Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Okay, I promise that this is the last adorable picture of Boy#4 I will post this week. This month, even. But isn't this the cutest thing? My sister, my sister-in-law, and I all gave birth to sons within three months of each other, and those boys are now fully-grown adults. A., shown here with Four, is off to a prestigious law school in the fall. J., who for some reason didn't make it into this picture, is teaching at a technical college and soon will be a first-time father. Four--well, you know all about Four because I've maybe mentioned him in the past few weeks.

I don't remember growing older--cue the music.

However, I will never understand young'uns. All four Boys and Lovely Girl are in the same city this week as they coordinate vacations to take advantage of "free" sporting tickets that only cost them plane fare halfway across the country and a week's worth of lodging, but I digress.

Boy#3 and Boy#4 traveled together and were good enough to keep us informed of their whereabouts via text message. (Who says relentlessly saying "You'll text, won't you?" doesn't work?) At one point they were delayed on the tarmac almost two hours and Four was getting restless. Airplane seating was not designed for young men who are over 6'3", and the texts were beginning to sound surly, so I switched into chirpy mode.

"Look at this as a good thing--you can get more reading done!" I Pollyanna-d.

"Didn't think we'd be on the ground for two hours and I didn't bring a book" he Mr. Pendleton-ed back.

I had no response because WHO DOESN'T BRING A BOOK ON A PLANE? I was there when he was born but I was left with the feeling that this is not a child of mine at all. I bring a book when I go to the convenience store for gas, just in case there's someone in front of me in line.

And now for our blurb: Husband and I try to eat well. Really, we do. But the past few weeks, which brought a tsunami of graduations, showers, reunions, etc., have been disastrous for our good intentions. This week I fired up the grill, and now we're at least trying to do better. Again.

Last night we had salmon. Husband isn't a big fan of seafood but one of his favorite clients sent him home with a sample of these salmon fillets once and we've been hooked ever since. (That was a fish joke; did you get it?)

I buy them at Sam's, and they are easy and delicious, but don't cook them any way except on the grill, in a drawer-shaped container that you fold out of foil. This step of folding the little box makes you feel crafty and dextrous and the salmon itself makes you feel nutritionally virtuous.

What more could you ask?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Near Miss

J., my best friend of forever
Hold up your right hand. Now put your thumb and forefinger together, almost touching with barely enough space to slide a piece of paper between them. Thiiiiiiis close. That was how close I came to skipping the get-together for my high school graduating class during last weekend's Tiny Town reunion.

The thought of those teenage years set off a visceral reaction that makes me squirm. In high school I wanted to be one of the cool kids--the cheerleaders and the daters and the effortlessly fashionable--but instead I was one of the good kids. I got good grades and played in the orchestra, and I was as happy as a teenager can be, but oh, how I wanted to be Cindy whose hair curled in a perfect flip, or Linda who knew just when to laugh, or Deb who was tiny and bubbly.

I wasn't brave enough to be bad and bad is the currency of popularity during high school, so I skated at the edge of popularity, with good friends all around me but not quite sitting at the cool kids table. I really, really wanted to sit at the cool kids table.

After we graduated I kept in contact with my immediate friends, but not so much with the rest of classmates. Going back to the 10-year reunion didn't help; it was too soon, and in spite of the interesting things the good-but-not-popular had been doing (I had been back from the Peace Corps for three weeks, not even long enough to lose my Costa Rica tan) we fell effortlessly back into our high school roles. The only difference was that  the cool kids were outside to smoking pot instead of cigarettes while the rest of us talked about debate trips.

I went home and cried.

So when I read on Facebook a few weeks ago that one of the women who still lives in Tiny Town was going to have a cook-out for our class, I almost didn't go. "There's no reason to," I told Husband. "I still see the people I want to see, and I don't need to be reminded that I don't have perfect hair or know when to laugh." I was kidding, but not really, and mostly relieved that we wouldn't get into town until after the cook-out was supposed to start. The hostess reassured me that it was going to be informal and I could drop by later, but...I didn't want to go.

I happened to check my phone as we were driving toward my hometown, though. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology a picture popped up of people who had arrived at the picnic.

"Oh, my gosh!" I gasped. "It's J., my best friend from before I started school, and C., my best friend from when I was in country school, and I'd really like to see what Ronda is up to, and there's Alice!"

At the absolute last moment we turned down Pine Street to where the cook-out was being held, and when I walked in the gate it felt like a true homecoming.

