Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas is In The Bag

On Christmas Eve morning I awoke to Jasper sitting up in bed whispering loudly (and that is not an oxymoron - you would have to hear him whispering to know what I mean but let it suffice to say that when Jasper whispers, it sounds like it probably hurts), "Happy Christmas Eve, Dude." He calls me dude. He used to call me honey. Now he calls me dude. Sometimes he says, "Mom, Dude....did you see what (insert tattling here)" Because he has older brothers who breathe the word "dude" as if it were some sort of uncontrollable tic. Hence the five-year-old and the duding thing.

We spent the day preparing our Christmas Eve feast (tamales, guacamole, Spanish rice etc), doing some last minute wrapping and even some last minute shopping. It was really a very nice and festive day.

When it began to get dark and the kids were frosting Santa's cookies....we were anxiously anticipating the arrival of The Guests (my dad and sister). My sister doesn't have any children and this works out well for my kids, who are the grateful lone recipients of my sister's holiday shopping and over-indulgence in the latest, greatest toy-buying excursions. She thinks I had so many kids to make up for the fact that she didn't have any. When I became pregnant with the 5th, my sister was like, "Really. I probably would have only had one kid. You can stop now." **But how many times do I have to say it? We're just sexually irresponsible. We really aren't trying to make anyone else miserable with our mass production of the offspring. That has just been an unexpected bonus.

Anyway, my sister might as well be Santa for all the excitement her arrival stirs up. She usually arrives carrying a Great Big Bag of poorly wrapped presents (my sister has never been bothered with attention to details); sometimes more than one Great Big Bag.

This year was no exception and her entrance was met with, "Auntie's here!" and the resulting stampede of little people trying to peek in the bag.

This Bag.

Yep, my people. She brought their goodies in an Abercrombie bag of ummmm....great proportions. Really great. Proportionally speaking. And all I could think was, "Good Lord don't rip the *&%ing bag! I WANT that bag."

I said, "I can't believe you brought their gifts in that bag."

And my sister, the one who isn't much for details, said, "What's wrong with it? It's just a bag."

Just a bag?? On whose bag-o-meter? This, my cheerful Christmasy friends, is THE BEST BAG I HAVE EVER SEEN. Just a bag, my a$$.

And the children? Noticed the bag. My sister continued with the innocent "what?" business.

I was reminded of the time my mother had hastily prepared a gift bag for my little 7-year-old cousin's birthday. When she handed the kid the gift bag everyone became very quiet and my mom was like, "What's the deal?" Then my aunt pointed out that the bag said (in bright, bold letters), "BIRTHDAYS ARE A BITCH". My mom was mortified. "I just grabbed a bag! Honestly!" she stammered.

Since our family loves holidays even more when they can somehow be made inappropriate, the bag continued to make the rounds for years and years after that day, showing up at basically every family birthday party. The first time it failed to show everyone participated in accusations against each other in the form of, "You had the bag last time! What did you do with it?" You would have thought the family heirloom diamonds had been lost.

Anyway, the Abercrombie bag was soon emptied of its various presents and I then informed my sister that I was keeping the bag. I really don't get out to malls much and when am I going to have another opportunity like this? Huh?

"No, I'm taking it home with me," she said.

"No, you're not," I said. "You didn't even give me a birthday present so I'm keeping the bag."

"I told you I was combining your birthday and Christmas presents!"

(Mean trick I have been subjected to basically MY ENTIRE FREAKING SAGITTARIAN LIFE!)

"No, sorry. The bag stays. Ellie take it from your aunt."

I sent in Ellie because the kid has no fear. She was successful in retrieving the bag, although it suffered some minor damage in the scuffle.

"Aha!" I said like the World's Greatest Dictator. "Take it to my meditation nook."

Now Ellie is smirking. "Are you going to meditate on it?"

"Just do what I say. I have very little joy in my life. Also? The most wicked thing I ever do anymore is toss a can into the trash instead of the recycling when nobody's looking. And even then, I usually dig it out later because I start feeling guilty. SO GO PUT THE BAG IN MY MEDITATION NOOK AND DON'T GIVE ME ANYMORE GRIEF ABOUT IT!!"

I won. The bag is mine. I am so wicked. Merry Christmas to Me.

After the wicked bag scuffle, my dad came limping/dragging in. My dad broke his leg, recently. He's doing better but he's still on a walker and using a wheelchair. And yes, I'm sure this is entirely inappropriate and offensive, but we have been calling him Tiny Tim. 'Tis the season and all that. But instead of cooperating with a "God Bless Us, Everyone!" he bellowed, "Somebody bring me a shot of tequila!"

La Chaim! After this he broke out into If I were a rich man....biddy biddy biddy.......just teasing. He didn't really. It would have been cool, though. 'Cause he is looking the part.

We had fewer gifts under the tree this year. We're trying to be more moderate. (Stop laughing)

Jasper, being the youngest, made the most impressive haul. 'Cause his toys are all relatively cheap and he is freaking easy to make happy. "Oh my God!! Crayons!! Thank you!!" followed by tears of joy, actual weeping, etc.

Jasper likes to give as well as receive. And you never know what you're going to get when you're on the receiving end, either. Last year Jules noticed that quite a few of his turtles from his turtle collection were missing and I noticed that quite a few of the wrapped gifts under the tree were there ya go.

Ellie is madly saving money for her Seattle trip so she made gifts. She's learning to crochet and knit and so Camille and Jasper received scarves.

I got some little wash cloths. She tied them up and they looked adorable.

Ellie made a decent haul, although it was mostly practical things. My dad got her a graphing calculator she needs for calculus.....we bought her a metronome to replace the one she broke....that sort of thing.

The boys did well, each receiving mostly games for their Nintendo DS's, the X Box, the PlayStation, and the Wii. Yes, we are that kind of family. Sigh. Jeff says Joel can't do anything around the farm that can't be accomplished with his thumbs :). After Ellie played some Bach for my dad on the piano, Joel showed off by playing Halo on the X Box. My dad applauded after both performances.

From Jeff, I received a bottle of Repasado Tequila in a pretty blue bottle with two little sipping glasses (not shot glass per say, this stuff is meant to be sipped - it is REALLY good). What can I say? He likes to get me drunk. I got him a new pewter ladle he'd had his eye on. What can I say? I like to watch him cook. He loves to cook. I also got him the latest Clive Cussler book because when he's not cooking or hemming a dress or sewing on a button he likes to read manly books.

So after all the eating and the giving and receiving and the rounds of tequila and utter nonsense...we all began to hastily prepare for Santa's arrival...jammies, tooth brushing, setting out cookies and milk for Santa, carrots and apples for the reindeer....and of course....turning off the electric fence. Welcome to Guantanamo, Santa! That's right. We have an electric fence. And we had to turn it off because we ARE NOT GOING TO GO DOWN AS THE PEOPLE WHO KILLED SANTA.

Why do we have an electric fence around our yard? Well, nothing says "welcome" like the buzzing of an electrified fence. Also? We are having a small problem with the wiener dog known as Schnitzel. She is really, really old. And she apparently cannot tell when she is emptying either her bowels or her bladder. In other words, the dang dog is incontinent. And my husband has banished her during the day to the (gasp) yard because he felt that disastrous early morning squish beneath his foot one too many times. The banishment resulted in Schnitzel's scratching at the door. Incessantly. And that resulted in irritation on my end and massive scratches on the door's end. Hence the electric fence to keep her off of our front porch. I, personally, think this is overkill. And so the dog is usually still in our house, safely guarded by an electric fence.

All I can say is God help me should I ever become incontinent. My guess is I'd be tossed outside on the other side of the fence. Fine. Just make sure I've got all my belongings in my Abercrombie bag.

Merry Christmas, My Friends! And Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, and Anything Else I Might Have Forgotten.....

Signing Off as a Merry-Making Sardine Mama

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Crowding Out Santa and a Really Long Meme

I successfully turned 45 without a hitch! It was a great day!

I woke up to waffles and these. Yellow roses are my favorite and there were 24 of them! One for every year we've been married (it will be 24 years next month).And then? We all got ready to go visit Santa. All of us. Every single one. Even the teenagers. Because this is my birthday tradition. Everyone has to be nice to me on my birthday and this is how I get the teenagers on Santa's lap ever year. It is awesome. This year we overwhelmed Santa. You can barely see him.
Jasper was very nervous. And he should have been nervous. Because he is a toot with a capital "T" and if I were him I would have been very nervous. But Santa seemed perfectly happy to see him, promised him a bike, and even told him he loved him. Jasper chatted him up but good.

