Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm a Big Old Cry Baby

{taken after watching "Jennifer Hudson: Behind the Music."  I cried from the second it started.}

I've always been a Cry Baby.  I came into this world with colic.  What a frustrating thing for a mother to deal with.  I know this because Cooper came into this world as a Cry Baby.  I doubt it was colic because the colic "medicine" didn't do a damn thing.  Our Ped said, "He's just not ready for this world yet."  Umm, thanks doc, but he's here.  But my crying never stopped.  At family meetings, I was the one that cried.  My parents weren't rude or extremely strict.  I just ended the meetings by crying.  I've never used my crying to manipulate, so I'm assuming that I cried because I wasn't being heard.  I'm sure that's what my adolescence self thought.  As an adult, I realize that's ridiculous.  I'm loud & passionate.  Therefore, I'm always heard.  I just didn't get my way.  Enter crying.

And still as an adult, I'm a crier.  I cry when things are sweet & happy.  Show me a scene that ends with someone finding long lost love, I'm crying.  Show me a scene with a baby running towards its Mama, I'm bawling.  Last night, I cried in the airport 3 times.  Time one, I finished "The Gift of the Ordinary Day"  Her oldest son went to college.  Cried.  Time two, a pilot was talking with his daughter about getting home to see her swim.  Cried.  Time three, I watched families greet incoming families.  Cried.  All but Cry One probably wasn't even noticed.  Cry One had to be noticed, but I don't care.  When I got to the last chapter, I almost decided to read it in a bathroom stall.  But I don't want to read a good book with people pooping.   I'm a cry baby & I embrace it. 

There's no good reason for my crying.  Just about anything will do it.  Pearl Jam's cover of "Last Kiss" got me every time I heard it while in college.  I've learned that there are certain movies I will never be able to watch.  "Saving Private Ryan" opened on a flag waving in the wind.  I started bawling.  Mark had to run out of the theater & steal a toilet paper roll for me.  I almost walked out of that movie.  When I was in my 20's, I tried to watch "E.T." a second time.  With salty tears & too much snot, I begged Mark to turn it off.  He did.  When they flash the baby pictures on "Intervention," I start sobbing.  Those pictures were taken when the parents were full of hope.  They couldn't see the darkness of addiction that would eventually rain down on those babies.  I cry.  I cry for the good & I cry for the bad.

You'd think after 30 some years of crying, I'd get good at it.  I know the emotion is coming, so I should be able to wrap it a pretty package of pity.  Nope.  I look so bad when I'm crying.  The emotion bubbles up & contorts my face into an emotional ball of grossness.  Years ago, I watched the  Britney Spears comeback interview.  She was asked some question & I saw it.  I saw her emotion creep up from her hands & then it made her beautiful face crack.  She's an ugly crier too.  Poor thing.  I guess if you could make it pretty, it wouldn't be true emotion.  But man I wish I could.  It might help ease the pain of crying in public.  It isn't a common thing & you'd think your body would take pity on you.  Nope.  I'm an ugly crier.  It's obvious.  It's almost like a vacuum is sucking up all the emotion in the room with a deafening sound.  Something happens on TV & Mark "hears".  He'll look over & say, "Oh shit."  I usually respond with a laugh & then more ugly crying.  I can't help it. 

You name something & I'll cry from it.  Go on.  Try.  Oscar acceptance speeches?  Cry.  Olympic gold medal ceremonies?  Cry.  "American Idol" montages?  Cry.  "Three Little Birds" song.  Cry.  The birth of my sons? 

Here's a strange one...  Not a tear.  Not one single tear.  See?  Deep down I'm a cold-hearted bitch.


Friday, June 25, 2010

"It's Friday & I'm in Love" Comfest Time!

{I still have a token from last year.  I'm hoping they don't change colors}

From the time I moved to Columbus, I had weekend plans.  I'm not the In-Girl.  I don't know a ton of people, but I had good friends in a band.  Weekends were for watching them play.  I've been to more shows than I can remember.  I've felt the bass slap against my chest & it hurt.  I've left more bars with ringing ears than one girl should.  Yes, the music was good.  You talked up until the boys took the stage & then you swayed to the song.  Who was that one about?  What memory was that one written for?  OMG I can't believe she showed up?!  Those are a sampling of questions that ran through your mind.  No use asking your friends because they couldn't hear you.  The band stopped playing & you went back to your friends.    Every now & then a famous band was in the bar.  I'm pretty sure I was a saucy to this band & this singer.  I'm not name dropping because of a number of reasons.  One, my memory might be fuzzy.  Two, not everyone is as smitten/familiar with those names.  Three, my memory might be fuzzy.  But I'm 100% certain with one name.  And I'd have to text confirmation for the other.  Right or wrong, that's pretty much how I spent my weekends.

