Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Seen this morning just down the street from the House on the Corner
Wow! Friday, already? I guess I can mark that off my list of things I now have said that I never in a million years would have guessed I would ever say. Whippersnappers, time does go more quickly as your odometer numbers get higher.


Today is a day when I'm sorry you don't all live in Kansas. Let me re-phrase that: I'm always sorry you don't all live in Kansas because I like the idea of being able to invite you all over for rolls and tomato preserves (who knew so many of you had never heard of this delicacy?) but today I'm sorry you don't live here because you'll never believe how gorgeous the exact center of the United States can be in August.

We are in the next-to-the-last day of what is normally a pretty bleak month in the Sunflower State, when  everything normally looks parched and dried-out. This summer, though, we've had unbelievably mild summer temperatures (think 80s) and lots of rain and the beginning of fall looks like spring. Roses and honeysuckle everywhere.

Kansas, you're a gorgeous girl.


 There are certain television commercials that make me laugh every. single. time. This is one of them:


A transcription of an online conversation with a son:

Me, on Monday: Well, thanks to Miley Cyrus, I now know what twerking is.

Boy#2: There are some phrases you should never hear your mother say. That is one of them.

Well, okay.

Thanks for this image, Amazon!
And finally, the Blurb of the Week:

This Kansas summer that has been practically rain-forest-ish in comparison to our usual Sahara-like conditions also has been delightful for our blood-sucking companions, the mosquitoes.

I hate to itch. Hate it, hate it, hate it. When I have been bitten by a mosquito, I am a most unpleasant person to be around. I was deeply concerned that I'd be eaten alive at our church carnival last week and I came thiiiiiis close to not signing up to participate for this very reason. But because I also hate spraying on chemical repellants (What? I am a fragile orchid of delicacy.) I decided to try the Clip-on Off.

People, it worked! I spent three hours outside during the twilight hours, and when I finished my only battle wound was the blister on my index finger from tying off all those balloon animals. Not a single bite.

Put this one in the "I love it!" column, and only partly because I love the paradoxical nature of its name, even though I do.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Follow Up: Still Wrong, and Dangerous

Well, this is a first.

In my three-plus years of blathering on the internet I've managed to avoid most controversy by writing about non-controversial topics. Armadillo attacks. Tomato plants. Our Dog Pepper. I think we can all agree that we're against the first of these topics and for the second two.

Two days ago I went off on a mini-tangent that, given the make-up of my reader pool, I didn't expect to make a ripple. I always imagine that my demographic is, well, me: A late-middle-aged mom from the middle of the road. We middle-of-the-road moms vaccinated our children, and we don't understand why any parent would willingly put children at risk of these preventable illnesses that cause such dreadful complications up to and including death.

I called those parents "wrong, and dangerous."

Last night I opened my in-box to find a comment had been posted from Kaely. She had taken the time to thoughtfully and reasonably present her views, and included links to websites that support the anti-vaccination viewpoint. It wasn't a comment I could just off-handedly delete--I left it posted and thought about it all night. Had I been to harsh? Had I been unkind? Had I been hasty?

This morning, though, I'm deleting Kaely's comment, and here's why:

1. After visiting all the websites she had listed, I am more persuaded by the science in the links from such sources as the Mayo Clinic and the Center for Disease Control than by the sources she cited. I will continue to weigh the evidence, and until reputable scientists and widely-respected platforms tell me otherwise, I'll continue to believe vaccinations are safe. I will not use this space or its comments to perpetuate views that could kill a child.

2. I know that I presented anecdotal evidence--my own illness and that of my children--as part of my defense of vaccinations. In other words, I had prima facie evidence that NOT vaccinating can lead to some really unpleasant consequences. I also knew my own children did not contract the illnesses against which they had been vaccinated, so they were spared these consequences. But anecdotal evidence certainly should not be the only basis on which a parent should make decisions. Still, the huge preponderance of scientific evidence shows that vaccinations are safe. I am truly saddened by Kaely's claim that "the pertussis vaccine causes very severe seizures in enough children that in our area many pediatric nurses suggest against getting the vaccine." I find this horrifying.

