New Year's Resolutions for 2009

I read once in Runner's World that, to motivate yourself to run up a large hill, it's best to run up it backwards. That way, you only see what you have accomplished already, and are undaunted by the climb to come. I tried this once and I ran into a tree. Nevertheless, I think the theory behind it is sound.

In that spirit, I will now write my New Year's Resolutions for 2009. That's right: 2009. I already wrote them last year and broke them, but now I'm going to re-write them and only write resolutions that I have already kept. Here they are:

1. Lose twelve pounds and gain three back.
3. Sort of almost potty train a child through constant positive reinforcement. I can't say when one might say, "She's potty trained," but my gut feeling is she's just really really close. Today, there are two spots drying on the rug and four stars on the calendar.
4. Oversee the conversion of a pretty nice farmhouse into an excellently eco-friendly farmhouse.
5. Keep it together 99% of the time.
6. Do the first ten lessons of "Coffee Break Spanish"!
7. Do an ethereal recording of my favorite Uncle Dennis/ Aunt Lou song: "Blue Baret".
8. Write a few awful songs of my own.
9. Entertain a one-year-old all the way to South Carolina and back, in a car.
9. Learn the chords of A, D, E, G, Em, C, F, and Dm on the guitar.
10. Give blood three times.
11. Keep a blog!

That's about the most of it. Of course, number five covers a lot. I encourage you all to do this! It's quite satisfying. See you next year, as they say.

-Your Mindless Minion

Safety First!

There's a room in our house where we keep things we haven't unpacked yet, poisonous plants, various electronics and things dangerous to Little Z. (This will be your room, Dad, when you come and visit.)

We put this child safety gate on the doorway to that room. Yesterday, I was in the next room, and I heard Little Z yell,

"Oh, no! Teddy on da other side! Teddy on da other side!" Her teddy bear had fallen into that room, beyond her reach.

I got to her just in time to see her pick up the child safety gate and move it to the hallway. Then she retrieved her teddy, gave him a hug, and tried to put the gate back roughly in the same place it was before.

"Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed.

"Yeah," she said with a knowing nod, "Teddy on da other side!"

I put the safety gate back in place. We went on with our day.

Let it be

Like most of my "friends" on Facebook, my "friend" Selma (not her real name, because she's actually slightly famous in some circles [so awesome]) was my friend in high school and I actually haven't met her in person since then. However, we two have a better reason than most: she lives in Sweden and I live in the U.S. Very far away.

I read all her posts and try to keep up on my Swedish. The other day, she was listing all the things she was making for Christmas. Christmas sort of lasts three weeks in Sweden. They start eating on Santa Lucia Day (December 13) and stop eating sometime after New Year's. Then they starve themselves the rest of January, and remain the sexy kittens we all envy so much, but I digress...

Selma was posting what she was cooking and it did include some pork. A friend of hers commented something like,

"If humans were treated the way we treat some pigs, would you eat humans?"

and Selma responded,

"I don't eat humans. I eat pigs."

(I'm horrible at translating, thus the "something like". The way I understand languages is, I just think in that language, and I understand. This makes translation very difficult. But I can approximate. God bless the translators.)

This little exchange made me slightly angry, because I know Selma, and she is a good person, and I also have believed that meat is murder, myself, but I believe very strongly that accusing people is no way to get your point across. Ever. No matter what you believe. Pushing your beliefs on people just never, ever works.

This little exchange also transported me, momentarily, to a moment in 1992, when I was on the phone with Selma one cold Sunday morning,

"You should come over!" she said. "I want to show you something."

This was no small request. Visiting her meant riding my bike in the freezing cold to the train station, getting on the train and requesting that the train conductor actually stop the train where she lived, and then trusting that she would be there to meet me.

Truthfully, though, I never thought twice. I would do anything for her. She was just the coolest person I knew.

So, I rode the bike in the freezing cold. I took the train. I made the request to the conductor. He stopped the train. I got off, feeling very conspicuous. And there she was! Waiting to meet me. Standing in a field of snow, in the middle of nowhere.

We walked to her house.

After some coffee and an interesting tour of her home, (there was a toilet right in plain view of the front door, at the bottom of the stairs- very worthy of Lovely Listing!) she showed me what it was she wanted to show me. It was out in the barn.

"Look!" she said, all flushed and excited. I looked, and there they were. A mamma pig and five or six tiny piglets suckling on her, laying there in the straw. "Aren't they beautiful?" I felt so ridiculous. I didn't even know she raised pigs.

The Best Holiday Gift

A few days ago, Little Z was sitting on my lap, and we were reading The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon together. Right in the middle of it, Little Z says, "I gotta go potty." She jumps off my lap and runs to the bathroom, stripping off all of her clothes (including her diaper) along the way. (She has never really gone to the bathroom of her own accord before- it's always been my idea.) She likes very much to be naked, so I didn't really think anything was going on. And then she just, you know, does it. The number one. Right where it ought to go, in the ol' commode, just like that!

"Help! I need some help here!" she yells. Then she points to the toilet paper, "Paper!" (It's beyond her reach.)

And, you know, she just does everything you do in the bathroom. Washing hands and all that. My little girl.

