Sunday, November 30, 2008

Laundry Room Visitations and Pumpkin Bombings; Just Your Typical Thanksgiving

Howdy! Long time no post. I've been busy getting ready to have 24 people over for Thanksgiving, then I've been busy actually having 24 people over for Thanksgiving, then I've been busy recovering from having 24 people over for Thanksgiving....

GREAT Thanksgiving, though! Thanksgiving is pretty much my favorite holiday (oh no - we watched Napoleon Dynamite and now I'm saying "pretty much my favorite" again). I think I say that about every holiday but this time it is true. For real. Thanksgiving for me is a time of heightened consciousness. Not in a nirvana sort of way - in an awareness sort of way. Befuddled? ("Befuddled" is pretty much my favorite word next to "titillating".)

Here's an example of my Thanksgiving awareness. On the morning of Thanksgiving I found myself doing one of my Why-Do-I-Always-Do-This-At-The-Last-Minute holiday chores - ironing the table cloths.

a) My laundry room is ridiculously small and I am still angry at the architect who added on to our house about this...
b) My laundry room is full of laundry. Totally full. There are baskets on the floor, clothes on top of the washer and dryer, and clothes on top of the ridiculously small folding counter that has to be ridiculously small due to the ridiculously small size of the room.
c) I have a ridiculously small mini-ironing board that folds out of the wall from inside a mounted cabinet.
d) The mini-ironing board was installed by my husband.
e) It was installed crookedly.
f) The door of the cabinet whacks me in the left elbow the entire time I iron, since it is ahem...hanging crooked.
g) Ironing sucks.

As I manipulated the extra-large table cloths on top of the extra-small ironing board with the door whacking me in the left elbow, I was fortunate to have been visited by a couple of holiday spirits. First was my mom. She is pretty much my favorite dead person. Her visit was instigated by a simple thing: spots.

All of my table cloths are extremely stained and spotted. My mom hated spots. Hated Them. She was shaking her head and frowning at those spots. I was glad to see her. She was, of course, dressed for Thanksgiving the way she always was - a nice sweater and skirt, pretty shoes. One look and I knew she had her turkey in the lower oven and her stuffing in the upper. Her stuffing was freshly mixed since she had been up since 5:00 am. If you don't bake it the day it is mixed it becomes dry (which is why my stuffing is always dry).

So like I said, she was frowning at the spots on my table cloth. She would have attacked those spots with things like toothbrushes, Q-tips, and various concoctions that required rubber gloves. She would have been fussing about it but thoroughly enjoying herself. And the spots would have been treated immediately. They wouldn't have made it into the washing machine and then the dryer. A hot iron would never have run over them. "I know," I silently told her. "I'm a little bit busier than you were, Mom. I've got 5 kids that I homeschool, you know."

"Of course I know that," she said. "Of course, I also know the spots would be there regardless."

What can I say? It's not like she just met me.

No judgement, though. Judgement - definitely not one of her faults. We didn't speak of the unspoken things. We didn't speak about how she didn't live long enough to see Jasper being born, or to have been of sound mind when Camille was born, or to have been well enough to have enjoyed Jules. About how Dad is having to try and be happy on holidays without her. We know not to get into these things. We just smiled and remembered happy times, of which we are blessed with many. Unspoken things, however, have a way of being heard, anyway. Especially in conversations with the dead. So darnit, soon there were more spots on the table cloth. Now my mom and I were both crying in the ridiculously small laundry room. And this made us laugh. One of my mom's few faults was being moved to tears easily and often. This usually ended in laughter over the ridiculousness of the whole thing. And that was when we were both alive. Moments like this, you know, where she isn't really there...are somehow, even funnier.

She exited as I folded up her somewhat ironed, spotted table cloth. Two more to iron. Next up was another gold table cloth; this one belonging to Jeff's mom. This one, also spotted. I got to it. And there was Pauline. She wasn't frowning at the spots. They had been there a long time. Like me, Pauline often didn't have time to worry with things like spots. She didn't linger long. She wouldn't have recognized the laundry room - it wasn't there when she raised her family in the house. I knew that she moved on to the kitchen - her domain - where she lovingly followed her son around as he puttered around slicing yams, checking on his turkey, getting ready to make the gravy. I imagine she glanced over his shoulder in her no-nonsense way, watching the proceedings to make sure he was doing everything right. She didn't cry any tears as it wasn't her way to waste tears on much of anything; certainly not on anything happy. But I know her heart swelled as she watched her son who is like her in so many ways, and who is such a wonderful husband and father. She comes around quite often, especially in the kitchen, but she had other places to visit this holiday. I imagine she was off to her daughter's house next, where most of her children and grandchildren would be gathering, later.

Finally, I attempted to smooth out the last spotted table cloth. This table cloth conjured no spirits. This table cloth was mine. It was my turn to be the only mama in the laundry room. And I began thinking about my children. About how much I love them. About how proud they make me. About how I can't imagine my life without them. And that made me think about Jules. I've always loved my children. But I haven't always loved them desperately. But trying to understand the words being spoken by a doctor as he calmly explained that my son had a brain tumor - that experience has been nicked into my mothering armor. Desperate. A new word, that one. Knowing that Jules is lucky and that this experience merely brought us to the brink of the edge, and did not push us over, has made me thankful and grateful beyond measure. Truly beyond measure. Words do not do justice...

