Month: March 2011 (page 1 of 3)

Rut Buster (Something about that combination of words makes me want to say “Rat Bastard,” which, honestly, is very fun to say. [You just said it, didn’t you?])

The other day, because A) she is awesome and B) she was sick and tired of hearing me complain about how the hairy gorilla look wasn’t working for me, my mother arranged for the girls to get distracted playing t-ball with Dave so she could grab Phoebe and me and drive us to the next town where she dumped me at a salon and took off with Phoebe for approximately one half hour so I could have my hair trimmed and my eyebrows waxed, which was exactly what I needed to feel a little less ho hum.

Thank you, Mom.

I was a bit sheepish going in as I hadn’t been prepared to leave the house and it’s physically impossible for me to feel confident while wearing blue sweatpants in public. And chin hair. Also, spit up stains on the shoulder of my shirt – well, technically, Dave’s shirt that I hijacked because I’ve outgrown most of my own. (Fat bottomed girl!)

I glanced at the clock. Ten ’til eight. “What time do you close?”

“8 p.m.” the girl said as she approached the counter.

I knew this whole professional hair cut thing was too good to be true, but I asked anyway. “Do you have time for a quick cut?”

“Absolutely.”

Aha! I pressed my luck. “And an eyebrow wax?” I raised the furry caterpillars above my eyes.

“Sure. Let’s do that first. Follow me.”

So I did. And she waxed my eyebrows. It took a long time and she had to start with a machete, but we were chatting and it was really pleasant, so I didn’t mind. We talked about our kids which I know makes me a lame morning show topic that ends with advice like, Read a book! Volunteer! Do anything else that might give you something to talk about instead of talking about your kids, you boring loser with no identity! But the thing is, I really like talking about my kids. And I like it when other people talk about their kids. I pretty much like talking with anyone about anything that makes their face look the way this girl’s face looked when she talked about her son. She couldn’t stop smiling. She had love bursting from her pores! And that’s not a euphemism for acne!

It wasn’t until the phone rang that I looked at the clock again. Almost twenty after eight. I pretended to cock my head to admire my new cut, but really, I was just trying to listen to what she was saying on the phone. I’m nosy. I also like to listen to gossip! (Shut yo mouth!)

“…soon. It’ll be soon. I’m not going to turn down a hair cut! I really want to do my best at this job. I’m almost done. Okay. Call you in a minute. Love you. Bye.”

“Sorry,” she said as she returned and switched the hair dryer back on and showered me with affirmations about the appropriateness of my new look.

She really did want to do her job and do it well – I could feel it. Our conversation was peppered with her enthusiasm for it. She’d told me, in passing, that this was her first job out of cosmetology school. “It wouldn’t look very professional if I just pulled my hair up in a pony tail every day. I’m a hair stylist now,” she’d said later. And she was much more caring and kind than most dealers of the $15.95 special.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find many people who take that much pride and find that much joy in their jobs.

“You know, I think it’s dry enough. And it looks great. I love it,” I said as I stood up. And I hurried myself out of there – she had a little boy waiting at home for her, after all – but not before I gave her twice my usual tip. She deserved it. And it seemed more appropriate than a hug. I really wanted to give her a hug.

Speaking of tips, are you supposed to tip delivery people? I mean, if you pay to have something delivered – like furniture – do you tip them, too, on top of the delivery fee? And what about drive-thrus? Not fast food drive-thrus, but the ones that sell milk and pop and beer and stuff and the person comes out to your car and everything? Do you tip them? Also, on hotels. Do you leave a tip for the people who clean your room if there isn’t a little envelope for it? If you clean hotel rooms, do you assume any money left out is for you? I’m really not clear when it comes to tipping in situations other than a restaurant.

It’d be really great if there was some kind of tip rhyme to help me out, like “Righty tighty, lefty loosey” helps me in screwing and unscrewing situations. Or that other one helps me remember how many days there are in January. Do you know a rhyme like that?

Density’s Dancing Drops

Have you ever seen a Lava Lamp and wondered how it worked? It’s all thanks to density!

Some liquids are denser than other liquids, which means they are heavier or contain more “”stuff” per unit volume. A Lava Lamp is filled with liquid and a layer of colored wax on the bottom. The light at the base of the lamp heats the wax. Drops of liquid wax are less dense than the liquid in the lamp. So, as the wax softens to liquid, it floats to the top of the lamp. When the wax cools and becomes solid again, it floats back to the bottom.

