Saturday, October 24, 2009

According to My Big Ass Utensil Drawer

God. That felt good. I just murdered a plastic storage container. And dumped the body (into recycling, of course - not a land fill - because I am a conscientious murderer of plastic storage containers).

Last week I cleaned out the cabinet with all of the plastic storage containers. I had ninety-billion bottoms with no tops. I had ninety-billion tops with no bottoms. And I got rid of them all. Every. Last. One.

And then today I open up the cabinet and there sits a topless container. Taunting me. So I slammed it with a meat tenderizer. I probably should have left it lying about to discourage other topless containers from trying to sneak in here...but I have little kids and can't just leave mangled and bludgeoned plastic lying about.

While I was murdering the container (which was harder than it looks, by the way) - Ellie poked her head out the door, took a quick look, and closed the door. A couple of other kids walked through the kitchen, gave a quick glance, and kept on going. Nobody said, "Oh Mother, why art thou banging a meat-tenderizer-sledge-hammer-thing into the plastic container?" Nobody said a word. Which is an indication of the way things work around here.

I often think that at least one of these five kids is going to grow up to write a book but I'm not sure any of the little blokes are aware that anything is ummmmm....out of the ordinary. Because that is how crazy works. Someday one of them will say, "You mean your mother didn't beat up plastic bowls with a hammer while shouting How The Hell Did You Get In Here You *#$!# Piece of Plastic!!!! ? Hmmmmm......." That could open up a humongous Pandora's Box of Things Our Mother Did that Other Mothers Didn't. So maybe there will be a book, after all.

The meat tenderizer, by the way? I don't use it. Ever. So, of course I have two.

Last week was Tupperware, today is the Big Ass Cooking Utensil Drawer....and next week is the God Forsaken JUNK drawer.
I found all sorts of things in the Big Ass Cooking Utensil Drawer. How many sets of chopsticks is one non-Asian family supposed to have, by the way? Not to mention the 10 PAIRS of training chopsticks I found. Training chopsticks!! Because chopsticks were apparently freakishly important to me at one time!!! And I felt it was necessary to train my children in the ways of the chopstick with actual training chopsticks!!! And I have no memory of this!!!
If my Big Ass Cooking Utensil Drawer is any indication of my mental stability then I am a Total Wreck of a Woman. Oh my God. That would be an awesome title to the book one of my kids will surely write: Total Wreck of a Woman.

Also? To go along with the meat tenderizing weapons I don't use because we rarely eat meat? I have these nifty braising or basting or glazing or whatever you call them brushes. Which are obviously hard to clean. And fairly disgusting. And I think two of them might be actual paintbrushes.

And what the HELL is this? Joel says it is a peanut cooker.

PLEASE....I am begging you.....someone give me permission to throw my husband's baby spoon away. Anyone. The first person to respond to this plea for help will receive the beautiful peanut cooker shown above.
And I will throw in a lemon zester for good measure. Because I have 3.

And 3 ice cream scoops. That I am keeping. Because sometimes I dish out that much ice cream.

And 3 garlic presses.

I would like to tell you how many corkscrews I found but I'm afraid you would draw some sort of conclusion or make some kind of incorrect assumption or inaccurate correlation between the number of corkscrews I own and the amount of wine I consume. And that would be alarming.
And by the way, People? I would like some comments. More followers would be nice, too. And yes, I am casually tapping the meat tenderizer against my leg while I type this.....not that I'm making any threats....
Signing Off as a Heavily Armed and Over-Equipped Sardine Mama

Friday, October 16, 2009


This has been an awesomely busy week for my big girl - and because I am insanely attached to the big girl in every way - an awesomely busy week for me. And because I am also insanely attached to the big boy, the medium-sized boy, the little girl, and the little boy - awesomely big doesn't quite represent just how gigantic my week has been. And it ain't over, folks. Not by a long shot.

I have miles to go before I sleep.

My big girl is an exponential firstborn. That means she is an over-achieving perfectionist super-driven maniac to the nth degree. Living with her is like living with a tornado. Luckily, her brothers are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Recently, they had a friend over. I had left the house for something and had returned to find the friend not with the boys.

"Where's Harlan?" I asked.

"He left," the boys replied while staring slack-faced at the screen on their television.

This was alarming. Nobody was supposed to pick Harlan up until the next day.