And then, with the increased awareness of my blessings or luck or whatever you want to call it, came an increased awareness of the suffering of others. I can't think about Jules without thinking of the parents who looked over the edge and then fell...who didn't hear the words "operable" or "benign".

Parent. What a joyful and totally vulnerable word. How many people are painfully parenting this holiday season? How many are unable to provide warmth and security for their children? Or food? I am aware of the families panicking this holiday season because of lost jobs, decreased wages, foreclosed homes....I was a bundle of mixed emotions when I folded that last table cloth. I was grateful, happy, and sorrowful all at the same time. All because of some spotted table cloths.

I emerged to a living room of kids putting tables together and making place cards. And it was looking at the place cards that made the sorrow disappear. It was the names. Yes, my mom is gone. My dad is with us and we're lucky enough to see him several times a week. The same with my sister. We are blessed to be able to see my brother, whose health has improved since this time last year. Yes, there are hungry people. I looked at my friend Janet's place card and remembered how she works with the poor and feeds the hungry. Yes, there are atrocities and parentless children. I looked at Ellie's place card, and Susan's and Galen's place cards, and proudly thought of the work they do to promote peace, tolerance, and an end to genocide. Suddenly, there were only two feelings left for me: Hope and Thankfulness. Perfect for Thanksgiving. I was ready to greet the guests.

All of the kids had friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. What fun! So we had a lot of kids and teens. We had two people who were unfamiliar with Thanksgiving because they are from other countries. This provided us with a great opportunity to talk about the first Thanksgiving in an honest and open way.

We began our meal by lighting 3 candles: 1 candle in solidarity with the Native Americans who hold a vigil in Massachusetts to mourn a lost culture, 1 candle in hope that together we will build a tolerant and loving society, and 1 in Thanksgiving for all that our hearts brought to the table. Next, we all took a few dried kernels of corn to remind us of the starvation winter that took the lives of half the pilgrims, and to remind us that there are hungry people in our midst today. Finally, we took turns reading an Iroquois prayer. Joel touchingly read his part in the voice of Yoda of Star Wars, because sometimes my rituals and ceremonies apparently need some comic relief. Camille yelled "Amen!" and the stampede to the buffet began. We had turkey (duh), cornbread stuffing, corn pudding, broccoli slaw salad, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, asparagus casserole, two different versions of sweet potatoes, gravy, and homemade rolls. The marinated carrots I made were left in the refrigerator (just like last year) forgotten, until after the meal was over. We knocked down more than a few bottles of wine and sparkling juice before hitting the homemade pecan and pumpkin pies.

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving with the Perilous Pumpkin Pushover so we hopped in our cars with our pumpkins and headed to the bridge over the San Antonio river. We bombed the river after a "Ready, Set, Push!" with the big orange bombs, creating a large and rewarding wave of splashes before running to the other side of the bridge to watch them lazily bob downstream...

All in all, a picture perfect Thanksgiving, of which I have no pictures :). Maybe a reader or two will send a picture of the Pushover?

Happy Thanksgiving from a Stuffed Sardine Mama :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight - hip or hype? Get ready to hate the critic...

Halloween is over but there are still vampires in the air. What gives? I just took Ellie and friends to see the much hyped Twilight movie, based on Stephenie Meyer's book by the same title. Because I cannot see a movie based on a book until I've read the book - I spent 3 days reading the book.....(well, I came to within 36 pages of the end before it was time to leave).

The book was okie dokie. It is basically a love story between a 17-year-old girl, Bella, and a (duh) 17-year-old vampire, named Edward Cullen. The book is the first of a series. It is the only one I've read thus far, and it was fairly entertaining, but didn't draw me in; I probably won't be reading the rest of the series. Twilight is very tame compared to some other teen romance books I've read; just a couple of kisses. However, I hear that the 4th one steams up a bit. People who have been letting their 3rd and 4th-graders read the series have been shocked by the 4th book - but, hey, this is a young adult series, not a series for children. It is not categorized under juvenile fiction. And truly, there are so many literary masterpieces in children's books - literally too many to read in one childhood. So what's the rush in getting the training bra crowd hooked on romance novels?

OK. Back to the book. The one thing that bothered me about the relationship between Bella and Edward was the intensity of the love based on basically, well, uh, nothing. You don't really get to know Edward or Bella that well, as a reader, and as characters they seem to know each other even less. Yet BOOM. In love. However, I guess that characterizes a lot of teen romances. And I'm not dogging teen romances; I met my husband of 23 years when I was 14 and he was 16. But yeah, in the book I'm bothered by a general lack of substance in the relationship. Having not read the rest of the series, I can't really say whether this relationship deepens - going by the popularity of the books - I'm guessing it does.

Let's see....let me analyze Bella as a role model for teen girls. In some ways, I'm really happy with how her character is portrayed. She isn't made out to be exceptionally beautiful. She is smart and practical - takes care of herself and seems to have been cast in the role of "adult" in her relationship with her parents. She is a loner and isn't bothered by it. She is nervous and self-conscious (which girls will greatly identify with) but not to the point that she changes anything about herself in order to fit in. She is clumsy and is horrible in gym class. So I think that a lot of girls who read the books will see at least some of themselves in Bella. Of course, this somewhat plain and clumsy girl ends up with sexy vampire-boy. I know, I know. How likely is that? Well, THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS VAMPIRES, so let's just suspend the "likely" business, right here. And most of us don't read books in order to get a good dose of reality, anyway. But I do feel compelled to say that I don't like the fact that Edward is so over-protective and downright bossy in his efforts to keep Bella safe. He isn't even always nice. And unfortunately, there is no shortage of young teenage girls in relationships with over-protective, bossy, not-always-nice teenage boys. For that reason, I would like to see Bella not so taken in, and Edward a little less macho. Actually - I think I am understating myself, here. I was downright uncomfortable with how feeble Bella appeared.