Camille choked again. She always chokes. Santa says, "How are you? What would you like for Christmas?" And then it is just like that scene from A Christmas Story. She says nothing. Just stands there with a ridiculous look on her face. She always resorts to Backup Plan A - which is to mutely hand him her letter.

Jules informed Santa he wanted a game for his Nintendo-thing. Then Santa asked the big kids what they wanted - and the big kids go along because they have a small audience of We're-in-the-Presence-of-Santa-Oh-My-God!!! little people. Santa called Ellie "Princess" and that seemed to piss her off. Nobody calls The Princess "princess". You know what I mean? Because she is The Princess and it has always kind of been a case of all of us just doing what she says so nobody gets hurt. And she takes offense to being called "princess".

There were no misunderstandings between Joel and Santa this year! Last year when Joel said he wanted "high quality pens" Santa replied, "What's that? You want some high quality pants?" and the little people were all stressed out worrying that Joel was going to get pants for Christmas.

Our coffee table in our living room is full of framed Santa pictures going back to the very beginning.....a very tiny and very unhappy baby on Santa's lap. Then a little girl standing in front of Santa (twisting her hair) while in the background, Santa holds a screaming baby boy....(Ellie had refused to get anywhere near Santa....he probably called her a princess or something). Then we have Jules added to the pics, and Camille, and then Jasper. I don't know why this tradition and these pictures make me so happy but they really do!

When we came home Jeff whipped up some of these (spinach enchiladas verdes)...

And served them on my favorite Christmas plates..... And followed it up with an orange / chocolate cake and lots and lots of off-key singing.

I suppose if a person has to turn 45, this is as good a way to do it as any, and better than most.

NOW - Here's for a VERY VERY VERY VERY LONG Christmas meme. I dare you to get to the end of it. I triple dog dare you to put it on your own blog. Also? I am tired and the spacing is erratic and I really don't want to fix it. So humor me. Just scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll. It is like scrolling while drunk or something. Which is not at all like trolling while drunk, which is something college boys do.

The Tree
1. When Do You Put Up the Tree?
The first weekend in December.

2. Real or Fake?
Fake. Jeff loves a faux fir for some bizarre reason. He claims he can't have a real tree because of allergies and then he sneezes his a$$ off while putting up the dusty fake one. Next year? A real tree!! (I say that every year. It feels like saying "Next year in Jerusalem!!")

3. Lights - What Color?
We like the lights. Multi-colored IN ADDITION to the white ones that came on the fake tree.

4. Garland?
No. Gold beads that are a pain in the neck but Ellie gets them all just perfect.

5. Theme or No Theme?
Themes are for wimps. Seriously. We have everything under the sun hanging on our tree, including the odd trash item now and then. Currently we have some packing foam that Jasper put on hooks adorning our tree. And a stick-figure reindeer drawn on lined notebook paper. Because there is no teacher here helping the little rascals make cute ornaments.

6. What Kind of Topper?
Angel. The very top of her head is missing (she took a fall a few years ago) but you can't tell when she's on the tree.

7. What's Your Favorite Ornament?
A red rocking chair my mom gave me when I was pregnant for the first time. I also have a little teapot I love that my friend, Gayle, gave me. And there are some neat-o stick pin ornaments that Ellie made once. Also - the packing foam is growing on me. It looks like a sleigh from a certain angle.

8. What does your tree skirt look like?
It has the Big Red Dude on it. In sequins!

9. Where Do You Put Your Tree?
The living room window and this is just the second year in 17 years that it doesn't look like the Department of Homeland Security put it up. We used to have a really huge wall/gate around it like it was the Mexican border or something. And Jasper still can't leave the dang thing alone. He just wants to touch it touch it touch it touch it......

10. Who Decorates the Tree?
The kids, of course! After they go to bed I often do a little work to redistribute things (or ellie does).

11. What's Under the Tree?
Gifts! And the older the kids get, the smaller the gifts get. No more gigantic plastic play sets, etc....more and more it is CD's, DVD's, video games....little things. Much neater, I must say.

12. Do You Put Candy Canes On Your Tree?
Those of you who know Jasper are laughing. Let's can I say this? Candy is to Jasper what Crack is to a Junkie. He cannot handle it. So any candy canes that made it onto the tree would be gone in under a second - he'd eat the plastic and all. We don't bother.

About the Food:
1. What's Your Favorite Christmas Cookie?
I like snickerdoodles and those peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kiss on top. Those are my faves!!

2. Do You Bake Cookies and Give Them Away?
Sometimes. I try to. If Karen can do it then anyone can (she has almost twice as many kids as me and puts me to shame).

3. Any Special Foods You Have Only at Christmas?
Fudge is a Christmas treat we make on Rudolph night.

4. What Do You Eat Christmas Eve?
Are you seriously asking me this? Have I not pledged my loyalty and faithfulness to Tejas enough on this blog? On Christmas Eve we enjoy TexMex tamales like other real Texans GOSH! Half of them are bean/cheese for the vegetarians. We also have guacamole, bean chili, chili con queso, and Spanish rice.

5. What Do You Eat Christmas Day?
Official Texas laws give us a little more leeway on this one. It varies. This year my dad is bringing a brisket that was given to him as a gift. Since our family is multi-cultural-ethnic-religious yada yada yada.....we'll have sides of latkas and noodle kugel and some delicious acorn squash.

6. Do You Like Eggnog?
I make my Daddy Jim's special tradition. It is delicious. But we tend to do this on New Year's Eve.

7. Do You Like Candy Canes?
Not a fan. There is no chocolate on a candy cane.

About The Decorations:
1. Where Do You Hang Your Stockings?
We have the most awesome stockings. Whenever I announced a pregnancy, my Aunt Flo set to work making a stocking. Each child has their own beautifully adorned stocking - the needlework is fantastic and we've sewn the children's baby rings above their names. Aunt Flo died on Jasper's 2nd birthday so he doesn't really remember her. It is lovely to hear him say, "Here is my stocking Great Aunt Flo made!!" They hang on the knobs of an antique buffet in our den.

2. Do You Put Lights on Your House?
Yes...just one string of colored lights.

3. Got Any Outside Lawn Decorations?
We gave up. It is too windy on this hill - nothing will stay put.

4. Do You Put Up a Nativity?
Didn't the ACLU outlaw those? God - I'm just teasing. Don't anyone get started or I'll be forced to tell you Happy Holidays as an insult. Because I am CERTAIN that is what people mean when they say Happy Holidays. Unlike the people who say, "Merry Christmas and I'm not afraid to say it!!" with uber angry and challenging expressions on their faces....

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. We used to have a lovely glass one and, as you can imagine, it looked quite ragged after awhile (missing hands on the wise men, etc). We had a clay one we bought in Puerto Vallarta when I was pregnant with Ellie only we couldn't put it up because it made me nauseous to look at it (I was nauseous when we bought it and what can I say? I'm sensitive that way.) We had a couple of others that were missing various important people.....This year we don't have one up. We're not AGAINST them, mind you.....I'm a Jesus fan for sure.

5. Do You Hang Mistletoe Over Your Door?
Jeff already can't keep his hands off of me. He couldn't handle any botanical incentives :). Seriously, we used to. But now with Schnitzel being mostly senile - I'm afraid she'd eat it. Plenty of it growing in the trees outside, though!

6. Got a Wreath on Your Front Door?

No, come to think of it! Where the heck is it? I know we have one...

7. How Long Does it Take You to Decorate?
We never stop. As long as there is packing foam to be found....

About the Movies/Shows:

1. Favorite Christmas TV Show?
My new favorite is The Polar Express. I love it love it love it. But we like to kick it old school with Rudolph and Frosty, too. And the Grinch!! I guess that is my all-time fave.

2. A Wonderful Life / Miracle on 34th Street / A Christmas Carol
It isn't Christmas for Ellie without Its a Wonderful Life. She had friends over last week and I served them cookies, kettle corn, and hot cocoa. For me? It is Scrooge all the way! For my 6th Birthday my family took me to see the scared the crap out of me and made me cry. Therefore it became my Favorite. Because I am weird that way.

3. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Christmas Vacation DUH. Also? A Christmas Story. And see above. Elf is funny, too.

4. Have you ever seen the Nutcracker Suite Ballet live?
Yes. And thank God my sister takes Camille every year because... I enjoyed it once. Pretty much right up until intermission. I have a short attention span....

5. Ever Been to the Radio City Music Hall Show?
That was a mean question. No.

6. Ever Gone to the Movies on Christmas Day?

No. We like to hang out stuffing ourselves and watching the kids play while nursing dull headaches.....the results of pulling an all-nighter and topping it off with a shot of Patron.

Other Christmas Things:

1. Favorite Christmas Books?
I love to read the original A Christmas Carol by Dickens. We're reading it now at tea time every day. We're on the Ghost of Christmas Future. I also love The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. And Olive, the Other Reindeer! And If You Take a Mouse to the Movies....Our coffee table is COVERED with Christmas books. We read some every day!

2. Do You Stuff Your Stockings With Any Types of Food?
Our kids are foodies and Santa puts weird stuff in their stockings. I hear that this year he's bringing them some tiny gouda rounds....and of course...candy. Putting candy in Jasper's stocking is how Santa punishes me. I don't hang one so he's got no place to leave my lump of coal, you see.

3. Do You Go to Church on Christmas or Christmas Eve?
I used to love Midnight Mass. I would still love it, I'm sure. But we're secularists (currently) - so no, we don't go.

4. Have You Ever Gone Caroling?
Of course!

5. Favorite Christmas Carol?
O Holy Night - always makes me cry.

6. Do You Believe in Santa?
With all my heart. But I'm totally fine if you don't. I won't make you believe in Santa or tell you Christmas is less your holiday than mine if you don't.

7. Do You Leave Santa Cookies?
You bet! And sometimes a shot of Patron. And the reindeer get carrots.

8. What About Rudolph?
An apple for Rudolph.

9. What Was Your Best Christmas Gift?
I've received so many throughout the years! But one that stands out as particularly special was a turquoise Barbie Carousel Kitchen!!

10. Worst Gift?
I honestly can't think of one. For Mother's Day I once received a carefully wrapped cow's tooth but that's another story for another holiday.

11. Do You Go To a "Work" Christmas Party?
Jeff offices out of our home. His company is located in Pennsylvania - quite a hop from here. So, no. But occasionally we get invited to customers' parties.

12. Do You Hate Going?

13. Do You Send Christmas Cards?
Usually, but not this year. I've decided not to be a slave to my traditions. This year I've done only what I've had time for and it has been a most enjoyable season so far.

14. Do You Make a List?
For what I want??? No. I don't even want anything. Jeff and I struggle to provide for 5 kids - watching them get what they want is a wonderful gift for us both. Our gift to each other is always a weekend away for our anniversary (right after Christmas). But of course I make lists for what I'd like to give to others....I wouldn't be able to keep up with it, otherwise!

15. Do You Check it Twice and Thrice?
Constantly. I can't ever remember what I've bought for who.
16. When do You Start Shopping?
When the money's there....I can't start too early because the little'uns change their minds so much!

17. Do You Shop on Black Friday?
Nothing sounds less enjoyable than Black Friday.

18. Are You Ready for Christmas?
How can you not be? Like the Grinch comes anyway! Personally, I don't ever want to feel like I have to "work" to get ready for a holiday. I have experienced that sensation a few times and it isn't pretty. This year - I'm letting go of some perfectionism, some traditions I thought we "had" to keep, and a few extracurricular activities that really just served to keep me from doing things I'd rather be doing. So - YES - this year I am ready. Every last gift isn't bought, much less wrapped. Things haven't yet been mailed that need to be mailed. I haven't done as much baking as I probably should have in order to show my appreciation for all of the wonderful people in our little family / learning community. But I'm sure that when Christmas morning rolls around, I will discover that "It came just the same!" So yes! I'm ready! I'm alive, I'm kicking, and I shall be merry even if it kills me.

Signing Off as Sardine Mama on an Uncharacteristically Silent Night

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Distressed Aging Among Wood and Women

Shall I be like everybody else and say that I can't believe Christmas is almost here? Yes! I think I shall!

I can't believe Christmas is almost here. Also? I can't believe my birthday is almost here. I will be 45 on Tuesday. I am not entirely happy about it. The turning 45 part. I'm not aging well, as of late. Because as of late, I have been aging. As of earlier? I was doing pretty well in that regard. People were like, "You're 40? Seriously? You look like you're 30!!" I guess I kind of thought that would continue. But now, people say, "You're almost 45? Happy Birthday!" I wait. Nothing else comes. They seem to be done.

I can no longer count the wrinkles or gray hair. They are now officially countless. Should I just let my hair go gray? It is an idea I am toying with. I doubt seriously I'll ever do it, though.

I have friends of all ages. I don't tend to think too much about it. But occasionally I'll be talking to someone, maybe someone I've just met, and I've noticed that I automatically assume the person I'm talking to is older than me if they are anywhere near my age. Why do I do that? I'll be talking to someone I think of as "an older woman" and then be stunned to discover she is a year or two younger than me. This happened fairly recently as I was waiting on one of my kids to finish with a lesson. First of all - the woman had at least one grandchild she was proudly talking about. So my mind went, "a grandma" and put her in the grandma category - a category of which I am still light years away from because there is no way in hell my kid is ever going out with Levi Johnston.

**OK - time out for a little OT. Can't help myself. Yes - any girl can get pregnant. Yes - lovely, nice, respectable girls do get pregnant. Lovely, nice, and respectable girls do have, and act on, perfectly normal biological urges with nice, respectable boys and it makes them all very human and nothing more. And I am not criticizing Bristol Palin - who quite honestly, seems like a lovely kid and I mean that. But where was her mama when the young and naive and hormone-ridden Bristol walked through the door with.....LEVI JOHNSTON? What about this kid made Sarah say, "What a nice young man!" ?? I'm not saying I could ever control who my kid climbs out a window to see.....but Levi was considered a fine "date" for Bristol. He was welcomed into their home. If I had shown up with Levi at my house at that age? My mama would have had that kid pegged in 2.5 seconds or less and he'd have been out the door. I know this because I tried with a couple of versions of Levi, one of whom went to jail later, and my mom said, "Who the hell didn't see that one coming?" Because my mama was a smart cat. And I am a smart cat. And if my daughters were to ever show up here with Levi Johnston - he would get the old Texas boot - believe me. And if the worst happened - and they crawled out their windows anyway - and a baby resulted - we would not be pushing the marriage deal even if I was up for VP (which would be highly unlikely but you never know because DUH Sarah Palin was up and I am more qualified!!!) with LEVI JOHNSTON. If anyone needed any evidence that Palin was lacking in judgement - HELLO - there is Levi Johnston, father of her grandchild, showing his stellar fathering skills by posing naked with a hockey stick!! She thought, at one time, that he would be a fine son-in-law?

Now, where was I? Oh yes. The old lady I was talking to who turned out to be younger than me. She had what I consider to be an older woman's haircut. She had on what I consider to be an older woman's pair of walking shoes. There was a Christmas tree on her sweatshirt. And she was a perfectly lovely woman. I mean that. I enjoyed talking to her. Of the two of us - there is, I'm certain, way more wrong with me. But obviously, she crossed a line, at some point, that I have not. She grew up. What causes this growing up and when am I going to do it? When am I going to wake up with a Christmas tree on my sweatshirt yelling at my kids to "turn down that noise you call music!" When is my ringtone going to change to something other than the Red Hot Chili Peppers Hump de Bump? When am I going to be offended by words like hump? When am I going to stop thinking my 15-year-old son is hilarious and tell him to get serious about something....anything? When am I going to turn clueless as to what my kids are up to? When am I going to stop contemplating my next tattoo? When am I going to become financially responsible, carry a handbag, and wear some effing sensible shoes? When am I going to stop saying "effing"? I honestly don't know. But I don't think it is going to happen next Tuesday. I'll let you know.

