So many words, so little time....

Monday, May 31, 2004

Memory Day...

I'm on the phone with Mom on Saturday, and she tells me that she and her sister just got back from taking care of the graves. For Memorial Day we always make sure they are all clean and the flowers are fresh. My grandfather, two uncles they never met, a cousin, and my aunt's first husband. My aunt handles things monthly for them and all the rest of the family there. It's kind of a drive for her, but there's no one closer now. My ex and I took care of it with the kids after Gramma died because we lived there in town. Now that I'm Outside, they both come in and do it together. Probably better anyways. Sometimes they don't talk so much anymore and this makes them take the time and do it. They go have coffee and hash over all the latest gossip and their old memories of people and places. This time it was a little heavier on the current news, I'm afraid. My aunt's cancer has come back and they had to talk about that.

There were ceremonies at the local cemetary today, and a full watch is kept all day and night. We went and watched the changing of the guard and walked among the graves, but it's different when you don't know any of the people that went by those names. The kids were quiet. We had brought flowers to leave at the bank of flagpoles in the center. A lot of people sort of took them to stand for the recent fallen. Most of the ones from around here are up at the veterans cemetary out in Orting where all the big doings are.

Back home, I am both sunburnt and windblown from our first trip to the pool for the summer. Seattle still hasn't decided which season it is yet, so it's playing highlights of both by turns. Dinner is cooking, and the girls are off raising Cain with their friends and the guys are playing video games. This is the strangest sort of crux between the past and the present and the future.

I'm here in the kitchen beating on my laptop's keys and basting the chicken in the oven, but my mind keeps going back and sitting on my grandfather's lap and playing with his watch and asking where he got the scar next to it while he drank a beer and talked to Jack Wilson about their next hunting trip. I remember my Gramma talking about how Gramma Emma would never again sew anything yellow after she sewed those two stars on their service flag. It's dim, though. Except for those few glimpses a five-year old keeps with them, most of these people are grainy black and white pictures and stories told over coffee cups.

My brain's over in the Atlantic, too. My brother-in-law called yesterday and talked to one of the boys for a while. He told my son he might be Jewish-by-marriage here soon. That was news for me; I knew he had been dating her but I hadn't heard he was thinking that direction. It's good he's thinking beyond all this. But I still worry. I don't have a widow's walk on this apartment, but if I did I would be out there with my lantern.

At least I have the stories. And my aunt has those grainy pictures. And my kids have heard how Grandpa Harold's unit had more casualties from frostbite than from fire (they were stationed in the Aleutians) and then in the Interior, and the specific beaches in Normandy where two headstrong Minnesota boys who ran away from home together to sign up died. They know how to properly salute a flag, and why we go and sweep off headstones and arrange those vases.

That is what this day is for me. To spend some time and at least once a year sit back a little, think, and remember. To remember what we had, what was done, what we've lost in the doing. To make sure that the next generation knows those things, too, so they don't have to make those same mistakes again to learn those same bitter truths. And this year, to think a bit about the stakes we're playing for in the things we're doing now. And to pray to anything that will listen that we don't have a specific grave of our own to decorate next year.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Things seem to change as they grow, but not really...

That blindingly huge grin you all know so well is still there, but the meaning changes.
  • A three month old baby usually needs to be changed.

  • A six month old baby may need to be changed or have it's mouth checked for foriegn objects it picked up off the floor and ate.

  • A three-year old just flushed something interesting down the toilet, or ate a bug.

  • A six year old just brought a "new pet" into your house, or made his little brother eat the bug.

  • A nine year old either lit something on fire or painted his little brother green.

  • A thirteen year old just got told that Tommy Johanson really really likes her by someone who promised not to tell, or just found that compact of really tacky eyeshadow you "lost" for her two weeks ago.

  • A seventeen year old just got told "Yes" by Tommy's older sister, or he narrowly avoided a traffic accident on the way home with a "cool" maneuver.

In any case, don't bother to wait for the stench, the upchuck, the water in the hall, the scuttling noise behind the couch, or the midnight phone calls. Take appropriate steps.

If you hear a sentence that starts with "Hey, do you know what happens if you..." prepare yourself. About half the time it means that whatever it is has already been tried, and they're trying to find a way to break the news about the damage caused to you without getting in trouble.

Any exclaimation of "COOOLLLLL!" you hear coming out of the bathroom, the kitchen, or the back yard merits immediate investigation. As they get older, check the garage as well.

Make sure to check the "Guest" login of the household computers every so often. Kindegardeners often try out every rude word they've heard to see if you can catch them. And high schoolers, welllllll, you know what to watch for.

Everything old really is new again. You can tell this because all your clothes have magically gravitated to their closet instead of yours. And they're not being used for tying into forts anymore or blotting up messes they don't want you to find out about anymore.