I kept going to shows when I was pregnant.  My friends' band wasn't heavy metal.  Indie rock is tolerable for Mama & the Unborn Child.  I always figured it was much louder inside than out & our OB agreed.  And by that time, it wasn't an every weekend event.  But it was a different Band-Watching experience.  I didn't mind the drunk strangers touching my belly.  I used my belly to navigate a crowd & to jump to the head of the line for the bathroom.  I loved how new mothers would find me & tell me this was their first night out after having their baby.  They'd tell me how much they loved that bundle of joy & motherhood.  Watching a band must erase all the nastiest of newborns.  Because I never heard the truth.  None of those women ever said: I'm exhausted.  I don't know what to do when she cries all night.  I miss this.  Once I took a break from watching, I went to a chicken place for a late night snack.  I've always found that if you're pregnant people want to talk to you.  Two men explained the difference between terrorists & freedom fighters (I'm pretty sure from their explanation that our soldiers weren't considered Freedom Fighters).  They hoped that my baby never had to make that distinction.  That was a weird "blessing," but you only get those when you're pregnant in a college-area bar.  And one night after some genetic testing, a friend came over to tell me, "No matter the outcome, we'll be there to help."  I was confused by this offer because we hadn't told anyone.  Band-watching makes you spill & that's what Mark had done.  I was extremely grateful for his offer & wondered why we had kept the secret in the beginning.  I kept going to shows because I knew these nights were ending.  So I was safe & smart about it.  I continued to watch the Band.

{These never leave the bath tub.  The boys turn them into guns, dunk tanks, coffee cups, etc.}

One morning in April, I pushed out a baby.  When they cleaned off his after-birth, they washed away my Band-Watching abilities too.  It's ok.  By the time, Cooper showed up my band-watching days had drastically dwindled.  Crowds, loud music, cover charges, finding parking, & the sameness was getting old.  But I missed that connection.  I missed knowing what my friends were doing.  I missed knowing a little of the city's gossip.  I missed my friends' new memories written with melodies.  I missed reading drunken scrawl on the bathroom stall.  I missed going out.  I would never say, "I was so happy being a Mom that I didn't miss the nightlife."  That's a lie.  I didn't cry about it, but every once in a while it'd be nice to have that kind of weekend back.  In the past 5 years, we've seen our friends play about 4 times.  The band has long gone separate ways and new ones have formed.  We find a baby-sitter when they reunite and I'm happy with this schedule.  But I'm happy with it because I know Comfest is coming.

{The mugs are well worth the investment}
Once a year, our city puts on Comfest.  An entire weekend devoted to community & arts.  This has always been the one weekend to look forward to all summer.  Even more so when you have kids.  It's outdoors.  There's a ton of food.  There's art & awareness.  There's band after band playing.  There's a park.  And there's beer tents.  Beer tents with huge mugs of beer.  And our friends.  Friends you saw last weekend & the friends you haven't seen since the last Comfest.  It's always a busy place, but for the past couple years we've been meeting at the same place.  I don't think it's ever planned, we just go towards the stage at the end of the food line.  We spot one friend & then hear another is coming.  There's shade & enough adults to keep an eye on the kids.  Strangers are happy (Mark did break up a fight between two women last year.  It was at the end of the night though & nowhere near our spot).  Dogs are everywhere so the kids are happy.  Women walk around with their breasts painted, so the adults are happy.  It's a long period of time where you can just hang out again.  Our kids' regular bedtimes are ignored because you can always catch up on Sunday.  There are lightning bugs to catch.  One night won't kill 'em.  Sunblock is slathered & then bug repellent is sprayed.  Last year, we were shocked by how many of us now have kids.  There was a stroller traffic jam at one point.  It's nice to remember the days that have always been fuzzy.  We were young & couldn't see the future.  Now we all share the same crystal ball.  We talk about how our kids are not allowed to go to Comfest until they're 18 & don't live at home.  Comfest is a favorite thing this Friday because it's a natural fit.  It makes sense.  Just like the hours we'll spend talking about nothing & drinking from a big plastic mug.

Cheers Comfest.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day Late, Dollar Short . . . Technically Two

So Erika's birthday was on Tuesday. You can motor over to her Flickr page to see how she celebrated (I'll wait . . . queue the Jeopardy music). There's not a lot about my sister that I could "reveal," considering I've said it all before, but here goes.

This is still my favorite photo of Erika (plus I loved that chair behind her)
  • I didn't really like having siblings growing up. When you are  7, 8, and 12 years older than your younger sisters and brother, you get used to doing things your own way . . . and Erika was the first to upset that happy balance. 
  • She was a willing participant in most of my schemes, including but not limited to: dressing up and posing for pictures, stupid games that put her safety in peril, stupid games that involved her being quiet, getting things for my lazy ass, eating food that clearly never should have been made. 
  • She has a way of bringing out the best in people and encouraging them to try new things. Dave will often wonder what new item I will bring home or give up from my annual summer trip to Ohio. So far, we're at a teapot, no more diet soda (which ironically I gave up before her . . . go figure), no more artificial sweetener, no more French fries (that didn't last longer than three days). 
  • Erika has a bizarre amount of phobias and dislikes: gum and gum wrappers, toothpaste, vanilla, hair clumps, other people's hair. 
  • But she has an equal number of likes and loves: the song "Fancy," Brittney Spears, Cops, SVU, Brangalina, Toni Braxton (I honestly don't get this one).
  • She's one of the best "boy" moms I know and one helluva mentor/aunt for the girls. I know Jordan is talking to her on the phone when I hear her laugh and then nothing for a minute or so because she's lost her breath from laughing. 
  • She's my sister . . . that pretty much sums it up. 
Happy birthday (two days late)! You are officially out of Target's demographic range, unless they realize that they are missing out on your opinions.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When Compassionate Kids Make Life Harder (But Are Right)

I meant to put up a post on Father's Day extolling the virtues of our dad and our husbands and fathers-in-law and brothers-in-law, but Life kind of had other plans, courtesy of Jordan and Shelby.  And sorry in advance for the crappy photos . . . I haven't had the time to even play with a photo editing program (read on).

