Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wrapping It Up

What a year, what a year,
what a fearful and wonderful year...

The Critters have grown another year older.  So have Hubby and I, but...ahem, we're not going to mention that, are we?  We're still (barely) keeping up with them.

The piggies have come and gone, on to a better place.  Namely, the freezer.

Races have been run,  performances staged, miles logged on numerous odometers.

Hurricanes raged, detours were endured, patience tested.

And loved ones were lost to us.............




.....for now...    

Life continues.  Here we are, another Monday morning.  Not any ol' regular Monday morning - today is December 26th, the day after. 

Packages that took weeks to acquire, wrap and label (and will take months to pay for) were ripped open and assessed for wish-fulfillment in a twinkling, and now lay strewn throughout the everyday clutter as sleep deprived children snooze snug in their beds. Yesterday's feast, slaved over by loving hands and picked at by diners who overindulged in chocolate, will today be transformed into soup, tomorrow casserole, etc., etc.
Tempers and attitudes held in check by "good will" will flair, and "peace on earth" will rescind it's hold as barely controlled mayhem takes over once again.  Or maybe not....

Maybe this will be the year that we carry Christmas over into next week, next year, the rest of our lives....

Here is my New Year's wish list.  It has nothing to do with presents, but everything to do with gifts:

1) That those who have will share with those who have not.
2) That talents will not be left buried, but invested and multiplied 10, 30, 100 fold.
3) That unkind words remain unsaid, and encouragement bubble from our lips like a fountain.
4) That faith, hope and love, replace anxiety, despair and hatred.
5) That good health be granted, fully appreciated and maintained.
6) That understanding be more important than being understood.
7) That needs be few, blessings abundant.
8) That laughter replace tears.
9) That peace reign.

This wish list is for me, my family, friends and loved ones, my community, the world.  For you, whoever and wherever you are.

But lest you think me sanctimonious, I'd also really like:

10) Some champagne, cheesecake, and a really good back rub! 

Oh, and

11) Some studio space...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

P.S. The hiatus is over, though the Critters tell me that I need to go back to being funny in these posts.  I agree.  But I also need to do a lot of other stuff, so I'll be posting less often, maybe about once a month.

 Hope you still find time to visit...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Allergic Reaction

Tissue, please.




aaahh....................... a-choooooooooo!

Oh no.

Aaahh....................... a-choooooooooo!

Aaahh....................... a-choooooooooo!

Aaahh....................... a-choooooooooo!

And pretty soon...

Aaahh....................... a-choooooooooo!
Aaahh....................... a-choooooooooo!
Aaahh....................... a-choooooooooo!

Etcetera, etcetera.  My highest sneeze count during one day in allergy season is well over a hundred.  By the end of a sneezy and sniffing day (dripping one when I don't sniff quickly enough) I'm raw and drained.  Ever tried to fold laundry, fry hamburger, change a diaper or type with a faucet pouring down your face?
I haven't always been this way.  Yes, I inherited the family sinus - and passed it along the Critters, poor unsuspecting buggers.  It's only since moving east though, or maybe since having the Critters, that I have become a walking rhino-itis time bomb.  But since I've been pregnant or nursing over half my married life, and not one to take meds recklessly, I've suffered a long time. 

Long enough - bring on the Claritin!

But why such drastic measures?  As if a little "runny nose" wasn't bad enough, allergies are messing with the rest of my look too.

Here are my eyes normally...

...or on special occasions,


here's what allergies do to them.

What am I allergic to, you might ask?

I dunno.  Never been tested.  Sometimes I think its pollen, sometimes dust mites, cats, mold or rejection letters.  I sneeze when the barometric pressure changes, so maybe I'm allergic to weather.  Whatever it is, it affects my mouth too.


My "kiss me" lips....

and "hello low pressure system!"

There is one thing worse than sneezing my head off however.  Sneezing my head off at a wedding.  Trust me, it ain't pretty.

Want proof?

Let's see if you can pick it out of a crowd -

(Note: The insides of my sleeves are now blushing.)

