Friday, January 29, 2010
Joe and Julia, back when she was lil bitty
Tonight Heidi and Joe came for supper, bringing pizza and chocolate chip cooky mix. Jay was gone driving a van full of kids to a winter retreat, so it was really thoughtful of them to come keep me company, to care about my trashed back. (Much improved, actually.)
Anyway, Julia loves Joe. All the kids do, but she's at that age where she crawls on him like a monkey, chipper chatter the whole time. It's fun to have a brother in law. He asked her if she'd taken a nap today? She said no. "If I took a nap, then I couldn't fall asleep until twenty in the night!"
She was standing on his feet, holding his hands, swinging back and forth, jumping up against his chest and back, all around. Joe asked, "What time exactly is twenty in the night?"
"Oh, it's really late. Very late."
I mentioned the time back when Tim was her age and one morning told me he'd "slept forty pounds." Joe agreed. Twenty in the night is a lot like sleeping forty pounds.
Then Tim came in the kitchen for pizza and posed this question to me: "If you were being carried away by seagulls and you had a jet pack, what would you do?"
???? What would I do? Gosh. Do I really have to devote brain cells to considering my alternatives in that very remote eventuality?
with Timmy too
Apparently this thing about the seagulls is something they saw on the Electric Company, a public television educational program? Well, good to know. At least they're not watching Family Guy. I got a rule about that show. Nobody under 17, okay? That's badness. I'm embarrassed.
Later we watched a program I've never seen before called Shark Tank. It was entertaining, but Julia wanted to know where the sharks were. "I can't see them! You said there were sharks on this show!" Then we laughed about how she and Tim watched that Vin Diesel movie The Pacifier and were all upset because they never saw the pacifier. Vin Diesel IS the pacifier, get it? No, they didn't get it, and where was the pacifier??
It was a lovely Friday, spent with Heidi and her guy. I'm glad it's now. love, Val
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Okay, this is the guy I was supposed to spend my day with today. Tuesday night I admitted defeat and called his parents. My back is not going to be well enough by Thursday to watch him. I can't bend or twist in the least without triggering vicious stabs of pain and electric feeling twinges in the hip. I definitely can't lift a 17 pound baby boy.
So here it is Thursday and I looked at these pictures of him last night and felt very sad. Today is not the Thursday I hoped to be having... Look at those juicy little legs, that smile...I wanna nuzzle that neck, nibble those toes, listen to him laugh. I gotta be better by next week.
And we had to cancel the t.c.'s sleepover Saturday night too. Sigh. A long time ago I used to nuzzle and nibble that guy and carry him around by the hour. Now he's a busy man. Last time I called him on the phone, this was our conversation: "Hi Gramma. Can I talk to Tim?" Oh yah. That's okay. I know I'm not as exciting as Tim. I mean, who really could be?
But the sleepover was going to be superbly fun. They always are, just a loud, crazy riot. Plus I'd get to see his baby brother, and that guy's getting awfully sassy lately too, cruising the furniture, stuffing things in his mouth.
The story is he ate a box elder bug in his own kitchen at home, freaked his mother right out. I'd pay for video of that episode. (Poor Dannell. It is awful. We shouldn't be laughing.) Why do babies eat bugs if they can? They're nuts, that's why.
I know, I know, it could totally be worse, and there will be no unraveling into a pity party. It's time to be a good sport and I am definitely getting better. But still. love, Val
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Usually it's the bottom teeth first, and those are loose, but this was a surprise. She was so excited she called my parents and then my sister's house, and spoke to each member of the family there, one by one. (They indulged her. They're nice like that.) Now if only that lame-ass tooth fairy would ever come get the tooth... love, Val
Sunday, January 24, 2010
For a brief moment I thought I might die, but then I realized I wouldn’t, so I crawled around and gathered up my scattered things, dusted off my dignity and headed out for the afternoon’s appointment.
Later on, I was very stiff and achy, especially across the middle. (This was before the severe pain in the low back came that evening—oh very bad.) I found a mirror where I could twist around and look at my back, as if that would tell me anything.
All the time Jay tells me I’m beautiful. I tell him we have mirrors. I can see what I look like, and he’s just buttering me up, hoping for a little. He says he’ll take what he can get, but he’s not buttering me up. “You don’t believe me.”