I have already received my birthday present. Do you remember when I posted awhile back about how much I hated my floor? The vinyl floor that has been in this house since my husband was in jr. high? Well - my husband read the post and was concerned about this misery over the floor. And he was surprised. I find his surprise surprising because I have only been beating my breasts, gnashing my teeth, and ripping my hair out over this floor for the past 13 years (since we moved in). He hadn't noticed, apparently.

Anyway.....right before Thanksgiving he and the kids started ripping up the floor. He knew there was wood underneath. He didn't think we'd want to keep the wood uncovered permanently, "It isn't very pretty," he said. "Just some nasty old pine, I think." But....WE LOVE IT! The kitchen came first and it is some yellow pine. To say it looks rustic is an understatement. And of course, it is all nailed down and there are nail holes and nails and scuff marks, etc. But it looks good, I think. I mean, this is a farmhouse, right?

When we got to the dining room we were surprised to find red oak. Even better! Jeff's brother said the red oak was in the house that was here before this one - the house his parents lived in and then tore down, later. And the rest is "scrap lumber". Some is black and is from a house that burned down. Some had been painted blue and a little bit of the blue remains. It all looks very distressed which is good because it is old and all and it seems fitting that for my 45th birthday, I should receive something old and distressed, much like myself.

*Let's play I Spy. Who can spy my glasses? A teapot? A straw hat? A yellow fluorescent lantern? Jasper's feet? A red plaid shirt? The nasty old vinyl floor that still leads down the hallway to the kids' rooms?

See where the wood changes between the kitchen and the dining room where the red oak begins?

I am so dang happy about this I can't even express it. Our previous floor was *the* floor used in movies when they wanted to designate a setting as a "70's scene". Seriously. We've seen it in several movies, including Apollo 13. While there are a few things I fondly remember from the 70' vinyl flooring is not among them. Good riddance, ugly effing floor.

OK - we've got to go hang our Christmas lights. Jeff is sick with a cold. I'm trying not to be mad about it. I think he's good for climbing up the ladder. We'll certainly find out.

The lights are strictly for us, you know? I mean, we're on a ranch. There aren't many drive-bys. And we keep it simple. But oh how I LOVE driving up our long dirt lane to see our house sitting bright in a dark pasture! However would Santa find us, otherwise?

I'm signing off as an Ungracefully Distressed and Aging Yet O-So-Jolly Sardine Mama!

Friday, December 4, 2009

We Could Use Some Restraints. Seriously.

My cheesy friend over at Shaggy Boys just posted to her blog about this blog post. Grilled Cheese Chick is one of my homeschooling mentors. I like her. She's not weird. Well, not in a bad way. She's not a purist or a zealot about homeschooling. Purists and zealots make me incredibly nervous - no matter what it is that they are going off about. If you are just too dang excited about whatever it is you're talking about? And your eyes are all lit up like the 4th of July? I am less inclined to believe a word you say. 'Cause you are crazy and all. And lacking perspective.

When we first began considering homeschooling it seemed that I met a lot of those lit-up types and that was what caused me to take my sweet-ass time in making our Big Decision to Homeschool. The homeschooling community is great but it does seem to have an inordinate amount of crazy people. As opposed to the public school community where everyone is normal. (Just teasing - I'm saying that out loud so none of you defensive types get defensive).

Anyway, like I was saying, Grilled Cheese Chick isn't all lit up...about anything. She homeschools - except for when her kids have asked to go to school. She unschools - except for when she doesn't. She sets up schedules and organizes their activities and runs a tight ship - except for when it starts leaking. In other words - the chick is keepin' it real, so to speak. And that is why I consider her an expert. Also? She has 3 kids who can mostly read and write and one who is at the University of Texas (doing very well). I'm not sure but I think that her 100% success rate (thus far) exceeds that of the school down the street. And? Her boys are cute.

OK - back to the blog. It is called Beginnings on Education and the post was written by a girl named Kristen who is an elementary education major at Salem State College. She states she is not a fan of homeschooling. She also states she doesn't know any homeschoolers. Then she draws conclusions - because that would be the next logical step.

First of all - Kristen is a cutie pie. For sure. And she's somebody's pride and joy, no doubt. I bet she's a good student and I bet she'll make a good teacher. So, I'm not beating up on Kristen at all. And quite frankly, I didn't approve of homeschooling until it appeared that it might benefit my family. So no judgements on Kristen - and let's keep it sweet if we respond (either here or on Kristen's blog).

She lists quite a few advantages of homeschooling, and a few disadvantages, most of which are described as "restraints". Personally? I could use some restraints. Several of the duct tape variety come to mind.

*I just told my husband what I'm blogging about today and, as the boys came charging through the house, he said, "That is the sound of unrestrained homeschooling."

Anyway, Grilled Cheese Chick gave her own take on the disadvantages and restraints...and lacking any creativity of my own this morning, I am copying my cheesy friend and doing the same. So here are the disadvantages listed by Kristen on her blog and in her own words:


Time Restraints. Parents' lives are completely turned upside down when they choose to homeschool their children. It consumes a lot of their time. Planning education activities from day to day can be draining for one person.

Oh man, where do I start? Time time time time time....we finally have some! When Ellie and Joel were in school (they made it thru 3rd and 1st grades, respectively) we had no time together as a family. No time to take trips together, no time to play games together, no time to even go out to dinner together. Why? Homework, for one. And the fact that my kids were basically MIA for 7 hours a day (minimum).
We are done with schoolwork (on the days we have schedules) by noon. Done. Totally. Evenings? Are ours. And there's no homework unless you call watching NOVA together, or curling up together to read some Dickens, or hanging out in the backyard with a telescope until...well....the morning, homework. I don't know who Kristen talked to, but even the very rigid homeschoolers I know rarely have this complaint.

So Disadvantage #1? Is a huge advantage from where we sit. Right now? It is noon here. Ellie is playing the piano, Camille is doing some phonics work out of a little workbook right next to me, Jasper, Joel, and Jules are running around outside freaking out because it is unnaturally cold here and they are loving it loving it loving it! In a moment they will come in for some hot tea and we'll continue reading Dickens out loud. Not because it is necessary for school, but because we love the dickens out of Dickens (especially this time of year!). And next week? We're heading to Corpus Christi with my husband while he works there. In the middle of the week. Because we have the time to do so :).


Financial Restraints. For married parents, usually one takes on the full-time job and the other stays home to homeschool. This can be a big hit to a family's financial situation.

Bingo. We make substantially less than many two-income families. But we're not a single income family because we homeschool. We made the decision to live on one income way before we decided to homeschool. We know several homeschooling families where both parents work - so this doesn't even apply to them. Now, homeschooling, in general, can be expensive. I am waiting for the next paycheck so I can order Jules's next math book. But lots of families get by without buying the things I choose to buy - many simply utilize their public libraries. Also? Joel got through the entire summer and fall with two pairs of shorts. And he has two pairs of jeans to get him through the winter. And he's fine with that - 'cause he doesn't go to school and have to worry about a wardrobe. Ellie's closet consists of jeans, t-shirts, and performance gowns (strange combination, I know). So we save A TON on the "have to haves" school parents deal with. My kids don't even know what it is they have to have, poor little sheltered things that they are.


Being with your children 24/7. Making the decision to homeschool your children means they are around you all day long. You have no time off.

Here's a thought: if you don't want to actually take care of the little things you birth? Don't birth the little things. I think one of society's problems today is that parents expect everyone else (the schools, the churches, the daycares) to raise their kids. Ask any teacher. They go way beyond "education" in what they are expected to do for students nowadays.

Now, I'd like to be all high and mighty here - and say that it is all rosy being with your kids all day every day. But that would be unfair and possibly cause some readers to immediately request prescription medications under the "what the hell is wrong with me?" guise. Because it isn't always fun being with kids 24/7. But, as a stay at home mom, I got over this before my kids were school-age. And they're easier to be with all day when they're older. I ENJOY being with my big kids. Really. We have a blast together. I usually enjoy being with 7-year-old, and I occasionally enjoy being with the 5-year-old. The rest of the time I tolerate being with the 5-year-old, knowing that his condition is one that is simply temporary insanity. None of the other 4 remained 5-year-olds forever and I'm assuming Jasper won't, either. So yeah. Pass the tequila and tomorrow's another day.