I know I'm not the only allergy sufferer out there.  But the way I see it...


...the world would be a far less scary place if I wasn't one of them!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rainbow Beige?

 Which looks right to you? 

The other day I determined to paint with Bonus Baby at the dining room table. My strategy is usually to spectate, thus avoiding frustration on both our parts, but for whatever reason that day, I felt up to the challenge.  She, with her three-year-old attention span, is always game.

Despite the fact that a layer of paint might actually do our table more good than harm, I laid out plenty of newspaper before setting out the rest of the supplies, which included several tubs of rainbow colored fabric paint leftover from Forgetful Child's birthday party/T-shirt making extravaganza.  Since I usually just dole out primary red, blue and yellow, B.B. was extra excited.  "Let's paint a rainbow!"

I gave her a brush for each color and proceeded to demonstrate the correct arc and order of hue for a perfect rainbow.  B.B. watched nonplussed, and then went ahead and did her own thing.  The result, while not very accurate, was wildly colorful

--- that is, until she decided to stir all of the colors together.  What was promising to become an Art Wall of Fame masterpiece quickly became a muddy beige mess.

Of course, as her loving Momster, I didn't crush her little artistic soul and tell her exactly what I thought of her creation, but I did suggest that next time she may want to try for a little restraint.  She looked at her page, and then mine, and her face fell.  "I give up!"

Newsflash! I didn't invent rainbows!

I had nothing to do with their design. Nobody asked me if I thought red should go next to orange, or if violet should be on top or bottom.  Despite that fact, or more likely because of it, rainbows are pretty much perfection.  When a one appears (usually after a storm) the individual colors rub shoulders seamlessly, making it hard to discern exactly where they meet.  This blending is natural, creating subtle hues that complete the illusion.  But without your basic colors in their proper amounts...

or order...

...well, things just don't quite look right.

Now, unless you're new to these pages, you'll know that I have five Critters in all.  And as much as I love each and every one of them, one of each is enough.  The order they came in wasn't my design either, but I couldn't have planned it any better.

Over the years, at various ages and stages, each has compared his or her artistic style and ability to my own and for a moment floundered, even though (in art, at least) I have never pushed or demanded that it's "my way or the highway".  I know a few things, but I'm no expert.

However, being a parent who wants to see her children succeed, I don't try to dumb down everything for them either, preferring instead to set a standard to work up to.  This goes for board games, levels of cleanliness, schoolwork (especially grammar), attitudes and values as well.  High expectations along with plenty of encouragement along the way have helped them to grow into the wonderful, uniquely colorful Critters they are today.

I fear, however, that due to certain atmospheric changes the vibrancy of their hues is in jeopardy.

Tangent Time: 
I've always found it interesting that dumping too many contrary pigments in the same bucket makes a bleh mess, while with light, all colors work together to make pure white radiance. 

Even more interesting - "the Light of the World", whose goal it is to have us share in His Light, was feared and (supposedly) silenced by those who had set themselves up as authority figures.  Since His followers are called to be salt (flavor) and light, and to not hide their light under a bushel, it stands to reason that an attempt would be made to suppress them as well.

Today some self-titled proponents of "embracing diversity" are becoming increasingly insistent that all thought reflect their own, all actions support the "proper" opinions and motives.  If you don't share their view, you are automatically labeled phobic, hateful, judgemental, backward, unintelligent or worst of all, intolerant. 

(Intolerance as defined in Webster's is an "unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions, beliefs, or persons of different races or backgrounds".)

A true Rainbow Coalition would support the rights of ALL, not just those on one end of the spectrum.  Red should have the same rights as green, but not the right to run roughshod over her.  Orange shouldn't have to become violet, or yellow, indigo.  Forcing one to become the other is not tolerance, but coerced submission, a situation those "in authority" profess to abhor.

So what to do when ultra violet and infrared are so divergent that there is no yellow-green meeting place?

