Happy Pants

I just had to tell somebody... or every somebody.

I have recently submitted a few of my blog posts as articles to a website called Divine Caroline - they have articles about pretty much everything, and anyone can submit - and today/tonight I got an email that my article is being featured on the front page of their parenting section. It's the one I wrote about school pictures.

Check it out at divinecaroline.com. Click the little "I liked it" icon to show me some big love. The article is entitled "Say Cheese" by e.e.richards.


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Wipe the dust off your pants.

When I was a little girl we used to sing this song in Sunday School called "Oh What Do You Do In The Summertime?  It went a little something like this:  "Oh, what do you do in the summertime?  When all the world is green?  Do you march in parades, or drink lemonade, or count every star in the sky?  Is that what you do?  So do I."  I'm not sure who wrote this particular song but clearly they did not consult me or my sisters regarding the lyrics.  If they had the song would be a little less Twain  and a whole lot more Steinbeck.

My father, although a really pleasant man, did not view vacation time as a time to laze about counting stars and such nonsense.  Vacation time to him meant one thing and one thing only.  Free labor.  Every summer he had some kind of very extensive, very exhausting project that needed completing.  One year, when I was about 11 he wanted to landscape our "yard".  (It wasn't the kind of yard that we have here in Oregon.  The houses in Oregon are close enough together that if you need to borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor you just open your window, reach into their kitchen and get it yourself.  In Montana, the yards are big enough to let everybody walk around naked with the shades up and not have to worry that you're gonna end up on "the YouTube" -as I like to refer to it.)  Anyway.  My dad's idea of a landscaping project was to line the entire perimeter of our  property with a three foot wide border of broken brick.  Maybe brick is supposed to have protective powers - ward off the evil eye or whatever and Dad thought that by surrounding the house he was keeping us all safe.  Probably he just liked the color contrast- he was an artist. Regardless, that brick wasn't going to break, haul and spread itself.

If you've ever seen pictures of an old school chain gain where the men are breaking a big pile of rocks, then you've got a pretty good idea of how my sisters and I spent the summer of 1985.  Just swap out the big sweaty men with big hammers for little sweaty girls with little hammers... and gallon size buckets - the kind cheap ice cream comes in.  Then, add in all of the neighborhood kids that found out that our dad would "pay" them with a huge soda from the Maverick Convenience Store and Truck Stop at the end of the day and so decided to volunteer for service on the Ecker and Daughters Demo Crew. (Where was Amnesty International then I ask you.)  Seriously, all I remember is a bunch of kids running willy-nilly around huge piles of brick, sweating profusely in the very hot Montana sun and swinging hammers left and right.  Luckily for my dad it was "back in the day"- which basically means that he didn't have to worry about little trifling things like sunscreen or protective eye wear or closed toe shoes.  Maximum productivity with minimal overhead.

I started thinking about this particular summer vacation as, (during this winter vacation), I was outside, alone, using my bark dust rake to break down and clear away the slushy/snowy/icy furrows that are giving my street an appearance similar to how I imagine the border lands between Pakistan and... whoever borders Pakistan.  I thought about how if I had been my dad I would not be the one doing the raking.  If I were my dad, I would've organized my three children into a work party and let them learn the benefits of some good, hard, physical labor.  I would've recruited their friends.  I would've had a big work plan.  But, in actuality, that's just... so hard.  It's so hard to listen to the complaining.  It's so hard to get them to complete their assigned tasks.  It's so hard to stop my three year old from converting his broom into some kind of Samurai Warrior's weapon and launching an attack on anyone within strike range.

 It's so much easier to put my kids in front of a computer game and just do the work myself.  I want so much for my kids to be hard workers like my mom (who one day, early on in her time working for UPS, loaded package cars all night, went home and literally had a baby), or my grandfather, the carpenter, who dug the basement of my father's childhood home - by hand.  (One of the other summer projects I got to do was install a sprinkler system with him.  I got to do the "by hand" digging that time. Big fun.)  But, when it comes down to giving my kids an opportunity to learn the principle, I shelve the "teaching moment" in favor of the more efficient "get the heck out of my way so that I can get this done already moment".

I never realized, as I was hauling that brick, that my dad had a lot of other options for getting that work done- most of which would've been easier on him than transporting and supervising a baseball team's worth of kids, armed with hammers and very loud voices around in a van with no seat belts, (which meant freedom of movement) very limited air conditioning and vinyl seats.  I never realized as I was working and no doubt, fighting with my sisters that my dad had to endure not only the labor, but the laborers. I never realized as I was savoring my Orange Crush at the end of each day, that it was such hard work to teach kids how to work hard.

You might think that I hated those days.  I did not.  My vacations are full of good memories of a father that spent time with us, that made us finish what we started, that had a plan for his children.  The plan wasn't always fun.  Now I know that it wasn't fun for him either.  But sometimes what's needed in a child's life - and in a parent's, isn't vacations full of parade marching or star counting or computer playing.  What's needed is a vacation full of a pile of bricks... or a road full of snow.
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Just sitting around in my baggy pants


Just a couple of quick things.

First - Seriously, not one comment on my global warming manifesto? I'm a little disappointed. I was sure that like me you would all have nothing better to do than be absorbed in all things bloggy because of the total absence of warmth, sun and the ability to leave the house. (The pitch of that crazy little voice in my head is getting progressively higher and louder with each passing day stuck inside with my children and I'm seriously considering the suicide by hypothermia thing. I give myself 8 minutes. Tops.) And...

I think that my bum might be permanently stuck to my yellow velvet wing back chair (that's right -yellow velvet wing back... awesome) because as I just pointed out, it is still snowy and icy and cold - (for real snow and ice and cold, not just the Oregon poser kind) and I have been sitting here, in the same spot working on my blog all day. (I'm becoming like that king in the Shel Silverstein poem that only ate peanut butter sandwiches and his jaws stuck together for 50 years or something - except it's my bum, sticking to the chair - like I already said). Seriously, my kids are eating cereal out of baggies and the last time I checked, only 2 were accounted for.

So. As many of you know I've been working on my doula certification for awhile and I really want to finish it up... so that I can start getting paid. (Not super benevolent, but there it is.) So. I've got a new blog : bellybirthblog.blogspot.com (and it turned out pretty well if I do say so myself) where you can find out what the heck a doula is, read about my journey toward full doulaship , and get info about all things childbirth (books, research, baby slings/wraps/carriers, lactation/breastfeeding, fertility etc).

So. If you know anyone in the Portland area that is looking for a really awesome and enthusiastic and FREE labor doula, I would love to hear from them. Just point them toward my blog or they can reach me at bellybirth@gmail.com. I am aiming for one or two births a month, and already have one scheduled for May, so.. chop, chop people. Go find me some pregnant girls and pass the doula love along. (Yes, it is legal.)

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Al Gore wears snow pants


Date: 12/20/2008

To:  Al Gore

From: E

Subject: fair warning



In light of your recent Nobel Prize success (good job on that by the way) I thought it only fair that you should be the first to know about the environmental campaign that I am officially launching today.  Much like your recent efforts as a global do-gooder, my campaign will focus on climate change and the catastrophic consequences each of us is facing if immediate action is not taken.  Unlike your efforts, however, I will be focusing my energies not on stopping global warming, but on hastening it.

Why such a radical departure from mainstream scientific thought, you might ask.  In the words of the TV weatherman - Arctic Blast '08.  (That's a snowstorm for all of you laypersons.)  Where I live it would usually be ripe pickin' for your global warming concerns, but seven days of snow can make even the most fervent tree hugging state demand immediate action.  Yes Mr. Gore,  I have learned a few inconvenient truths of my own recently, and none of them sir, no not one, have been associated with being too warm.
Bulleted List
I am calling my campaign "Warmer Is Better - A Way More Inconvenient Truth", and am furnishing you with a copy of our manifesto.

