Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving - Across the Spectrum


Yep, this Thanksgiving I am beyond thankful. FYI, the "spectrum" reference in the caption is not the Autism Spectrum, which affects two of our grandsons. Nope. They are every bit as adorable and amazing as the rest of the bunch. Cousins together? Epic!

But the political spectrum - that's another story! Collectively, we voted for every candidate out there.  In a normal election year, we would be over it long before Thanksgiving. Not this year. Blame global warming.

With that in mind, in recent weeks I have stormed heaven with this prayer:

"Dear-God-Keep-Your-Hand-Over-My-Mouth-on-Thanksgiving-Amen."

Still, I have been filled with trepidation. Foreboding, even.

So, this morning, when I am already missing the dozen faces we rarely see together in one room, I recognize the fruits of answered prayers.  Here, in random order, are a few of the blessings that fill me with profound gratitude:

  • That despite all the craziness in their lives, everyone got there!!
  • That D3 (who hosted) is an amazing cook. Ditto D1 and D2!
  • For the Caramel Apple Sangria.
  • For the son-in-law who took kids outdoors to ride the tractor, see the rabbit, hit the baseball, climb the woodpile, watch an Amish buggy clip-clop past.
  • That I brought the gravy separator.
  • That the two teens still sit at the kids' table as if they aren't taller than most of the adults, still pretend to laugh at our jokes, still hug grandparents.
  • That the two most ardent politicos (yes, opposite ends of that spectrum) were completely civil when they briefly talked politics. 
  • That no one else mentioned the election (at least within earshot).
  • That no one laughed too hard when I kept stirring the same dry spot in the gravy pan as I sipped sangria.
  • That, even though he was cooking up a sinus thing, Mr. Wonderful powered through.
  • That our three daughters are still hilarious together.
  • That D3 did not have to wonder if the appetizers were tasty - just where they went.
  • For astounding, abundant facts about grasshoppers (insect, not beverage).
  • That we got a great picture (as well as several silly outtakes) of D1, D2 and D3 with Mr. Wonderful.
  • For a quiet moment with heads bowed in prayer.
  • For loved ones gone before us who were surely there in spirit.
  • For Disney movies.
  • For sons-in-law whose low-key presence is exactly what the younger kids needed.
  • For a precious conversation between a six-year-old on that other spectrum and his two-year-old cousin.
  • For a son-in-law and grandson who cleaned the entire kitchen without being asked!
  • For D3's brilliant strategy (dessert bribery) to get a group photo when it seemed all hope was lost.
  • For 6 a.m. Black Friday sales with all the girls, and for the guys who held down the fort while we shopped.
But most of all, I thank God for His amazing goodness. For these memories. Each daughter, son-in-law and grandchild is a precious, one-of-a-kind gift. No one could ever deserve such blessings! And yet, they surrounded our Thanksgiving table. 


And that's not the sangria talking.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Election? What Election?

I know. We want to hide until it's over. And I don't trust anyone who says they actually like one of the choices. This stinks.

But you knew you could count on my two cents, right? Because I am eminently awesome at making decisions . . . . okay, not so much. But I will give you my thoughts, because I don't know what else to do with them!

First, there is no point whatsoever in asking how the bleep we got here. And there is no chance a third party candidate will actually win, so no fair voting for one. Please, no eeny, meeny in the voting booth and no staying home. Read the title of this blog over and over if you need to:

IT IS WHAT IT IS

Okay. So, as between the two actual contenders, which one has strong character? Trick question. Neither of the above. Both are deeply, publicly flawed.

Here is my approach: Forget who they are.  Yes - I actually said that!

What kind of America do you want for your kids and your grandkids? 

And, what candidate has made commitments that line up with that vision on the issues you care most about?

If you need to, rank some issues that matter to you. A few thoughts in random order -

Jobs

Healthcare

Terrorism

Military and veterans

Immigration

First Amendment

Second Amendment

Court appointments

You will have others. Okay - more than enough to think about.

Finally, a cheery fact to remember as you head to the polls (heh-heh):

NO ONE WILL KNOW WHO WE VOTED FOR!!! 


(Please don't tell me Julian Assange will know - I can't stand it!!)

Anonymity! Empowering all of us! Forget the pollsters, the pundits, the late-night talk shows, your friends, your mother-in-law, the media, the signs in your neighbors' yards, Facebook, and the so-called experts.

Remember who you are, and what matters to you.

Be fearless in that voting booth!

And never forget that God can use ANYONE for good.  Even Hillary. Even Donald.

This Tuesday, He will use you and me..





Monday, September 26, 2016

Another Day Closer to Dressing Like . . .?

Okay - time for a flashback. Who remembers "sister dresses?"

Yep - those were a thing. And definitely a better deal for the older sister, who endured the dress only 'til outgrown. (My baby sister, "Blondie," is cringing - black velveteen bodices and striped skirts, right?)

Admittedly, my view of dressing alike is a bit off-center,. The result of personal trauma. Read on.

My childhood friends included kids from huge Catholic families (think Kennedys - without money). Our parish had several, each one filling a whole pew. (On time! Maybe that's how you get a whole pew.)

Anyway, one year Mrs. de Vout, mother of eight (or nine?), must have scored a deal on a whole bolt of fabric. Spring-y colors - hot pink, and sunshine yellow - not exactly understated - but it was spring. The de Vout sewing machine must have run nonstop.

And one Sunday morning, in they came. Pink-and-yellow, genuflect. Pink-and-yellow, genuflect. Pink-and-yellow, genuflect. A sea of pink-and-yellow. A-line dresses. Poufy dresses, Matching kerchiefs. Mr. de Vout and the boys? Pink-and-yellow ties.

