Just another site

Fires and Phoenixes June 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — gleefulbarbarians @ 5:14 am

Dear Julie,

I’m sorry it’s been so long.  For posterity’s sake, I’ll explain the absence.  I spent last week in Albany to be with Mokey. I saw the post on Friday about her mom dying and again wished I lived in the Northeast.  She’s had such a rough 18+ months that while I know this death is a blessing in some ways, it’s still painful to lose a loved parent.   With Dan’s encouragement, I bought tickets on Priceline (“you will fly between 6am and 10pm” means “your flights will leave at 6am” – FYI), called my mom so I had a place to stay, and flew home.  I left the boys here and Dan managing their busy schedule that we had already sort of organized into two parent tasks (boys had to be at 2 different rinks for hockey things, for example) but he’d reorganized into a one parent job.

I flew out Monday at 6am.  Holy crap that’s early.   I spent that day flying and then being mostly awake at my grandmother’s.  Tuesday I spent with Mokey.  Because of plans my mom had made (and me not renting a car), I had to call Moke and ask her if I could come spend the day with her rather than just showing up at the funeral home.  Being her usual gracious self, she welcomed me and I got to meet the Boyfriend (who seems nice enough – a parent’s funeral is not the best “get to know you” situation, though, is it?).  About 10 camp people showed up at the funeral home and I felt obligated to move to the lobby so that the cheery reunion wasn’t happening in the same room as the mourning.  I saw Kita, the back of Baxter, Randi (she lives 30 minutes away from me here in Phoenix, so it makes perfect sense that we meet up in Albany), Ellen, Ivy, Elsie, Morley, Thor, Zipper, Abu, and probably people I’ve forgotten.    Several of us went to dinner at Grandma’s (yay Pie!) after.

Wednesday was the church service.  I was thankful that the priest knew Mokey’s mom and that he wasn’t  just offering generic comments, but actually talking about Barbara (he also referenced Mokey’s dad).  I called Pun’kin to ask for a crash course in “what does an agnostic do at a Catholic mass?” with the bullet points being “don’t take communion and sit when other people kneel.”  I had thought that prior to that, the last time I attended Catholic Mass was when I was in 4th grade and attended a classmate’s funeral, but I just realized I was also at Pun’kin’s wedding.   I think 4th grade was my last Catholic funeral.   This one I managed much better.    I was invited out to lunch with the family and went.  One of Boyfriend’s friends and I ended up sitting at the kids’ table with two 10 year old boys, which was fine and pleasantly lively.    I said goodbye to Mokey in the parking lot – she had decided to go to work on Thursday and I was leaving (thank you, Priceline) at 6am Friday.

Now with my Thursday open, I decided to call my dad and see if he wanted to get together at some point (thinking “oh please not at night – I’ve gotta be up at 345 or something”).  He was free for lunch.  Yay!  He had a specific place in mind.  Super.  Then he asked if I would bring mom.    Ooooooooooof course.   He had some questions for her about the roof (a huge maple branch went thru the roof of my mom’s house in April – Dad was involved because apparently his name is still on the deed).   To give a little backstory here, my dad moved out of the house when I was 13, so 1986?   My parents got divorced in 1996 maybe?  I can’t remember if I was married yet.  Yeah – that’s 10 years.  Not because things were so complicated that it took 10 years to sort out everything.  No, it took 10 years for one of them to decide to file the paperwork.  My dad had a lady friend (my current step-mother) that whole time.  My mom wouldn’t file because “I don’t wnat to give him what he wants.”  Lovely.   So, there’s this constant weird dynamic with them that I really don’t want to get into right now but suffice it to say I try to keep my time with my dad separate from time with my mom, especially with the kids (mostly so my dad doesn’t have to share them).

Okay, so yeah.  I ask mom if she wants to go to lunch with dad, something about the roof, etc.  She’s immediately defensive, but yeah, she’ll go.   We get to lunch.  Because this whole experience isn’t weird enough, our waitress is……..  oh yes.  My step-mother’s sister.  Oh, and did I mention that my folks were good friends with step-mother and her ex-husband before Deb and Joe got divorced and my dad moved out.  So, I know “Sissy” a little bit, she knows mom, etc.  There’s friendly banter.  I try to not stare at Sissy’s neon pink nail polish (like 80s pink).  Lunch was tasty, I had more pie.  There was talk about the roof…  We left.

I got almost no sleep Thursday night.  I flew back Friday, and then spent the rest of the day being a zombie.  I fell asleep on the couch in the afternoon while Dan took Daniel to hockey practice.  When I was awake, Nicholas was watching something appropriate on TV.  When I woke up 90 minutes later, he was watching King of the Hill (a bit not okay).   Then it was business as usual around here.