  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #1: Global Warming will alleviate undo stress to our healthcare system. Cold people are fat people.  Fat people - not super healthy.  This claim is based on a week's worth of research that determined that all I want to do when it snows is eat, work on my blog, eat, watch episodes of "Angel" on Hulu and eat -(and I've not exactly been snacking on the low carbs and veggie platter, Al.  Unless you count chocolate covered cherries as fruit.)  As for exercise - it's hard to breathe through frozen boogers, so running is out.  Also, I can't do sit-ups and eat at the same time, so...
  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #2:  Global Warming will save our public education system.  Cold people are forced to homeschool their children.  I know quite a few homeschooled kids and they are well adjusted, socially competent, and intelligent people.  My husband and I even considered homeschooling our oldest child this year.  However.  I have now lived through one solid week of school closures (in addition to staring down the barrel of a 2 week Christmas break) and I am sad to report that by day three I wanted to run naked through the icy street and pray for a quick death from hypothermia.  
  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #3:  Global Warming will stop our dependance on foreign oil.  Cold people need big SUVs with 4 wheel drive.  How else can they be expected to make it through the snow in order to perform essential tasks, like trekking to Target to buy snow clothes that your kids will only use once.  I think we can all agree that our dependence upon foreign oil will end only when we live in a world warm enough to drive one of those little tiny electric cars that might look all responsible, but won't get you down an icy road to the nearest MacDonalds.
  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #4: Global Warming will strengthen families.  I don't know about you, but I need a routine that I can control.  I need a routine that I can rely on.  I need a routine that includes my husband and children getting the heck out of my house - which they cannot do if there's 12" of snow in my driveway.  Don't get me wrong, I love them, I just want to avoid a Paris Hilton/Nicole Ritchie estrangement.  All I'm saying is that if those girls had cut down on the one on one time and broadened their circle of friends they might still be total BFFs.
  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #5:  Global Warming will save the arts.  Specifically my favorite television shows- which have all been preempted in favor of storm updates.  Apparently the viewing public can't get enough of reporters standing in snow and talking about snow and showing pictures of snow. 
This is of course, our first draft, and I would love to hear any ideas you might have on improving it or on waging a successful environmental campaign.  Also, if you have the name of those Nobel Prize people, I'd like to start networking now because that $1.5 million would go a long way toward spreading our message.  I know that you gave your cut to charity, but c'mon Al - a girl's gotta eat.  And if this snow keeps up eat and eat and eat.

Thanks for your support.  Together we can make a difference.

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Snowmen don't wear pants

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Liar, liar, pants on fire.

One of the benefits of having more than one child is that it makes it really easy to deflect responsibility for things which you might rather avoid. Like, for example, when your nine year old asks you what happened to the Necco roof tiles on the gingerbread house that she made during her special "all-cousins-overnight-gingerbread-and-toaster-waffles-extravaganza" at her Grammy's house. If you have more than one child you can say something like "I'm sorry, I'll talk to your brother about that. He's only three. Thanks for being so patient with him."... and as long as you can keep the concerned mother face, (the one where you furrow your eyebrows and nod your head slowly,) she need never know that it was actually you prying those sugary architectural embellishments from the facade of her little edible cottage. (By the way, if you ever find yourself needing to steal candy off of your own child's gingerbread house go straight for the non-spoon end of a metal baby spoon. You might think that a butter knife would be the natural "go to", but it's too round and slips a lot. The spoon is blunt for stability and slightly curved for excellent leverage. I'm telling you, that royal icing could replace the O-rings in the space shuttle. There's no getting through that stuff.)

Now, it may seem wrong to tell such a... well, a big old fat lie to your kid, but I'm a big believer in the concept of "net good", and I'm pretty sure that leaving my daughter with a memory of her mother sitting on the kitchen floor in her "sock monkeys and airstream trailers" pajamas hacking away at her gingerbread house with a baby spoon would not be good for anyone.

I find it interesting what we remember about our parents. My guess is that the stuff that I want my kids to remember is not what they'll remember about me. I picture them reading Charles Dickens'  "A Christmas Carol" to their children one day saying "Your Grandmother loved this story. She used to read it to us every year. As a matter of fact, it was because she so diligently read to us for at least 20 minutes a day, as suggested by the American Academy of Pediatric Know -It- Alls, that I was inspired to write that Nobel Prize winning novel last year." In reality however it will sound more like this: "I didn't know that Go Dog Go was so long. When my mom read it to me it only had 10 pages. Weird. Maybe this is a different version."

Aside from liberally editing annoying children's stories and the seizure of gingerbread house candy, there are other parenting moments of which I am not particularly proud. For example,
telling my three year old that although it was unfortunate that her binky was missing, she had surpassed the approved "binky use" age threshold and would therefore need to soldier on through childhood without it. (It worked well, by the way. She never asked for it again). Or,
insisting to my son that there was a Storm Trooper hiding in the basement so that he would embark on a "search and destroy mission" and leave me alone to write on my blog. (I know, weasely, but again, effective.) Or my running narrative of nearly every Disney princess tale where I inform my daughter that if Cinderella had stayed in school and gotten her Master's Degree she could've moved out on her own and not married the first boy that asked her to dance. (I'm sticking by that one.) Or my favorite seasonal lie - "I'm emailing Santa, not his elves, him. I'm sure he'll be interested to know that you think I'm a "total meaner" for making you fold your clothes." I can solicit all kinds of good behavior with that one.

Let's face it folks, a lot of parenting is just finding the smallest lie that works best at the time. Is it wrong? Almost probably. Is it effective? You betcha, and if you really think about it, believing tiny little lies are a lot of what childhood is about anyway. Sometimes lies sustain the wonder of the child (ala Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the belief that you really can grow up to be a Jedi). Sometimes lies, however, sustain the sanity of the parent. And when there is not much sanity to be found, I'll take it where I can find it. Even if it's stuck to the roof of my kid's gingerbread house.

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My pants don't come from Brass Plum

In December of 1982 I turned 8 years old.  I don't remember exactly what I got for my birthday, but the smart money says: scriptures, a CTR ring and a dress for my baptism.  The good thing about having a December birthday is that when you hit one of those years (like 8- for those of us baptized at 8) when you get "responsible gifts" you know that the "party it up gifts" are only 2 weeks away, unlike my sisters who all have summer birthdays and had to wait 6 months.  My "party it up gift" for Christmas '82 was... a Cabbage Patch Doll.  Her name was Carlotta Lotti (with my surname obviously) and she smelled like fake baby powder mixed with new plastic.  Because it was the first year that these dolls were available there was a lot of Patch envy and I was more excited about that ugly little doll than maybe anything else before or since - except perhaps, for my phone shaped like a pair of big red lips that I got when I turned 14 (I have shared my lip phone obsession before I think.)

Here's the thing - as you might remember from my previous sentence, I was 14 when I got that phone.  I was a full on teenager doing full on teenager things.  I was wearing high heels and makeup and had my very own bra and everything.  Do you want to know what my 9 year old daughter has wanted for the last two Christmases?  A phone - of the cellular variety - a distant and much uglier cousin to my rad red lip phone.  My daughter is not 14.  My daughter is 9.

My daughter is 9 and is now what might be referred to as a "Tween".  Let's get one thing straight right now.  This is not even a real word people.  (It's not. It's an unword.)   This is a word that is thrown about as though it is an actual developmental stage.  (It's not.  It's an unstage.)  This word is supposed to explain lots of things, and describe lots of things, and make you understand lots of things about your child that, as a member of an aging Generation X, you did not know before it was so eloquently explained by the advertising executives and magazine editors who made it up and can now parle your new parenting saavy into selling almost grown up things to the parents of people who are not even close to grown up.  This word is a marketing predator.  It is the assassin of an entire generation of children's... childhood.  (And last time I checked "childhood" is an actual stage of life).

Because the phone was a definite non-starter, I googled (made up word) "what to get for your Tween for Christmas" and not only did I not find a gift, but was shocked and awed (made up phrase) at some of the entries I found.  (Almost all of which were aimed at girls.  Hmmm.)  The worst of which was entitled "When to get your Tween her first bikini wax".  (In the spirit of full disclosure I must tell you that I did not actually read this article.  I'm allowing myself to imagine it saying something like this:  "If you are reading this you should really take the wax job money and start a therapy fund for your poor kid.  Trust us she's going to need it.")

