Wednesday, May 31, 2006

On Being a Mom

I never got gooey over Gerber ads. I never truly idealized or romanticized having babies around. Maybe earning my pocket money as a babysitter for several years during my teens demystified that whole motherhood thing for me.

I knew there'd be a goodly amount of vomit and poo and complications of one sort or another, and that just wasn't something I thought I'd be spending time on. I suppose I didn’t really think of myself as the maternal type. I knew that babies were cute and dribbly and fun to hold, and that they screamed and couldn’t be comforted, or would be comforted by small things, and that they played with their food.

I realized that babies turn into toddlers who scream, pull hair, pee in the potted plants and salt the dog; toddlers turn into school aged children who lie, bury their homework, pee in the bushes, refuse to wear underwear or socks, and who eat nothing but sugar if they can get away with it; and they become teenagers who... oh, well, in truth, my kids seem to have settled down to being good, responsible people, and I won't demean them by pretending otherwise.

Dealing with the material side of parenting is about what I expected it to be. I even hypothesized about learning disabilities, late-appearing physical shortcomings and the like, so as to mentally prepare myself for a range of scenarios.

What has been the biggest surprise to me on this 20-year journey has been the behavior of other adults.

My spouse, who despite having been in on the conception and the planning and the discussion (in fact, he was the one who started the discussion 19+ years ago), treated every diaper he changed as if he deserved sainthood for same and didn't really want the sainthood, and for whom every childhood complication, mess, or misbehavior simply caused him to participate less in the family. I don't know what he expected, but it wasn't what he got, which has changed what I got, quite considerably. I'm not blameless either. It has not been a wholly good thing. But it has, and continues to be, a learning experience, with all the baggage that entails, good and bad.

My mother, who was so enraged that I didn't name our daughter after her that she called my daughter by her middle name for 2 years, ignored my sons until they were in school and doing well, and who, on the flip side, actually does understand the drudgery of daily life at home and is openly sympathetic. She is often bizarre and inexplicable, but at least she remains a presence in my life and the lives of my kids.

My stepmother, who was never a willing mother herself, but who was the best grandmother I could have wanted for my children -- coming home from Portugal to be my duenna after my oldest was born, setting up savings accounts for them and faithfully contributing to those for over a decade, and offering to baby-sit for a couple of hours when they were back in the states, so that I could go out to dinner or just sit in a parking lot and enjoy the quiet.

A distant aunt-in-law who came and helped when my youngest was born and thoroughly cleaned the house, which had been falling into disrepair. After she left, she sent two thoughtful and useful gifts -- a can opener (ours was on its last leg), and a set of really durable dishtowels, which we still use, 13 years later.

My sister, who, after being a sister from hell to me, has been unbelievably generous, kind, and understanding to my children. By extending her love to them, it has seeped over to me, I’ve reciprocated, and we’ve become closer to each other because we love my children so much. She doesn’t have any of her own, and admits that she doesn’t think she’d have been a good mother, but she sure is one hell of a fabulous aunt. She never forgets a birthday; she might be late, but she doesn’t forget. And there have been Christmases when money was so tight that my husband and I forwent giving each other gifts so that we could make sure Santa brought something for the kids, and by some unspoken cosmic telepathy, my sister was especially generous to the kids in those years. I’ve thanked her, but I don’t know if she realizes that she saved their childhood holidays from potentially becoming grim.

My in-laws, who have diligently and consistently made sure to visit with the kids at least three times per year despite all kinds of disagreements they’ve had with me, with my husband and with extended family. Sides have been taken and hurtful nonsense spouted, but it never, ever, ever caused them to be bad grandparents. That takes a lot of character and love.

My husband’s siblings, who proclaim their wonderfulness and lovingness and compassion and generosity, but who have remembered very few of my children’s birthdays, and who have never made an effort to visit with them when in town, nor sent them letters, nor answered letters my children sent to them, nor thanked my children for the gifts they made… Not unless there was an audience of third parties to admire them for being such wonderful aunties and uncles. It has embarrassed my husband to the point of numbness, and it has hurt my children.

Other parents -- who were so competitive, predatorily so, that I stopped discussing my children with them. I never thought of my children as being pawns. The pace and tenor of their development belongs to them, and I never thought it was a reflection of my worth or me. I just think my kids are people, and I was glad to meet them, I've been happy to know them, and they will go on, move out, and find 365 days' worth of things to do that don't involve thinking about Mom, just as I have.

Doctors, who were always willing to blame the parents, but seldom looked deeper for organic causation unless pressed.

School district professionals, who knowingly violated laws designed to help children in order to better their bottom lines.

Teachers, some of whom made my gifted children sit doing nothing because the class "hadn't gotten there yet" and who were openly hostile and insulting to me, and others who treated my kids like they mattered, who exercised their creativity and compassion, and who listened when I spoke and were grateful that I gave a crap.

Yes, I’ve been surprised by the people who’ve shown my children unconditional love, by those who’ve been supreme professionals or good friends, and by the shallowness and selfishness of others. I suppose it’s part of the tapestry of life, and it makes me think about how I behave towards other people’s children and towards other people.

I’d like to believe it’s made me a better person – more sympathetic, more understanding, but I can never really know how I am perceived. I can only hope that I have learned from all of them. I hope I will continue to nurture myself, my children, my marriage, and the people I encounter to the best of my ability in each moment in time.


vootery: deceit

(from: The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Early Birds

I get up around 4:30 am every weekday morning. I didn’t used to be such an early bird, but about 9 or 10 years ago, when I started really getting into gardening, getting up at 4:30 am meant that I had time to do a little yoga and some strengthening exercises, have a cup of coffee in the quiet of the morning, and get out and do at least an hour’s worth of gardening before I had to get the kids up for school. During the summer months, being up that early meant that I could garden in cooler morning temperatures when the bugs were not quite so active.

It also means that I get to observe the early morning behavior of my neighbors. Some of them are sluggards, so to speak, with their homes showing no signs of activity until the day is well-advanced and nearing noon. Others will drive off in their pickup trucks or economy cars after 7 am, leaving plenty of time for whatever commute they may have and whatever morning rituals they may enjoy as they start work.

I was all alone, the earliest of early birds for several years. In the winter, it was peaceful but a little lonely sometimes. Then Zig Zag Man moved in to the garden apartments kitty-corner from me. I started noticing him one morning, around 5:30 am, when the weather was still cool, maybe late March, but not dangerously cold. He was a little paunchy, had on heavy sweatpants, a hooded sweatshirt, and mittens.

He came to my attention because, at first, I thought he was either drunk or senile – he was walking back and forth across the street in a zigzag pattern. Around one corner, down the block he went, making a full circuit, zigging and zagging. While walking, he had his arms held out laterally and was pumping them back and forth across his body. When he came back around on the second circuit, I realized that he was exercising, and not looking too damned happy about it either. He only made about 3 trips around the block before he gave out in front of my house, bending over, resting his hands on his knees, puffing.

I watched him amble back to the apartment building and thought, “hmm, I wonder if he’ll be out again tomorrow?” Considering how tired he looked, even beginning his second circuit, I kind of doubted it. I was wrong. Zig Zag Man has been faithfully circling the block now for about four years. I’ve watched him, 4 to 5 mornings a week, getting stronger, getting thinner, adding stretching exercises before and after his route, right there in his parking lot, and I’ve come to admire him.

I admire his consistency, his lack of embarrassment, and his choice to stick with his exercise regime. I admire his progress. In general, I stink at sticking to an exercise program. I let things get to me, I don’t prioritize it, and I wimp out. Zig Zag Man’s been good for me. A couple of times, I’ve found myself thinking, “If Zig Zag Man can stumble back and forth around the block, I can get off my lazy ass and ride my exercycle.” Or, “If Zig Zag Man can schlep to and fro in this nasty weather, the least I can do is lie down on a mat in my nice warm house and flail my legs around and lift some weights, fer chrissakes.”

I really don’t want to meet him, get to know him, and I’m not sure I ever really want to find out his real name. He’s just what I need him to be, a little inspirational, a little motivational, as my fellow early bird, Zig Zag Man.


sithcundman: the oldest inhabitant; the one who knows what happened a long time since. The chief man in a town, district or parish.

(from The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Nightmare in Purple Prose

I first met Charles in a pub in Upper Mandible in the province of Psittacina. But don’t ask me the name of the street or what the building looked like because I went there blind drunk, wearing a sailor’s hat and a pair of banana yellow corduroy pants. I have no idea who was wearing my shirt, but the windbreaker I had on had a McPhee family tartan on the flannel lining.

I continued to drink, each glassful making me thirstier on that strange evening, until I blacked out. My friends tell me that I did not sleep peacefully in a corner booth, with my head resting on a variety of useless purchases (that was Shelley), but that I challenged a trucker to an fish-tickling contest, and, when he refused, I let loose with a string of obscenities in German which were so lengthy, so profound, so obscure, and so numerous, that to this very day, my secret nickname is “Lungs.” Which, of course, is why Charles came into my life…

I suppose I should go back to the beginning…

The day had started in a fairly ordinary manner -- a bunch of us girls got together and decided to go shopping. We usually had a pretty good time together, each of us playing off the others’ strength and weaknesses, squealing over in-jokes and whispering puerile remarks to each other while waiting outside changing rooms or on benches set up for tired shoppers in each store. We trekked from store to store, sometimes buying too much, sometimes nothing at all.