As for my teenage daughter? She said the books were "okay". And then she told me that basically she was bothered by the exact same things that I was bothered by. She didn't like the way Edward treated Bella, and she thought Bella needed some major doses of backbone. Some of her friends really loved the books, but these are all kids who read tons and tons of books and this series is by no means the defining literary "moment" for them. Ellie's friend who is a huge Twilight fan, is currently reading Sylvia Plath's journal. So, yeah, she's just in it for the vampires and fantasy, I think. Am I right, Kiddo? I know you're reading.....Kind of like me and my Anita Blake vampire series. I criticize the books all the time for their lack of this and that...but there is something very relaxing about just reading a story that doesn't make you think - that just strictly entertains you with fantasy. And there is nothing better for that than vampires. Sigh. I don't know why.

Shall we move on to the movie? Big disappointment. Which surprised me because the reviews were mostly good, I think? So in addition to the critics, I know there are a ton of teenage girls who will disagree with me, but the ones in my midst felt the same way I did when it was all over. And I don't just mean the girls I brought to the cinema with me. As we filed out of the theater I heard bits and pieces of conversations that went like this: "The book was better." "It was dumb." "I almost laughed." "The effects sucked." And this had started out as an enthusiastic crowd. When Edward Cullen first appeared, there were plenty of gasps, sighs, thrills, and a few quick screams. And Robert Pattinson, the 22-year-old actor who played Edward Cullen, was of course, gorgeous. He also didn't look anywhere near 17. And I was bothered by his Elvis hair-do, but I think the girls in my van thought it was cool. Unfortunately, I must agree with all of the criticisms I heard from the other movie-goers. I was expecting more. As a Potter fan, I kind of expected something along the same lines. I expected some excitement and cinematography that made me go, "Wow! How did they do that?" Or even better, sucked me in until I was a total believer and lost in an imaginary world. That definitely did not happen. When the Cullen vampires first walked in to the school cafeteria, they looked almost middle-aged compared to the other actors. And I expected their make-up to be subtle. I mean, after all, this entire town of Forks is supposedly clueless that these folks are vampires. But they looked like they were covered in mime make-up. Edward's white make-up looked downright gross over his very non-seventeenish dark stubble. And in one scene, you could see where his chest was darker than his face! Someone should have caught that, you would think. Dr. Cullen looked downright frightening. He looked like, well, the walking dead. Which he was. But nobody was supposed to know it. And the sparkling vampire skin? Huge disappointment. In the book, when Edward stood in the sun he skin sparkled and dazzled like diamonds. In the movie, he just looked kind of sweaty or something. It was a big build-up to nothing.

Also, the dialogue was, at times, unbearable. And sparse. Many scenes were just Edward and Bella staring at each other in between unenthusiastic bouts of stilted conversation. Okay. So that part is probably pretty realistic. I'm having high school dating flashbacks....

But the biggest disappointment? The special effects. They ended up just looking strange. I mean, I guess it would be rather strange to watch a vampire run up a tree with a girl on his back, but it looked weird-strange. There were more giggles than gasps. And in one scene, a really, really bad and scary vampire makes a menacing growl and it looked like a scene from the Incredible Hulk. Not the movie. The series from the 70's. The kids actually giggled. There was no inspiring or memorable music, and too many scenes were awkward. Like the menacing growl - was it the actor? I bet not. I bet he growled just fine. But it was the whole scene that was awkward.

On a less mature note - the hospital scene. Why didn't someone see that the oxygen thingy up Bella's nose was just gross and didn't make her look even slightly kissable? I was so distracted by the oxygen thingy. She kept talking and crying with the oxygen thingy jiggling around on her upper lip. Did they think that adding the oxygen thingy somehow made the entire movie more "real" and "believable"? Yikes. Bugged Me No End. (When I mentioned this in the van on the way home it was met with silence from the back seat.) So maybe it is just me. (That would be one of many times I have jumped enthusiastically into a conversation with my loud opinion only to be met with quizzical expressions and stunned silence.)

Here is a summary of my ever-so-sought-after-professional-opinion: I think the Twilight books will remain popular. And any book series that makes young people WANT to read, is a good thing. But I don't think it will ever be added to the classics shelf at the library. For a completely different (and thoroughly well written) review of the movie and book, go to Reviews by Me.
What do you think?

Sardine Mama

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sardine Mama Answers Your Questions to the Google God

Business First.

In case you were wondering, the 3 most popular google searches that landed people on my blog last week were:

1)Can I feed sardines to my baby?

2)Potassium content of raisins

3)Puddle dogs

I feel badly for these people. I hate to disappoint them. So I'm going to do my best to answer the questions they have raised to the Google God.

Let's discuss these in order.

Who wants to feed sardines to a baby? A LOT of people, apparently. And they live all over the world. This past week people in Singapore, the Phillipines, and South Africa all joined various folks from the states in seeking the answer to this curious question. So here is my official answer to, "Can I Feed Sardines to my Baby?"