If the package on the liquid eyeliner says that it's "non-irritating", that means they're gonna try to paint stripes on their cornea with it at least once. Oh, and just as an FYI, in one case it was actually right and it didn't sting at all but the stripes didn't stick past the first couple blinks.

Live and learn, I guess. ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Photoblogging is KEWWWLLLL!

This is fairly wicked cool! Photoblogging may just get my Mom as many pictures as she wants!

Last winter's Snow Days brought out the Calvin and Hobbes in my eldest son.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

happiness is....
My doctor has been after me to go out and find something that makes me happy. She doesn't care how big or how small. I've been looking around, and this is all I've come up with so far for today between me and the kids.

...having two kinds of icecream on your cone.
...finding your skateboard tool(especially when it ISN'T where your mom said it was).
...the best tree-fort on the block.
...a yucky day, a good book, a fire in the fireplace, and the kids in school.
...DSL and time to kill.
...the kids are all asleep.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The Porcelain Police Lineup...

The girls re-arranged their room this weekend so they would have the proper platform for primping all week for Friday's dance. They are so proud of themselves. I haven't had the heart to tell them that their arrangement of a very nice poster of horizonal abstract flowers with really long stems combined with all their dolls ranged in front of it looks remarkably like the Porcelain Police Lineup. They like those fashion dolls, not the baby dolls, so it's kind of like Marshall Dillon shook down Miss Kitty's place in there. The giant stuffed Minnie Mouse and the plastic shark over in the corner do add an interesting touch. The rest of the week is going to be fairy dust, frills, and frantic hair bending. Sigh.

My eldest got through his first week of performances of his school musical and now we get a breather until Wednesday. Last week was insane - they were at school until after 11 every night last week, and they have to be there by 7:15. That's a.m. And after three days of this, VERY VERY a.m. I am upset at the director - she was looking to get some of the props at 11pm the night before opening. Apparently she thinks "plan" is one of those four-letter words we aren't supposed to use. I'm careful not to say anything, though. He handled this, plus all his other responsibilities and his usual social round. He figured out where to cut out the fun because he had to do the work. Welcome to real life, when you have to take time out of things you want to do in order to accomplish stuff you have to do. Everything got done, but about all he got to do was sleep. By Saturday he was frazzled but he felt good about it. I'm proud of him. He's growing up so fast, and not just in a vertical direction.

My younger son is still in a holding pattern. They think they can do what they call a deferred judgement, which is a process very similar to the diversion process they use for midemeanors. If the judge agrees and he jumps through all their hoops, it will be removed from his record completely. Until then, he gets a lot of stern supervision. It's his best chance for coming out of this well. For some reason the prosecutor's office came out loaded for bear on this, and were trying to convict him of everything down to mopery and dopery in the waterways. Personality-wise, we had a bit of fun when we first got back from court but things are stabilizing. The reality of what is going on is sinking in, and it makes it hard for him to keep going. I can understand that, even when I want to smack him silly. I can't give in to it, though, or he will have no chance at all of coming through this. I have to hold the line so he holds it. There are days I get him to bed and I just sit on the couch and weep, though.

As for me, well, don't ask. Then I won't tell. ;)
The View from the Yellow Line...

I live between the white lines of polemic that bind the edges of the road. Though it can be hard to see from the edges, there is a nice yellow line to help point the way. Here are a few of the survey points that keep mine straight.
  • The foundation that all my thought stands upon is REALITY. What is, is. There is no amount of wishing or belief that will change that which is plainly there, and there is no amount of dreaming that will keep you from the consequences of not dealing with it in real terms. Open up your eyes and look around you.

  • I have faith. That faith is expressed with actions. There is no amount of praying that will feed that homeless man, or get dinner on the table for my kids. Get out there and do. But be careful. Blind faith is as much a menace as no faith. Countless atrocities have been committed based on belief, because there is no limit to what people can believe. Use your brains as well as your heart.

  • Responsibility and consequences. I am responsible for my life. I will take the consequences of my decisions, both good and ill. I believe that everyone should do the same. This is freedom distilled to it's essence, and the only kind worth fighting for. Anything else is banner-wrapped slavery with a good PR plan.

  • Have a simple, consistent, practical moral framework. You don't need to haul around a manual to know your point of view. You make choices and form opinions from a specific set of beliefs that don't change at the drop of a hat. Be sure there is enough room in there to live and get by.
  • Be tolerant of other's viewpoints. It doesn't matter what your views are, or what other people's views are. You just need to know that they exist and agree in enough real-world points to allow for safe societal interactions. The fine points can be argued over a beer to your heart's content. That they have a different viewpoint does not excuse them from the real consequences of their actions, though, just as it does not excuse me from mine.