Jordan and Shelby, or the Girls as they've been collectively called since they were born, are home from Temple this summer. A friend of ours asked if they could house sit and watch their dog, Ranger. The house also comes with a hot tub, so it was a pretty quick "Yes" on their part followed by a, "For god's sake, no parties," on our part. So, Saturday night, they left to check on Ranger. We get a phone call about ten minutes later. "We almost hit an animal on Glenbrook but we stopped to check and it was a kitten and now there are four kittens and you need to come quick and help us catch them because they are going to get hit so bring a box and some gloves because they are not in a good mood." So much for a calm night in with Dave.

Not being in a good mood was an understatement. The kittens were frightened and vocal, but after about 30 minutes, the Girls caught them all, separating them into three boxes and a reusable shopping bags (which will no longer be reusable). Dave and I went to Target, bought two larger boxes and some tape, poked holes in the boxes, and somehow managed to get them all into the new "homes" for the evening.

The Girls brought them over to our house the next morning while we tried to find a shelter for them because they were not staying with us any longer than was necessary. We called seven shelters but got the same response from each: sorry, we aren't taking kittens . . . we're full. The Pike County Humane Society said that they would accept them for a $25 fee (it's a bargain and if you can click on over there, they accept PayPal donations). Jordan and I took three of them the Humane Society but kept one little calico for the Girls and their apartment in Philadelphia. So, Olive Murray is resting comfortably upstairs. She's had a very long flea bath, lots of food, a trip to the vet, and much loving from the Girls, me, Dave, and the dog. Our cat? Hates her with a passion . . . which is why Olive will be leaving for Lancaster tomorrow to spend the summer with one of the Girls roommates.

Two things really pissed me off about this whole situation. The first one is obvious: if you are going to have a pet, do the right thing and get them spayed or neutered. The probability of your pet getting knocked up if you don't? Somewhere around 90%. Dumping the litter of kittens or puppies or whatever the hell you have on the side of the road in a semi-populated area doesn't solve the problem; it just makes you a douche. The second thing that really pissed me off was that no one stopped to see if the Girls needed help. Granted, the road we were on was twisty and it was dark, but if you see a car with its hazards on, at least stop and ask if everything is alright. 

The Girls returned to their house sitting duties on Sunday evening - this time with explicit instructions to leave any and all animals they find wandering around in the woods . . . no matter how cute they are.

- Jill

PS - This really should have been a birthday post for Erika since today is "that day" but again, Life got in the way. So that post will have to wait until later this week . . . but Happy Birthday, Erika! You've definitely made my life more interesting (and better times a bajillion)!

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's time for me to admit I was wrong.

I was a horrible Boot Camper.  I was like the kid in the back of class.  My head was down & I was doodling.  I was listening to every single word Maegan was preaching, but I wasn't raising my hand very often.  I did stand up on Day 2 & now I should raise my hand again.  Here's my "Thank You" & "Apology" all in one.

I put this post up early in the morning.  And by the time I was doing dinner's dishes, I knew I was wrong.  I had read & absorbed the comments which forced me to rethink my words.  I'm not sure why I was so reluctant to add those titles.  Because honestly at least one of those titles was used a lot when I was younger.  Why was age making me skittish about accepting it once again?  Let me break it down.

"I like to take pictures"  that's not true.  I know people that like to take pictures.  They seem to always get group shots.  Their big events are masterfully captured by pictures.  They take a lot, print a lot, & post a lot on sites.  Some are blurry.  Some aren't rotated.  But the photos are up & out into the world.  I'm envious of these people because they get those group shots.  People say cheese.  Birthdays are remembered & everyone there is photographed.  I'm bad at taking pictures at events & actually capturing a variety of people.  I don't like to take pictures.  I love to take pictures.  I can take 10 photos of an object/person at one angle.  And then reposition to take another 10.  One might be blurring & one might be perfect.  I whittle down a pile of 80 photographs to 10.  I see things through my viewfinder when my camera is in the other room.  I want to take a photo that makes your heart ache.  I want to remember the first time my kid pops a pea.  I want those moments that are easily forgotten to be frozen.    And I want my camera to capture it.  Photographers do that.

My paternal Grandmother (Chocolate Milk Grandma-cause she gave us chocolate milk-duh) was an artist.  I'm assuming that when she had leftover money, it was spent on art supplies.  I wasn't told this, but she always had lots of art books & supplies.  And I know that money was always tight. Her medium was oil paints & she used a variety of items as her canvas.  Saw-blades, logs, & backs of cereal boxes were what I remembered.  Out of her 4 grandchildren, I was the only one that inherited her talent.  And my parents spent years cultivating that talent.  I was in art classes with peers.  When they felt that didn't challenge me, they asked the art museum to let me take classes with the adults.  High school was for preparing me to enter art in college.  By the time college rolled around, I was done.  I wasn't pushed into art.  It's what I did, but I couldn't see myself making art for a living.  I didn't have a passion for it.  I was good at it, but there was no passion.  I didn't feel bad entering college as a computer science major (dropped that too).  And that was it.  My days as an artist were done.  No regrets.

{SOOC not the best photo}

 {"I thought they just came out of your camera like that" -Bridget said while I quickly edited this photo}

It was easy back then to believe I was an artist.  I was given a blank canvas & my hands created something that few could.  I held the charcoal.  I sketched.  Me.  I struggle saying that my photographs are art.  Disclaimer: I do not believe that anyone with a "good" camera can take a good picture.  I don't believe that it's the camera.  I know that it's the taker.  I felt for a long time that Photoshop made my pictures better.  I can't deny this.  Jay & Silent Bob might say I'm a tracer.  I use other people's products (Actions & Presets) & apply them to my photos.  Anyone can do that, right?  Tracers aren't artist.