You can create a similar illusion using a few items from the kitchen.

Supplies:

Density's Dancing Drops Supplies

  • A tall, clear glass
  • Water
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Fill your glass two-thirds full with water.
  2. Density's Dancing Drops 1

  3. Add enough oil to form about an inch thick layer. Since oil isn’t as dense as water, it will float to the top.
  4. Density's Dancing Drops 2

  5. Add some salt.
  6. Density's Dancing Drops 3

  7. Watch drops of oil dance in the water as the denser salt sinks and carries drops of oil with it. When the water dissolves the salt, the oil floats back up to the top again, like a Lava Lamp.
  8. Density's Dancing Drops 5

Originally written for and posted on the now-defunct My OH! Momma website.

It Could Be That I Have Cooties

Her room was pink and pristine. My feet sunk into the carpet when I walked in, slowing my steps as I approached the most beautiful dollhouse I had seen in my seven years of living. It was simply majestic. The sun shone through the window and over it like a spot light. I thought that made it look like a gift from heaven. It was massive, definitely taller than me, with all the details of a real house, including a bathroom with a toilet. I reached for the dark-haired doll to march her up the grand staircase. Oh, she’d look lovely descending it in that red ball gown hanging in the upstairs closet! It’d be so dramatic, like that Gone with the Wind movie my mom liked. But before I could grasp her, a firm hand gripped my wrist and yanked it back with a blast of, “No!”

I stood perfectly still, scared to move, careful not to “make a mess” or disrupt anything after her mom bustled out of the room, probably to disinfect the air where I had exhaled.

“You can sit here,” she said, patting the space next to her on the daybed. But it was all so white and the pillows were lined up just so. I could still feel the impression of her mother’s hand around my arm.

“That’s alright,” I said and dropped down on my knees. I stared longingly at the dollhouse. “Do you ever get to play with it?”

“Sometimes.”

“Why aren’t you allowed?”

“My mom says it’ll get ruined.”

I never went back to her house. It was cold and weird and no fun at all. And even at my young age, I knew her mom didn’t think I was good enough to play with her dollhouse.

Recently, I’d read this quote from Dee Hock the founder of VISA: “Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don’t do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.” I thought it’d be a fun little project to make those lists. So many people have been creatively kind and loving toward me in my life and why not give them a nod? And the negative stuff had the potential to be HILARIOUS. But whenever I’d try to start, I couldn’t get past that dollhouse. Probably because most of the things people have done to me that I abhorred have been a variation of this theme. And the hurt I felt at seven is the same now when someone asks me not to use their “good” furniture because they want to “keep it nice.” The difference now is I have tools to lessen the sting. I can just eat a doughnut. Or nickname them “Nigel” and trade quotes from this scene from This is Spinal Tap (at the 1:05 mark) with Dave.

“Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it!”

“I wasn’t going to touch it. I was just pointing at it.”

“Well don’t point, even. It can’t be played.”

“Can I look at it?”

“NO! No. You’ve had enough of that one.”

When I think about that dollhouse, I feel all that hurt. There’s no buffer. And I really hope I have never made anyone feel the way that woman made me feel.

I wonder what would compel someone to act the way she did towards me. Maybe she’d never been made to feel so worthless. Perhaps she had been made to feel that way a lot. Or I guess it could just be a raging case of assholism. All I can say is this: if I invite you to my house, you can play with all the toys and use all the furniture. You’re even welcome to use the “good” stuff. (Although, there is no “good” stuff at my house, really. There’s just stuff. We use it all. Because that’s what stuff is for.) I promise to be kinder to you than I am to my furniture. I can replace broken furniture. I can’t replace your heart.

Doing Her a Solid

Phoebe is the first of my three girls to make it through the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Both Julia and Lucy started with rice cereal at four months. (Based on the doctor’s recommendation! He’s an expert! Don’t yell at me!) But during the past two weeks, it had become increasingly obvious that Phoebe was ready for something more. She’d been interested in everything we ate and pursued any and every food item like a zombie after a living brain.

“Ahhh! AAAAHHH!” (That’s the noise she would make. You know, the zombie noise.)

Yesterday, she got her first taste of rice cereal.

First taste of rice cereal

What do you think, Phoebe?

What do you think Phoebe?

She’s not sure.