We have reached a stage in life where we are what we are, and astonishingly, perfect hair no longer has much impact on how much I enjoy or fail to enjoy a person. Instead the qualities that made J. my best friend from forever have fed our friendship over the years--she's still kind and generous and funny and so willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. The same qualities that made C. my best friend in country school are still at the forefront--she's still vivacious and hard-working and high-achieving even in retirement.

Age is a great leveler and bad's worth has been devalued. I'm so glad I stuck around long enough to find this out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Perfect Packing

I packed in a hurry Friday as Husband and I got on the road for the long holiday weekend. My work day went a bit longer than I had anticipated, and instead of being on the road at 4 p.m. our arrivals and departures board had started flashing DELAYED before I even pulled my suitcase out from under the bed. (No, we don't really have an A&D board, but wouldn't that be handy? "I've already told you what time we're leaving--now you just need to check the board." In my dreams.)

My packing methods are not exactly scientific: If I have clean underwear and my vitamin pill, I figure I can buy anything I forget when I get to wherever I'm going. This has worked well for me in the past, and actually, it's worked even when I didn't have the underwear and vitamin pill. This weekend, though, I knew I'd be going to a class reunion, to a parade, to church, and all of the rest of the festivities that are special during Memorial Weekend in the tiny town where I grew up. I wanted to look nice, to not embarrass myself or my family.

I threw in  three skirts, four dressy-ish t-shirts, jewelry appropriate to gussy up or calm down the outfits according to the event, make-up bag, toothbrush, clean underwear and vitamin pill. I had new L.L.Bean sandals that are ooooh, so comfy, so I would wear them everyplace except church and for that I had my black mules because it's always nice to impress the homefolks in Tiny Town who had lived through my high school miniskirt years and probably still wonder if I've come to my senses concerning my clothing choices.

Sunday morning, I got dressed. Black scoop-necked t-shirt with appropriately tasteful silver jewelry? Check. Long swirly skirt with abstract print? Check. Undereye concealer and understated make-up? Check. Shoes? Check, and check.

The shoes get two checks, because if you'll look closely at today's photo you'll notice that while the shoes I packed were both black Clarks open-toed mules, they also were the right shoe from two different pairs.  So people who greeted me at church and wondered why I was all dressed up from the ankles up and ready to go to the beach from the ankles down? Now you know. 

At least I had on clean underwear.

Friday, May 23, 2014

There's Symbolism in Here Somewhere

I'm clearing the pictures of graduation weekend off my camera, which means I've been looking at these shots and thinking "Hmmm...why in the world did I take that? I must have thought there was a blog post in it, but what could that post have been?"

I offer for your perusal the shots I can't explain.

On the left is the breakfast of champions (and college graduates and their families). This is a Shipley's Bullseye, which is a doughnut, topped with chocolate glaze, topped with vanilla icing, topped with sprinkles, topped with a blob of red something.

On the right is a view of Boy#4's apartment several hours into the packing process. It looked depressing and insurmountable, and I was pretty sure we'd still be sorting and packing and labeling boxes when the next commencement day rolled around at Big University.

The promise of the picture on the left filled me with delight, the promise of the picture on the right filled me with dread. The Bullseye looked indescribably delicious, but turned out to be overwhelmingly sweet and excruciatingly guilt-producing. The packing process looked un-finishable but everyone pitched in and it was (dare I say it?) kind of fun. The final box was marked "Stuff Mom says is miscellaneous crap" by late afternoon. (Boy#1 thinks he's soooo funny.)

So I guess the lesson of these two pictures, taken for some reason I no longer remember, would be that you shouldn't judge emotional outcome by initial appearances.

Boom. I may call myself MomQueenBee, but clearly I'm also the Empress of Symbolism. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Without Irony

I unpacked this
So far we have gone through nine graduations in the MomQueenBee family. This includes four high school, four college, and one law school ceremonies. It does not include any nursery, preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school graduations because THOSE ARE TRAVESTIES. (I'm sorry--did I shout? I must have Opinions about those.)

I have two tasks at these graduations: 1) Don't make a fool of myself by blubbering or shouting "Mah bay-bee!" 2) Iron the academic regalia.

This isn't as easy as one would think it would be. Not the composed part, the ironing part. The composed part I can handle in my sleep--after two hours of watching Someone Else's Child walk across the stage, my mind is much more on whether we'll be able to find seats later at the restaurant than on savoring the sentiment of the moment.

But the ironing? First of all, the equipment is never exactly what I expect. I knew Boy#4 had an ironing board because I had packed it into the closet of his apartment myself. It was a hand-me-down from Boy#1, who actually irons and who bequeathed most of his worldly college goods to his younger brother when One graduated and skedaddled out of town.