On Day 2 of CBC, I sat with those comments.  And realized that I was insulting to myself.  Like many of my inspiring friends on Flickr, I take one photo & crop it to show off the emotion.  I use an action or preset to convert that picture into two totally different photos.  I'll tweak the Contrast, Saturation, Curves, add Textures, etc.  Even though, I know that picture A is the winner.  I will toggle back & forth.  Picture A.  Picture B.  Repeat 20 times.  Until one picture speaks.  One of those pictures tugs at my heart.  One that was changed by my finger is the winner.  One of those pictures was edited to match my emotions I felt when I hit the shutter.  I decided when to take it.  I decided what to keep & what to enhance.  Me.

Even though Grandma used a different medium, she gave me that Eye.  And I owe it to her to call myself an artist & a photographer.  If I want to cultivate my own children's talents, I have to accept my own.

I am an artist & I am a photographer.

There.  I said it.  By saying it, does mean I'm bragging.  It doesn't mean I'm the best.  It just means I accept it.  We all have our own talents & we shouldn't be afraid of saying we've got them. 

I'll get off my soapbox now & go back to my dishes.  They're piled up again.


Friday, June 18, 2010

It's Friday Afternoon & I'm Behind the Times . . . an Afterschool Special

Huh . . . I thought I had the latest edition of Photoshop Elements. But I guess there were six numbers that came in between the edition that I have and the edition that I will have in about an hour. What the hell.


"It's Friday & I'm in Love" Lush

"Official" transcript of conversation with Erika on Wednesday evening:

Erika: So, you're home now. You get to do the Friday, I'm in Love post.
Me: What the hell?
E: Think of something you're in love with.
M: How about milk? I love milk. (quietly puts the cap on the milk jug and puts it back in the fridge)
E: Umm, no . . . not milk.
M: What about Ezekiel Bread . . . I really like that now.
E: Not "really like" . . . LOVE.
M: You sure you want me to do this?
E: I'm going to bed.

For two days I pondered this question . . . and came up with nothing. Sure I love: my kids, my husband, my family, my job, sitting on my fat ass doing whatever I want until August 31, drinking coffee every morning, milk (can't do milk, can't do milk). So here goes. 

Lush. Lush. Lush. I'm not admitting to a drinking problem, but if I have to be in love with anything, it has to be Lush and their smelly goodness. I think my first Lush store was in England when Bridget and Shannon lived there, but I don't really remember. Dave knew from that trip on that we would be bringing back approximately one metric ton of Lush products every time we went. The beauty of Lush is that even if you aren't looking for it, you can find it simply by following your nose. The smell is unmistakable, pungent even. On a trip to New Orleans, I once smelled the shop from about three blocks away. The Girls thought I was nuts (probably still do) until they picked up the scent, too. 

A small, small portion of the Lush stash . . . minuscule if you ask me. 
So what's so good about this smelly little mess that is Lush? Just about everything. They made "all natural" and "handmade" cool well before the push made it to the mass retailers. Products look more like food, which is always a plus for me. There are huge chunks of ingredients in their soaps with magical properties. Funny names like 17 Cherry Tree Lane and Goth Juice and Sonic Death Monkey either evoke childhood memories or grown-up belly laughs. Either way, you put the soap in your little wicker basket and head to the register like a modern day Dorothy clicking her heals chanting, "There's no place like Lush, there's no place like Lush."

My favorite, can't live without it product is Ultrabland, an extremely hardworking but gentle makeup remover. Smear it on (about a fingertip's worth), wipe it off in the shower with a hot washcloth, you're good for the day. It's pricey (maybe $15 for a small container) but that small container will last half a year at least and for the most part, it leaves your skin so silky smooth that you don't even need any moisturizer. I haven't met a mascara that can stand up to Ultrabland. If I know that I'm visiting some place with a Lush, I'll check my stock of Ultrabland and grab a new pot. Otherwise, I'll invent a trip to New York City to buy some.

 Attempting to distract you with your pretty hydrangeas - for which I do nothing

If you've never tried Lush, give it a go. You might not have a store near you, but chances are, you have do. About six years ago, they started to crop up in Macy's and in larger cities. I used to come home from England with duffels loaded of the potent soaps and lotions. Now, I buy what I need when I visit Erika in Columbus . . . unless it's Christmas time. Then I stock up on Snowcake, the once-a-season soap that makes you want to lick yourself all-over . . . but that might be a post for "It's Saturday & I Have a Problem."


PS - I don't love the asshole beeping his horn at me this morning when I backed out of the driveway to let my husband out; so sorry I took up 10.7 seconds of your very precious morning . . . and that I flipped you off.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Not That I Would Doubt A Muppet

but maybe Kermit had it wrong. Sometimes, it's pretty damn easy being green. You can buy so much "green" crap today that you might lose sight of the fact that you don't actually need it. Seems like there is an organic product for everything (except for maybe nail polish remover). Despite our best efforts, however, there is one area where our family does not do so well at being green - two actually, but I'll save that dirty little secret for another day.