Thinking about it...

Giver her a minute.

Yum!

Okay. Yum.

It’s a new hybrid. It runs on gas and winged souls.

Saying goodbye is never an easy thing. But she never said that she’d stay forever. I’m paraphrasing Taylor Dayne, of course. I have to borrow the words because I just can’t find my own to express how I feel about losing Stella. Except that I didn’t exactly lose her so much as give her away. Well, I didn’t give her away. I got money for her. Getting a discount is the same as getting money, right? Okay, stop looking at me like that. You can’t make me feel any worse than Julia did when she pulled at her clothing and screamed, “Stella! Stella! NOOOOOOO!” outside the car dealership where we traded her in.

“It’s okay, Julia. Vehicles aren’t meant to last forever.” I tried to sound casual, but the truth is, deep inside, I was pulling at my clothing and screaming, too. I mean, it was Stella we were giving up. Stella! She’s been under my butt for the large part of four years. We’ve had ups and downs. And ups and downs. Mostly because she had a broken spring and that makes the ride pretty bumpy. It probably had a lot to do with being under my butt. Because it’s large. And probably capable of breaking a spring and forcing a strut through the frame. (Have I told you my fat pants are once again my regular pants?) Oh, what that vehicle endured for me! Stella!

Julia sniffed, “Maybe another family will get her.”

“Sure…yeah. Parts of her, I’m sure.”

“But no one will ever love her like we did.”

“That’s true, honey. But now, we have a new van! Look! She’s got back doors on BOTH sides. And hey! All the speakers work. Wanna listen to our ‘Aweome 80s’ cassette? Oh! Jules! Automatic windows and locks! Want to press that button? Go ahead! Press the button!”

“I’ll never press that button. I’ll never like this van. EVER.”

So she said. But three rides later, she’d discovered she had her very own light and adjustable vent above her seat and soon it was, “Stella…who?”

Julia was even the one to name her, which was decided via a random draw of more than eight names submitted by the family which included Eva, Delisa, Snowball (seriously, Dave?) and Courtney. And the winner was….Vanessa.

Vanessa

Say hi to her. She’s cute. Isn’t she cute?

Now, she’s not new. Obviously. But she’s new to us. And while she may be the same year that Stella was, it’s clear that Stella was basic. Because Vanessa? Vanessa has extras. Like a super-cool storage net between the front seats. And tinted windows. Also, flip down mirrors WITH LIGHTS! And you know how sometimes the sun gets in your eyes and you’re like, “God, I wish his visor was just an inch or two longer?” Well, Vanessa has this little extend-o piece that grants that wish. She’s pretty amazing. Birds drop dead at the sight of her! Or, rather, they fly right into her. It happened during the test drive and again my first time using her to take Julia to school. My mom said, “Maybe it’s an omen.”

“Nah, it just means she’s awesome.”

This is the second part wherein Phoebe gets a special gift.

Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky has a Great Clock Tower in their lobby that “comes to life” a couple times in the morning and again in the evening. It’s a whole lot of fun for kids. Unless animatronic animals and talking trees creep them out in which case it’s a nightmare. We skipped the evening edition and corresponding story time and caught the show in the daylight hours when it seemed a little less frightening for the six year old among us. We were eating at the Gitchigoomie Grill in the lodge during all the hullabaloo anyway. We didn’t so much want to eat there as had to. It was as far as our tired bodies would go after a day of swimming.

Our expectations were low as the internet told us the food at the waterpark wasn’t so hot. But the internet was wrong. The food was delicious! I wish I’d taken a picture of my meal because it was as beautiful as it tasted. This was why I didn’t think of photographing it until it was mostly in my belly. It was really just mac and cheese, but done up real fancy. There were three kinds of cheese! I’d never even heard of two of them. There was also broccoli and red peppers and a Parmesan crust. Also white truffle sauce. I don’t even know what that is. But it tasted good. And the service was fast and friendly and kind to our kids, which is the way to my heart, if you hadn’t noticed.

After dessert at Bear Paws Sweets and Eats, we hit the arcade. Lucy, the self-declared “best jumper ever,” followed her bliss to a virtual jump rope game and I learned that my legs can’t hold me up as long as that kid can jump.

Lucy and the jumping game

She may be part kangaroo.

Julia invested herself in a giant claw game which seemed like a big waste until she picked up THREE stuffed animals in one try.

