Wednesday, March 31, 2010

almost easter

Today we had our best mr. b.g. for the day. He was lively. He's learning to crawl, did a terrible face plant on the living room rug. UGH! You know that sound when the little head hits the floor, sounds like someone dropped a pumpkin? Yeah, that sound. (It's an old pretty area rug, but unpadded.) He cried and cried and cried until his nose quit hurting. That was so bad.

But later he took a fine nap outside in the sun. My sister and I were enjoying sunshine on the patio, and he just got sooo tired while we rocked in the swing.

In the sun we inspected his nose and eye and thought maybe it was bruised. He's so pale and translucent it's hard to tell. Then later Dan said he'd bruised it yesterday on HIS watch. Good enough, then.

Speaking of her, this is my sister playing with b.g. Not only is she good to my entire family, this now extends to my grandchildren too. She took off his socks and put him through one or two Jane Fonda exercises. He laughed.

So we're going to her house for Easter because this is her holiday.

She informs me she's bought a pinata. What a pinata has to do with Norwegian Lutherans and Easter we do not know, but the last time she had a pinata (years), b.g.'s DAD was instrumental in cracking it open and then threw his long, adolescent body over all the candy, creating a bawling, screaming crisis among the younger kids and little cousins.

He's grown up now and pretty dignified-like, so we can probably trust him. PLUS, turns out he has to be at his in-laws this year, so he won't even actually be there. In spirit, perhaps.

Tonight we've got a house full of teenage girls sleeping over. Maria went to school for the first time last fall and has had a pretty good year, cross-country and track, good grades and a few friends.

I'm always interested to see who they choose for friends, who they bring home here.... (I have heard, and don't know if this is true or not... probably it's a bit more complicated than this...) but kids choose friends they see as being like themselves? Well, these girls are like all the kids' other friends: Nerdy Normal. Easy to like.

And we also have r.t. sleeping over. He's James' best friend. From the first day they met, they were buddies. They talk on the phone and say, "Dude," a lot.

I'm no kid magnet. I mean, kids like me fine, but are definitely not drawn to me. But r.t. was always friendly and warm.

One fall afternoon when I went to pick him up after school, we arrived ahead of the bus, and had to wait a few minutes. I can still picture him now, off the bus at age 8, running through a blanket of fall leaves, orange coat blowing open, viola case banging against his legs, yelling, "VAAAL!" Irresistible.

two fishermen back in the days of the squeaky laugh

Tonight though he was at the door and I didn't have my glasses on and didn't recognize him. Whoever was standing at the door was tall. He's grown tall! How did I miss that? His voice is so deep now, he's lost his squeaky laugh. I loved that squeaky laugh. We could hear it ringing everywhere in the house.

Okay, that's the end. My bathwater is getting cold. Onward to Thursday. love, Val

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

for rae, the recipe

Hey Rae! Here's the recipe for those hamburgers:

-A pound and a half of hamburger (or a pound each of ground pork and ground beef)
-Two tablespoons each of mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce
-diced onion and celery
-One or two eggs
-Two or three slices of crumbled bread

That's it. Form palm sized patties, grill and serve. Some people like them with cheese, others with lettuce, tomato and red onion.

That's a little too easy, so here's the recipe for Ruth's Salad, just in case you really want to go nuts.

1 pkg. of noodle rings (prepare)
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 jar pimento
1 1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 cup frozen peas
1 cucumber, diced
1/4 pound cooked ham, diced
1/4 pound cheddar cheese, cut in tiny cubes
1 cup Miracle Whip

Stir, chill, blah, blah, blah.

Julia's here trying to convince me that it'd be a good idea to take the baby stroller upstairs. Sigh. She's strolling dolls, not an actual human infant. As long as that thing doesn't come flying down the staircase, okay. I've seen what happens with the Barbie cars. This is why all the mirrors and stuff are broken off.

I hope Tuesday is going well. It's supposed to reach 70 here today, very nice. love, Val

Sunday, March 28, 2010

oh, friends

Tonight our friends Dan and Denise came for supper. They came to help us reconnect some wires that were accidentally severed in a clothesline-moving incident.

(I asked Jay to move the clothesline. It was my idea.)

But this is the thing about them. If you need them? There they are.