For those of you who aren't parents, this potty training thing is so huge- and so bizarre. You have this little creature who just seems to get wilder and smarter as she grows and you're supposed to teach her what now? How to use the what? And do what with the what? Holy crap. What was I thinking when I went off the pill?

And then they go and surprise you one day. (It wasn't completely random. We had checked out a box of books at the library labeled "Potty Training Board Books"- and she made me read a few of them to her, earlier in the day.)

Not that I haven't tried to teach her before, mind you. Really. A lot has come before this. Things you really don't want to know about.

Lest you think this will be a one time occurrence (that's what I thought) she did it again the next morning! And by tonight, we were having a most bizarre argument,

"We're going on a long drive tonight, honey, and I think maybe you should wear a diaper."
"No! Me do self!" (She grabs her pair of panties from me and starts eating them, inexplicably.)
"You shouldn't eat your panties!" (She takes them out of her mouth.) "But why don't you wear a diaper? There's no potty in the car."
"No!" (She starts putting her panties on- totally wrong, and I help her.)
"Maybe you could wear a diaper over your panties?"
"How about these panties?" I hold up a pair of panties with a plastic lining- really just a cloth diaper.
And then I realize, I'm being really stupid here. Why should I try and convince her not to be potty trained? We ended up putting a towel under her in the car seat, but it turned out not to be necessary. She was just fine.

So, I've decided that, if she continues in this manner (which I have a feeling she will), this will be absolutely the best holiday present ever. I know it wasn't technically supposed to be a gift, but I'll take it. I mean, it did start during Hanukkah (Chanukkah?) and I'm technically half Jewish (in spite of my mother's giant velour painting of "The Last Supper") so it counts.

What has been your best holiday gift ever?

Clear Kool-Aid

In cooking class at the high school where I taught a few years ago, budget restrictions led to the supply of Red Flavor Kool-Aid completely running out. So, my coworker, who shall remain nameless even though she is freakin' awesome, had one of the students fill a jug with water and call it, "Kool-Aid, Clear Flavor" - because, you know, the flavors are really just the colors, aren't they?

Clear Flavor Kool-Aid was a surprisingly big hit with the students. Many of them even preferred it to Red Flavor. Of course, the main joy in it was talking about how much you enjoyed it, and referring to it repeatedly as "Clear Flavor Kool-Aid".

"Jeanette, would you like a glass of Clear Flavor Kool-Aid?"
"Yes, please. I do enjoy the Clear Flavor Kool-Aid."
"I think Clear might just be my most favorite flavor of Kool-Aid."
"It's a clean flavor, the Clear Flavor Kool-Aid."

(Don't you love the sound of the kids playing in the background of this song?)

The things we believe about ourselves

When I was a kid, Grandma Ruth used to tell her friends (while I was within earshot),
"She's a peacemaker." Being religious, she would then quote from the Bible, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

After a while, I did start to think of myself as a peacemaker.

I wonder how my life would have turned out differently if she had told all of her friends (while I was within earshot),
"She's a troublemaker." And if, being religious, she would have quoted from the Bible, "whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of hell fire."

It's very un-Grandma Ruthy, that last bit.

Other People's Stories, Part 8 of ?: In the spirit of giving*

I have this friend, let's call her Amanda. (She's the same one who thinks picking up chics at Barnes and Nobles is as easy as buying a loaf of bread, but already, I digress...)

Amanda once "learned" to quilt. I have no idea why. I quilt, myself, but I take one look at Amanda and I think, no way in a million years could this woman come up with a decent quilt. Don't ask me why. I just know.

Amanda took some sort of a class or something and made this "quilt". The quilt she made, although I have never seen it, was an abomination to all things quilting. It was ugly. Unseemly. Horrific. So, instead of throwing it away, she gave it to a charity for blind children. (Thinking, I suppose, that they wouldn't have to look at it.)

Fellow minions, was this actually a charitable act? I'm really on the fence about it.

Let's judge! (Poll at right, or express yourself in comments.)

*Christina has a good gift giving story here.

Total is for Tigers, revisited

Remember how Grandma Ruth (pictured with me and Meatball the dog behind the title of this blog) sent Little Z a stuffed cheetah and two little boxes of Total cereal for her birthday? And I was wondering about her logic? (Grandma Ruth's logic, not Little Z's, though I honestly wonder about both of them fairly often.) Well, Aunt Lou suggested, at the time, that I save the two boxes of Total cereal, and then wrap them up for Grandma Ruth's birthday and re-gift them back to her. Grandma Ruth's birthday is this week-end (I think she's the big 8-0) and I did indeed wrap up those two little boxes of Total and send them to her for her birthday. I also wrapped up a little gold cross necklace that I've been meaning to give to her for five years.

There's actually going to be a
surprise party for the little lady Grandma Ruth this week-end, and I will not be attending. Though I was invited. And sent driving directions. For something 800 miles away, happening in December in Pennsylvania. The map was sort of like, "Drive 800 miles, then turn left, and you're there!" The map did not include Chicago or Pittsburgh, although it's impossible to get there without driving through both Chicago and Pittsburgh. Very funny. Thanks, Aunt Laurie.

