Monday, June 30, 2008

Tying Up Lose Ends

Being home all the time, leads to lose ends. "I'll get that later. I'll fix that later. I'll put that away... later."

Well today is later. It's my new goal to pick up one extra task/mess, per day. To straighten that pile or go through that old bag of clothes. I'll start with the broken set of night lights that have been on the counter for over a month...

With the summer schedule in full flux, I need order somewhere in my life.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reflections on a French Horn

Band Camp -- one time at...

My budding flutist just finished her first week stint at Centre Music's Band Camp. All I can say is,


In five days time she learned six songs. Their band, blessed FREE CATALOG, wrote a piece that rivals all the others they performed at their Friday noon concert. What an experience. I am so proud.

Her final words, "I'll be back." And she will.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Three turkeys, two snakes and one deer

The two littles ones and I went for a walk with Mr. S. It is our weekly summer ritual to take to the trails behind his house, being lead by his faithful companion, a happy but aging beagle. The girls take turns holding her leash while Mr. S, and I pick sticks off the path with our walking sticks and chat.

Each walk I wonder what we are going to see. Once we found a deer antler; another time a turkey tail feather, and six snakes sunning themselves on rocks that cross the path. Yesterday we saw a deer bounding through the bush. It was the first deer we've seen and we've been walking these woods for two years now.

Down by the lily pad pond's edge the littlest one was doing the nervous dance and pointing at a snake. When I closed the twenty foot gap between us I couldn't tell if the Black Water Snake was alive or dead, so I gently touched its a spot on its over two feet of body. It turned looked at us and slithered into the water. Nice sighting. The next snake encounter didn't result in a dance but the little one's urge to follow it. Now she sees snakes where ever she is walking, and wants a snake for a pet.

As we rounded the last turn by the skating pond, three turkeys were moseying into the woods to our right. Again the little one was the first to see them, announcing there were ostriches up ahead. They were big, but not that big...

Back home, and after finding three ticks on our faithful guide we parted company with the promise to meet up again next week. The girls are all for it, for we walk the same paths week after week, and never see the same thing twice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why would anyone BUY tomato plants?

I admit it, I have bought tomato plants. It's a ritual. The snow melts. The ground thaws. And I start having visions of a beautiful vegetable garden. Into which I loose my children to harvest our dinner. But why buy tomato plants? That is the question I ask myself every year and why I kick myself, as I think about money spent and little seedlings that are being pulled by the tens if not hundreds from my beds.

I know it all started with composting (or self seeding from a previous season). On the occasion a tomato would go bad before we would have a chance to enjoy it in a salad, it would unceremoniously end up in the compost barrel. Come spring, all that luscious sweet smelling goodness gets turned over in the gardens. Then a few weeks later we are inundated with tomato plants. It happens year after year.

This year they are growing in the peppers, corn, squash, cucumbers, and even in the tomatoes. This morning I must have pulled twenty seedlings. With each hoist wondering if what I was doing was correct. After all we eat tomatoes. Last year, I left all the plants and by the end of the summer I was pawing through viney tomatoes to harvest our beens and squash. This year, I yearn for more order in the garden. What to do?

I'm going to conduct an experiment. I've decided next year I'm not going to buy tomato plants. I'm going to till the compost into the garden soil and call it done. When the seedlings come up, I'll transplant them into nice rows and then plant the rest of the garden around them. It will be interesting to see what kind of tomatoes we get. There is always something to look forward to in gardening.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I have new job. Actually it's an old job I shelved with disdain last August. I am a mom. I am a taxi driver.

Camps started yesterday. One had to be here at 10:30, another there at 11. I mapped out a route, tucking in errands along the way. After all when your second car is a battle cruiser, measuring gallons to the mile, you learn to tuck in errands.

We hit the road early. The first drop off at band camp; a first time for our first year flutist. Reciting the basic rules of camp, I walked her to the door.

Don't be nervous.
And most of all have fun. Camp is all about having fun while learning a bit more.

After a quick kiss good bye and promise to pick her up on time the next was stop was at the mechanics to procure our new trailer tires. A normal 10 minute drive took 25 due to road construction. This waiting backed up the schedule and pressed the oldest fingers to her temples. She hates the thought of being late. She's mine...

