Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I spent all my words at The Train of His Robe today, but if you decide not to trek over there I hereby present the best two Halloween costumes I've found on the web this year:

Comedian Patton Oswalt as the Spiderman villain Doctor Octopus, costume courtesy of Mythbuster Adam Savage--the story and photo are found here.

Tied for best costume is this kid from Sweet Juniper whose father MADE his entire costume as a voyageur, including the birchbark canoe and the (non-functioning) walnut musket. This dad obviously doesn't know that he is making all of us who draped a sheet over a kid and called it a costume look really, really bad. (The kid's mom knit his hat and beard, in case you were thinking she was being a slacker.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Really, Young Man? Really?

I hate that I left you hanging on my last post, causing you to ignore Frankenstorm as you worried whether or not I had reached my reunion. I did (Pearl's malady was a $300 cough, but that's a lot better than vehicular pneumonia), and it was so. much. fun. that I can hardly stand it. You will hear much, much more about that eventually, but first I have to relate the issue that happened on the way home from our girls' weekend. (At our age it's more of a creak-and-croak weekend, but we FELT like girls.)

Anyway, to set the background for this post, I am a compulsively law-abiding driver. I mean, to the extreme. Is the speed limit 30? I'm driving 30. Is this a no-passing zone? I am following that tractor driver at negative mph until he turns off into his field. Am I turning? My blinkers are blinking, even if there's no one within miles to see them.

That's why I BRAGGED to my friend when we passed the trooper early Sunday afternoon. He looked about 18, and I was sure he was admiring how well some old people (me) drive.

"Ha ha," I said proudly. "I was doing exactly the speed limit. He's not making his quota on me."

C. is one of my oldest and dearest friends so we kept talking and laughing as I glanced in the rear-view mirror and noticed the trooper had made a U-turn. Still, I wasn't concerned.

"Well, he must have gotten a call from the next county," I told C.

And then he turned on his lights.

I have given multiple people three guesses as to why this whippersnapper trooper ticketed me. Not one has come within spittin' distance of guessing my infraction. It was not speeding, or passing in a no passing zone, or excessive laughter coming from old ladies.

Go ahead. Guess. I'll wait.

Give up?

I received a ticket, a legal summons that will cost me money, for having TINTED WINDOWS.

"Uh, sir," I told the impertinent young pup, "we bought this car, used, 18 months ago, and it's a 10-year-old car, and no one has EVER mentioned that the window tint was too dark. Could you give me a warning?"

Nope. This earnest young man will now be able to brag to all his law-enforcement buddies that he ticketed an old lady for driving a PIMPMOBILE.


We managed to restrain ourselves from beatboxing as he wrote it out.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Off the Road Again

Guess where I am? Do the downturned expression and "vehicle service contract" notice behind my head give you a hint?

If your answer is "Not, as you had planned, on the road to the reunion with your three high school buddies," then ding, ding, ding! You are right!

Pearl is hooked up in the diagnostic station right now to see if she has a minor cough or pneumonia.

On the other hand, I do like my new pink jacket.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Over There

As if writing in wet cement isn't enough controversy, I'm talking politics and religion over at The Train of His Robe. 

Yeah, I'm living dangerously.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Set in Cement

My Husband, the accountant, really would have preferred that all of the new sidewalks' surfaces be smooth and perfect. We've lived with the old cracked ones for so long that these pristine slabs must have fed his orderly soul.

Husband's sentimental wife, though, couldn't let the moment pass. The someday-owners of the House on the Corner will need to know that the family that lived here when these sidewalks were new had  loved this creaky, never-quite-finished, always-needing-something-done space.

So Husband held my skirt back, keeping it from blowing into the wet cement as I knelt by the new walkway and used a screwdriver to scratch our initials into a tiny corner by the porch step. Then I carefully drew a heart above the letters.