Before I had highschoolers, I was definitely more tied down to my home and kids than I would have been had they been in school. But that was a relatively short period of my life. And it was a sacrifice I'm glad I made. But it was a sacrifice. Now? If I want to have lunch with friends I simply do. I have a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old who are more than capable of holding down the fort so I can take a sanity break with a girlfriend. If you are planning to go into the mommy gig without making sacrifices? Well, just get ready to start them in "school" at 6 weeks. Eventually, someone like Kristen will raise them for you. But yeah, don't homeschool.


Limited Activities. If a child does not attend school it has limitations. (I'm sorry - did future teacher Kristen really just call "a child" it?) Your child will not be able to join a school sports team or club. Also school related activities such as dances and events will not be in the cards for them. This can cause friendship restraints.

God how I wish we had limited activities. Really. Because what with all the clubs, sports, classes, parties, and other activities? I am running myself ragged. Actually, in some states I believe homeschooled kids can participate in school activities. My kids can't. And I admit that I am dang sad that they can't be in the marching band. 'Cause I was in the marching band. And my husband was in the marching band. And we still live in the same town where we both went to school and the dang marching band is still amazingly awesome GO MIGHTY TIGER BAND!! YOU ROCK!! Anyway - so there are trade-offs. But my kid made her debut with the San Antonio Symphony, instead. And she played in a groovy all-girl rock band for awhile. And my son will probably end up in a band - he is headed in that direction. Sports? We've done soccer, basketball, and tae kwon do. We know a homeschooler who is probably going to go to college on a baseball scholarship, and another who could go on a soccer scholarship. So....yeah. That's not really an issue. Pretty much anyone who knows anything about homeschooling could tell you that.
As for dances? My daughter has gone to the prom once and intends to go again this year. And it is a dang nice prom, too. At a country club. With shrimp. That she won't eat 'cause she's a vegetarian. Which is a crying shame and a waste of shrimp, if you ask me.

That's it for the disadvantages. But Kristen goes on to say that she "strongly feels a child should be placed in a school environment. Even though there are ups and downs, that is how they learn.....They need to be able to experience their youth by attending school events and having friends inside the school."

First of is not horrible for most kids. I went to school. I loved school. I have fond memories of school. But not all kids can say this. Some kids do have a horrible time in school. Some get beat up or worse (watch the news). Some get bullied. Some never quite recover from the bullying and have lifelong issues resulting from it. So you can't just make blanket statements that cover everyone who homeschools or everyone who doesn't. Because these are individuals we're talking about. And I don't think the schools do a really good job of respecting individuality.

I once had a woman say, "Aren't you afraid your kids are gonna be weird if you don't put them in school?" Really? My kids were gonna be weird anyway :). Seriously, though. Are there no weird kids in school? There were weird kids in school when I was a kid. We all knew who they were, where they sat, who they hung out with.....are they not there anymore? If they are there, I bet they wish they were homeschooled :).

Here are some random pics of my kids being totally unrestrained by homeschooling. Because I like to prove a point.

Here is Camille with her two homeschooled friends at last year's dance recital. Yes! They take dance! With School Kids and Everything!

Here's Homeschool Co-Op waiting for their Chinese Food (Chinese lanterns hanging up behind them). Yes! They're visiting and socializing!

Here's Ellie rehearsing with the San Antonio Symphony. She's the one sitting behind the piano - I know. It isn't the same as a high school band but it is almost as good!

Joel and Jules with some of the kids on their Odyssey team last year. (Joel has his hair behind his ears intentionally - "take a picture of me with a mullet!") These guys won a Ranatra Fusca for Extreme Creativity - the highest honor give by Odyssey of the Mind. And yes! They competed against School Kids!

Homeschoolers marching for justice....El on her cell phone, of course. Yes! Homeschoolers use cell phones! To call other lonely, restrained homeschoolers!

Thank God I have weened my kids off of team sports!! Yay!! Hurray for martial arts!! No all-day-long games and zillions of practices....and TKD teaches really great skills, both physically and otherwise.

Homeschoolers can put on goofy Holiday Shows just like the schools. Jules proves it.

Here's Ellie's Odyssey of the Mind Team with a bunch of girls from Singapore at the Freakin' WORLD FINALS in Maryland!! Yeah, they competed against Real School Kids to get there. Twice, so far.

Here is Joel, Jules, and Camille with their Homeschool Readers Theater Troupe, Life on Stage. Just a bunch of normal homeschoolers hee hee.

Ellie and her band, Heart Corps Rebellion, along with their buddy and guitar guru, Kevin. They played popular music and everything. Like School Kids.

So see? We really can't restrain ourselves from fun and learning. They go hand in hand with our family life...which is relatively unrestrained, in general.
Signing Off as the Headmistress of This Little Sardine School

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pumpkin Bombings - Just Another Thanksgiving Tradition

So we ate our own turkeys. And I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Except that I know for sure it was better than buying a factory farmed white Tom Turkey with genetically altered breasts so large he can't even have sex.

I know that. At least.

Last summer we bought 10 Bourbon Red chicks. Our goal was to raise them healthfully and respectfully - and then eat them on Thanksgiving. People (not all) thought this was strange. Turkeys don't walk around - fly around - etc. Turkeys are these big round things wrapped in plastic.....they sleep in the freezer section of the supermarket. "Why, Why, Why would you want to do such a crazy thing?" said The People. The People have said this to us many times over the years about many different things. We love The People, though. And we are ever so happy to provide them with endless entertainment.

After losing some of the chicks due to the horrible heat wave during the summer, a few more succumbed to stray dogs. (I am not getting started about how people dump their animals out here in the country....or don't spay and neuter their animals - this is a Big Problem here.)

We ended up with 3 turkeys. We figure they were worth about $100 a piece.

The turkeys were obviously not as large as commercially farmed turkeys. For some reason, having turkeys so fat that they can't stand without breaking their own legs does not appeal to me. So we were afraid that we wouldn't have enough to feed our brood plus friends and relatives, but we did. We had an entire turkey left over. Was this the result of mindful and contemplative eating? Or the gross-out factor? (Despite our best efforts - our front lawn was littered with turkey feathers.) Or the fact that the meat was definitely not as tender as meat that has been bred for juiciness and then injected with more juiciness and sodium, etc? Hmmm....we'll never know. Of course, half of our guests were vegetarians. But half of our guests are always vegetarians. All I know is that we definitely had less turkey consumed.

I, myself, am not a big turkey fan. I have always been a slightly uncomfortable meat-eater. And I never crave a piece of meat. Ever. I like the sides, and maybe a little bite of meat. And (I admit it) it is the IDEA of a turkey roasting in my oven that I like. It is strictly emotional; especially around the holidays - of which we celebrate many. For example, nothing is more beautiful than a delicious Passover Roast. And I am very attached to having one. Eating it? A bite. Then I'm done. So basically, these animals die to give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Ugh. I am a spiritual work in progress.

The boys, mostly Jules, did a great job taking care of our beautiful turkeys. And we'd all agreed what the turkeys were being raised for. Everyone (except Ellie) jumped on board with the idea of us raising our own Thanksgiving dinner. As a strict vegetarian for spiritual reasons - Ellie said, "No judgement, guys. But I'm not participating." Good girl. I want to be just like her when I grow up.
So on Wednesday everyone (but Ellie) gathered outside for a little thankfulness ceremony. Ellie says that she doesn't think an apology and a "thanks a lot" really makes an animal any more enthusiastic about being eaten.

It felt right that we should sit on the ground in order to be more connected with the earth - and so we did. We focused a moment on the way the earth felt beneath us....then we thought about all the animals and plant life that live here with us, sharing the earth. We talked about the circle of life. We talked about how the earth provides for our every need. We talked about how when a lion or tiger kills, it does so without anger or rage....We talked about the beauty of the turkeys, of how we had tried very hard to take care of them, and how much we appreciated that they were here.