It depends on the age of the baby.

According to Dr. Sears (as in Bob Sears, son of the infamous Dr. William Sears - known as the father of Attachment Parenting), introducing solids before the age of 6 months is not recommended.

I know, I know. Many of you are taking your babies to pediatricians who are telling you to start solids between 4 and 6 months - but they are simply mistaken. Their information is outdated, and quite frankly, wrong. There are many, many reasons why this is a bad idea. Babies under the age of 6 months are physically not ready for solid foods. Most cultures do not give babies this age solid food at all. One of the dangers of feeding babies too soon is that they can develop food allergies. I can attest to this, myself. When Camille was about 6-months-old, a friend and I fed her some mashed sweet potatoes. Guess what Camille (now 6 YEARS old) is severely allergic to? Sweet potatoes. And sweet potatoes are even considered a non-allergenic food. But for poor Camille, they are extremely volatile. About 45 minutes after ingesting sweet potatoes her face flushes and she begins vomitting.

Some doctors will make the ridiculous claim that if you do not take advantage of the narrow window of opportunity (between 4 and 6 months), you will end up with a child who cannot effectively eat. Think about that for a moment. Are you done? Do you see how ridiculous this is? Parents have enough to worry about as far as screwing up their kids goes. They do not need to add a 45-year-old man who never learned to chew to their list of horrible potential outcomes of bad parenting.

Dr. Sears, along with the World Health Organization, does not recommend giving babies solid foods until after the age of 6 months. In fact, you can wait much longer. Until they are about a year old, Dr. Sears says that feeding a baby solid food serves social purposes only, and is not nutritionally substantive in any way. Think about it. You have a kid eating some mashed vegetables. How many calories could he be getting?

Babies should be breastfed for as long as possible. Notice I said possible. Learning to breastfeed isn't always easy and I had varying levels of success with it, myself. Ellie breastfed for 9 months which was pretty good considering I was a working/travelling mom at the time. Joel had issues and I gave up after a couple of weeks. I lacked the support necessary to resolve the issues. Camille went for 2 years, and Jules and Jasper both went three years. In fact, I have a picture of Jules nursing while holding a hamburger. Anyway, so breast is definitely best, but either way - delay the introduction of solids! Your kid will have plenty of opportunities to meet solid food once his digestive system is ready to handle it.

Solid foods (including sardines) should not be given for the first 6 months, and are in fact, not needed until one year of age. For mamas raising vegetarian babies who are allowed fish, once solid foods are introduced (preferrably at 10 - 12 months of age) sardines are an excellent source of vitamin E.

On a speculative note, I think that parents over-worry about feeding their children. I have run into what seems to me to be a relatively new phenomenon, lately. More and more children are being treated for eating disorders. I am not talking about bulemia or anorexia. I am talking about 3, 4, and 5-year-olds going to therapy to address their eating issues. What issues, you might ask? Well, eating very sparsely and in spurts. Isn't this normal? Judging by my 5 kids, this is extremely normal. Jasper and Camille have followed in their older siblings' footsteps in their habits of going seemingly days without ingesting anything other than oxygen and the occasional cracker. They get on kicks where they will only eat a certain food. They go on binges. It is annoying but I think it is normal. My three older children exhibited the exact same behavior and all three are excellent eaters, now. In fact, they will eat almost anything and enjoy the heck out of food (like me). And, they know when to quit (unlike me). I have never forced them to finish food they didn't want and they recognize when they have had enough.

I think that, as a culture, we have become hyper-sensitive and almost over-anxious to diagnose some problem in our kids. Is it possible to consider "normal" to be the exception? Makes no sense. SO...

Onto the next question for Dear Sardine Mama.

People somehow end up on this blog when googling the content of potassium in raisins because of a post I did quite awhile back describing our homeschool co-op performing a chemistry experiement with poisonous chemicals while simultaneously baking oatmeal cookies. What can I say? We like danger. We are that kind of people. Anyway, the title of the post had both the words potassium and raisins in it. Hence, landing people seeking the potassium content of raisins (and occasionally oatmeal) on this blog. If this has happened to you, I'm sorry. To make it up to you, let me just say that raisins contain 1,020 mg of potassium.

The third and final question I will answer is one that perplexed me for a long time. People regularly end up on this blog when googling "puddle dogs". Why? Because I posted once about dog puddles, as in puddles of dog pee, when Ranger was a puppy. But what the heck is a puddle dog? I'm not sure, but I think people are trying to search for poodle dogs. As the mother of a dyslexic child, I can see this happening. So, if you are googling puddle dogs, try this. P-O-O-D-L-E.

Also, let me say that I grew up with a poodle. He lived 17 years. He was stubborn, prone to snapping, vomitted every time he got in the car, and was quite vindictive and would punish us for every imaginary slight by peeing on the white chair in the living room, but only if we were watching him. It was his way of flipping us off. He was chronically and terminally ill with various ridiculously expensive ailments pretty much the entire time he was alive. And I loved him to death and when he died I came home from college for 3 days because I was suffering so badly I couldn't focus and needed to mourn with my family.

So yes, get a poodle.

I am worn out from giving all of this advice. Unsolicited advice never tires me. I could give it endlessly and often do. But these solicited googles are too much responsbility. I must rest now.