Well, that afternoon, twisted around in an unfamiliar angle, I didn’t even recognize myself for a minute. I saw curves—the blonde hair over the curve of my shoulder, the place where my spine dips in over the small of the back, the girly curve of hip and waist, lovely creamy skin. All at once I realized he’s not lying. He sees different things than I do.
I see my goofy-looking hair, funny nose, the space in my teeth, the sun damage, the fifteen pounds I want to lose… and I don’t even care all that much. Life isn’t a beauty contest, and I’m well into middle age…. Being beautiful is for the young. At this point all I have to be is presentable.
Yet when I look at him, I see his crystal blue eyes, same as he had at 17, his dark hair. I actually like the gray at his temples, his crow’s feet, his freckled shoulders, the story in his busted up hands, and I’m not lying either, not buttering him up. I dunno. I don’t even notice any flaws. Well. He does drive too fast, and he gets riled up about dumb things and rants on and on. But he’s fine—perfect.
Yet one more lesson in lightening up, eh? For more than just me, I’m guessing. Evidently we’re in this together: I hear people I think are cute complaining about their double chins and big ears, bald spots and so forth. I don’t see it either, just see faces I love. love, Val
Friday, January 22, 2010
The wisdom teeth went well. He's feeling fine, eating ice cream, texting away.
Here's a new dumb story for a new dumb day:
Today I was cooking some chicken breasts, boiling them on the stove. After a while, the water boiled away and I didn't notice. The smoke detector went off, but I didn't know what it was, thought one of the kids was looking for the cordless phone, had pressed the button to get that thing beeping..
But no. After a couple more minutes, we realized there was a bit of smoke! Quite a bit! We flipped on the kitchen fan, shut off the stove, got some doors open, fanned the smoke detector to quiet it down.
Life went on. The chicken breast had a black spot, but it was othewise fine. I cut that off, and then put the pan to soak.
Later on, the kids told Maria and Dad the story in the most dramatic possible way--the smoke, the smell, how they could hardly see me in the haze (huge exaggeration.) Tim said, "Yah. Kari had to make me stop, drop, and roll."
She did? Really? Stop, drop, and roll? What for? (At this point, Big Jay was laughing so hard he couldn't eat his soup.)
"Cause there was fire. She said that's what you have to do when there's a fire. She was rolling around too."
Kari had a real foolish look on her face about then.
I said, "That's if your clothes are on fire, which I certainly hope they never are, not because a chicken breast is scorching on the stove."
"Ohhhh," she said, raising up her chin and nodding, playing like she hadn't known. Yah. Cheap thrills, invent an emergency, a reason to hype out. (Sometimes I do think boredom is part of the beauty and design of homeschool though.) love, Val
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tomorrow is the extraction of Little Jay's wisdom teeth.
He's brave, seems fairly unconcerned. The surgeon is good, and it'll probably go quite well.
He had Invisalign to pull his teeth straight and close the gaps. Crowded teeth don't worry me that much in kids, especially boys. Their gigantic adult teeth grow into their little boy faces and of course it's a bit scary at some point. But their faces grow, and then the teeth fit. But Jay's were spaced out. That wasn't going to go away.
Now the wisdom teeth are coming in and every night he puts in his clear Invisalign retainer and in the morning his teeth are sore--all day the wisdom teeth push them one way, all night the retainer pushes them back again. Plus we paid like a million, five hundred thousand dollars for the Invisalign. Nothin' gonna mess those teeth up now. Oh, hell no.
When John had his wisdom teeth out, back when he was about 17, he didn't have a great time of it, dumb nurses, eventually dry sockets, the whole miserable works. The clinic we went to was the stupidest ever. I was angry.
But anyway, on the way home, we were supposed to get him a malt to drink along with his pain medication so he wouldn't take it on an empty stomach and throw up. With a mouth full of stitches and bloody gauze, that sounded real bad.
We stopped at Burger King, and I was distracted, okay?