For some reason, I was surprisingly moved by this. It felt like what Grace should feel like. I have always had a little problem with "saying grace". It isn't because I was never grateful or thankful - because I was/am. But whenever I sit down for a meal I am always aware (or at least try to be) of those whose tables are not overflowing with food. And then it seems silly to say "thank you" to the God-Man. Because the God-Man is supposed to love us all equally - so why does my table have food while others go hungry? So saying, "Thank you God, for this bounty...." always felt like "Thanks for once again making us your faves, God. If we keep thanking you enough, you of the big massive ego and all, will continue to make sure we do not suffer hardships such as hunger. Like other people sometimes do. The reasons of which we'd prefer not to think about." Now, I'm not saying that is what people are feeling or thinking when they give thanks before a meal. In fact, I know it isn't. But that was what I always heard in my strange little head. So for me, these were simply not the right words; not the right imagery. Any prayer that evokes the God-Man-Sitting-Behind-A-Desk thinking about what to dole out where......just doesn't cut it for me. But sitting on the ground with my kids thinking about the circle of life? That did cut it.

Yeah, the Religious Issues follow me everywhere.

Ummm...where was I before I just went off and possibly offended all of my grace-saying Christian friends and family? Oh yes. The slaughter. Everyone went and looked at the turkeys, walked among them quietly, and then Joel carried one to where Jeff had the "set-up" - out of sight of the other turkeys, of course. At this point, I expected most of the children to go inside, but they didn't. So then I felt as if I should stay, as well.

It was a peaceful and quiet operation. Jeff had done a little research to make sure his method was going to be the most humane method (it was). He is no stranger to participating in slaughter - he grew up on this farm and knows exactly what goes into fully preparing a meal. He had never before slaughtered a turkey, but he had helped his mom and dad with many chickens. He has hunted game and fowl and fished and cleaned and "dressed out" his own catches. He grew up eating beef his family raised - with the whole family gathered around the kitchen to cook and make their own sausages, etc. So he knew what to do and did it without any trepidation. I do not believe thankfulness ceremonies were common on the farm when he was growing up - so that was probably a first for him. And he went along with it just fine. Even managed to keep a straight face. *And might I add here that my macho man also bakes a mean pecan pie? He also is quite adept at hemming and altering Ellie's performance gowns. Quite the fella, he is.

Camille and Jasper soon became bored with the whole turkey thing. They each plucked a feather, when the time came, and then went off to do something else. Joel and Jules, however, helped from beginning to end. And these are boys who do not believe in senseless killing. These are boys who escort scorpions out of our house on pieces of paper....boys who don't tell me when they see a rattle snake due to the fear of it being killed as a result....boys who are not interested in hunting (although we are not against hunting).

Yet, I was not surprised to see how they participated with the turkeys. Because they are also somewhat matter-of-fact practical boys. And they love the outdoors and nature and want to learn how to function and survive within their own natural habitat - something we humans have basically forgotten how to do.

When turkeys were sitting in the fridge, waiting to go into the oven first thing the next morning, we felt kind of proud. Definitely pleased.

Our Thanksgiving Day lasts all day....with guests hanging out for Round Two. And for the kids the most exciting part of the day is the Perilous Pumpkin Pushover. This is a nonsensical holiday tradition. We don't know why we do it. I guess we do it because we can. We do it because there used to be a really old wooden bridge over the San Antonio River on our little dirt road - and one year we had a whole lot of pumpkins left over from Halloween and we said (I said), "Wouldn't it be fun to drop them off the bridge?" And everyone said, "Why yes! That would be fun!" And so we have done it every year since and yes, it is fun. Sometimes lots of people join us and there is a massive pumpkin bombing, other times (like this year) it is a smaller crowd. Either way - it is the climax of our Big Turkey Day.

Our lovely wooden bridge has been replaced by a concrete bridge, totally lacking in personality. But we pretend not to notice as we countdown and toss/roll/push/shove the pumpkins. Enjoy the pictures below.....maybe with a glass of wine 'cause people? We are now on the slippery slope that will soon land us right smack in the middle of Christmas. This might be your last chance to relax for awhile This is a picture of my boys with their friend, Harlan. Harlan has been here for almost every pumpkin pushover. I think he might have missed the very first one.

And Here is Ellie with her friend Wayne, who was home from UT.

This is the only picture with me in it - I'm standing next to Joel (he is holding a pumpkin and I'm holding a glass of wine.) There is actually one more picture of me but it is incriminating and I'm not putting it on the blog.

View of the San Antonio River from our bridge. This is the same San Antonio River that flows through the famous downtown River Walk.

This picture is of our old bridge - which we desperately miss.....but we had to make Progress by building a concrete bridge that vandals can graffiti. sigh. The pics below are of 2004, 2003, and 2002. I'm not in any of them - being the picture-taker. It seems that these pictures weren't taken all that long ago (and they weren't). Yet - all my of my kids and their friends have changed so much!

Sardine Mama

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This Here's My Opinion

So - I've been meaning to write this post for awhile. In fact, it has been such awhile that it is bordering on irrelevant - except that it isn't really. Ever. Irrelevant.

Here Goes:

This is to the Texan Guy who called in to NPR in regards to Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize (and no, this post isn't about the Nobel Peace Prize). Mr. Speakin' for All of Texas - I won't quote you per say - 'cause I was driving and all and didn't write down word for word what you said. And what you said was a quickie - you just left a message that they played back on the air - don't even remember which show....All Things Considered, maybe? Anyway, you said (and I am paraphrasing here) that here in Texas, we can't stand Obama. I do know that you used the words "can't stand" and "we" and "Texas" and "Obama". So maybe I got it down just right, after all.

I am fine if you can't stand Obama. Really. I am. More power to you and all that. But you didn't say that you, personally, as in, I Am Only Speaking For Myself, couldn't stand Obama. You said "we". And buddy? You don't speak for me. In fact, you spoke kinda funny. Suspiciously funny. Like maybe you weren't born and raised right here in the Lone Star State. Course I can't prove that. And there ain't nothing wrong with that. Some of my best friends are transplants and (ahem - I am whispering now) my daddy is a former Yankee.

But me? Born and raised here. And I'll die here. 'Cause Texas is Totally The Best State in the Entire World. I bet you and I could agree on that one. Although, I'm also bettin' that you think Texas would be a bit better without the likes of me. And that's where we're different.

Here in San Antonio, we have a right neat place called The Institute of Texan Cultures. Cultures. With an "s". As in plural. 'Cause, dude, there is more than one. And there's gonna be more than one way of lookin' at things, considerin' problems, and findin' solutions. That means that some of us voted for Obama, and some of us voted for that other gal - the one with the colorful family values - and the old guy who mistakingly chose her as his running mate and is seriously regretting it.

Anyway - Mr. Speakin' For All of Texas.....This here's my front yard:

And this here's my mama and my granddaddy.

And they ain't riding for show, neither. See them cows back there? See them chaps? When's the last time you wore chaps, Mr. Speakin' For All of Texas? By the way, we called my granddaddy "Daddy Jim". That's what all of his kids and his grandkids called him because we are That Kind of Texas.

You don't speak for me, Mr. Speakin' For All of Texas. And I would never in a million years dream of speakin' for you. Because you have your own voice and are entitled to it 100%. You see, I don't want to take that away from you. I want your voice here. I want everyone's voices here. 'Cause this here's a big state and all. We need lots of voices. Please don't presume you can be any more Texan than me by drowning out my voice. 'Cause, Buddy? There ain't nobody more Texan than me. And I support my President. And I also support your right to not do the same. That there idea, which came down from the Greeks, is what we like to call a democracy. It is all about everybody havin' a voice and all. As opposed to, let's say....a dictator.

It is also a little bit of common courtesy. Which is nice to have in the old Friendship State. It is the kind of courtesy you don't find at them fancy tea parties in which you're probably participatin'. We have tea parties here on our ranch. We invite our friends, even the ones with bumper stickers that do not quite gel with our own. We hold our little pinkies out and say please and thank you and would you please pass the sugar. No swastikas at our tea burning effigies....none of that there nonsense.

But Mr. Speakin' For All of Texas? I support your right to your kinda tea party. I won't go....'cause I am of a more genteel nature and all.....but if anybody tries to take away your right to congregate and hold ridiculous signs.....I will be the first person to call in and tell 'em to leave you the hell alone. This here's a big state, like I said. And there's room for all of us.

But you don't speak for me. Let's just be clear on that.

And for governor? I betcha you're going for that Good Old Boy, Rick Perry. Good for you. I love Good Old Boys. I even dated one named Bubba, once. That boy was smooth as velvet on a sawdust dance floor and some kinda wicked fun at a pasture party, let me tell ya. But for governor? I'm votin' for that there Palestinian fella. The one who invented the Chi Flat Iron he manufactures right here in Texas. Because I love my Chi. Anyone who can straighten out my massive mess of hair could certainly straighten out Texas.