3. There was one line in Kaely's comment that struck a chord: "(Calling non-vaccinators wrong and dangerous) is very hurtful and presumptuous, as there are many reasons including your son's allergy, which would prevent a parent from vaccinating their children." She's right that there are valid reasons for not vaccinating a child. Some children have compromised immune systems because of other medical issues. Some, like Boy#3, have allergies to the vaccination that were discovered during the vaccination process. If I have hurt someone from one of that group, I apologize. You have enough to deal with without me piling on your issues, and I should have included that disclaimer in Tuesday's post.

As I think about how Husband and I parented our children, though, I know we made tons of mistakes. We pushed sometimes when we should have supported. We ignored when we should have stepped in. We meddled when benign neglect would have been the better choice. But we did not make mindful mistakes when it came to their physical safety. The Boys wore bicycle helmets and seatbelts, got swimming lessons, and didn't drive until they had taken driver's ed. And they were vaccinated on the scientifically recommended schedule.

Not to have done so would have been wrong, and dangerous.

(Empty Nest Feathers is not going to become a forum for the vaccination debate, so this is the last time I'll write on this subject. Now I return you to our regular schedule of tomfoolery.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

They're Wrong and Dangerous

There are times when I'm scanning the news as I ride the exercise bike and a story catches my eye so completely that I don't notice until I've finished reading that I've dripped a puddle of sweat onto my Nook. This story did that to me this morning.

As I scrubbed the puddle off the screen I shook my head once more at the thought that there are parents who choose to not vaccinate their children. Whether the reasons are simple misinformation (this woman's claims have been proven to be just that--misinformation) or a religious stance, these parents' views are wrong, and they're dangerous.

I'm not a scientist, so I won't go into the scientific reasons I say this. You can read what real scientists have to stay about the subject here, or here, or here.

What I can pass along are my own experiences with lack of vaccinations. I have three of them.

The first came when I was living in Costa Rica, a Peace Corps volunteer in my early 20s. I was probably in the best shape of my life, walking miles every day and eating fresh fruit straight from the trees. When I was a child, though, the doctor had told my mother that measles had been eradicated where we lived so I didn't need a measles vaccination. Two decades later I was unprotected when I inhaled a measles virus someone had sneezed into the air around me. People, I have never been so sick in my life. I ran a high fever, hallucinated, was covered with spots so completely that no skin showed between them. I had measles inside my ears and nose. I cannot imagine the outcome if I had not been in such good shape--I was in a region where I walked a mile to make a phone call and visiting a doctor was out of the question. I did recover, but I was less than healthy for weeks.

The second experience came when Boy#3 was getting his routine vaccinations. He was more than a little cranky after his DTaP shot, and his thigh swelled ominously. Dr. H, his wonderful pediatrician, diagnosed an allergy to the pertussis portion of the vaccine, but reassured us that this kind of allergy is rare enough that herd immunity would protect Three and we could feel safe with him receiving only the diphtheria and tetanus boosters. In those days, when the vaccination debate was in its infancy, I didn't worry that Three would come into contact with a child who had pertussis and contract it himself. Today I do.

The third experience came when Boy#4 was just four weeks old and Boy#1 was in kindergarten. During his bath I noticed One had a spot on his chest but I didn't think much about it until I saw a second spot, and a third, and then too many to count. In those days before chickenpox vaccine, he had picked up the germ from one of his classmates and in the next four weeks, all of the Boys came down with the plague. Except for Four (who only had a few spots, picking up my antibodies from his all-breastmilk diet) they were miserable. I dare you to google "images of children with chicken pox." Now scan down to see the worst of them. No, not the giggling children with a few spots. Look for the dazed-looking babies in the bathtub with hundreds and hundreds of scabs covering their faces, their backs, their scalps. I have pictures of the Boys during these days but they are images too horrifying to post on this blog. My children had lesions on their eyeballs, inside their ears, under their diapers in quantities too high to count.