Still not to swing into the garage for the tires would mean having to navigate the down to one lane road construction twice. I apologized, and took the turn. The mechanic was out on an errand and his little clock saying he would be back already put him ten minutes overdue. We didn't have time to wait, conditioning camp was calling.

This time the camper was an old pro, having been conditioned last year. She breezed out the door, barely acknowledging driver and still young passenger in the car. Conditioning camp was fun and she was all for it.

Then we were off to the garage again, (still out on errands), Post Office, school offices, and return bottles for the church bottle drive. All the errands made a circle which gladly brought us home. Where the little one and I played games for 30 minutes until we got to pretty much retrace our morning route for the pick up.

The band camper was all smiles. The mechanic was in. And the conditioning camper felt it was a breeze. It should be, she's been participating in one sport form or another for a year now.

Today is another day at camp, which includes the addition of late afternoon swim lessons and food shopping.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shallow Hal

We watched the movie Shallow Hal last night. Being a person who has a fragile self esteem it has always been a favorite. As it is my hope that people, (Besides my mom, who reads this blog), judge me for me, instead of my failed outer covering.

I grew up in a Barbie world. But being thin, and being able to eat whatever I wanted to, I never realized the impact that princess persona was having upon me. I fit in. I had no worries. Now that I am pushing 50, (a few years away), the pounds have found their way to me, and I can't escape the constant reminders of being a physical failure. I don't look cute in clothes, or out of them now that I think about it. Lucky I was never a fashion plate so it's status quo to have my clothes modest and comfortable.

Still the ideal of being thin is constantly held up as perfection. For happiness we are told we need the perfect body, the perfect smile, the perfect outfits. In reality these women that are so perfect have lives that have more twists and downward turns than a Shirley Temple hair do. Still, to be thinner. Part of my problem is I had children later in life. I'm in the school trenches with the 20 somethings, when I could be the grandma something... I'm not a grandma. According to my children's ages, I'm a mommy fighting to stay out of old lady clothes.

Last week at the Y my youngest said, "Mommy you have a fat tummy."

At the pool, so she and her sister could get practice before their lessons start later this month, I remembered my plan for getting in a few laps while they practiced their skills. Would this plan go by the wayside? After treading water for a half hour (telling myself treading water in the deep end is exercise too.) so they could practice jumping in and swimming back to the side, I sent them to play in the shallow end so I could do a few laps -- just a quarter of a mile.

"Why?" was their water logged question in unison.

"Because," was my answer punctuated by perfect rotary breathing, "I have a fat belly."

Five laps later the little one was waiting for me at the end of the lane. "You belly isn't fat. It's soft and sensitive." She couldn't have been more correct.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Oh not to be the parent

We (The oldest -- a pilgrim, and me -- the mom, a chaperon) went to a World Youth Day gathering in Boston yesterday. The littlest one, who seems to get certain ideas about the church, knowing there wouldn't be a whole lot for little kids, tagged along. It may have been the promise of donuts, or pizza, or the fact she'd get to see Cardinal Sean for the time time.

I knew by the time we had separated into groups I was going to be having one of those I wish I weren't your parent days. After eating donuts, we were asked to make one big circle, and then count off by six. The tag along wasn't next to me... I hoped our numbers would match as I had been saying from the time she opened her eyes, "You stick with me today." I was a one, she was a five. When we went to separate, she refused to break ranks with her new found friends. Not to cause a scene, I found one of the pilgrims from our parish and asked him to keep an eye on her.

Through out the hour of group activities I watched as she ran ahead leading her group from activity to activity. At one station I saw her helping out by holding up signs, and for the whole hour she appeared to stay with her group despite listening to talks on packing, not complaining, and making time for prayer. At the end of the activities, I caught up with her, and thanked her keeper, while inquiring into a behavior report. "She was fine" was what I got from the teen, with a smile. I could only imagine just how fine she was.

Not to let her out of my sight, or more than an arms length away, we sat side by side at Adoration, where she leaned over and asked if she could have her picture taken with the Cardinal. I replied I didn't know, but we could email him for a signed photo. I'm sure he'd have a copy for such an enthusiastic young Catholic. She was all smiles.