We have what we affectionately refer to as the "bag bag" in our kitchen: truly, a plastic bag filled with plastic bags. Dave remembers that they need to be taken into Wegmans or some other store for recycling, but then we forget to throw them in the car, and they spill out everywhere. I have even resorted to using them for packing boxes (cough, cough shipping presents to nieces and nephews) just to get rid of them. Solution? Buy those cute little reusable bags. Problem? Remember to take them with me. Repeat in a vicious, vicious cycle.

A bottle of wine, some cheese, maybe a baguette would look good in the bag
Enter summer vacation. I sat in front of the television - watching Pushing Daisies on DVD - and finished a knitting project: BYOB. The book that we are reading this summer for the Sit, Knit, and Read class is The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, and Joann thought a tote would be a good idea. Miles and miles of seed stitch later (plus 12 episodes of fun albeit short lived television) the BYOB was complete.

I'm not sure if I'll be taking it to farmers' markets or toting the latest and greatest organic find from Target home. I do know that it holds about 30 plastic bags . . . thank god Dave didn't recycle them since I needed them for the photo.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dear Friends & Family,

Dear Friends & Family,
I'm not sure how often you visit my Flickr stream, but I could guess that a couple of things stick out.  Standing on Benches is weird, but fun (Some of you have played along).  Yes, most of my pictures don't show the kids' faces.  I don't like to ask for a Smile.  When I do, I only get a pissed off kid.  Some of you might say I take pictures of Nothing (I get it & I'm not mad at ya!).  And there are a couple of SP (self portrait) that have started to surface.  I've decided to take part in 52 Weeks of BAM.  Every time I hit the "Save" button, I worry about your thoughts.  In my head, I imagine you're saying a variety of things.  For example:

"Man!  Look at her ego!"
"I know that she used to have an addiction to ANTM, but geez!  She's way older than the contestants.  She's got a pot-belly & not even close to contestant worthy!"
"She thinks she's so hawt.  Whatever"

Maybe you aren't saying or thinking any of this, but I bet you are.  If I were in your shoes, I'd probably think something similar.  Taking & posting a SP is extremely difficult.  Standing with your family & smiling when the photographer says, "Cheese" is so easy.  Accidentally being in the frame when a cute kid scrambles by is simple.  But putting yourself out there isn't a walk in the park.  Especially when you're behind the camera 99.5% of the the time.  Read this for part of my reason for participating in 52 Weeks of BAM.  But there's an even simpler reason for my decision.

When I started to take pictures, I took pictures of commercially beautiful things.  A smiling kid or a juicy apple.  Those kinds of beauty are easy to see.  Everyone sees those.  The media points them out all day & night.  Your heart points them out.  But slowly something changed in my eye.  Unconventional objects became beautiful too.  A tampon wrapper or a bloody knee also holds a certain type of beauty.  Suddenly my idea of beauty grew & it's hard not to find a dozen beautiful things each day.  That line began to blur.  There was no commercial or unconventional beauty.  Beauty is just beauty.  And it isn't hard to find once you train your eye to seek it out.

If I'm taking your picture, it's because I think you're beautiful.  It doesn't matter if you've got a zit or aren't a size 0.  It doesn't matter if you think you're having a bad picture day.  I wish you could see yourself like I do: stunningly beautiful.  I owe myself the same Eye I give everything else. 

Today, I think I'm beautiful.


p.s. Sorry for two posts in one day.  But if I don't put mine up now, I'd chicken out.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tuesday 12:00 PM Can't Get Here Fast Enough

The kids are done. The faculty is done. I am done. We've had it . . . you try finding educationally relevant material for 7th graders to do on hot and sticky days. I resorted to Mad Libs today, which I love, and that was sometimes an exercise in futility. But come tomorrow at noon, and I'll be a changed woman.

 Bon-bons . . . coincidentally, I have some on hand 

Refreshed. Energized. Hopeful . . . all for the promise of summer vacation. Whether you like summer vacation or not, whether you think teachers are over-paid or over-worked, it doesn't really matter. My summers are basically my weekends that have been put on hold from September. I spend a good portion of each weekend grading paragraphs, essays, vocabulary skills. Ask Erika . . . I can't tell you how many conversations begin with, "Let me call you in an hour. I have one more class to grade." Summer vacation.

 Erika and Cooper at the family wedding (one of the few photos I actually took at the wedding)

Truth be told, I kind of tense up when summer vacation rolls around. I crave schedules; summer vacation comes with no schedule. No one tells me when to knit or use the treadmill. No one. So, I make all those lists, and as I fail to make any progress, I start to think I'm wasting my summer. However, I'm making some goals to keep me motivated:
  • get comfortable taking photos with my camera, even if it means using it in public, and because I am a crap picture-taker. As such, I joined a Flickr group: Creative Summer 
  • give up television during the day . . . unless it's something on DVD (I can't give it up cold turkey)
  • finish at least two sweaters this summer and one afghan (stop laughing, Erika)
  • read that stupid pile of books next to my nightstand/bed/couch/chair/stove/other piece of furniture
That's it. Nothing major . . . but hopefully accomplished by August 31.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

"It's Friday & I'm in Love" Being Around

 {the word for the day was "Grow" & the microphone was an accident}

Yesterday's Creative Boot Camp's lesson asked us to go back to high school.  Grab your mix tapes & remember your dreams from high school.  It gave me a really good excuse to fiddle with my iTunes.  There were a bunch of missing songs, I was going to correct that as quickly as I could! 

