Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Weirdness Proved

While on a walk today, one of my pods posed the question, "Which one of us is the weirdest?"

I immediately answered, "The six year old."

See that girl up there, at the top of my blog? The one who cut off one eyebrow? Yes. Her.

"WHAT?" she bellowed. "I don't want to be weird, I want to be seventeen."

See what I mean?

Popping Gum


My dad can not stand the sound of chewing. We were trained to have excellent table manners and, even then, we still had quiet music playing during the meal so Dad couldn't hear us eat.

When I was about thirteen, Dad took me on a winter campout, something we enjoyed doing together. This particular night, I couldn't get warmed up enough to sleep. Dad suggested I try eating something. I pulled a bagel out of my backpack and began to eat. Knowing my jaws were just inches away from my dad's ears, I knew it was going to be tricky. Slowly and carefully, I took tiny bites, keeping my lips securely sealed. But it is impossible to eat a chewy bagel in complete silence. After about two minutes of tormented being-as-quiet-as-I-can eating, Dad let out an impatient sigh and an, "Do you have to chew so loud?!"

It was hopeless. I put the bagel away and eventually fell asleep without it's help.

True story.

Then there is gum. My mom taught that smacking is rude and makes you look dumb. She, in fact, never chews gum but opts instead for a breath mint. I do enjoy gum on occasion, but, always afraid of exposing my lack of intellect, I am careful to not smack.

Confession: I am a popper. If gum is in my mouth, I pop it. I do the little pops on my back teeth and, depending on the type of gum, blow the big bubbles. I try to control it, I do, but if I am in a place where the popping is not acceptable, I eventually just have to remove my gum.

Suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Homage to Joseph Stein

We watched Fiddler on the Roof tonight. I hadn't seen it for years and it was a completely new experience for me. I cried several times, laughed several times, and said, "hmm" a lot.

Somewhere inside of me, I keep thinking I have a book to write; I have a story to tell. Despite my almost two years of blogging, my worry is two fold: 1. I don't have anything to say and 2. I am not wise.

The lines Tevye reads are full of understanding, clarity, sense and wisdom. I could never find those words to write.

And so I keep up with this little blog. I keep practicing. I keep living my small life with my minions of small people. Maybe, after years of experience, I'll put pen to paper and have some few bits that will make some few readers better.

For now, I will continue to immerse myself in the wisdom of others--and Isaac Sterns' breathtaking music. If you haven't seen it in a while, check it out. It is standing the test of time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

United People of the United States



I'm not a soccer fan. Actually, I'm not an any kind of sport fan. I don't mind watching a game now and then, but I don't even have cable, much less the sports channels that some find necessary. I'm not following the World Cup. I didn't see the goal. I heard about it on NPR, but I am pretty sure that it's not the same as watching it with a bunch of devoted fans at a neighborhood pub (wait, does the United States have pubs or just United Kingdom?).




This brought tears to my eyes. Why?




Because we are in a time, under an administration, that is teaching us to hate our country. We are to be citizens of the world, we are to think globally, we are to apologize to anyone who may be poorer, less educated, or more oppressed than American citizens. Our president kowtows to leaders of other nations, as if he were the leader of an inferior nation. If we are proud of our country, we need to repent because we are no better than any other country in the world. But, you know what? We are better than many other countries in the world. If only for the fact that I am typing this without fear, we are better than other countries; for the fact that I will be pulling out four pairs of pink church shoes on the same day that my neighbor sits at home, drinks his beer and watches COPS. I can be proud of my country because we have a volunteer military (and volunteer military spouses) during war. Most major inventions and human advances have found their roots here, in this free land. Yes, we have problems and we have certainly made mistakes, but I don't understand why it is wrong to be filled with a spirit of patriotism for my beloved USA. We are a land of good people who have been blessed with a good form of government.