He'd rather have had a smooth sidewalk but he loved his family enough to let me set that moment in cement, and that's one of the many reasons I heart him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


"Why, yes, Mrs. Homeowner! Please come out here and tell us how we can better do our job, which you have hired us to do because you don't know how to do it yourself!"

Said no contractor ever.

Perhaps I should back off and go to work.

Monday, October 22, 2012

(Side)Walk This Way

When we moved into the House on the Corner we backed the moving truck right up between the two trees next to the street, over the curb, across the front sidewalk, through this grassy strip and up to the front porch. At that point the trees were tiny saplings, and Boy#1 was a pre-toddler.

Fast-forward a quarter century and the trees' canopies have grown together, Boy#1 (and his three brothers) have learned to walk, and the sidewalk has deteriorated into a cracked mess. In fact, for the past half a dozen years or so every time Husband's mother has visited our house she has complained about the uneven sidewalks and wondered why the city didn't just replace them, and Husband has patiently explained that the city doesn't replace sidewalks, that it's the homeowner's responsibility and that this is an expensive proposition, and hello, FOUR BOYS IN COLLEGE, etc.

But this summer the sad state of the sidewalks reached Code Red, and today the sidewalk repair guys pulled up with their equipment.

They are frighteningly efficient. Those landscaping timbers that we spent hot summer weeks pounding into the lawn edges, then reinforcing with Rebar so that they wouldn't float away when it rained? Gone in five minutes. Those two sections that Husband tried to patch with KwikCrete? Popped out in less time than it had taken him to get the bags open during the repair job.

(There is a metaphor in here somewhere about difficult jobs being easy when the proper equipment is used, but I can't seem to tease it out, so please figure that out on your own.)

Anyway, tomorrow the contractor will be back with the big truck and pour the cement.

Do you have any idea how exciting this would have been 20 years ago when four little Boys would have been watching the process through the front window?

I need to borrow some grandchildren.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Doppelganger. Or Not.

You know that theory that every person has, somewhere among the teeming humanity, an identical twin? That there is a person walking around out there who looks exactly like you, acts exactly like you, would fool your husband into thinking you were THE SAME PERSON if that identical twin suddenly took your place, not realizing that you are purely good and the identical twin is purely evil?

Yeah. I've never subscribed to that theory either until yesterday, when I met the woman who may be my doppelganger. Oh, she's red-headed and I'm (thank you, Clairol) blonde; she's two inches taller than I am, and mrhmpher pounds narrower; she gets paid to write, and my writing time is usually stolen from the job that pays me to do other things.

Still, we're both bloggers--she's at the fabulous Pillow A La Mode, and I'm in this little corner of the internet. We're both the mothers of all boys, although I "only" have four, and she and her husband have a combined seven, which makes me gasp with admiration. We both take our coffee with cream. We both play the piano (and I'm counting this although she is good at it and I'm inept but willing).

We met because she lives lives only a few miles away and mutual friends kept telling we must meet, and I must say: I don't know that I've ever had so much fun on a blind date. We sat down with our (creamed) coffee and the first time I glanced at my watch we had been talking for 84 minutes. It felt as if we'd just scratched the surface of getting to know each other.

But then we walked out to our cars, still thinking of one more thing to say, and she said, "Oh, here! I made you a little something," and handed me a gorgeous little polka-dotted bag containing a couple of her special a-la-mode creations. It was such a kind, thoughtful thing to do that I stood there goggling at her, uncharacteristically speechless.

I had just realized: She is thoughtful and kind, and didn't say a single word during our long coffee break that didn't put me at ease. She definitely is the good twin, which means I must be the evil twin.

My entire self-concept may have to be revised.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just Like That

You know that scene at the end of Billy Elliot where Billy is all grown up, and he is getting ready to go on stage as the star dancer and his family is in the audience, and they are so proud of him that they are on the verge of tears because Billy has worked so hard and dreamed of this moment for so long, and because his dream had become their dream?

The concerto concert last night was just like that.