Moving on…  We have ficus trees in our backyard which house great tailed grackles.   They’re noisy, and every year we end up with one or two chicks pushed out of the nest too early.  The chicks then spend a good week or two huddled against the brick wall that surrounds our house, chirping like mad while the parents fly food down to them.    At some point the chick fledges (or something?  i can’t remember the exact life cycle of a song bird, so bear with me)  and it starts doing short flights and then finally we no longer have to worry about the crying baby bird in the back yard.    We’ve had the current one for about 2 weeks.  Things were progressing, and the boys had noticed that it had started doing doing some glorified leaps (not quite flying, but getting higher off the ground and flapping).   It had managed to move itself into the back corner (more shade, more protection) so, we seemed to be pretty much on target for being done with this bird.

Tragedy struck some time early this morning, though, and Baby Bird was found in our pool.  Daniel was pretty matter of fact about the whole thing (and was probably secretly glad that he didn’t have to worry about hitting it while playing ball hockey in the backyard).  Nicholas, however, has been sad on and off all day.  This afternoon he told me he was glad he had more time with Baby Bird than Calvin had had with the baby raccoon (from a Calvin and Hobbes comic).  After dinner I was getting gloved up to deal with the bird and Nicholas had a bout of sobbing (followed by a bout of vomiting).  He didn’t want to watch the clean up (and I’m thankful he didn’t want a burial – Phoenix ground in June is rather firm), and went to bed okay.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Today we set a dollar bill on fire after soaking it in a mix of Everclear and water.  It was pretty exciting here in the kitchen – we lit it several times and lit the dish of liquid on fire as well.   This was a much better end to our science year than last year when we did Earth Science and Astronomy.  The last couple of lessons were all about digging thru the dirt and looking for things in it.  I just scrapped the last several.    Our dirt isn’t lovely dark soil with things living in it.  It’s concrete hard sand.  Grass doesn’t grow in it.   I think next year will be physics.  Ramps!  Pulleys!

On the reading front:  I read “Talk of the Town” on your recommendation and it was better than I had expected.  I also managed to read “The Wedding Girl” and I finished listening to “A Game of Thrones” (but I know I didn’t pay complete attention to the end, I was too busy being dumbstruck by several events that had happened).  I started listening to “There’s A (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going To Hell” and I’m also reading “A Desirable Residence.”   In the car the boys and I are listening to the second Harry Potter book (we’re at the end, so a specific Phoenix has featured), and they’re listening to “A Dog’s Life” in the house.  I couldn’t begin to tell you what they’re reading.  Nicholas often has about 5 books open around the house, and he’s been reading this “Children’s Atlas of the World.”   He had to start singing “Africa” by Toto the other day after looking at a map and seeing Kilimanjaro labeled.  Because, you know, Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.    I’ve just realized that book titles should be in italics or underlined, not quotes.  I’m not going back to change it.  Thank you for understanding.

I need to comment on some of the things in your last post, but I don’t think I can manage it tonight.  Maybe next time.

Oh!  And I’m nearly done with the back of my sweater.  I now know I will ALWAYS get less knitting done than I think I will.  Always.  I’m nearly delusional about what I think I can get done, and since I can’t rip holes in the space/time continuum, it would be nice if I could remember this truism.  But I won’t.  And when we go to the east coast next month, I’ll bring knitting enough to last me 6 months.

And finally: it is a bad idea to make roasted chicken and veggies on the hottest day on record for this year.  It was 115 today apparently.  I had the oven at 425 for nearly an hour.    I am insane.

Finally cooling off,










Time flies when you are completely bewildered June 7, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity — gleefulbarbarians @ 11:00 pm

Dear Amey,

Why do I keep going to sleep after midnight? WHY?!? I know I will be exhausted in the morning. I am literally running on fumes. And each week, I think “wow, I could not get more tired.” And you know what happens a week later? I am more tired. I know the mommy reserves are mighty and seemingly never-ending, but sometimes I am concerned I will run out of fumes. And being that tired does not bode well for anything else. I’m crankier. I can think, but it takes more effort. I eat worse. I work out less. Seriously, if I could just get in bed before 9 pm each night, it’s possible I could solve all the world’s problems. I’m fabulous when I’ve slept.