Over a pizza lunch the stories and reports from the field activities made it back to me. "Are you her mom?" It was a priest from a neighboring town.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, as I sheepishly looked over the top of my glasses. "Yes."

"She's a great kid. She had us all in stitches. Did you really lose her twice at Disney this year?" (Remember I'm a chaperon for this around the world adventure...)

"Yes, hard to believe, but yes."

He walked away laughing. What had she been saying? Or better yet, what hadn't she said?

Next it was the parents of her babysitter. "Your daughter just delighted my boys. They loved her, and all her stories, especially the ones from Disney."

I confessed that this was probably one of those moments where I wished I wasn't her mom. For then I could really enjoy all her antics. They just laughed.

At the end of the event, according to all reports, she had stolen the show at the Catholic trivia station by shouting out the answers. Then at the boomerang toss, she nicknamed the winner Fr. Dundee. She wants to take a field trip to his parish some Sunday.

And the priest that headed up the Catch Phrase game commented that he can't wait for her to be old enough to attend a World Youth Day -- 8 more years. "She said she couldn't read, but she tried. Did you really lose her twice at Disney?"

"Yes, yes, I did."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just who are the ants?

While walking to the neighborhood ice cream stand we saw what had to be several thousand ants swarming around a crack in the sidewalk. The girls and I stopped and watched as the mass in a science fiction horroresque way took over its small corner of the world.

We joked about the line from Bugs Life, where the trail gets broken by a falling leaf and the line of ants gets backed up and panic ensues.

And I thought about stepping on it, wiping out a vast majority of it's population. But then I looked up; waiting for yet a bigger shoe to come down and step on us. A few minutes later, the girls must have had the same idea, as they asked if it was okay if they did a little stomping. I said no, and told them of the bigger shoe that would come from on high and squish us, as we were following our own line (the sidewalk) to our own food source (the ice cream).

As we walked on I wondered just what purpose ants play in the great circle of life. Does all their tunneling help the soil with aeration? Are they a major food source, holding up the whole food pyramid? How does their social structure compare and contrast to our own? One thing I do know, those little Insecta certainly insight a multitude of questions.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

7 to 1

When I look at my children I can't help but visualize a score board that tracks good and bad behavior. Picked up your room, check. Cleared the table, check. Stole candy into your bed and then forgot to eat it so it melted into your sheets, big double x.

Yesterday we had a party for ten. It was a homemade birthday bash, with a water, pizza, bubbles, ice cream sundaes, and games. The birthday girl was wracking up all sorts of checks for being a great hostess and friend. Then the big NO came down from my on high. "NO, you can't ride your bike now. You have guests."

She went from friend to sulking slug in less time that it took for me to type this sentence. The invited guests became concerned, and circled their loving wagons. She pushed them off and ran to the far end of the yard, where they tried again to console her. She railed against them again. Not wanting to cause a scene I got bubbles out and advised our guests to let things lie. "It's not you, or anything you have done."

Somberly the party proceeded. Inside my head, I was livid. Screams of no more parties, ever, rang between my ears. Afterwards we didn't discuss it more than my relating the party details to dad.

And now, after a cooling night's sleep I'm see the other heavier side of the scale.

For the majority of the party the little hostess was: gracious, happy, sharing, not whining, playful, and cooperative. At the end of the party she was able to come out of her self imposed exile and help with the tangle in the zip line.

For a minority of the party she sulked.

Will there be other parties? More than likely. But with few friends and less time. And next time, maybe we'll have them bring their bikes over.

In raising children, I find not only do the children have to learn and relearn how to behave, but as a parent I have to learn and relearn how to look at an entire situation, and not become hyper focused.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One small step for writing...

one large step for me.

I finished going over the edits on my book. Is it done? Will I be sending it off to to be self published? Is this it?

Not quite. One more go through... I thought with copy editing that my work would be publisher ready. I equated copy editing with a swish and a poof from a magic wand on the fast track to Newbery Award greatness. In reading it, it needs more work in places. So I will go through it again, checking word choice and in attempt to keep it in the active voice. Truly I want this to be the best it can be. The best I can be.