 Just to be clear, I'm all for personal hygiene and I think that that includes hair removal - FOR ADULT WOMEN (and, let's face it, sometimes men) that are old enough to give informed consent to the very painful process that is having your hair smothered in hot wax and ripped out at the root.  I am not okay, however, with a horse pill sized dose of adult vanity (of which I have plenty - I use two different eye creams twice a day to keep the wrinkles on someone else's face) being allowed to ooze all over my kid.  If the Madison Ave people (or wherever they are these days) want to stick a cell phone in their daughter's hand, slap some lipstick on her and yell "call me when you get there" as she sprints alone towards her future, fine.  But I intend on staying no more than 2 steps behind mine for the foreseeable future.  Just in case.

I want my daughter to be a child while she's a child.  I want her to be a teenager while she's a teenager.  I want her to squeeze every drop of her youth out of life like one of those crazy Jack LaLanne juice machines,  (who knew that carrots had so much liquid inside them)  and then I hope she can close the door behind her and feel like she's arrived somewhere important.  I want her childhood to not only prepare her to be an adult, but to liberate her to be an adult woman.  I do not want her turning into one of those 40ish year old women that still shops in the "Brass Plum" at Nordstrom because someone made her believe that 17 is the only age that is acceptable and beautiful and worth being.  (Long story short ladies, just because it fits, doesn't mean it fits your age.)

My nine year old doesn't need her eyebrows tweased (well, she sort of does but she doesn't know that yet.)  She doesn't need her hair colored.  (She will, she's going dishwater, but she doesn't know that yet.)  She doesn't need high heeled big girl shoes.  (She will, she's probably not going to be much taller than me, but she doesn't know that yet.)  What she does need is as much time as possible to not change a single thing about herself.  She will find that there will be a multitude of lifetimes to worry about that.

What she needs most of all though is a mom who can figure out what to get a nine year old girl for Christmas.  Maybe I'll try to find my old Cabbage Patch doll and call it "vintage Tween".  I bet I could make millions.
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Don't destroy the only pants you have

Have you ever been going through one of those times of life when you didn't think things could get much worse?  I'd like to give you all some advice just in case you ever find yourselves in just such a situation.  First, do not, under any circumstances say, "at least it can't get any worse".  Trust me, it can get worse and if you say it out loud, karma/fate/God/voodoo will think you are double-dog-daring them and then... it will get worse.

Second, (and this may seem like a no brainer to the rest of you, but it is a lesson I recently learned), identify self destructive behaviors and run away from them - before the self destruction.  Now, self destruction can look like a lot of different things - it's the shape shifter of mental illness.  Sometimes it looks like 5 or 6 chocolate bars.  Sometimes it looks like a really great pair of shoes that you cannot afford, unless you sell one of your children... short term gain, long term loss there people - plus, they don't let you have fancy shoes in the pen.  Sometimes, however, self destruction is the phrase "how hard could it be".  Warning - if you think this, you have either grossly overestimated your abilities, or seriously underestimated the difficulty of the task which you endeavor to undertake.  Put on the music from "Chariots of Fire" (in your mind - obviously) and sprint in the opposite direction.  "How hard could it be" is like the plague of positive thinking and it will kill you.

My most recent "how hard could it be" moment started with a simple observation:  "I really need a haircut".  Yeah, I know - where was the voice in my mind that was giving this advice then, I ask you?  Probably drowned out by the loud and slightly crazed voice saying, "Use the razor instead of scissors.  That's what Stella does."  (Stella is the woman that has been cutting my hair for 10 years, and ps - she's probably going to break up with me now).  So...  I picked up my razor - the one I use to shave my legs- super professional - and I started hacking away at my hair.  I know.

I finished the front and sides and as much to my suprise as anyone's, it looked pretty good.  Unfortunately for me, and contrary to the lie I've been telling my children for basically their entire lives, I do not actually have eyes in the back of my head, and it's hard to hold a mirror and razor at the same time.  Well what would you have done?  I went with a kind of Zen-mystic style of hair cuttery, where you become one with the blade and feel your way through the task without actually watching what you are doing.  You use your spiritual eyes instead really.  Good for motorcycle maintence and midwifery, not so much for cutting your own hair.  I must admit that cleaning out the razor after each pass over my head was pretty rad.


My cutter's high came to a screeching halt when I finally looked in the mirror.  The funny thing is that I actually expected to see a high quality hair cut back there.  What I got instead was a jagged mixture of short and shorter hair with two literally bald spots where I had apparently and unknowingly taken my hair off at the scalp.  How I could not have felt this I do not know, I guess I was in "the zone".  (I'm blaming the Bible for all of this, by the way.  I think that those stories of people like Job that shaved their heads and covered themselves in ashes when things went wrong really spoke to me.  I'm not blaming God.  I like Him a lot.  I just think that those stories should come with some kind of warning.  Like blowdryers that say "do not use while sleeping" and stuff like that.)

My husband was called in to repair the damage - because he is a trained cosmotologist.  And when I mean trained, I mean - he cut lots of guys' hair on his mission.  He had about as many options as a field surgeon in the Civil War.  Amputate quickly or amputate slowly.  It wasn't pretty - what am I saying, it isn't pretty.  (My fault, not his.)  Actually, if he'd have cut the back to begin with it would've been... well not good, but not Schindler's List either.

So, the upside - I didn't eat myself into oblivion.  The downside - two bald patches  in the back of my head - have you not been listening?  At least it won't take any extra work to grow back my hair, (unlike pie induced weight gain) just a little time (exactly like pie induced weight gain).  And the next time things get worse when I thought it wasn't possible - I'll have my husband hide my razor.

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Who's pants would you rather have?

I'm going to keep this short and sweet people. - enough with the Great Depression references already. I get that things are not going that well right now - my husband does mortgages, trust me, I get it. But...

We are not at 25% unemployment. That's 1 out of 4 families without jobs (and the extent of my math skills.)
We are not suffering a drought that destroys farms and livestock and exposes us to real life starvation (not just the kind my kids talk about when they get off the bus. I'm pretty convinced that the school lunch lady is not actually feeding my kids, but rather taking our money and sending it to some Swiss bank in preparation for her flight to hair net freedom.)
We are not living in converted railroad cars, or tents, or chicken coops - although my family may be in a van down by the river soon. (It's what I like to call "the VW housing authority").

My grandfather lived through the Great Depression and I think he still lives with it. He never throws anything away. When we moved from California to Oregon we found scraps of wood that he'd strapped together and stacked in the storage space in our garage - just in case. (It was comforting to learn that we'd been living in an unlit woodpile for 5 years.) He can find more meat on a chicken wing than I thought existed on the whole chicken. He repairs his shoes with duct tape until there is more duct tape than shoe - (unless Grandma finally "persuaded" him to buy a new pair, and by persuaded I mean chasing the garbage man down as he is leaving the street so that there is no chance of my Grandfather retrieving his haute footwear.)

So...until I am literally digging through the city dump to find food and clothes like he did, I think it's a bit "after school special" of me to act like I understand his childhood suffering. I don't. I hope I never will.

Just remember as you look as these photos that we might be suffering a lot of things right now, but none of them is the Great Depression.

(ps- No need to thank me for the ray of sunshine that is this post.)

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Santa's pants are still in his closet and yours should be too...

Many of you have heard about my neighbors.  Let's just say if life was cheer camp, and you got the spirit stick for putting up the most holiday decorations, they would be a cheerleading urban legend.  (I  was never a cheerleader and hence, never went to cheer camp, but I have watched "Bring It On" - more than once I'm sorry to say.  I do not like this movie, or the people pretending to be actors pretending to be cheerleaders in it, but sometimes you gotta watch the train wreck.  Don't pretend you haven't seen this movie people- I can feel your judgieness all the way from here.)