  • Take each issue as it comes, on it's own merits. Outside of the simple precepts above, there are no overarching solutions to every problem, and there may be more than one solution to a problem. Question everything. "Why?" should be your watchword, just like a 3 year old.

  • Solutions should hold everyone involved accountable for their actions, but no more. For example, if you hit someone's cat with your car, you need to make amends. I don't care that it is black and you had a headlight out, you were responsible. However, that also means the owner who let that black cat out at night has to take some responsibility too. And balancing those two responsibilities lets you come up with a reasonably fair set of consequences that take the real issues into account.

  • Look beyond the surface and out to the peripherals to see the whole problem and it's underlying reasons. I'm not saying be a conspiracy theorist, I'm saying that you need to pay attention.

I don't have all the answers. Heck, I'm pretty sure I don't have the right ones, either. But I have enough that I can get through, for now. Beyond that, we'll have to see.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Jim! I'm beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!

I fixed my washing machine today. All by myself. It's been broken for quite some time and I just wasn't able to get things together. Well, I'm quite handy and I figured I was no worse off today if I took it apart to see. I knew what had caused the problem. Somehow, one of the kids managed to run a cardboard box through the full wash cycle, and it had clogged it up to a fare-thee-well.

So, I went online and found a website called Repair Clinic that gave me the layout of the machine so I could find the filter-doo-hickey that was the probable cause of the problem and I just did it (after I cleaned out the mess that always seems to gravitate under there).

The clean up actually took the longest - once I got in there it only took two hose clamps and one screw to get to it. The whole mess was caused by a little wad of cardboard about the size of the end of your thumb. Took that out, put it all back together, and while I still had the thing out in the middle of the floor filled it part way and drained it out. Worked like a charm. Then because I was really paranoid I ran a light load with it out there - no leaks, all was well. So now it's back in the closet with a full load, and we're sitting pretty.

Now I just have about 25 loads of laundry to do. YAAAAYYYYYYY! ;)

Monday, May 03, 2004


What a great night. I got my dining room organized finally, I found my Yo-Yo Ma CD I've been missing forever, and I ran into an old friend online and he had some great news.

He has gone and gotten married. Congratuations Yuki and Gordon! May you live as long as you love, and love as long as you live.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

The REAL Mom's Cookbook: How to make Kool-aid...

1) The pitcher must be washed. That means you can't get it directly out of the fridge, drink the tail end of whatever was in there, and then turn around and start mixing. This is a very bad idea, especially when the last stuff was green and this stuff was red. It turns an extremely unappetizing brown color and then nobody drinks it. And yes, you must wash the outside as well. Why? Because you just drank out of the top for one thing, for another, because it's entirely possible that the soap from washing the inside just might be on the outside and you should take care of it. You bloody well better have used soap! Plus, it's disgusting and I said so. The lid, too. Nice try.

2) Choose your poison, uhhh, I mean flavor. Only one flavor per pitcher please (see above paragraph). This is not a good area for experimentation, especially with some of these newer "magic twisted freaky" flavors or whatever - you have no idea what so ever what's coming out of that little paper packet.

3) Shake the envelope to put all the powder in one end. Tear open the end you are holding on to, not the end that was out there flapping when you shook it and therefore contains the powder (centrifugal force in action, kids!). Make sure to hold the envelope above the pitcher while opening due to accidents involving inadvertant diagonal tears and incomplete shaking problems. If they're not already there, pour the contents of the envelope into the bottom of the pitcher.

4) Add 1 cup of sugar. Yes, I mean one measuring cup. Not my coffee cup, which is the size of a beer stein. And don't get creative - ladles, spoons, spatulas, etc are not good measuring implements. And whatever you do, DO NOT POUR DIRECTLY OUT OF THE CANNISTER! If you do that you end up with like five pounds of sugar in there and that's too much.

5) Show me the pitcher. And yes, when I say put half of that sugar back I mean it. This is the solution for the mystery of why I have two sugar cannisters - one for regular cooking, and one for the kid's Kool-aid adventures. Come on! You could make rock candy with that.

6) Fill the pitcher up to the handily enscribed line near the top. Above the line is right out - you make water stirred with a color crayon when you do that. Below the line is also right out, except if you then proceed to the line. Otherwise you make fake vampire blood or some sort of strange gelatinous alien ooze (depending on your chosen flavor). Right at the line, gang.

7) Gently but thoroughly stir the contents of the pitcher with a rubber spatula or long-handled wooden spoon. Do 25 laps one way, and 25 the other. That lets you play the swirly-game in the middle there, but doesn't give you enough momentum that it flies out of the pitcher when you do.

8) Don't you dare just start drinking out of the pitcher! Ugh! Get a glass. And unless you're going to consume the entire pitcher, put the lid on it and put it in the fridge when you're done pouring.

Next Time: How to Make Toast