Sardine Mama - burdened by being the expert on almost everything. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's Up - Conservatively Speaking

What's Up?? The usual. I'm settling into a school year routine. Yes, I know, it is almost December. And yes, I know that we unschool. But we still have to go by everybody else's school year calendar and it just wreaks havoc on my soul. But I've finally done it. Since September I have been waking up in a fright, covered in sweat and going, "What day is it? Who is coming over? Where am I supposed to be? What are we late for?" Then my fuzzy mind focuses on whatever day of the week it is. But that never seems to help. I lay there frantically thinking, "Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday...what the crap do I do on Wednesdays?"

But today, my friends (I'm sorry for the lingo, I'm having campaign withdrawal), I awoke to the usual panic but then almost immediately knew both the day and the schedule! This is huge. I instinctively knew that Wednesday meant that nobody was going to invade my house to find me still in bed. No Odyssey teams were coming. No piano students were coming. I did not have to leave the house until 12:30. Ahhhh, I was able to relax before dragging myself out of bed and yellin' (see how I am still droppin' my g's?) for someone to clean up the puddle of dog urine. (Schnitzel is going to be kicked off her throne any day now - I am NOT kidding).

So, you have no idea what a victory this is! I even know what we're doing tomorrow! And the next day! My mind is like a steel trap. I even wrote on my calendar today. I usually avoid that at all costs. My calendar is kind of like the scale or the checkbook. You know it's bad but you have to look at it to see exactly how bad and who the heck wants to do that? But I looked. I wrote. I saw. I saw that yes, I had double-booked and triple-committed to several things. But there is still time to rectify and find solutions for this. I am blessed to be able to be in 2 or 3 places at once thanks to friends and family. So I am ON TOP. For now.

AND, Ellie is home. Hooray! She was in Washington DC at an activist rally and conference, sponsored by STAND, which is a student organization of the Genocide Intervention Network. The sign on the fence is stating that the area is off-limits in preparation for the upcoming inauguration!

She had a great time and came home on fire, of course. 16-year-olds are always on fire about something. In Ellie's case, it is social justice. Far cry from what heated me up at her age, believe me. She went with my friend, Susan, who is very involved with the Save Darfur movement, thanks to Ellie introducing her to it. Her son went, too, and he is one of Ellie's best friends. He is on fire for math. They've been good friends since they were very little. Here is a picture of them at the Tents of Hope display. They helped set up tents. They are actually happy to be there but are both wearing their "how long do we have to stand here while you try and focus the camera" faces.

And here she is out of focus - but hey, it is all I've got of her marching.

They are trying to make sure that the genocide in Sudan stays on President-Elect Obama's "to-do" list in his first 100 days in office. This was a transition rally. She intends to go back in April for another rally marking Obama's 100th day in office.

Speaking of President - Elect Obama, Ellie said it was an Obama-fest in DC. She brought me an official inaugural pin. I was like, "Is this all you brought me? A lousy pin?" And Ellie says, "Hey dude, it was like $3 and I used my own money." This, from a child who just flew to DC and spent one of the nights there in a fairly swanky hotel that I paid for WITH MY OWN MONEY. And she has more discretionary income that I do because ALL of her income is freakin' discretionary. My cash flow is more of a balancing act. And I have never been known to use discretion.

I have not checked in two days. I have been trying to do this without medication, although I did have a margarita on Monday. I heard that Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent and not a country and I didn't immediately get online and see what all the blogs were saying about it. See? I am getting better. And better. And better. But like any good junkie, before I take the final plunge I am going to splurge. We're having a post-election party! Yay! It is kind of like eating a Big Mac the night before you go on a diet. So, we're having this party. We'll invite all of our "Progressive" friends and some of our Conservative friends who are really fun at parties. We will be hanging in the back yard around a fire pit with guitars and beer and a slew of kids running around.

Speaking of Conservatively Persuaded People, my BCF (best conservative friend) and I will soon be holding our own version of the changing of the guard. I will be peeling my protest stickers off the back of my van and she will be putting hers up. We both homeschool and we both drive honest-to-God busses. One good thing for Conservative Homeschoolers that will come out of an Obama administration is that they will finally have socialized kids! Ha! Get it? Socialized government....socialized kids. I am so hilarious.

So it is no secret that I have not gotten along well with all the Conservatives in my midst and my midst is freakin' huge, believe me. While most of the metro areas in our state went blue, all the rural areas stayed red. Although I just looked at the election results and one of our polling places, the local Catholic Church, went overwhelmingly Obama. That's not saying that it was all members of the church who voted for Obama - it is the only Catholic church in our town so its members live all over the place. I think it has more to do with the fact that it is "in town" and not in any of the larger residential neighborhoods on the outskirts of town. Although there was at least one Catholic priest at our Democratic Convention, I do not think he was the priest of this church. So all I'm saying is, if you go to this church please don't assume I am making any God-Forbid associations between it and Obama. Good Lord.

Anyway, so I was saying how the metro areas of the state, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas, went Obama. Rural areas didn't. And Texas is obviously largely rural. I am way rural, my friends. You could even say I am in the Real America. I have more cows than kids. So, what I have been shootin' at is that a few of the Conservatives in my midst took it upon themselves to pepper me with anti-Obama e-mails, most of which were ridiculous lies that could have been checked out on Snopes had the senders not been so blindly delirious in their zealousness to spread the love. They flipped me off, glared at my bumper stickers, and just generally made me uncomfortable. A few made unsolicited personal appeals to me, asking me to change my vote as if the future of the entire planet rested upon it. Here in Texas, which was destined to have stayed red no matter what, they could have left me well enough alone and it wouldn't have changed a thing. Yet, they were not content to do so.

