Friday, December 23, 2011

Grab 'em, hold 'em and tell them you love them...

Yesterday our little college community found out we had suffered another loss. A student, close to graduation has died. His parents will now move through this holiday season without their child.

Several people I know are recently separated or divorced after decades of being married. The families are moving through this holiday season trying to figure out a new definition of "family" and looking for peace and blessings to fill the spaces left by these changes.

On Facebook I heard of a friend of a friend whose 5 year old son is dying from an incurable disease. The family is hoping to have one more Christmas with their precious boy.

And just like that my week long cold/coughing spell seems utterly inconsequential. A minor inconvenience. If ever there were a time of year to remember our blessings, to grab those we hold dear, who are the joy and heart of our lives, and tell them we love them, it is RIGHT.NOW.

To my mother, father, brother and his family, to Bob, Cooper and all my friends, thank you for being in my life and I love you all.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The One in Which I Defend "Lying" to My Kid...

It has come to my attention recently, on places like Babble Voices and some other blogs, or on Facebook, that some people think it is a bad thing, a scarring and horrible crime against humanity to encourage your child to believe in Santa.

What horrible, terrible, very bad, no good thing happened to these people in their childhood? Childhoods? Whatever...what exactly went wrong one day for them that the joy, the mystery, the HAPPINESS that is embodied by that jolly man in a red suit with his eight tiny reindeer lost it's jingle jangle jazz?

I have a newly minted 5 year old son. We did not go to visit the mall Santa his first Christmas on this earth as he was one month old and a preemie. I was sure he would contract ebola if we went near the mall that first month. I might have been functioning under the irrational influence of mommy hormones and the drugs they gave me during the delivery to keep me from dying. But every year since, we have been to see our Santa. It has been the same Santa every year. And he is a good Santa. He is not scary, he does not smell. (I would know too. I have the nose of a blood hound.) He is kind and gentle and has a soft Kentucky accent. There was only one year, when Cooper was 3, that Cooper screamed bloody murder, and that was not because of Santa. It was bad timing on our part and a long line. When it came time to get Cooper to sit with him, I said "I don't know how this is going to go" and Santa said "Bring it."

Cooper loves the whole concept of Santa. The kid is a born consumer. But he GETS it. He understands the magic around the holiday, the suspense, the spirit of both giving and receiving. We watch almost every holiday special there is, so he has seen many differing messages about how Santa gets around, how the whole sleigh and sack of toys thing might work. He is savvy enough to question the logic behind it all, but still believes it is all possible. Because it is MAGIC.

We have had the chance to talk about the Santa legend what his backstory is, how Santa came to be the dude we know today. This year I purposefully included Cooper in the process of selecting things to buy to give to a charity, and in what to buy through Heifer Internationalso he understands that there are people in this world who don't have much, if anything, and don't get presents like he does. That it is important to give.

I don't consider it LYING when we celebrate the holiday and encourage him to believe in Santa. Because it isn't about whether Santa really exists. It is about embracing, reveling in, the magic of the season. To believe in joy, wonder and at least this year, use the Advent calendar as a way to reinforce learning our numbers and counting to 25. So hands off the mystery all you Scrooges. This gal believes in Santa and her kid will too for as long as he is willing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I don't like change...

I am not generally a fan of change. Even good change. It is, well, CHANGE. Ask my parents. Moving from one home to another was always devastating for me as a kid. Even though the new house was sometimes bigger, newer, in a better school system (like I noticed that kind of thing THEN).

You see, I nest. I like my THINGS. My bits and bobs and doodads. When I was pregnant, (which, in case you are not aware, is like the MOTHERLOAD of change, no pun intended,) in a fit of prenatal nesting/cleaning I "decluttered" the house, thinking I needed to protect this little bit of a person who would not be crawling much less walking for 9 months, from the more dangerous breakable, chokable items. I put some of the "precious" mementos away, and 5 years later still live without them. Some have been sold at the annual yard sale, some are still just put away in the attic.

But the point of this is about change. I have been in my current office for almost 10 years. When I first started at this job my office was on the second floor of this house which is an office building. About a year later I and my assistant director relocated to the first floor. I got a newly constructed office space that had previously been a room with pink carpet and two large copiers in it. It has LOTS of light and a back door through which I come and go and is also useful for getting a great cross breeze on lovely days.

This is the door, and one huge window.

As you can see from these pictures, there is great light, and I have a lot of plants. I can't help it. Wherever I go, I grow plants. My dining room is like a botantical garden right now because I have moved some plants inside for the winter which live out on our deck during the summer and fall.

Anyway, I love this office. And in a few weeks I have to move to a different office, back on the second floor. It is a nice enough office, the one upstairs. It is not a lovely shade of blue, Nantucket Fog by Benjamin Moore to be precise, but it is a nice shade of pale green. But I will miss this office and all its lovely light. And cross breezes. The one upstairs has windows, but the ceiling is not as high as in this one, so they are not as big, and the cross breeze won't be there.

There are positives to being in the new office. Where I am now is very accessible to everyone coming into the building whether they are here to see me or not. So I get to be the building receptionist a lot. The copier/printer for the building is right outside of my office. This means I have become the go to person for any paper jam or other technical malfunction of said machine. I won't miss being a very well paid administrative assistant, is what I am saying. Also my current office is always 10 degrees colder than the rest of the building. Since this was once a house, I am in what was probably a pantry with a porch. Half of my office sits over open space, on stilts. It is not very well insulated. In February I have the space heater running all the time and there is a distinct breeze blowing in from the back wall. The new office will not have the heat problem, and is in a location that will not be the first stop for people seeking the financial aid office, or any office for that matter. So I will be able to get more done without as many interruptions.