These guys were our neighbors across the back yard in another city, another neighborhood, from 1985-1988 when we moved away to here.

They helped us move. I had the notion that the kids should pack their own room, to help reduce their moving stress. Okay, that was a bright idea. They packed dirty socks and garbage. And also Dan and Denise's kids' toys.

I looked at the stuff coming out of the boxes and said, "Denise. These are your toys. These may even be your socks." We laughed. We laugh a lot because we have seven boys between us and that's our best option.

At the time we met, we had two boys a piece and we were trying to civilize these four squirrels. They're all grown up now, fine respectable men. Either we worried for nothing or our efforts were rewarded. We're not sure which.

But we loved each other, and each other's kids, and it seemed enough at the time, and now I know for sure it was.

Anyway, a year or two after we moved away, they did too. Denise said, and this is up there with the most touching things friends have ever said: "After you guys moved away, there wasn't much reason for us to stay either."

They're Maria's godparents, as devoted as any ever were. Maria was the sixth child, and we were hearing a lot of rumbling about how many kids we had, but they just hugged Maria and said good things about family.

So tonight there were Jay's perfect hamburgers on the grill, cheesy potatoes, spinach salad,and a giant fruit salad Denise made with fruit and marshmallows and everything that makes a kid swoon. And chocolate chip bars. (She's good.)

We laughed a lot over the old dumb stories and the new dumb stories. (Lots of both.)

Back in 19, oh 86? This is an old story... We lived in a housing development and our sliding glass doors faced each other across our yards. It was just after breakfast and her two boys were heading down the hill to the swamp, and she was on the deck hollering at them. They paused in the tall grass and had a conversation, glancing up at her occasionally as they spoke.

I couldn't hear any of this, but I saw her wave her arm and storm into the house to get dressed, whamming shut the door as she left. I thought, "Oh go get 'em in your robe!"

But after she left to get dressed, they conferred again and then came slowly up the hill after all.

Here are some pictures.

This first one is a photo Jay took, back in the 35 mm days. There I am in the foreground with Maria, blurry. And to the side is their son and our own taller son Dan talking. But in the middle, we have Kirsten and our friend, Dan.

I have no idea what they were talking about, but I absolutely love this picture. It says everything.

Here they are cropped closer.

About this age, Kirsten asked Dan what he did at work? What was his job? (Her dad is a plumber and that's a very tangible, literal thing.)

Dan considered her question, and then looked down at her beside him on the couch and said, "You know Kirsten? Basically I'm an excuse."

Oh the truth. Kirsten looked puzzled, and we all laughed. Who hasn't felt like that at work at least once or twice? There's a reason they call it work and have to pay people to do it.

This next picture is of my son Dan in the middle and their hilarious boys. Those two cute blonde kids once ran up a $25 phone bill talking to the Easter Bunny. It was a 900 number advertised on television, and they used the phone in the family room. Oh yeah. That was not very good, but we've sure laughed a lot about it later.

And this last one is of Denise hugging my grandchild on the patio last summer. We've come all the way around to the beginning again.

Oh gosh. love, Val

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

this and that

We had little b.g. here for the day. He's pretty funny these days, talking a lot, sprouting hair, eating squash and pears.

The kids had him in the tent playing. He liked it. I kissed and hugged him many, many times. He's very tasty. Later he sacked out on our bed in the sun.

This morning when we were trying to get ready for preschool, Julia was a little distracted. We had to bring something for show and tell that started with the letter E. That wasn't easy. And her socks were inside out and it took her ten full minutes to switch them and put them on again.... and in the middle of the E search, she came out to the living room where I was putting b.g.'s jacket on:

"Mom," and then she launched into some long-winded story about Bart and Lisa and whether they're baptized or not.


Bart and Lisa Simpson? I don't even know what religion they are. They aren't even real. Why are we discussing this? Julia. Time to focus. Oh gosh.

She's a trip.

Last night she asked me to clip her fingernails for her.

As I snipped them over the bathroom sink, she said, "I did my toes already. Some of them I bit."

Wow. I don't even know what to say.

And today after preschool she showed me the award she'd won for resting. She's a bonafide Award-Winning Rester. It's a good looking award too! She told me, "I laid very still. Only I kept breathing." Oh good, yes good idea.