When Walter Mondale was running against Ronald Reagan, he was way, way down in the polls. At one political gathering, he touted a long list of desires that he shared with that particular group, yet they refused to give him their vote. Mondale, exasperated, finally asked the audience why they were going to vote for Reagan, despite disagreeing with most of his policies. One man in the back spoke up, "Because we feel good about ourselves." (Just a few years before, Jimmy Carter gave his famous "Malaise Speech" where he lectured Americans on the need to be better instead of inspiring the hope and confidence--as a President should.)




So, today, on my sometimes political blog, I give you the reaction to one goal. Millions of us are chanting "U.S.A.!" not just because the ball went into the net, but because The United States of America rocks . . . and we are proud to shout it out to the world.



Please, feel free to disagree with me. (Pun absolutely intended.)

Guilt


I'm pretty sure I'm a terrible mother. Twice at the park this month, someone has saved my two year old. Once, she had run to the street, the other because she had fallen from the toys and bloodied her lip. Both times I felt like such a heel. How could I not be standing by her the whole time? I did when I only had one. Now, this fifth baby is left to her own devices. Often, she is supposed to be with one of the older kids, but they aren't really paying attention to her. Also, they might abandon her on the slide in favor of the monkey bars--an activity she can't do. We have very busy parks so it is easy for her to get lost in the crowd. Even when I think I'm being vigilant, I don't have my eye on her at all times.

It's times like these, when others can be so critical of my mothering, that I understand the hermit. If no one saw my children, they wouldn't know that they had marker on their legs. If I never allowed visitors, no one would know that there is, right now, as I type, peanut butter on the girls' carpet. If no one saw my house, I wouldn't feel self-conscience of my unswept floor, her unbrushed hair and the kleenex blowing around the back yard that was the decoration for a "beautiful wedding."

I am under no illusions about my lack of parenting skills. I know I am not lazy, but I also know that because hair bows don't match and cheeks still hold the evidence of lunch, there are dishes in the sink and a broken bicycle in the backyard, it would be easy to assume that I was. It doesn't matter that so far today I have fixed two bicycles, washed a sink full of dishes, learned something about surfing, caught the escaping child 100 times, swept the floors, fixed a balanced breakfast, took the kids to the park, read some of my book, arranged babysitting and meals for a needy neighbor, and, now, written a blog post.

No, I am not perfect. No, my children are not perfect. But, guess what, honey, neither are you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Papa

The Grandparents are on their annual motorcycle trip.  Dad drives and Mom sits behind on her Lazy Boy.  You know how some couples have a hard time with retirement because they aren't used to spending so much time together?  Not these two.  They call it their 8000 mile hug.  They stopped in to say hello--again, to the kids.


Look at the pretty bike girls!


We are glad to be a stop on the route.


You can follow The Papa's (and the Grandma's) road trip here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Uncle



My little brother came to see me the kids. 


This particular brother has no children, but he plays such an important role.


He is Uncle.


That title involves a great deal of shoulder carrying and swing pushing.


It comes with permission to buy candy that Mom would never buy.


And dropping everything in the middle of a beautiful afternoon so you can go on a hike.


My pods don't get to see this uncle very often, so I was a little worried that they would be shy.

Nope.

He was about loved out of town.


But, before he was Uncle, he was Brother. 

Mine.


Neener, neener.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Review: Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Now that I have finished, I can fully recommend this book.

It was a beautiful story of family. It is an honest book; Jung Chang tells about her parents' good attributes as well as any major flaws or mistakes they made. She tells it all and doesn't candy coat and yet it is also a book about forgiveness and love. All three of the women, each in her own kind of China, are strong women of good character. They all have a remarkable story that in itself is a worthy read.