The one creature that may have the hardest time adjusting to this change is Caper, my boss's dog. She comes to work every day, and every day upon entering the building she comes bounding into my office, looking for love and treat. Mostly a treat. After the move she will be bounding into the office of our director for institutional research. She will have to be reprogrammed to come upstairs. I hope she does, or else I will have to leave a supply of treats with the new office resident. She also hangs out with me when her mother leaves the building, which means she will have to come upstairs in the future. If there was a creature whose habits were more ingrained than mine, it would be Caper. This is going to be hard on us all.

Caper under my desk today...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My life in instagram moments...

Life has been CA-RAZY and busy and while I noodle around reading other people's posts and facebook and twitter, I spend most of my time recording my life in pictures with my iPhone, then posting them on Instagram. Here is my life recently...
Cooper has a best friend at school, who came over for a play date today. Poptarts, Rudolph on TV, best friend, what more can you ask for.

At the park...

Cooper helping put up the tree.

Me, getting a much needed refresh on the highlights.

Cooper as Ironman, relaxing before bed.

I spent some time recently taking pictures in a local graveyard. I find them beautiful and fascinating in the fall and winter. I hope to get more once it snows around here.

Things are going to slow down around here, I hope for the next few weeks, and we are not traveling for the holidays, so I hope to catch up on some things. I am also turning over in my head a plan, something that I have wanted to do for a long time, that would not replace what I do full time professionally, but could add some fun and joy to it if I can make it work. So I hope to spend some time trying to work out a concrete plan. I may ask the internets for advice in the near future too. Stay tooned!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pardon me, have you seen my brain?

Most days start out the same. I might exercise first thing, shower, get the kid ready to go to school, make a lunch for him, things like that. After that I am on a rocket ship that doesn't land until around 9pm. Work, which is generally much quieter in the months of October and November has been non stop hopping, with interruptions 12 times a day. My office is in a space where I am easily accessible, which is good when the work study student needs me, but bad when I am in the middle of a very detail oriented task and students just walk in and start talking. I have had them begin talking when I am on the phone, speaking out loud, not just listening to someone talking. Maybe they don't recognize a desk phone as a phone. If I had my iPhone to my head they might get what I am doing.

My point, and I do have one, is that lately I don't seem to have a brain. I cannot for the life of me remember anything for longer than 30 seconds. I forgot a doctor's appointment for Cooper last week, remembering 5 minutes before we should have been in the office. Then I forgot another meeting I was supposed to be at in another building on campus, but fortunately the other people were running late so by the time I remembered the meeting, I was still earlier than they were.

I needed to get toilet paper for the bathroom, and must have gone in and out of the bathroom 4 times in one day before actually remembering the need for the paper and getting it before I forgot again.

Yesterday I needed to use the bathroom, but while doing my business had to chant to myself "Do not flush, do not flush" until I was out of the bathroom, so that I didn't flush it while The Bob was in the basement putting the temporary rubber clamp on the main waste pipe, which has very kindly developed a leak. Which in and of itself is totally awesome.

No doubt contributing to the brain dead nature of my existence, is the dreaming. Non stop, busy busy dreams. I have always had very vivid dreams, and depending on what I am dealing with at work or in life, they can be more busy than others. So I wake up feeling like I have not slept. And depending on the nature of the dreams, I might wake up kind of cranky from the residule emotional tenure of the dreams. I spent an entire day angry at my dad one time, because I was mad at him a dream for something that was completely fabricated and nonsensical. That is always a good time.

On top of all of this, I am itchy. It is ridiculous. There don't appear to be any external causes. I did not get new soap, detergent, lotions, nor did I change my diet. But in the last couple of months, I have broken out in what kind of looks like eczema, but for the most part it fades away after a few days. Then it resurfaces. My skin has never liked its own sweat. I have always had to shower pretty soon after working out or sweating for some reason, but this is new. So I have changed up my soap, and am using Cetaphil or a Cetaphil like product for all bodily cleansing, Tom's of Maine deoderant which is NOT an antipersperant. I have not found it to be satisfactory in the past for keeping me non stinky, but it is winter, so perhaps it can keep up for now.

Then there is my face which feels like it is on fire all the time. Rosacea does that. On the one hand, I have been told recently by someone that I have the best complexion, I always look like I have been sprinkled by fairy dust. I was reluctant to give credit to an involuntary and uncontrollable influx of blood to the fine capillaries in my face.

My fear is this is all an indication of the downward slide that is Menopause. It is maddening when you google the symptoms of menopause, and discover that everyone experiences it in their own special and torturous way. It is not exactly the same for everyone. MADDENING. But brain deadedness, itching and Rosacea, all part of the POSSIBLE signs of the Change Of Life. And it is a train you cannot get off. The best I can hope for it to manage the symptoms. Which probably involves finding a new primary care doctor. My current one is 67 or so years old, and male.

Hey, I just remembered something I am supposed to be doing. Gotta go.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Mashed Potatoes...

I love potatoes in pretty much any form. Baked, fried, scalloped, mashed. I had a conversation with a friend recently about some very disappointing, terrible in fact, mashed potatoes I ate at a local restaurant. She had recommended the place to us, and I like to check out local places, so off we went.

I ordered steak tips and mashed potatoes. It is one of the meals I will order if available, to judge the basic culinary worthiness of a restaurant when dining at a new place. It is not fussy, and can be done by a diner or by a high falutin' place. The steak was alright. They had prepared the tips with some sort of sauce, which was a bit too bitey for my taste. I think steak tips are best when done simply and grilled to a medium doneness.

The potatoes were terrible. I could not decide if they were instant or just bad. They had a weird texture, too dry or something, and had a strange flavor. And this is what baffles me. Mashed potatoes have to be one of the easiest side dishes in the known universe. I mean, the most basic version is quite simply potatoes, cut up and boiled, mashed with some milk, butter, salt and pepper. You don't even have to worry about how long to boil the potatoes really. Not like with potato salad. Then you need them done enough to be tender, but not fall apart tender. With mashed, the longer the better.