I'd love to write an entire post about how the music brought me back to high school, but I can't.  I had a good high school experience.  Not "I was Prom Queen" good, but not "Alone in a Locker" bad.  But I don't remember my dreams.  I wanted to go to college & leave my hometown.  That was it.  Unfortunately, today wasn't the day for digging deep to figure out why I didn't have big dreams in high school.  Today was a day for cleaning & prepping for my family.  Sorry, CBC.  I got a good post apologizing for my previous post.  I think it'll make up for my lack of dream chasing.

But I did clean up my iTunes.  And that clean-up took me down memory lane.  I cried when I heard Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye."  I sang with Johnny Gill's & "My.  My.  My."  I grabbed a cd holder & found our birthing cds that were never used.  "Slow & Steady" Vol. 1 & 2. and  "Fast & Hard" Vol. 1 &2 never made it to the hospital but they were loved before he popped & after our first was yanked out.  Yes, he was yanked.  Then I flipped the page & saw our wedding cd.  It was about time that makes it to my iPod.  It's 7 years old, so that last 3 songs (hidden tracks. yep, we're dorky) didn't burn.   I dug through our small stash of remaining cd & found a loot of unopened wedding cds.  I ripped that cd open & went back to 2003.

That cd still holds up & always will.  Some are personal & others are just good songs about love.  But I remember the time & energy I spent in choosing each song.  I wanted it to reflect our life & I think I did it.  I still love each song on that Playlist.  So I thought I'd share one of my favorites this Friday.  Because very soon a good chunk of my favorite people in the world will be at my house just being around.  And that's so much better than being in our usually places which are far away from each other.

The original Lemonhead's version didn't link well, but I love her voice with the song. And it's Friday!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Poopsmith

We discovered this gem a couple weeks ago. As you could guess, my boys consider it a classic. I spend all day singing this song. I'd like to not be the only one, so I'm passing it along. Sing along.

The Poopsmith
Not on your arm
Not on your leg
Not in the toast
Not in the eggs
Not on the carpet
Nor the linoleum
Just how'd your little brother get it smeared all over him

Poop in the potty, poop goes in the potty

Not on your brother
not on your sis
not on any family member, you might wanna make a list

not on the plants
not in your hair
not on the porch
no, we do not want to share

Poop in the potty, poop goes in the potty

Not on the swing
not on the slide
not while we're spinnin' on a carnival ride
not on the window
not on the wall
no more surprises on the light switch down the hall


Poop in the potty, poop goes in the potty

Not in the yard
you're on your honor
don't go gettin' no ideas from the neighbors weimereiner

Poop in the potty, poop goes in the potty...

Found on For the Kids III 2007.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Morning of Strawberries

I signed up for Creative Bootcamp. Today's lesson focuses on calling yourself an artist. I'm not sure I'm there yet. For me the big thing with being an artist means judgement.  If I call it art, someone can call it crap.  And really my pictures are just my life.  And while sometimes my life is crappy, I get to call it Crap.  No one else gets to sling that word about my Life.  Truth be told, I struggle calling myself a photographer. I usually say, "I like to take pictures." To me an actual "Photographer" is someone who gets paid for their work.   I don't get a paycheck from taking pictures.  I'm not sure I'd want a paycheck for taking pictures.  I hope by the end of this two-week Bootcamp, I'll be comfortable accepting a another title.  Be it Artist, Photographer, or Bootcamp Graduate.

Most times, I find comfort in explaining my photos.  I think my words will convey the emotions I was hoping to capture.  Making those pictures better.  Today, I'll shut-up.  Perhaps that an artist's best move.  To let it all speak for itself.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Blame Martha Stewart

Every year, I dutifully buy two tomato plants: one cherry and one regular. I usually buy a few herbs, some annuals and perennials, and a few bags of potting soil or mulch. Every year, I spend a day weeding and turning over soil and planing the newly purchased plants. Every year, I carefully construct a bamboo tomato cage for aforementioned tomato plants. Every year, I water and feed and tend to the tomatoes.

And every year, I am disappointed. Those bamboo tomato "cages" that I construct? They can't support a single vine, so the stems droop, the fruit falls, and come winter, I am scraping up some long forgotten bit  of yellow tomato off the deck. Why the bamboo stakes? Because Martha said so.

Clearly I need a pedicure before Jon and Kat's wedding
I went through a phase - a rather long one - in which I did just about everything that Ms. Stewart said. I folded the sheets precisely the way she suggested (and still do because it is genius). I washed my windows on a set schedule. I rotated my freezer contents exactly the way Martha would do. Hell, I even wanted a little rubber bracelet with the initials: WWMD? Martha was a goddess as far as I was concerned. This, however, was all before I went back to work. You see, I was a stay-at-home-mom until the girls were in the first grade. I had all the time in the world then. The house was clean, verging on spotless. Meals were both nutritious and prepared by the time that Dave got home from work. His shirts were all ironed and starched in less than two hours after I finished washing them. The girls spent an extremely limited time in front of the television. And, we even ate dinner at the dining room table. Martha suggested doing XYZ . . . I wondered if she might have exponents to go with that formula.

So, the bamboo tomato cages? I was home from work one day with a vicious migraine, the kind that meant I had no business being around other people's children in any kind of capacity. I decided to watch some television in hopes that it would put me to sleep. Martha was airing her annual "how to be a gardener and/or farmer when really you should never attempt this because she is a professional and we can only pretend to be" episode, and she was extolling the virtues of bamboo tomato cages. "The metal hoop ones that you can buy at any home store are so unsightly," she sighed. "In just a few simple steps, you can create something beautiful and functional out of natural materials." Hmmm . . . Martha had never let me down before. Why would she this time?