"What do you mean he left? Where did he go?" takes awhile for the words to make their way through the hair, to the ears, and then way down deep into the language processing core of the brain (where it is momentarily hung up) before one of them said, "He went to the bathroom."

What a relief.
"Why did you say he had left if he's only in the bathroom?"

And then Ellie says, "Mom - to the boys he might as well have gone to the moon. When's the last time they left their room?"

So, yeah. Thank God for that. Because Ellie is always leaving her room and going places and it keeps me busy.

So let me tell you what she did when she left her room this week. First of all, this is the week of the San Antonio International Piano Competition. Really cool. The competitors come from all over the world, the judges are world class, and it is a fantastic week of music. Ellie was chosen to be a junior juror - which means she is judging the competition (although the junior judges don't actually pick the real winner - which I'm sure is a huge relief to the pianists).
So she's at Trinity University pretty much all week. In addition to that, she had to take her PSAT (without studying....dang) and she also had some activism work where she had to video people making statements about genocide....and she was scheduled for one audience-attended Master Class with Gustavo Romero.

Initially, when she auditioned for the Master Class, she had hoped for Santiago Rodriguez because she has his recording of Alberto Ginastera's Sonata No. 2, which she is currently playing. But she was told he was only doing a class with a semi-finalist in the competition (ellie isn't in the competition). But then, Wednesday night at 10:30 they called her and asked if she could do a Master Class with Rodriguez, after all! So yesterday, she had a Master Class with Rodriguez at 2:00.....and then another Master Class with Romero at 7:30. It was just a delicious day for her all the way around and that makes it a delicious day for me although everyone knows I'd rather be listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Here she is with Gustavo Romero. Even after the class - he kept teaching! I have sat through a few Master Classes....and I have never seen someone give so much energy throughout the entire time. Ellie played last, and often the masters are a little bit tired by the last performer.....but Romero was like the Energizer Bunny.

Here she is with Santiago Rodriguez, who she was thrilled to death to meet, much less spend one on one time at the piano with!
Tonight she'll be at the Finals with her other junior jurors....tomorrow is the Awards Ceremony and Reception.

As for next week? I haven't the energy to think about it. Maybe we'll just take it easy. Or let me re-phrase that....maybe all of us but Ellie will take it easy. Whew!

Signing off as The Classically Tuned Sardine Mama.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Peanuts and Pumpkins...Turkeys and Trade-Offs

We are having a drizzly, cool-ish (for us) Sunday morning. And we even had an extra hand at breakfast!

Halloween is around the corner. The kids are begging for me to get the Halloween decorations down and they are the same Halloween decorations we've had for 17 years and they are not so scary, anymore. But the kids really don't seem to notice. They hang the sad little ripped up plastic bats around the house....put up that nasty spider-web stuff even though we have real spider webs lurking in every corner. The little guys will make lots and lots and lots and lots of construction paper pumpkins that they will tape on every surface. The big climax will be the carving of the pumpkin, of course. And let me tell you - Ellie is a master pumpkin carver. Look at what she did last year!
It really is a jack-o-lantern. If you look closely you can see the outline of the pumpkin. She downloaded a pattern off the Internet. The funny thing was - it looked like NOTHING until we lit it up and turned out the lights. Then we were like, "Wow!!"

We live on a farm and so we get no trick-or-treaters. So we always haul our jack-o-lantern to my sister's on Halloween. She has a very old, very adorable little house right in the middle of town - she gets lots of trick-or-treaters. She proudly put our Barack -O - Lantern on her porch. Nobody messed with it. Now, if she lived out in one of the residential neighborhoods with the big houses and the lots-o-cars and the signs in their yards that say things like the Jesus-Inspired, "Home of the Free - Not the Free Hand-Outs!!" then it is quite possible that someone would have smashed (or at least blown out) our Barack-O-Lantern.

Now if you happen to live in a nice neighborhood with lots of cars and a sign on your yard that says "Freedom Isn't Free!!" - I am not accusing you of possibly smashing a pumpkin. Most people do not smash pumpkins. I acknowledge this. I am asking you to acknowledge that I am acknowledging this. I'm just sayin....well, let's just say that my kids and I enjoy lots of friendly one-fingered salutes around here when we're driving around with our "I Support My President" bumper sticker. Often, from people who have fish symbols and/or some other religious insignia on their cars. And that sucks.

Anyway - enough about the pumpkin smashing that never happened.