However, because he irons, One took his iron with him to his grown-up home, which prompted the following exchange just before Commencement:

Four: Mom, could you iron my graduation gown? It was really wrinkled when I took it out of the bag.

Me: Do you have an iron?

Four: (crickets)

Fortunately he determined that his roommate did indeed have an iron. It was in the box in the closet, having been a high school graduation gift four years earlier. I had the honor of opening the box, removing all the packing materials, and plugging the iron in for the first time. I also managed to calibrate the temperature correctly so that it did not melt the "fabric" of the gown, a task that is not as easy as it seems and the entire reason that I have taken over the ironing gig. It also made short shrift of the two pairs of khakis and two dress shirts that Four's brothers threw onto the ironing pile when they realized their own clothes had not made it to Texas unwrinkled. ("Thanks, Mom!")

Ah, boys. You have to love 'em. Because that kid you see crossing the stage there, in the perfectly smooth gown and commemorative stole?


Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Well, that's a nice contrast, don't you think? I left you with a photo of my beamish four-year-old Boy#4 on his first day of school. (Beamish = beaming with happiness, optimism, anticipation.)

Now I'm back, with a photo of my beamish 22-year-old Boy#4 on the first day of the rest of his life.

Oh, I know, I know. Every day is the first day of the rest of your life, and blah, blah, blah. But there's something about graduation from college that is a mile marker carved in stone. I thought about this last week in the moments after Four had received his diploma. (And I had plenty of time to think--in contrast to Small College's sweet but meaningful 48-minute Commencement ceremonies, it took nearly three hours for all the graduates at Four's university to stride across the stage, and that was only one of three ceremonies. Yikes.)

Boy#4 stood there in the foyer of the fieldhouse, diploma in one hand and phone in the other as he called his freshman roommates who had agreed to meet for a post-ceremonial photo. He had been extraordinarily fortunate in his first housing assignment: Five of the six who were in the original suite are still in the same posse, and all graduated on time in a tough curriculum. Four of these graduated with perfect grade point averages, an accomplishment shared by only 41 of Big University's thousands of undergraduates. Four is perfectly fine with not being one of those 4.0 students--"I might not have been an engineer at all if I hadn't been rooming with them," he says.

He bear-hugged his older brothers who were students at the same time he was. They were the ones who showed up at the hospital after his bike accident, who drove to the all-night pharmacy for pain pills and slept on the couch so he could have a bed while he recuperated.

People ask me from time to time why none of the Boys attended Small College.

Small College is a terrific school, I tell these people, but Husband and I agreed that we wanted our kids to go away to school. The college years are the halfway house to adulthood and it's healthy for them to live where they can spread their wings and find their own communities away from parents who are almost compulsively predisposed to fix things.

Boy#4 graduated with a college degree last week, but he also graduated with good friends, good coping skills, and knowledge that comes from relationships as well as from classes. He's ready for whatever is next.

We all are beamish, and we are thankful.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Unreal, and Final

Husband and I will be hitting the road again tomorrow, on our way for the final time to the Big University in the south where three of our sons have been students.

Boy#4 is graduating.

This trip is an odd combination of finality and unreality: It is quite certainly the final time we will sit in the fieldhouse and cheer as one of our Boys walks across the stage to fistbump the president and receive his diploma. It probably is the last student apartment we will clean out (and marvel at how much STUFF can accumulate in a few short months). It's the end of saying "We need to eat at Vitek's the next time we're down here," and never eating at Vitek's.

But it's unreal to think that the beaming little boy in today's picture is now a full-fledged college graduate, who has signed a contract to work for an actual corporation earning an actual paycheck in U.S. dollars. And while getting the final child off of our family plan work benefits certainly gives Husband and me the giddy expectation that we will be swimming around in extra cash like Scrooge McDuck in his vault, it's...unreal.


Four will come back to the House on the Corner for a break before he starts his real-life job. By the end of that break he will be thoroughly tired of his parents, with their too-loud television and insistence that he ignore texts during meals. He'll be glad to get back in his car and head off to his new life as an official grown-up. 

When that happens I'll be pretending that I'm grown-up, too, and wave cheerily as he drives away. I know how this goes--I've done it many, many times before. This time, though, I won't be able to fool myself that my kid is just going back to college, and that home is still in the House on the Corner.

This is the final Boy, and the nest will now be truly empty.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Advice From an Old Person

What is it these days with me and flowers? It must be spring.

Anyway, I'm back again with some Advice From an Old Person. In this case the advice is coming from that bee up there, who has her nose stuck practically into the appendix of the rose in front of her. Do you know why that is? It is because this bee apparently is old (notice the wrinkles) and as one ages, one's sense of smell deteriorates.