There were six of us, and, by the end of the day no sorrier a gaggle of shopping-weary broads would you find. Twelve shoes, all overly full of feet, and a veritable halo of expensive boutique bags ringing our silhouettes, we had unabashedly spent the entire the day in a manic, unparalleled spree of self-indulgent materialism at its most peculiar.

Elsa had one bag full of pastries, cream and chocolate frosting oozing obscenely from their rustling waxed paper wrappings onto her purgative purchases from an easily aroused pharmacist.

Marguerite, wearing a truly stupid beret made of striped Icelandic wool and a jacket that would have looked better on a Grand Canyon donkey, had secured the last pair of harlequin patterned matching satin underclothes from a wholly disreputable shop that the rest of us refused to even enter. This questionable purchase was prudently contained in a self-effacing bag of dusty rose and covered with discreet pale turquoise tissue paper.

Shelley had overdressed for the weather and succumbed to a bad habit of her college peers, having tied her sweater around her waist by its arms, a sad, broad, flapping wooly nubbled tail signaling her irregular progress. Over her shoulder, in a Parisian plastic backpack, a German made brass windup clock leered at pedestrians behind her. It was nestled quite comfortably atop a box pattered with turtles and camels in lurid secondary colors which held a pair of round-toed flats in that year’s Persian Red. In her right hand, she carried her outsized patchwork purse, and her left held a large bag of fabric swatches and quilt batting, with which she intended to make a quilt for her as-yet unborn niece. The rest of us kept a respectable distance away from her, as she bristled with obvious poor taste.

Wilhelmina had had to be physically restrained from buying more sheets and linens than she herself could carry, but had purchased a king-sized comforter in paisley on a cobalt blue background and fairly dragged it behind her, plastic protection bag crackling like Melba toast in a toddler’s mouth. Her tongue peeked out of her mouth and sweat poured down her face and stained her shirt from the effort involved in transporting such a domestic burden.

I, myself, had suffered major credit card seizures in the bookstore and stationery shops, and leaned forward from the heavy load upon my back. Hiding under the flaps of my old Boy Scout backpack (a gift from a long gone lover) were hardback additions to my science fiction collection, soft cover versions of books of dubious merit, handmade notepaper, speckled and pebbled with pen-snagging bits of twigs and rags, and a brand new fountain pen with sufficient replacement cartridges to get me through the next century, should I choose to write longhand 6 hours per day, every day, for the entire 100 years

As we trudged northward, our parcels bumping one another’s and our mumbled curses faintly fouling the air around our heads, the fateful, yes, fateful words issued from MY mouth, and I hold no one else responsible for those things that followed. I asked, not knowing how it would end, “Is anyone else as thirsty as I am? Isn’t that a bar just up ahead?”…

Friday Bonus Round: Good German Word

Always a good word to know, especially for you world travelers:

die Geschwendigkeitsbegrenzung: speed limit

Unofficial verbal test from my exchange student days: If you can say it correctly five times in a row, you are not too confused to drive. Also, you get extra skills points for not injuring yourself while saying it. Points are lost for emitting spittle.


knoup: to toll the church bell; this observation bore reference to a belief that when, according to the rites of induction, a clergyman tolled the bells on being put into possession of his church, the number of years he would hold were foretold by the number of strokes on the bell.

(from: The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Free Knit Pattern - Mittens


Size: fits ages 6-10

2 balls different colors leftover worsted weight yarn,
about 3 oz. Each
1 set each #7 and #8 dpns (US sizes)
small stitch holder or bit of string
a couple of markers or loops of yarn

Gauge: on 8’s about 4 sts/in, but don’t sweat it

Special abbreviations:
Pm= place marker
Inc= increase
M1 increase = with working needle, pick up the yarn from the bar
between stitches in the last row, using other needle remove and
twist all at once. KNIT this stitch.

(Note: lots of references use only the pick up and twist as the increase, however,
this technically increases a stitch in the preceding row, and over distance/multiple rows,
pickups like this will result in a vertical/diagonal pucker because you are always
one row short. Knitting into the picked up stitch evens the row count.)


With 7’s and color A, cast on 28 sts, work k2 p2 ribbing for 16 rows
With 8’s, k2 rows in A, increasing 4 sts across the first row evenly (32 sts)
Add in color B as follows – one stitch in A, one stitch in B, one stitch A,
one stitch B, for the remainder of the mitten unless otherwise indicated
K 4 rows stockinette using this alternating color pattern, putting A over
B in last row, and B over A in last row

Increase for thumb as follows:
(note – don’t sweat the color alterations, just do an extra A for the increases
and alternate the rest as before)
K15, pm, inc 1, k2, inc 1, pm, k to end
K 1 row
Inc every other row until there are 12 sts between markers, k to end (42 sts)
K 16, put 10 on holder or piece of string, k16

K 15 rows even

In color A only, decrease as follows:
K2, k2together , repeat both around
K around evenly once
K2tog, k2 around
K2tog around, pull yarn through and tie off.

Thumb: with A, pick up 10 sts from holder and add about 5 sts to
cover gaps by picking up M1 style. K8 rows, decrease as above.
Pull yarn through and tie off.

Tidy up stray bits of yarn by tucking them in.
Leave ends long because kids are rough on mittens.

You can also alternate by doing two of each color in sequence around.
Using a different cuff – the red and white mitten shows a
plain cuff – two rows in ribbing and the remaining 14 rows in stockinette


fabulosity: the quality of being fabulous; the quality of dealing in falsehood or telling lies

(from: The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Sandwich

My older sister is an earth muffin artist, wafting successfully through life on the West Coast. I, on the other hand, am a solidly grounded, parka-wearing, van-driving Midwestern housewife and mother. We differ in almost every way you can imagine, including hair color and temperament, and only the most imaginative geneticist would be able to determine our relationship.

We work through the majority of our disagreements nicely, only occasionally regressing to the snarling cat fights of our childhood over toaster rights and bathroom privileges. There’s one area, though where we permanently disagree. She’s a dedicated vegetarian, and I remain a plebeian omnivore. We don’t discuss it much, though, because she’s so concerned about my karma that she lapses into sisterly tears at the thought of the topic.

Every so often, on her coast-to-coast consulting flights, she stops off to visit and complains about how we never come to see her, that she’s the only one doing any visiting. She’s right. And on one occasion, I decided to take a break from the daily scrum of my life and head west.

So, one fine southern California day, we drive to one of her favorite hangouts in Venice, an open-air café painted in beach colors and infested with pigeons. As we get out of the car, I’m on alert.

"Hey," I remark "what’re those flying vermin doing all over the tables? I’m not eating at a vermin-tracked table!"

"They’re part of nature! They recycle the crumbs and leftovers of our wasteful society!" she replies.

"They have lice," I inform her.

"Eyew," she says.

So, we whip out our various cologne bottles and attempt a fragrant disinfection of our chosen table, based on our joint belief that there’s enough alcohol in pricey perfume to kill the lice. After the cloud clears and patrons downwind stop hacking up their lungs, we take our seats, and a waiter dressed in black pants and a pink shirt arrives to take our orders.

Without even opening the menu, I fix him with a steely glare and order a chicken salad sandwich, and my sister orders some form of foliage, which makes him grin. There are still pigeons possessively strolling around on nearby tables, witlessly pecking and shedding invisible lice, much to my dismay.

"I hate pigeons," I tell my sister.

"Hate is very bad for you. It turns your aura red and black," she says. "It stresses you out and makes you wrinkly."

"It’s personal," I say, "they always crap on me."

"What?!" she exclaims.

"They crap on my head, my hands, my shoulders, my legs, my car, and my stuff; they crap on me. I am the ultimate points-intensive target in the pigeon paradigm of success," I tell her.

"I don’t believe you. I think you are paranoid. It’s all that red meat and caffeine you take in. You need an enema," she advises me.

"Can I have my chicken salad sandwich first?" I ask. She smiles a secretive and very familiar smile at me and agrees that I can eat lunch before clearing my colon. I’m worried now because I know that look. That look short-sheeted my bed, put itching powder in my underwear drawer and told my first boyfriend that I wet the bed until age nine.

I stare at her, trying to figure out what the look is for, but get distracted by a fit of sneezing. I lean over, open my purse, which is lying by my foot, to get a tissue and it happens. The great grandmother of pigeons flies over head and lets loose a doot with the volume and consistency of a full 8 oz. cup of dish soap. It hits me right on the bangs, travels down in a big "splort" to the back of my hand, and ends its journey completely painting the lovely Georgia O’Keefe tiger lily enameling on the back of my best compact, deep inside my purse.

I stop, frozen in shocked recognition of this fulfillment of my earlier statement. My sister gasps and says, "Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod. You were RIGHT! Ohmigod." And then she starts laughing. Trying not to let my besmirched bangs come in contact with my face, I angle a look at her and say, "Next time, try not to recommend an enema; I think that stupid bird heard you. Where’s the ladies’ room?"

She points it out to me, still snorting with laughter, and I, my purse, and the pigeon poo all head off for a scrub. Fifteen minutes later, bangs, hand, and purse interior considerably cleaner and very wet, I arrive back at the table, only to find that lunch was served in my absence. And, at my place, where there should be a chicken salad sandwich is, instead, the leaning tower of sprouts, bookended in bread so full of fiber, it looks like someone has peeled bark directly off of an oak tree in loaf-shaped pieces. Next to this gustatory monstrosity is a small plastic cup of glossy white spooge with green flecks in it.

"What the heck is THIS?" I ask my sister.