I called my mom, who absolutely adores a well-timed nap. She said,"Oh! She gets that from me!"

I called John and told him what a talented sister he has. Cute, AND good at resting. "Nice," he laughed. "t.c. would never win that award." True enough. He has other talents.

So now we're heading into a long, sunny evening. Customers paid, and that's always a beautiful thing. I hear laughing upstairs. Jay just trailed through the room saying, "I can't find any of my cement trowels. Where could they go?" (I'm not entirely sure what they even look like.) Happy Thursday. love, Val

yeah, her.

This girl is having a birthday tomorrow.

Though we've been friends for twenty three years, I have few photos of her, so this one of her with newborn Julia extra special.

There are also ZERO photos of us together. Next week we're having supper together, and I'm bringing the camera and changing that.

We met over a shared interest in homebirth, and our friendship grew to include birth and everything else that happens in life--the real stuff, the lumpy scruffy parts, the tears and depressing parts...the stuck parts which are SOOO predictable, the phone call can begin in the middle because we both already know the back story...

...and we also get to celebrate all the laughter, accomplishments, occasions--the whole thing, the whole spectrum over these years. The history is extensive and safe. Entirely safe. I never have to pretend, and I'm pretty sure she'd say the same thing.

She's fierce and beautiful, comical and bold, and talented and smart.

She's also kind.

First time I heard her sing was when our kids were very small. I knew she could sing, but I'd never heard her do it. There she was on the floor, kid on her lap, harmonizing hauntingly with Raffi. "There was an old woman all skin and bones, Wooo,oooh, oooh, oooooh..." It stopped me dead in my tracks. Who sings like that? Her. She does.

(She's casual like that about all the things she's good at.)

She also makes fabulous Brandy Alexanders, and big delicious sandwiches... and always says, "Awww," in all the right places.

Happy Birthday, Honey. I love you so, Val

Sunday, March 21, 2010

a spring evening

come on summer

Tonight I drove home after taking photos of a new listing, feeling pretty lucky.

I'm working with the most pleasant clients right now. Every single one is agreeable, reasonable, funny, sane. It's an absolute pleasure.

This afternoon I did an open house for a couple who are so sweet. We've known each other about twenty-five years, so there's history there. Their kids are cute, even the dogs are.

The house was immaculate, all the vacuum cleaner trails still evident over the carpeting. The windows were spotless. They're doing everything they can so the house will show well, and it did. I wish someone would buy it! They're so ready to move on to the next part of their life.

Yesterday, same thing. Good-natured owner,beautiful house, dusted and shined, all the junk mail shoved in a drawer out of sight. The floors are mahogany and the cabinets cherry, the lighting and plumbing are dramatic and fun. It's a contemporary style house with abundant warmth and personality.

And tonight. These people have been working their butts off for a month--moving out of their house, painting every wall, polishing the 90 year old oak floors. We took pictures, and this sweet little house absolutely sparkled in the evening sun.

Plus, they're funny. We laughed a lot, and after taking a few photos with the owner hovering, I handed her the camera--she knows her house best and what angles flatter it most. She took many, many photos, so we had lots to choose from. Very nice.

Jay grilled hamburgers for supper, and he makes the most delicious burgers. He uses a recipe from an old friend of my mother's, and they're divine. He made potato salad too, my mom's recipe also. When I say he cooks like a mom, it's true. He's fabulous.

Kirsten got home from the airport and was in a hurry to get home, exhausted, physically and emotionally. Long distance relationships have lots of good byes and time apart, and that's a bit depressing. But anyway, when she heard there was potato salad handmade by her dad, she came back inside.

Earlier today, Julia had Maria laughing harder than I have heard that girl laugh in weeks. Julia's lost so many teeth, her mouth is all crazy, and she's hard to understand! Without teeth, her pronunciation lacks clear consonants. She's repeating herself all the time, us listening more carefully. "Talk slower, Jule."

Well tonight she was telling us about her tooth, and how the Tooth Fairy hasn't picked it up. Our Tooth Fairy is crap, honestly. It can take literally weeks for the teeth to be picked up. The Fairy is a putz. (hiding face) The kids know this and deal with it, but this Fairy of ours has about as much credibility as the lawn mowing guy up at the lake--which is not much.

