday.

Life is hard.  Now go play.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Death, friendship, Jewish, Motherhood, parenthood, Writing

Live Like You Were Dying

Today is Sarah Bach’s 43rd birthday.  Yesterday she was given the last rites after a year-long battle with metastatic melanoma.  A battle that appears to have been grueling and filled with extraordinary grace.  I don’t know Sarah, though I have met her husband and kids a couple of times.  I’ve thought about her every day, though, for months.  Often several times a day, because of the ribbons.  Giant, happy-looking orange ribbons that circle the broad trunks of trees, the thin branches of azalea bushes and posts of mail boxes throughout our neighborhood.  If you live where I do, you know who Sarah Bach is even if you’ve never laid eyes on her.  You know, and your life has been changed.

Sarah is a mother with three young children and an adoring husband who thinks the world of her.  I doubt I’ll ever write a novel about a romance as real and eternal as the one Sarah and her husband have written this past year.

Their family is devoutly Catholic, blessed with a grace that has carried them through disappointment after disappointment as each new treatment failed to halt the progression of her cancer.  Together, last Wednesday, they told their children she was dying.  To me, the situation seems utterly wrong.  Unfair.  Horrible.  Tragic.  I know plenty of people who didn’t take care of themselves and healed.  We all do.  The photos I’ve seen of Sarah before she became ill show a gorgeous woman who is fit and vibrant.  Sarah had a legion of people praying for her.  And yet she’s leaving three elementary-age children.

Her husband and friends tied ribbons around the trees and then a local market began selling them.  More ribbons popped up throughout the neighborhood.  They reminded me to pray every day.  They reminded me it’s possible to care deeply about people we’ve never met and that no matter who we are or where we’re from, we’re all riding the same bus.  Every step outside my house is a visual reminder that communities grow when imperfect strangers become perfectly caring.

In the neighborhood, our children began asking about Mrs. Bach, her illness and whether she would die.  We had conversations with our kids we hoped not to have for a long time; conversations that blessed us and, I believe, them.

It is so easy to trust when life feels like a cleanly cut puzzle, one piece fitting neatly next to its neighbor.  I suppose the deepest trust, the richest faith, the one that works, is honed when it is tested, when we can somehow cry out, “It’s not fair!” and “Thank You,” in the same prayerful breath.

I hope Sara Bach won’t mind that some lady she never met is writing about her.   She’s part of my life now and, I hope, part of yours.  You can read Sarah’s Journey “Fight Like A Girl” on http://www.caringbridge.org/story_bach.  I hope you’ll read it.  And her husband’s blog entry on June 4th.  http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/sarahbach  Let their story change your life.  We prayed for one kind of miracle and got another as we discovered we are all each other’s angels.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Death, friendship, Marriage, Motherhood, parenthood, Writing

Cupcake Wars

One of my daughter’s early teachers was called “Cupcake” (not to her face) by the parents, because of her penchant for celebrating every birthday, half-birthday, and holiday, including obscure-in-America British holidays, by serving fluffy cakes with gobs of frosting.  She considered sugar to be, in part, a learning tool.  It was quite effective.  My daughter does not remember the storyline to The Lace Snail, which we read a gazillion times (it’s wonderful), but she still speaks fondly of London’s October Plenty.  Attempts to form letters were rewarded with m&m’s or bits of red licorice.

Why am I thinking about this now, a few years after the fact?  Because I just spent two hours learning how to make a radish mouse to entice my daughter to eat her veggies.   Any veggie.  A no-thank-you bite of cherry tomato.  A snippet of gray green bean out of her Alphabet Soup.

For many years I was a sugar-free vegan (this was before Carolyn and I began entering the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I grant you) and regularly offered collards and kale to my daughter, who ate her greens with gusto.   Oh, yes she did.  In fact, her favorite breakfast was brown rice with butter, tiny minced carrots, nori seaweed and gomasio.  And then…Cupcake.