Still wouldn't it be nice to have copies ready for the Christmas rush?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm supposed to be...

working on my book. I woke up around 3, and for about an hour laid there yawning. Finally I got up with the idea to finish my edits. Fortunately and unfortunately, instead I've been working on the St. George Parish website. Correcting information here. Adding a link or a new document there...

There is always something that could use updating or tweaking on a website. I used to do this for a living. Way back when the code was easy and all done by hand. I still do it with a text editor. It feels right to work with what I call a coders first principals and not leave the understanding and workings to a Dream Weaver type app.

When I read the code it reminds me of the Matrix movies. But instead of seeing people moving in a virtual world, I see webpages being constructed and laid out. I guess that's better than seeing dead people... but not quite as exciting.

Monday, June 16, 2008

One point five and counting

Summertime is coming; ready or not.

I have one home already. The rest set their lives to a later alarm after tomorrow. I am trying to get the house in summertime order.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Best Time of the Year

I wish the entire school year was like right now. The children go to school, learn, have fun, have extra time at recess (more than the usual and appalling 15 minutes a day), and then no homework. I love letting the girls play outside after school. They run around, have friends over, play on the water slide, skip rope, play tag, and relax. It is such a joy to watch them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lessons beget more lessons

With summer vacation looming, and children soon home everyday, my banjo teacher is laying on the music theory. "This is something for you to think about until we can have weekly lessons again." Yesterday he lent me a guitar song book and suggested I try to figure out the chords so I can play along. This task builds upon the lessons on how chords are assembled and where the individual notes are found on the fret board.

Last night I gave some songs a try. My fret map on one side of the music stand the chord outline laid over the middle and the song book on the other. I believe I am the slowest chord constructor on the planet. And what to strum with the right hand? "Just improvise," was his suggestion. My improvising sounds like crap.

If I had my way, instead of one lesson a week, I'd now be signed up for two or three.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ramping Down and Ramping Up

With less than a week left of school, I signed the little ones up for swimming lessons. Today I'll put the finishing touches on our camp schedule. It will be an active summer, blessed with brief periods of down time. Still I'm sure they will complain, I'm bored, as soon as they have a moment to breathe.

Kids today love to be stimulated and entertained. My kids included. And they want it all, all the time. But do they need it all, all the time?

Kids today are fighting, what looks to be, a losing battle when it comes to knowing how to entertain themselves. The instant their minds are free to think of something to do, the TV or video synapse fires and despite being surrounded by enough toys and activities to fill ToysRUs, sadly the TV is the only thing that will do.

Of course, I'm as much to blame as the next parent. I send my own to camp, and line up opportunities for them so they much to look forward to. By these last days of school, I've filled their entertainment quota without giving them much of a chance to pause between the classroom and camp tents. But I'm hoping this summer will be different. Last night, over dinner I mentioned the knitting, and sewing, and writing, and painting I'd like them to delve into over the summer, during their noncamp weeks. All activities they enjoy -- all activities that are forgotten when the TV synapse fires.

To drive the point home I'm going to post a list on the refrigerator. It would be music to my ears if they asked if we could all play a game, or knit, or work on another quilt, rather than plug in to the tube. High hopes for the long hot summer ahead.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Can You Say HOT? Sure you can...

It is so hot, my eye is twitching.
It is so hot, I can't even think about making coffee, never mind cooking dinner.
It is so hot, that radiant body heat, something I crave in the winter, sends me to the far edge of my side of the bed.
It is so hot, and there is two more days of this hot, before there is any relief.
It is so hot, and it's not even summer yet.

Friday, June 06, 2008


In all the time we've lived here, next to the strip mall, I've never seen a rat. We've had chipmunks, squirrels, and ground hogs dining under and sometime on our bird feeder, but never rats -- until yesterday.

When I first saw our plump guests, I tried to tell myself they were baby ground hogs, but my biology sensibility wouldn't let me pull the wool over my eyes. All day, unable to settle on a task, I walked about the house passing through the dining room so I could check out the feeder. The rats were still there, and chasing away the birds. And when I opened the window, instead of running towards the fence and the wasteland of mall beyond, they beelined towards my side porch. I think we have a rat's nest under my grill.