You mentioned cookies in your last post and the recipe on the package. I’m fairly certain that over the centuries, your average mama did not have access to tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of cookie recipes. She grew up, learned how to make a couple kinds of cookies that her family passed down to her and that was it. Maybe she tweaked it, maybe she added some more cinnamon or lemon peel, but basically, she mastered a cookie. It was probably divine to master that cookie, not that she would have given the alternative a thought. You know what happens when I want to make a lemon cookie? I search Google. Lemon cookie=19.2 million results. Try to master that! It gives you the idea that your cookie is not good enough, that you could always do better. When all you really want is a lemon cookie to satisfy your lemon cookie urge.

Great. Now I want a lemon cookie.

I started another book 2 nights ago–Jane Green, The Beach House. I like British chick lit. It’s witty.

David & I started writing a book a couple years ago. It’s a great idea. I’ll explain it someday. I still might do it, so I can’t talk about it. Someday, someday, someday…while cleaning out the garage and all my childhood belongings, I found two stories I’d written about Inja. One was about our endless adventures and how we have done so much together–enough to fill a lifetime–or so I thought as a teenager. And now all I do is crave more adventures with her. I also had written another story based on our friendship, probably 20 years ago, where her character was killed in a car accident. It’s fairly haunting and brought tears to my eyes, as it does now. It’s not fair.

Have I mentioned that Inja wrote me so many cards, so many letters over the course of our 35 year friendship that when I read them, it’s like she knew the tragedy her future would hold? Which of course, she didn’t, but she left so many beautiful thoughts about being with me no matter what, being friends through good times and bad…I’ve never grieved her brain aneurysm. She’s alive. It’s hard to grieve for someone who lives an hour away. She still loves me, still feels the same about me. She can’t cook, drive a car, or be a fully present mother to her children (this is the part that kills me), but she is there and she still loves. I really, really miss her though. I really do. (yes, I am crying now.)

On a funnier, lighter note: my 4 year old is a fashion diva. She isn’t super princess or frilly, but she is very artistic and driven in her need to select, match and create her own outfits. I have no idea how this will translate into adulthood. Sometimes it scares me, but it could be interesting. Ainsley is her own person, as is Brenna, and I have to support them and the people they are. I realized after looking at my elementary school report cards this past weekend that I am this way, I have been this way for a long time and nothing will change that. I feel that way about my children too–they are the way they are. I just need to support them with love and compassion to help them become the best version of the people they are. I can’t wait to see who they grow up to be (well, I can wait. I’m just excited to see it.)

We are about to buy a crazy, expensive, large, life-time-guarantee-carrying wooden play structure with swings, slide & little house at the top. I would argue that it’s an unnecessary expense, but this is what I realized–my children will use it all the time. Every day when the weather permits. They will use it until they are teenagers and if you look at it that way, per use, it’s pennies. And the excitement and happiness a swing set brings is pretty substantial. Inja and I practically lived on the swing set and jungle gym as children. I know that kind of happiness.

What makes your boys happy?

Yours in writing and campsongs,


The washing up June 1, 2011

Filed under: Brain Chatter,Children & Insanity,she's crafty — gleefulbarbarians @ 6:05 am

It’s bathing night here, so I’m currently sitting at the top of the stairs with one kid in each shower (one in mine, one in theirs), while I periodically inquire, “What are you doing in there?  Are you nearly done?”.  It’s great that they can bathe themselves, but it’s still a process.  Nicholas has a running commentary going in his.  I think he’s talking about NHL 11 (video game for the playstation) or just the playoffs because I swear I heard something like “that’s a bad word in sign language [??], and you should get fined for using that, but nothing happens if the ref doesn’t see it…” and now he’s talking about how people should pass the puck, and playing positions.  Of course, with all this talking and the water running he can’t hear my periodic shouts.

We’re on day 2 of “do the dishes before going to bed.”  This is a task I dislike, and yet I like the end result.  Night Gal hates doing the dishes.  Morning Gal likes waking up to a tidy kitchen.  Of course, Morning Gal gets up after the 3 other people in the house have already had breakfast many mornings, so it’s no longer exactly “tidy,” but at least it’s not littered with roasting pans and kitchen knives.  It was rough going over the weekend (“it’s a holiday – I don’t want to do dishes!”), particular since I made (not terribly good) cookies which made extra dishes.

I’ve been wanting oatmeal cookies and I’d had good results before with the recipe on the Quaker Oats can.  It is only now that I remember I have at least one canister of instant oats (from when my grandmother was here) plus the industrial sized box from Costco (regular rolled, not instant or quick), and that one or both of those probably has the recipe.  I’ll go see how that compares with the one I found on the Quaker website.  The end result was a mostly alright cookie, but kind of dense.  It’s a sad testimony to how rarely I make cookies that the boys were thrilled, even with mediocre cookies.