But Chang doesn't just give us a wonderful story about extraordinary people fighting terrible odds. That book has been written countless times. No, she also gives us an understanding of twentieth century China, of Mao, Communism and the Cultural Revolution. She teaches about mind control, the banishment of one class structure only to give rise to a different one, and explains how the Chinese believed, really believed in something and were totally duped. We mourn when ancient statues are blow apart, weep when the valuable rice-paper books are burned, and feel our hearts fail us when Mrs. Shau knocks at the door to take away the best leaders Communism could produce. For the first time, I understand why Mao had such power, why "there are children starving in China," and the reasons behind foot binding (and the reasons behind the ending of such a practice). Chang takes us with her as she first worships Mao as deity, then, slowly, comes to realize who he really is and what he has really done. And we understand why she has to pretend to cry, for her own protection, when he dies.

It is not an easy read, but, oh, is it worth it!

Emily

PS As a side, if you are fascinated with China, a few more things to recommend: A Good Earth by Pearl Buck and two movies, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and Wild China (a six part documentary). I have another book and two more movies in my docket. I will let you know my opinion of them as I discover it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Skin

This is a good picture of my skin: freckled and speckled, wrinkly and uneven. One symptom of the thirties, apparently, is dull, lifeless skin with no more natural glow.


Last night, I went to get "a facial" from Mary Kay herself (okay, she's dead, but the girls she trained are just as good). I have been living under the delusion that a girl's night like this is supposed to make one feel good about the way they look. My daughter and I were excited for a night of pampering and trying new things on our "canvas." Turns out, my canvas has some severe problems. First, I was "brave" for coming without makeup. The lady leading us in the glamour session kept looking at me too close and offering me different solutions to my terrible skin. I need more sun protection, I need to watch out for skin cancer, I need this concealer and this foundation. This color would disguise and this color would diminish. The only time I was looked upon with approval was when I was completely done up--to the ends of my lashes.


Wouldn't Mary Kay's sellers do better if they emphasized the beauty of a woman, opposes to the make-up? I left thinking the only time it would be acceptable for me to go out in public is when I'm covered in something that isn't me. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a make-up girl. I wear it every day even if I'm staying at home all day and I did feel pretty when they were done painting my face. But, I was in a slump for the rest of the night because I knew that under it all, I have big problems, I look older than I should, and I will have large portions of my face removed at some point because of invasive cancers.


I've always liked my freckles, as much as I complain about them. They are a part of me. While I want my dull and wrinkled skin to be bright and smooth, it's just not the way my skin was built. Make-up should showcase what is beautiful about a woman, rather than remind them of the parts that are ugly.


Besides, freckles are in. And I've earned my lines--I have a lot about which to smile.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cooking Blahs

I need your help. I am bored, bored, bored with my recipe repertoire. Everyone knows that if you're bored, you're boring and that is a great fear of mine; I never want to be boring.


A big part of my blahs toward cooking is, I'm sure, due to the weather. We just had the coldest May on record and I only pulled out the kids' summer clothes this week because it is nearly the middle of JUNE and I felt obligated. By June, I'm usually no longer cooking the heavy, hearty meals of cold weather (stew, roast, breads, and so forth), but have moved on to the lighter summer fare (grilled meats, cold salads, sandwiches). Here we are on June 12th, the mercury sits at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the furnace is pumping warm air onto my stocking feet and I've been cooking the same meals since the end of September--nine months. Blah.


We are a basic meat and potatoes family who are on a tight budget. I like recipes for meals that include "normal" pantry items. I do not have kudzu, loquat, or boletes (yes, I did google "unusual ingredients" for ideas). I do have basil, onions, Worcestershire Sauce, and black beans.

What are you making for dinner? Give me some links to good recipes. The health and welfare of my family is at stake.

Thank you,

The MotherShip

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Plan

Our town is not a destination, but it is right off the freeway between destinations. People who need to get north have to go through our town. People who need to get south have to go through our town. It is traveling season so we get a lot of visits from people who are actually just passing through. It's fine with me. Whether we get them for twenty minutes or overnight, we'll take what we can get.

Tomorrow, some of those visitors are coming. When one of my children found out, she sat right down to write (draw) a list of activities to do when our guests are here.