I can't stress too much how very miserable I was with the measles, and how miserable the Boys were with the chickenpox, and these aren't the diseases that were likely to kill us. I'll also never forget Dr. H's simple statement that underlined all those scientific studies that prove that childhood vaccinations are both safe and important. "In all my years of practice I've never seen a really bad reaction to a childhood vaccination," he told us, "but I've seen four unvaccinated children die of pertussis, and it is a horrible way to die."

Parents of young children, as you make your decisions on whether to pay attention to the scaremongering anti-vaccinators, think about whether you want to sentence your child to the possibility of the misery (and scars) of chickenpox, to the danger of the high fevers and misery associated with the measles. Think about whether you are prepared to hold your child in your arms as he struggles to breathe through whooping coughs.

Then please, ignore the people who are basing their beliefs on shoddy science. Get your child vaccinated, because the anti-vaccinators are wrong and they are dangerous.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pinch, Twist, Masterpiece!

Last night was our church carnival, and I have a most uncharitable admission to make. I signed up to make balloon animals because the first thought that flew through my mind as I checked out the options for service was this: "How hard could that be?"


Instead of backing away slowly at the thought of recreating the intricacy of this art form, I thought about the Bozos (literally) I had seen twisting inflated latex into silly shapes, and imagined it was exactly the right art form for me, since I am unable to draw or paint or sculpt. Pinch and twist! Pinch and twist! How hard could that be?

It's that kind of hubris that leads people to audition for So You Think You Can Dance and instead of getting on the show get a half million views on YouTube as the answer to a search for "bad auditions."

So I showed up at the carnival 10 minutes early and the expert among us gave all the new volunteers a crash course in balloon twisting.

"Here's how you make a sword: Pinch here, pinch here, twist, twist, twist, there you go!"

Well, that's do-able.

"Here's how you make a cross: Turn the sword upside down."

The dogs were much the same kind of variation-on-a-theme. ("Here's how you make a poodle. Okay, make the body longer and the legs shorter and now it's a Dachsund.")

But guess what?  The kids don't care!

Take a look at the beautiful girl in the picture, with the "hat" and "dog" made out of balloons. Is that the most beautiful smile or what? She is not whining because the hat looks more like the skeleton of an inverted bedpan than an actual hat. She is not crying that she wanted a kitten, not a puppy with a tail twice as big as its head. She is BEAMING.

And she represents fairly the dozens of other children who walked away from the table with MomQueenBee masterpieces. They even stood in line to get just the right color of misshapen poodle to match the misshapen hat and misshapen sword they had already been handed.

One youngster, whose hair was slick with sweat after half an hour in the Bounce House, leaned his elbows on our table and sighed happily as he waited for me to finish his Dachsund.

"This is the greatest thing ever. It's just like the fair, but it's FREE!"

Pinch, pinch, twist, twist, twist, smile. I believe I've found my metier.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Contest Winners!

Yesterday one of my favorite youngsters in the world commented on the post I had linked to my Facebook page.

"Hey, MomQueenBee, you piker! Didn't you have a contest running, or were you just scamming us? I'm turning you over to the Better Business Bureau and you will never blog in this town again!"

Or words to that effect. (Actually, what she said was "On the 'children leaving' subject... do we have a final milk count?" Also, she's now not so much a youngster as a registered pharmacist but I'm pretending time hasn't passed since I met her during her sophomore year of college.)

Oh, yes! I did have a contest running, and since the Tauruses (Tauri?) are packed and ready to pull out of the driveway this morning, I'm going to distract myself from the the something I think must have gotten in my eyes by announcing our winners of the "How Much Milk Will They Drink This Summer?" sweepstakes.

The grand total, as tallied on the PostIt on the refrigerator door was....(drumroll, please).....

Twenty-seven gallons! 

I know! Only 27 gallons in three months. What has happened to my bay-bees, who routinely consumed a gallon a day back when we couldn't afford to feed them? 

Anyway, winners have their choice of the therapy socks shown above. They are not therapy for you, they were therapy for me as I knit them, and they are all manner of quirky. Take a look at the red socks in the middle, which are thick and warm and apparently knit for Bigfoot because I forgot to stop and just kept knitting and knitting and knitting. Or the ones next to that, also nice and warm, during the knitting of which I obviously ran out of yarn BEFORE the toes. (What? You'll be wearing shoes over them.)