Okay, I should have been praying but it was straight out of the "The Sound of Music" - only brighter and in church. Still, it was on trend at the time.

Fast forward to my law firm days. Also known as the "Princess-Diana-loves-polka-dots" era. Yep. One day every female in the firm - lawyers, paralegals, administrative assistants, and yours truly - unintentionally showed up in polka dots. Black with white, Every. Single. One. (Luckily, this was before "who-wore-it-better.")


Lives in shambles! Like the young male intern who worked a summer in the Legal Dept.with me. One Casual Friday he wore a black shirt and khakis. Good choice, right? Unless you are dressed like every FEMALE in the Department. Awkward!

But lately, a too-close-to-home, scarier trend has surfaced. First, only Sundays. Mr. Wonderful and I do a mad dash for church. Feed dogs, showers, breakfast, dogs out, dogs gated, go! We don't see each other until we get to the car. Dressed alike. Week after week. Coincidence,,  right? You be the judge:


Perhaps not. (Cue the "Twilight Zone" theme.) There's this. We pay no attention to spousal packing (clothes, not the spouse) when we travel. Never have. And yet - recently - at our destination, we are dressed alike. Every single day. Khakis and navy. Jeans and burgundy. IU shirt day.

So it might be time to apologize to my brother for a certain birthday card. On the front, "Another year older?" Inside, "Another year closer to dressing like dad!"

It was funny at the time..

Oh, and Blondie - about making you sing at school in those horrid sister dresses . . .

Monday, September 5, 2016

Chronic Hosting Disorder

If there is ever an Olympic event for tripping over your own feet, I will medal. Regrettably, I have also been known to inflict crazy on others. Company coming? Look out!

My social fails started small. I planned a surprise birthday party for Mr. Wonderful. The guests gathered quietly in the front room of our little Indiana house. I just needed to figure out how to get Mr. W. in the front door, which we never used.

"The dog threw up here! Go to the front door!!"

In hindsight, a bit weak, but it was the best I could do at the time. So, after he mushed his bootless feet through the deep snow to the front door, his grand entrance sounded something like "$@#%&& *!@$# bleep #*+$@ SURPRISE!!!!!" 

Not exactly what I was going for. Still, he was surprised!

Through the years, I have served guests chicken so overdone that it looked like roast sparrow, set a peach cobbler ablaze, and made clam chowder every Christmas Eve for years until we noticed D2 was always covered in hives as she hung her stocking.

But things got out of control when we invited friends to dinner at our California house. Although we would eat indoors, Mr. Wonderful hosed off the patio, just in case. All went well until termites - driven from their tiny homes by the hose - swarmed the dining room table. And our food. And my friend starting picking up little critters off her plate. And talking to them, No one died, of course. But recovering from this goes way beyond twelve steps.

Thus, if company comes, I obsess . So when dear California friends (nope - not the termite people) said they would like to eat some Maryland crabs and visit us during their D.C. vacation, I immediately began to plan the assault, er, the visit.

First, the concerns. My friend, "Law & Oscar," is an attorney and serious movie buff. She and her spouse effortlessly host Academy Awards viewing parties for over 100 guests every year. Okay, I will just block that out!

Law & Oscar is recovering from an exploded femur. No stairs. We need accessibility. One son's special needs include an entree from his short list. Also, wifi. Oh, and D3 would be driving from Pennsylvania to surprise them. With her two-year-old. Need high chair and kiddie menu.

Also, the Bay Bridge. Extending four miles over the Chesapeake Bay, it is a marvel. Until some knucklehead has a fender bender on the span on a weekend. Then it becomes a parking lot with a lovely water view.

So we would need crab options on BOTH sides of the Bridge, just in case. There was consensus on a crab house on the Eastern Shore. So I mapped it. And looked up the menus. Confirmed accessibility. And wifi. Kiddie menu. High chair. But no reservations on Saturdays. And it would be packed.

Annapolis was more challenging. Oddly, no one seems to cross the Bridge from our side to eat crabs. No alternative except to consult experts: the Internet, the Washington Post, and some total strangers at a quilting class. I mapped the options. And looked up the menus. Confirmed accessibility. And wifi. Kiddie menus. High chairs. No reservations on Saturdays. And both would be packed.

Meanwhile, our fantastic neighbors wrapped their table in brown paper, pulled up their crab pots, got out the Old Bay and provided Crab 101 to us over lunch, complete with hammers and miles of paper towels! That's right - despite living here five years, Mr. W. and I had never picked crabs!

Finally the big day came. The weather was hot and sunny. The Bay Bridge traffic was moving. All three cars arrived at the Crab House simultaneously. Right after a huge bus.

After hugs and greetings, we went up the ramp (score!) to claim a waterfront table in air-conditioned comfort. Um, no. Someone (from the bus?) was having a private event in our dining room. And enjoying our A/C. And our view.

That left two options, We could climb many stairs to the second floor. No ramp, no elevator. The view? The sky. Just the sky..

Or, we could head back down the ramp and look for a spot on the waterfront deck . Luck was with us. We actually found one. With umbrellas. And we located a high chair.

Did not know we would not have the full menu  - just a short deck menu. But with three lawyers among us, we were able to shake down - er, convince - the server that we would be needing a few things off the main menu. (heh-heh)

The service was more relaxed (okay, slow) on the deck. Especially the food from the main menu took a bit longer. Much longer, actually. And it was our special needs buddy and our two-year-old grandson who were waiting. Still, the wifi was working and there was a duck walking under the tables (amusing, if you are two). There was a lovely breeze from time to time.  Otherwise, it was very warm.