There was a quote graffitied on a overpass near our small town a few years back: "The limits of dictators are determined by those whom they oppress."  To paraphrase, "people will only take so much".  Such was true of first slavery, then segregation - and rightly so.  Recently however, causes taken up by an extremely powerful and vocal minority do not represent the basic values and ideals that our culture was founded upon. 

I feel a new revolution coming on from those whose  "colors of conscience" are being diluted, dulled down, made beige by political correctness.  That is... I would if "nice" people weren't so afraid of being thought intolerant.

To the apprentice, deferring to a superior craftsman isn't always easy, but if you want your end product to turn out well, you learn from a master.  Anyone can declare themselves an artist, authority or judge, but it doesn't automatically follow that they are.  Following the Manufacturer's instructions makes a lot more sense than caving to a bully.  In that light, biting your tongue occasionally to spare someones feelings is one thing, but never voice an opinion because you might offend someone and you end up living in a totally beige house.  Beige walls, beige floor, beige furniture, beige food, beige family, beige values, beige, beige, beige.... a stew of dulled colors.

We can "give up" and live beige lives.... or we can let a little Love and Light in, and continue to color the world with vibrant opinion and expression.

As for me, I'll keep painting rainbows the way their Creator intended, hues harmoniously side-by-side...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ordinary Angels - Part Three

Coming home I drove as far as Angels D&JD's (aka Auntie-In-Law and Husband's brother Trail Hiker) house, getting there just as I needed headlights to drive.  And a good thing too since, unfamiliar with the borrowed car, I couldn't remember how to turn the silly things on.  Angels watching over me...

After a subdued visit and a quiet night in the Orange Room, D packed me some sandwiches and snacks, and JD drove me back to the airport. 

A delayed Angel filled Gate C24 with the heavenly strains of Spanish Guitar. 

My return flights were uneventful.   And Mom's thoughtfulness covered gas and long-term parking.


Though reports of devastation from  post-storm flooding filled the airwaves, I found the roads clear all the way to my own Backroad of Busted Mufflers.  That name is now an understatement.  Less than a mile from home, a 30'wide x 15'deep hole gaped across my way...

...but Angels had gone ahead.  Just before the looming pit was a detour - cut through a farmer's unused field to reroute traffic while a nearby bridge was rebuilt - two summers previous! 


And then I was home, safe and sound, with my very own Angels....

...er, I mean Critters and Hubby. 

Thanks be to God.

(Angels continued to bless us as Hubby and Firstborn drove to the Midwest  and back a few days later following the passing of Hubby's special bro, Bones.  To our family there from those of us who had to remain behind {and to all of our family members on both sides in this sad time} our thoughts and prayers are always with you.)


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ordinary Angels- Part Two

Walking through the door at my parent's house, my sisters greeted me with hugs. 

It's funny how you automatically assume the same roles you had growing up - albeit perhaps, with a tad more consideration.  

Big Sis, still the caregiver (I used to accidentally call  her "mom"), filled me in on Dad's current condition and promised she'd be back to stay when the need arose.  Since she had gone back to school at age 40 to become a nurse, that news was extra reassuring.  (One of our brothers has spent the last 30 years in the medical profession and keeps close tabs on Dad's progress, filling us all in via email {thanks, bro!}, but he lives an hour away.)  Wiz, who married young and still lives nearby, always makes me feel like I never left home.  Close in age, we fought like cats & dogs, shared secrets, clothes, a bed... and still feel close even though we rarely see each other and live lives worlds apart.  All the "Critters" in her life now call her Grandma.  The Little Girls - odd that I still think of them that way since they are both in their forties - have Critters nearer in age to my own, but live too far away for the cousins to know each other well.  I was never the greatest big sister to them, but now I'm always glad when they're around. 

I, as the Crybaby of the family, did what I do best...


Old Dogs

My father is dying.
There, I've said it,
though that makes it no more, no less true.
 Cancer wracks his body,
quieting his booming basso voice,
making him struggle for breath
 and taking away even the pleasure of breaking bread.
He eats what little he does in the living room,
tethered to an oxygen tank,
so that his hacking (and hawking)
won't disturb the rest of us,
 not understanding that his absence at the table
bothers us more.