Julia and her prizes

I’m proud to report that she assigned one to each of her sisters immediately and without coercion.

The next day, we ate a chaotic, but yummy breakfast at Lumber Jack’s Cook Shanty and did more of the splish splash thing in the water area. But somewhere between all of that, I met this man.

Scott

His name is Scott. He and his family were visiting the lodge, too. We saw them quite a few times during our stay, but it was on Sunday that he played his Native American flute for us. The kids were enthralled for about three minutes, which is really saying something when you consider all that was around to distract them. And once they did get distracted, I trailed after them. While I was gone, Scott pulled something from a bag hanging around his neck and handed it to my mom who was still sitting with Phoebe.

“This is to keep her strong,” he’d told her.

It was an arrowhead.

I was certain to find my way back to him before we left to thank him for the gift he gave the girls. But it wasn’t for the girls. It was for one girl. For Phoebe. He said, “In my culture, we believe it’s important to give of ourselves. It’s important to give to children. They hold the future in their hands. Your daughter’s spirit is strong. She is a warrior and she will do great things.”

Smiley girl

I started to cry, so I looked down and started rummaging through my bag to find the hiding place behind my camera. “I have this blog,” I said as I adjusted the settings. “It’s no big deal, I mean, no one really takes it seriously I don’t think, but it means a lot to me. I’d really love to post your picture and maybe a video?” So he played for us one more time.

And we went home a bit stronger – all of us.

If you read about this adventure in one sitting, your face would melt off and your children would weep over your exploded body. So I broke it up into parts. This is the first one.

Going to an indoor waterpark during the winter months is a great idea. Until you realize you have to shave your legs. All the way to the top. (I reduce my shaving area to below the knee during the pant-wearing seasons. It’s not so much about being lazy as it is about being conscientious. I’m conserving time and energy. The days are shorter. No use burning daylight clearing a hidden landscape!) And so, I spent my Friday night taming the wild frontier with a pack of razors and a hand mirror in preparation for our weekend trip to Great Wolf Lodge.

By Saturday morning, my legs were smooth and my enthusiasm had faded from “This is going to be THE BEST TIME EVER!” to “This better be worth it.” Because shaving is a lot of work. And there’s a considerable amount of mental anguish that comes from seeing the view of your thighs from the back. If God had intended for us to look there, he would have given us eyes in the back of our heads. Or giraffe necks.

I won’t keep you in suspense. It was worth it. We had a great time.

We stayed in the Wolf Den suite which alone was enough for the kids to declare the trip a success. They were impressed yet giddily suspicious to have their very own cave with their own TV they could watch while in bed. They kept asking, “Are you sure this is okay? Are we really allowed to do this?” Which I understood. Adding a TV to the bedroom is like adding alcohol to Jello. It just doesn’t seem like something you’re supposed to do. And that increases the enjoyment level exponentially.

Then, there was the waterpark.

I’ll admit I was nervous that I’d be the fattest one there and that my fun would be dampened by ongoing efforts to appear smaller. But the truth is 1) human beings are flawed, 2) fat is our common denominator and 3) there’s nowhere to hide in a bathing suit. If you don’t look fat, chances are you still feel fat and the people who don’t absorb the attention of the public with their body and/or choice of swimwear. My girth was adequately clocked in an “instantly slimming” material and that me feel good enough to forego the gut-sucking. In a sea of dimpled flesh, it’s stuff like nipple eyelashes that stand out, anyway. I was comfortable enough to get right down to having a “howling good time” with my family.

Julia was raring and ready to tackle the biggest, highest, fastest and wildest thing the place had to offer right out of the box. Lucy felt differently. She preferred to start slowly with a little crying and hiding and begging to go home. Thankfully, our strategy included a man-to-man offense so Julia was able to run off and play with Daddy while Phoebe hung out with Grandma and I focused on Lucy, which was easy since she was already fused to my leg. It took about fifteen minutes to get her into the water and hours to convince her to come out.

Dave, my mom and I kept rotating responsibilities with the kids so we all had the chance to do some stuff with each of them. Part way though the day, however, Dave suggested that I was using Lucy and Phoebe as excuses to avoid going on the really big slide. This sounded a little like being called a chicken. I don’t take kindly to being called a chicken and since I was caught with my pride on the line, I grabbed an inflated tube and marched up the stairs. My family stood below watching. I was relieved that no one chose to accompany me because it turns out those stairs are terrifying. I was careful to ascend them in the very middle as that makes it harder to look down. Or fall over the edge. I breathed a brief sigh of relief when I reached the top until I realized I’d actually have to slide down. I shifted my weight from one leg to the other and questioned the kids in the holding area around me, “Have you done this before? Is it fast? Are you scared?” They just giggled.