I'm declaring two winners, because people entered their guesses in two different places. My faithful reader Twisterfish entered in the online comments, and because she is faithful (and also, the only one who entered this way), with a guess of 41 gallons YOU ARE A WINNER, TWISTERFISH! Send me your address and which pair of socks you want and I'll get them in the mail.

The second winner is my Facebook knitting buddy who will not at all appreciate this prize because this was also her Christmas gift from me two years ago--with a guess of 28 gallons YOU ARE A WINNER, REBECCA! Sorry about being unable to think of anything to gift except this. Oh, wait. I have some homemade apple butter that just came out of the Crockpot last night and is spectacularly delicious, so if you'd rather have that, let me know and I'll deliver it to your house.

Also, Kourtney, since you reminded me I had a contest running and you came in second in the Facebook category with a guess of  35 gallons, YOU ARE A SPECIAL BONUS WINNER! SOCKS FOR YOU, TOO!

So there it is, the conclusion of the first-ever give-away post on Empty Nest Feathers, and after reading this post and checking out the spectacular prizes offered, I have come to the realization that apparently I am an Amish housewife. Who knew? 

There. I'm feeling better about the empty-ing nest already.

Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all of you for playing along

Thursday, August 22, 2013

It's Much the Same

He's a senior in college now. Sniff.
A colleague came into my office yesterday. We've worked together for many years and gone through a lot of life transitions together and she was looking  a little frantic.

"We moved my mother-in-law into Beautiful Retirement Community over the weekend and she hadn't even been there 12 hours when she told me she didn't think this was going to work," my colleague sighed. "Is this normal?"

I didn't hug her because she isn't the huggy type, but if ever there was a moment for sympathy that was it.

Yes, this is normal, I told her. My own mother-in-law didn't want to spend the first night by herself at Beautiful Retirement Community so one of her sons slept that night on her couch, but within a few weeks she was settled and happy.

In so many ways, all first days are alike. First days of school. First days at camp. First days in the house you just moved into. First days in the dorm at college. First days on a job. All of them are scary and exciting and exhausting and so many emotions all wrapped into a big ol' ball of new intimidation.

Tomorrow Boy#4 will be on the road back to his final year as an undergraduate, and Boy#1 and Lovely Girl will be loading a U-Haul as they get ready to move to their first permanent location with grown-up jobs. The House on the Corner will feel empty and lonely until Husband and I readjust to the new/old normal.

As they leave I'll be bombarding my children with the same words of advice I've given them for at least the past quarter of a century, advice that starts with "get some sleep" and ends with "do at least one thing a day for someone else." It strikes me that I should have told my mother-in-law the exact same things when she was making her transitions from her own home to communal living at age 87. (Well, except for the part about backing up data. At age 87, feel free to let the data roam free.)

So I'm thinking about all of you in transition today--the Small Town parents whose children are going to a new grade of school; my colleague's mother-in-law; everyone who is scared that this isn't going to work.

Hang in there, and check out #10 on the list of words of advice. It's the only one that really matters.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's That Kind of Day

This is the kind of day it has been:

I composed a fairly lengthy and well-thought-out e-mail in response to a thorny question I had received. I polished the grammar, and made sure I didn't have any 'there' when I meant 'their' issues, then I hit the 'send' button and blew a kiss after the missive as it went on its merry way.

On its merry way to my own in-box, because by accident I sent it TO MYSELF.

Yes. I sent it to my own address, where it languished in the in-box for a fair amount of time until I realized (with great chagrin) that it was languishing and redirected it to its intended recipient.

But, on the other hand, on my kitchen counter are seven half-pints of tomato preserves, made with my mother's recipe, and if you do not have tomato preserves in your kitchen you are having a much worse day than I am.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Perfect Recipe

My mother was an unbelievable cook. Want to know why Charlie Chaplin enjoyed that boiled shoe so much in The Gold Rush? It was because he used my mother's recipe for Spiced Sole, the one she had pinned to the side of the refrigerator with a magnet, alongside her Famous Rolls recipe and the Funeral Casserole instructions.