So are you waiting for details of the latest disaster???  I got nothin'!

No one went into anaphalactic shock. Or put an eye out with crab shells. Or fell into the water. No one had a meltdown from the sound of hammering or the wait. No one succumbed to heat exhaustion. No critters swarmed our table. No one tripped Law & Oscar. The wifi held.

And as I think about the day, the crazy kind of fades. Leaving the friends, their teens (who are ridiculously tall), the water view and the food. And singing the birthday song to Law & Oscar. And messing with D3 to start the song while we pretended not to join in. And having ice cream and cupcakes from scratch at our house.

It was a great time. Maybe the curse is broken!!

And my last thought before I lapsed into a coma on the couch?

"Um - were the cupcakes a bit dry?"

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lifetime Warranty, Anyone?

Do you ever wonder who-in-the-world keeps all their warranties and actually makes claims?

That would be us.

A warranty got us a new printer. A hose reel. My umbrella repaired. When or where did I get that old umbrella? Have no idea, but I like it! Up or down with one button!


Which brings me to this question:

At what point in life is a "lifetime warranty" too much?

Haha, you say.  Nope - I am dead (whoops!) serious.

The issue first came up when we were buying an exquisite, cast iron Christmas tree stand. Pricey, but lifetime warranty. Even in our forties, the thought occurred that the tree stand could outlast us. Fast forward MANY years. To our fake tree. (Sniff.) On my bucket list? A real tree. In that tree stand. Still, it seems a waste.

And some things shouldn't last forever. D3 had a backpack with a lifetime warranty. The company replaced the zipper. Then a pen exploded in it. I shot it full of hairspray and tossed it in the washer, in spite of label warnings. Like new!

So is D3 still carrying it? Forest green - need I say more?  Anyhow, these days she carries a briefcase or a diaper bag.

Still, wanting a good warranty is a hard habit to break.

The issue really came into focus over the summer when we realized that our AC is not really cooling the house anymore and repairing it might not make sense.

Several HVAC professionals estimated replacement costs and options.

Including warranties. Some came with a lifetime warranty. Quality, right? Can't stay in business otherwise.

So, we did our cost/benefit conversation. Mr. Wonderful thought it made sense to get a system with a lifetime warranty for our "forever home."

I was less certain. "What if one of us dies before the heat and air do?"

An innocent (but reasonable) question, or so I thought.

Silence. And not in a good way. Still, I pressed on . . .

"Will you stay in this house if I die first?"

"Of course!!"

"Do you think I will stay if you go first?"

"Where else would you go?"

"I am thinking of a nice condo."

"A CONDO???  WHERE????"

"Anywhere I want. You'll be dead!"

We got the lifetime warranty. Still not sure about it. Probably should have checked to see if it is transferable, but that is hindsight.

And Mr. Wonderful is looking at me with new eyes. It is pretty hard to surprise him after all these years, but maybe - just this once - I did!










Friday, July 22, 2016

Not Your Sisters' Childhood

It is a miracle that our youngest daughter is the lovely, kind,, hardworking young wife, mother and HR professional she is today. No, she wasn't kidnapped by aliens.  But D3 did NOT have the same childhood as her older sisters. Not by a long shot.

In theory, D3 should have had the best childhood. D3's sisters were 12 and 14 when she was born. God knows her parents were experienced.  But also OLD.  Were OLD the day she was born.

Our wake up call came the first time we had dinner guests. Mr. Wonderful tiptoed into the adjacent room to check the sleeping cherub in the low basket, quietly lowering himself for a closer look. Then his knees went, "Pop! Pop!" and D3 woke up screaming. Um, that was new.

And we have been distracted all of D3's life. When you have two teen-aged daughters, you had better be paying attention to themThe toddler should be easy-peasy by comparison, right?

Fact is, if you turn your head, your toddler might fall and break a tooth. I did and she did.

Yet, it seemed inconsequential compared to D1's early arrival at home that same day, due to a locker bomb exploding at the high school.

And with the age gap, the older girls had to be doting, worshipful, siblings, right?

"The Sisters," as she called them, did, in fact, love D3 madly. They read to her, entertained her, and applauded her every success as if she was the first baby in history to pull up or make a sentence.


And shouldn't she learn a lot from The Sisters? She did! Oh, boy, did she!

They were responsible for the little voice in the carseat saying "Burn rubber, Dude!" For dressing her in "Asian Cabbage Patch" duds. (Signs of sisterly affection, right?) For fostering a love of books and Scooby Doo.

So I am not certain when I first noticed that, D3's view of the world was evolving into "teenage wannabe."



Maybe it was when the pediatric dentist (whom we saw for her broken tooth) asked if her stuffed rabbit, Foober, would like to join her in the chair. D3 gave the man an eye roll and replied "it's a stuffed animal."

Maybe it was when she began to fret about being unemployed. Non-stop. At age three.

But I didn't become alarmed until things got crazy at preschool.

Suddenly, D3 began diving under a table to hide as soon as we arrived.

Back home, she explained. "Bobby Vaccaro asks me to marry him every day!" After a little mother-daughter chat, I thought we were good.

Until the next time I picked her up at preschool.

Why were the teachers stifling giggles? I had to ask..

Yep. Bobby Vaccaro had again asked D3 to marry him. It was D3's answer that had everyone in stitches.

Did she say "No, no, go away!"?

Nope.

Maybe, "Boys are yucky!!"?

Not even close.