Of course the kind of potato used can make a difference, but I have used all kinds, mixed varieties in the same batch, and still, it is good.

Sure, the hardest part is the prep work. Washing, peeling if you don't like a more rustic version with peels in it, and cutting. But still not hard like breaking down a whole chicken. Which for the record I have not ever done. Because it is kind of gross.

For the mashing part I use a masher, not a ricer or a hand mixer. Some people like a really light, whipped effect for mashed potatoes, which would make them whipped potatoes, not mashed, and that is fine, for them. I like the rustic effect of a few lumps, a few bits of skin. I add milk conservatively, mixing in between to get the right consistency. This part I think is a personal choice, how thick or thin you like your potatoes. And don't forget the butter, salt and pepper. At this point you are done. Serve.

My boss has said that making mashed potatoes in her large, Irish Catholic family has been a religion and the source of more than one Bobby Flay like throw down. She likes to use cream, or at least half and half instead of milk, and at least one stick of butter. You will of course get some seriously rich potatoes with that method. And I watched The Pioneer Woman's HGTV show where she made mashed potatoes that practically induced a cardiac event just watching her prepare them. She used A LOT of butter AND cream cheese. She stated that these were popular on her ranch. I WONDER WHY.

My point is you can get creative with potatoes if you want, adding cheese, which I do when I use leftovers for the top of Shepherd's Pie. But at minimum it is just a bunch of boiled, mashed potatoes mixed with milk and butter. Go forth and mash it up people.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

So here's the thing...

So here's the thing. Addiction is a lying bastard. It tells you lies, and it gets you to lie to others. It tells you it will make you feel better. It tells you you will be happier with it than without. It snuggles up to you, makes you feel loved and safe. For the moment.

You don't even notice at first the damage it is doing. It tells you it is your family. It helps creates bonds with others that are not real, they are just built on the exchange of services that feed the addicition. It tells you we don't really love you, we don't care about you, that it will take care of you.

All the while the storm is brewing. The clouds are gathering, swirling slowly at first, gathering strength along the way. At first it is just a light breeze making the leaves flutter. Then there is the day the wind blows hard, even makes it hard to walk, but you persist. Eventually, it is a maelstrom, pulling everything it touches down into its vortex.

But you persist. The noise grows louder, turning you deaf to everything else except the sweet whispers of no more pain, the voices being shut up for an hour, a day. You just keep swirling, out of control, everything being sacrificed until eventually you find the bottom.

The bottom is different for everyone. Some are particularly immune to the noise, to the chaos, and so it takes longer. Longer to see there are no more choices, longer to see all of your friends are gone, all of your family has backed away. The bottom is where the fear and the wind crash together and become silence.

Addiction is a lying bastard. You feel worthless so you listen to addiction, telling you you need it to be OK. You listen to it telling you you deserve better, at the same time it tears at your soul with its grimey hands.

The truth is you DO deserve better, and you are not worthless. You are a shiny, precious soul. People love and care about you. But you won't listen. You can't hear them because you haven't found the bottom yet. It is in the silence of the bottom that you might finally hear the words. Our words, our prayers, might finally get through.

So we wait. We do what we need to do to try and be OK with what is happening, but we worry. We can see so clearly what you need to do, but it doesn't matter. We can't make you do it, we can't make you hear us. We try to be supportive without enabling. We can only do so much though. It really is up to you. But you can't hear us yet. We hope and pray you survive this long enough to finally hear us. To finally accept that you are helpless against the lying bastard, addiction, and you need help. We will be here when you do.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The weight of him...

Almost too big, at 47 inches tall and 49 lbs heavy...but for as long as I can I will hold him, carry him, hug him and despite the protestations of my 47 year old bones I will give him piggy back rides and have ninja fights. Because some day he really will be too big, or not interested in holding hands with his mother. So for now I will bear the weight of him...

Friday, October 21, 2011


Having a bit of a headachy day. Not that surprising. All week I was convinced it was some other day than it was. It was Wednesday morning and I was SURE it was Thursday. By the end of the same day I was arriving at home positive it was Friday. I moved through an entire two days inside of 8 hours.

So my brain has been on some sort of short circuit. The leaves are falling as it is, well, FALL, and that makes my entire system go haywire. I love the foliage, love the crinkle of leaves on the sidewalk, but really hate what it does to my histamine reaction. The Bob hates what it does to my nasal passages at night. APPARENTLY I snore. All I know is I was rudely awakened last night by someone yanking the comforter off the bed so he could take it to sleep in the guest room because sleeping in the same room with me was not possible.

12 more cups of this should help.

The other night I attended a dinner for major donors here at work. There was a re-dedication of a building on campus which was renovated recently and is now home to the admissions office. As part of the dinner, they asked a student to read a history of the house, which was built in 1892. I was sitting with a member of our board and his wife, the wife of our president, and another major donor and spouse. The student is a history major and wants to be a history professor at our school one day. She read aloud this funny, interesting and very well written piece. The thing about this moment in time, the thing that sticks with me the most, is as she finished reading, as people began applauding, the member of the board sitting at my table said one word, "Brilliant." This is a man who in his own right is brilliant, having been a physics instructor at a very large, prestigious institution here in the area, and having created with another brilliant man the concept of enrollment management which most private institutions use today to manage their recruitment and retention efforts, and is the founder and CEO of a very successful business. To have him use that one word to describe what this student had just read, her own words, says something. I have no idea if anyone else noticed, it doesn't matter. I heard it, and it spoke to me. I hope she does manage to achieve her goals and comes back to us to teach. We will be a better institution for it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Silly is in the DNA

Buster Keaton. Charlie Chaplin. The Three Stooges. Bob Hope. Chevy Chase. Steve Martin. Martin Short. Jim Belushi. Lucille Ball. Beavis and Butthead. Kung Fu Panda. Spongebob Squarepants. Charlie Brown and the football.