“Okay, you can go,” the lifeguard told me as he pulled the tube from my hands and placed it in the mouth of the slide.

“What’s the weight limit on this thing? I’m not sure I can get in. Is there another way down?” But by then, he’d magically maneuvered me into the seat and was urging me forward. The children waved me good-bye and down I went.

My family cheered as I emerged from the tunnel. Julia even shouted that I was awesome, but rescinded the sentiment when I couldn’t get out of my tube. That’s okay, though. Embarrassing parents build character. So does patience, which is why you’ll have to wait to hear more. (Not really. It’s just because nap time is over. Your character is just fine.)

It’s like a Chupacabra photo. It’s kind of fuzzy and you’re like, “It was really so much bigger and awesomer in real life than it looks in this picture,” but you show it off anyway, because, DUDE! IT’S A CHUPACABRA.

My girls love music, but they enjoy it in different ways. Julia is a performer. When she sings, she riffs and when she dances, it’s a routine. There’s always an audience, even if it’s just in her mind. Music is about communication for Julia. Lucy is an enthusiast. When she sings, it’s involuntary. She dances because she has to. Music, for Lucy, is about feeling. And Phoebe? Well, Phoebe tapped her rhythm sticks together all by herself in Kindermusik last night (ahem, MUSICAL GENIUS!), but it’s difficult to discern her motivation at this point. We’ll just have to wait and see when it comes to the Bee.

Due to their fundamental musical differences, a Lucy music video is a rarity while I have hours of Julia footage. Usually, Lucy turns to stone at the sight of a camera. (Although she’s not afraid to show off her break dancing skills in the Wal Mart produce section if’n you’re willing to watch. She’s got mad helicopter skills and the kid can freeze like ice, baby!) So, I was more than a little excited to catch her singing in the car yesterday. (You may need to turn up your volume. She kills it softly, yo.)

I love how Dave and I joining in makes her suddenly feel the need to get out of the car.

*Edited to let you know that I added some notes to the video after Nicole was caring enough to point out that Lucy’s car seat wasn’t buckled safely. Maybe you already knew. I knew. And I want you to know that I knew so you don’t have to worry that Lucy isn’t safe in my care. (Of course, it probably seems a little suspicious since I’m only just now mentioning it.) And while I think it’s pretty clear that I’m no authority on anything, it can’t hurt to tell you that I think car seat safety is important and I hope you’ll be sure that you buckle your kids up properly and keep them safe. If you need any advice on how to do that, the AAP offers some great resources here.

It Happened on a Monday

Seven years ago, Dave and I got married.

Our Wedding Day 2004

Then we hopped in a rented car and eventually made our way to Niagara Falls where we spent the next few days in bed. Because we got sick. On top of that, the weather was not only frigid, but snowy and all signs seemed to be telling us we’d made a grave mistake.

Poo

But we pretty much ignored those signs and loved each other anyway.

That’s kind of our thing.

Lucy and Her Red, Red Book

Lucy found a relic from my past life and it has become her most prized possession. She frequently carries it with her and, at night, she tucks it in her top dresser drawer – that is, when she isn’t sleeping with it – and retrieves it each morning, slides it under her arm and looks a whole lot like my father did back in his Bible-beating days.

Lucy and her red, red book

She calls it her “red, red book.” She likes it because it’s “just my size” and “full of secrets.” She has never asked me to read it to her. (Though I have been able to awe Julia with my ability to “read” passages without looking.) But now and then she’ll open it up and shout something like, “Temptation!” Mostly, she likes to flip through it. And I get it. Bible books are like no others with that thick, yet flexible and tactile cover and their smooth, thin pages that crackle with each turn. It’s designed to make you want to touch it.

Lucy reads her red, red book

This light version came to me from Gideons as an act of evangelism, ironically in 1987 when I lived with my pastor parents in the church parsonage that contained more Bibles than people.

April 7, 1987

It did, however, survive The Fallout and thanks to Lucy’s current habits likely remains the most-read book in the house.

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