Tuesday, October 26, 2010

one thing leads to another

I just spent $25 on the ugliest can of paint ever and it was, not surprisingly, very unsatisfying.  You may wonder why I would buy a color that I dislike intensely, to put it mildly -- it is because I can't afford to gut my kitchen.  Our favorite zen statement from Matthew's Japanese mentor while he was working on his PhD is: Everything is interconnected.  Ponder that for a moment and you will soon see how true that is.  My bathroom for instance:  the wallpaper bears a striking resemblance to wedding wrapping paper and I have had friends comment that they cannot believe that I haven't ripped it off the wall, but if I tore it down then one might notice that the wall is crumbling behind the toilet where there was a small leak; that the floor tile is slightly discolored; that there is dark wood stained cabinets and vanity, but a white wood medicine cabinet, corner shelf, and trim; that the sink and counter are cream marble, but the toilet and bathtub are white porcelain... need I go on?  Can you believe I can stand it?  But I have to and the wallpaper distracts one from the surrounding discord -- ooh, shiny!  See why I can't do something as simple as remove wallpaper?  It would just start a domino effect.  

My kitchen is kind of in the same boat.  At some point in its 92 years of life someone decided it would be great to modernize it -- fun!  This must have happened in the late 60's or 70's and we had some great wallpaper which my mother thought was very cheery, but put me in mind of Gilman's short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, and was taken down in an attempt to prevent madness.  The other elements were not quite so disposable so because of the permanence and abundance of the harvest gold tile, the harvest gold sink, etc. we have chosen to live with the dented cupboards and the rippling countertops because how could one go to the trouble and expense of replacing those and yet leave the tile and that FLOOR!  It has its own amazing qualities and while I don't know if it will ever really be stylish, it does generally look pretty clean which is no small feat around here.  The wood trim around the kitchen and down the back stairs is all painted to match the tile and it is so nicked up and not cleanable -- it probably hasn't been painted for 50 years -- that something needed to be done.  I couldn't decide whether to go with a color I like and let the tile stand out more; try to "do away" with the tile entirely, taking the risk that the plaster wall behind it might completely fall apart, and as long as we're doing that just do everything else that needs to be done, or simply buy the most awful color in the whole store, Earthy Ecru to be exact (and here I thought my kitchen was yellow -- very dirty yellow, I guess).  I bit the bullet and made the hard choice of the $25 can of paint instead of the $50,000 kitchen redo.  Yesterday afternoon I painted away, the whole time thinking how I didn't like the color and I hate painting anyway and it is no fun to be painting something a color you won't even think looks better and how I am such a horrible painter!  I have paint everywhere: my hands covered, in my hair, my painting clothes are a visual history of every painting project I've ever done, it is all over the floor... why do I even try to make improvements?  I've had friends ask me to help them paint and I have to laugh because they must not know what I'm really like.  Usually I'll try to do something innocuous like put up tape, but I can even bungle that by not doing it completely flush with the edge which creates its own mess.  

Well, look at that.  It does look better.  Much more serene without all of those peeling off places and wood showing through.  I suppose I will keep going.

I did paint my back door blue last week.  I like blue doors.  
It looks more blue in reality and hey you can see my beautiful floor.  Do you think it will come back in style?  Was it ever haute couture?  I doubt it.  My friend's daughter used to not like coming to our house because she thought our kitchen floor was haunted.  Yes, it's bad.

Friday, October 22, 2010

quotes of the day

One of my regrets in life, and yes there are oh so many of those, but I will focus on one today, is that I didn't write more of the cute and funny things that my kids would say all the time.  My two oldest would always combine words like: cindebrella (for umbrella), fooderator (refrigerator), dinosword (sword), just to name a few that I just happen to remember.  I don't remember the others doing it, but that could just be: my poor memory, I wasn't very blown away, or I simply wasn't paying any attention to them -- all feasible possibilities.  Oh, and Charles used to come up with the most amazing little gems like, well now I can't quite remember because I didn't write it down, but something along the lines of: would infinity seconds be the same as infinity minutes?  We really wanted to write a book entitled, "Charles' Deep Thoughts," but that would have, of course, required notation of some sort or other.  At any rate, I have decided I should write some of the things that they say now so I will always remember how sweet they are.  Here are some of the things I was told directly this week.

