Saturday, December 27, 2008

Someone Could've Said SOMEthing...

Dear Family,

Just so you know, I can take it. I mean, I'd rather you tell me than I walk around all day, oblivious, while people avert their eyes and snicker about me around corners while I'm standing there on display. I mean, I'd snicker about me around corners too, but then I'd muster the courage to confront the poor unsuspecting soul and put her out of her fashion-faux-pas misery. Then I'd laugh at her around another corner. But at least I'd have told her.

I will be hanging the following on my bathroom mirror:

Fashion rule #1 - do not wear a light-colored bra under a thin, red top.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Came to the Cornfields

Christmas came to the cornfields. And boy, did it ever make an entrance.

We not only had a white Christmas, we had a White-OUT on Christmas Eve. For the first time in recent memory we had difficulty getting to Madison for Christmas Eve festivities. We woke to 3 inches of new snow, which, when added to the previous eight-gazillion inches, made for treacherous roads.

Never one to shy away from a wee bit of hazzardous driving conditions - one doesn't grow up in cornfield country and end up soft - we loaded up and ventured out.

And promptly fish-tailed toward the ditch about 14.7 feet from the end of our driveway.
Along with Christmas came the usual merriment...

Shopping with my nieces and painting our hair blue...

Piles of cousins...

Piles of presents....

Music making....

And the requisite "What did YOU get from Santa?" conversation that begins immediately upon arrival at Grandma's. (Guess what little Armando got?)

There was also, of course, the drooling over the only-made-on-Christmas Sugarplum Coffee Cake, which is BEYOND tasty.... and not fattening at ALL. At least that's what I keep telling my thighs as I down another morsel.
And the serving of the traditional Christmas brunch. Elves go first.

This elf is about to graduate from elven school, now that he's received cologne, gas cards, and a set of car keys for Christmas. Wah!

Add in a little Rock Band....

And it was a very merry Christmas indeed.

From our family to yours, may your days be merry, your hearts filled with love, and your thighs flabby. (That's only so I'll feel better about mine, you understand.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

In Our House

In our house, any pleasure we receive from our netflix rentals is offset by the following stream of anxiety from Rob:

"Did you watch the movie yet?"
"We have to mail the movies back."

"Did you put the movies in the mail?"
"Did you watch the movie yet?"

"When do you think you'll get around to watching the movie?"
"Where'd you put the movie mailer?"
"Did you watch the movie yet?"
"Tell me you didn't lose the movie mailer."
"Are the movies in the mail yet?"
"Why didn't you watch the movie yet?"
"Did you watch the movie yet?"


Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Shout Out to Mothers of Many

Today I'd like to pay homage to an overlooked, underappreciated, undercelebrated and underestimated segment of society - mothers of many. And by many, I mean any more than two, which, when in addition to my husband, seems to me to be plenty difficult, thanks. You see, I have my nieces and nephews over for the day, and I've spent the past few hours doing nothing but putting on socks, taking off socks, making enough organic macaroni and cheese to feed an entire army brigade, gathering snow clothes, putting on snow clothes, taking off snow clothes, adjusting snow clothes, pinning snow clothes so they'll stay on right, pulling snowpants legs over boots, stuffing feet into boots, stuffing hands (finger by finger) into gloves, tying boots, finding hats, zipping coats, finding toys, wiping counters, wiping puddles, and wiping butts. I'm sorry about the butts thing, but it's important enough to mention - trust me on this.

I don't know how mothers of big families do it, I really don't. The utterance of the simplest phrase - like, say, "Loh-wa, I'm hungry" - sets off a series of events that are mind-boggling in their capacity to disable even the most proficient multi-tasker. The inequality between energy output and energy input is rather astounding as well. The kids play their games while waiting for the snack-turned-full-out-meal to be made, but the mother's part of the deal is not as simple as that, oh no it's not. They can't reach the game on the shelf. They can't figure out how to set up the game. And someone didn't want to play that particular game in the first place so he's staging a stand-off. So-and-so went out of turn on the game. And so-and-so got to go first LAST time and it's not fair! Oh, and there's always a butt-wiping session in there somewhere, too. Always there is that. (Honey? Please note the addition of gas mask to my Christmas list.) All the while, the wee ones smile up at me and ask, innocently, "Is the food ready yet?"