Anyway, at Halloween the Griswalds put up - and I am totally not kidding - 4 stuffed persons in various chainsaw murderer/angel of death/psycho stalker outfits and propped them up all over the lawn.  One was actually climbing up the side of their house until the wind knocked it down.   Also, there was a head floating in a jar of ... something on a table by the door, about 30 cardboard headstones on the grass, a skeleton emerging from a grave, cobwebs, haystacks, orange/purple/magenta lights, and (my personal favorite) spooky music which we all got to enjoy for 3 weeks every night from 6ish - 9ish.  Luckily for us, this is when we are trying to put our children to bed.  There's nothing like family prayer and scripture study to a soundtrack of screaming, howling and moaning - come to think of, that's what bedtime's like everynight... so nevermind.

Now they have crossed the line.  Two words - Christmas decorations.  I know you are checking your calendars and wondering why you do not remember having your turkey and pie.  That, dear people, is because it is November 11th.  I find this behavior offensive and morally objectionable (you heard me - morally objectionable.)  It is not time to be looking around, trying to figure out what stuff we want, but for appreciating the stuff we have.  It is not time to be asking for more when we have too much already - and they do - I've seen their garage.  It is time for us to take a stand against the gullible consumerism that has bored its way into our culture and taken over our precious holiday time. (P.S. neighbors - just because they sell it, doesn't mean you need it.)

So, in a totally futile attempt to resist my neighbor's holiday coup d'etat I am concentrating on the things I am thankful for until after Thanksgiving, (when I will hopefully not turn into a big, fat hypocrite.)  Here are some of the things I've come up with...

1.  I am thankful for running water in my choice of hot or cold.  Did you know that according to the World Health Organization (2006) 42% of the people on the African continent still used "unimproved sources of drinking water".  (The internet is a handy thing, huh?)  It is a great thing to live in a place where you can have confidence that the water going into your child's mouth didn't just serve as a bovine day spa.

2.  I am thankful for my ears - specifically for two reasons.  One - so that I can hear the sound a basketball net makes when the ball falls through just right.  It's somewhere between a snap and a woosh - a snoosh, and if you've never noticed it, I'm sorry for you because it quickens my pulse - really.  Two - so that I can hear my three year old say "I just wuv you sooo much" at random intervals throughout the day.  Often when he's in trouble - the kid's no dumby.

3.  I am thankful for a birthday in December.  It is the fanciest time of year, with the prettiest lights and best food.  It's like everyone got everything all dressed up just for me.  For anyone who has a December birthday and doesn't like it I say - you're wrong, get over it.

4.  I am thankful for hair dye and anti-aging/anti-sagging/anti-ugly cosmetic products that are not tested on animals so that I don't have to feel guilty as I try to maintain my healthy, youthful glow.  (I have to be honest here - I would use them anyway.  Have you noticed that the only people that protest animal testing are those too young and healthy to need medicines and miracle creams.  I am not for animal testing, I'm just saying...)

5.  I am thankful for Al Gore's most famous invention - the internet...  without which, I would not be talking to you and wasting my time on my various moral crusades like this one - recently named "Citizens Against Untimely Holiday Decorations"- (nor would I be able to quote WHO facts as per #1).

6.  I am thankful for the surgeon that repaired my torn ACL 15 years ago.  I've run a lot of miles on that knee and the scar is cool.  Sometimes I pretend it's from a knife fight in a biker bar.  I know, I don't seem the type but...

7.  I am thankful that I can read.  Imagine the things that you would not know if you couldn't read.  No Walden, or Ikea assembly instructions, or street signs, or online suggestions for how to get vaseline out of your two year old's hair at 2 am (the answer is cornstarch and then shampoo - just in case).   Because I can read, no one can ever lie to me about what God says I should or shouldn't do, or control what I know and understand.  I feel a deep sorrow for women in other countries and cultures that do not have this blessing.  In the words of my 7 year old niece - "Books are powerful".

8.  I am thankful that I can laugh a big huge laugh and I'm not afraid who hears me.  Sometimes, especially when times are low, a laugh that comes from way inside you and rumbles around in your chest for awhile before it bursts out loud can clear a lot of sorrow from the soul, like the way duct tape can take all the fuzz balls and mystery hairs off of your pants in like 2 seconds.

9.  I am thankful for duct tape - since we were on the topic.  One of the most important lessons learned from my ancestors (specifically my grandfather, who is still alive so I don't know if he qualifies as an "ancestor" yet) is this - you can fix anything with duct tape.  (There may be duct tape holding my knee together.  Who really knows?)

I just hope when we finally do hang our blue holiday twinkle lights (my husband got them on sale and now everyone thinks we celebrate Hanukah) that I will remember that all of the holiday pretty is really about the most important things to be thankful for and not at all about needing more of the things that in the end mean not much.
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Her pants are really tiny

SHE - not exactly a morning person.
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My pants have an extra pocket for my wand.

First off - I love my new layout.  It's from Leelou blogs and I think the little owl rocks.  (I decided that a lot of her stuff is too cute for me, but I have a thing for owls so, I forgave her.)  I think I will name it Wentworth after my favorite Austen character and he will just sit there waiting for me like good ol' Captain Wentworth waited for Anne (sort of).  (I don't remember if Jane spelled Anne with an "e" or not, but I do... because it's right).

And speaking of owls, those of you who know me are probably surprised that I didn't go with "Hedwig" ala Harry Potter.  It is my one pop culture indulgence- (I refuse to get sucked into crazy teenage vampires in love).  I don't care what anyone says - Harry is good people and I love everything about him.

The month of November brings lots of good things to love.  My daughter for one.  She turns nine this month.  Nine years... nine breaths.  I am convinced that something happens to your sense of time when you have a baby.  Part of you is forever left there, on that day, in that place, having that baby - like a bookmark on a really important page of a really important book. Like the breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretal left on the trail to be able to come back to where they started. Like some kind of emotional tattoo that never fades or looks ugly and trashy.

I remember clearly in this instant how she was all slimy and pink and bloody and fat and there was strawberry blonde hair on her head and her ears, just like I was holding her then.  I remember how she smelled like birth - I don't know how to describe "l'eau de birth" but let me tell you, if Eden or Heaven have a smell, that's it.  New, organic and juicy.  (By the way- Hell smells like a child with the flu at 3 am...  just in case you were wondering.)

 I remember thinking that the throwing up was finally all over and that I wanted a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.  I remember her screaming and how I thought "a soprano - maybe we can sing together".  I remember thinking that she looked like her father, and that it wasn't fair at all, since I had done all the work.  I remember how I felt all  primal and wild like an animal standing between her cub and a predator... turns out it was only the nurse wanting to give her a bath.  Birth has a way of exposing a girl in more ways than one.

I look at my daughter now and she is so tall (not really) and so thin (really) and she has fantastic freckles on her nose like she was dusted with magic freckle powder, and she runs and talks - a lot- and reads and is - like a person.  I signed up to have a baby, and what I have now is a person.  I don't think I got that nine years ago.  She doesn't get to stay a baby, even though there is no convincing my memories that she is not.  Even though when she was 2 she promised that she would (apparently, she is also a big, fat liar.)

After her, November will never be November for me again.  To me, probably forever, November  is baby having time.  When I smell that fall smell and the pumpkin patches going by and the crisp air and red leaves, I can feel it deep in my body that she remembers what happened nine years ago and she's wondering when it's going to happen again.  (As evidence I offer exhibits 1 and 2 - my sons- born in October, all 3 within a month of each other. All I'm saying is that I had one other pregnancy that was due in May, but that ended in October - 1 month before my daughter's birthday, almost 1 year to the date of my 2nd child's birth.  I think we can agree that this proves that pregnancy voodoo is real.) 

 I am not having any more babies, unless there's some kind of terrible accident, but I am glad that I got to do it three times.  My daughter will never remember the first time she saw my face, but I will never forget the first time I saw hers.  When she was born, someone else's story became my story.  When she was born,  she stitched herself into my soul.  When she was born, so was I ... and that's a magic that not even Harry Potter can top.
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Don't leave your pants in a pumpkin patch

One thing I loved about holidays growing up were the corresponding Charlie Brown TV specials.  I mean, who doesn't love "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown?" (I think that's what it's called).  In case you never watched this - in which case I think you can make a persuasive argument of abuse and/or neglect - Linus sits in the punkin patch (that's the folksy spelling that I just made up) all through Halloween waiting for the Great Punkin to bring presents to all the girls and boys.  He manages to talk Sally into sitting with him (or maybe she volunteers because she is not so secretly in love with this big headed, punkin obsessed kid), and they wait all night for the Great Punkin, who - shocker - is a no show.  In the end she gets pretty hacked off because she realizes that she missed all the good parts of Halloween while she was waiting around on the dreams of some stupid boy (there's a lesson in that girls).