John and me, a few weeks before Tim was born
I had babies in car seats in the back ordering cheeseburgers, and I was mad at the oral surgeon. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I looked both ways and then crossed the highway to head for home. John hollered, "MOTHER!" (he's always called me mother even when he used to pronounce it muffer when he was 2 years old) "That's a red light!!" He threw his head back on the seat and said, mouth full of cotton, "I'm under anesthesia, for God's sakes, and I can see a red light!"
Tonight Dan was here and Tim wanted help with some video game, and truly this is NOT even meant to be mean, but Tim talks funny. He has a deep voice and a very Scandinavian way of pronouncing words with very extra round vowels. Try it. Talk a tad bit slower and very deep and drag out all the vowels in circle sounds. That's my boy. Dan was doing something I sometimes do, asking more and more questions just to hear the answers.
Finally Tim was annoyed and said, "Shut up, you nut-crackin' idiot."
Wow. (I love creative insults, not gonna lie.) Dan took it all in stride.
But then he still wanted help with the video game. Dan put different batteries in and it didn't do much, but nobody could verify that the different batteries weren't dead ones transferred from some other toy. Tim dug in the junk drawer and brought another battery, "This one probably isn't good. It's all moldy."
Okay, that's not mold. Batteries don't get moldy. It's acid. Throw that away.
Eventually the game worked with batteries stolen from the Dora game and a Princess game. (Don't tell Julia this.) And they trash talked some more about a light saber duel, a guy in hot lava, and force fields. I finally left. Too much guy talk. Even little b.g. looked like he was listening and taking notes.
Sigh. I hope tomorrow goes well for Little Jay. I'll try to obey all traffic laws. (snort) love, Val
Monday, January 18, 2010
She's planning this for 3:30 on the 19th of April, and has sent written and decorated invitations to the family, including her grown brothers and sisters and her grandparents.
She's been practicing Greensleeves on the keyboard, you know, which is good and all. Weird, but fine.
Now today while she was at my parents working on Valentine crafts at the kitchen table with my mother and Maria and Julia, she informed us of more plans.
"We're going to have cake and play games."
"Yeah, caterpillar games."
"Really? Like what?"
"We're going to see who can crawl on their belly the farthest." Okay, that got me, picturing my dad going across the floor on his belly. Or Heidi and Joe...Alicia and Dannell.... I mean, that's just... I nodded. I mentioned we might choke off on dog hair if we have to crawl around like that. She said we'd need to Swiffer ahead of time. Yup, definitely that.
"...And we're going to see who can eat the most lettuce." Oh, now that's an idea.
My mother's eyebrows went way up, and she glanced out the corner of her eye at me and said, "I like lettuce."
Oh Lydia Karina, Karinka-doodle, mine baby Schnoodle. How much I love you, crazy elf. love, Mom
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Below is something I wrote a long time ago for the site Life Without School. The question was what the crucial elements of homeschool might be....obviously everybody's list would be different, but it was fun to think about.
You know... as some of my children have reached adulthood, they are well-educated and civilized, and this is good. They've found meaningful work and are independent in adulthood, which was a goal I held as a homeschool parent.
And then, as they launched out into life, they also found love. Great. But what I really love most about my daughters in law and my daughter's guy? Kind. Kind to me. Kind to the dad. Kind to all the little sisters and brothers in law. Kind to my child who is their partner. I didn't realize until then how central kindness is to every single thing.
So as crucial element I would begin with kindness. Have a care for their feelings and spirit; watch your tongue. Phrase things diplomatically, and even if you have to take a stand and they're unhappy, still be kind. Try to get on their side of the problem too. Find ways to help them save face in defeat. Their dignity is in your hands. Know that.
Another crucial element is to take an interest. Pay attention and try to tune in and understand what makes them tick and who they are. As homeschool parents, we have the luxury of TIME with our kids. Do not underestimate the value of just simple time spent in each other's company.
Then third, let them be who they are. Encourage their strengths, identify their weaknesses and help them own them and find ways to strategize so they go out into the world knowing themselves and being okay with their unique self.
Fourth, keep a level of honesty inherent. There's discretion and there's lying. Know which side of the line you're on. Kids are intuitive. You don't have to tell them everything, but don't fake them out with crap. That undermines their radar and you never want to do that. Things that can't be talked about take on an abnormal power. Not everything needs to be talked about, and that's healthy too, boundaries. But if it CAN'T be talked about, that's never good.