Now don't get me wrong - I adore my nieces and nephews. I love having them here. We do all sorts of fun things and they're a joy to have around. I'm not complaining. And while I'm a bit frazzled, it's not in a mean-aunt sort of way. I'm simply amazed that there are mothers who do this day in and day out. And I have a few questions for them. First off, how? In the name of all things holy, how do you manage this every day?

Do you mainline caffeine every morning? Do you channel an inner Artemis, Goddess of Power? Are you some sort of freak of nature? I'm sorry, that didn't come out right. I mean 'freak of nature' in the best possible survival-of-the-fittest, top-of-the-food-chain, you-rock sort of way.

And now, while I'd love to wax on longer about the remarkable strength, patience, and fortitude of women who have more than two children - god/dess knows they deserve it - I have to go.

The kids are ready to come back in after 6.2 nanoseconds of playing in the snow.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I'm Still Here. Somewhere.

Why, hallo. You still here?

Thanks for still being here! I've been neglecting the poor old blog. I've watched my stat numbers slowly shrink away. I've gotten a few "you still there?" emails from those who logged on only to hear crickets.

Yes, I'm still here. I'm here, once again, pondering the natural life cycle of a blog.

We're a compulsive lot out here in the cornfields. (Well, not Rob so much, thank the higherpower.) We tend to binge on whatever activity we're enjoying at the moment. But what do those Newton people say? To every action there is an opposite and equal reaction? Um, ya. What's the opposite of binge-blogging?


I don't want to retire the ol' blog, I really don't. And yet I believe the life-force of a good blog lies partly in it's predictability - that when you want to have a read with your cuppa, it's there. You know it'll be there. You look forward to it being there. And while I do indeed have a lot swirling around in the ol' gray matter, I haven't been compelled to put pencil to blog lately.

I've been lurking around other joints lately. Some know I've been on Facebook quite a bit. I've reconnected with some old friends, even a former student (eek - fine line, there, fine line). Feel free to look me up there, where I'll captivate you with such status updates as "Laura eats a mint melt-away in 4 bites."

Now do you see why I'm not blogging?

I'm non-writing in other places too. Like, I'm experiencing a debilitating case of writer's block as I try to compose a chapter for an unschooling book. My submission is due any day now, and I honestly can't seem to bang it out. Weird.

And I sat down the other day to write my own unschooling manifesto, but nothing came out there either. Well, 5,400 words did come out - boring, poorly constructed sentences that didn't at all capture what had swirled in my head earlier that day.

It's one thing to have a "moment" and get an idea. It's another to stretch that idea into an essay, chapter, or book; to tie it all together, make it flow, add some wit, and hit it all home.


Life goes on here otherwise. Brady just completed his first college course and is excited to be taking audio production and video production next semester. We visited the recording studios and he nearly hyperventilated. Jonathan is very busy with all-things-Pokemon lately. He plans to enter a tournament in January; if things go his way, there are big things in our future.

Life is good. Thanks for sticking around.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled...


Friday, November 21, 2008

Nothing is Sacred

I'm sorry to admit that nothing is sacred in this family. It's not that we can't be solemn, reverent, humble, stoic or quiet when we absolutely have to be. We can. But our preferred mode seems to be silly, goofy, irreverent, sarcastic, and witty, with a whole lot of laughter and eye-rolling thrown in. Give us one of "those" looks and it'll only encourage us. (Sorry Mom.)

My uncle's wedding last weekend was no different. We were excited for the wedding, and we were sure not to stick our tongues out at each other during the important moments. Well, there was that moment when Rob poked me after the priest said "a wife should serve and obey her husband" business. But we managed to get through the actual service without anything more troublesome than my niece Ana exclaiming "that wine was HEAVY!" after she carried the gifts to the altar.

The silliness usually begins before we even leave the house. When we're all spiffed up to go out, I tend to get a bit overly eager for photos. It's not often that we're all in our finest duds - or that all of us have bathed on the same day. Something that monumental must be captured on film. But since my boys start cringing and moaning the minute I utter the suggestion, I have to make it more enticing.

Unfortunately, that's also what sets the tone for the rest of the day. If I act silly, it's like a "rev your engines green-light-go" to the kids.

I think this move was in response to Brady's command, "Move in a little."

This picture reminds me to keep using that anti-aging cream I just bought. Oh, and to use darker lipstick. (Ok, Aunt Nancy, you were right. Maybe that darker lipstick wouldn't actually make me look like a.. nevermind.)
Having made it through the wedding, the silliness resumed as we entered the reception hall. We call this part of the night, "There will be no serious photos taken."
Apparently, this expression runs in my family. Here, I present Exhibit A: my sister Jackie, and Exhibit B: my (single, successful, funny-as-h*ll) brother Matt.