"It’s your Ch’I-ken salad sandwich," she says "with herbed yogurt dressing on the side."

"Hold on," I say "how come that sounded different when you said it?"

"Well, this is a completely vegetarian restaurant" she answers.

"And?" I ask as I glare in my most forceful kid sister way.

"The waiter thought you were ordering a Ch’I-Ken salad sandwich, just mispronouncing it," she says, smirking. "It’s packed with just the right nutrition to put you more in touch with your energy meridians."

I look at my so-called sandwich, 6 inches in height, as it sways gently in the breeze, little bean sprout tendrils waving at me invitingly.

"There’s something I have to tell you about health food and me," I tell her, "and why I’m not that keen on it."

"Yes?" she whispers as she leans in for a girlie confidence.

"It’s the sprouts" I tell her. "Look at this". I pull three sprouts carefully from the Jenga pile of my sandwich and lay them lengthwise in my hand. "What do these look like to you?"

"They look like Health! Vitamins! Increased Energy!" she says.

I interrupt her, "Sperm," I say, "they look like sperm."

She studies the sprouts for a moment, her eyes pop open, and then her jaw drops.

"Oh, God" she says "you’re right. They look like sperm. Oh, God."

"I’ve got three kids and I’ve been married since Hector was a pup," I tell her, "and I’ve had all the sperm encounters I’m interested in. That’s why my husband went out and got fixed; so that neither of us would have to worry about sperm any more. And, I’ve gotta tell you, that, while I could deal with the bread, even though I can feel my bowels loosening from just looking at it, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here, recently covered in bird shit, eating a sperm sandwich!"

"Oh, shit fire" says my sister, and she throws thirty bucks on the table, grabs me by the arm and runs hell for leather for her Alpha. "Get in! Get in!"

"Where are we going?" I ask as she burns rubber out of the parking lot.

"There’s a McDonald’s six blocks away," she yells, "and the fries are cooked in veggie oil."

Later, sitting in air conditioned, pigeon free comfort, she points a French fry at me.

"I’ll never be able to eat another bean sprout" she says.

"Not in mixed company" I say and grin.

"I can’t believe you’re my sister" she says, and I just grin.

She called me last week to tell me about her new healthy diet, which consists largely of brown rice, lentils and raisins. I refrained from telling her about a negative experience I had at a picnic which involved Waldorf salad and cluster flies. ‘Nuff said.


coppernose: a name which is supposed to show a partiality on its owner's part for strong drink. Synonymous with "jolly nose". "Grog-blossoms" are the jewels often set in a jolly nose.

(from: The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


cark: to be fretfully anxious

(from: The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Phinal Phaeries

The Money Fairy: Has never visited me. I think she looks like Bunky Hunt with boobs. She inevitably hangs out with someone related to someone I know, but never with anyone I REALLY know. She grants extravagant bennies and huge salaries on people decades younger than me, and since my parents' retirement plans are way better than mine will ever be, I think they've met her. I've changed my deodorant, my perfume, my shampoo, my toothpaste, my favorite clothing designer, my attitude, my habits, my speech, and my smile -- all to try and make her show up just like they say in the commercials on TV and in the positive mental attitude seminars, but still she stays away. Maybe she only likes blondes, but since I have dark skin and would look REALLY STUPID with blonde hair, I can't bring myself to bleach. Fortunately, I have created a papier mache substitute for her, known as the "Coping Fairy", whom I drag to thrift shops and garage sales.

The Shopping Fairy: I only know of her in her household goods/grocery persona, although those who have a Money Fairy living with them tell me she also has an Upscale/Luxury Item persona. And, sadly, I've never met either version face-to-face, but my hub and kids are convinced of her existence. She's the one who causes tuna, pot roast, noodles, veggies, fruits, etc. to mysteriously appear in the proper places in the kitchen, buys the laundry soap and toilet paper, the bug spray, new sponges, and children's clothing. I wish she'd quit taking money out of my checking account because someday I'd like to be able to actually afford Christmas. And why do my feet hurt, and why to I have this unreasonable hatred of Wal-Mart Superstores?

The Arrogant Brain Fairy, who travels hand in hand with her twin, the Humility Fairy: The ABFairy has very large glasses and a bookbag and makes very unwelcome visits whenever I'm around someone whom I know has a really pure heart but a limited vocabulary and bad skills in expressing themselves. She makes me feel impatient and intellectually snobbish, but her twin, who has an oily voice and is related to the Maternal Guilt Fairy slips in on the ABFairy's heels and reminds my to keep my big yap shut ala Abe Lincoln's caveat of "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Unfortunately, I often have wax in my ears and can't hear the Humility Fairy.

The Fat Fairy: is pure evil and may not even be a fairy but rather a minor demon. He/she looks like Colonel Sanders but with stretched tight black clothes and a sweaty face. I have lived on medium-sized cantaloupe halves and cups of coffee since 1992 (with a few escapee binge days, I admit), and the Fat Fairy very matter-of-factly steals fat grams and calories from the children's plates and my husband's peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches and puts them in my fruit. I can actually SEE the calories moving from their food to mine, like a greasy miasma in the air. When I walk by a bakery or near candy, there she is again, stuffing fat grams up my nostrils and applying blobs of butter directly to my skin. I've come to realize the FF is misguided. She/he must think I'm really swell and want me to live forever off the store on my butt alone, so that I can be around to keep all the other fairies amused and occupied. I've noticed her unnatural affection runs along family lines, and mine is not the only family -- we grin sadly at each other in front of the green-label displays in stores and at the fruit heaps in the produce department. Fortunately, I've not been visited by the cholesterol/blood pressure fairy, but she's lurking out there somewhere, I have no doubt.

I don't know if other people have as many Fairies in their life, or if theirs are as interesting and varied as mine. I just know my life would be even more boring without them, and evil, annoying, irksome, or wonderful as they are, I think I'm glad of their presence. Gosh, without them, would there be any challenges or surprises?


allecter: "to wamble as a queasie stomacke dothe"

(from : The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

More Fairies...

The Desire Fairy: is a perverse, ornery holdover from before IGMAHK. Cruel and with a sense of timing so bad it's biblical, she used to tap me whenever I had just broken up with someone, just as soon as I waved goodbye. I personally haven't seen her more than in passing since my first episiotomy 18.5 years ago. Sometimes after a really hard day with the kids, I dream that she has visited me and wake up at 2:30 am, trying to shake Capt. Spouse awake, but he's just been visited by his Sleep-Like-the-Dead Fairy, so it doesn't work. Naturally, she then spends 6 consecutive weeks beating the snot out of my poor husband until he'd be willing to explain to the kids in clinical detail just what it was Mom and Dad were doing in the kitchen while they were locked out of the house, but he can't because they're all down with the stomach flu, and it would be cruel to throw them out in the yard in February anyway. We conjure up memories of her anyway because otherwise the Irritability Fairy takes up residence in the dining room.

The Maternal Guilt Fairy: Mistress of the Sneak Attack and close cousin of the Before IGMAHK Fantasy Fairy, she wields a cast iron frying pan, sounds a lot like my mother, and speaks directly into my right ear. She shows up when I'm having moments of self-pity and wondering what ever happened to the former resident of my head who used to think deep thoughts and work complicated equations and be known to all her high school friends as "computer brain". I can feel her slam the side of my head and then she yells " YEAH? SO? Who would take care of these beautiful children, these fragile lives, these utterly dependent, innocent, darling, wonderful people who have been entrusted to YOU? Don't be so selfish! You weren't really more fulfilled, you were delusional! Trust me, you were NOT going to be the head of GM even if you hadn't had kids." Then, b*tch that she is, she whispers in one of my kids' ears, and he/she'll come up to me, crawl onto my lap and say "You're the best Mom ever" and slobber kisses on me. I always feel like worm poop for about 20 seconds and then I feel OK about being committed to the Mom thing after all. Older moms tell me she never leaves, even after the kids are grown and out of the house, making huge mistakes of their own.

The Tooth Fairy: We all believe in her. She wears blue and white gossamer robes, has pearlized wings and direct access to the US mint. I figure if she gives my kids a quarter for each baby tooth that there ought to be value-added increases for teeth with dental assistance, so that when mine finally fall out in blobs of filling connected by tiny original tooth filaments, they should be worth a good $10,000 each. I'm basing most of my retirement planning on this theory, and I won't mind if it's all in change.

The Eternal Patience Fairy: Shows up not nearly often enough, but frequently before the Raging Bull Moose Behavior Fairy gets a chance to make me terrify my kids after they've done something phenomenally stupid/dangerous/inconsiderate. I can tell because she reaches into my head and flips the volume switch completely off and then does lung compressions to resynchronize my breathing. Then she starts squeezing my voice box and I head therapeutic slop phrases issue from my face. Some of her favorites are "Now, how would you feel if someone did that to you?" "Go and apologize sincerely to..." "You need to remember to use your words, not your fists." Or "Gee, that makes me feel angry when you..." I vacillate between thinking she's a moron and thanking God for her presence.