She was such a good cook, in fact, that she was constantly asked for recipes, and because she believed delicious food was a gift and not a property, she shared her recipes without thinking twice.

My grandmother also was a good cook, but she had been a Depression mom and had fed her four boys by growing her own food, milking her own cows, raising her own vegetables. When she tried Mom's fabulous recipe for salmon patties, she was disappointed in the outcome.

"I don't know what happened," she told my mother. "I followed your instructions exactly. Except that salmon was pretty expensive, so I substituted tuna, and instead of whole cream I used skim milk, and I didn't want to fry them in butter so I used some bacon grease I had left over."

I thought of that story this weekend when I made "Grandma Ople's Apple Pie" from the For the first time in the 26 years we've lived in the House on the Corner, weather conditions were not too hot and not too cold but juuuuuust right and the apple tree in the back yard produced a bumper crop. Husband and I harvested at least half a bushel of fruit, and I got all housewife-y about making it into a pie.

People, this recipe is really, really good. It looked like the picture (more or less) and it tasted like fall weather on a plate. It was so good that I decided to add my comment to the 5,000+ who already have raved about the recipe's excellence online. That's when I discovered that almost all of those commenters are my grandmother.

"I added a teaspoon of cinnamon, a good dash of nutmeg and a tablespoon of vanilla to the syrup prior to simmering (compensate for adding the vanilla by omitting a tablespoon of that 1/4 cup of water). Next, definitely mix the syrup with the apples rather than trying to pour into the pie (save enough to glaze top crust)...."

"WONDERFUL PIE!!! I heeded other warnings and suggestions on this one. 1. I baked the pie at 350 degrees for the entire time to minimize scorching. 2. I added 2 tablespoons flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch to the syrup mixture. I also eliminated the water from the syrup mixture which made the pie very thick and gel-like. I also added cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg to the syrup...."

I won't continue because they go on and on (and on) in this vein. "The perfect recipe, so I made these changes..."

Pfffft. It's the perfect recipe. Just make it, or you may end up with Salmon Patties.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday! Again!

Hey! It's Friday again! And time for some unrelated updates and opinions. First of all, the (probably, but maybe not) final update to my critter saga of the past week:

I reached into our mailbox Monday to find a surprise--a padded envelope containing this tiny box with its darling bow. It had been sent from an Etsy shop but there was no gift card and certainly I had not ordered anything. Still, slid off the ribbon and inside was...


I contacted the lovely Sarah from Saout and asked if she had sent the silver pendant to me by mistake, a coincidence of cosmic proportion given my run-in with an actual armadillo last week. She replied that it was not a mistake, and that I have the best readers and friends in the entire world and one of them is a superstar friend/reader.

She was absolutely correct, and to the anonymous superstar who sent me an armadillo necklace in order to indicate my solidarity and clanship with New World placental mammals with leathery armor shells, thank you so much! Today I am wearing it proudly and randomly leaping straight into the air to frighten predators.

On the Wedding Planning Front (part the first)
Also arriving on the front porch this week was my mother-of-the-groom outfit! It is not beige. In fact, it is pretty spectacularly bling-y, especially for me. I tend toward the ankle-length homespun and Birkenstock school of fashion, but Much Older Sister found an outfit online and ordered it for me. When I texted her a photo and squeeeed that it was "PERFECT AND I LOVE IT!", she replied "Now about that 'keeping your mouth shut' thing..."

On the Wedding Planning Front (part the second)
Lest you think being engaged is all sweetness and light and hat-bedecked showers, Boy#1 and Lovely Girl hit a snag in their plans this week (nothing major, cancelled tasting, all-will-be-well-but-this-is-completely-irritating type stuff) and it reminded me of the advice I give every newly-engaged person I know--the engagement and wedding have very little to do with the success of the actual marriage. I loved dating not-yet-Husband (for the five minutes we dated), I have loved being married to him (for almost 30 years--egads), but the six months we were engaged were torturous. His idea of a wedding and my idea of a wedding were not a Venn diagram, they were two freestanding circles with no intersection whatsoever. However, being married has been really, really, really to the nth degree fun.