Only my mom - who is (gulp) GETTING MARRIED - was elegant and composed during picture-taking.

(There - I said it! Are you happy? Please hold for a moment while I go lie down.)

(Ok, I'm back.)

Here is mom with her new fiance, Gordy. Hi Gordy! Welcome to the family! Hope you like silliness, chaos, and mayhem!

I don't know what I was saying at this particular moment, but by the look on Brady's face, it must have been fairly horrific.

Dear nieces, and nephews: "Do as I say, not as I do. Tell your mom I said that, too."

Brady looks like he's got some sort of smart-alec retort coming on, doesn't he? *sniff* I'm so proud.
Getting the whole gang together for a photo was... well, a struggle. It was a bit like herding cats.

The kids were more cooperative than the adults. As you can see, they were eager to form a grouping and pose for the camera.

And then that quickly devolved into more silliness. Careful, don't choke Armando!

You can tell by the looks on their faces it was taking too long to assemble the adults.

So Ana decided to model some possible poses. I finally sent the kids to fetch Aunt Jackie, who was taking her sweet old time getting over to the group. This, however, only managed to start one of our favorite family games, designed by my father, called "Well, YOU tell HER...." It goes something like this:

Kids: Aunt Jackie, my mom says to get your butt over there for pictures.

Aunt Jackie: Well, you tell her that I don't have to do it just because my big sister says so.

Kids (run to me): Aunt Jackie says she doesn't have to just because you're her big sister!

Me: Well, you tell her, yes she does, because I'm the boss of her.

Kids (run to Jackie): She says yes you do because she's the boss of you and big sisters are always the boss! (They like to add their own embellishments sometimes.)

Aunt Jackie: Well, you tell her she can stick it in her ear.

Kids (run to me): She says you can stick it in your ear!

Me: Well, you tell her that's not nice, and she's a big fat poopy head.

And so on. Ahhhh.... family traditions make me all wistful and warm inside....
Eventually, Jackie wandered over and we again tried to assemble for a group photo. (Side Note: half the reception has elapsed by now.)
We tried.... "C'mon people, get your butts over here! Move it! Mas rapido!"

And tried.... "Yo Marcel, what's with the cheeseball smile?!"
And tried.... "Armando, tough guy, arms down! Where are the other kids? Where is Aunt Susan? Wait, where am I ?!?"And then we gave up.

And something tells me the new bride and groom didn't notice a thing.

Congratulations Uncle John and Bobbie Jo! And sorry about the relay races the kids had across the dance floor.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More on DC

I had never been to Washington DC before. It's a beautiful city. The architecture is amazing. The city is easy to navigate. And the sense of place and history and connection humbled me on more than one occasion.
The boys are at the perfect age to visit. We didn't do much preparation in the way of research before our trip. Mostly, because someone else planned the intinerary for me - wooHOO - but also because I know my boys are always more inspired to seek information about something once they have a real connection to it. Beforehand, it's forced. Afterward, it's authentic.

We all had a fantastic time. Here, see for yourself.
A little less than enthusiastic, but that's ok, we were just getting started. (And it was chilly.)

You can see how much Jonathan enjoyed the exhibits at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Um, ya.

Ok, so they didn't exactly love the 892nd subway ride. (But this was after a long day of touring and before getting a late dinner.)

Rob wasn't angry about visiting Arlington Cemetary. Just, um, subdued. (But this was while waiting for Jonathan to catch up.)

You can see how captivated they were by the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. (Please don't be offended - the ceremony hadn't started yet.)

No matter how it looks, I was not squeezing his shoulder and whispering through clenched teeth, "Smile d*mnit."

Believe it or not, behind this noncommittal expression is a giant happy grin just waiting to emerge.

In the midst of all this unbridled enthusiasm, there were a few minor humdrum moments. The Spy Museum, White House, and Capitol tours had them positively peeing in their pants, but the American Art Museum?

Not so much.
The Capitol tour was a highlight. (You'll have to take my word on that.)

Here's Jonathan, showing minor signs of glee in anticipation of the next stop...

Look - smiles!

And at the end of the day, there's nothing like some gymnastics moves on the subway to cheer up a tired 12 yr old boy touring Washington DC for 4 days straight.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In our House

In our house, a football game's not a football game unless it's being watched and monitored on a minimum of 3 screens.