Throughout the history of mankind, slapstick comedy has often been both the lowest form of comedy and the one that seems to be enjoyed most by the male of the species.

Don't get me wrong. I have been known to laugh myself silly to the point of crying watching Chevy Chase on the old, classic SNL. I teethed on I Love Lucy and the chocolates on the conveyer belt episode. I have an appreciation for physical comedy.

But nothing I have experienced comes close to that which envelopes, overtakes and both energizes and immobilizes my child.

By himself he can be pretty funny. He does silly walks, silly voices, silly dances. And woe unto you who laughs at his shenanigans. You will be subjected to the routine over and over and over and over and over again. Especially right before bath time, when it is likely to be sans clothing. There is nothing quite like silly dances performed by a naked kid in the bathroom.

Add in friends, and well, the sense of the ridiculous becomes acute. Beyond silly. Gasping, wet your pants hilarious. I am not kidding. Cooper wet his pants he was laughing so hard when I took this picture.

This is what almost 5 years old is like. I have absolutely no idea what I am in for with 14 years old.

Friday, October 7, 2011

93 Years Ago...

In 1918 the world was a very different place than the one we live in today.

Ukraine, Lithunania, Estonia, Armenia, Azerbijian, Georgia and Poland all declare independence from the Russian Empire. It was not a good year for the Russian Empire.

World War I is going on and ends November 11.

The Spanish Flu becomes a pandemic and 30 MILLION people die in 6 months.

The Boston Red Sox defeat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. Which would be their last World Series until 2004. Don't ask me about this year's season. Pathetic is really the only word for it.

There were no computers, the internet didn't exist. 10 million Bell System telephones were in service. Today more than 4 billion people use telephones. Television didn't exist in homes yet.

Ted Williams, Rita Hayworth, Nipsey Russell, Art Carney, Billy Graham, Spiro Agnew, Helmut Schmidt, Madeleine L'Engle, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Anwar Sedat, to name a few, are born.

And so was this man:

Tony with my brother and I on what I believe was a family reunion on Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota. If I recall correctly, he was giving me the "Don't give me a reason to yell again" look. We might have been whining. It would not be a surprise.

With the Coop on our first visit after he was born.

Anthony Louis DePasquale. My grandfather. A man who for all of my childhood and much of my adulthood was a larger than life character. He smoked smelly cigars and always had a stylish hat and swagger going on.

The sky wasn't just blue, the sky was the most beautiful shade of blue you have or ever will see. My mother didn't just ice skate well as a little girl, she could have been an Olympic contender. She didn't just play the piano, she could have been a concert pianist performing at Carnegie Hall. The dog my mother and her sisters adopted while he was away on a business trip didn't just dislike him. That dog was a man eating carnivore ready to rip my grandfather's throat out if he so much as looked at him sideways. He breezed into our lives every so often on business trips, teaching us random Italian phrases that we would try to remember for the next visit. He and my grandmother relocated to Oregon when he retired. They traveled in an RV around the country, often going to the Southwest to spend a month in the desert. They would golf, bowl, and he would take classes in things like jewelry making, wood working and stained glass. I called him Gepetto when he turned his garage into a wood working shop and made toys and other wooden doo dads.

He was the son of Italian immigrants and made the most of his opportunities here. He is the father to three lovely daughters, husband to my grandmother Agnes.

Today is his 93rd birthday, and their 72nd wedding anniversary. That is a long time to be alive and a long to time to be married. Life has certainly not passed them by, although they are older, slower and a little more frail than they once were. But that is true of most of us.

Happy Birthday Grandpa. I wish we could be out there to celebrate with you and Grandma. Virtual hugs to you both.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Come Now To the Campus...

Come now to the campus, true sons of Geneva,
In one accord in song your voices raise.
Proclaim loud the glory, those walls old and hory,
The college where I spent such happy days.

This weekend was my 25th college reunion at Geneva College in beautiful Beaver Falls, PA. Home of Joe Namath and the steak salad. TWENTY FIVE YEARS have passed since I was in college, and yet, those were and continue to be some of the best days of my life, and the source of some of my fondest memories.

These ladies. Riley on the left, Jean in the middle, me on the right. One was a roommate at one time, the other was a suitemate. People I laughed with, cried with, yelled at stupid boyfriends for. You know, the stuff friends do.

This is a crappy picture, taken with my phone inside a badly lit theater, but I would know this person in the pitch black dark. She was also a roommate at one time, but more than that, a soul sister. We have not been the best at keeping up with each other over the last 15 years, but during college, we were the best of friends. Her family became a family away from home for me. Her father was a professor at the college, and now in retirement her parents own a B&B at which we stayed this weekend. Her father didn't recognize me at first, since 15 years have passed since last we met, and time has a way of robbing all of us of health and memory, but when I said my name, he said "Oh my goodness, Michele. I look in your eyes and I know exactly who you are."

The McCartney Library on campus is small, but is home to two sets of incredible and impressive stained glass windows. I already loved libraries when I arrived on campus, this one just sealed the deal with these windows.

Then there is the Bagpiper Theater. The first week of the first semester I was on campus, my friend Jean said she was going up to audition for the first play of the semester. It was traditionally a freshman only production, to allow new students the chance at performing without having to compete for parts against the seasoned upperclassman. I had not acted before, officially that is, and was hesitant. But then I said why not. No one really knew me there. I wasn't competing against people from high school that were well known to the theater, I was just little old unknown me. So I went.

From the moment I stood on that stage and heard people laughing in response to my audition, and laughing in the "dear lord in heaven she is funny" way, not the "dear lord in heaven get her off the stage" way, I knew I had found my people and my happy place. For four years I worked on productions in this theater, from acting, to costuming, stage managing and even directing a one act play as part of my theater class final.