Signing off as The Lone Star Mama

Friday, November 13, 2009

Come On. You Know You Wanna Look.

This post has been edited. Some of the original content has been removed due to my being informed that one of the blogs I had referenced had been dumped for reasons totally beyond me....not the fact that it was dumped....but the REASON it was dumped. Which is dumbfounding. And I'm grateful it was dumped. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Ha! So I follow a bloggista who is a Homeschooling Raw Vegan Foodie. I am not vegan, nor am I a foodie, for the most part. Although I do love my food. And I love looking at pictures of food. So I love her blog and stalk it regularly.

This bloggista, Green and Crunchy, should be a food photographer. The chick likes to arrange her food all pretty and take pictures of it. MAJOR. And she has adorable children. Five of them. Just like me! Only hers are more photogenic than mine. Anyway - she has a bad ass blender and an awesome dehydrator and she likes section plates. She takes pictures of her section plates loaded with raw food. And I want section plates. She also uses glass straws. And I want glass straws. And she uses something called tippins. I want tippins. And I'm not sure what tippins are. But I want to be the proud owner of a tippin or two. And her photogenic five children apparently gobble up whatever she sets on their adorably lovely frickin' section plates and I want that, too!! Because I deserve it!!

Anyway - so this crazy vegan foodie chick posted pics of her refrigerator. THE INSIDE OF HER REFRIGERATOR. And I looked. And I liked. And I found it interesting in the way you find basically anything interesting when you are procrastinating. It isn't as interesting as vampire porn (a tool of procrastination of which I am quite fond) but its nowhere near as boring as flipping through the phone book (which I have been known to do in order to drag out lunch). So, like I was saying, I found the contents of her very clean refrigerator quite fascinating and couldn't tear myself away. Green and Crunchy has labels and everything in her refrigerator. I want to label everything in my refrigerator. By now? If she's reading? I am probably creeping Green and Crunchy out a little bit.

I'm not going to post pics of the inside of my fridge. But I will tell you what's in it. And you will find it interesting and fascinating because you are probably trying to avoid doing something lame and boring and be prepared to be my refrigerator.

We'll start with my top shelf (yes - we are going shelf by shelf - you can just settle that rear end of yours down into the chair). On my top shelf is my Big Dog Emergency Sized The-World-Is-Going-To-End-In-2012-And-Who-Wants-To-Be-Sober-For -That? Margarita Bottle. And it is good stuff. It is not a mix. I cannot stand a margarita mix. It isn't quite as good as a homemade margarita with fresh lime juice...but it ain't half bad for a bottle and it gets the job done on a weekend. The brand is Salvador's Premium Margarita. I highly recommend it.

Next? Wheat germ. Three large jars of wheat germ. You're probably thinking we eat a lot of wheat germ. You're wrong. We eat it so rarely that when a recipe calls for it I go, "Wheat germ? We don't have any of that. Let me go buy a great big jar." Then I get it home and put it into the refrigerator and say, "Looky here - we already have several jars of wheat germ." The fact that I am sharing this story with you will not stop me from buying more wheat germ a week or so from now. That is the sad truth of it.

I do the same thing with canned sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. I don't serve either one. But every year at Thanksgiving I say to myself, "What if we run out of homemade cranberry sauce or sweet potatoes and I've nothing to serve my guests? Let me go to the store and buy back-up canned sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. Then let me bring it home and put it in the pantry next to the 20 or so cans I already own because I have this exact same panic attack every single Thanksgiving...." Again. Some things I can't control. I will not be able to avoid performing this holiday ritual.

So where were we? Oh yes. Top shelf. Is loaded with 2 big gallons of milk. Milk! Do you hear that my Vegan Sweetheart? It is right next to the liquor. My kids love the milk as much as I love the liquor. And the kefir. And the yogurt. And the cheeses of every variety. We are considering switching to raw milk. It is just so dang expensive.

Jasper is currently living on kefir. He hasn't chewed anything in weeks. When he was 3 I took him to the doctor for I honestly don't remember what. And I saw a different doctor than we usually saw. And he wasn't prepared for me. So he couldn't quite hide his shock over the fact that Jasper was still breastfeeding. "There is a narrow window of opportunity to introduce him to solid food!" he'd said. "Geeze," I said. "He's been introduced. We said, Jasper, this is solid food. Solid food, this is Jasper. They just don't care for each other." And the doctor? Was stunned. So I kept going, "We put stuff in his mouth. It makes him drool." The doctor was not impressed. "He spits it out. But," I added proudly, "he sorts it, first." The doctor was speechless. So anyway, here we are, Jasper is 5, and he still prefers his food to be in liquid form. And even though he is fully weened (that is not me in the you tube video of the woman breastfeeding an 8-year-old - I PROMISE) - he shows signs of being a breast man. But anyway, maybe we missed our window of opportunity with the solid foods, after all. But please don't tell that jerk of a doctor.

Jasper has several Big Stories in his background, and one of my favorites is the time he ordered breast milk in a restaurant. He immediately caught himself and became embarrassed, it had just been a knee-jerk reaction, sort of like last year at Halloween when he ran to the first house and screamed "Happy Birthday!" instead of trick-or-treat. But anyway, it was interesting to watch the waitress while she obviously considered just how far she'd go for a tip.

See how I keep digressing? So also on the top shelf - a 2.5 pd bag of spinach. We lika da spinach. We go through one of these bags a week. Spinach blueberry smoothies, spinach salads, sauteed spinach, spinach wraps, spinach juiced with lots of stuff......Camille is my only non-spinach eater at the moment (Jasper, of course, drinks his).

The next shelf has butter, cottage cheese, sprouts, avocados (like Green and Crunchy - we LOVE our avocados over here), leftover salad, 2 jars of organic natural peanut butter, 2 jars of organic jellies and preserves, and some refried black beans. The black beans are dehydrated and marketed by the Santa Fe Bean Co. They're really good and really fast if you failed to plan ahead and cook your own dang beans.

The next shelf has some soaking chick peas for a raw chick pea salad I'm making tomorrow (recipe of Green and Crunchy), tomatoes, feta cheese, eggs from our Rhode Island Reds, and some leftover pasta and asparagus.

The bottom drawers are full of fruits, salad fixin's, ginger, squash, carrots and some celery. My doors are mostly condiments, sauces, and salad dressings. However, the best salad dressing is olive oil, lime juice, and garlic. Yum! We try to avoid high fructose corn syrup if at all possible. I'm thrilled to see it making an exit from the shelves of my grocery store!!

My freezer is full of our summer garden's sweet corn, tomatoes, and coffee and nuts of every variety. I also keep my flour, oats, and rice in the freezer. There is a big huge Costo box of Morningstar Veggie Burgers (I know! Processed soy products!!) and some breads. Other stuff, too, can't even tell what it all is.

Our outside freezer is almost empty at the moment - ready for another load of beef that we will process after Thanksgiving. We don't eat commercially raised meat. Our kids are backwards from most kids. Most kids won't eat anything if they can freely associate it with what it really "is". For example, a hamburger is a cow, a pork chop is a pig...they really don't want to know this information.....whereas my kids won't eat anything they haven't personally seen walking around wagging its tail or spreading its tail feathers :).

On the floor of my kitchen sit 2 huge baskets of freshly hand-picked tangerines from Aunt Maxine's farm next door. Can you say carrot/orange juice in the morning?? Sweet. Might throw some pineapple in there, too.

There are bananas and organic apples on my counter. Onions, potatoes, and garlic hanging on the wall.

There now. Wasn't that a fine way to waste 10 minutes? What's in your fridge? Really! I wanna know!! I've shown you mine. You show me yours.

Sardine Mama - who, quite ironically, seems to have no actual sardines on hand. Just a coupla cans of herring :).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The State of Things

All the stuff I blog about? Has been getting in the way of my bloggin' time. It is hard to blog about a lice infestation, sick kids, a food poisoned husband, a father with a re-fractured femur, and other things I can't even remember, because I have been BUSY dealing with all of the above mentioned blogging topics.

First of all - YES, I SAID LICE INFESTATION. Dang.