I love you, Cupcake, I do.  When introducing children to school, it’s a Jewish tradition to dot the pages of a book with honey so the learning will be sweet.   My daughter’s books were smeared with buttercream; I suppose that’s close.  And when she majors in British history I’m quite sure I will remember you fondly.  But I can’t help the pang of regret and frustration I experienced when she saw that adorable mouse staring up from her salad.  Raising it by it’s long radish root tail, she stared ambivalently awhile then asked, “Do I get dessert if I eat this?”

My next attempt will be carrot-cake oatmeal.  I’ll post the recipe if successful.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Cooking, Fitness, Health, Humor, Jewish, Motherhood, parenthood, Pillsbury Bakeoff, Writing

Don’t read. Rated R. I’m furious.

If you are easily offended, stop reading now.  

Seriously.  Go ahead.  Trot off and have a nice cup of coffee and a chat with your neighbor.

And, whatever you do, don’t read the last paragraph. 

Still here?

Okay…here goes.  Last night, I logged on to Facebook, only to find a post on my wall by a charming eighth-grade friend of my children.  I think it should be titled Ode to My Mother, as he claimed he wrote it himself about his ‘explitive deleted’ of a mother.  He says he composed this thoughtful poem because she wouldn’t allow him to have friends and s**t over any more, although it smacks more of one of Eminnem’s masterpieces.  Dude. Word.

Anyhow, I get the feeling Mummy doesn’t alway check in on her little darling’s Facebook page to view his poetry.  People, people, PEOPLE!  Why are we allowing such blatant disrespect to run rampant on Facebook?  Not only did little darling’s post make me look like a white trash bimbo on my wall, it made his mother a laughing-stock.  6 people “Liked” his poetry.  Not one of them was his mother.

Another thing that children and adults alike simply don’t get it this… Your future employer LOOKS AT YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE when they are trying to figure out who and what to hire. At this rate, this kid’s career prospects are limited to gang member, rapper (and I hear it’s super hard to break in to the industry) and serial killer.

I know, a lot of you are thinking, “Hey, why doesn’t this uptight hag simply unfriend the kid?”    I did.  But not before he sullied my wall and the walls of anyone else on his list, including MY kids.  And as an adult, I don’t feel right about not saying anything.  About not hurting/embarrassing this kid’s precious inner-child.  Letting him throw a public tantrum isn’t responsible or self-actualized, folks.  It is cowardly and uncaring.  Why do we all sit around and put up with this crap, all  in the name of freedom of speech?  Hey, if you are a minor in my household, you are free to speak you mind.  But start up with the f-bombs and we’re gonna wrangle and I’m gonna win.

I have a feeling this kid (underneath his vitriolic spew) is probably a nice kid looking for guidance.  Clearly, he’s not getting enough at home.  He’s lucky he’s not my kid.  Because if he was, his Facebook account would be history.  As would his computer, iPod, iPhone, gameboy and Xbox 360 and all the other baby-sitting devices his parents are no doubt currently employing.  He would be assigned a mountain of chores (my toilets would sparkle!) and he would have to spend endless hours sitting with (and getting to know) ME!  his new best friend!  Oh, the ways we’d bond!  He could teach me to rap and I would teach him Ephesians 4:29.  And perhaps, in the future, we could avoid the four-lane car crash that he posted yesterday.

I don’t pretend to be a saint.  Far from it.  I spent waaaay too many years using language that I have come to realize made me look illiterate and low-class.  And, vulgar.  Trampy.  Disgusting.  And, while these things may still be true, at least I try not to give off the immediate impression anymore.

For those of you who hung in with me to the end of this rant, here is the edited version of this post:

&%$-ing slut you look like a mutt you held me in a rutt im done nomore fun we had a good run you too ton timeing #$%@! your a snitch you snaked my heart i dontmean to sound dark i guess it wasnt very smart to trust you in the first place when i got the first taste i got hooked i shouldve booked it when i got to chance no i dont dance or prance for you i stayed true too you oh boo whoo #$%@ you too.

I ache for his mother.  The spelling is atrocious.