It is 100 seats big, so you can see pretty much everyone who is there to watch the show. They are almost as much a part of a production as the actors themselves. It is not an easy theater to work in. You had to find ways to work with the space limitations and the proximity of the audience. But it is worth it.

This present day me, in a mirror in a dressing room that has not changed in 30 years. It looks exactly the same as the day I first walked into it.

This piece of furniture used to live in the lobby of my residence hall, McKee Hall, shown below.

It also used to be Pepto Bismal pink. And under the pink was an odd shade of Wedgewood blue. A travesty had been committed, one that I and my fellow castmates of I Remember Mama decided to rectify, by stripping and refinishing it. We had no idea what we were doing, and yet managed not to completely destroy the burled walnut panels. Yay us! It is now in the Hallway of History.

There are many ways in which I have evolved and changed from the person I was back in 1982 when I first arrived on that campus beside the Beaver Vale. I am different spiritually, emotionally, and certainly physically. I arrived on campus weighing a whopping 105lbs. I remember that because they would not let me give blood. Yeaaaahhhh, that was a long time ago.

BUT! Without a doubt it was a formative, magical, challenging, and educational time. It was exactly what going to college should be. It was a safe place for me to discover who I was, who I wanted to be, and provide a solid basis to launch from into the rest of my life. I found lifelong friendships, both within my fellow students but also within the faculty. I may not always agree with the religious views and philosophy of the Reformed Presbyterian faith, but I am and will be forever grateful for that time and that community. GO TORNADOS!

Turbo, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Search of One Good Lunchbox...

You wouldn't think it would be that hard, but it is. The quest for just the right lunchbox is a tricky one. Cooper has to take a lunch to preschool, and for the last two years he has looked like a little construction worker, taking his lunch in a mini playmate cooler.

It was beginning to show it's age, and I had grown weary of washing all the little containers I had to put his food in. So we tried buying a new one from Tupperware, but it was microscopically small. Who do they think is using something that small? Barbie? It also, in retrospect, did not solve the needing to wash containers conundrum.

Then one day Busy Dad had a give away, of the lunch box that his son Fury uses. I was familiar with this lunch box since he began posting his Lunch Box Daily pictures. The lunch box he uses, a Go Green lunch box comes with a little white board inside the cover, so you can write notes to your child, or in the case of Fury, really awesome super hero themed cartoons. Apparently Fury has become very popular at lunch time.

I did not win the give away that was on Busy Dad's blog, but I decided to go for it and bought this lunch box for Cooper. It is sort of a bento box concept, with individual compartments for the food, and the lid locks in place to keep the food in each of the compartments.

This is my first real attempt at a drawing for Cooper. I will never reach the caliber of Busy Dad, but I can pull off a fair looking Spongebob Squarepants when I try. Cooper thought this was too cool, and didn't want me to change the picture this morning when I put his lunch together.

So far this box is working out really well. I encountered a little difficulty with yogurt, since the yogurt container by itself is too tall to put inside the box, but I can put it inside a smaller container that does fit. I could put it directly into one of the compartments, but that seems like I would be risking a complete distaster with yogurt everywhere.

It comes with a little thermos too, but right now we are not using that as he likes this milk that is in a single serving container already.

Go Green did not give me anything for this recommendation, nor did they ask me to make it. I just really like the product and the white board makes me happy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

You'd Think I had the calves of Princess Fiona

I am currently harboring a serious rage against all dress winter boots. Boots like this for example:

Actually, boots EXACTLY like that, which I ordered, from my beloved Zappos because they have such a lovely and wide selection, because they have free shipping, and free return shipping, and they tell you things like how big around the shaft of the boot SUPPOSEDLY is. But look at that lovely, stable, wedge heel, the lovely tall boot. It was perfect. Except.

This boot is described as having a 16" shaft at its widest. Below is a very bad photo I took with my phone of me measuring my calf at its widest. Note it is just shy of 15". On the 14 and 3/4 side of 15". So one would think that I had at least an inch to spare.

This is another very bad photo of my leg. I know, SEXXHAY. But I wanted to document for the masses that I in fact do not have the calves of Princess Fiona from Shrek, in her ogre mode. I have quite normal sized, normal shaped calves. Even though the angle on it makes it look HUGE, I assure you, it is a normal sized leg. Now, if we were talking about my thighs, we might have a different conversation. But my calves are lovely.

And yet, AND YET! This is the second pair of boots I have purchased, which SAY they will fit, which I cannot get zipped up past the lower part of my calf, just about half way up my calf.

Who are these boots designed for? Any boot for that matter, because this is the second pair that I have had this trouble with. This time, if I am still of the mind that I would like a pair of dress boots for the winter by this time tomorrow, I will go to DSW where I can try on 30 pairs of boots and display my shamefully humungous calves in public for all to see. For now I must comfort myself with sassy reviews of these boots on the Zappo's site. When they ask "How could we have avoided this return" I will remark they should suggest to shoe makers that they make boots women with normal sized calves can actually wear; not just boots for half starved waifs. That'll show 'em.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How to torture your work study student or drive students from your office in one simple step

Today I was reading The Oatmeal because it is HILARIOUS, and I found this quiz. It is a hearing test. This concept, that there is this frequency, this sound that teenagers are able to hear that most adults over 25 cannot because our hearing has begun losing its range, isn't new. But I saw it on The Oatmeal, wondered if I could hear it, so I clicked on it. I couldn't hear anything immiately, probably ONLY because of this sinus infection/throat thing I have going on, not because I am over 40 or anything like that. So I turned the volume up a little. Suddenly my work study student, who sits about 10 feet away outside of my office says "OH LORD WHAT IS THAT SOUND???" And I said, nonchalantly "Oh, can you hear that?" To which she replied "GOD YES IT IS AWFUL MAKE IT STOP."

And now I know exactly how I can rid my office of annoying students (not that we have any of course). With one little click.