Well, except for the mining strike, and substituting a trombone for the leotard and weird make-up, and leaving out the Welsh accent.

Just. Like. That.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Not Nervous at All

When you are the parent of a child, it is your job to be nervous for that child.

When the toddler is beginning to walk. When they hold your hand as you leave them at school on the first day. When the youth soccer player starts at goalie. When the teen takes the car out of town. When they take their SAT test, and their date to the prom, and their resume to a prospective employer.

It is your job to be nervous for your kid, but it is even more your job to not show that you are nervous.

"You can do it!" you cheer, trying not to flinch as he sits down hard after taking a couple of steps.

"You can do it!" you shout from the bleachers when his shoulders slump after the third goal is scored.

"You can do it!" you repeat for the tests, the interviews, the music contests and the thousands of other moments that go into raising a child up in the way he should go.

Still, you're always nervous. Have you taught him everything he needs to know? Have you given him the right tips, taught him how to tie his tie, cautioned him about speed traps and blind corners? Have you prepared him to be gracious after a win and resilient after a loss?

Then suddenly your child is doing something Really Big. All those nervous moments helped set the stage for this Really Big thing, and because he learned something from each of those other moments he's ready for this moment.

"You can do it," you whisper as you hand him to adulthood, and you realize you're not nervous at all.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Just Desserts

I bought $10 worth of non-chocolate candy in preparation for Saturday's homecoming parade. The boss had suggested  that we administrators march in the parade as a group and I had so much fun flinging candy at children last year (and watching them duck-and-cover) that I stocked up with five pounds of individually-wrapped sugar-based ammunition.

When I bought the candy the tiny angel on my right shoulder and the tiny devil on my left shoulder were practically pulling each other's hair.

"Don't get this stuff--get chocolate! Everyone knows chocolate is the only good kind of parade candy!" the little devil shouted at me.

"But if you get the chocolate, and there's any left over, you'll want to eat it yourself so it won't be wasted. Also you love Reese's Cups beyond reason and you'll have the uncontrollable urge to tear the wrappings off of fun-sized cups until you have to kick your way through the knee-high debris," the little angel argued.

"But everyone knows that if you spend more time unwrapping than eating chocolate that means it has negative calories!" the little devil yelled back.

"Really? You really think she needs FIVE POUNDS of Halloween candy?" the angel responded.

Back and forth, back and forth, until I had had it.

"BOTH OF YOU BE QUIET!" I yelled (in my mind), and virtuously placed two bags of bottom-feeder fodder into my shopping cart. (The only Halloween treats more rejectable than bubble gum and Laffy Taffy are individually-boxed packages of raisins. Am I right, people?)

For two weeks the Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers have been sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for last Saturday's parade.

And then it was raining Saturday morning, with lightning, and the parade was cancelled.

Stupid little angel. I could be eating Reese's Cups by the handful right now. But come by our house on Halloween. We'll be throwing crappy candy at trick-or-treaters until they duck-and-cover.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Old. Friends.

I have practically nothing in common with one of my friends. Oh, we work together, within a few feet of each other if you're able to levitate between the floors of our building (she's another flight up), but where she's liberal I'm conservative; where she's a minimal-children person I'm a multiple-children person; where she's a mother o fa daughter, I'm a mother of many sons; etc.

What we have in common is that we really enjoy each other's company. Maybe it's because we're both apostrophe snobs, but I'm inclined to believe we enjoy each other partly because we were born in the same year. And like every person I know who was born in the same year we were, we are SHOCKED very time we are reminded that we are no longer 25. Or 35. Or...

The other evening this friend and I were ate the same meeting and happened to go out the front door at the same time.

"Hey, be careful--the front porch light isn't on, and you don't want to trip," I warned her.

"Yeah, do you see the step there?" she cautioned me.

We were quiet for just a moment as we contemplated how much we sounded like old, old women. Then we burst out laughing, because, well, apparently we ARE old, old women.