While out rounding up the children, I swung the posse into the hardware store to pick up a little something, I hope our new house guests, are just dying to eat. Being the most gracious hostess I even put the packs of nibbles under the porch so all they need to do is wake up, stretch, and eat.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


There is going to be a Hemenway School Community Art Show at Annie's Book Stop on Water Street in Framingham. Hanging their works are the students, parents and friends of Hemenway School. There will be paintings, jewelry, photography, quilting, pottery and more.

The opening reception is June 8th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., but the works will be on display for the remainder of the month. At the reception performance art will be provided by students of music, and the food will be provided by Wanda's Food and Catering

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Oh, and by the way...

Maintaining the family calendar is daunting for me. We are 5 people running 34,789,897 different ways. Last minute adjustments and oh by the way I need to here, make me crazy at best.

Whether or not due to weather

I really don't like days when the plans hinge on the weather. Today we're suppose to ride our bikes out to lunch. Do we ride in the rain? Only to sit in a restaurant drenched? I also have to go to the Post Office. And with gas at over $4 a gallon, I really don't want to drive. Do I walk in the rain? My packages and letters wrapped up tightly in plastic...

Only flowers dance in the anticipation of the rain. Then curl their rooty toes under the bright sun.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Garbage Garden escorted Outside

We are garbage gardeners. I freely admit that we save seeds, and plant pineapple tops. This year we planted butternut and acorn squash, corn, pumpkin, and gourds -- all from saved seeds. We even have a mini orchard of assorted apple trees scattered about the yard. All started from discarded cores. This morning, I escorted our over wintering guests, the pineapples, the Night Blooming Sirius (NBS) and the avocado tree, to their outside summer homes, the back steps and swing set platform.
They are all huge. All required that I ease their massive foliage gingerly through the door. Just looking at the pineapple I wonder how those 3 foot fronds were contained on our tiny window seat. A space it shared with its ever expanding neighbor, the NBS.

Of course, the NBS isn't from the garbage. I got a cutting in the Fall of 1984 -- my first semester in Grad school. I guess some people equate graduate school with garbage. In the end I have a very nice diploma that hangs over a hole in the dining room wall and a plant that has bloomed twice in 24 years. Maybe I'll get lucky and it will bloom again this year. I think it's due.

(If you look closely you might noticed the avocado is a bit of a garbage gardener too. At its base are two baby tomato seedlings. Honestly, I don't know how they got there...)

Monday, June 02, 2008


The first time I can remember hearing the word network, it was in high school describing the cells of the central nervous system. These specialized cells form an interlocking mesh and support our sense of physical feelings: touch, pain. (It's early. I haven't had my coffee, so the list is short.) Next time the term was used for a different matter was when I worked in a software company as help desk support. All those wires and cables that networked the computers to each other and then to the outside world really gave me an appreciation for the many miles of neurons that run through our bodies. Now the term net, network, or networking, is used in just about every field for every situation that involves contacting another human being. There are network business groups, networks of past work acquaintances, networks from college, cancer survivors, mothers of twins. You name it, and there is a support network.

And I'd have to say, hopefully and thankfully, we all have a network of friends. For one should never under estimate the power of a personal net.

Last week, I found myself is a tough situation. Without typing the whole gory story, I stepped in and tried to offer guidance to an out of control situation that was upsetting for all involved. The outcome, the next day, I received a severe hand slapping. Still during that phone call I let that person say their piece, and explain their point of view. But since then I've been networking.

If you know me, and we've had even the briefest contact, you've heard the story. Was I complaining? No, searching, and trying to figure out what I should have done. My network has shown me both sides, the rights and the wrongs, the not so blacks and not so whites. I don't know it all, but when I reached out for advice and insight, I learned that I'm not the only one that this has ever happened to. And given the leadership role I've taken on, this will happen again, and again. "Be Prepared."

I composed a letter, and sent off my thoughts on how we can all move forward. No response yet, but maybe there doesn't have to be one. For me, I can breathe again, and my every thought is not focused on that one horrible exchange, thanks to my net.

One sadness did come to me during this whole ordeal. I don't think "the otherside" has much of a network. And that leaves me quite sad. Maybe they would like to join mine.