In response to that day's marriage proposal, D3 said, (quoting, now):

"I'm sorry. I'm not ready for a commitment."

Yep. The. Sisters. Gave. Marital. Advice.

To. D3.

At. Age. Three.

Not kidnapped by aliens.

Programmed by The Sisters.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fireworks - A Cautionary Tale



Long ago, there was one Fourth of July that Mr. Wonderful missed due to business travel. Before heading out, he reassured D1 and D2 that they would still have fireworks - he was leaving some for mom to light.

Thank you, dear.  Predictably, the girls awoke at dawn with cries of, "When can we light the fireworks???" It would be a long day!

Now I am the first one to break out the red, white and blue for patriotic holidays. Up goes the flag. Crepe papered bicycles and patriotic outfits - no problem.  Dressed someone up as the Statue of Liberty one year. Flag cakes and red and blue jello molds. I have always loved these colors.



But fireworks? Gulp. In the olden days, the neighborhood kids had firecrackers, cherry bombs, bottle rockets, M-80's and M-100's - mainly weapons of the Scofflaw family. (see Disclaimers - not their real name!) Legend had it that their mom locked them all out of the house daily for her own protection. They were short - growth stunted as they started smoking in second grade before dropping out of school - but scary.

Anyway, my personal experience was limited to holding a few sparklers that someone else lit.  The supply that Mr. Wonderful left us had names that were mostly foreign to me. Of course, there were some snakes (the point - what is the point?), some smoke bombs (ditto), some sparklers, some really loud thingies, and - the piece de resistance - a whistling chaser.



It wasn't even dusk when I relented and lit the punk. D1 and D2 were having a grand time with the snakes and sparklers and smoke bombs. We could hear a couple of neighbor families picnicking nearby.

Then I lit the whistling chaser. And it did. Chase-her! CHASE ME!!

It pursued me up our driveway, around, around, around and down. up the street, up another driveway, AROUND, AROUND, AROUND, back down the driveway and into the street. What the heck! Did it have radar?

I screamed like a girl! (Hey, I AM a girl!) I invented new moves! I ran for my life!

D1 thought it was hilarious. D2 knew FOR SURE that mom was going to DIE!

True to form, D2 sounded the alarm. She flew to the neighbors' yards and summoned them with shrieks of, "Help! My mom lit the whistling chaser and now she's ON FIRE!!!!

Thus, an audience arrived - the only thing we had been missing.

Decades later, this day is legend. You can bet I had a few snarky remarks for Mr. Wonderful on his return.  Of course he was laughing too hard to hear them.

So today I have hung the flag, put patriotic placemats on the table, and am wearing red, white and blue. And later, when I bring over a plate of cookies with patriotic sprinkles, consider yourself lucky.

I could be lighting fireworks in your driveway.













Friday, June 24, 2016

No News is Good News

News flash: I will be avoiding the TV news until after the election. And if we still had little ones at home, I would NEVER let them watch. Even without the election, there is much not to like.

Violence! Adult content! Celebrity "news!" AND SLANTED! You can tell the networks' politics by whose photos are flattering and whose are creepy.

Very different from the olden days (my childhood!).

Frank Reynolds delivered Chicagoland's news.  He never editorialized. Just the facts (kind of like Dragnet!). P.J. Hoff cartooned the local weather.

The biggest scandal of my childhood? The boys at school saying "hell" and "damn" at recess! The teachers solemnly escorted all the girls into a conference room. After reciting the naughty words to us, the teachers asked us to I.D. the culprits letting BAD WORDS fly on the playground. Yep - this was my first exposure to "cuss words." From the teachers. 

Anyway, given my head-in-the-sand childhood, it seems inevitable that I found out TV news is not for kids the hard way - by letting our kids watch.

D2 was a sensitive little soul. We never realized she was even paying attention to the TV news until she started remembering the Iranian-held hostages in her bedtime prayers. At age 4. She worried about them for 444 days.

And when, at last, the Americans were released and we watched them descend the steps of the plane onto U.S. soil, D2 was overcome. (Okay, D2 was pretty much always emotional, but this was a personal best, even for her!) 

We dried her tears, but the deluge was unstoppable. Between hiccups and gulps of air, she kept repeating something over and over. It sounded like "Where are they? Where are the hostages?"

Finally we figured out what she was saying.

"Where are the OSTRICHES???"

All that time, D2 had been praying for the safe return of our BIRDS!

Like I said - letting the kids watch TV news? BIG mistake! HUGE!

And that's the way it is.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Back Home Again . . .

I am a proud Hoosier. I sing "Back Home Again in Indiana" every time I return. But I had never been to the Indianapolis 500.

This was the year to be there - the 100th running!  Still, we did not get the tickets bought or the hotel booked or the dogs boarded. Then this happened.

Mr. Wonderful’s younger brother, a crazed Oregon State alum (the Beav) is making a sports-themed odyssey in a forty-foot Beaver (what else?) motor home. Daytona? Check. The Kentucky Derby? Check. And of course, the 100th running of the Indy 500.

The Beav bought better and better seats for Indy online, selling extras as he bought new seats. The week before the race, the Beav still had two unsold tickets. And the kennel had room for our canines.
                                                      
Maybe my midwest roots are showing, but I have a feeble sense of adventure. Sent home early from not one, but TWO, childhood camps. A pristeen hotel? A charming bed and breakfast? Now we’re talking! 

Every hotel in Indy was booked. But wait! The Beav's first choice to park the Beaver had a low-hanging branch preventing clearance. His second choice, an oversized yard with a concrete pad behind the house, had a spare room.