I know exactly what you're thinking! "What next?" you're thinking. "MomQueenBee, you're telling me that along with losing my keys and my knees and my memory I'm going to lose my NOSE?

Yes, that's what I'm telling you. And that has prompted my advice for today:

If you are age 40 or less, your assignment is to make a note of how much auxiliary odor you are putting on your body. Is it one spritz of your favorite perfume? Do you use scented body lotion or hand cream? Do you sit right next to the pine tree hanging from your rearview mirror when you drive? Do you use any Axe product at all? And if the latter is the case, why are you, a teenaged boy, reading this blog?

Now that you have made this scent assessment, you must never, ever, ever exceed the under-40 standard you have set. I give you that advice because, oh, you will want to.

You will get to be 50, and think to yourself, "Huh. I don't think they're making this Eau De Mi as potent as it used to be. I believe I'll use two squirts instead of one." Or you'll take advantage of Bath and Body Works two-for-one special and use both the body wash and the scented elbow cream simultaneously.

You will think you are underscented, and that you smell disgustingly of...nothing. No, you smell refreshingly of just the right amount of jasmine, fresh muguet and soft florals touched by green and sparkling top notes, with sandalwood added to round out the base. You smell enough!

You will not provoke your sons, when they return to the house after having been banished while mama hosts club, to comment "Wow. Smells like Old Lady Central in here." (They do not mean this as a compliment.)

Understated is the key to being a non-offensive Old Person, and this applies in many, many areas of life but today we're talking about artificial fragrances.

Also, I want a job writing product descriptions for perfumes.

You're welcome.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Blessed by Blooms

I was late for work this morning because I was wandering around in my yard looking at flowers.

Last night a storm rolled through Small Town, and this morning was one of those times that remind us Kansas truly is the most beautiful place a human being could live. Just a week ago an uncommon early May heat wave left us wondering if we would have any spring at all, and this morning felt as if all the perfection of the season had been distilled into these few hours--cool and so calm that raindrops still balanced on the leaves of the iris.

Besides the irises, the first peony bloomed yesterday,
 and the other peony plants are showing promise of bursting with blossoms soon.
In the front yard the flower bed hasn't even been planted yet but I can see four different blooms in one blink of an eye. More iris, hanging begonias that are just out of camera range, knock-out roses that should have been pruned but are forgiving my gardening ineptitude, and a gerbera daisy plant I couldn't resist buying the last time I was at WalMart.
And then I came to the office, and within a few hours my friend who works for the florist delivered Mother's Day greetings from my sons.
An old Irish blessing begins "May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day." Today I am seeing flowers at every turn, and I am blessed indeed.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

TBT (Mother's Day Edition)

I have not yet jumped into the ThrowBack Thursday movement, but today I came across this picture on my computer and it propelled me that direction. This shot is of me and my siblings on Easter, somewhere around 1965-ish. (I'm carbon dating that by the fact that my youngest brother looks to be about two, so I could be off by a year.)

Once you get past F's snazzy plaid sport coat and my cat-eye glasses, you may notice that my sisters and I are dressed in identical polka-dotted dresses, with white gloves and white sandals. We are all spiffied up and ready for church and smiling for the camera.

So this is a shout-out to my mom, who had sewed those three dresses, plus one for herself, the day before. She did this without killing any of us, which would have been my impulse if I had tried to sew clothes for my own children on that kind of a deadline.

My mom rocked and I miss her every single day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hope in a Bucket

Nothing in this world screams HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL quite as loudly as my annual efforts to grow tomatoes.

Not the making of New Year's resolutions, not the pope's Easter message, not the lighting of a single candle in the darkness. No, nothing says "I believe in the future!" as emphatically as the time and money I pour out on my patio plants  each spring.

"I believe in you!" I whisper to the seedlings as I lovingly cover them with fertilizer-saturated moisture control potting mix. "I know you can do it this year!" I croon as Miracle-Gro transplant easer pours out of my watering can to soothe their roots. "I have faith in your abilities to provide me the perfect spaghetti sauce, the most nostalgic of BLTs," I intone over the herbs and the tomatoes (two Romas, a patio variety, an heirloom, and two basils).

This year, I will be sleeping in on Saturday morning instead of setting my alarm for the crack of dawn so I can fight through the mob around the tomato vendors at the farmers' market. My plants will be so productive that they will belie my bedrock philosophy about gardening (which is to say, just don't, because if it's a good year gardening friends will keep you supplied and if it's a bad year...).