The Mechanical Mischief Fairy: Visits me whenever my husband is having a really rough day at work. I picture her as looking like Nancy McKeon in that girls' school show, wearing greasy overalls, carrying a tiny wrench, and with a scary grin on her face. She causes belts to fall off lawnmowers, cars to stall, ceiling fans to mysteriously emit a plastic smell, squeal and stop moving, and air conditioners to belch and rumble to a halt. She pours Pepsi into keyboards, causes small, expensive, discontinued parts from Indonesia to spectacularly explode off of kitchen appliances, and regularly hacks through the cable TV wires, making all programs close-captioned in Spanish. She has never, ever, ever, ever visited my husband, in fact, she repairs her own damage before he can show up to rescue me from her. I think she hates me.


yeepsen: as much of anything as can be taken up in both hands together; a double handful

(from: The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fey Times at Chez BoS

I have a lot of fairies in my life. This is not always good, despite the whimsy that evokes. Before I got married and had kids, and I should mention that despite the fact that there's a 7 year difference between when I got married and when we started having children, the two events have run together into a psychological singularity of before and after, as in "before I got married and had kids, I had money to burn and was young and lovely" or "since I got married and had kids I haven't had a minute to myself".

Anyway, before IGMAHK, there weren't so many fairies. There was the Relationship Fairy, a non-gender-specific targeting entity who found the exact moment to pop into my or my boyfriend's head and make us do something stupid enough to cause the relationship to end. She would show up later on and start a new one, so I guess she's neutral. Then there was the Pimple Fairy, who could be counted on to counteract all non-acne inducing dieting and skin care and produce a large, mid-facial monstrosity grotesque enough to make me worry about nuclear waste and having possibly absorbed a less viable twin while in my mother's womb, which would, just before prom or a big date, make a sci-fi appearance at the end of my nose.

Since IGMAHK, the fairies have multiplied. They deserve a list. Some of them are mine and mine alone, and the others, I just have to live with because the other people in my live have them. Here they are:

The Indoor Chore Fairy: I have deduced that my husband and children believe firmly in this fairy. She cleans spills, does laundry, dusts, mops, rearranges furniture, de-clutters, and washes dishes -- all in the middle of the night when they're not looking. Therefore they can leave stuff and stickinesses everywhere and when they wake up, things will be clean and fresh and not lying in the middle of the floor collecting footprints and dog hair. My family hasn't made the connection between the ICFairy and the dark circles under my eyes. She doesn't visit as often as she used to, in spite of a larger ginseng component in the family budget.

The Outdoor Chore Fairy: My children believe in this one. She turns off dribbling hoses, sweeps the stoop, mows the lawn, weed whacks, removes yard debris, kills ants and yellowjackets, trims dead leaves and limbs, waters the flowers, plants seeds, cleans the pool, picks up floaties, takes out the garbage, removes dog doody from travel routes, and composts. I wish she'd come back when it's hot and humid out because my husband and I are exhausted from picking up her slack.

The Dinner Fairy: Gets dinner ready by 6 pm most days, 7/365/forever, whether there's anyone there to eat it or not. In fact, when we've all been somewhere all day and come in at 7 pm, my spouse and kids are amazed if she hasn't been there to leave something succulent steaming and bubbling on LOW in the oven for them to exclaim over upon our arrival. And, guaranteed, if we're hungry, she missed us on her rounds, if we're sated, she's been there and left a pork roast in the crock pot. The kids have found her less than susceptible to fast food suggestions, and hubby has found out that complaining about her offerings leads to a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and an empty fridge. I pay homage by being constantly amazed and loudly vocal about her ability to provide nutritious food on a shoestring budget.

(gird yer loins, more fairies tomorrow)


blepharon: he that hath great eyebrows

(aside: well, ain't that something!)

(from: The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Knit for Kids Tips

At the link at the right, the Knit for Kids program offers a basic, plain vanilla sweater pattern. It certainly is easy to knit, being almost entirely "mindless knitting" (i.e., stuff I can knit with my eyes closed or while watching TV and never missing a thing). There is one major drawback for me, though, which is seaming.

I truly loathe seaming. I move all the way to detesting it if it is unnecessary. So, naturally, I'm creating essentially the same sweater, but in as seamless a way as possible, by knitting circularly as much as I can, and picking up where possible.

Here are two finished sweaters I made last week. In order to change a flat sweater pattern to a circular pattern, all I did was cast on double the number of stitches per side, putting a marker at the beginning and one at the halfway point. I then knit up to the suggested length and put one-half of the stitches on a holder.

I then cast on, with a very loose "knitting on" cast-on, the suggested number of stitches for the sleeve on one side. Then I knit back across the row, and did the same on the other side. I continued knitting in garter stitch until the depth of the T-bar reached the recommended length.

I considered leaving the stitches live and picking up and doing the same on the other side, but that would mean lot of grafting to close the shoulder seams. I don't mind grafting as much as I mind seaming, but, still...! So, here's what one side of a current KfK WIP (work in progress) looks like. When I finish this side, then I'll bind off completely across the top edge, pick up stitches beginning on one sleeve, M1 and K1 in the gap between the sleeve and the body, pick up all body stitches and then do the M1 thing and pick up the remaining stitches on the other sleeve from the knitted cast on of the first side. On my way back across the row, I'll K2tog at the previously added stitch to keep the stitch count accurate. This way, once the second "bodice" is complete, all I have to do is sew the shoulder seams. It all works out nice and even, with very little fuss!

I'm not crazy about the pattern, though; something in me is opposed to T sweaters, when I know that raglans give the best fit with the least bunching and best range of motion for the wearer. Doing a top down raglan or top down round-yoke sweater is just as easy, has no seams and just a little grafting at the underarms. Knit for Kids will accept any sweater, in any material, so I'll probably wind up pandering to my inner knitting snob and doing other types. I think they developed this pattern (or borrowed it from Oxfam) because it's easy for newbies to make.

I have to say, though, this is a terrific stash buster. All that garter stitch at the yoke/sleeves really sucks up the yardage. I'm going to try to work my way through all the yarn that I bought and haven't used for those large projects that I dream of (and buy for) on occasion. Honestly, I have probably enough yarn for 10 more large size sweaters of this ilk in acrylic, and I don't even want to think about how many wool sweaters I could make with the contents of my embarassingly large stash. Hmmm. I think I'll set a goal of finishing 10 sweaters total by years end to send to KfK. That should make a noticeable dent in the stash!


exsufflation: a kind of exorcism performed by blowing and spitting at the evil spirit...Exsufflate was an old ecclesiastical term for the form of renouncing the devil in the baptism of catachumens, when the candidate was commanded to turn to the west and thrice sufflate Satan.

(from: _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirck)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Long, Long Road to Spawn

When my firstborn son was just a wee thing, we called him “Spud”. He was kind of potato-shaped, bald and had eyes. It seemed appropriate. As soon as he was able to speak, he began insisting that we call him by his real name, so we did. As siblings were added, we began nicknaming them, too, and while our oldest continued to claim he preferred being called by his real name, from time to time, I’d see a glimmer of regret or envy in his eyes.

Right around the time he was in third grade, and he started infrequently getting in trouble in school, he asked for a nickname. I asked him if he had any ideas, which he didn’t, and he refused all the nicknames we suggested. One evening, we were driving home from school after an assembly, and pre-Spawn was in a dreadful mood, squirming ferociously in his seat, mouthing off to me and the other kids, and generally putting up a fuss.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I had a bad day. No, I had a bad MONTH!” he replied

“Well, surely there was something good about it,” I responded. He pondered for a short while. I should probably mention that I was driving an older van, which made a lot of noise, particularly on rough streets. Finally, he said, “At least I didn’t get a spike through my head.”

“WHAT?” I blurted, “A SPIKE through your head? Why would you get a spike through your head?”

He started laughing. “No, I didn’t say that,” and by now he was laughing so hard, he couldn’t speak. My other son and daughter were laughing pretty hard, too. I decided to go a little over the top to see if I could keep them laughing, so I said, “Gee, that school is a lot tougher than I thought if they’ve been putting spikes through people’s heads. The worst that ever happened to me was getting sent to the principal’s office!”

He finally caught his breath and said, “No, I said ‘at least I didn’t get a pink slip this month’, but I was kinda mumbling.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” I replied, making a big show of my relief, ”that whole spike thing was kinda scary.”

So, for the next couple of years, we called him Spike. Then he asked us to go back to his real name, and we did, but he decided he didn’t care for that either.

Once again in the van, this time on the way to the Wal-Mart, and he said, “I wish I had a nickname,” and then he sighed theatrically.

“Well, we used to call you Spike, but you asked us to quit,” I answered.

“No, not THAT kind of nickname, you know, something like my sister and brother have… something, I don’t know, kind of sweet,” he said.

I was stymied. Here was my son, who was trying on a daily basis to look tough as a Harley Biker, wearing increasingly dark t-shirts with ever more belligerent logos and sayings on them, asking to be called by a “sweet” nickname.

With my mouth hanging slightly open, I pondered for a few minutes. I just couldn’t think of anything. The child formerly known as Spike couldn’t come up with anything either. So, I started thinking of nicknames I had been called, or had heard other kids called when I was little.

“How about Pumpkin?” I asked.

“Too girly,” he said.

“Tater? Sport? Tiger?” I asked.

“No, I want to be called something, I don’t know, NICER,” he said.

“Nicer? Nicer how?” I queried.

“I don’t know, something softer maybe,” he said.

I thought about the other kids’ nicknames – Doodle and Bunny.

I mused aloud, “Something softer, something nicer, something…..Fluffy?”

“Fluffy, yeah, that’s it,” he said, “something fluffy.” And then he started laughing. Doodle and Bunny started laughing, too.

“Well, I think Fluffy is probably the fluffiest name I can think of, Hon,” I answered, laughing myself.

My daughter exploded with laughter, “Fluffy? FLUFFY? Ha, ha, FLUFFY!” she said, and pointed at him from her seat.