The Beav checked it out, worked a deal for the room, and advised us to bring sheets, towels, pillows, etc. We would stay at Andy's (no last name - just Andy).  A mile from the Speedway - score!

Okay, this was a bit more fluid than our usual planning, which usually includes a clipboard with confirmation numbers, maps and rates in chronological order. Spare room at Andy's. That is all.

Our destination was the tree-lined streets and uniformly tidy homes of “Leave It to Beaver,” er, Speedway, IN. At first, the Beav's Beaver was the only motor home. Soon, three other behemoths joined us - including one that had come only six miles.




Next came tents. And porta-potties.


And a huge party tent.



This looked like fun - even to an adventureless soul like me!  Especially since yours truly would not be sleeping in any of the tents. Heh-heh.

Then we saw our room. Think guys' dorm. And not the weekend mom is visiting.

Two beds - a double and a twin. Each loaded with miscellaneous stuff. Nothing else in the room. No lock.

Leave it to Beav to give us a heads up on bedding!  We stripped the double (I am not sure what a bedwetting alarm looks like, but I think we removed one!)

We left a plastic cover on the mattress, and put our own sheets and pillows on, and mounded everything else on the twin bed and covered it all with a comforter we found there.

Andy agreed to leave a back door unlocked. He forgot only twice.

Indy is hot and humid by Memorial Day. It was the nights of my childhood. Where was the cross breeze? The plastic cover on the mattress wasn't helping. The double bed. (Were we both smaller when we last slept in one?) Andy left his bedroom door open to catch a breeze. (Right next to ours – dueling snoring with Mr. Wonderful.) On day three, Andy said "Hey, I turned on the A/C today." Seriously? There was air?

All in all, it was a pretty good arrangement. We just popped outside to hang with the Beav and his wife. Forty minute walk to the Speedway (drive time from nearby hotels was 3 hours!). And there is nothing like being in the midst of a bunch of happy race fans.

Still, I wish I could have recorded my conversation with my sister afterward. She seemed to be channeling my mother.

"Where did you stay?"

"At Andy's"

 "What is that?"

"A house near the Speedway."

"Whose house?"

"Andy's."

"Andy who?"

"Don't know his last name."

"How do you know Andy?”

"Don't know him.”

“What is your relationship with Andy?"

“None. The Beav set it up. Four nights in Andy’s spare room."

"You had your own bathroom, right?"

"Nope.  One bathroom.  Shared with Andy."

"Whaaaatttt?"

Hey, maybe I do have a sense of adventure after all!










Friday, May 20, 2016

Brainstorms!

Sifting through my vast warehouse of foibles for a post, I could not seem to focus.  My mind ran something like this:

How about the cowboy in the post office - or feeding maize to the class fish - uh-oh, the red dog needs to go out - hey, did I already do a post on the time our dachsy ate a spider and blew up like a Shar-Pei?

You get the picture.

I tell myself, "QUIET DOWN! I AM TRYING TO BRAINSTORM!!"

Seriously? That is, in fact, the problem.  I am under attack by
BRAINSTORMS!!

All the time.

With Mr. Wonderful: "Email says we're part of a class action against one of those ticket vendors. Maybe we'll get a discount on tickets. See the Black-Eyed Peas. Remember when we convinced the girls that ketchup on  black-eyed peas would wreck the good luck?"

Online. Just checking emails - then a quick peek at Facebook (puppies - awwwww), eBay (outbid - DRAT!), weather (cloudy - so why is red dog drenched?), CNN (wait, the candidates are doing rock-paper-scissors?), JUST checking my emails . . .

In prayer: My daily Prayer to St. Joseph for Mr. Wonderful suddenly sounds suspiciously like the Prayer to St. Michael but evolves into the Prayer to the Holy Spirit!  Um, "Dear God, bless Mr. Wonderful every which way! Amen."

I blame the web.

And multitasking.

And my age. (BINGO!)

And Trump and -

GET A GRIP, GLADYS!!!

And I say a heartfelt but very short prayer - so I don't start meandering and bring Mother Teresa into it - NOT HER PROBLEM!

Okay.  I am fine.  Really.

Wait, what the heck will I blog about  . . .?


Friday, May 13, 2016

Security Breach - Circa 1975

Back when D1 was the lone sprout on our family tree, Mr. Wonderful bid Uncle Sam goodbye and finished his degree at In-State University (IU) regional campus. Our sole income - a whopping $298.00 per month under the G.I. Bill - also had to cover tuition. We rented a little house from St. Raymond (my dad) for $134.00 a month. Thus, I was always on the prowl for freebies and cheapies to enrich baby D1's world.  

The library, of course, and church and the YWCA, where we found "Diaper Dolphins," the latest in mother/baby swim classes. This is D1's ACTUAL swimsuit with patch. (A post on hoarding is overdue.)

We both loved this program - at least I am pretty sure. At bath time D1 began hurling her rubber ducky into the tub shouting "one, two, frrreeeee!" Surely, her adorable way of sharing her joy with ducky. 

Anyway, when we learned that D1 would not be an only child, I hoped to stay with Diaper Dolphins until someone shouted "Whale" (which did happen, but that is another post). 

Wanted: maternity bathing suit. Growing room. Cheap. 

If the 1970's are history to you, you should know that pregnancy was hush-hush. Expectant moms essentially pretended not to be pregnant. No one announced her with-child status until little children starting asking if there was a "beach ball under there," and then only to a select few (the grandparents).