Lovely Girl and One are more or less taking the logistical setbacks in stride (at least much more than I did 30 years ago). "At the end of the day, we'll be married," they say when the caterer messes up for the fourth time. Oooh, good attitude, guys!

Blurb of the Week

Guys, are you watching Breaking Pointe? No? Oh, my. You should be. It turns out that ballet dancers are not only lovely and limber and jointless, they're also DRAMATIC. As in reality show dramatic, as this dramatic reality show on The CW network proves.

In addition to watching ballet dancers defy gravity as they flit across the floor, you'll marvel at the heartbreak involved with casting, you'll cringe at the truly disgusting toes (yes, they're worse than yours), and you'll fall in love with the regal prima ballerina. You'll love ALL the dancers.

Except for Zach. Zach is a weasel and you will hate him.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Please Excuse MomQueenBee

Dear Boss,

I'm sorry I was a few minutes late for work this morning. I know all the advice I have given my own children on the first day of school--set two alarms, the first impression you make on a teacher matters, you'll be more on task if you aren't rushing in late, blah-blah-blah.

But this was the big morning when Husband, in his role as president of the Small Town school board, was to welcome the new teachers to the district. He had his notes all typed up on a note card (they were appropriate, and appropriately short) and was wearing a new shirt. A new plaid shirt.

If you do not think getting his name tag on EXACTLY straight did not matter, you would be wrong. And because he was wearing a plaid shirt,  there were visual guidelines to let him know when the tag was crooked, as it was the first eight or ten times he tried to affix the tag to its magnetic backing under his shirt.

Have I mentioned he's an accountant and precision matters to him? Yes, it does.

But in spite of his need for squareness in his life, he's tolerated the couch being set on an angle to the living room walls for several years even though I'm sure his blood pressure spikes every time he walks past it. That's because he's married to a woman who really, really likes things set on angles and pictures hung not-too-high-on-the-wall.

So I'll spend as much time as we need to get that name tag exactly perpendicular to the blue stripe in the plaid, because he'll feel so much better and the first impression you make on a teacher matters.

Thanks for your indulgence,


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

At the Time, It Was Hilarious

This is the time of year when it's hard to get a real live person on the phone at Small College. With students running all over the place as if they (sheesh) belonged here, and faculty reappearing after their summer breaks, and HEY, I'VE DECIDED TO GO TO SCHOOL AFTER ALL AND WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO GET ENROLLED? new students everywhere, the behind-the-scenes workers who actually make this place function are getting a little overwhelmed. (In a good way, of course, because we love the start of school, especially when it's behind us.)

I will confess that during these hectic times I tend not to answer my office telephone. The people I really want to talk to (think Husband or Boys) will call my cell phone, and my boss will walk across the hall to talk to my actual ears if there's something he needs to discuss. I let the ringing phone go to voice mail, and a couple of times each day I roll through my voice messages and return calls that need to be returned.

Adding to the confusion is the local telephone directory that, apparently in a fit of pique after I decided not to advertise in their medium, listed my personal extension as the main trunk line for the college. I've become accustomed to hearing blank silence after I answer with my customary "Communications, this is MomQueenBee."  Then a confused voice invariably asks "Uh, is this Small College?"

"What I need to do," I told Husband this morning, "is have a standard message that tells people the numbers to call for financial aid, or the registrar's office, or the library, or the president..."

"Or the Guidepost Prayer Hot Line?" Husband suggested.

Huh. That was so much funnier when he said it than when I wrote it. I think maybe I'm getting a little punchy--perhaps this start of school needs to be behind us sooner rather than later.

Monday, August 12, 2013

No Beige Here

Lovely Girl and I with our dueling hat brims
How many times did I hear it in the weeks after Boy#1 and Lovely Girl announced their engagement last Thanksgiving? Five times? Fifteen? Fifty?

"You know what the groom's mother has to do? Just wear beige and shut up."

Oh, people. You lovely, well-meaning people. Do you not know me at all? The odds of me shutting up are miniscule, and beige washes me out.

So when the invitation to Lovely Girl's shower specified that the guests should wear their favorite hats, I picked the brightest, broadest-brimmed one I could find, pinned on my "Mother of the Groom" badge, and set sail. And then I could not shut up. This shower was for friends in Lovely Girl's hometown and I introduced myself over and over.