So yesterday, as the temperature approached triple digits again (In early May? What the heck, Kansas?), I was gardening. I was ruining my nail polish and mentally applauding as if I were at the end of a production of Peter Pan.

I do believe in tomatoes! I do, I do!

They're doomed.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Selfie Expression

These "ice"bags were ZipLocs filled with frozen corn syrup. Who knew?
Today's illustrative picture will not win any prizes in the county fair's Ansel Adams Open Class. It is a bit fuzzy, and the light seems to have been sucked out of the atmosphere (it was taken in my office)  and the guy in back does not have an icepack on his head so he's not appropriately dressed for the occasion.

But there is a good reason for this selfie's lack of professionalism: The subjects are old.

Yesterday was Commencement at Small College, and my office group decided the theme of this year's documentation of the event should be selfies. You're familiar with selfies, right? Those self-portraits of beautiful young things taken at arms length with cell phones? This year, we decided, we were going to encourage every one of the several thousand people in attendance to snap a shot with their friends, professors, babies, grandmothers, etc., and post it to our institutional Twitter account.

Our only concern was whether enough people would be willing to share their selfies with us. 

Hahahaha. The things I worry about needlessly.

Our new grads not only were willing to take the selfies, they knew exactly how to tilt the phone juuuuuuust so in order to cram six or eight or ten people into the shot. They could immediately strike the exact pose that angled their heads so their mirrored sunglasses ping-ponged back the reflection of their phones. People, I don't know if these new graduates know the difference between "compose" and "comprise" (that's my litmus test for whether a person is truly educated) but they are experts when it comes to the art of the selfie.

Not one single person turned us down for a shot.

So it only seemed fair when we got back in the office and all of us had ice bags on our heads that we should document the moment. It was 102 degrees, which means the football field where all of these photographers had been roaming was quite a bitter warmer, but we all survived and were laughing at how pretty we looked with our sweat-saturated bangs and sunblock-defying burned noses.

The youngest in the group lined us up, and snapped the shot--and if the picture here is any indication, we broke the camera. I'm convinced it's because I pulled the average age of our group up to the mid-40s.

Selfies, like parenthood, are for the young. But on the other hand, if we didn't have some old knees in the crowd we wouldn't have had the ice bags already stocked in the office refrigerator and waiting to cool us off. I can live without the ability to take good self-portraits as long as my knees don't hurt.

Getting old isn't so bad, especially if you are aging with grace. And ice bags.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Orts and Blurb

Hey! It's Friday! Which means that today's posts will be a collection with no theme except...nope, no theme.

I work with the. best. people. in the world. Notice the pauses for emphasis I puncuated into that sentence? That means that there are no better people in the world. During the past two weeks, you may remember from all the whining I've done in this space, I have been essentially non-functioning for 75 percent of my working hours. One week of that was due to The Plague, the remaining half-week was due to The Computer Plague.

Not only did my staff keep the juggled plates in the air for me, they reassured me constantly that things would be fine (even though one of the two busiest weekends of the year was coming up at the end of that two week-stretch), and covered for me while I was being puny and ineffective. Then one of them brought me MomQueenBee flowers (also known as tulips).

They are the bomb.

If you do not have sons, you may have missed the most important news of the week, which is found here. All of that socially unacceptable behavior is just a sign of healthy gut microbes. Hrmph.

And speaking of sons, I'm pretty sure Boy#2 will think this is the coolest story ever to hit the internet. It has it all--exploding whales, science, and slow-motion intestines shooting across the video screen.

If you don't care about the science and just want to see the slow-motion intestines, here's the video:

 Finally, the Blurb of the Week:

Because I have managed to co-parent four Boys through their teenage years without starving them to death, I'm often sometimes occasionally practically never asked for recommendations on the most important piece of kitchen equipment. But since I have Opinions, I'm going to recommend what I would buy with my household-establishing gift card, were I getting married or graduating or in the position of receiving household-establishing gift cards:

Pyrex measuring cups. 

I have them in all available sizes, from the shot-glass-sized to the big two-quart pitcher sized, with multiples of the one-cup and two-cup sizes. They are microwave safe, have enough heft that they don't skid off the counter, and are unetched by acid-y foods such as lemon juice and vinegar.

And what do I use them for? Melting butter, whipping up pancake batter (measure it right in the bowl), making "buttermilk" for my famous sheetcake, beating eggs, emulsifying salad dressing, whatever needs to be done can be done in a Pyrex measuring cup.

They make a rather spectacular crash if dropped, so I try to not do that, but thumbs up for Pyrex measuring cups. They are oldies but goodies.