Carolyn

 

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Filed under Children, Cussing, Facebook, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood, phone, please and thank you, politeness

The Pillsbury Fart-off…uh, Bake-Off

As you know, Carolyn and I are addicted to entering the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  Every spring break from school is an opportunity to corral our kids (plus the offspring of anyone cruel enough to drop their progeny off at Carolyn’s place during this time of year) into one room and ply them with experiment after experiment…er, rather, delicacy after delicacy.  On this year’s menu:

Vermont Maple Cupcakes With Georgia Peanut Buttercream (going with a state theme).  This recipe required several attempts and never really came together.  The kids began eating enthusiastically then quite suddenly looked as if they’d been stricken with a deadly disease.  We gave ’em a little bicarbonate of soda and got right back in the saddle with…

Meatball Hoagie Bake.  This was not bad, though it was overly complicated and kinda unattractive.  Took three or four swipes at this one over a two-day period with eight children and four adults taste testing.  Final decision:  Nah.

Next up:  Carolyn’s soon-to-be world-famous Sweet ‘N Smoky Baked Breakfast Pancake.  OMG.  Incredible.  We all thought so.  She made it several times–for breakfast, for dinner, for a snack.  We tried other baked pancake variations, too, plus more sandwiches, a couple of appetizers and an entrée.  All together we made seven trips to the supermarket, spent…well, I can’t say on the chance one of our husbands is reading, and sickened eight otherwise hardy children.  I overheard this comment from one of Carolyn’s daughter’s friends:

“Can we stop eating now?  I’ve been farting all morning.”

“Me, too,” whispered Carolyn’s daughter.  “I think they’re getting tired.  They’ll stop soon.”

That’s what you thought, missy.

We kept at it until there wasn’t a creative thought left in our brains.  We kept at it until the smell of exhaustion overwhelmed the smells of butter, sugar, toffee and cinnamon.  And soon, very soon, we’ll be in Carolyn’s kitchen again, prepping for the next bake-off.  Why?  Because there’s a million bucks, new appliances, a trip to Orlando and the promise of fifteen minutes of Pillsbury fame riding on this one.

And because we came up empty when we Googled “Bake-Offs Anonymous.”

Wendy

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The art of the arm fart

Hi, Everyone!  It’s raining–surprise!–in the Pacific Northwest.  Actually, the warm drizzle and gray sky are upping the cozy factor tremendously.  And, hey, who needs more sun spots?

My daughter is home with a nasty cold, so as we prepare for a cuddly day at home, I thought I’d inaugurate Witty Wednesday–a day to share the wacky, wonderful, witty or just plain weird witticisms of our pwecious wee ones.  I’ll go first; you go next.  Here’s what we heard at our house this week:

Daughter:  “Dad, do you arm fart?”

Dad:  “Not since I married your mother, honey.”

Daughter (looking at me and shaking her head sadly):  “That’s such a shame.”

Okay, share:  What have the little people in your life said?

Wendy…off to watch Dora….

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Pul-lease

Please:  an adverb, used as a polite addition to requests, commands, etc.

I’m Jewish, but I often attend church with my Christian husband and our daughter, who, although she will gladly participate in Shabbat candle lighting and any holiday involving matzoh balls, has let me know emphatically that her spiritual path is different from mine.

Not a problem.  I believe God speaks to us in different languages and through many different faiths.  In fact, I love our little church with its diverse, devout congregation.  These folks live their lives in wholeness and holiness.  They walk their talk quietly and with enviable grace.

But the Sunday school?  Oy gevalt! 

Young children frequently forget their manners, of course, but what surprises me is the Sunday school teachers’ reluctance to rein in our vilda chaya.  Let me say here and now:  If my child develops a mental block around politeness, go ahead and correct her.

I am sure the disciples used “please” and “thank you” at the Last Supper.   I bet they helped clean up.  And when Jesus spoke, I’m guessing they gave him their attention.  I’m sure no one wants to offend a parent, but better you should offend me than allow my child to offend you.