She told us she'd looked at the tooth a few days ago, and it was in the hallway bookcase waiting for pick up. (The kids don't put them under the pillow. The idea of a Fairy sneaking around that close while they're asleep freaks them out.)

But she talked more and more and finally I asked where the tooth is right now. She said, "Oh. I have no idea."

Oh great. That'll really help. Ei-yi-yi. That's when Maria was gone in peals of laughter.

So it's bedtime, and the week is looking promising. The snow is gone, and life is good. I suppose I could put a little money in the bookcase, even if we don't know where the tooth went. love, Val

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Okay, last night at bedtime our sheets were still in the dryer.

He helped me put them on the bed, one of us on each side. I love this man, stuffing pillows into flowered pillowcases, helping me get the top sheet straight.

Before supper he patiently cut down a tree I wanted gone. I brought a sandwich out for him while he worked, and all evening he cheerfully helped me move furniture--heavy furniture. A piano was even dragged to a different room.

He is an angel with the nicest shoulders in the world and very,very blue eyes.

Plus he smells good.

I said something mild about how smooth clean sheets are, and he said, "I don't know. I like dirty sheets."

"Really? You do? What are you talking about?"


(We have children who went to college and didn't wash their sheets for an entire semester. That's horrible.)

"When have you ever slept on any dirty sheets? Do you even know what one IS? Have you ever even SEEN an actual dirty sheet?"

He just stood there, laughing.

"Okay, 30 years, times 52 weeks... give or take. Let's say I only wash the sheets every ten days, as an average. 365 days x 31 years = 11,315. Divide that by 10 = 1,131.5 times that sheets have been washed and put on this bed."

He just rubbed his eyes and continued laughing, said he needed to lie down. What the hell? Is he nuts?

Sometimes. Seriously. He's so disorienting. love, Val

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

Today's St. Patrick's Day, and you know what that means!

The Leprechauns.

They show up here, sneak in secretly, mess up a room, throw candy around, and leave a mean note.

Kirsten asked me last night where this tradition started and why. It was in the 80s sometime, but I don't remember. She said she thought everyone had Leprechauns until she was talking about it in college and nobody knew what she was talking about.

That's when she realized this isn't a universal thing. It's just us. That weirded her out a little, but she still likes it.

The hardest part about this isn't the messy room. I can do that--toss the cushions off the couch, empty out a couple drawers, whatever. Or sometimes I just look around for a room that's already messy and throw the candy in there.

The hard part is the mean note. I have no idea what to write this year. One year, this was great--I found a potty training book and opened it up to a picture of a kid on a toilet, and drew an arrow on a piece of paper pointing to it and wrote, "You."

The kids actually gasped when they saw it. "Why do they hate us so much?" No idea. Probably because we're not Irish?

Anyway, today was 65 degrees of beautiful sunshine. I called Dannell to see if they wanted to come for supper because the Leprechauns would be a lot more fun with t.c. here. Everything's pretty much more fun with him involved. Last year he was crazy for those Leprechauns.

They wanted us to meet them at the zoo instead, so we did. It's a small city zoo, old and fancy. They don't have a lot of animals, but it's a pretty park to spend an afternoon at.

In the car on the way, the kids were playing some kind of game where they'd observe something along the road and then holler about it and give demerits. ??? A trash can overflowing? Six demerits! A guy smoking? Six demerits!

We went past a restaurant called Joe's Crab Shack, and Kari hollered, "Who wants a shack with CRABS in it? Ten demerits!" Where did they hear of demerits anyway? They're homeschooled. It's not like we have those. Garfield and Friends, the cartoon. Ahh, should have known.

I was complaining at the zoo because every time we go the animals are all asleep. The monkeys are kicked back, mouths hanging open, snoring. The gorillas were sacked out on their sides, eyes closed. The buffalo were lying down. I mean, GET UP. We drove all the way over here. If I wanted to see an animal asleep, I could stay home and look at Sam.

Well, the lion was not looking too lively, dozing in the sun. We watched him for a few minutes and one of the kids commented that he opened his eyes. Oh yeah, that's exciting. Sigh.