Try it. See if you can hear it. Even if you cannot, but you want to drive the cats or dogs or teenagers out of the room, you may find it handy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Have Always Hated Charlie McCarthy

This is Phil the Cuckoo Bird. At least that is what Cooper calls him. I had a different name for him once upon a time, which I have long since forgotten. I purchased this puppet for some inexplicable reason, on a business trip to Indianapolis. Perhaps something in me knew that 6 years and two husbands later I would have a child who would fall in love with this puppet and begin torturing me.

Part of this is Jack's Big Music Show's fault. They have an episode that features Phil the Cuckoo Bird, who looks remarkably like this puppet. Once Cooper saw that show, he began calling our puppet by that name, and insisting that our Phil do all of the things that THAT Phil did.

Specifically, he wants it to talk, ALL THE TIME, in a southern accent, and fall down. He wants ME to make him talk. I am now constantly berated to "MAKE HIM TALK MOMMY" and then a fuzzy pink bird lands in my lap.

I will admit that when I make Phil fall down, which involves him flipping over on his back and plopping down on the couch/bed/whatever we are sitting on, and Cooper dissolves into gasps of laughter, it is probably one of the best parts of my day. But I really hate making him talk. At the end of a work day where I have been listening to students and parents tell me how they cannot afford to pay their balance, or are indignant that they have stop on their account because they haven't followed the directions they were given 5 times in the last 3 months in writing that would have resolved their issues, I find it hard to focus my addled brain long enough to have a conversation as myself with The Bob and Cooper, nevermind find the energy and creativity to be someone else.

I have tried hiding Phil. Short of throwing him out altogether, which right now I don't have the heart to do, I have not been successful in hiding him long term. Cooper has this amazing capacity for not using something for months, even almost a year, and then for no reason that we can discern, he will exclaim "Where is such and such." Then we spend 20 minutes wondering what is he talking about, and another 20 minutes finding the thing he is seeking once we do figure it out. This time he found Phil on his own. It was in a big bag of stuffed animals, and suddenly there he was, in my lap, and I was being instructed to make him talk, please. (Side note: There are more "pleases" being said in our lives these days. Day care almost paid for itself.)

I wonder if Edgar Bergen ever felt this way about Charlie McCarthy. I have heard stories about the puppet being a member of the family, to the point that it sat at the dinner table with the family, but who knows how much of that is true. Did Edgar ever want to just put that puppet in a drawer and go be a shoe salesman? Put him the composter and call it a day? Let a certain Schnauzer known for his destructive destuffing of stuffed animals have his way with him? Did I say that out loud?

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's a Cubit?

This weekend I was reminded of how outstanding The Bob is. You see, a week ago Sunday, when that lovely little lady, Hurricane Irene blew through our neck of the woods, yet again, despite all of our planning (four, count them FOUR sump pumps, emptying the pool about 6 inches in advance of the storm) our basement took a direct hit.

We had a plan! We pumped the pool like I said, so that it could accommodate the rain that was coming. We left the sump pump out there in the pool, to use if it began filling up. We had another one waiting in the Pit of Despair, in the event that began to fill and threatened to flood the basement. We have the installed pump, that can handle 25000 gallons of water a minute, at the ready.

And we prayed we wouldn't lose power. And we didn't!

But all of that was for nought. At approximately 9am, the rain began falling in earnest, the wind whipped and threatened to take trees down. At 9:10am The Bob said "I am going to pump some more water out of the pool" and a few minutes later I heard "NEED SOME HELP DOWN HERE!!" being bellowed from the basement.

It was like the Poseidon Adventure, sans Shelly Winters. Thank goodness. I don't need her haunting my basement on top of the rest of the muck and ooze that is down there. Inside of 5 minutes, the backyard filled with water, the pool overflowed WHILE A SUMP PUMP WAS MADLY PUMPING WATER OUT OF IT. The water just rushed for the lowest point in the yard, the Pit of Despair, and not even the two sump pumps down there could keep up. It is as close to a flash flood as I wish to be.

Now, we did just buy a new treadmill (we have killed two in floods and one died of old age) so I ran over there, and with the strength of 10 Grinches I hauled the front of that sucker up and propped it up on an overturned Rubbermaid tub. I was not losing another one to flood waters! Then I ran and unplugged the freezer, and ran upstairs to turn off the furnace (the one time I am thankful for oil vs. gas) at the emergency switch. Then we left the basement, and watched the water bubble up out of the middle of my backyard for another 15 minutes.

As suddenly as it happened, it stopped, and the sump pumps began catching up. The water receded and in half an hour it was almost like it hadn't even happened. Except for that residue of mud it left behind throughout the entire basement.

We continued to pump the pool out a little longer, in the event Irene wasn't done beating us up. We turned on fans throughout the basement and a few hours later we discovered that the furnace survived, the freezer still turned on and froze things, and we DID NOT LOSE THE TREADMILL!

But there was still the issue of the mud. Yesterday The Bob began the cleanup work. Shelves were moved out to be rinsed off. The floor vacuumed and scrubbed with my special mixture of a little water and a lot of bleach. Many things are being thrown out. Thank goodness for the Scavengers. These guys show up the night before trash day, and pick your garbage clean of all metal and other usable objects. It is fabulous. But that Bob, he was as sweaty and dirty as I have ever seen him yesterday. He just got down and dirty in an effort to make the basement tolerable again.

In the meantime, I am looking up contractors because somewhere there is someone who can stand in my backyard, who is capable of diagnosing the problem and coming up with a plan for how to make the flooding stop. I don't care if that solution is a big ass drain in the middle of my backyard, and if they told me it would stop if I got rid of the pool, I would be out there with a jackhammer and a standing order from some clean fill to be delivered. In the meantime I will be looking up the instructions for building an ark.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Last Day of His Penultimate Year

That title is for The Bob. I have never met a person who loves using the word "penultimate" more. Today is the last day for Cooper as a younger preschooler. He has one more year of preschool left, and then on to the show. The big time. But for one more year he is still a preschooler.