Let me walk you through.
  1. Dance our booties off

2. Eat


3. Watch TV with NO popcorn (this is a new phenomenon since the addition of the new carpet)


4. Draw


5. Read stories together


6. Play ball ("See how my hair is flying up?")


and

7. Play charades ("I am guessing that she is a news lady.")


It's going to be an action packed afternoon!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Barter Accepted!

The ballet school has accepted my offer to exchange a web site for dance lessons!

(Another Idea)

We are both excited and a little nervous.

There is this great scene in Seabiscuit that relates a bit to how I am feeling. The character played by Jeff Bridges (Charles Howard) moves to California and opens a bicycle repair shop. No one comes for what seems like days. He has on his best suit and his display window is spit shined. He waits anxiously, but still no one comes. Eventually an automobile, puffing and smoking something awful rolls up to his door. As cars were still a fairly new invention and rather a rare thing for the common man, there were no repair garages; this guy brings his broken car to the bike shop as the closest alternative. He asks if Howard can fix it. Desperate for some business, he exclaims something like, "Sure I can!"

The next scene opens to show Howard surrounded by the parts of the car, taken apart and surrounding him on the floor of his bicycle shop. You get a pit in your stomach for him because you know there is no way he's going to be able to put the dang thing together again. He rubs his forehead in a What have I gotten myself into kind of way, and all of the audience thinks What has he gotten himself into?

But, he picks up one part and puts it together with another part. The next thing you know, he's not only fixed the car, but has improved it's performance.

I think I'm in that scene with the parts all over the floor. How in the world is a bicycle repairman (blogger) going to fix this automobile (build a web site)?


I don't know for sure, but I think this part--hurmph--goes with this part--heeeft. I think I can, I think I can . . .

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Random Bits



  • In an attempt to use less electricity, I've decided to bed and rise with the sun. Today I rose a little earlier than the sun (6 am is the WORST time to try to wake up, so I went with 5). Now I am exhausted. How long does it take to get used to a new sleep schedule?



  • My son rode his bike three miles to the store, bought a twelve pack of Mountain Dew, then rode three miles home with the heavy box in one arm. Literally ten feet from the front door, he dropped the box. The gravel bits in the gutter punctured the cans and the Dew went spraying everywhere. Sad introduction to irony.



  • I am re-reading the Book of Mormon with 3,649 other people (so far) on Facebook. I think that is cool.



  • When my daughter fills her diaper, she cocks her head and says, "Sowwy, Mama." It helps a little.



  • There is a giant canker sore on my tongue. I had a rather large handful of peanuts the other day and I am aware that peanuts often give me that reaction. I ate them anyway. I wish I hadn't.



  • I have decided that I will always be sympathetic and kind to mothers of young children. It is a particular group that are usually tired, worried and threadbare--also, we are often pregnant or nursing during all of this which throws in the hormone factor to assure that we are always on the brink of nuts.



  • No, I'm not pregnant. It is the longest time I have not been pregnant since getting married. I kinda like it.



  • For years I struggled with bread making. I finally found a fool-proof recipe. It is rising in my kitchen right now.



  • I'm ready for Popsicles, but the weather denotes bread and soup. Still.



  • It used to be that when celebrities that I knew died, it was some kind of scandal or tragedy. Now when celebrities that I know die, it's because they are getting old. Huh.



  • I haven't pulled out the summer clothes yet. My son's jeans are getting more and more embarrassing.



  • This is my favorite season in the gardens. There are mounds of green all over my garden (Jacob's Ladder, Aster, Mum, Scabiosa, Daisy, Columbine). They are different colors of green with great variations in texture. The dirt is black, the weeds are cleared out, and soil is turned and healthy. There are bright spots of color (Allium, Coral Bell, Violet, Bachelor's Button) that are looked forward to each year. I love spring.



  • China is my new research topic. There is so much I don't know about that humongous, interesting, varied country.



  • My son is trying to make up a song about the MotherShip getting off the computer. I guess that's my cue.

Love always,


Emily