He rolled his eyes and said, “Well, only at home, OK?”

“Fluffy it is,” I answered.

“Fluffy” actually lasted about 4 years as a nickname, then as a 16 year old, he didn’t want any name at all. He was in his “I hate everyone, and I’m going to wear black all the time because it makes me look scary” phase, and he would get cheesed at me even when I used his given name. I’d call to him, and he’d growl, slam doors, snarl, and stomp off. I slipped one day and called him Fluffy, and he dug his heels into the kitchen linoleum, fixed me in the eye with as masterful a gaze as a scrawny, awkward teenaged boy can muster, and growled, pointing at me, “NO NICKNAMES. I HAVE NO NICKNAME!”

Being the sort of person who uses humor ‘til way past the point of prudence, I said, “Well, that would make you ‘Boy With No Nickname’, then, wouldn’t it? How about BWNN?”

He paused in his anger, thought for a moment, and then unexpectedly said, “OK, BWNN, it is.”

He was “BWNN” for about 10 months, and he liked it so much, and so did the rest of us, that our parrot learned to call him “BWNN” and would sing it out in his high-pitched voice when “BWNN” came into his line of sight.

Well, “BWNN” got old, and he still couldn’t face life without a nickname, so we’ve settled on “Spawn” as being sufficiently intimidating and masculine, and he seems happy with it. Every so often, though, I slip and call him “Fluffy” again because it’s so contradictory to his image, but so much more reflective of the sensitive, loving, funny, compassionate person that he really is.

I have no idea how long the “Spawn” era will be. I just hope the next nickname has vowels; “BWNN” was kind of hard to say.


sproag: to run among the haystacks after the girls at night.

(From _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Elder Care Redux

It's hard for me to find the focus to write anything today. My in-laws are in the throes of their geriatric meltdown, much like the one my parents went through about 5 years ago.

I remember the shock of seeing my parents being incompetent. It was so strange that these people I had loved, respected, gotten angry with, rebelled against, sought out for advice, and bragged about were becoming helpless, incoherent, feeble, and irrationally argumentative. They were defiant, wanting to remain independent, as they sat there mismanaging their medications so badly that they were frequent patients at the hospital as a result.

They argued that they were doing just fine, but my stepmom, a proud, independent woman, lost the laundry room. The laundry room was in a closet in their apartment. She forgot how to use the stove, so the two of them were living on cold foods and frozen bits of things. She couldn't remember how to get to the bank, or how to give me directions to get there. She no longer read much, which was a profound tragedy as she had always been an avid reader.

My father had been becoming more and more feeble over a longer range of time. He had slowly lost the ability to walk for distances measured in tens of yards and was spending most of his time in a recliner. He would periodically use a walker to get to the bathroom, where he took care of his urine collection bag, sort of, but he often fell during transitions and needed help up.

The two of them had been quietly coping with declining abilities over a period of years. They didn't notice how badly they were doing, and it wasn't until my dear friend found them in such a state and called me that I saw with my own eyes the sad condition of their lives.

She saw, with objective yet loving eyes, that they needed help, and out of love and respect, she called all three of us -- my sister in California, my stepbrother in Tennessee, and me in the midwest. She told us what she had found and impressed us with her sense of urgency. I knew her to be a honest and honorable woman, someone I could trust to give me the truth.

She was right. I wanted to deny from afar that my parents were so old and so needy. I wanted to believe that they could care for themselves; that this was just a bad spell; that there was some medication or therapy that could make them "normal" again. What I didn't want to acknowledge was that my version of "normal" was selfish and childish. People grow old, and old people need care.

My siblings and I arranged to take two week spells to fly in and look after my dad and stepmom. I was the first one there. I felt like I had been thrown into an old-fashioned gauntlet and told to run for my life, but I was running for THEIR lives instead. They were not eating well, their bills were going unpaid or overpaid, and my stepmother's levelheadedness had deserted her. She was scrambling medications, having anxiety attacks, and living on too few calories. Both of my parents looked skeletal. All of this had been going on hundreds of miles away from me, with no word from either one of them because they didn't know that things were not right with them. They didn't realize, and no one who saw them on a regular basis knew what to do.

My folks were both just back from hospital stays brought on by frailty and medication problems. Home health was called in to help, and I liaised with them. They were adamant that my parents be given choices, even though their assessment tools showed that neither parent was completely cognitively fit.

I started looking into skilled care facilites and assisted living. The cost was staggering, thousands of dollars per month, and my parents insisted that they must stay together. Then there was another anxiety attack, heart palpitations, another trip to the hospital via midnight ambulance, another day of my father subconsciously trying to injure himself so he could be in the hospital with his wife in the only way he could manage to think of.

I was lucky -- I had had years of parenting small children to prepare me for the endurance race that dealing with my parents had become. I had to wake up before they did to make sure no one snuck medications they were not supposed to have, to prepare wholesome meals, to start making that days' worth of health care phone calls, phone calls to living facilities, phone calls to my own family, phone calls to my siblings to keep them up to date. They were still in denial, as I had been, but I knew that when their times came, they'd understand I was not panicking, I was just working as quickly as I could.

Then I had to help my folks toilet, dress, eat, all while treating them as reasonable adults, not as children, who could be safely put in a playpen or crib or entertained with toys. No, I couldn't treat my parents that way. I had to devise agreeable adult activities or sham "can-you-help-me" questions to keep them busy while I followed their trails and kept dangerous things from their paths. I sweat copiously for 20 out of every 24 hours from the relentless pace of caring for them.

The only way to deal with it was to detach in love and friendliness; to consider myself a home health aide who, just by strange coincidence, happened to be related to these needy elderly people. I charted med times, meals, doctor visits, home health visits, hair appointments, grocery shopping, etc. I threw out all medications that were not current (which I had to do when they weren't looking), and did what I could to get the bank to understand what problems were going on. I called creditors for current balances and paid bills. I prepped paperwork for my sister to read when we did the handoff. Reams and reams of paperwork.

As I had predicted, my siblings were quickly disabused of their illusions and denial when faced with the reality of my parents' lives. Within two months, my folks were established in a facility near me, their Powers of Attorney, living wills, and finances in my charge, their lives simplified to what they could truly handle and still feel good about themselves. The transition was easier than I had thought it would be physically -- but, oh, so much harder for me emotionally.

I know that my husband is going through the same things now. His brother and sister are in long-distance denial. They want to argue for things that cannot be, that will not be, that are no more. They want things to be "normal" again. They don't want to acknowledge that in order for their parents to live decently there will be no inheritances, there will be no more going home. It's going to be a fast trip to reality for both of them.

I am glad that I've already been through this, so that I can help my husband. It's a shock to the system to see one's childhood bedrock people become shifting sands of agedness and infirmity. I hope I can help him decompress, compartmentalize, stay focused, and stay real. And I hope his siblings will drop their selfish emotional needs and focus on their parents with the urgency and detached compassion necessary.

This is the part of middle-age no one ever told me about. It sure is tough.


froonce: to go about in an active, bustling manner

(from: _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Sunday, May 14, 2006


pixilated: led astray, as if by pixies; confused, bewildered, intoxicated

(from: _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Friday, May 12, 2006

What's a Mom Worth?

Check out what you'd get paid for your mom work. My check for last year would've been $281,542. I like that idea! Print one out for your Mom for Mother's Day.


scandal-broth: tea; the reference is to the gossip held by some of the womenkind over their cups, which cheer but not inebriate; also called "chatter-broth"

(from: _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Musings from an Inept Gossip

When my husband and I met, some 25+ years ago in college, we found common ground in a mutual desire to make other people laugh so hard that they snorted Pepsi out their noses onto their homework. Not much has changed with us although the world seems to expect us to be a lot nosier.

We suck at gossip. We’re duds at cocktail parties, neighborhood barbecues, Superbowl gatherings, and family reunions. We never know what anyone is up to unless we read it in the Police Blotter, and that only tells you what they got caught at, which is much less exciting.

Guy culture being what it is, being a lousy gossip is not as huge of a social deficit for him as it is for me. He can laughingly lateral into talking about stocks or business or lousy management policies and hoot and shake his head with the other fellows. He’s not real big on sports, but he can fake it pretty well.

Me, I wish I drank to excess so I could use that as an excuse for being oblivious. At least it would make me an OBJECT of gossip, so that people would shut up when I come into the kitchen, or wherever females have clustered to gossip, and I wouldn’t feel a wild urge to try to participate in my fumbling, ineffective way.

I blame it on the court-ordered psychiatrist I had to go to after my parents’ divorce, way back before divorce was common. Every adult within 20 miles was sure that being a child of divorce was going to cause me to run wild at the ripe old age of 10, steal cars, take drugs, and belch in church. Teachers squinted at me, waiting for me to run amok and break my crayons, preachers tended to point at me during the sermon, and neighbor ladies wiped away crocodile tears of sympathy when I played with their kids. At 10, mostly I wondered where I had left my shoes or my homework, and I never did turn into the juvenile delinquent I think they were all secretly hoping for to prove that Divorce is Bad for Children. I was glad that I didn’t have to either wake up to or go to sleep to the sound of scary arguments anymore, and I turned out reasonably OK, much to their dismay.

Anyway, I will admit to having been very self-conscious about being a Child From a Broken Home way back when. I couldn’t do much about the grownups back then, but I did worry that maybe kids wouldn’t like me because of it, so I told Dr. Schwarz about it. He said, “They are spending so much of their time worrying about their own problems that they don’t even have time to think about yours.” I figured that meant they weren’t talking about me behind my back, so I never gave it another thought, and that belief has served me well for the most part.