Every year he has been alive has been a year of change, some quite obvious, like walking, talking, losing the first tooth (that second one is hanging on for all it's worth). This year the changes have been more subtle for the most part. Every morning I go in to get him up for the day it seems like the legs are a little longer, the face a little less round and pinchable. There is a maturity to his face that surprises me, and makes my chest tighten a little because it is one more step toward being grown up, independent, the constant movement away from us, his parents. The people who have been needed so constantly, for everything and yet, needed less and less each day.

This morning I told him it was time to go to the bathroom and do his business to get ready. There was no argument, no dawdling. "OK! I don't want to be late!" he yelled as he dashed off to the bathroom. I went to get his clothes for him to change into and he announced he would change his clothes himself. This is something he has been capable of doing for a long time, but often requires assistance if I want to leave the house in less than an hour from that moment in time. Today he was in his clothes lickety split and even put his socks on. His shoes were downstairs or he probably would have had those on too.

To see him excited and happy to go to school is gratifying. I have never questioned that continuing to work and send him to day care/preschool full time was the right decision. Financially we could not afford to do it any other way, and home day care just didn't seem the right fit for him. He has been so happy at The Barn, and they have done a great job caring for and teaching him. It is just nice to have the validation of our decision so apparent.

It is what is supposed to happen, this growing and moving away from who he has been and toward whom he will become. It is the exact definition of bittersweet. I don't have any clue what the next two years much less the next 15 or 20 years will hold. I am not going to worry about it. I am going to try to embrace the moment, the memory of him leaping around the playground this morning, working out his Batman/Spiderman/Ironman moves. My little superhero.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Calling Dr. Freud, Calling Dr. Freud...

My kid is growing. Like most parents I see him first thing in the morning and think "Where did my baby go?" because I am unearthing a long legged, mature looking, just lost his first tooth kid.

Did I mention he lost his first tooth? He did. At school on Friday. The teachers all agreed they have never had any child in younger preschool lose a tooth before. My kid is ADVANCED people.

He is also exhibiting what I think is fairly typical behavior for an almost 5 year old, but it is still annoying and hurtful to certain parties.

In a nutshell, he totally digs me, but is less enthusiastic about his father. To the point where he will not make eye contact, will not answer when spoken to, and generally pushes away from The Bob.

I think we parent pretty similarly, and I am not a push over or soft touch with Coop. I just think we have entered that phase of his development where he digs one parent over the other and I am that parent right now. I remember my brother going through a phase in this age range where he would say he was going to marry our mom when he grew up. It was cute, and he outgrew it.

But in the meantime, it is hard for The Bob not to take it personally. We have responded to this behavior with various things like turning off the TV if he is watching it and not answering his father when he speaks to him. Take away his SpongeBob and it gets his attention pretty fast. I have sat down with him and talked about how sad Cooper feels when he feels like kids at school are excluding him or purposefully being mean, does he want his dad to feel the same way? Of course he doesn't, so then we talked about how much his dad loves him and Cooper needs to show him he loves him back.

When I am not around this is not as much of an issue, so I know I am the catalyst for this behavior. I mean, I know I am AWESOME SAUCE with a side of FABULOUS. But it still isn't fair. So for the three people who read this blog regularly who might have some insight and suggestions, is this just a phase and it will pass just like his "I want to be up playing for 2 hours in the middle of the night" phase passed? Is there something we should be doing or not doing to assist in its passing in a healthy way?

Finally, this weekend we spent time finding ways of killing time because of rain rain and more rain. Cooper has decided working out is FUN!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Put One Foot In Front of the Other, and Soon You are Walking Across the Floor...

This is a story I have never gotten around to on this blog, because I generally focus on my life as it currently exists, not on what it used to be. That is not to say I don't remember my history, that I am not informed by it, I just choose to stay focused on now and the near future in my daily thought process. My addled brain and soul cannot handle much more than that quite frankly.

But there is a need to share it, as a way of saying to a couple special people in my life who are all facing something very very difficult, that it sucks while you are going through it, but you can and will survive it.

Much like when a doctor needs to break a previously broken bone that has begun healing badly, so as to reset it and let it heal properly, divorce often is necessary so that all parties can become something else, something new, something hopefully better separately than the individuals had become as a couple.

No one stands in front of the officiant of choice (minister, judge, justice of the peace etc.) and speaks the vows of marriage thinking "Well, I can undo this any ol' time I want and it won't be a big deal." Well, most people don't. I know I didn't. I have been married once before I found The Bob and I certainly thought it was a forever bond. We had been friends for quite a few years before we became spouses. I went into it knowing there were some serious health issues on his part, and that he had some pain and suffering in his past from the loss of a parent, the subsequent poverty and alcoholism that his family had to deal with. I didn't think I could fix him, but I did think that by choosing something so positive as marrying me, he was choosing to look forward. Choosing to embrace the future together as a couple.

There isn't much you can do when someone is very broken in the heart and soul. I decided after a short time that his heart condition was from a scientific perspective the result of a bad infection he contracted while on vacation in Mexico (a sign to his perpetually dark and brooding psyche that he was always going to be punished for thinking he deserved to enjoy life and audaciously chose to go on vacation), but I saw it as a spiritual and psychic breakdown on the part of his body. If you choose to stay so angry at everyone and everything for so long, that is eventually going to manifest itself in your body. And his heart was what gave out first.