Our clothing was also in on the ruse. We wore yoked, pleated or gathered over-blouses and dresses (no hint there, right?). Often these fashion statements came with a huge bow under the chin - as in "no-one-will-notice-I-am-wearing-a pup-tent-over-a-watermelon-as-their-gaze-rockets-upward-to-the-bow." (See purple number at right.)

Maternity swimwear also took a camouflage approach, with the top designed to hide several small children.  No warning labels back then, but I would offer this: "Warning: Check for stowaways before laundering."

Anyway, the Sears Catalog came to my rescue with a turquoise and green print number - ON CLEARANCE.  Catalog orders were snail mail or phoned in. Since this was a hot item (sale!), I should phone.

(Also, when you talk with an 18-month-old for most of your waking hours, you long to speak with an adult.  Any adult.  And adults answered the phones at Sears!) 

So I called. I gave the page number in the catalog, the size, color number and pricing. Meanwhile, the saleslady looked up the item in the same catalog and wrote up the order. She chatted and suggested other purchases as she got all the details.

Then, we verified: "You are ordering a turquoise and green two-piece maternity swimsuit in size small, correct?"  

"Yes."

"And your name - wait!  Libby, is that you??"

"ALMIRA?"

Keep in mind, dear reader, we had not announced.  

And Almira was our very chatty (two-pots-of-coffee) neighbor who lived across the alley.  

And she worked at Sears. Um, apparently in the catalog department.

Still, what are the chances that our neighbor would find out I was pregnant before the grandparents because I ordered from Sears?????

I had no choice but to admit who I was.  We had a good laugh, and I cautioned that we had not yet announced. So far as I can tell, despite the caffeine, Almira never told.

And it was a blessing to have a caring friend who knew why my mornings were queasy, and to advise on keeping D1 from unloading her dresser every single day. (Yardstick through the pulls.)

And so D1 and I continued to enjoy Diaper Dolphins.  

And D2 joined us for the swim - stylishly concealed under a turquoise and green tent.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

I like to think I have passable technical skills. I am writing this on my iPad. My iPhone outsmarts me only occasionally. (Okay, I phoned D3 during her prom when I was trying to watch a DVD, but that was years ago.)

Even so, there are times - like this weekend -  when I know my limits.  

By way of background, I had watched our youngest grandson at D3's house for a week last summer while his parents were away. They left on Sunday night.  It was Wednesday when I finally stumbled on the secret combination to watch TV. Even then, I didn't dare turn it off. There are two clickers and an X-box thingy. And even though it says "HDMI 1" on the screen, DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT!  

This weekend I watched the littlest guy again, while D3 and her husband attended a wedding. D3 prudently gave me instructions on how-to-play-little-guy's-favorite-movie. 

She led me through the steps on the X-box control. (Why does it look like a mini flight simulator yoke?) At one point, she looked hard at me and said, "Mom - your eyes are glazing over - are you getting this?" 

Here is what I remember: The large button with an X turns it on. Amid the multicolored buttons to the right, the green one is important. Also, although there are buttons to both right and left of the X button, focus on the left one. If Mater suddenly speaks Swahili, employ the joystick at the far left. 

The part she didn't tell me - but I picked up over the summer: KEEP THE REMOTES UP HIGH!! Still, only once did I shout "DON'T TOUCH THAT BUTTON!" as I dove for the remotes. And little guy thought it was pretty funny. Anyway, it was just one night and we made it through the movie part.

However, I was then flummoxed by the bathtub. That should be low tech, right? Read on. When I last bathed little guy, he used a plastic tub in the big tub. No more. He's a big-tub-boy now. I started to run bath water, but wasn't sure how to plug the tub. I have only showered there. There is no stopper visible, although there is a lever on the tub for one.

I searched the surrounding area. There were the familiar bath toys, and also something new.  A round soft blue thing with a suction cup on the bottom. Maybe it's like the whale over the water spigot - meant to keep little guy from injury - so I put it over the opening - about the right size - and filled the tub.  

Little guy played happily with bath toys as I washed his hair, scrubbed off the days' grime. The stopper came off a time or two, but generally I would give it 3 1/2 stars. Then we brushed his teeth, put on pj's and played a bit in hopes that he would be sleepy soon.

When his parents came home, his daddy put little guy to bed and I told D3 of our adventures. Mentioned that it had taken me a bit to figure out how to run the bath without the little tub, but that the new stopper was pretty ingenious.

"What new stopper?" D3 asked.  

"Um, you know, the blue one with the suction cup.  I had to put it in a few times but it worked pretty well. Expect it keeps little guy safe, too," I replied.

It is pretty rare, but D3 was actually perplexed for a moment or two. Then -

"MOM! That's a shower speaker!! Are you saying you USED A BLUETOOTH TO KEEP THE WATER IN THE TUB??" 

Seriously? Um . . . 

Hindsight:  Take nothing for granted. 

Still, I have photos.



You be the judge. 

Meanwhile, I learned this week that there is a patron saint of technology. Excuse me while I do a novena . . .





Friday, April 15, 2016

A Pie in the Face

I know without asking Mr. Wonderful that I am not a perfect wife.  Still, I can point to a few Herculean efforts over the years. Ten moves - all but one for his job - which is roughly three years of hanging curtains. I gave birth to three lovely daughters. No small effort, that. And wonder of wonders, I am finally a college basketball fan.

So, dear Lord, how can it be that one seemingly small shortcoming from more than forty Thanksgivings ago remains my all-time epic fail?

Yes, the PECAN PIE!

A bit of background: My childhood Thanksgivings consisted of Aunt June meticulously planning every detail, then sprinting between the kitchen and dining room to ensure hot gravy. Later there were pies.