Well Linus, do not despair - I have found your people and they have got your back.  Maybe you did not know this (and neither did I until I watched a public television special called "Lord of the Gourd" - because we get 4 channels on our TV), but there are people in this great land of ours that are just as passionate about punkins as you are Linus.  These produce engineers dedicate their lives to growing and weighing off giant punkins.  I'm talking about punkins that weigh 1044 lbs. , 1225 lbs., 1091 lbs.  (Apparently this last weight was a disappointment because they interviewed a bunch of people that seemed really upset about it.  I'm talking tears people.  No joke.)

If you think you've seen commitment, think again.  These punkin growers make Navy Seals look like a bunch of lay-about slackers.  The punkin competition circuit is apparently similar to a cage fight to the death and is wrought with hidden perils.  Among these - rodents, water, no water, bugs (all kinds), and sabotage from jealous competitors.  (Yes, sabotage - one family actually has surveillance cameras all around their punkin patch to catch the perps.  Which, they let us know, should serve hard time for their crimes against giant gourds.  It's vegicide is what it is really and we can't punish that severely enough I say.)

All other endeavors take a back seat to nurturing the punkins.  One of the growers actually said "sometimes I can't go to family stuff, like my daughter's soccer games, because I have to feed the punkins".  I pictured him sitting next to a huge punkin holding a spoon and yelling, (much like Brando in "Street Car..." or "On the Waterfront"), "Puuunnkiiinnn.  We could have been a contender".  (It was all very dramatic in my mind).

I was all impressed with these people until one of them said that taking care of his punkin was harder than taking care of an infant.  This was followed up by comments like :  "when you cut the punkin from its stem it's like cutting the umbilical cord from your baby", and "taking your punkin to the competition is like taking your child to college".  There was actually one lady (who ps. did not have actual human children)- that named her punkin Shasta (apparently her punkin was a stripper) and says it takes her days of solitude to mourn the loss of her punkins.  (By the way - Shasta weighed in at 700 lbs., that's a lot of stripper).

Okay.  Punkin Crazies answer me this, did you make dietary decisions based on what you could throw up with ease everyday of your punkin's growing season?  Exactly how many stretch marks will you carry for the rest of your life due to rapid weight gain because your punkin insisted on taking up every inch of space inside your body that it could get it's greedy little punkiny hands on?  Did someone tell you that your punkin would be ready to go to competition on a certain day, but then the punkin decided that it wouldn't be ready until 12 days later?  How much sleep do you average per night when your punkin is cutting its teeth? Is it hard to find a punkin sitter on short notice?  How do you get away with leaving your punkin out in the field all night because I'm pretty sure the state would frown on that if I did it to one of my kids - even if I did cover them with a handmade patchwork quilt like you do.  I'd imagine that "this is how the giant punkin growers do it and those things get huge" might not be an acceptable defense when children's services came a knockin'.  And finally, what is the going rate for punkin tuition these days, because I'm checking into selling my organs on the black market to pay for my three kids to go to college and if you've got a better plan I'd love to hear it.

Punkin Growers of the world hear my voice - unless you can answer these questions to the satisfaction of every mother that has grown, birthed/adopted, cleaned the amazing variety of bodily fluids from, and dried the tears of another human being - enough with the infant references.  (This goes for all you animal lovers out there too - although I know I'm gonna take a hit for it.)  Nothing that you take care of will ever be like taking care of a child.  I don't care how cute it is, or how much time it took to do it, it's not taking care of a child.  It may be a noble pursuit, or a passionate hobby, but it is not taking care of a child.

Even Linus could figure this one out, because at the end of the day when his punkin disappointed him, he went home to the one whose work was raising actual children.  His mommy.  And if she believed, as I do, that the best way to deal with disappointment in life is to eat something that tastes good, she would've served him up a big old piece of punkin pie (with whipped cream) and smiled at the irony of it all.

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Bring Your Pants to the Table

I have always believed there are two kinds of people in the world.  Cooks and Bakers.  
Bakers are meticulous people.  They level off cups of flour with the back of a butter knife, they use unsalted butter, they pay attention to whether or not their baking soda is out of date.  Cooks are, well... not bakers.  These are people that see recipes as friendly suggestions, to be disregarded, changed and adapted.  Cooks add stuff until it "looks right" or "feels right" or "tastes right".  Cooks are constatly trying to substitute stuff and are surprised when it doesn't turn out quite like they thought it would (for example... tonight's beef stew - dehydrated carrots, not as good as real carrots is all I'm saying.)  But some of the time, the changing and fiddling is the birth of a new favorite. Cooks do not like baking because it is rigid and ruley.  Bakers do not like to cook because it is uncertain and prone to failure.

I am not a baker, but I do like to cook and am pretty good at it, (I think.)  Over the years I have established a few rules that govern my time in the kitchen.  I play music when I cook.  My favorite is the soundtrack from Chocolat.  You should try it.  You may or may not want to imagine Johnny Depp sitting at your kitchen table watching you, I do not - when people watch you cook they're bound to have something to say about it, and I already have enough voices in my head.  Sorry Johnny.  Also, I only cook for people that I like.  If I don't like the people that I'm feeding I get a little bitter.  I am convinced that my moods are in my food.  As you might well imagine,  pan seared anger doesn't win the James Beard.  (They have a website in case you want to vote for me.  2009, my hands are washed and my fingers are crossed.)

I do not want to give the impression that everything I've ever made has been ... edible.  Unfortunately for my husband my culinary journey has been riddled with a few head on collisions with bad judgement.  With one word I can induce flashbacks in him that a Vietnam Vet would run from.  Just one word - meatloaf.  We had not been married very long when I decided that I would impress my husband with my hitherto undiscovered domestic skills.  Dinner seemed like a good place to start.  I'd helped my dad make meatloaf when I was a girl and I remember that others in my family liked it.  (I have always been turned off by the idea of a loaf made from meat, but I did like to mix all the messy ingredients together with my hands, so -)  Plus, I knew that I should serve it with a baked potato and some kind of vegetable or fruit.  I think I went with Jell-o mixed with fruit cocktail.

I found the recipe that my dad used which was conveniently printed on the side of the Quaker Oats box, and embarked on my meatloaf adventure.  Pound of ground beef - check, eggs - check, oats - check, other stuff that presumably belongs in meatloaf- check.   I added the stuff and started to mix.  Here I need to remind you that "cooks" add stuff until it "looks right" - and what I remember distinctly is that it did not look right.  It looked a little runny, in fact, and so to remedy the runnyishness, I thought - "a little more oatmeal".  A little more oatmeal turned into a lot more oatmeal and like a science fair project gone terribly awry- the meatloaf (referred to from here on out as the oatloaf) began to grow.  Hoping that it would stiffen up in the oven, I scraped it into a pan and put it in at 350 to bake.  Meatloaf should bake for and hour, hour and a half tops - my oatloaf? Like 3 hours and still it was... jiggley.  Let me tell you people, jiggley is not a word you want associated with many things about you, including your meatloaf.

I eventually gave up on the meatloaf looking any better, pulled it out of the oven, and plated it up. I still remember the look on my poor husband's face when it started to spread across his plate like the title character from a 50s horror flick.  If the over-baked potato and identity-conflicted Jell-o could've made a run for it, they would have.  And quite frankly my husband should have.  In an act of supreme self-sacrifice he picked up the ketchup bottle, emptied it on top of his oatloaf and ate the entire thing without one complaint. (If you're gagging a little right now, I understand).