Fall is my favorite time of year. It isn't always cool, though. We have trick-or-treated with half-naked sweaty children dragging their discarded costumes in the dirt - their buckets full of melting chocolate. With us, it is all about whether or not a cool front blows through on the right day. Sometimes we're freezing our candy corns off - sometimes we're not.

Right now it is cool and delicious. The kids are wanting to bake some pumpkin bread and I think that sounds like a brilliant idea.

Our town's Peanut Festival was this weekend. We managed a trip down to the town square for a couple of hours. We have a delightful little town square.

Joel and Jules played chess in front of the courthouse with their chess club (of which they are new members). Joel says, "I wasn't attracting enough chicks with my other interests....Star Wars, Runescape, I decided to join the Chess Club." He is so funny. And he did attract a "gang of girls" as he called them.

"Hey Boy!" they said. "You're hot!" (yes these are teeny boppers) and then one of them, bless her heart, tripped and fell! To his credit, Joel did not laugh. Very Much. On his way to the Chess Booth.

I grew up here and the Peanut Festival was a Big Deal to me. My husband's father was a peanut farmer, as were his uncles, grandparents, etc. We have a royal court and his family has held every position in the court. My husband was a Prince one year. I was a Page...and a Duchess. We both marched in the parade or rode on floats or walked with various groups/clubs pretty much our entire childhoods. In fact, he and I had our first kiss at the 1979 Peanut Festival...right on the courthouse steps (and we still stop and kiss there every year because it makes our kids so dang should see them when we do it....they are thrilled to death).

So I was a little sad when this year's festival snuck up on me. If Joel hadn't mentioned playing chess I'm not sure I would have thought about it at all! I think that our decision to homeschool and do things differently than most locals has made us a little non-local - even though we live here. Our kids aren't ever going to be in the Peanut Festival Court....they're not going to march in the band or ride on a float. And they don't care at all.

They love to go down to the Square to eat cotton candy and see people - but they don't even want to go to the parade because they claim it is long and boring. Ellie hasn't gone with us at all the past two years.....her life is elsewhere and centers around other things.....

"I can't go, Mom, I already have plans. We're trying a new vegan restaurant in San Antonio and heading to the movies...."

"Really?" I said. "You don't want to go with us?"

"I'm sorry, Mom, but not really."

And she's happy. They're all really happy. They have roots and family in this town (that was one of the reasons we moved home - we wanted that for them). But they have roots elsewhere, too.

Their lives are so different from Jeff's and mine when we were kids - which is strange because they are growing up in the exact same house that their dad did. Camille and Jasper sleep in his old room. I cook in his mom's kitchen. Their grandfather built this house with his own two hands. But yet, they've not spent the past few weeks getting ready for the Peanut Festival as have their local peers.

Ellie's been getting ready for the International Piano Competition - she is honored to be a junior judge and she's performing in a Master Class with Gustavo Romero - that is what has been on her mind. Joel, Jules, and Camille have been focused on Odyssey of the Mind.

Their lives are different - but not better or worse - than the other local kids' lives. We chose this difference for our family and we're happy with the results. But it feels odd to take the children to this Big Festival as visitors. And that is what they often are - visitors in their own community.

Oh well. Everything is a trade-off. And they seem unaware of the trade-off. I'm just not always as unaware, that's all.

So Thanksgiving is just around corner, it seems! My FAVORITE holiday!!

And here sits our Thanksgiving Dinner - roosting on the roof of the hen house - they like to be up high.

Except for one. Who likes to sneak into the hen house every night. He climbs up on the roost and says, "Don't mind me! I'm just sitting here....a laying hen.....ya know. Yessirree, ain't nobody here but us chickens!"

Happy Fall Y'all!

Signing off as a Fallishly Frisky Sardine Mama

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vampires and Other Vagueries

Since I am unable to think of any astoundingly interesting subject matter - I'll just do a little week-in-review. Why would you want to read my week-in-review? I have no idea, really. Oh! I know why! Because you're PROCRASTINATING!! You got online to pay bills or meet some deadline or other and here you are.

Let me see if I can make it worth your while.

I'll start with Friday - even though that was technically the end of last week - and I would think a week-in-review would start at the beginning of a week. But since we're not to the end of this one, yet, I am taking liberties with the whole time is linear thing.