"Hi--how do you know LG? From church, that's so nice. Me? Oh, my son's marrying her. Yes, we could not be happier. I know! Doesn't she look adorable?"

I hugged women whose hats were even bigger than mine, and laughed as we grabbed our headgear to keep it from falling off. I found out that as a child Lovely Girl was the instigator of countless church nursery hijinks, and the dimples and angelic face were, at that point of her life, beautiful deceptions. Over and over I looked at my two sisters, who shared this day just as they've shared the other most wonderful days of my life, and we grinned at each other in sheer delight.

All the pictures from the day, in fact, show me with a grin on my face that's practically manic in its intensity. It was just so much fun to be this close to the center of the universe without having any responsibility for keeping the planets in orbit.

Mothers of the groom? Your mileage may vary, but if my experience is any indicator, I would update that old advice. If your son is getting married, wear whatever you want, and have fun.

So far, that's working for me.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Follow-up

When I got home from work last night there as a message on our answering machine. I was hoping to embed that message here so that you could listen to it in its glorious entirety, but apparently the free service Google provides when it hosts my blog doesn't extend to audio sharing. (You'd think that as much as I PAY these people they'd...oh. Never mind.)

Anyway, please work with me in making this transcription of the message as lifelike as possible. You will need to read it out loud in a poorly-recorded answering machiney way, adding a southern Kansas drawl to the inflection.
This is Officer Miller, Small Town animal control officer. I had an e-mail from one of the city workers who was on her way to work this morning and saw you were kind of dancing a jig with a possum up there. I was wanting to make contact to see if you needed a trap or anything to catch it, or what was going on. She said she saw you and it on the sidewalk together and you were both kind of going in the same direction. So anyway, I may try to stop by up there and make contact with you later. Thank you.
 I will completely forgive the city worker for mistaking my armadillo for a possum, because both are disgusting creatures and how cool is it that she recognized my distress and called the authorities? Also, the phrases "dancing a jig" and "both kind of going in the same direction" made me laugh until tears ran down my face. Never has a panic-stricken dash to escape an armor-plated placental mammal been described in a more genteel and diplomatic way.

I love living in Small Town.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My New Regimen

I believe I've rambled on pretty much ad nauseum about the "fitness" routine I started almost two years ago now. (And by fitness, of course, I mean ability to get up to change the television channel without becoming short of breath.)

Anyway, I've done pretty well getting up every morning way earlier than I prefer, putting on my stretchy pants (oh, so pretty), and only occasionally muttering I-hate-this-I-hate-this-I-hate-this as I trudge down to the basement. Then it's 25 minutes on the exercise bike at target heart rate, 15 minutes on the elliptical ditto, and a five-minute walk around the block to cool down because by now I am sweating in a way frightens young children and everyone else.

This morning I had gotten as far as the walk around the block part of my routine. It was a cool, rainy morning in Small Town, a rarity for a Kansas August, so I actually was enjoying myself in that virtuous, self-congratulatory way that accompanies the final song on my fitness playlist. That's when I saw a grey cat on the sidewalk a few yards in front of me. It had its front paws up on the glass door of the attorney's office that's a couple of doors down from the House on the Corner, and obviously was trying to get in.

"Isn't that cute?" I said to myself, smiling through the sweat. And then the cat turned and came toward me.

Are you seeing what I suddenly saw at that moment? That cat's tail was a little...odd. I took a step or two nearer, and the cat, rather than scampering away as most of our feral cats do, lunged in my direction.

Now do you see what I saw?

No? Now about now?

Yes, I know this is a terrible picture. You're being critical at a moment like this?
IT'S AN ARMADILLO. And it was as close to me as you are right now, assuming you live in my computer modem, as I always have assumed.

Everything I know about armadillos flashed through my brain: They're mean little suckers that will claw you as soon as look at you. They're surprisingly good runners. They smell terrible. Their defense against predators is to jump straight up into the air, which is not always an effective tactic in frightening 18-wheelers hence the number seen "resting" along the roadside.