Sometimes I wish Dr. Schwarz had said something else. How would my life as a woman in suburbia be different if he’d said, “Well, then you need to go collect some nasty news about anyone you think might not play Tiddlywinks with you, and glare at them self-righteously when they refuse.” Or, “Ha! Shirley can’t pogo to save her life, May stinks at hopscotch, and Bonnie’s cat likes her sister better!” It would have been really tantalizing if he’d whispered it, too, and made me swear not to tell another soul.

I still tend to believe that folks are doing their own worrying just fine without my help, and consequently, I never know who is on a loony diet, who’s in the process of cheating on their spouse or being cheated on, who missed church, who drinks too much, or who has children in trouble. I couldn’t care less about whose grass is too long, including mine, who doesn’t wash their car religiously, or who got caught at what, unless the police did the catching. I’m a clinker in the collective kitchen of scandal-mongering whisperers.

I do try to keep up on celebrity gossip, though, so I can make a stab at improving my skills. With three kids and being middle-aged, I spend enough time at the dentist and the doctor on a regular basis to have a chance to read People, Ladies Home Journal, and those wee blurbs in Time and Newsweek. Somehow, though, by the next barbecue or cocktail party, all my gossip lore is outdated. The celebrities all seem to be onto some new naughtiness, which everyone but me knows, and I’m not even a contender in the World Wide Gossip League. I wind up using my magazine gleanings to teach object lessons to the kids instead.

I guess I just don’t have the right mindset. As I stand at my kitchen sink, rinsing out my coffee cup and looking out the window, I’m thinking about stuff I need to do that day. If I see my neighbor going for a walk, my only thought is, “gee, I wonder if she’s starting an exercise program?”

If, three days later, she calls me up to tell me that her healthy stroll to the minimart was really the result of a massive furniture argument with her husband where she slammed out of the house, kicked the bootscraper so hard she busted her big toe, and threatened to go live with her sister, who has “nice” sofas, all I do is take her some chicken soup, since you can’t stand and cook with a broken toe. I might call her a few days later to see how her toe is, and it never occurs to me to call up someone else and tell them about her walk, her toe, or her furniture. I think I’m hopeless. At least I can still make my kids laugh hard enough to squirt Koolaid out their noses onto their homework.


ziff: a beard

(from: _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Shoes for Menopause

I’m going through menopause, and if you blow me any snot or make any stupid remarks, I’ll either bitch slap you or go off on a two-day, self-pitying crying jag. I can never tell which will happen, sometimes both in sequence, sometimes I’ll just wait a day or two and do both at once. That’s a lot harder than it seems – sobbing hysterically while attempting to holler at you. There certainly seem to be a lot more fluids involved than I’m used to emitting.

And pimples. There are more pimples. I was one of those enviable teens with fairly clear skin; in my 20’s, I was fresh-faced and smooth-cheeked; in my thirties, my skin got a little drier, but here I am in my forties with a face no teenager would envy. The worst part is that these pimples have a purpose. They herald the arrival of bristly hairs. One wag calls them “misplaced eyebrow hairs.” I don’t care. I’ve plucked chickens, I’ve plucked my eyebrows for years, when I was feeling sexually experimental, I’ve plucked lower; I’ll pluck anything. It’s not the hairs that bother me, it’s the damned pimples – they hurt, I can’t get rid of them with any amount of excellent skin care, and if I pluck the stinking hairs too soon, the pimples come back and are more obvious than ever.

I suddenly understand why my mother and her cohorts always looked like they’d gotten makeovers at the undertaker’s after a certain age. Mom assures me that in a decade or so, I’ll have my skin back, it’ll just be more wrinkly. Oh, boy.

I run out of energy unexpectedly, too, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think I might have narcolepsy. I used to be able to watch popular shows on TV in the evenings, if I had time, but now, about 15 minutes after I sit down on the couch, I have to lie down, which feels r-e-a-l-l-y good. I get about 10 more minutes before my eyes start having trouble focusing, and I’m out. I snore, too. Once, my own snoring woke me up. I would’ve been embarrassed, but I was too busy checking for drool.

Then there are my teeth. My dental hygiene was admittedly haphazard as a child, more dependent upon appearances in my teens, a little better in my twenties, and really sporadic in my thirties, when I did the heavy-lifting of childcare. Hell, I was lucky to remember to comb my hair when all three kids were small, let alone brush my teeth thrice daily!

I am paying for it now. Oh, boy, am I paying for it. I have spent enough money at the dentist’s office over the last couple of years to expect lavish sexual favors from him upon demand, except that I’m too preoccupied with wondering how many of my teeth are going to enter my fifties with me. Root canals, crowns, gumline cavities, a short bout of peridontitis, and random sensitivity. A few months ago, the dreaded phrase “gum scraping” entered my life. I have avoided it, but only by having floss picks at every perching point in my daily routine, investing in several different kinds of mouthwash, and spending more on electronic and electric tooth cleaning devices in six months than I have on brassieres AND earrings in my entire life.

The menopausal mood swings are a kick, too. I keep telling myself the same thing the nurse in the delivery room said while I was undergoing a granola and whole-wheat, extra crunchy, natural delivery, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Why is this moronic, uncomforting advice ever offered to someone screaming in pain, anyway? It doesn’t work any better now than it did then, except I’m a lot less likely to bite the nearest person. Well, maybe. Then again, that sounds kind of satisfying. Except for what it might do to my teeth.

Anyway, I’m usually one of those people who rarely gets their feelings hurt; I’m pretty alert to things going haywire in other’s lives, even those close to me, and I like to think I can take a lot of nonsense and inconvenience in stride. Not any more. Now I’m hypersensitive – I get hurt when someone forgets to thank me, I get angry when one of the kids or the hubby forgets to follow through on something I asked them to do, and I feel socially marginalized, like background noise to the universe, a kind of a cosmic window fan that gets tuned out until it quits working and then you decide you really wanted to install central air after all, so you never miss the fan.

I’m tired of being nice about things, tired of making allowances for everyone else’s shortcomings, and I’m less and less likely to put up and shut up. It doesn’t matter where --in the grocery store where marketing wonks insist that goods be moved around monthly to encourage feckless spending, when some self-absorbed teenager can’t be bothered to get off his/her cell phone and wait on me as a customer, or when family members leave some disgusting mess around as if we had “staff” to handle it. I am not staff, and I don’t get paychecks or benefits for letting other people walk all over me.

My shoes are an example of my transition from Mother-as-Martyr to Menopausal Crank. I had been wearing the same sneakers for 6 years. They fit fine, but they were worn. The backs of them were chewed from when we got a Labrador retriever, the soles were starting to flap pretty badly, and the edges were cracking off . My shoes didn’t have laces; they closed with Velcro, which was full of lint from the washer and dryer. The right shoe was permanently dark and showed extra wear on the outside from rubbing up against the car foot well next to the accelerator pedal, reflecting all the time I’ve spent shuttling kids to and from events, driving to the doctor’s office, picking up youngsters with bloody noses or sudden, school-day attacks of the flu, diarrhea, or vomiting. My sneaks were worn out from 20,000 trips to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the hardware store, and Christmas shopping, and from trudging up and down stairs with loads of laundry, groceries, and presents. I put up with them because the kids needed school shoes, and other expenses seemed more urgent.

I was sitting in the dentist’s chair a few months ago, looking at my shoes. My mouth was propped open with various implements, and I wondered if that was how boa constrictors feel when they’re attempting to swallow goats. The dentist and his assistant were taking a pause from rummaging around in my mouth as if it were a sale bin at Marshall Field’s, and I became obsessed with the symbolism of my shoes.

I thought about all the things I’ve mentioned above, and I felt a crying jag looming. Then I got mad at myself because I don’t like self-pity. Breathing deeply around the 42 pounds of stainless steel and rubber lodged in my mouth, I resolved to take my feet out and romance them. I’d buy them some date shoes, some fun shoes, some ridiculously feminine slippers, and some practical grown up work shoes. I might even buy them some cheap, slappy flip flops and a new pair of sneakers. Maybe even some Name Brand sneakers that light up or have flashy designs on them, or something like that. This time, other people would have to wait and put their feet on the back burner, metaphorically speaking, so that I and my feet could feel happy and cherished.

And I did. I have purple suede flats with rhinestones (on sale, I’m not completely out of control), turquoise blue moccasins with beading, two pairs of sensible, low-heeled work-type shoes, a pair of absurd fuschia slip on scuffs with gold embellishments and embroidered flowers, a pair of “spa” rubber flip-flops, and… another pair of sneakers. They’re not flashy, though. In fact, they’re exactly the same as the old ones, just new. After all, I got good wear out of them...

... didn’t I?


spanwhengle: to shake or knock about violently

(from _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Knit-O-Rama Mama

About 7 or 8 years ago I spent a lot of time on the famed Knitlist, which had over 2,000 members, representing nearly every country around the globe. It was a very busy, very friendly place. I enjoyed seeing so many posts about knitting because for all of my life I had been the only person I knew of who knit. I hadn’t even been taught to knit by a live human; I had taught myself with some supplies I found around one summer, and then later added to my knowledge with a Coats and Clark “Learn to Knit” book.