Yes, “please” and “thank you” are my parenting pet peeves.  Over the years I have doled out a quantity of snacks roughly equivalent to the number of hors d’oeuvres served at Kate and Williams’ wedding.  I’m guessing I’ll double that output in the years to come.  How many thank yous have I heard from the children who are not mine?  Too few, dear reader, too few.

Now, I’m not claiming my precious angel is perfect.  Oh-ho no.  When we’re in Chinese restaurants, she still sucks the filling out of the egg rolls…oh, wait.  That’s me.  Well, her table manners aren’t the best, either.  She learned from her parents, after all, and we’re not on the Queen’s guest list, believe you me.

And, of course, my daughter has a few other habits we need to break.  Like sitting in lectures and workshops, rudely passing notes with her friends and giggling at things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand–

Oops.  Me again.

Dang.  But the giggling in workshops thing?  Honestly, that is almost always Carolyn’s fault.  She talks to me and obviously I don’t want her to think I’m rude so I answer.  If you read “Girl Fight” and “Cat Fight” then you know a couple of weeks ago we dragged two formerly polite and gracious women down with us.

Honestly, what is wrong with adults these days?

What are your politeness pet peeves?

Wendy…off to learn some manners.  Thank you for reading.

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Dear Cinderella, if you want to go to the ball CLEAN YOUR ROOM!

When my daughter was three, I asked her to please remove her clothing from the dining room floor.  Like a shot–and with a sweetheart smile–she picked up the offending items, uttering this keeper comment:  “Sure thing, sweetie, I’m here to clean.”

Adorable.  Thought I’d never have a moment’s trouble with this one.

Current conversation with daughter, now eight:

Mother:  I asked you to clean your room last Sunday.  It is now Friday.  Please clean your room or forfeit attending your school dance tonight.

Long-suffering child:  I don’t know what forfeit means.

M:  It means that if your room is not clean by five p.m., you will be in there at seven while your friends are enjoying Katy Perry in the school auditorium.  The choice is yours.

LSC:  I’m hungry.

M:  There’s enough food in your room to get us through a subduction zone quake.

LSC:  I don’t know what subduction zone–

M: GO!

Three minutes later…

LSC:  I’m done.  That was exhausting.

M:  You are not done.  I just started cleaning my office, and I’m nowhere near done.

LSC:  You’re slower than I am.

We march to her room (well, I march; she stops three times in the hallway to practice dance moves).

M:  What part of the room did you clean?

LSC:  What part did you want me to?

Obviously she has been watching too much I Love Lucy and I am about to have a Ricky Ricardo meltdown.

M:  Mira caquilla cosa–

LSC:  I don’t know what–

She is in her room again now, the radio blaring very dramatic classical music.  I hear her creating a story to go along with the music:  “I loved you.  Why did you leave me?  If you come looking for me, I will be in the dungeon….”

The Brothers Grimm and Disney have been stringing people along for years, making us believe Cinderella was an innocent victim.   HA!  How much you wanna bet her room was a pigsty, and that’s why she wasn’t supposed to go to the ball?  From now on I’m on Team Wicked Stepmother.

What tricks/ mandates/ bribes/do you use to get your kids to clean their pits?
Wendy

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Cat Fight–The REAL Story

Here’s what really happened.  Four of us meet for breakfast to talk about a writer’s conference trip we are all taking to New York this summer to land agents and fabulous book and movie deals on our fascinating and hilarious lives as romance novelists/mothers/wives/slash/hacks/dog owners and, you know, a couple of other projects we’ve got stashed under the bed that we’re gonna take out and dust off and turn into gold. 

Wendy is late, as usual.  Don’t get me started.  Anyway, she comes skidding in to the restaurant, drops to into her chair, snaps her fingers for the ‘girl’ then goes off on her wrinkle jag, which we all know is a bid for attention.  The woman is adorable.  I don’t get the whole, “Oh, look at my teensy wrinkle and feel sorry for me,” deal.  But we have to humor her.  “Yeah, yeah, Wendy.  What are ya gonna do about the grand canyons on your face today?”  Furtive eye-rolling behind the menu.