But mostly I'm not going just because I had this horrible feeling about it, as soon as I got the invite, like something awful would happen to me or Little Z or my Tender Lovin' Banjo Player if we went. It may be that some members of the Lee Clan are a bit hostile toward banjo players. There's also the fact that it's winter. That could be an issue. There just isn't anywhere between here and Western Pennsylvania that's really nice in winter. Then there's also that, during the actual party time this Saturday, I will be receiving a R1N1 vaccine. If I went to the party, I would not get the vaccine, and I would get the R1N1 in Pittsburgh, and Little Z wouldn't be able to drive me to the hospital, because driving is impossible in Pittsburgh, and she's two and her little Fred Flintstone Car would take too long.

So, Happy Birthday Grandma Ruth! I love you. And your wacky gifts of Total cereal.


We were snowed in today, so I paid no attention to my appearance, but it was later pointed out to me that I dressed like an elf:

We went for a walk (I walked, Little Z road in a little sleigh that I towed behind me). We disturbed a flock of giant birds. What were they? Turkeys? Pheasants? I tried to take their picture, but all I got was snow:

The National Weather Service called it a blizzard, and I would agree. Snow was the theme of the day.

The geothermal heat kept it a balmy 72 degrees inside.

Out with the Old, in with the New

We said we wouldn't paint over the dark wood in the farmhouse kitchen, and I like the wallpaper- although I am told it is out of fashion.

Today, TLBP and I both suddenly thought, at the exact same time, that the handles on the cabinets and the drawer pulls were just ugly. Replacing them isn't too expensive, and it's easy as pie, so we went ahead and did it.

Here's before:

And after:





And then here's all the old hardware, eleven drawer pulls and eighteen cabinet handles:

Would anyone like to have these? They might look good painted, or even just on something different.

Next weekend, perhaps we will tackle the cottage cheese balls that pose as light fixtures in the mud room.

The Different Parents

Little Z is at an age (2) when she can interact with people on her own, but she needs to have someone with her. I take her out and about a lot and we meet people and it's fun, for the most part. I end up having short conversations with many parents as we watch our children play together or put on our coats after a music class or story time or whatever. It always amazes me all the different types of parents you meet. Parents are as different as people, of course.

This guy I met a week or two ago, for instance. He was a stay-at-home dad with twin boys, Tim and Jacob. I'm pretty down with stay-at-home dads. I think it's awesome if a woman can land a job that pays enough for her husband to stay at home with the kids- and pay for tuition to this lovely music class we do. Wonderful! So, I was talking with this guy after class as we were putting our shoes and coats on. (This is always a comical process, as toddlers never understand that you should not stand in front of the door. No one can ever leave or come in or reach a shoe. The place is set up all wrong, and I find it hilarious to watch, but I digress.) I was trying to steer the conversation away from our kids a bit, and we got on the topic of names... blah blah blah... he was still talking about other people's kids, and Tim and Jacob, and the YMCA and he couldn't stop talking about kids, kids, kids, and I had told him my name and everything and the guy never told me his own name, so I just asked him, and he said,
"Oh, I'm Eric, but most people just call me Tim and Jacob's Dad."
"You're Eric!" I exclaimed. "That's a good name!" (We had been talking about names.)
"Yeah, but you can just call me 'Tim and Jacob's Dad'. Like it says on the shirt."
I looked more closely at his black tee shirt, and sure enough, on the back of his shirt, it said, "Tim and Jacob's Dad."

I'm sure that, somewhere, someone is blogging about what a freakin' weirdo I am. But, man. That's weird! He didn't even want me to call him by his own name. He was just Tim and Jacob's dad. That's it. It made me a little sad inside.

There was one parent that made me really happy, too, one day. She was this real butch lady, talked like a man, with this sweet little one year old girl at the playground at the mall. Pretty much the second I started talking with her, as our kids played next to each other and completely ignored each other (as kids that age do) she was rattling off her daughter's benchmarks,
"She started feeding herself at eight months. Her hand-eye coordination is extraordinary. She was walking at ten months, turning pages of books. She can hang on to a bar and hold her own weight for fifteen seconds..." And on and on. Just statistical data, all of it extraordinary. She talked with just the utmost, complete love and admiration for her child. It was amazing. I was so happy for her. But, also, I was so refreshed by her blatant belief that her child was superior to all others. That's how everyone feels, right? My child is the best! But you never actually say so. You don't just walk up to complete strangers and tell them how great your kid is! (You leave that to the grandparents.) Man, that lady was refreshing. I'll never forget her.

First Snow

Friday Farm Functionals: The Schmoosher from Space

See, here's the problem:

That's our yard. Not the farming part, the "pretty" part. It's clay. Real clay, like you would sculpt with in pottery class. And there is some sort of spring underneath, and the integrity of the drainage has just been completely curplumaged by that geothermal, and the puddles are over a foot deep and I don't want Little Z to drown there and it used to be such pretty grass and-

What we need is a giant, flat object, preferably free and from out space, to come down and schmoosh it all flat for us, so we can plant some pretty things.

Ah. That would be so nice.