Ella: Mom, your hair looks really nice today.
Me: Thank you so much!
Ella: Yeah, usually it looks like a hot mess.
Me: Um, well, thanks again, I guess?

Charles: You have definitely made better spaghetti!
Me: ...okay?

And this was texted to me yesterday afternoon:
Lucy: R u gone or am i missing something?
Me: I am at voice lessons with Ella.  Daddy is home.  Is Phin awake?
Lucy: Phin is still asleep as far as i'm concerned.

What does that even mean, "as far as I'm concerned," did she even check?  So there you go.  Those should keep me warm in my old age.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I ordered this slipcover from Target to go on this free and somewhat tattered love seat and received it last week.  It feels so much fresher and matches better with the chair that I already had jerry-rigged (I just looked up that word and it was originally jury-rigged, but so many people said it wrong that jerry-rigged is now in the dictionary, isn't that fascinating?) an Ikea cover for, except that -- it seems to be jinxed.  I put it on last week and on Sunday Phin spilled red punch on it, then exactly 15 seconds after I put it back on after cleaning it on Monday he bled on it.  That is its own story in which Charles dropped one of my favorite plates, failed to sweep up all of the tiny pieces with one such piece wriggling its way into Phin's little foot.  Well, he had neglected to cry about it so I didn't know he was gushing blood when I set him on the couch so instead of being suitably sympathetic toward his injury I was kind of just rolling my eyes and laughing at the timing of it all.  Back it goes in the wash, but on the way to the laundry room I decided to grab my water bottle and accidentally knocked a glass of water off the counter in the process.  Since there was blood on the cover and cold water on the floor I did what any efficiency minded housewife would do and decided to wipe up the spilt water with the bloody cloth and kill two birds with one stone, as it were.  What I didn't realize was that there was dried up green food coloring on the floor, from when Ella made cookies last week, which had now been reconstituted to its former glory and proceeded to fulfill the measure of its creation by coloring my brand spanking new gleaming white slipcover green.  Deep breath.  I scrubbed out the blood and the food coloring on Tuesday and decided to wait a few hours to replace the cover again.  I teach my class tonight and we watch videos in the library (the fancy term we use for our "office" and where the lovely love seat resides) so I put the cover back on this morning, left the room and came back to hear, "I'm wet," from the wee one.  What???  He really has not been wetting his pants (he has been doing the other and yesterday the "other" involved smearing "that" and peppermint foot lotion all over my room, down the back stairs, a stop in the kitchen to try to clean it up himself with a hand towel, more smearing through the dining room and up the front stairs before I noticed what was happening -- never in all of my days...!  This occurrence was due, I am sure, in large part to the fact that I blogged about him being potty trained - jinx!) and it was really so, so, so ironic that when he did decide to ignore his body's promptings that it would be on the freshly cleaned, and only moments before replaced, slipcover.   Some of you may be thinking that I deserve it for trying to have a white slipcover in my house, but I have had the one on the chair for about a year and have only had to throw it in the wash about three times.  It is now hanging on the line outside, but I am a little hesitant to tempt the fates further with this.  I suppose I will persevere.  Personally I think the last fiasco was bound to happen because he was wearing his own item that is jinxed: the Thomas the Tank underwear.  It never lasts more than a couple of hours for one reason or another.  You can never beat a double jinx.

Do you own anything that is just bad news?