It became a tradition for active contributors to offer a personally produced, original pattern at the beginning of the holiday season and to submit it to the List as a gift for the other participants to try out and share. The patterns didn’t have to be anything fancy. Newbie knitters would sometimes submit recipes for food products or non-knit gifts instead, being too new to really come up with patterns, or perhaps too insecure to want to share.

I contributed a few, mittens , a child's hood,
a sweater. The sweater pattern, which I had
worked on for quite a while, became a surprise hit and was published in a wide variety of locations around the web. An acquaintance is even teaching a knitting class right now, using this pattern. Unfortunately, to me, I didn’t give it a real humdinger of a name. Instead, it has the gobsmackingly uninspired name of Top Down Percentage Sweater. I never really got to refine it or adjust it, or anything else beyond its initial offering before it spread like garlic mustard weed across the hungry knitting turf.

Here are some sweaters I’ve made from the pattern.
The Knitlist changed over the years. Where it used to be friendly, it became snobbish and rude. A separate Knit Flame List arose for knit-snobs to air their grievances with newbies and the frequently clumsy. There didn’t seem to be the same spirit of sharing that there had been previously, so I left it. I also got tired of an endless series of cat update posts and belligerent newbies who didn’t understand that the back side of a garter stitch color change IS GOING TO SHOW, and who decided to take experienced knitters to task over such infamy.

Since knitting has gained in popularity, particularly with younger gals in their 20’s, and with many men, too, opportunities to share calm knitting time together in person has become possible. I belong to a very small local group of Chix with Stix, which is often comprised of just myself and one 20-year old gal who loves to knit. Other times there are fly-by knitters who are oiling up their rusty skills, or some who come to ask for help and then never show up again when they find out we’ll show them how to help themselves rather than do things for them for free.

I do miss the List, and will probably peek in on it again sometime soon. I hope that it has become more focused and friendly again.

Why not get started knitting today? Best cast-on primer on the net is here: casting on

Keep ‘em clickin’.



Gazooly: to be constantly uttering laments

(From: The Word Museum by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Monday, May 08, 2006


My midlife crisis hit about 5 years ago, just around the time I distinctly passed 40. At least, I hope that was my midlife crisis, because I’ll be damned if I want to go through that again. I had felt a growing sense of regret, anger, frustration, and most of all, emptiness. All three children were in full time school, I was working at my husband’s office, in his business, for his benefit, and then coming home and doing all the household chores, the kid tending, the errand running, and maintaining all the social contacts for our family. Inch by inch, day by day, I felt myself disappearing again. My identity as “Mother of Small Children” was seeping away, and that was the identity with which I had sustained myself during prior years.

There was nothing of me or for me in my daily life. Sure, I knit, but I knit for others. I gardened, but I did it for the house, the family. All the joy I thought I had gotten out of it was really false – I was just keeping productively busy. I laughed, I had fun, but underneath it was a sense of having lost myself and being only a functioning shell of other people’s needs and expectations. It started to gnaw at me, like a mouse in the insulation, nibbling away in the dark and quiet of the night, creeping up on me in dreams, nightmares, and unfilled moments.

I had a few private crying jags, which always embarrass me, particularly if I can’t pinpoint why I’m crying. I started remembering who I had wanted to be before. Before I had children; before I got married; before life swept me away into a different current.

The biggest item on my agenda was education. I had wanted to finish my bachelor’s degree. Oh, for years, I had worked at it. I quit college when I was 21, got married and started working full time and going to school part time, sporadically. It never seemed to work out, though, between work pressures, my demanding spouse, geographic limitations on where I could actually attend classes, it just didn’t click. I kept trying, all the way up until I had children and off and on while they were small, as well. I amassed a startling number of credit hours, giving up my dream of a degree in Chemistry over time, and trying for anything – German, which I had lots of hours in, Business, any program offered at whatever college I could get to. Something always interfered and made it impossible. Usually, the problem was money.

My anger at myself and my disappointment grew bigger and bigger, and in late March of 2001, it ate me whole. I remember waking up from an upsetting dream, sitting bolt upright in bed, and weeping like my life was over in that very moment. Out loud, which is a thing I never do, being a lifelong silent weeper. I wailed, I cried, I didn’t keep it to myself. Tears gushed down my face, and I howled and beat the covers on the bed with my fists.

Naturally, my husband woke up, and he was scared, having never seen me like that before. He tried comforting me, but there was no way any pat on the back or murmured words were going to help. I just had to howl it out. He was shaking, not knowing if I had suddenly had a nervous breakdown or what, but whatever it was, I was no longer the BoS he had lived with for 20 years.

Eventually I wound down, and with my nose running and tears still pouring down my cheeks, I managed to tell him that I couldn’t go on with a great gaping hole of something so important to me sucking the joy out of my life. That it undermined who I felt I was, what I felt I was supposed to have accomplished, and that it made me ashamed of myself, ashamed of my life, and angrier at myself than I had ever imagined I could be. I asked, I demanded to be given the chance to finish that one thing. I sat there, middle-aged and messy, in the middle of the night, trembling with determination.

He looked at me, took a deep, shaky breath, and said, “OK.” I asked him what he meant by that – did he mean that as “OK, go ahead and do it yourself,” or “OK, whatever, I need my sleep and I’m tired of dealing with this,” or what. Those were the things he had meant before, and I wasn’t willing to settle for them again. He took another deep breath and said, “I mean, OK, we’ll do whatever it takes, take out loans, get a sitter for the kids, whatever, but I’ll do what I can to help on my end. Tell me what you need.”

And, in that moment, I mentally signed on for another 20 years with him. Yeah, it was conditional on his following through on that promise, but those were the right words; that was what I needed to hear. I needed to be seen as myself, with my own needs, with an identity which I defined, which meant something to me, and which was not just a pale reflection of who I was to others, but was solidly who I wanted to be -- to myself.

He did follow through, and so did I. Over the next few months, despite children being children and my parents having a geriatric meltdown, I worked and worked and worked, with a focus on myself that I hadn’t had for years. And he supported me – we did wind up having to take out a small loan, which we repaid almost immediately. He watched the kids while I worked late into the night on my classes and when I went to take care of my parents. He loaned me his office laptop computer to take with me so I could stay on top of my classwork when I had to be gone for two weeks to get my parents into professional care. He helped me deal with my parents, my overbearing sister, my strange stepbrother, and the immense amount of paperwork involved in coping with my parents’ transition. He was, for the first time in a long time, there for me.

I got my first bachelor’s degree, with honors, with accolades, and with sugar on top within 9 months of my midnight crying spree. Surprisingly, much of the background work I had done in getting that degree resulted in my being given a second bachelor’s degree, an international certification, and a small teaching job in an entirely different field. I worked like hell for both of them, and I deserved them both. And I have them now. I have them, and I did what meant so much to me, so I can go ahead and be myself.

My husband has been going through his own midlife crisis over the last year and a half. His is not so well-defined and perhaps not so solvable as mine was. I get angry at him, I get tired of his crap, and some days I feel like packing the kids in the car and driving until I run out of gas and out of range of his bullshit. But I remember. I remember that he was there for me when I went ballistic, when I had had enough of my life, when I needed a chance to become myself, to become reacquainted with myself, to accomplish things that had meaning for me.

I remember that when I needed time and space to remember who I wanted to be and to work towards that, he helped. He has the same needs. We’re not going to take the same path, make the same mistakes, or have the same goals in finding ourselves, and I can’t expect his way to be predictable or agreeable, but I can repay the loyalty and the trust he showed in me by returning it.

And I am.


pantler: the servant in a great household whose business it is to attend to the bread, as it is that of a butler to attend to the wine.

(from _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I live on the left hand corner of a T intersection in a quiet little exurban town in the middle of nowhere. My street has mainly families like mine on it – with kids of varying ages, married couples, some stay-at-home-moms, and some working moms. All the dads work.

A little over a year ago, a commercial developer decided to build a strip mall across the street from me along the long top bar of the T, to take advantage of traffic from the main drag, one block farther east. His parking lot connects the main drag and my quiet street. While the strip mall and parking lot were under construction, he used a great deal of heavy earth-moving equipment, including a big, yellow steam shovel type of tractor. It’s the kind of equipment that little boys dreamt of driving back in the 60’s, and I knew the moment I saw it, it would be a hazard for curious children if it got left unsecured overnight.

After so many years of peace and quiet, all the construction noise took a little getting used to, but I chose not to make a fuss. Construction continued for several months, with all manner of nasty vehicles and truckloads of raw materials running up and down the street, sometimes well into the night. Finally, the building was finished, the lot graded, and I figured we had heard the last of the constant clanking, banging, and earth shaking roars of large engines.

There was just one little problem. The developer parked the steam shovel at the exact center of the top of the T, just a little on the pavement. And left it there. For a week. In the summer, when the residents here take leisurely walks with their dogs, their children, and their grandchildren. The steam shovel was a magnet for everything on four legs, and even more attractive to children. When kids would run over to the mini-mart for a quick gallon of milk, few of them could resist stopping off to examine, or even carefully monkeying around on the steam shovel, sitting on the seat, poking buttons and so forth. It was also an extremely dirty, greasy eyesore. None of the neighbors were happy about it being there; we grumbled in passing and on the phone with one another.

I found the developer one day and asked when we could expect his equipment to be removed, and I pointed out that it was becoming kind of a problem. He looked at me, as most people look at middle-aged mothers, as if I had an IQ smaller than my shoe size, and gruffly replied that he’d move it when he was damn well good and ready to do so. I frowned and told him I didn’t think it was very responsible to leave an attractive hazard sitting partially in the street, and reminded him that he had agreed to disrupt our residential neighborhood as little as possible with his construction. He just turned away.