Then a girl lion came over and woke him up and ...ahem... they,ummm... needed privacy. But the kids were sure interested. "What are they doing?" "Do they sleep on top of each other?" Ahhh, not really.

t.c. has a voice that carries for miles and he asked a few loud questions, so Dannell leaned down and whispered something to him, and then he said, "What baby? Where? When can we see the baby?" Oh yeah, let's keep going. They need to be alone.


We wandered up past the reindeer, and it smelled, you know like a springtime barnyard defrosting. The kids howled about the smell, plugging their noses. "Smells like your diapers used to," I teased them.

"No way!" they yelled back.

The zebras and giraffes were still inside, and the kids wanted to see the baby giraffe. It was stuffy and hot in there. Okay, and the zebra was eating his own poop. I mean, he looks like a healthy animal, nice coat, pleasant shape, not sick looking at all, probably really bored mostly. Eating his own poop. We had a look at that baby giraffe and got the heck out of there.

When we were going up the hill, Dannell said maybe it's better if they're asleep after all.

In the car later, James and Kari and I were talking about the zoo, and James said he thought the zebra was even grosser than the lions. (He tone was all like when you think it can't get any worse...then it does.) I have to agree. Eating poop is grosser than sex.

playing peekaboo with uncle james

Wow, time to get to work on that mean note. Darn. I've got to think of something insulting, but what? Happy St. Patrick's Day. love, Val

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

an easy evening

Tonight we had supper with a client. She and her guy invited us to their house and cooked a beautiful meal, enchiladas.

Selling real estate is pretty gratifying. It's fun to see the process unfold as people zero in on just the type of house they like best, and to see all the elements come into focus. It's rewarding to be at the closing and see the smiles as we head out to the parking lot, talking about painting and moving furniture.

But this was special tonight, sitting in the new house with the shiny floors and orange (!) bathroom. It's good to see how she's made it her own, to be there laughing and eating their good cooking, drinking Jay's wine. love, Val

the dumbest day babysitting

Some friends and I were talking about baby stuff today, what are the popular items new mothers must have these days.

Well, that made me remember my dumbest day ever babysitting t.c. back when he was a baby.

His parents had the idea it was time to switch from a baby bottle to a sippy cup thing. That's fine. Whatever.

WELL... four hours later he was the most miserable child. Nothing could make him happy anymore. He'd suck at the cup and then get mad. He was generally pretty mad at this point, and it wasn't like him, throwing his head back and yelling at me.

It was a long morning.

THEN the other kids had a disaster down by the freezer.

The freezer's lid didn't close evenly all the way around the top, so we'd put a paint can on one corner to weight it down. SOMEONE had DROPPED the paint can while getting a popsicle.

Thank heaven it didn't smash their little toes, right? But the top popped off the paint can so we had gray paint from here to Kingdom Come.

Oh gawd. It took an entire roll of paper towels to clean up and even then it wasn't great. Paint is slimy and kept spreading around more and more. All the while t.c. kept kvetching away in some other kid's arms while I worked at it.

Finally, I told them it was good enough, and give me back that baby. I went straight to the cupboard and poured his beverage from the tippy cup into a bottle with a nipple. I didn't know what else to do. He devoured the bottle and fell asleep, huge relief, the little sweetheart.

So then I'm doing the dishes, right? I'm washing out this sippy cup, right? And I can see soap suds between two layers on the lid. What is THIS?? Oh, get this: The cup had a clear silicone lid that snapped over the top. INVISIBLE save for the suds in between now.

Here I'd been feeding the child all morning with a cup with a cap on!

Okay, that's not right. No wonder he was so mad.

If we're going to have all these modern inventions, someone's going to have to show me how they work.

John called later to check on his child, and I told him what had happened. His response? "Mo-THER!" Oh yes, Mother.

Sigh. That poor hungry baby. Yeah, life went on and he didn't starve. He was fed. My nerves unpretzeled. The paint dried, it's all good. Thank goodness. love, Val

Sunday, March 14, 2010

a special occasion

Today was the baptism. It was 60 degrees out, unlike the day they were married in May, six years ago, when it was cloudy with a stiff wind. Today was balmy, the mud atrocious, and spring is so close it's driving us CRAZY.

We haven't had any occasion to be in that church since they were married, but today was the best reason to be there again--this baby, this luscious baby.