They will not be coming to the party.

On the other hand, I have Conservative friends who have their personal convictions and believe that I have a right to my personal convictions. Simple. They will be coming to the party. And I don't mean to imply that my friends and I don't discuss politics in any way. Of course we do! These things are important to us. But we do so in the "This is why I feel this way" vein. And of course, it is a two-way street. There is never any accusations of wrong or right, because we actually tend to want the same things, we just disagree about the best ways in which to attain them. Friends do not try to change friends, my friends. Friends = Respect. Now if I could work on those blasted acquaintances.

Okay. Give me a minute to climb down from my rather tall box of soap. After all, considering the fact that I am surrounded by Republicans, by far the vast majority of them left me the heck alone and didn't give a rat's behind what I thought or how I voted.
I'll close by saying our weather is perfectly lovely, lately. Aside from the fact that we could use massive amounts of rain and our brown fields are depressing me, the air conditioner is off and the windows are open and the air is crisp. Of course, it is still getting into the 80's in the afternoon but I can live with that. The evenings are cool and there are no mosquitoes so that means that the boys have moved outside. They are sleeping in (or rather OUT) this morning!

I'm signing off from my happy perch in Real America - where I enjoy an incredibly fake, yet quite fulfilling, life.

Sardine Mama

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On Creation

So - I am wanting to make things right now. I want to create something. Desperately. I am currently writing two books but it is dreadfully slow and painful work and all done with major self-doubt so not incredibly rewarding, you know?

I might take up knitting. I watched my friend sit on my couch while knitting little baby pants for her 3rd in the trilogy, Galileo. I have to say his name because I love his name. I have already named her next child Octavian. I would have named a kid Octavian but Jeff insisted that all our boys have J names. Joctavian? Could have gone by Jock? Or Jacques? What was I talking about? Oh yeah. I need to create something and am considering taking up knitting like the unborn Octavian's mother. You should see these little pants she made. She held them up and they looked exactly like The Wrong Trousers in the Wallace and Gromit Shorts Video. Not seen it? What is wrong with you? Hilarity, hilarity, hilarity. Gromit is one of my very most favorite people. Of course he is a dog. But we all know dogs who are people. Get on Netflix right now. Seriously.

So what was I talking about? Oh yeah. Galileo's breeches. I now have seen a picture of him in these very adorable hand-knit pants and it is making me want to knit. Galileo is a few months old. The kid I have in mind for mine is 14. I need to start measuring him. I would make the 10-year-old wear the knit pants but that poor child has enough problems and he just got braces on top of it. And Jasper only wears pajamas. That leaves Joel for the project. He is, by far, the most amenable of all of my kids. I could put the pants on him and he would never know it. And most likely, instead of being made fun of, he would start a new trend. That is the kind of kid he is. I am wondering, however, how long it would take me to knit him a pair of pants? He is bigger than I am....

Maybe I should go back to cross-stitching, instead. I love to cross-stitch and now that I have adjusted to my "progressive" (which we all know is just a code word for liberal but in this case it is a code word for bifocals) glasses - I think I could actually take this up, again. I have never actually finished a cross-stitching project but who cares? Well, actually I do. I hate it when I don't finish things! And doggonit (I miss Palin) I never finish things. Blah. The only things I ever started that I actually finished were babies. Oh - My - God. Can you say breakthrough? It isn't the crisp air blowing through my curtains or the definite feel of change in the air that is causing this desire to create something. It really isn't. This is the longest I have ever gone without being pregnant (in the last 17 years). And I am really missing it. I am one of those crazy women who simply loves being pregnant. I love the physical part and I love the wonderful anticipation part. I love waiting for the baby. I love seeing the baby for the first time. I love nursing the baby for the first time. I love naming the baby (even if I can't name it Octavian). I love sitting there with something new in my arms that feels like it has always been there. I love the feeling of completeness. But I am going to turn 44 next month, so we are not trying for anymore babies. I am not a celebrity. I actually have to raise and care for the babies I bear.

I am feeling the need to have some sort of little ceremony to mark this end of an era. I am into ceremonies and rituals. So I must begin thinking about this. It really is an actual period of mourning for me and maybe facing this with some sort of celebration will bring closure and help me look forward to the new forms of creation that are waiting for me, if only I could let go of the phantom baby I swear I sometimes feel fluttering in my stomach. Time to gather a few friends around me. I need babying, myself. I need some affirmation and support - even if it is for a strange thing that my friends might not understand. And then again, I bet a few of them will understand it completely.

Hmmm, this is interesting. I am envisioning a drumming/knitting circle - around a fire where I burn my nursing bras....other ideas, people?

Sardine Mama

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Wow. That is all I am going to say. Sometimes one word is more powerful than an entire book of words. So, yeah. Really. No more words. Well, maybe one. Happiness. OK, two. Sheer happiness. Now I'm signing off.

OK - I'm not signing off. I will sign off in a minute. I am so happy! I have to be rather quietly happy, though. My county went something like 66% Red. But the state? Man, it is bleeding towards purple. Texas used to be a blue state. Hard to believe, right? But in my lifetime it was!