In fact, while she was blathering on about the wrinkle thing, I snapped a pic of her with my phone, just to prove my point.

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wait… I got it here somewhere…

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Oh.  Yeah.  Here.  Now.  I ask you.  Is this a face or is this a face?  I just want to gobble her up.

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"Clinique has this AMAZING new product that they claim firms and tightens..."

 

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Over coffee (we’ve migrated to Starbucks by now) the four of us figure out all the details of our trip to the eastern seaboard and decide to ditch the writer’s meeting we’d planned on attending that morning in Portland and hit the mall instead. 

Wendy was still nattering about this miracle stuff she was going to spend waaaaaay too much money on and I wanted to find some pants that would make me look 40 lbs. lighter.

As I was off looking for “skinny jeans” (sheyeah, what a crock) Wendy gave us the slip.  We finally found her seated in the chair behind the Clinique counter getting her upper lip spackled.  Okay.  I get it now.  The whole wrinkle cream gig isn’t about fixing your wrinkles.  No.  Oprah, are you listening, because this is the real SECRET.  Wrinkle cream IS NOT about ‘fixing a problem’.  It’s about ‘confusing the eye’.  It’s about slathering a whole bunch of gummy stuff on your lip and telling you that your wrinkles are gone and then charging you $174 + tax. 

Wendy, I’m only gonna say this once.  “The emperor has no clothes!  B-U-C-K Naked!

Of course your friends are going to tell you that the flaky, chalky, goofy crud on your upper lip looks great because we love you. 

"I can't nove ny lits cuz this stuff is sooter hard!"

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Truth be told, we simply had no where else to look.  We had to avert our eyes.  That’s why no one noticed wrinkles.  A person can’t see when they’re all squinty-eyed and cringing. 

Carolyn

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Toohotmamas Celebrate Mother’s Day!

Wendy may be menopausal, but she can still swang her thang!        Carolyn

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Leggo of my Lego

My youngest son, age 8, is a Lego addict.  He is willing to admit that he’s powerless over Legos.  This is an expensive habit.  Needs to be fed often.  I don’t get it, but then chocolate is my drug of choice.

Yes, members of my family have spent hundreds of dollars, satisfying his Star Wars Lego fanaticism.  His latest kit is an extravaganza my sister spent at least $50 bucks on, but the joke is on me.   Seems it’s payback time for the multi-piece toys I naively gifted her children with, a decade ago.  Alas, there are over a gogillion pieces in his latest set for my new puppy to chew. 

New puppy you ask?  Yes, long story, but I digress.  Anyway, ever since my little darling has endeavored to build the Star Wars Deluxe Battleship with the triple phaser stun guns (ages 9-14) this is all I hear these days:

Him:  “Mom!  I can’t do this!”

Me:  “Yes, you can.”

Him: “Mom!!  I’m not 9 yet! Come and help me!  How do I start?”  He is staring dazedly at the directions.

Me:  “Gimme the manual.”  Hmmm. 

A HALF HOUR LATER

Me:  “Okay.  Look, I think we might have better luck if we sort the pieces.”

Him:  “I don’t know how.”

Me:  “Like this.  Dark here, small here, etc…”

AN HOUR LATER

Me:  “Son?  SON! Where are you?”

Muffled voice drifts from somewhere far away.  Perhaps from the trampoline outside?

Him:  “Are you done yet, Mom?”

Me:  “YES!  GET YOUR BUTT IN HERE AND BUILD YOUR SUPER FUN STARWARS LEGO BATTLESHIP THINGEE!”  (I get cranky when I’m stiff and in pain from sorting).

Him:  “Okay!”

TEN MINUTES LATER

Him:  “Mom!?  Where’s the first piece?”

Me:  Searching for my antacids.  “Here.”

Him:  “Mom!”  Where’s the second piece?”

TWO HOURS LATER Continue reading

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PLEASE FIRE ME.

Did you get your Thin Mints this year?