Where were we? Oh yes - last Friday. Was Gandhi's birthday. Mahatma Gandhi. I learned this impressive historical fact from somebody's facebook status. Yesiree, folks, I get my news and information through the Internet. So - it was also the night that we had promised to take Joel out for Indian food (his 15th birthday had been on Wednesday). Coincidence? I think not.

Joel, by the way, does a fantastic Gandhi impression.

Then we went to see the Old Man in Rehab - not the Betty Ford Clinic - just a plain old physical therapy rehab. If you are interested in reading about that whole fiasco - go down a couple of posts to Healthcare Crisis!!!!. If you are not even vaguely interested but are trying to avoid unloading the dishwasher - well, it will help you put off the inevitable for another 4 minutes or so, depending on how fast you read.

So while at Rehab, Ellie performed a little concert on a horribly out-of-tune piano. I would like to say that this moved the residents to tears....but mostly they just wanted her to stop so they could hear the TV.

On Saturday (still with me?) we did yard work. Well, WE did not do yard work. I holed up washing clothes and reading vampire porn, an activity of which I am wholeheartedly ashamed.

I read Laurel K Hamilton's Anita Blake series. I don't like them. They are poorly written. The sentence structure is often awkward - the characters are almost schizophrenic in their inabilitiy to maintain a constant and non-conflicting persona, the characters all speak in the same voice so you often can't tell who's doing the talking - the men are so effeminate (and I don't just mean the long hair - they are overly sensitive and basically act like women in every sense of the word). But the woman can knock out the novels. She can weave a tale. Involving several long-haired vampires and shapeshifters and one vampire hunter woman. And all that entails.

Now how did a nice girl like me end up with vampire porn? I'll tell you how. I have a wicked friend. Who reads vampire porn. Although, truly, I think she quit somewhere around book 6 or so and I am on book 15 or so because I apparently have the vampire porn monkey on my back THANK YOU WICKED FRIEND. I thought I had kicked it. Really, I did. I did not "wait" for this last book, Skin Trade, to come out. I didn't pay attention to the publishing date. I didn't look for it, anywhere. But it found me.

"Look, Mom," said Ellie while we were browsing through the library. "Isn't that one of those awful vampire porn books you read?"

"Used to read," I reminded her. "And they're not porn."

"Sure they're not, Mom," said a smirking Ellie. I hate the smirk.

What was I supposed to do? Walk away from it? What if it was fate? What if the Universe Herself was trying to give me some important message via vampire porn?

Bleh. I finished it. It was awful. Good. Awful Good. Occasionally just awful.

On to Sunday. Are you REALLY still with me? Great! Who wants to fold socks anyway? Let's keep going....

On Sunday we drove to Austin to take our daughter and her friend (the son of the infamously spiritual Grilled Cheese Chick) to Austin City Limits Music Festival. It is a 3-day festival with a great line-up. The kids bought 1-day passes so they could see The Arctic Monkeys, Jack White's latest band, and Pearl Jam. It had rained all day on Saturday, so we dropped the kids off at a MUD PIT and I am not kidding. One columnist wrote that the organizers had thoughtfully dropped loads of hay on top of the mud to try and help, resulting in the formation of adobe bricks that stuck to shoes and feet. Oh well. Leave it to youth, music, and the cannabis wafting through the air to ensure a good time - no matter the weather.

We dropped our pair off, had a wonderful Thai lunch while surfing pics of the festival and the mud, etc and then we then met a friend we hadn't seen since 1980 (I am screaming in my head!!!!!!!!!!!!!) for a few beers. We sat and talked until we were hungry, again. Then we went out to dinner. The plan was to continue sitting on our asses in a late movie but the kids called and said they had had enough of the mud. Party poopers. Really. They are. So we headed home earlier than planned. (I do not know why the mud picture is so small....I am basically a lazy person who just learns enough technology to get I got it on here but that is the extent of my abilities.)

Monday was Odyssey of the Mind. My high school team meets here, as does the elementary team. This is all very hush hush and secretive because God knows there are Odyssey spies everywhere.....but I MUST say that Camille is trying to figure out how to make herself a pork chop costume. She is going to be a pork chop.

Monday evening found us back at the ballet school - Camille inside dancing - me outside feverishly finishing up the vampire porn book. In the car. So nobody would see me.

Tuesday was a "home day". We did some school work. The boys are doing some much-needed grammar.