I thought I would cry last night but mostly I wasn't able to. I kept waiting for someone to cut in and say, "Oops. Our projections are wrong. Never mind." It wasn't until McCain made his gracious concession speech that I let myself believe it. I tried to ignore the boos from some of his supporters every time he mentioned Obama's name, even as McCain held up his hand and said, "Please."

It is reported that in the Chicago crowd, nary a boo was heard as McCain appeared on the giant screen. Personally, I hate boos. I hate them at basketball games, football games, and any other games. Whenever I hear boos I get slightly embarrassed for whoever is booing. I'm not sure why. It makes me uncomfortable. Anyway, after the concession speech, I thought I'd cry. But I couldn't do it until I saw Jesse Jackson's tears. Then I sniffled a bit. Race wasn't an issue for me in this election; I would have voted for Obama had he been green with red dots. But truly, we have obviously crossed a bridge here. And it is a historical one. Watching the emotions crawl across Jesse Jackson's face just got to me. He was trying to control himself, his lips quivered and he kept trying to not blink but the tears streamed down, anyway. He has been working for this moment a lot longer than Obama. He has been working for this moment even as his peaceful comrades fell to sniper's bullets. And he continued working without ever really believing he would see a moment such as last night, in his own lifetime. He selflessly worked for the future generations. And then, unexpectedly, he lived to see it to fruition. What a blessing for him. An unbelievably perfect and climactic blessing.

And I cried once during Obama's speech when he mentioned "people huddled around their radios in the forgotten corners of the world"....or something like that.

Now I'm done. The impact of my statements are lessened with each and every word that I continue to add. Would someone please stop me? Really. Drag me away. Please. Now.

Oh no. Now I'm going to try and be funny. At one point during the speech, Obama was talking about his best friend of sixteen years, leading up to Michelle's name, and Ellie blurts out, "William Ayers!" instead of Michelle. That made me laugh. I suddenly imagined William Ayers (who looks suspiciuosly like Weird Al Yankovic in his old photos) rushing the stage, and Obama whipping out a turban and maliciously laughing while crying out, "Suckers! Where is my Koran? I must recite from the Koran!" Then of course, he would be joined by Jermiah Wright his Christian minister, who would espouse his plans to take over the world, starting with Israel.

We have truly tough times ahead of us. There is no magic pill to fix our mess. There is no one policy that can be passed to put us all back together. But it feels as if we have all woken up and realized that the emperor has no clothes. We are awakening from mass hypnosis. I know that Obama is far from perfect. He is a human being and all that entails. But for this moment in time, I truly believe he is exactly what we need. Someone who is inclusive, who stated that he wants to listen to people, especially when they disagree with him. It is so refreshing compared to the "If you're not with us, you're against us..." mentality we've suffered the last 8 years. My mom used to say, "you'll attract more flies with honey than you will with vinegar". I've had enough vinegar. The boos at the concession speech.....fading away. Time to bring out the honey.

Back to race (since I can't seem to shut up). This morning I told Camille we'd elected a new president. "I know," she said.

"Do you know who we elected?"

"Yes," she said. "Obama."

"This is a big deal, Camille. He is the first African American to be elected as president."

"What does that mean?" she asked.

"He has dark skin. Only people with light skin have been president, before."

To this Camille replied, "I don't know what you're saying." She looked at her skin. She looked at my skin. "I have dark skin," she said. Then she looked at me like whatever it was I was saying was surely the silliest thing she had ever heard.

Peace. Is. Coming. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow. But there is a whole slew of kids growing up who don't understand skin color. So, yeah. Good stuff ahead.

A Very Hopeful Sardine Mama

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mindless Babbling on the Eve of the Election

Well, tomorrow is the BIG DAY. I met with 3 cohorts at La Madaline's tonight and we got drunk on chocolate and strung out on coffee/tea/soda and talked WAY too loudly about all sorts of things. Actually, I should capitalize that. As in, All Sorts of Things. We are planning a post-election party - either to celebrate our victory or finalize our plans to move to Canada. I am excited, either way. So, whether you are voting McCain/Palin or Obama/Biden - go vote! Even if you live in Texas where your vote doesn't count. It is fun! It is patriotic! And this year, it is monumentally momentous. I should capitalize that. Monumentally Momentous.

So - other big things: or rather, Big Things: Schnitzel is home from the hospital. However, she really doesn't appear to be doing any better. She is not eating, she is still dizzy, and she is peeing everywhere. The vet bill was $319. We are giving her some meds, including steroids. I am also on steroids. So if she keeps peeing in the house we might come to blows. There just might not be room in this house for two girls on steroids.

This is going to be short and sweet. I'm going to try to post more often since I've noticed other bloggers are shootin' for daily posts during the month of November. I'm shootin' for 2-3 times per week, here. Holy cow. I'm saying "shootin". What does that mean? Is it a sign? I'm dropping my g. Is this going to be in vogue? G dropping? Or rather, droppin? What am I going to do when the election is over? What am I going to worry about? What am I going to talk about? What am I going to do when people stop sending me 10 or more anti-Obama e-mails per day? What will I read every morning while drinking my coffee when starts to bore me to tears?

Either way, win or lose, I'm afraid life will once again (dun dun dun) return to (gulp) normal. Ahhhhh, normal. Where we all once again have things in common and live in the same America - where none of us are "fake" or "anti-American" or "elite" and we're all back to raising kids, paying our bills, going to work and whining about the government.....