Our bodies are amazing things.  They are a mixture of electrical systems, and hydrolic systems, and chemical systems.  Our bodies work even when we don't think about it (usually).  For example, our brains release a chemical called oxytocin that is a bonding and love hormone.  It is released during birth, and sex, and -when we eat. (You were wondering what the hormone thing had to do with the rest of this post huh?) I credit this hormone with blinding my husband to the perils of a poorly prepared dinner in order to maintain the relationship with his wife.  I don't care what Oprah or any of the rest of "them" say -  food is love.  Sometimes we cook it and sometimes we eat it, and sometimes we pretend to like it to spare the feelings of our skinny 2o year old bride.  But always we bring our pants to the table and become a little more a part of someone else's life because of it. 

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Why does my son have holey pants?

I am catching a lot of flack for the lack of pictures on this blog so... here are the men that wear the pants in our house. Mostly I wanted you to see how cute boys are in vests as per "Little Man Pants."
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Little Man Pants

My oldest son turned 6 on Thursday.  It's amazing to me that he can change so much, but my stretch marks, which are the same age as him, are essentially the same.  I think it's a bit of a cruel joke that a body can start out all smooth and lovely (if I do say so myself) without much effort at all, and then when that same body gets pregnant - hot dog in a microwave.  Stuff exploding all over and not a thing you can do about it.  Anyway...

I grew up in an all girl household (as most of you have heard) and it was a pretty liberated existence.  I didn't even know that most families usually wore clothes at home, because we figured - why bother?  It was a mad rush up the stairs to get decent every time the door bell rang.  I'm not sure if anyone ever saw the Running of the Girls, but if you did - please keep it to yourself - I might run for office one day and if it got out that I was a semi-nudist as a teen it might cause a lot of work for my campaign staff.

I always assumed I would have all girls like my mother.  My first child was, to my delight, a girl.   My first niece - was a girl (obviously, but there is no gender neutral term for your sister's kids).  Then I got pregnant again, and I assumed that baby #2 was a girl.  I had names and everything.  At the ultra-sound, when they showed me all my baby's business, I told the ultra sound interpreter lady that she needed to check again because "girls don't have those."  She assured me that girls don't, but my son did.  I was not pleased. (I know as a mother I was supposed to be thrilled with whatever I was getting, but motherhood and I don't always see belly to belly).  

Months passed and then (very long story short) I was holding a baby boy, that looked a little bit like Yoda, smelled that really good smell that only women can smell on newborn babies (sorry men - but you are totally missing out here) and was looking at me like he knew me from a long time ago and was so glad to see me again.  I was in love with that boy from the moment I saw/smelled/kissed him. I'm still in love with him. Before he goes to bed at night we take turn saying "You are the moon and I am the stars, and my love is all around you."  He made that up when he was 4 and it makes me want to cry when I think that one day he will probably say it to another girl.

So, here are the reasons I adore having sons and would take a hundred more (in theory only):

5.  Boys love their moms.  They give big hugs and big kisses and think you are the most beautiful girl in the world.  One day my son and I were driving in the car and we passed a woman running with her dog.  She had apparently been mugged by a shirt thief leaving her to run home in almost no clothes (poor thing) and she was also very...bouncy.  A few seconds after passing her my son said "Mom, did you see that?"  I thought "Yeah, I thought she was gonna lose an eye".  Then my son said "That was the biggest dog I've ever seen" - like she wasn't even part of his mental picture. Now that's a good man.

4.  Boys are simple.  Feed 'em something messy, clothe 'em (in anything), water 'em and they're happy as little clams.  (I'm not sure what clams are happy about.  I will not be happy if I come back as a clam.)

3.  Boys have an upgraded sound chip.  My sons can make noises with their mouths that I thought only came from sci-fi movies.  They can imitate rockets being launched, guns being fired, lasers being blasted.  Do you know what a light saber sounds like when it's activated by its Jedi - well I do, because my boys make that noise all the time.  It is also my signal to intervene because it means that there is an impending battle between - a. my sons, b. my sons and the dog, c. my sons and my pottery.  Eventually I'm sure I will grow weary of their noises, but right now, I'm still pretty impressed.  (ps - I've tried to make these noises myself - no good).

2.  Boys don't have girl friends (that is friends that are girls) and so escape the girl friend drama through which my almost 9 year old daughter is living right now.  I have suggested to her on more than one occasion that she play with boys instead, (this was my coping mechanism of choice) but she says that boys are "stupid and gross" so I guess that's a no.  All I'm saying is that my son and one of his friends played Legos together for like 2 hours the other day with no issues (that they didn't resolve on their own) and at the end of it announced that they were glad to be best friends (even though they have played together twice - total.)  Now, that's male bonding.

1.  Little man clothes.  If you think that only girls have cute clothes, you obviously have never purchased little tighty whiteys for your 3 year old.  FREAKING ADORABLE.  Even better - little tiny boxer-briefs for your 6 year old.  Seriously, I wish my boys could just show everyone what they look like in their unders because it is that cute.  (But that would be weird and the state might have something to say about it so, luckily for them, I do keep them clothed.)  I am also a fan of the little man white shirt and tie combo for church, and the sweatshirt layered with a vest for casual wear.  Plus, no stupid hair bows, or those head bands that look like some tribal torture device (have you seen the marks those things make on little bald heads)  like little girls have to wear.

If you have not discovered the genius of boys, I recommend that you get yourself one - if for no other reason than to raise them up right (eg - mine always put the seat down) and in female solidarity provide a really good husband for some little sister out there who will one day hear that she is the moon and he is the stars and his love is all around her.

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There's a Rock Star Living in my Pants

Last night I went to the Weezer concert with my husband. (It was a birthday present. I bought the tickets a really long time ago and I kept it a secret - which I cannot believe.  I was very proud that I kept my big mouth shut.  It's rare.)  Weezer was great, but the opening bands (there were two)... not so much.  However, the first group - who was clearly just thrilled to be there- did have passion.  We'll call the keyboardist - Crack Addict Schroeder.  I've never seen someone play the piano with every part of his body (figuratively, obviously) - and he played a mean tambourine as well.  If it had been a cow bell I would've asked for his autograph. Alas...

I've been to 3 other concerts in my life.  They were :

1.  The Jets in 1985ish at the Metro Arena in Billings MT.  If you do not remember The Jets I am sorry for you.  Essentially they were the Polynesian Osmonds, except there was more than one girl and none of them wore purple socks.  At their core though, they were a singin' Mormon family looking to make a buck.  My parents ushered at the Metro Arena along with other people from our church as a fundraiser and it was through this awesome connection that my sister and I actually got to meet the Jets.  (I know.)  We also got to be in the very front of the crowd... right in front of the barrier ...between the audience and the band.  This is great until a coven of screaming tweens begin a relentless march toward said barrier hoping that one of those beautiful Jet boys would pull them on stage and ask them to join the band, or maybe marry them, or both.  Totally reasonable. In, what I realize now was a Concert Rookie mistake, I stretched my ribcage, shoulders,neck (and finally), chin up to make it easier breathe.  The girls around me, who clearly saw me as a threat to their imminent proposals of marriage, (I was pretty hot in my turquiose stirrup pants) and also considered my 75 pound body an acceptable casualty, sucked up the 1/4 inch of space I gave up when I stretched out and I literally couldn't move even one muscle.  You try to breathe all stretched out like that.  Go ahead.  It's no good.  My sister (in a similar predicament) and I ended up getting hauled over the barrier by the security guards because "Jealous Mob Squishes Girls To Death at Polynesian Osmonds Concert" was not a headline they wanted to see in the Billings Gazette.

2.  Debbie Gibson in 1988ish at the California State Fair -  All I have to say about this one is that if you start off as Debbie, you finish up as Debbie.  I'm sorry, but you don't get to decide that if you change your name to "Deborah" then people will forget you sang "Electric Youth" and "Only in My Dreams" and hire you as a dramatic actress.  All things have their price and teenage fame's is this:  when your fans grow up, you get sent to the Goodwill with their Huffy 10 speed and their phone shaped like a pair of lips- (I got one of these for my 14th birthday and I still freakin' love that thing - wherever it is).  Like every other embarassing part of childhood, you and your smelly "Electric Youth" perfume (which I also owned and unfortunately wore) will be grown out of and not welcomed back... with one exception - Marky Mark, who lost the Funky Bunch, found his shirt,  and is now legitimately known as and gets work as  - Mark Walberg.  (Miley Cyrus - you've been warned.)