Monday, October 18, 2010

funky field trip

Last week my fantastically stupendous friend offered to take Phin so I could go on a field trip and have all the Ibby time I needed.  We went to a nature center at Funk's Grove just a few miles out of town so I thought I would be able to handle the short school bus voyage.  Not so much.  It took hours to recover and was a powerful reminder not to be doing that.  I cuddled with my girl and closed my eyes to try to make the time go faster and ended up eavesdropping on the little boys behind me.  "My dad has an AK 47."  "My brother has a machine gun."  !?!!!?  What?!  Why does a 7 year old even know what an AK 47 is?  I surreptitiously stole a peek between the seats.  They were sweet and innocent on the surface, but they know too much.  It amazes me how people who reside within a few miles of me are living such completely different lives.  They went on,  "I have like 15 brothers."  "Me too!  I have like 20."  I was reminded of helping in Charlie's class in the past and being there for birthday parties.  The teacher would have the kids stand up and answer questions about themselves and on a few different occasions they were asked how many siblings they had and they didn't even know! "Ummm, I think I have about 9 sisters and, umm, some brothers?"  That seems pretty basic and these kids don't even have that foundation because their parents lives are so chaotic.  I don't know if all kids do this, but my children have always organized everything in terms of their family.  When they discovered their hands the fingers would be designated as mommy, daddy, brother, sister, and baby; food on their plates would become different people; and lately every book we read has a Phin, three sisters, and a brother.  I think our families are important in our development and set the groundwork for who we become and I want to do more to help some of these kids who don't have very much stability.

Oh, and the field trip was great -- gorgeous weather, beautiful scenery, friendly and knowledgeable teachers, fun playing in the discovery grove, and Ibby even pet a snake!

Friday, October 15, 2010

the customer is never right

Last night I stopped at Panera to pick up some bagels for seminary this morning.  My daughter expressly requested the cinnamon chip kind so when I saw that there were four left I said, "I will definitely take all of those!"  And then apathetically filled in the other nine with second choices.  The girl helping me was friendly and talkative so a few minutes had passed since I told her what I wanted when another cashier walked over and took three of the cinnamon bagels.  
"Oh," says the gabby clerk,"she just took your bagels."  
"Well, get them back," says I, the disgruntled customer.  
"She's already cutting them, sorry."  
"Didn't I say I wanted them long before that guy even came in?"  
"I know, but sorry.  What else would you like?"  
"Nothing else.  That was what I wanted."
"We open at six.  Do you want to come tomorrow?"
"No.  I am here now and I have to have them at a place by 5:50."
"Well, sorry," she listlessly repeats.  "Pick three more now."
I wanted to growl at her.  The only ones left were the ones that cost less, because they are so boring and horrible and no one wants them, and yet I still had to pay the same price because I was getting the package deal.  Come on -- help me out.  Offer me some free bagels or something to make me feel better!  No?  Nothing.  Sorry with a smile seems to be adequate around here.

Perhaps I was more bothered than usual because it was 7:30 and no one had eaten dinner yet because of volleyball and dance.  Or it could be because something equally exasperating had already happened earlier in the day.  I had been to the children's consignment store to pick up a few more things for fall and if you use your credit from selling things everything will be essentially 10% more discounted.  I told the cashier my consignee number, she repeated it, I said it again, she checked the computer and said, "No.  You are at zero."  This surprised me a little since I had taken so many things in at the end of summer, but fine, I'll just go ahead and buy what I had chosen.  Some background on the cashier: when I first met her about a year ago I asked where she was from and she replied, "Why do you ask?"
"Because of your accent."
"I don't have an accent," she assured me, "I am from Poland, but I have lived here for a long time."
That is fine, whatever, I have lived in other countries and have always been so grateful when people were kind and patient with me, but she is a little difficult to understand.  So I pay for the items with my credit card then think to try the boots on Phin and realize that they don't fit him.  So one minute after my purchase I tell her that I don't want them after all.  She says that they can't do returns to a credit card, but she can credit the cost to my account.  I tell her my number again, 57.  She then says the name on that account and it isn't mine.  She then asks to check under my name.  "Oh my goodness!  There are a lot of Smiths!  And there are so many Mary Smiths!"  Yes, yes, yes, I know!  That is why I didn't have you look it up under my name and besides, I know my number thank you very much. She gets a worried look on her face and tells me that the computer messed something up, she is having trouble fixing it, and do I mind if she helps the people in line behind me because I don't have anything else to do, right?  Fine.  I am nice.  Phin goes to the bathroom a couple of times, I wander around the store for awhile, she calls me back and says that it is all fine now and I actually have $60 in my account.  She had put in the number 507 because that is 50 and 7, right?  I tell her that I want it all off of my credit, but no, that is not possible because they don't do returns.  But this is totally your mistake!  There was nothing wrong with the computer, I said the right number, I have waited for over 15 minutes -- I want some token to acknowledge my trouble.  Sorry.  Sorry.  All I get is sorry, with a side of sheepish grin.  