 My Sigg nearly died from usage this weekend . . . but it's a trooper. 

Fast forward two months (we'll skip over the bamboo splinters and the dripping sweat and the cursing while making the damn cages). My tomatoes were looking gorgeous . . . I mean 4-H purple ribbon winning worthy gorgeous. Only a few more days and then I could make homemade tomato jam. The next day we got a good bit of rain, and the stems proved to be too heavy for the twine surrounding the bamboo. They crashed to the soil, and my tomatoes were ruined.

You would think that I would learn my lesson, but no . . . I tried this two more summers in a row. Who does that? Seriously . . . who? Apparently I forgot how crappy the pretty little cages were that I decided to try it over and over again. But not this year. Not me. I bought two unsightly metal hoop cages for my tomato plants. Personally, I think Martha uses them, too. She just paints them to look like bamboo . . . which doesn't sound like a bad idea, now that I think about it.


PS - I swear I wore shoes and socks while gardening. Dave hurt his ankle, so I mowed, weeded, and planted all by myself. Dirt, it seems, has a way of making it through both my shoes and my socks.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"It's Friday & I'm in Love" Strawberry Head Popper Off Thing

Time for Round Two of "Friday I'm in Love".

I have a sweet spot for strawberries.  I remember being a toddler & hearing how my mom went strawberry picking a couple weeks before she had me.  Only now do I realize what a brave woman she was.  I was breech.  Sat pretty low.  And it was JUNE!  There's no A/C in strawberry patches!  I realize this because I carried Becket the exact same way, but during the winter.  I guess I only have the season to thank for my sanity.  But he was a pound heavier.  That might make us even.  I think during the seventies & early eighties there was a Strawberry decorating boom too.  I remember strawberries every where.  Kitchen towels.  Pot holders. Fabric.  Skirts & hats.  And I can't not mention Strawberry Shortcake.  But I was a Lemon Meringue kid.  I can still smell the chemical lemon scent being blown on my face from the Blow Kiss Dolls.  1982 rocked.  Back to actual strawberries though...

In our family, we claim things in our Parents' house.  Big things are marked with a masking tape name plate.  We figure that when it's time to pack it all up these little name plates will make the difficult much easier.  We're all leaving one day & you can't take it with ya!  I thought every household operates this way.  They don't.  But that doesn't stop me from asking my MIL to let me put my name on things in her house.  She's got a dog teapot that is adorable.  Trust me.  The other thing was this strawberry tool.  The tiny corer came from Pamper Chef & you might think it's unnecessary.  You might think anyone using it is pampered or spoiled.  Well, you'd be right.  One scoop & the whole top is off!  Way faster than a paring knife!  And safer if you have my thumbs.  When I mentioned that I was going to write my name on it, she said "Take it."  I think she said she has two.  I hope she does because I can't imagine living without it.  But then again, all my Moms are unselfish.  She might just have had one & now her strawberry top popping is much harder.

We got a perfectly ripe pint of strawberries this week & I was afraid they'd go bad.  I'm a little nutty because the entire box could have been polished off in 60 seconds by my clan.  I wanted a jam recipe that I could make with stuff I had on hand & one that used a small amount of the berry.  I searched & this one popped up fast.  With good reason too.  It taste like heaven & hell mixed into a pot of gold.  I didn't have the wine on hand (shock) or the green chile.  But I thought it was worth the grocery trip.  Sure was.  It isn't really a jammy as a jam.  More of a drizzling jam.  It doesn't matter cause it taste good on whatever you dip in it.  Saltines?  Yep.  Graham crackers?  Oh yeah.  Your fingers?  Gross, but yes.  Vanilla ice cream?  You bet your 1982 Strawberry Shortcake Blow Kiss Doll is does!

Later this week, there will be no investigative piece!  This Strawberry Head Popper Off Thingie is a Favorite!  And so is the spicy jam!

Keep your fingers crossed for my belly that rain stays away.  If it does, you'll find me knuckle deep in a strawberry patch.  After all it's summer. 


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Mixture of Sunscreen, Sweat, and Grime

We never had field day when I was a kid in school. The adult version of my middle school ego is pretty sure that field day would have been a bad thing. I was klutzy (still am and bruise like a grape), and Erika established that our family sweats. I don't even know if it could be called sweating for me. Our father still laughs at how red my cheeks get once the temperature gets above a certain level because those cheeks, so pink and rosy, turn red and nasty and almost hateful. Imagine any cartoon character that blows steam out of their ears . . . apply that to my cheeks. So field day as a 7th grader? I'm pretty sure that I would have hated it.

As a teacher, I always dread it, but once we get going, I absolutely love it. The kids are *gasp* kids for at least half a day. They run, they cheer, they get competitive with one another, they bond together to achieve a common goal. Our phys ed teachers do a fabulous job setting up activities that appeal to just about everyone. Our grade level teachers staff the events; we've been doing this for so many years that we all pick the same event and pretty much have it down to a science. My event? The water relay. Basically, you must transfer the water in one container to another container using only a sponge. Seems simple enough, but seventh graders aren't the most agile creatures. They tend to fall when rushing. Add water the mix . . . and they fall a lot. At the beginning of the event, the water is clear, pristine, full of vibrancy. By the end, it is muddy, almost chunky, bits of grass floating on the top. I'm not sure which bucket of water I prefer . . . the one with promise or the one with life. In many ways, the relay reminds me of my year with the kids I will soon pass on to another grade. They come to me as clean slates - they don't know me and I don't know them. They leave taking on so many of my phrases, gestures, and hopefully, skills. Next year, as 8th graders, some of these kids will pass me in the hall as if I were a perfect stranger, as if we never spent 180 days together learning vocabulary, writing techniques, and silly dances. Others will say hello or fist pump or beg to come back. Still others will never be seen again as they move on to other schools, towns, and in some cases, families.