They also have a keen sense of smell, extremely sharp claws, and poor eyesight, and the combination of those traits might lead this one to think I'm yummy yummy roadkill that would make a delicious breakfast.

And that's when I added running to my exercise routine.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


How could this little scorch make that much smoke?
Last week as I was completing my frenzy of not-really-vacation-but-not-really-work cleaning, Husband walked into the house. He wrinkled his nose (not an easy feat, given the impressiveness of that schnozz) and said, "Ewwww. What smells?"

I had just cleaned out the refrigerator and thrown away a fair quantity of post-prime vegetables, de-scaled two electric coffeemakers, and cleaned the oven, so the smell could have come from rotting organic matter, boiling vinegar, or EasyOff (no fumes, but still distinctive). I drew a deep breath and answered my beloved with an I-Am-Woman roar.

"That? That's the smell of CLEAN."

I did not speak but clearly implied the "you person who is ungrateful for the hours I've spent ruining my nail polish in pursuit of wifely perfection," so last night when Husband walked in the door after work his eyes bulged but he did not say a word.

"Notice anything different?" I prodded just a little.

"New perfume?"

Uh, no. That was the smell a decorative resin spoonholder emits when a burner is mistakenly turned on under said spoonholder instead of under the pasta pot. Folks, not even every door in the house flung open in the 97-degree weather clears out that smoke and those fumes, which I'm quite sure were toxic and absolutely permeated not only the kitchen but also the remainder of the house and my nasal passages.

Husband may have been cagey enough to ignore the odor but Boy#4 hasn't lived as long as his father.
"Ewwwww. What smells?" Four grimaced as he walked in the door. When Husband explained the burner mishap, my darling son was oh, so relieved.

"Thank heavens. I was afraid it was supper."

Future wife of Boy#4, wherever you are, I have done you a service. I explained to my son that this is probably not the best comment he could have made to the woman who makes sure food is ON THE TABLE for him when he arrives home from work every. single. night.

You're welcome, future Mrs. Four. Now please overlook the spoonholder fumes that I'm sure will still be lingering even though you haven't even met my son yet. It's not anything I'm cooking.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Don't Let the Refrigerator Hear You

Years (decades?) ago I read an article that was titled "Don't Let the Refrigerator Hear You." The thesis of this Reader's Digest story was that every time a homeowner gets a couple of dollars ahead, something crops up that needs to be paid for--if you own a home and get a bonus at work, don't let the refrigerator hear you talk about it or sure as shootin' you're going to be buying a new refrigerator.

I've never been able to find the story again, but I think of it very, very often, most recently this morning. Husband and I had been imprudently discussing how it probably was a good idea we didn't take an expensive vacation this year, what with the upcoming wedding and a couple of projects we want to do on the house.

Just about then Husband heard the sump pump in the basement begin cycling on/off/on/off and since he is an adult (unlike me, who would have stuffed her fingers in her ears and claimed not to hear) he went down to investigate. And whaddya know! The sewer had heard him!

Fortunately, everything that was backing up was rainwater (thank you, torrential rains) so Husband put the immediate kibbosh on flushing and showering and called the people who fix this kind of thing for a living. Then he and I spent the next couple of hours digging up the back yard looking for the thing-a-ma-jig that would let those fixer people inspect the sewer line.

It was not as much fun as you might think it would be. Also, my beautiful stone patio now needs just a smidgeon of restoration. Sigh.

A word of advice, people? If you ever have to dig up your inspection thing-a-ma-jig, write yourself detailed instructions of how to find it again. Because once that was found, it was a matter of minutes until everything was, uh, flowing again.

Here are the silver linings associated with this sewage cloud: Because we were at home, and not in Colorado, the issue was discovered immediately rather than after it had been filling the basement for three days. That would NOT have been cool. Also, because we did not go to Colorado we could write out the check to pay the nice cleaner-outer guy and not think "Dang! Why didn't any of the Boys become sewer cleaner-outer guys?"

The sewer line is once again functional, and because we didn't go to Colorado, we can now well, go again.

And if I have to choose one or the other, I'd definitely choose the latter.