I really thought we were immune to this particular form of vermin. Seriously. Not because we're better than you, or anything, but because I have, over the years, received many phone calls that began with, "You're going to hate me...." and ended with "we don't know how long he/she has had it..." and WE NEVER GOT LICE. Ever. Even when the little victims had been sharing a pillow with my kids. So I thought we were just unappealing to lice. But I was wrong.

While I was at my dad's (where I have basically been living with various combinations of my kids) I noticed that Jules was frantically scratching his head. Frantically. And he is a rather frantic sort just regularly, so the fact that I noticed an increase in his franticness indicates that he was REALLY VERY frantically scratching his head. And I had a sick feeling and a "knowing". Jeff - otherwise known as the Irritating Optimist (and my husband) said, "He must have a little dry scalp."

If Jeff were watching an approaching tsunami - a BIG one with houses, cars, and cows riding the top of the wave, he would grin and say, "We might get a bit damp." Life's experiences (and we have collected a few during our almost 24 years of marriage) have not lessened his highly irregular and somewhat annoying habit of always expecting the best possible outcome no matter what. Sigh. Then again, if there were two of me running this house we'd have slit our wrists long ago. Which is basically unproductive.

So I had to make phone calls that began with, "You're going to hate me....." to a bunch of gracious friends who acted like it was no big deal but who were so loudly screaming The F Word in their heads I could hear it all the way over here.

We ordered a product called Lice Off that is supposedly non-toxic blah blah blah and takes 3 DAYS TO ARRIVE. Excuse me? WE HAVE LICE!! WHERE IS THE OVERNIGHT BUTTON????????

Now how did Jules handle all of this? Well, this is actually embarrassing but he seemed to enjoy the entire thing. Poor middle child will take his attention where he can grab it. Jeff sheared him and he looks adorable. Olive oil treatments seem to have taken care of the adult lice. And his hair is nicely conditioned. And he's speaking with an Italian accent. And I kind of want to put Parmesan cheese on him. And the dogs are following him around, drooling.

When I dropped him off at Chess Club with his new buzz cut I was like, "Oh no! I forgot to tell Jules not to brag about the head lice!" Yes. I said "brag". Because he is weird that way. And he's homeschooled and occasionally unaware of the things that freak public school (ie normal) kids out. But he didn't have time to blurt out the reason for his new haircut because his friend yelled, "Thanks for giving me LICE, Jules!!" Yes, I cringed. To which Jules grinned and replied, "No problem!" Just spreadin' the love.

When I picked him up from Chess Club he was scratching his head with his 2nd Place Trophy so it was a good night for Jules all the way around....bragging rights for both lice and chess.

And where is Joel in all of this? Hiding. His. Locks.

Joel looks like he doesn't care about his hair (because that is how it looks....believe a feather duster that hasn't been touched in centuries) but the reality is that he cares very much. And he is either using nerves of steel to avoid putting his fingers anywhere near his scalp to scratch....or he really doesn't have lice. Doesn't matter. The kid is using lice shampoo. Just. In. Case.

Joel has some braggin' rights, too, by the way. He earned his Brown Belt in Tae Kwon Do!

This is Ginger. She is awesome. And she could NO DOUBT kick Joel's rear in a millisecond. I honestly don't know how she resists the urge. Massive self control, I guess.

And Ellie? Where is she in all of this? Out of the house or sitting at the piano. She has a solo recital in 2 weeks and it is a very big deal and hundreds of hours of practicing have gone into this Big Event and we just hope people show up. She's also been babysitting a ton. And teaching a ton of piano lessons. She's been invited to participate in a piano immersion institute in Seattle and it costs what amounts to Big Bucks and we're making her pay for it, herself. (Character building and all that - plus? We don't have the money.)

The Little'uns also do not appear to have lice. But they are still disgusting. Because they have colds. Bad ones. Jasper is making the most disgusting sounds I have ever heard. I would almost rather he just quietly have lice. He told me that he coughed so hard he coughed up his bones. We had a brief discussion of anatomy so he would understand that it is impossible to cough up a bone. But he assured me that he is missing several bones. Camille has not coughed up any bones that I know of.

HALLOWEEN. We came and we conquered. The little'uns wore a variety of thrown-together costumes and Joel bought himself another ridiculously expensive mask. If you saw the mask from last year, you'll recognize that there is a Gene Simmons theme going. And to all the mothers of toddlers and pre-schoolers??? I am so sorry. The wake of crying children Joel left behind was embarrassing.

First stop was the neighboring farm where we traditionally stop to scare the poop out of Great-Aunt Maxine. Joel is holding his leaking mask with the swollen tongue with a chain through it. Ellie left us at this point to go to the movies with friends. Sadness. 'Cause she is big and all. And I can remember every single stinkin' Halloween costume I ever made for her. Because I did make hers. Because she was the first one....and she was a wicked witch (a vikkid vit, she said), a princess, a butterfly, a spider, a pumpkin....And Camille and Japser? Are wearing whatever they could throw together on short notice :)

I must take a brief moment to bore you with the conversation I had with the teenage sales clerk at Party City as she stuck Joel's mask into the bag.

"Yuck," said I. "It is leaking something all over the bag!"

"That's blood," said the teenage clerk. "You're lucky 'cause we usually charge extra for it. But this is the display mask and you're getting the blood for free."

The red gel-like stuff was pooling into the lower right hand corner of the bag.

"But what is it?" I asked, you know, concerned about toxicity and the possibility of permanent staining.

"It's blood," she said.

"I know," I said. "But what IS it?"

To which she replied, very slowly, "It's BLOOD."

She handed me the bag and added, "No refunds on masks. Happy Halloween."

I told Joel that this was definitely his last year to Trick-or-Treat. He is too hugely gigantic and old. And by the end of the night his bucket held 1/3 of what the little'uns had so that was The Public's way of agreeing with me. Here he is looking sad over "the lame bag of pretzels".

And here is Jasper after a fix. Because he has a little problem....with sugar. We are thinking of going entirely sugar-free with him (well, all of us).

So here is The State of Things:

My house is a mess. This is the hallway that leads to the kids' bedrooms. See the floor? This is the "old" part of the farmhouse. I HATE THIS FLOOR AND IT WILL BE WITH ME UNTIL THE DAY I DIE. IN FACT, I COMPLETELY EXPECT SOMEONE TO LINE MY COFFIN WITH IT!!

This is the boys' room but they don't sleep in it.

They sleep here. They are the two colorful lumps in the grass. The weather is cool and they have moved outside and this is a good thing because JULES HAS LICE for crying out loud. The fog rolls in here every morning off of the San Antonio the boys always wake up wet. Last night the coyotes were howling so loudly I swore they were less than a few feet from my sleeping babies.....who were loving every minute of it. And they often sleep in when they are sleeping out. So Ellie's piano students will be driving up and getting out of the cars....the little'uns will have friends over running all about....and none of this disturbs the boys snoring in the yard.

And this is the Little'uns' room but they don't sleep in it.

They sleep here. In MY room. Which is annoying but not worth a "plan" or anything that would require "stick-to-it-iveness" which is something I have never been good at. Eventually they will move outside to brave the coyotes. And yes, that is toilet paper. 'Cause we are out of tissues. And it is recycled TP so they are basically blowing their noses in sandpaper. That will teach them to get sick.

And this is the door to Ellie's room. And she DOES sleep in there. Without crying or stumbling out or asking for water or a back rub or anything. Because even though there is a humongous industry that has sprung up around teaching parents how to get kids and babies to sleep in their own beds (as if this is a necessary life skill they will not learn if we don't teach it to them)....all kids grow up. Even without interference, nobody grows up to be a 40-year-old man or woman sleeping between two stressed-out 60-year-olds who haven't had sex for 40 years. It doesn't happen. Ever. So....hey...everyone with tots out there.....STOP FREAKING OUT ABOUT IT! Your kids will soon not want to be in the same room with you. That is the sad/happy/normal/developmental truth of it. They will one day march down the hall and close their doors and mark off their personal space and you will need an invitation to get in. I promise. So let the little guys snuggle down with you while they can and throw away those stupid books!!Okay. Well, that was my little Attachment Parenting sermon for today.
Signing Off as Sardine Mama, or, The Mama You Hope Doesn't Call You Saying, "You're Going to Hate Me...."