Fifth? I suppose we should attempt to teach them something academically. A kid at age 14--this is my list--should be doing early algebra, slope of a line, etc. They should be able to write a basic three point essay, and be capable of putting together a decent research paper, even if they aren't that good at footnoting, they understand the idea and can make a decent attempt at it. That's it. Everything else is free form.
Sixth, sit back and enjoy. When they are grown, which, believe it or not, they will someday be--just enjoy...the political conversations, the range of ideas, their help with various things they're better at than you...encourage them when they struggle and let them encourage you when you do. We will spend more of our lives relating to our kids as other adults than we did raising them. You did your work. Reap your rewards and don't fight it. It's normal to feel a little rejected when they choose a way that's not ours. But our parents coped when we did. (Or if they didn't, let that be a lesson to you of what not to do.) They loved us anyway.
Okay, that's the end of me. Best wishes to all of us. love, Val
Friday, January 15, 2010
I love this one of him too. I know it's bad, but we were all thirteen once, I guess. That piece of paper pinned to the curtain on the door says, "Even a kid can be courteous." It's a line from Pee Wee's Big Adventure, and you can see why I felt such a sign was necessary. He's still a wise guy underneath.
In other news, his little brothers and sisters have eaten tangerines like crazy this week. Every day they've eaten an entire three pound bag. I bought another one today and they dug into it as soon as they saw it. Can that many tangerines be bad for kids? I hope not.
Oh and this: We had this by request for supper last night. We haven't had it for a long time. Truly, heaven in a bowl:
Fry onion and celery in butter.
Add chopped carrots and chicken broth and refrigerator tortellini.
Boil until carrots are tender. Sprinkle bowls with parmesan cheese if you want.
The amounts vary. For us, a huge amount is needed so I used a stalk of celery, an entire onion, 40 oz of refrigerated cheese tortellini (chicken filled is good too) and a gallon and a half of broth, which I made with bouillon cubes and water. But you can buy packaged chicken broth if you want.
Anyway, it's Friday! Jay's picking up pizza and it's over 25 degrees out, beautiful warm night, damp and balmy. I hope it's peaceful where you are too. love, Val
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Tuesday night Julia hollered when she heard he was coming, "Noooooo!!!!! He hogs my moooothhherrr!" Good grief, Julia. You have to pull it together.
She was as sweet as candy to him all day long--she always is. However, when he took a nap, she asked me to put her down for a nap too--snuggle her in her covers like I did to get the baby to sleep. Hmm. It's no problem snuggling her, but she wasn't tired. In a couple minutes she said she was done resting. Just testing, I think. (snickering) I hope I passed.
Dad's working out of town overnight so last night we skipped supper and had popcorn and little weenies and watched Madagascar. I don't know why. It's not like we couldn't do this when he's home. He wouldn't care. He likes popcorn. (Well, maybe not as an actual MEAL.) But it was fun to change it up a little on a boring winter evening.
And that's January. It's so quiet here, so introverted around this house, so dark and cold we see the lights in the neighbors' window and the expanse of snow between our houses looks like an ocean. I know they're in there. I see their lights go on and off, their tv flickering at the predictable times.
This morning it's warmer though, feels a little like March, the fog frozen on all the tree branches and pastel pink sunrise, quiet street, Sesame Street on the TV. The news is breaking my heart. We're praying for the people of Haiti. love, Val
Monday, January 11, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Okay, this website has sucked up numerous hours in the last few days:
I love it, get lost wandering around in it, forget all about the things I’m supposed to be doing.
I don’t care about that cowboy dude’s house on the main page. It’s the TV and Movie Houses that I can’t stop looking at. That’s the fourth choice across under the header. I went there to look at the Home Alone house—I love that one.
But then I got stuck in that section and couldn’t leave… I know it’s ridiculous, but that house on Bewitched… it was just a stage set. Yeah. I’ve seen Samantha’s DeLorean oven in real life though. There are a few of those beauties still in use in homes in my own town.
The day was not a total goof-off however. I did manage to get Tim’s room cleaned. I hadn’t really worked in there since before Thanksgiving and the Gray Layer was getting pretty outrageous. I even found the little part that was missing from my camera’s battery charger. I've looked for that thing! Oh, how I've searched.