The sentence they were analyzing was, "Everyone, but Candy, went to the movies." So for the rest of the day the boys talked of butt candy. Sheesh.

On Wednesday I took Joel to tae kwon do, and started a little Flylady de-cluttering. Did you know that I am the proud owner of a butter churner AND a pressure cooker? I didn't know, either! And I was freakin' going to BUY a pressure cooker! The pressure cooker I found had a piece of masking tape on it that had my mom's name and "$15" on it. Apparently I had saved it from a garage sale fate - a save I do not remember. The butter churner? Was my mother-in-law's. It came with the house. Cool. Because I am going to make some butter. The announcement of my butter-churning intentions elicited a smirk from the ever-smirking 17-year-old non-reader of vampire porn, and therefore a much better person than I am, daughter.

Today is Thursday. And I am blogging. Then I am shopping. Then I am washing. And then I am heading to ballet, which is probably going to be rather boring an uneventful, seeing as how I am out of vampire porn. Sigh.

Now go change your sheets or whatever it is you've been putting off for the past 10 minutes.

Sardine Mama

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now We are Fifteen

Right now there are 5 teenage boys in our travel trailer (otherwise known as the infamous sardine can). My baby turned 15 yesterday - and after a sci-fi marathon in our den - I kicked them out to the can to sleep. Ellie is teaching piano lessons this morning and didn't need 5 unconscious boys scattered about the room....

Just a moment ago I read back over the "Now We are Fourteen" post from last year. In addition to being frickin' hilarious (remember the philosophical Bumper Boat Boy from the arcade????) - it made me a little sad.

Last year I blogged about how Joel and Jules (the Joels) were inseparable. About how Joel (then 14) wouldn't consider having a party without Jules (then 10). Well, this year? Jules was not in the picture. He is often in the picture - but last night he wasn't. Joel and Friends were watching movies Jules isn't allowed to see (we are weird that way - with the violent movies and all) and so Jules went to a friend's house. Gulp. But Jules was okay. He understood it wasn't personal. It was just Joel wanting to watch movies for his birthday that Jules couldn't see. But I was sad. I was sad that the line has been crossed between the two of them. I was really really really a little bit sad.

The phone rang around 10:00. It was Jules. He sounded as if he had been crying or something, which really isn't like him.

"What's wrong?" I said.

"You know Joel's video camera? I took it to Ian's without asking him," Jules confessed.

Oh Boy. I knew what was coming next.

"We broke it."

And then I blew it.

"You WHAT? Why did you take it? Jules, that thing was EXPENSIVE."

"I know! Will you buy him another one?"

"No, of course not!"

Silence. Except for the fact that I could hear Jules' mind whirring away. Jules cannot let go of things. When he begins "thinking" about something, he simply can't stop. I knew immediately that I needed to try and help him stop the loop before it got out of hand. I tried a calmer approach. I told him that worrying about it wouldn't fix the camera. I told him it had been an accident. He assured me he had learned his lesson and I believed him. But then the looping started. Although undiagnosed, we are pretty dang sure this kid has mild Asperger's. He gets in mind-loops and can't get out of them.

"I can't believe I broke it....." over and over.

We hung up. The phone rang again.

"I can't believe I broke it...."

Oh no. I was going to have to go get him. There was no way he was going to be able to calm down and go to bed with the loop thing going.

Joel came out and was like, "What's up? Who's calling?"

I hadn't wanted to tell him about the camera at his party - but I did.

"Jules took your video camera to Ian's and they broke it."

And Joel's face fell. And just as I was about to tell him not to freak, that Jules didn't mean to do it, that he was really upset.....Joel said, "Oh man. Is he okay?" The face was about his brother. Not the camera. Because he knows his brother well enough to know that this was going to be a very upsetting thing for him. And my heart just swelled, you know? Because no line has really been crossed between the two. There is a strong, unbreakable bond going on.

Joel called Jules. He used his own brand of comfort to calm down him down. It wasn't the words I would have chosen - but they were the perfect words for the brothers.

"Dude - don't pee your pants over this in front of everybody, okay? We'll fix it or something. Have fun and I'll see you tomorrow."

The phone didn't ring again.

So being 15 seems to mean a lot of things. It is a pulling-away and a holding-tighter type of a thing.....apparently.....between all of us.

Happy Birthday to "Sweet Baby". He is a fine young man. If I do say so myself.
And I do.

Proud Sardine Mama