I noticed on the Quaker site that in the “recipes” tab, there’s a link to “oatmeal topping ideas.”  Score!  I thought.  I could use some new ideas.  Oatmeal does hold me longer than some other breakfast choices we have (one of my other favorites is a fried egg on a piece of toast – simple, but delicious).  I clicked and the page didn’t load.  I immediately thought, “If the Quaker people can’t come up with new things to do with oatmeal, what hope is there for me?!”  And then I hit “reload” and all kinds of things loaded. The other day I did chopped roasted almonds (take away my hippie card – my nuts aren’t raw), dried cranberries and some cranberry apple butter Trader Joe’s had over the winter.  It’s been living in my fridge, but wasn’t moldy and hadn’t expired.  Super.

[Showers done, teeth brushed, jammies on.  Soundtrack featured “Are you done yet?” and “What are you doing in there?”  and “Leave your brother alone!”  and the ever popular “Stop reading and finish up already.”  Now they’re returning from saying goodnight to Dan who was last spotted making no-carb chocolate mousse for himself for dessert]

Tell me more about the brain candy you’re reading.   I read brain candy nearly exclusively, and my audiobooks (my background noise while I do housework) have to be.  The fact that I’m doing this “Game of Thrones” book as an audiobook is a big switch for me – I have to pay more attention than I normally do with an audiobook, but I could get this faster (it’s a library download) than waiting for an actual print copy of the book.  One of my first audiobooks?  The entire (oh yes, all 10+ books) Princess Diaries series.  I also end up reading books that are related to television series or movies because I can’t think of things to read on my own.  It’s how I found Charlaine Harris (she writes the Sookie Stackhouse books that are behind the “True Blood” series on HBO).  Also, my library subscribes to this database called NoveList which has this great “author read-alike” feature.  I read the “Confessions of a Shopaholic” series and then found a whole mess of Irish/UK chick lit to read.   Janet Evanovich is another fun read.  In the “not exactly brain candy” category, I’m still a huge Stephen King fan.

You asked about books I would write.   For fiction, maybe something with a mermaid as a the main character.  WIth all the vampire hype, people might be ready.  Also, I thought MaryJanice Davidson’s 3 book series about a mermaid named Fred was good.  I’d have to not copy her.    For non-fiction I have no idea.  Probably the best I could do would be a collection of essays.  You know – like this thing.  I don’t know enough about any one thing to want to write a book about it.  Things I’m sort of involved with (like breastfeeding or knitting) are already done so well that I don’t feel drawn to try to invade that yet.  Plus, with the knitting?  By the time I thought about writing essays on that (because it surely won’t be a pattern book), the bloom will be off that literary rose.  I might have better luck going right to e-publishing, but I’m not that interested.    I would like Thomas Hale to release his Medications and Mother’s Milk book in a better format. CD-ROM would be nice, wider pages would be nice.  That book has like 1500 pages or something, but it’s only 4″ wide.    OKay.  I thought I might be exaggerating, but I looked on amazon.  It’s 1262 pages, and 8.4 x 4.4 x 2.2 inches.  Basically?  A brick.  It’s a pain in the neck to copy from it or scan it, I’m not certain the margins are wide enough so that I could get it 3 hole drilled….  ARGH!  And it’s such a good reference.  Oh, and you definitely need to read The Wind in the Willows.  I read it two summers ago – it was on that 100 books everyone should read from the BBC.

I often have a hard time just letting the boys make a mess of stuff.  Sometimes it’s balanced by the level of laziness I’m feeling: let them make a mess making their own breakfast and I get an extra 30 minutes in bed OR get up and make them breakfast.   I try to manage the science experiments mostly so there isn’t fighting over who does what and so that we actually do the experiment (rather than spilling a jar full of cabbage juice all over the kitchen floor).   The outside dirt is easier for me to manage.  I generally don’t care too much about how dirty they get outside.  Our backyard is one big dust pile because the boys have killed the grass via hockey playing and bike riding.

I’m nearly done with the sleeves for my sweater.  The other day I showed Dan the sleeve progress and he shot back, “I’m no longer impressed unless you’re doing two at a time.”  At which point I showed him that I was, in fact, doing both.  HA!  His public statement is that knitting is “witchcraft” because “there’s no way you can turn one piece of string into a sweater without tying any knots.  At any point the whole thing could unravel!  It’s witchcraft.”

Remember when we had mashed potatoes with m&ms in them?