If not, then you are the only person within a 100-mile radius of me who didn’t get a box.  Or twelve.  Yes, folks, we have passed that time of year, that more-American-than-Thanksgiving extended holiday known as GIRL SCOUT COOKIE SALES.

Some of you probably read that and experienced a personal moment, the memory of peanut butter Do-si-Dos exploding on your taste buds as if you were biting into the real thing.  Good for you.  Me, I wrote that sentence and heard the Shark’s Theme from Jaw’s.

If you got your Thin Mints, there is one thing I know for sure:  You didn’t get them from me.   With our collective troop sales rocketing into the four digits, my precious child, aided and abetted by yours truly, sold a whopping four boxes.  Why?

BECAUSE I SUCK AT BEING A GIRL SCOUT MOM. In the 99-year history of our venerable organization, I am, I am quite certain, one of the worst Brownie moms the scouts have ever suffered.  The blustery (read: hurricane-like) day we sallied forth to sugar-coat our city drove the point home.

My daughter and I arrive at our assigned post–outside a local market near dinnertime– to take over from a harried-looking mother and four soaked scoutlets who have already sold out of Thin Mints, Tag-Alongs and Samoas.  “More are coming!” she says as she thrusts the crammed money-box into my hands.  Her gaze shifts to my daughter.  “Where’s her sash?”

I look at the other girls, decked out despite the impending flood in their Brownie regalia, patches marching proudly across their uniforms.    Crap. Totally forgot about the sash.  (Full disclosure:  Totally lost the sash.  Not a clue where it could be. )

“Um, she gets cold so easily.  She’ll probably keep her coat on.”  I glance at my daughter, who is in the process of flinging said coat to the sidewalk so she can play in the rain properly with her friends.

Harried mother ushers her girls home for dinner as we prepare to take over.  Almost immediately people line up for their annual Girl Scout Cookie fix.   “How much is a box?” asks the first woman in line. Continue reading

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Goodbye Teddy Bear…Hello Tiger

I have Carolyn’s youngest son at my place for a sleepover.  He’s one-day younger than my daughter.  Carolyn and I adopted the kids when we were mere seconds from menopause (a great story we’ll have to share sometime).

The two kids adore each other; they get along famously.  Always have.  Like brother and sister without the fights.  So, when they asked if they could sleep in my daughter’s room on the same bed, Carolyn and I decided that would be okey dokey.  They’re a few weeks away from turning eight, and not the most sophisticated flowers in the garden.  Very innocent.  Lucy and Ricky Ricardo are their media marriage role models.

My DD, however, upon hearing that they could indeed share the twin bed and kick each other silly all night long, suddenly turned coy.  “But that’s so romantic,” she giggled.

Romantic?  She just dared him to eat a caterpillar. Continue reading

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Wild Kingdom

Yeah, you're laughin' now, fatso.

  Help!  My daughter is not home today!  She left me to baby-sit her mutt.  She should know better, as I am HER mother…

The new dog–Genevieve–woke me up and since I’m NOT a morning person, I stumbled to the bedroom door, opened it and shooed her out.  Fell back in bed.

TWO HOURS LATER

Opened the door.  Stumbled downstairs for coffee.  Thurston followed me.  He’s not a morning person either.  Genevieve was in the kitchen licking a plastic container that had been sitting on the counter filled with beans and rice.  Man, I hope she’s not allergic to rice.  Anyway, I squint at her. 

She cowers. 

“Did you eat the beans?”

No answer.

She spots Thurston.  As is her habit, she attempts to make love to his head. 

He growls. 

She breaks wind.  On his head.

I’m thinking she ate the beans.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Carolyn

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Doggy Daze

The Mutt Whisperer

 I love my daughter.  She is uber cool.  Funny, sweet, helpful and—oddly for a teenager these days—obedient   So, now and then I like to indulge her.  That must explain why I volunteered to be a community coordinator for her on-line high school.  Volunteering means I get to come up with clever ideas to amuse teenagers who have been chained to their computers for weeks on end.  And, since I am the community coordinator, or ‘in charge’, I get to go on these outings when I have strep throat.  Felt like I’d been gargling glass shards and razor blades the morning of our most recent trip.  I’m on antibiotics and not contagious now.  Dang.  No excuse to stay in bed…

Anyway, somebody suggested I organize a trip to the Oregon Humane Society to visit the doggies.  The volunteer hours would count toward National Honor Society.