"Okay, when you're walking down the sidewalk, do you ever find yourself veering off into the lawn if you're not concentrating on going straight?"

"Yes! And when you get up from sitting down for a while does it feel like you have to remind all your joints of their jobs? 'Knees, bend now...'"

The road to old age is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, it's populated by fellow travelers who are good company and know how to use apostrophes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Man You Should Marry

There are two kinds of people in the world.

Not cat people and dog people. Not K-State people and KU people. Not glass-half-empty people and glass-half-full people.

No, the two kinds of people in the world are soakers and non-soakers, and quite often one each of these two kinds of people find themselves married to each other.

I, myself, am a non-soaker. When I finish with a dish, I put it in the dishwasher and trust that soap, hot water, and 360-degree spray technology will remove the dregs of steel cut oats from my breakfast bowl. If a pan has contained something that has cooked itself to the surface of the pan with the stuck-on power of edible Super Glue, and removing that gunk is clearly beyond the capabilities even of modern technology, I scrub that pan until it is clean.

What I don't do is soak.

Husband, on the other hand, is a soaker. He wants every speck of food contamination off of a dish before it goes into the dishwasher (even though our WONDERFUL new dishwasher could clean the spots off of a leopard), and if a casserole dish is crusty, it goes into the sink filled with hot water and dish soap, where it sits until someone (other than he) is ready to wash it.

Yesterday we had this discussion for the ninety-quintillionth time.

"I KNOW you like to soak things," I told him in my most patient voice, "and that means eventually I get to dump out dishes filled with cold, slimy, disgusting water. With chunks floating in them. Just use the scrubbie and scrub a little."

He looked properly abashed but started to explain himself..

"You know, some women would appreciate that their husbands put the dishes in the sink..." and he trailed off because after almost 29 years of marriage he knows that kind of outright malarkey DOES NOT FLY in our house. I rolled my eyes just a little, and went to work.

When I came home, I found he'd had the last laugh. Not only was every dirty dish filled with soapy water, he had supplemented the dirty dishes with clean dinnerware out of the cupboards to make sure every inch the sink was filled with containers of cold, slimy, residually-soapy water.

He even thought to fill the spoon I had used to eat my steel-cut oats:

Bachelorettes out there, you may have your caps set for a famous athlete or movie star as the best marriage fodder but you're looking for love in all the wrong places. You should be scouting out CPAs instead: Accountants have the best senses of humor. 

Also, they can do your taxes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Yesterday when I hit "publish" on my little musings about chilliness, I noticed in my blog statistics that I had just inflicted my 500th post on cyberspace.

Wow. For a project that had the potential of never going past one or two entries, I've managed to blather on a fair amount, no? I have so much more to say about my eyebrows than even I had imagined.

In honor of that momentous occasion (okay, it's completely coincidental) I've posted over on The Train of His Robe about transitioning roles in church congregations. And in honor of the folks who use the office microwave to warm up their lunches, I've also written a poem:

Smells awful.

I know. It's pretty deep, but that's the way we poets think. Maybe I'll have to start a poetry blog?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Heart Warming

Husband and I were at another marching band concert football game over the weekend, this time watching the competition between our state's Farm U and big rival Snob U. We were delighted to see Farm U blow the other guys out of the water, both in football and in the marching bands' half-time rivalry. It's not that Husband and I really care about who wins the game, but the trombone section of the Farm U band gets really, really cranky if the game goes the wrong way, and if we're going to sit in the stands with arctic wind whistling around our noses and toes and everything in between, we don't want to go out to supper later and have that atmosphere be chilly as well.

(Unlike my four years spent at Farm U, when the football team amassed a record of about 3-30, odds of the right team winning now are good enough to provoke crankiness rather than the "Huh. Again." reaction we had when our teams lost. My generation was much better prepared to follow the Chiefs and Royals than this generation will be. Just sayin'.)