Originally I’d found the part in my own room, and not recognizing what it was, thought it was a part to some random remote control car.
I clearly remember tossing it down the hallway from my bedroom doorway to Tim’s room. And then I never saw it again. A day later I realized what it was when I wanted to charge the battery, but it was too late.
Now, two months later, after I bought a generic battery charger—it reappears, in a pink princess dance bag that we used to take beach toys to the pool. Wow. Well.
Adding to the dumbness—I don’t remember where I put the original charger now. Good thing we don’t need it, eh? Sigh. This is pretty much how my life works, how it always has.
Anyway, after Tim’s room was all cleaned, all the junk that didn’t belong in there taken out, everything dusted…. I even used the broom and dragged out all the debris he’s shoved under his bed since November…ran the vacuum… Apparently Tim saw the room because I overheard him in the stairway, “Julia! Julia! You have to see how beautiful my room is!”
Okay, it’s not beautiful. It’s neat, and a pleasant enough room, but beautiful? Nah.
This is the ceiling, in need of re-plastering. This room used to be a porch and has a flat roof over it. We have re-plastered this ceiling at least three times. The flat roof was replaced, and the second floor roof beside it. There’s a door upstairs that goes out onto the flat roof, and we’ve messed with that to eliminate leaks, put up gutters.
And still a year ago, “Mom! It’s raining in our light!” You never like to hear that.
It hasn’t leaked for a long time now, so we may have it this time. (We’ve only been battling this for 20 years.) I’m ready to tackle it again, maybe this year.
Oh, and the blue sponge painting? That time has come and gone. I did that the summer before Tim was born, and hmm... still like it, I guess, in a way. But it’s time to move on from blue clouds.
Okay—the best part of the day? Lydia’s lemon cake. Even from a mix—divine. Love, Val
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I said, “Sergeant Brask? Called for Dad?”
“Well, yeah. They want guys for the army, I think.”
Okay, this is where Little Jay gets out there into la-la land. He’s 17. This is a military recruiter calling for him. Hello, Son.
“Me?” eyes wide. “I’m not going in the army!”
“Honey, Dad’s turning 50 in a couple weeks. The military is not recruiting him. Unless Sergeant Brask wants some plumbing done, I really think he called for you.”
Jay, totally dumbfounded look on his face: “Ohhh.” I know he was thinking Dad would be much more fierce and probably better with a gun and all that.
Yes, well. Big Jay says Little Jay is just like me, clueless, overlooks the obvious.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Then she was in front of me, talking about going to nursery school tomorrow. She hasn’t been there in a couple weeks now, was ambivalent about going at all, so I turned the conversation to her friends, Lauren and Summer.
“I could have named you Summer, Julia. You were born in the summer.”
“Yeah. I was born in summer.”
“But we named you Julia because you were born in July.”
“Yeah,” giggling, “July and Julia sort of rhyme,” and she put her hand over her mouth, laughing.
She’s got a bad cough. Her cheeks are chapped red and lips are too. Her goldy hair was loose around her face, bangs hanging to her chin… they had to be cut off in an accidental comb-winding incident a few months ago…but those sea green eyes, the expressive tilt of her lips as she talked…all at once I had tears in my eyes. How could anybody be as lucky as I am? My life held a Julia, and I never knew, but here she is: on my lap, in my arms, her sharp laughter in my ears.
Yeah, it’s deep winter here and we’re deep in our drafty basement office. We have a cute desktop fountain down there and candles, etc. to draw good energy through the office. We wish they drew money. We’re angry as we painfully wait for a bunch of dumbshits, no, no, no, dear customers to pay us. They have the money and are good and honest people; they just don’t realize we are waiting and tapping savings. And we’re going to spend the money on house payments, and electricity, and groceries, crazy folks that we are. (People: Always pay your plumber right away. Please. They will love you...)
Born in the middle of summer, everything about her spells summertime, even in January. Hug your daughters, okay? Love, Val
p.s. It’s so damned cold here, I’m really, really grateful for that button on the dash I can press—and heavenly miracle: the seat warms up…even to the point it’d scorch my back where my sweater rides up. God bless the inventor of this invention, and all his ancestors forevermore.