I graded the last little bit of items that I have for the year. Stupidly, I did this after field day, sitting in my room with a thin layer of ickiness coating my body. My first thought on arriving  home was a shower, the kind that would literally blast the ooze on my arms off. Before that, however, I needed to remember field day one last time before the water buckets get replaced with that crystal clear water that is a new school year. I want to remember the bucket that is muddy and chunky and full of life.

Jill, who really and truly needs a shower

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Just Call Me Morley Safer

Last Friday, I raved about my new No Sweat cup.  I'm that type of girl that falls in love with the words "No Sweat."  It's so true & if you've ever spent time with me outside, you'd know why.  Once late Spring hits, I start to sweat more than Whitney Houston singing "It's Not Right But It's Okay."  That's pre-rehab days, but I bet she still sweats.  Since grade school, my teachers worried about me.  "Take a break, Erika.  You're red as a tomato."  I wasn't exerting myself (I never exert myself), I just get red & sweaty.  Unfortunately, the boys have inherited this icky trait.  When Cooper was about two, I walked into one of their play-areas & saw him sitting by his teacher.  "What did he do?" I asked.  "Oh nothing.  He just looked like he was going to pass out.  Becks is no better.  I breed sweaty messes.  So when I see "No Sweat" sticker I buy. 

Last week, I got an email from the super nice Cinco_Mom saying that she too got a "No Sweat" mug!  She's in the south, so I'd assume she's used to sweating.  But like all good women is probably sick of sweating.  And guess what the rest of her email said?  "It sweats."  No!  How could Starbuck's lie to me with a sticker!?  I decided to go Morley Safer on the "No Sweat" cup's ass.

To make my investigative piece really work, I kept to my routine.  I poured a big cup of tea, filled it with ice, & hit the hammock.  But I tried really hard to not drink it.  How the hell is it suppose to sweat if it's empty?

12:42: I rocked a bit.
12:50: Looked over at a space where a bush lived only 24 hours prior to my piece.
12:51: Got pissed off cause I wasn't asked if it should be removed.  Went inside.
12:52: Sat down to work.
1:39: Realized I was on a hardcore news piece & went outside to look for Sweat.
1:40: Saw it creeping up close to my sweet little mermaid!
 Damn you Sweat!  You've won again!

If you put a sticker on your product, that should mean something!  Look at Target box wine.  It has a gold sticker saying something about being the Best.  Well, it is better than Franzia. Pabst has a gold sticker too saying that it won some sort of Beer award in 2008.  And Mr. Pabst, I agree that you're tasty.  Fine.  I'll get over the sticker shock.  It wasn't so sweaty that my hands were dripping wet.  I didn't get any all over my shorts or even had to dry my hands on them.  My ice tea was still freezing after sitting outdoors in less than ideal shade.  And because the cup comes with a lid that I always use (kids & dogs knock things around), all the tea stayed put when the gnome kicked it over.  I'd say it's still one of my favorites.

Move over Jon Stossel & Cynthia McFadden.  I'm working.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

You Should Know that We're Pretty Lazy.

I've spent a lot of time telling people how much I hate summer. I realized this weekend that I'm a liar.  It's time for me to be honest.  I'm quite in love with summer because it speaks to my laziness.  The kids aren't into organized sports yet.  Well, that's a lie too.  Remember, I'm lazy.  I'm not into organized sports for the kids yet.  We spend our days in the backyard.  Mark is in the hammock.  I'm in some odd position trying to take a picture of the boys.  The dog is sleeping somewhere.  And that's exactly how I think my summer should be at this point.

We had our first outdoor get-together last night.  It was a smaller affair which spoke even more to my laziness.  I only had to throw together a couple of dishes.  I only had to make sure a few chairs were cleaned.  I only had to inspect 6 dishes for leftover flakes.  Our dishwasher is quite lazy too.  And when it rained, only a few of us got wet.  Sure, I was assembling potato salad at 11 p.m. on Sunday.  Yes, that night I spent 30 minutes with a milk soaked towel on my face because the hot pepper's essences found its way to my cheeks, eyes, & forehead.  Ok, so Mark was covered in sweat trying to rid the yard of two years worth of leaves.  (See? Lazy.)  But honestly those tiny things were well worth it.  Sitting around the table with good friends lazily eating chicken, lazily parenting (I'll only speak for my parenting skills), & lazily drinking is the only way to spend your summers.  And it's time that I fess up.  I love you Summer.  Welcome back.

I'll add one more point to prove my laziness.  The boys got up late this morning.  Realizing that they had not been bathed since Saturday, I knew I'd have to fill the bath prior to daycare.  Becks hair is extra Fab because of the sunscreen & sweat "product" he's been using all weekend.  I'll just keep them home & run that bath later today.  It'll get done.  I promise.  Maybe I'll just hose them down...  That's another plus for a Lazy Woman's summer.

(they were "Cheers-ing their popsicles)
p.s. If I don't get my A/C fixed in my car, I might have to amend this post.