3.  Barry Manilow, last year with my mom and sister in Portland Oregon - I do own a shirt that says Barry Fanilow, and sometimes I wish that my name was Lola.  Nothing is better than dancing without shame to Barry with those you love.  By the way, Barry can still sing it up people, but I do wonder how he sings so loud without actually moving his mouth.  Not a plastic surgery success story is all I'm saying.

Which brings me back to Weezer 2008 Portland Oregon.  A couple of things I learned last night: Firstly, Don't show up to a concert on time unless you want to watch lame opening acts and sound checks.  

Secondly, I saw way too many women over 30 in pigtails.  All I can say about this is "STOP  IT." It does not make you look young and cool and edgey.  It makes you look... something else.

Thirdly, I like bass players.  They are the coolest.  They have really good rhythm and they look like they could care less about where they are as long as they can take a split stance and pound out a funky riff.

Fourth, I am too old to stand on the floor and jump up and down to "Undone - the Sweater Song".  (I knew this ahead of time actually and so purchased actual seats.  Sad).

One thing I know for sure though, in my next life - Rock Star.  As for this life - Rock Star in my mind, and of course, my pants.

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I told you not to wear those pants today

There are certain of life's experiences that are great equalizers.  Death, giving birth (I figured this one out really quickly), leaving a restroom with your skirt tucked into your unders.  There is also - elementary school picture day.  A day when all children, regardless of circumstance, have the opportunity to look equally bad.

Take my niece,  for example.  Anyone that has met my sister's children knows that they are (as she likes to say) really, really, ridiculously good looking.  This particular niece has curly hair.  Nice ringletty curly hair.  The kind of curly hair that I, throughout much of my adolescense tried to achieve with bad perms and lots of mousse (that's right- mousse... and hairspray.)  It wasn't good.  Anyway, she's got the curly hair and my sister, (who is meticulous about the grooming of her children ) had it all cute and hippy-chic looking when she walked out the door on picture day.  Unfortunately-before making it to the photographer, my niece met with an over zealous picture-helper-volunteer-mom armed with a black Goody comb who, (again unfortunately) was not acquainted with "hippy-chic" nor with what happens to curly hair when you comb it.  She must've realized her mistake, and as a remedy to the frizzy mess perching a top my niece's head, decided to tuck the whole mess behind her ears.  Pretty.

A similar experience happened with  my sister's son last year  (different sister). His picture- helper- volunteer -mom succeeded in combing his bangs straight down, flat against his forehead  into a style vaguely resembling a blonde swim cap.  My sister now writes on the picture order form - "DO NOT COMB MY CHILD'S HAIR" - in her own blood probably.  I don't know if she's asked them to refrain from giving her sons their own black Goody combs though.  (She has twins).  Personally, I would love to see a picture of one of those kids after 30 minutes standing in line, crammed up against 50 other 1st grade boys also armed with hard plastic combs- each comb with a degree of bendyness perfect for flicking your neighbor in the back of the head, and teeth close enough together, that when turned just right, gets good and stuck in the bangs.  That picture, my friends, would be a keeper.

Personally, I like the elementary school pictures that go a little awry.  Like when my sister (the one with the twins) accessorized her fancy picture dress with the handmade, multi-colored, wooden bead necklace that she snuck out of the house in her backpack.  It's one of my favorite images of her.  It tells a lot more about who she was when she was as a child than if that picture had turned out "perfect".  Hopefully, next week when picture day at our school roles around, my kids will come up with something that, even if it's not going to make it in the Holiday add for Gap Kids, will at least make me laugh.
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I can't put my pants on by myself.

I have always considered myself to be a fairly smart girl.  I have had the occasional lapse in judgement.  For example, the first time I went skiing it went something like this- 

boyfriend - "I'll teach you"
me- "ok"
boyfriend- "Do this"
me- " Hey I just tore my ACL.  Sorry cute ski patrol guy that is cutting my pants off - I didn't shave my legs."   

As you can see, usually my bad decisions are compound bad decisions (and often involve boys - go figure).  Despite this, people don't typically treat me like an idiot.  Until today.  At the Home Depot.  I needed to buy some moulding (which I cut on the mitre saw by myself  - and the corners are perfect thank you very much).  Anyway, they have those big open carts at Home Depot especially designed for carrying 12 foot lengths of moulding, and they say "DO NOT RIDE ON CART" all over them.  I have a two year old boy - he rode on the cart.  

As soon as I hit the door from the parking lot it started.  I was greeted with "He can't ride on that cart". (Another employee actually speed walked across the parking lot to tell me this as well.)  I told them that they didn't need to worry about it because he was my kid not theirs and I wasn't going to sue them if he fell the (literally) 6 inches to the floor.  Greeter/Rule Enforcer was not impressed.  So he climbed down and I said - " I'm sure it's going to be safer for him to be running through your store while I wrangle this big moulding carrier cart."

Everytime I stopped, my son climbed on the cart -  and like some little safety patrol drop out, a Home Depot employee was there, looking very grave and insisting that I save him from certain doom.  Seriously Home Depot - I grew up riding in a van that didn't even come with seat belts... and I drove ...when I was 9...while sitting on my dad's lap.  Your low rider carts do not strike fear into the heart of this girl.

So finally I make it to the parking lot (after pointing out to the "see you later" lady that since I needed both hands to steer the cart, it would be more dangerous for my two year old to be running loose in the parking lot than hitching a ride with my moulding.)  I start loading my moulding into the back of my father- in-law's really big truck and I realize that it's hanging out the back.  So, because I know these things, I start looking for something to use as a flag to mark the end of the moulding.  AS I AM LOOKING FOR A FLAG - some random man comes up to me to tell me that I need to mark the end of the moulding with a flag.  Poor, poor man.  "Yes - I know" I said with my hands on my hips and not a very nice look on my face "what is it about people today?  Why does everyone think they need to tell me what to do?"  (I will let you play my voice in your head - use your imagination).

Apparently he did not know the answer to this question, because he just looked at me.  Maybe he thought that if he didn't move I wouldn't be able to see him - like those dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.  Come to think of it, I can't remember where he went.  Maybe he's still standing there, holding really still and wondering what was wrong with the crazy, angry, hostile - but not stupid - lady at the Home Depot.
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Tuxedo Pants

I am a little bitter.  What, you might ask, has brought about this change from my usual sunny disposition?  Homecoming.  What about homecoming, you might ask.  I don't get to go.  How is that fair?  I know that I'm thiry three, and that I have three kids, and that I graduated high school before the turn of the century, but I think it's more than just a little ageist (yes, ageist) to disinclude me from such a better -than-average party simply because I do not actually attend high school anymore.  Especially since I did attend high school - all four years.  (Disinclude is my daughter's word by the way - if Bush can make 'em up, so can Avery.)  

I am left with only one course of action.  Like great dissenters that have come before me I will form - a protest party.  (Mine will be an actual party with punch and cookies and sweet music.  Watch and learn Ralph Nader.)  Good people - we must insist on our right to ugly dresses, dyeable shoes, and huge rose corsages at all ages.  We must stand firm in our goal to achieve a fair and equitable dance community by establishing not one Homecoming Queen, but one Homecoming Queen every hour. ( We'll set a timer and pass the crown when it goes off.  A short reign, after all, prevents royal tyranny. On second thought, maybe we'll make it BYOC - bring your own crown.  Mine of course will be the shiniest - it will probably have feathers.)  Let us unite under the best homecoming themesong of them all - Forever Young by Alphaville (that was your homecoming theme song wasn't it.  If not, you didn't really have homecoming so this party will do you good.)  It will be the start of a dance, dance revolution.  Who's with me?

I know in my attempt to make a better world, I may dance alone - but at least I will be wearing a crown while I do it.