This is a lucky little boy. Not only were his grandparents there, but also two sets of GREAT-grandparents. We passed him around, the hugging, the kissing, the laughing, the baldness and juicy little thighs...

Another grandson was seated in a modern high chair, not the chrome and red vinyl type I have in my kitchen. John referred to my well-used red high chair as a death trap. Excuse me?? (It is not.)

Anyway, I sat on the floor, fake growling and fake gnawing on the grandbaby's feet. He squealed and hollered and kicked at my face. I love that kid. When I opened my mouth, he took the wet cheerio out of his own mouth and tried to put it in mine.

There was a big, fancy cake covered in pink and blue frosting flowers. Apparently my daughter in law wanted something tailored and NOT flowered. Dan went to order the cake and according to him, "The lady only spoke in flowers." He kept telling her what he'd been instructed to order, and she peered at him and kept talking flowers.

Finally, he conceded, paid the fifty dollars, and brought home a cake with two inches of frosting and many, many, many unwanted pastel flowers. My daughter in law is a good sport. She said, "It doesn't matter. What really matters?" Oh, yeah. Pick your battles.

Tomorrow we've got a quiet morning, then a girl heading for the airport, and nothing but sunshine.

my mom in a pile of kids

Maria showed up here earlier and I teased her: "So what to do you want? An empty mayonnaise jar and $27?" She always shows up at bedtime with bizarre, urgent requests, and the mayonnaise jar and $27 is the expression for that. (Last week it was $400 and numerous signatures, but that was last week. How can they charge that much for track?)

"No, nothing. Just came to say I love you."

Okay, we can live with that. I love you too. love, Mom

Friday, March 12, 2010

a lotta cakes and a little fun

We're still doing birthday. Here is James and his first cake, from his actual birthday-day. I tried to take a picture of him blowing out the candles, but he did it so dang fast, all I got was smoke and his hip. Durn kid. Look at Julia plugging her nose.

This is the next day at my parents. He specifically blew them out slower because I was so crabby about last night. (It didn't matter. I was just tired.)

This is the cake from today. We had supper with all the grown sibs, and my parents came, and the kids' dogs, and it was very, very loud, but in a good way.

Heidi and Joe with their dog

Joe left in the middle to go fetch his brother from the airport. His brother is home on leave from the Marines. The soldier came back with him and ate leftover ham and cheesy potatoes and birthday cake. It was fun to see him.

These are the Easter crafts from yesterday, pretty fun, grass seed in decorated egg shells. It wasn't as messy as we feared. Tonight, however, mom spotted this same green tablecloth in a photo in Dan's baby book. We're talking 1983? Guess she got her money's worth on that.

And this is Mr. b.g. As much as Julia resented sharing me with him, she's discovered that he really likes her. He finds her hilarious, and that's a lot of fun for her, hearing the baby's laughter and seeing how he lights up when she comes near. It makes her feel wanted and appreciated. Very nice.

On Thursday at my parents, b.g. and my dad hung out. I don't think my dad has had any real opportunities to have b.g. to himself before. They had a good time. B.g. kept putting his head back over and over so my dad could kiss his bald, fuzzy head. Everything my dad said to him made him laugh. This kid has charm.

Here's Julia with t.c. on her lap, watching James open his gifts. These nephews of hers...they're a challenge and they're fun. It's disorienting at times. Tonight there was no fighting though,just lots of Legos and Barbies and cake and jumping on the super couch.

This person is l.c. He's on two feet now, walks like a wind up toy, and he's found his voice. When I realized how fast he is (last week he was still half-crawling,) I ran to put up the baby gates across the stairways.

I took this picture as he demonstrated an incredibly piercing sound I didn't even know could come out of a throat that small. I think his voice could almost shatter glass, and he does it on request for the entertainment value. That little neck of his...smelled wonderfully like maple syrup, though I can't imagine why. He likes his mama best, but I did get in a satisfying number of kisses.

And here's a picture of my mom and Kirby, hanging out, talking about work. They job-share, so there's plenty to discuss...

And now I understand there's a bath tub full of hot water waiting for me, Jay's sound asleep here with Craig Ferguson on the TV, and tomorrow is the weekend. Happy Saturday... love, Val