When Mr. Wonderful and I made our first married home at Ft. Lost-in-the-Woods, family was far off, so "orphans" got together. But our celebrations were very different - as in less. Much less. The low point was arriving for dinner one Christmas to be told, “grab a paper plate and help yourself to what’s left on the stove. We got hungry – we ate.”

Still, there were bright spots.  The best was a Thanksgiving we spent with fellow Hoosiers and their family. True, the quarters were, like ours, long ready for bulldozing, but the food was delicious and our hosts treated us like family.

I had baked pies. As we said our good-byes, I insisted that our hosts keep the remaining pie - a bit of pecan - so their family could enjoy it with the other leftovers. Mr. Wonderful seemed supportive of my impulsive generosity - until we completed the thirty second walk to our quarters.

"MY PIE! MY PECAN PIE! YOU GAVE THEM MY PECAN PIE!”

I remember his lament as if it were yesterday.  Why? Because I probably heard it again yesterday. And last week.  And every time we see pie on a menu.  And every time someone mentions pie. And when our three oldest grandchildren decided that pecan pie is their new favorite and there were no leftovers.

You get the picture.

Never mind that for more than forty years I have made pecan pie every Thanksgiving (except the year that my kitchen was torn down to the studs).  Never mind that I awake at dawn to bake the pies before putting the turkey into the oven so the pie crusts are just-baked flaky. Never mind that the pecan pies I bake after all these years of experience are surely superior to that first effort!

Nope. The memory of that first pecan pie haunts Mr. Wonderful, and as a result, me.

So, IN HINDSIGHT, here is my advice for young marrieds: you may be able to give away his too-short-1970’s-basketball-shorts.  You may even be able to hide his Mario Andretti poster.

But pray, dear newlyweds, that you NEVER GIVE AWAY HIS PECAN PIE!!!!!!!!!.

NOT IF HE BECOMES DIABETIC.

NOT IF HE DEVELOPS A RAGING NUT ALLERGY THAT INVARIABLY RESULTS IN ANAPHYLAXIS.

NOT EVEN AT GUNPOINT

UNLESS YOU WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT FOR THE
REST.
OF.
YOUR.
LIFE!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It Made Sense At The Time

For single parents and moms or dads with a spouse who travels on business, Section Y (why?) of Murphy's Law states: "All serious injuries to minor children shall occur during one-parent circumstances."

I won't say Mr. Wonderful was never home, but I once got a troubling phone call from D1's teacher. The class was discussing parents' jobs and D1 announced her dad "packs a suitcase and leaves."

And some kids are frequent fliers in the emergency room - like ours, for example.

But despite Mr. Murphy's crummy law, one day Mr. Wonderful and I were both home when IT happened. D1 and D2 were out riding their bikes, when D2 burst through the door in tears. "D1 had a BIKE WRECK and now she's been KIDNAPPED!!"

We had just enough time to almost panic when a pickup truck (a neighbor D2 did not know) pulled up to the curb and unloaded the battered D1 and her bike.

So much blood!  Carefully, we laid D1 on the the kitchen floor and looked for the wound.  It didn't take long.  Amid the scrapes and scratches, D1 had a big gash in her mouth - above her front teeth.  And like most head wounds, it was a gusher. She needed medical attention pronto.

I am not proud of this, but I looked at Mr. Wonderful and said, "Thank God you're home. You can take her to the ER!"  His reply? "I can't - I'm not dressed for it."

So I scooped up D1 and dashed to the car. And to the ER. And to the dentist. And did I mention it was a holiday? (That was why Mr. Wonderful was home!!)

That evening, I took a hard look at my spouse and asked if he had, um, changed his clothes. Nope, same T-shirt and shorts he had worn all day. I looked down to see what I was wearing that was so much more appropriate for the emergency runs. Yep, T-shirt and shorts.

I must admit that Mr. Wonderful stayed home with D1 for a few days until the swelling and bruising abated (I know what you're thinking - I am referring to the injuries on D1!) and she could return to school without evoking abuse accusations.

And as to hindsight, I got nothin.' Apparently your brain leaves your head when your kid is really hurt.

Fact is, it made sense at the time.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Family - Gotta Love Them!

Easter[i] Weekend!  Time for a family dinner!


How will you spend your holiday meal? Hearing a detailed description of a recent surgical procedure?  Or wishing that at least one family member would turn off a cell phone and start a conversation? Or maybe you will be in a foxhole.

Family.  Gotta love them. And we do - through thick and thin.  

So today I would like to share a prayer for all of us:

Dear Lord, bless our families this Easter. Help me remember that You chose them to be family to me. Give me a loving spirit for the difficult times, a short memory for hurts, a loyalty that holds each one close always, and forgiveness for those times that nothing less will do. Help me to remember that, in your wisdom, families are forever. Help me to follow your perfect example of unconditional love for my family – this day and always.  Amen
*        *        *
Have a Blessed Easter with your one-of-a-kind family! 


And for the record, I will be missing those foxhole stories.


[i] Not so fast, my Jewish friends – Passover will be here soon!!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Panty Raid

We were richly blessed that day. It has only taken me 35 years to realize it.

The blessing? No cell phone cameras. No posts on social media. Nothing to leave a lasting imprint in cyberspace. 

It was a typical Sunday morning.  Daughter 1 was learning to dress herself, while Daughter 2[i] was wriggling out of her ruffled socks and Mary Janes as fast as I could put them on again.  Finally, both wore the matching yellow dresses – very short (think Shirley Temple) - from Grandma.  Perfect for a spring morning.