After a year of what turned out to be a five year long marriage, I knew our marriage was doomed. It took me another year to grieve that realization, and come to an acceptance that it was OK for the marriage to end, and another two years before he found the job opportunity that would take him to another state. When he first indicated he needed to leave New England because he was miserable being cold for 5 months (the result of his condition and medication) I asked him one question. If he found the perfect job, and he decided he wanted to move to wherever that job was, would this be "I am moving and I want you to come with me" or was it "I am moving and I need to do this by myself." He said quietly that he needed to do it by himself. I nodded, expecting that answer, and told him that he needed to go find that job, but here was what I needed to make this work, and that mostly included assistance paying the mortgage on our house until such time I could afford to buy him out or I could handle moving and selling it.

It took another year or so for him to find the job and move, during which time we lived pretty much as roommates. Roommates who shared a bed and house, but not much else. It was at that point that I began some of the projects he never wanted to get involved in around the house, painting and such, because it was too exhausting for him to deal with. I was beginning to make the space mine, without him.

I helped him pack. I tolerated having boxes in my life that would be sent by UPS or he would come back for later. I just wanted him to move on, so I could as well. I didn't want this angry unhappy person in my space anymore. The anger was never directed at me, but it was just always there.

The day he drove away was a hard, hard day. But I walked through my house, my quiet, slightly emptier house, and said quiet prayers for his safe travels, and for my own safe travels forward.

8 months later I met The Bob. Two years after than we married, and the next year Cooper came into our lives. In the meantime, I managed to find my way back to being friends with him. It has been almost 10 years since he moved to Arizona, and I have been married to The Bob longer than I had been married to him. We have been divorced longer than we were married. It is now all ancient history. Not history I have forgotten, but also not history I choose to wallow in. I am happy, he is finding his way to happier. He has found some physical healing, and is finding his way to some healing of his soul. It's all good. I don't regret anything, but I also don't wish for it to have gone differently. It just is what it is. We had to break something apart that just wasn't working so we could both heal as two better but separate spirits.

Divorce SUCKS. It drains you, it hurts, it makes you question and second guess everything you believed in, that you have decided to do. But you will be OK. If you take it one step at a time, if you don't let the snarky darker parts of you get the better of the situation and get hurtful toward each other, especially when there is no reason for it, if you try to hold in front you the vision of the person you first loved, and the reasons you loved that person, and the reasons that you will continue to love that person, but apart, not together, you will be OK.

Remember that none of you is alone in this. There are people who love all of you who are here for you and will care for all of you in the new world you are creating. We will love the new you you are all becoming.

One foot in front of the other...

Friday, August 12, 2011

On Fire Twirling and Other Life Lessons

It is a place trapped in time in so many subtle and obvious ways. The general store in the center of town has a new paint job, with a cheerful white facade and brilliant green trim, a jaunty string of lobster buoys hanging across it. But inside the wooden floors still creak, and are just a little uneven and slanted, whispering of years of locals and visitors from away coming in to find a can of this and a bottle of that.

It celebrates it's origins with Friendship Days, which includes a parade as old fashioned and fabulous as any you can remember from your childhood. There are fire trucks, old cars with old citizens and Veterans of old wars riding in them. There is an old style oompapa band, as well as a relatively new addition, a roller derby team showing off some of their tattoos and skills. Candy is thrown from the cars and trucks, and kids scramble to get as much as they can.

We go every year to visit with friends, and the cove, even with some of the changes like new concrete steps on the cabins and a new counter in the kitchen, hot AND cold running water in the house (long gone are the days of a very cold shower on a chill summer morning), seems as changeless as the ocean you can see from every porch.

One of two newer residents in the cove. They came FOR dinner, not to BE dinner...

The Barnstable...

Fishing for the first time...

Conquering the slide that scared him last year...

And yet, while you sit on the porch, in the glider that has been there for as long as anyone can remember, the red vinyl cushions inexplicably undecayed, there is always opportunity to learn something new, to grow and explore and be the better for having been there.

We were sitting on the porch, 15 or so of us, enjoying the late afternoon sun, having wine and appetizers, catching up on a year of kids growing, new jobs, new ailments, when they approached us from one of the other cabins. A man and a woman, who were new to the cove. Newcomers are always interesting, because the cove is not on the beaten path, with regulars who have been coming to stay for decades, if not generations crossing a century. They came to say hi and invite us to a fire twirling demonstration later. I had no reference point for this so I asked what she meant. "Like the cheerleader with the fiery baton" she responded. She was just learning she said, and I asked what inspired her to try it. "I turned 50 this year, and I decided to do something scary as a way of reclaiming my power" she answered. Because I was curious, I went down later to the green in front of the cabin they were staying in to see the demonstration. She was quite obviously a novice, but it was still quite interesting.

Meanwhile, her companion, a 6'5" or so, 300lb man was chatting with a few of the other people, and handing out business cards. She explained it was for a blog he writes. He lives in Cambridge MA and writes a blog. He looked like every computer geek/slacker you have ever met. Some people later commented on how gauche it seemed to hand out business cards to people you have just met while on vacation. Being a blog writer of sorts myself, I didn't really have a problem with it. He just seemed like a big ol' nerd and good for him for trying to get the word out on his endeavors.

The joke was sort of on all of us. The card went forgotten for a few days after I arrived home, but on the weekend I found it again in my card while rummaging for something, so I decided to see what it was about. In the process of finding that out I found out about him. It would appear he is something of a genius entrepreneur. He went to MIT for the first time when he was 16 (seems he has several degrees, two from MIT). Then he created a company, which designed one of the first massive, multiplayer online games. He sold the company last year for 160 MILLION DOLLARS. So. In the category of "do not judge a book by its cover" this guy apparently was a) smarter than all of us on the porch that night, combined, and b) richer than all of us on the porch, or even in the cove for that matter, combined.

I didn't see much of them the rest of the time we were in the cove. I would like to think I would have taken the time to get to know them better if I had. But there, in the cove, which seems to never change, our little world was broadened just a bit, by power reclaiming fire twirling and genius entrepreneurs.

Editors note: I have no idea why some of the text is highlighted and goofy. Something happened when I was editing the photos.