Well, that told me that talking to him was not going to do any good, so I set about thinking of ways to make my point non-verbally. I thought about splashing it with red paint (washable) to make it look like someone had cut themselves on it and perhaps causing him to worry about liability. Too dramatic. I thought of spray-painting it with some surveyor’s neon paint, but it turned out that stuff is permanent, and I really didn’t want to get in trouble with the police for vandalism. I just wanted to make my point.

Out my windows, I watched big, hearty, macho construction workers come and go. I watched the super heavy-duty, mud-encrusted pickups driven by those macho workers race up and down my little kid-intensive street. I quietly fumed and pondered as another week of staring out at that ugly steam shovel passed by. And then inspiration struck.

The next morning, a Wednesday, a little after 10, I took my basket of supplies, trotted over to the steam shovel and set to work. I decorated that steam shovel with 20 large bunches of pink plastic flowers from an old living room arrangement, twining the wired stems firmly around various steel structures. I wound pink crepe paper streamers, leftover from my daughter’s birthday party, around the roll cage part of it. I tied a large pink crepe paper bow on the door handle. Then I taped a large sign, on pink posterboard, to the steering wheel. The sign said, in very flowery calligraphy, “PLEASE TAKE ME HOME. I MISS MY FRIENDS. LOVE, PEACHES.” And then I ambled back home.

When noon rolled around, the construction workers jumped in their macho pickup trucks and started heading out for lunch. As they passed the steam shovel, I heard squealing brakes, and I looked out my window to see what their responses would be. Most of them were agog, not daring to go to close to “Peaches” now that she’d been feminized. I wondered if they thought they’d become “girly” if they touched her. None of them took any of the decorations off, no one removed the sign, they just walked around Peaches the Steamshovel, looking at the pinkerization that I had done. They took off their baseball caps and scratched their heads. They looked at each other and shrugged. Then they got back in their trucks and, more slowly than usual, drove off.

Within three hours, Peaches had been removed, a lone, sad bunch of pink plastic hydrangeas laying in the ditch and a few ruts in the dirt the only evidence she’d ever been there. My daughter told me that she saw some pink flowers along the roadside on her bus ride home, so I guess that whoever came to get her took her back to the yard in all her female glory for others to enjoy, the wind stealing a few souvenirs along the way.

Since then, we’ve only had one small problem with equipment on our residential street. A couple of months after Peaches’ departure, a landscaper’s truck and trailer parked right behind my driveway, making it hard for my oldest son, a relatively new driver, to back out of the driveway. I tied a bunch of pink and purple plastic tulips and a small note to the driver’s side door handle with some pink curling ribbon – curled, of course – requesting that he park in the mall lot henceforth, as he was working for them. We haven’t had a single problem since.


ugsumness: terribleness

(from: _The Word Museum_ by Jeffery Kacirk)

Friday, May 05, 2006


I was asked, a Friday or two ago, what I was doing that day. Here's my reply:

Sending out resumes, checking the want ads, watching the kids, doing laundry, making bread, cheering up my husband, trading emails with a bookstore owner who wants me to run a knitting class for beginners out of her back room, balancing the books, paying bills, cleaning the toilets, following through with the kids to make sure they do their chores, reading a page at a time in a book, working on a potential entry for the next knitting contest, teaching the bird to say "Curses, foiled again", petting the dog -- who's very nervous because of a thunderstorm, planning to go spend Sunday with my Dad in the nursing home while my husband readies himself for checking up on his increasingly daffy parents on Saturday, figuring out what will keep the kids appropriately occupied while we’re taking care of elderly parents, paying Dad's bills and balancing his checkbook, doing the grocery shopping, vacuuming up dog hair and bird seed, dusting, taking my husband's work clothes to the dry cleaners, wiping the goddamned kitchen counters AGAIN, sweeping the kitchen floor and wishing to crap it were self-mopping, scheduling an emergency appointment with the orthodontist for my oldest, calling a friend who was feeling really close to suicidal earlier this week, helping my daughter plan dinner, following up on kid chores again, checking with my oldest about his plans for the evening and Saturday, figuring out when I'm going to get my 30 minutes of exercise in, blogging, reminding my youngest about doing homework EARLY...

I am not, however, cleaning my “self-cleaning” oven, which desperately needs it. Won't get to that until everyone goes back to school and work because if I do it when they're here, they all complain about the stink and keep interrupting me, telling me "that can't be right" or turning it off, like complete idiots.

Sometime late this evening, when my B vitamins run out, I may join my husband in the living room to watch TV. I usually get to see about 20 minutes before I fall sound asleep, snoring and drooling, on the couch. If I manage to sleep all the way through to my usual wake-up time, 4:30 am, that'll work out well, since I'll be closer to the coffee pot. It would also be unique, as I haven't slept through the night since 1987, when Spawn was born.

So, tell me about your day.


quackle: to interrupt breathing, to choke

(from: _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)


Enormous German Word


(das, 63 letters) "beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law"

(Lordy, I love a language that can produce a word that intimidating!)

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Just after Thanksgiving 2005, Spawn asked me to make him a hat, but not just any hat, a hat that looked like a gym sock. He wanted to wear it to school during his senior year, I suppose as an expression of his wacky sense of humor. I asked him to draw up a rough sketch, including colors, and then we compared it against the (clean) gym socks currently in his drawer. I knew that knitting a vast expanse of plain white would bore the snot out of me, so we added the stripes at the top of the sock, and VOILA, the Gym Sock Hat was born. I had hedged and hemmed and hawed, telling him that I didn't think I'd be able to have it done in time for his birthday. I nearly didn't -- it was still damp from blocking when I wrapped it up and gave it to him. He loves it, and it made quite a hit at the high school. And, yes, that is Spawn wearing the sock.


maffle: to stammer; to stutter

(from: _The Word Museum_ by Jeffrey Kacirk)


This was fun to make -- I used one skein of variegated sock yarn and one of plain black sock yarn, size 2 (US) dpns, cast on 120, and ... whee! The hard part, as always, when winging it, is deciding how to decrease and end the hat. The picture below right shows my spontaneous choice for this one. Sometimes it's a real booger trying to decide how to decrease and still maintain some pattern integrity. I occasionally wish I could just knit tubes, like machine made hats, and then sew them together after hacking off the tube... but that would look lousy, which is why I hand make these in the first place!

Sock yarn is a great choice for making hats -- they're not bulky, there are sufficient stitches to really get into a complex pattern, and it makes for less nonsense to drag around if I choose to work on it elsewhere.

Now, off to make matching mittens... ... Oh, nuts, how am I going to make a thumb that coordinates logically, oh, RATS... mumble, mumble, mumble...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Dear Elementary School Teacher:

Doodle is late because his shoes ran away to join the French Foreign
Legion. They were disqualified, as the height requirement is 5
feet, not 2. They returned this morning, smelling faintly of camel
dung and myrrh, approximately 3 minutes after the bus pulled away.
We are glad they've come back, but are very sorry for the delay.


Dear Elementary School Teacher:

Doodle has brought Dunkin’ Donuts for his birthday treat because his mother is a lazy bum who forgot to make cupcakes or cookies the night before. She probably would have forgotten to wrap them appropriately, too. Hope you enjoy the donuts, please take any leftovers to the teachers’ lounge.

LazyBum BoS

Dear High School Nurse:

Spawn will need to leave early today for an emergency appointment with his orthodontist. Apparently, it is not possible to twang out “Dueling Banjos” on one’s dental appliances without unfortunate physical consequences.


Dear Kindergarten Teacher:

Thank you for your phone call yesterday, alerting me to the fact that Doodle was not wearing underwear. I had not been in the habit of checking inside of his pants prior to this, but I will make a point of it henceforth. We just recently convinced him to wear socks inside of his shoes, so we’ll just make it part of his morning clothing inspection.


Dear Elementary School Administrators:

Thank you for your note regarding my daughter’s Reading Class project on Eating Fried Worms. We realize that it may appear she had some help, and she did, as this is the same project that has been assigned to the advanced reading class for the last seven years. Consequently, when she brought up the subject at the dinner table, we all offered input, having such extensive familiarity with the topic. She did, however, create the majority of work on her own, and significantly revised suggested menu items, to the point where the US Copyright Office would consider them original works. We will continue to discuss schoolwork at the dinner table, however, we will also stress producing entirely original work, regardless of the repetitive nature of the assignments. And, yes, your student teacher may use her project as a sample for his class.


Dear High School Advisor:

Bunny is interested in exploring the option of finishing her Western Civ. Class as independent study. As I have notified you previously, many of the assignments being offered by her student teacher are very frustrating to Bunny, and she feels they are of dubious academic merit.

We were all distressed to find out that the latest assignment was to prepare a mime skit on the French Revolution, in a group, to be presented in a 5 minute slot the following day. While I suppose this does show creativity, it does not appear to advance any understanding of the political, social, economic, or other aspects surrounding the French Revolution, at least, not according to the agreed upon skit, which will involve a mimed beheading and nothing else.

Also, the other assignments appear to involve a great deal of coloring, including a picture book for babies on the concept of “absolutism”. We are low on crayons and would prefer not to have to purchase any more, now that all the children are teenagers. If independent study is not an option, could Bunny be permitted to write research papers, term papers, or essays instead? Please contact me at your earliest convenience.