Running late as usual.  Why was our parish the Cathedral? And why were the empty seats in the very front?  Up the long center aisle we went, little girls swinging their arms enthusiastically.    

Half way through the second reading, D1 dropped her little straw purse.  As she bent down to retrieve it, I glanced over and saw . . .

The moon!  I SAW THE MOON!!  No ruffled Sunday panties! And no plain underwear! No panties pulled up backwards! No panties anywhere!!!

Prayer was difficult.  It was too late to pray that no one would notice (see mention of aisle, above).  

I believe in miracles, but slowly I realized that panties would not be among them, no matter how fervently I entreated the Blessed Mother.

The final hymn. We beat a hasty retreat.  Upon arriving home, I grilled D1 with useless questions like "didn’t you feel a breeze?” and “where were your panties?”  

It had just seemed too basic.  Face it, I had taken underwear for granted. No more! 

I overcompensated.  We had “panty check” every time we left the house. Something like "Miss America, show us your shoes," but with panties. Not kidding!

Only now do I realize how blessed we were. No photos!  None of the naked bum.  None of the laughing congregation. And especially none of the hysterical mother in the second pew!! 



Oh, and thankful that we moved away not long after that.


[i] From here on out, my daughters will be known as D1, D2, and D3.  Yes, we did name them, but see Disclaimers.  They are definitely some of the guilty mentioned there.




Friday, March 11, 2016

Up in the Air

Obscure facts: women can suffer tooth decay in pregnancy. Also hair loss. But there is another, little known, much more sinister side effect. (No, not children - that is well known.) And mommas have been silent for too long. 

Post-Baby Bubble Brain is real. Today I am blowing the lid off mothers' secret shame. There are support groups and help lines for everything else, while new mothers suffer for 18 years or more. Need proof? Read on.

Our newborn D1 was  beautiful. Mr. Wonderful was getting an “early out” from his military duty, and we would leave Ft. Lost-in-the-Woods in weeks. 

Soon the movers were everywhere in our humble (think “condemned”) quarters. This made nursing almost public. And I was no help with packing.

Finally, we surrendered. Mr. Wonderful drove the baby and me to the airfield, and we took the first of three flights that would take us to grandma’s.

D1 was a good traveler for three weeks old. I nursed her on takeoff and landing to make sure her ears did not hurt. My thirst was soon HUGE. Thankfully there were complementary beverages in those days.

Needed the bathroom. Soon. We landed at a small airport to board a puddle jumper for St. Louis. Just a quick connection, so I waited.

By St. Louis, the need was urgent. Luckily, Lambert is a major airport, and I quickly found a ladies’ room. “Closed for Remodeling.” Ugh. Baby D1 and I hiked the length of the airport to the other restroom. Open!    

A bit of history: this was before baby seats mounted into strollers. No one had ever seen a strap-on baby carrier.  This was the time of babies-in-arms

Where exactly could I put my precious baby in the germiest-place-on-earth?  Could not put her down. Have someone hold her? A stranger? My firstborn? Visions of kidnapping swirled in my head.

Back onto the plane, sloshing. Knees together, all the way to O’Hare. 

The new grandma and grandpa met us at the gate. (It was before security, too.)  They were immediately in love, and grandma carried D1 through the airport, I think.  I can’t know for sure – I was in the restroom during these touching moments.

It was YEARS later that it hit me.  At any time during my three flights, why hadn’t I asked a flight attendant or grandmotherly passenger to hold D1 so I could use the on-board restroom?  Where exactly did I think they would take my baby while we were 30,000 feet up?? 

I told you – part of the brain is just gone.  Next time your teenager asks “what did you EVER do for me?” try to remember this.  Of course, since you are a mom, you may not be able to.  

Not your fault. Post-Baby Bubble Brain is real.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

You Are Getting Very Sleeeepyyyyyy. . .

Shortly after the Paleolithic Age, Mr. Wonderful served his military commitment and I taught music to officers’ kids at an elementary on Fort Lost-In-The-Woods.

Young and enthused, I did not own a pitch pipe, and never, ever resorted to “Let’s listen to 'The Grand Canyon Suite' by Ferde Grofe again.”  

Instead, I sang a quick melodic excerpt to each student entering the music room and urged them to sing it back to me. With hand signals.  We plodded through an actual curriculum, uphill, since most parents got orders for elsewhere during the year.   Still, it was music class.

So it came as a shock when I saw a student copying during a test.  Later, I discreetly told the pupil what I had seen.  Done, I thought.

Until student's Mama Bear stormed the principal’s office  - on fire!  I was summoned, but had sense enough to let Mrs. Bear vent. The principal was supportive, but I was shaken.  

Fast forward to some minor surgery.  At the post hospital.  The anesthesiologist arrived.   Name tag: "Sergeant Major Bear."  As in, spouse of Mama Bear.  And he would be putting me to sleep.  TO SLEEP!!

Dr. Bear asked what I did on post. Apparently, the "loosen up" shot was working well.  I spilled the news about being the music teacher at his kids’ school, heh-heh, small world . . .

Would I wake up?  Would he tell the surgeon I was there for an amputation?  Would he slyly tell Mama Bear “Never mind that music teacher – she won’t be bothering us again.”

I said a quick “Hail Mary” as I nodded off.

Yep.  You would not be reading this blog if he had been out for blood.  In fact, he gave credence to that old adage, “opposites attract.”  What a nice man.  Very professional. Would recommend him.

But, in hindsight, I would NOT tell him about being the music teacher. 

Maybe just, "my dad always wanted me to be an anesthesiologist."