Of course, neither of these episodes are earth shattering or important in any way -- simply  aggravating and I seem to have taken the bait.  I also think it says something about the larger question of customer service and do you even want my business?  I do not have to come back and I can tell all of my friends about you, so watch it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

potty talk

I have recently had the pleasure of toilet training another human being for the fifth time and it really wasn't so terrible.  I always dread it and must admit that the thought of that endeavor alone has given me pause through the years as to whether to expand our family or not.  My first forays into the "no more diapers" enterprise were an unqualified disaster.  I had no idea what I was doing, so I initially decided to wait until my eldest was ready and took the initiative for herself.  Waiting, waiting.  That did not ever happen.  And I resent all of you whose children just decided to go one day and that was that.  I really do.  I am not kidding.  On her third birthday I figured I had waited quite long enough and proceeded to buy a snazzy potty chair and some sparkly underwear.  I won't bore you with the details, which may or may not include twisty, yellow slides at family reunions miles from home and a change of clothes, but months of frustration followed and no matter how patient I tried to be, there was a fair amount of vexation involved.  When it came time for the subsequent go round, I again found myself putting it off, but for different reasons.  If it was that difficult with my first who was easy going and cooperative in pretty much every way, what horror awaited with the wild, headstrong, and independent soul that is my second child? 

***We interrupt this post to take care of a slight "setback."***  That was ironic.

Well, we were in Japan, but an American friend loaned me the book entitled "Toilet Training In Less Than a Day."  It sounded too good to be true, but even if it could cut the time in half, to about three months, it would be worth trying.  Well, it worked!  I was flabbergasted that within a few days he was completely trained.  With the next two I decided to not wait until they were too old so that they would be even more malleable and the girls thought it was great fun, which took even less time.  So here we were to Phin.  It was his half birthday last Monday so it seemed as good a time as any.  I ran out to the store to buy all the goodies that he never gets in real life -- sugar cereal, three kinds of bite size cookies, potato chips, donuts -- anything to make him really thirsty, accompanied by a kajillion different drinks that he could gulp to his heart's delight.  I, of course, had failed to review the book beforehand so off his diaper goes, we start training a little doll, proceed to sample all of the sugary and/or salty delights, all the while I'm both keeping an eye on his dry pants and riffling through the book, correcting the things I'm doing wrong.  #1. Don't do anything else while training -- only pay attention to the child and only talk about toileting.  Hmm, I guess I should put the book down.  I'll just read a few more pages.  Uh?  Oh, no!  He peed on the floor.  Quickly look in the book, what am I supposed to do now?  Practice, teach the doll, try to get him to drink so he'll need to go again.  I'm really pushing the liquids and treats.  Dang it!  He peed on the floor again.  Now it has only been about an hour, but he has gone through four pairs of training pants and refuses to eat or drink anything else!  Apple cider?  Soda?  I know, chocolate milk?  We know it is his favorite thing because out of his vocabulary of about ten words, two are chocolate and milk.  You can never say no to that!  He did.  What!?  Okay, gatorade?  Maple syrup?  Grenadine?  Olive oil?  Come on, anything!  By about 1:00 he hadn't gone on the potty one time, we had no more underwear, he would always pee right after standing up, and I was laying in a ball on the kitchen floor.  Why did I try to do this?  Nothing is getting through.  What was I thinking?  He wasn't even showing any signs.  I look over at him and he runs over to the potty and pees.  And didn't have another accident that day.  The next day he had one when I wasn't paying attention and begged me to put on his diaper again -- he brought me a cloth one and then a disposable, but has had very few problems since.  The third day we ran some errands and he told me when he needed to go.  I can tell the whole thing is causing him a little bit of stress, but he is doing remarkably, astonishingly, shockingly well.  Matthew kept saying he didn't think Phin was capable.  See?  He isn't so slow after all.  I'd like to bear my testimony of this book.  If you've had problems in the past, it won't let you down.
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