How dumb am I?

Of course, my daughter gets there and finds “the dog”.  “Mom!  This dog loves me!  Look mom!  It’s like we have a psychic connection or something!  I have to rescue this animal!  Seriously, look at her!”

I’m looking.  I see an ageing, indistinguishable breed, lumpy-ear’d mutt staring dolefully at my daughter.  “Yeah, well you’ll have to get this past your dad.”  I’m golden.  He said no more dogs.

“Mom!  I just got off the phone with Daddy-kins!”

Uh oh.

“He’ll meet us here after work!  We just have to go home and get Thurston (our fat golden retriever) and the kids and make sure she likes all of us.”

Huh? Continue reading

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Thurston and Me

    

Thurston Howl

 Another New Year’s Resolution I scribbled down for this year is:  To be the person my dog thinks I am. 

I am not the original author of this resolution but I like it because my dog thinks I am Isis, goddess of the bacon fat.  Unlike my children, my dog Thurston–Mr. Howl to you–thinks I’m cool when I sing super loud and off-key.  Unlike my husband, he adores me when I’ve just eaten a dinner slathered in garlic and onions.  Unlike my family, he worships they way I prepare each and every meal and cheerfully helps clean the pots.

We live out in the country and the house is set back from the road.  When we drive away without him, his face slowly collapses from his huge, Golden Retriever grin with his dolly dangling like Columbo’s cigar from the corner of his mouth.  In its place, resignation.  A canine sigh.  Not invited this time.  He flops to the front porch, props his head on dolly and waits.  Sometimes hours.  And weirdly, out of all the Toyota Sienna minivans in the universe that travel down our road, the moment ours turns the corner and heads up the street, he and dolly leap to attention and gallop to greet us, the Golden grin erupting like the rocket’s red glare, bombs bursting in air, yes! YES, MOM IS STILL THERE! Continue reading

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The Bi-Racial Family

This pic is 4 years old.

One of the fun things about having a bi-racial family is listening to the kids talk about their heritage.  My youngest son (now age 7) hails from Guatemalan ancestry.  Tonight at the dinner table he announced that he was born able to understand and speak Guatemalan.

 “Show us,” one of his sisters encouraged.

 “Guackalita causalita Kaleakilauqukita wackima chicho meeko.  Aleeche toto, kay toto,” he said.  “But don’t ask me to spell it.  I can’t even spell in English yet.”

 “Cool,” she said.  “I’m from African/Irish heritage so I’ll demonstrate African first.”  She cleared her throat, thrust her hands into the air (holding an imaginary lion cub, I guess) shouted, “Cowabunga!” and proceeded to sing The Circle of Life.  After some research, I think the actual lyric is “Ingonyama!” but hey, whatever.

I really need to take a pic of ALL the kids together in this lifetime

 

“That’s English,” her Irish/Italian sister said.  “If you really want to sound African, do a bunch of clicking sounds with your tongue.”  They all proceed to click with their mouths full and laugh.  It was nauseating.

Because three (?)–I can’t remember–of the five are adopted, ‘adoption’ is another subject they don’t tiptoe around.  “Hey,” youngest son shouted after being provoked half to death by his brother as we drove down the road one day, “why don’t you go back to the people that borned you?”

Before I could jump in and smooth things over, my older son nearly died laughing and said, “After you go back to the ones that borned you.”  That cracked them both up and they wrestled the rest of the way home.

I love that there is no political incorrectness or fear in the things they can discuss.  They know that they are physically different and not born from my womb, but my heart (which makes them super-cool).  They talk about it, point it out, laugh about it, admire it, but mainly don’t notice/care about it.  They see family. 

So beautiful.  So free.

 

Carolyn

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