In my experience, post-election decompression takes but a few months - hard to believe we will all decompress, but we will. And I think I am going to remove my "Is it 2008 yet?" bumper sticker from my bus. It is, after all, quite faded and pathetic. The time has come.

Finally - I have been hit with a meme. My dear young friend and devoted reader, Katie, has tagged me. She is bound to be disappointed but here is the question: What 10 books would you take with you if you were going to be stranded on a desert island?

First of all - a desert island with a bag of books - how does one bring this particular situation about? God, but that sounds good. On first thought, I would say that I would simply bring the next ten Anita Blake vampire books with me. I am about to start book 8. However, that is shallow and short-sighted. First of all, I can read one of those books in a day. And once I've read it, I've read it. Nothing much to ponder once you've closed the book. No warm afterglow. So - I wouldn't take the vampire books. Even though they are getting really good. Twisted plots - finally some good character development. The other day I was telling Ellie about the latest book and I was all excited and talking real fast and explaining two sub-plots simultaneously and I kept making some mistakes with a certain character's name. I have never made a mistake since Ellie has been born that she hasn't pointed out to me. So anyway, the conversation went like this:

ME: And then, Jean Claude, the vampire, is all trying to avoid having to serve on the Council because even though he killed one of the council members and is therefore supposed to take his place, John Paul doesn't think he is strong enough....

ELLIE: Uh, Mom? John Paul was the Pope. Not a vampire.

ME: I know that. I meant to say Jean Claude. Give me a break. Anyway, so Jean Luke doesn't think he's.....

ELLIE: Uh, Mom? Jean Luke is the captain of the starship Enterprise. Also not a vampire.

Gosh! She takes the fun out of everything! It is like it is her job or something. I couldn't even finish telling her what was going on with Jean Claude the vampire because she kept getting all nit-picky when I called him the Pope or the Captain. What can I say? Jean Claude is my favorite vampire, John Paul was most definitely my favorite Pope, and Jean Luke is BY FAR my favorite starship captain and would probably make a pretty good vampire, too. I like my men/vampires either with a full head of long, flowing, romance-novel hair or I like them completely bald. And I like guys with accents. Jean Claude (french) John Paul ( polish) Jean Luke (british). Anyway, so I talk fast and get my words mixed up. Ellie should live to be my age and have had over 3/4 of her brain cells sucked out of her body by five breastfeeding kids. We'll see how pretty she talks then. Don't ask me to explain the biology behind that statement. I don't have to. The proof is in the pudding - or in this case - the vampire conversation. The fact that I can even still read a book at all, much less talk about it, is impressive. I know, I know. You're thinking, "Yeah? Well, some women have 5 kids and run for vice-president!" And to that I say, "Did you hear her interview with Katie Couric? Palin and I are suffering from the same amount of lost brain cells. They escaped through our breasts." Ha! Now what are you going to say? Luckily, women don't need as many brain cells because we can multi-task. Now - what was I doing??? Oh yeah. Back to Katie's list. I know I am expected to say I would like to take a copy of the Bible with me. I'm pretty sure everyone says that. But the truth is, I've not read much of the Bible and what I have read has either

a) scared the hell out of me or

b) bored me to tears.

I'm sorry! But it is true. People are either drowning, burning, turning to salt, or cryptically preaching stuff I don't understand. Is this heresy? Blasphemy? Insensitivity? Am I just not smart enough? Oh! Actually, I like the Beatitudes. And I understand them. Isn't that the Sermon on the Mount? Or is that something else? Biblical scholars - do you read my blog? Help me out, here....Anyway - here is my wickedly un-Biblical list.

1) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

This is kinda sorta my bible.

2) Walden by Thoreau (to show me how to appreciate my solitude - like I would actually need someone to do that at this point in my life).

3) Men Against the Sea (to remind me that anything is possible)

4) Anything by David Sedaris - who else could make me laugh while stranded on a desert island?

5) Robinson Crusoe - duh

6) SAS Survival Handbook (OK - I got this off an Amazon list of books you'd want to have with you if stranded on a desert island - so I cheated - whatever. This was the only book on the list that I agreed I'd want - the first book on their list was the Bible).

7) A blank journal to write my own blasted book - finally!

8) War and Peace (the Everlasting Gobstopper of books)

9) Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (I would finally have the time to devote to figuring out what this crazy book means....I was hoping my blog-readers would explain it to me but none of you have, yet.)

10) This is my last book - it should be something truly profound. I feel I should go ahead and be politically/religiously correct and pick the Bible. But I'm going for logical, instead. I can't help myself. I am, after all, a completely logical and sensible person. Ask anyone who doesn't know me. So, for my last book I have chosen The Coconut Lover's Cookbook by Bruce Fife. It seems that it might come in handy.

Sorry, Katie. Pathetic, I know. Not one Jane Austen in the bunch. I know you and Ellie go all whacko over Jane Austen, but the books are snoozers for me.

So - I am supposed to tag 6 people with this meme. If you've read this, consider yourself tagged and list your books in "comments". Anybody and everybody. Cough it up.

From the house of chaos, nestled snugly in the southwestern tip of the land of the free and the home of the brave, I'm Sardine Mama and I'm patriotically signing off. (Play America the Beautiful in your heads, please).