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Pants by any other name

I am going to make a confession.  I did not watch the presidential debate. (Should that be capitalized?) I figured that if I wanted to hear 2 people bicker for an hour I would put my kids in a room with only one toy and call it good.  Unfortunately for me, I did watch some of the political commentary after the debate.  They talked a lot about Washington.  "The problem in Washington is...",  "What people want from Washington...",  "Washington needs to...".  Enough already.  I've decided that all these people really are, are the gossipy kids in high school that felt it was their duty to know everything about everyone, and then sit around and talk about it with anyone that would listen.  The difference is that if you sit around a shiny oak table, wearing a suit you actually get paid to spread your opinion.  Also you get to be on TV (which could be pretty cool).  If, however you stand around someone's locker  in between classes dishing what you know, that is uncompensated labor, and your news must be spread the old fashioned way -word of mouth. Talk about your grass- roots- community- organizers.  

The one I feel for in all of this though, is Washington.  Not the city.  Not the state, (although-they have sales tax and we don't, and we have a professional basketball team and they don't..  Poor people.).  No, I speak here of the Washington.  As in George.  This poor man gave his whole adult life to help start a new country.  He stood on a boat in the middle of an icy river in the middle of winter (obviously, hence the ice).  He probably walked uphill both ways to get to the Continental Congress - and what does he get?  His name, synonymous with all that is wrong with the government that he sacrificed to established.  If there is such a thing as taking someone's name in vain (and I think we can agree that there is) - this is it- don't you think?

 George Washington was a great president.  (My favorite is Lincoln, but Washington's in my top 3.)  The thing I have always liked about him (unless my political science professors were big fat liars) was that he didn't really want to be in charge, in government at least.  He had the chance to be  a King - he turned it down.  He could've stayed in the executive office longer, there was no precedent for him to leave, but he didn't stay.  He was a great leader because he served.  He didn't rule.  It is ironic that the city that bears his name has become a symbol of greed and selfishness and (according to a friend of mine that lives there) is kind of stinky.  Although...George probably was stinky - not great personal hygiene in the 18th century- but so was everybody else, so odds are no one noticed.

So, to protect the name of  poor George Washington, the mother of all Founding Fathers, I am proposing that we "rebrand" our nation's capital.  I think something with "gate" in its name.  That seems to be how we define the little episodes that make our government great.  Watergate, Lewinskygate, and the soon to be announced Big-banks-that-aren't-good-with-money-gate.  (I'm sending that one to whoever names these kinds of things, so watch for it.)  The best one I can think of is Gateysburg, (I know, not great).  It does, however, conjure a false sense of patriotic self sacrifice which, you gotta admit, works well.  We are, of course, taking public comment town hall style.  Maybe it could be like the "name the baby elephant" contest that the zoo ran last month.  All I know is that if we can organize half as well as the gossipy kids in high school, we'll have this thing done by November and the real Washington will finally be able to rest in peace.

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Peg leg pants

I am a huge believer that a woman needs to have marketable skills.  In my opinion, (and since you're reading this I'm assuming you want my opinion,) the ability to be financially independent is vital to the long term well being of any girl, let's face it - stuff happens.  Because this is a subject so dear to me I have worked long and hard and can now do... absolutely nothing that anyone will pay me for.  Until now.  One word.  Pirate.

How, you might ask, have I settled on this lucrative career in "open ocean asset liberation"? Well, I attended the Portland Pirate Festival this weekend with my family (yes there is such a thing - my people are very organized), and I have seen the future.  Judging from the other attendees, whom, I can only believe, are pirates themselves, I need only three things - 

1.  A really bad English accent - I should actually call this a "British" accent, because I heard bad accents from every corner of the Queen's realm.  Irish, English, and I'm presuming Welsh. (I don't really know what the Welshies sound like.  Do you?  Well neither did the people imitating them.)  Also, there were many psuedo Scotts there doing great injustice to this lovely accent. Many of them, men in kilts.  Many of them playing bagpipes (ok - actually only one with bagpipes), but bagpipes are loud, so I just pretended.   Regardless, I can do a bad accent with the best of them, so...check.

2.  Boobs.  Apparently, girls are totally allowed to be a pirates,  (the bad luck on ships thing is a myth, we like diversity aboard), but only if you wear a dress that is too small, with a corset that is too tight (it is best if the clasps make a creaking noise when you move),  so as to heave your boobs as close to your collarbone as possible.  This must come in handy during hand to hand combat - distraction technique.

 Bra in the way?  No problem, totally optional, simply toss it into the sea.  Go ahead, take the girls out for a walk without a leash and get the most bounce possible.  (Also, all those bras lying on the seabed make for an excellent reef starter.)  Didn't know pirates are eco friendly did you?

  Obviously, I've got the equipment for this but I will need to invest in some new pieces for my wardrobe.  (I think I will keep the bra though.  Maybe those other pirate gals haven't nursed three babies, but I have.  So, there you go). 

3.  Complete lack of concern for hygiene.  I admit, this will be the biggest challenge to my getting ahead in the pirate world.  I really like showers.  Also, I like pedicures, all manner of high end moisturizes and really good makeup.  (I think I can keep the makeup as long as I use every product I have when I wear it.  Pirates don't do the "natural look.")  I'm pretty certain that they will confiscate my deodorant though.  Maybe they have the same rules as the airlines - no gels or liquids over three ounces.  Stinky, but safe.

As you can see, I am totally qualified for life on the open seas and may be seeking employment soon.  So don't be surprised if I'm looking like a true career woman in our family Christmas card this year.  I'll be the one in the velvet corset.



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I always borrow my sister's pants without asking

I have three sisters.  I am the oldest, and therefore the bossiest.  The standing joke is that the only reason I was born first is because I cut in line.  A couple of things in my defense-  
1.  I know I am bossy - there has to be a boss, and since I like to be the boss, my bossiness comes in right handy.
2.  I had to be bossy because I was the oldest and therefore "responsible" for the stuff my sisters did.  I had to tell them what to do out of self defense and self preservation.  (They will deny this, but we all know the truth.)

Anyway - along with my bossiness I was known for being the fiesty one.  All fiesty all the time.  Sister #2 (we'll call her Keely) was the nice one, the sensitive one.  She was the one that my grandmother liked best because she always tried to keep the family peace.  (Except once when she was a teenager, but I'll talk about that later.  It's a pretty good story after all).  By the way Sister #2 actually named this blog, for which I have never given her proper credit.  Now I have. So let it be written, so let it be done.  Sister #3 (we'll call her Awny) was the stubborn one.  I actually don't remember her being any more stubborn than any of the rest of us, but there you have it.  Sister #4 (we'll call her Nika) was the talker.  (This is a gene that somehow floated across the gene pool and got all over my daughter.  I swear that girl uses circular breathing so as not to miss a word.)  Nika's tongue is the proverbial double edged sword.  Swift and unyielding.

So here's the thing, if you came across us in a dark alley (unlikely, because we all have kids that need to go to bed early) but if you did, I am not the one that you would need to watch out for.  The smart money would actually go on Sister #2.  You might not guess it, but she will totally take you out.  Especially, especially if her kids are involved.

This brings me to the injustice perpetrated (again with the sounding out of the big words) upon my little angel niece, who when presented with a wrong choice runs the other way.  (It would not suprise me if she actually ran, she's a pretty good runner.)  She does not like to be in trouble.  (I have heard of these people, but she is proof that they exist.)  So, she was falsely accused by her dreadful, mean, and no doubt smelly bus driver of the gross infraction of sitting on her knees and hitting the seat in front of her on the bus this morning.  (Yeah, I know.)  She wasn't even given a chance to defend herself, because Miss Dreadful M. Smelly just kept saying - It's not your turn to talk.  (I know).  My little angel niece had to stay late on the bus and everything and she did not take it well.

My sister, also, did not take it well.  I felt myself actually shrinking back from her on the phone as she told me this story.  She wasn't yelling.  She wasn't even raising her voice.  But I could tell, because I know.  I know that everytime she sees that bus driver lady after this, she's going to get that feeling in her stomach, and her eyes are going to narrow, and if she had a tail with a rattle on it, she would be giving fair warning.

Long story long, I am posting this to let Miss Dreadful M. Smelly know, if she meets my sister in a dark alley,  she'd better be able to run as well as my niece, because sometimes the quiet ones are actually the fiesty ones in disguise.  And my sister is.


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