The day was the first really cold day of the fall, but it warmed up as we took a drive around campus and Boy#3 pointed out how beautiful the school is in the fall.

There was the library.

And the corner across from the chapel:

Isn't that the cutest thing you've ever seen?

No, no, not the little red car. This:

It's Boy#3 and his trombone! On light poles all over campus! Mah Bay-Bee!

That's a whole lot more heart-warming than the $4 cups of "hot" cocoa were at the marching band concert football game.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thiiiiiis Close to Filling Up the Internet

After twice in the past few weeks being pinched (albeit lovingly) for not talking about how my faith has had an impact my life events (oh, like raising kids, and death, and minor stuff like that), I decided I just haven't blathered on enough. I need to write more, more, more!

So, because mixing faith thoughts and thoughts on my eyebrows seems a little too close to mixing milk and meat, I've started ANOTHER blog. I know! Does she never run out of words?

Hop on over to The Train of His Robe if you want to peruse my deep thoughts. Or at least my thoughts on subjects deeper than pantyhose.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Camping Addendum

So you weren't convinced to go camping by yesterday's glowing descriptions of misty mornings and Disney-esque sunsets? You aren't envying our bicycle rides and insect-free communes with nature?

Well, you will be persuaded that camping is the Best Thing Ever by this little camping bonus: Cookies for breakfast.

When there are only four (small) cookies left in the package and it's the final morning of the trip, it seems, well, WRONG to pack those cookies back in the cooler for the trek home. And as Husband so sagely pointed out, there's really not much nutritional difference between two (small) cookies (each) and one doughnut.

Oh, yeah. Camping rocks.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

There's Camping, and There's Camping

A colleague stopped by my office this morning to make sure we'd survived our long weekend of camping in Kansas.

"I've never made it more than one night of camping," he admitted, and when you're camping in Kansas, that's not necessarily a sign of weakness.

I have talked in previous posts about how HAAAAAARD camping is, what with the cooking over a tiny propane stove and walking half a mile to the bathroom and washing dishes in a dishpan and showering where hundreds of other feet have spread their fungi. Camping in Kansas often reminds me of the description of Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire--she does everything he does, but backwards in high heels. You still do all the cooking and cleaning and living that you do at home, but without hot water and in shower flops.

Husband and I left Thursday afternoon on what we knew would be the final camping trip of the season, hauling the camper to a state park 90 miles from Small Town. He insists that in the interest of full disclosure I make sure everyone knows that the bathrooms were inadequately cleaned and the sole trash dumpster was at the entrance to the park.

He insists on that because I spent the four days we were there rhapsodizing over the hidden treasure that is camping in Kansas during the fall.

Camp in Kansas on the final few days of September and the weather is perfect, 70s in the day and 50s at night. You wake to see the grey mist rising off the lake and 12 hours later watch the sun set into Technicolor pinks and oranges.

Camp in Kansas after kids have gone back to school and you practically have the campground to yourself. Of the 150 or so campsites maybe a dozen are occupied, and you can camp for four days and never see another soul in the bathhouse.

Camp in Kansas when the weather is cooling and bugs are practically nonexistent. No need to marinate in bug repellant, and the single mosquito you see during your four-day weekend is stupid with the chill.

Camp in Kansas and the bicycles are no longer decorative accessories in the back of the pick-up that mock you in Colorado's steep inclines and thin air. You'll find yourself riding down every road of the park, then doubling back and doing some again because you are enjoying riding even more than you were enjoying reading the really terrific book you brought along.

Camp in Kansas and you're only six (flat, straight) miles from excellent restaurants and beautiful antiques at excellent prices, and from Friday matinees of first-run movies. 

The next time you camp in Kansas it might be 112 degrees by 10 a.m., and the kids in the next site might have their mo-peds revved up at all hours of the night and the bugs might torment you until you're ready to throw in the Off-soaked towel and go home.

This trip, though? This trip reminded us that camping in Kansas can be as good as camping gets.