After everyone finally heads off to bed,
his old Lucky dog seizes.........and grows still.
Dad mourns silently from his
makeshift hospital room in the corner.
Mom, getting up to check on her charges,
calls up the stairs,
and we hurry back down, my sister and I,
to help her wrap Lucky in a clean towel.
And though she insists we leave him right there until morning,
she does not cry, at least, not in our presence.
But I do.

My father and Lucky. 
The two are inexorably linked in the mind of my firstborn,
whose moving essay about her own "lucky" gift
and her grandfather's recurring cancer
highlight one small dog's role.
For fourteen years this furry companion -
whose end was expected as he too went off his food
and became housebound - 
has kept Dad company whether he wanted him to or not.
When I call home the next morning,
I cannot tell her over the phone that Lucky is gone...
just as I cannot tell him
that everything will be all right...

...but I hope that all good dogs go to heaven,
and that Lucky will be waiting there,
having sniffed it all out first.


Husband had encouraged me before leaving to not force things, to just go with the flow - good advice since there was a whole parade of Angels through the old farmhouse while I was there.  Dad knows practically everyone in a tri-state radius and has always loved to "visit" with folks.  And while that may a good thing in a clergyman, it's a hard habit to break.  Though I didn't meet his hospice nurse, I sure do appreciate her admonition to him to "shut up and listen more!"  He hasn't taken her advice yet, but he tells everyone about it. 

Though he really enjoyed it, all that company tired him out.  We didn't get a chance to have the meaningful discussions I'd hoped for, or even to play cribbage, but we sat and watched storm updates together, chatting like always... and it was (almost) enough.

I would be remiss not to mention my temporary roomie, nephew Beni-Boy, who was visiting-within-a-visit with his uncle (my hour-away brother) when I first arrived.  When he came back, for some odd reason Mom left us in the same room (though thankfully separate beds) rather than move one of us in with his mother.  Not only did Beni-Boy not complain, but he left the light on to accommodate my pre-bed reading routine, and turned out to be a super conversationalist.  Made me wish we'd seen much more of him while he was growing up - and glad that he had reconnected with my Critters over the summer.


As I was getting ready to leave - something I dreaded even more than coming - my mother slipped some money into my hand.  "For Christmas" she said, but when I came out to check for my car keys, I found the same amount stuffed into my purse.

"Mom, you don't have to do this!"

 "I know, but traveling is expensive, and I don't want to have to worry about you." 

I guess being an Angel just comes naturally to mothers.


...more tears...


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ordinary Angels - Part One

Recently, I flew home to visit my folks.  It was the first I'd flown in nearly twenty years and, sorry to say, things haven't improved. 

Emotionally compromised at the onset (returning to say goodbye to a parent is not something anyone looks forward to), delayed and canceled flights and an impending hurricane did nothing to alleviate my stress.  Especially when they rerouted me directly into the storm's path. 

I encountered my first Angel while roaming the crowded concourse at Philadelphia. 

The Philly airport mall would be a great place to hang out if A) you were there on purpose B) you were there with a friend C) you had money growing out of your ears.  Not only did none of the above apply, but I had just had a minor breakdown in front of a few hundred strangers at the airline's customer service desk.  Now I wandered too-expensive shops trying to kill the next five hours of tedium, while precious moments I could be spending with Dad ticked by.

Stepping out of the latest overpriced boutique, I stopped to watch a demonstration.  Magic Marker Man whipped out his colorful pens, knowing a Momster missing her family when he saw one (and one starving artist to another, I recognised actual talent beneath his cheerful kiosk-salesman banter).  When his secret hidden message failed it's mission...


...he asked why I was so gloomy.  And when I poured out my woes (abbreviated version) he advised with insider wisdom -

"Go back to customer service and ask for a direct flight."

 Huh?  Why wouldn't they have assigned me one in the first place?

"Cuz they just wanna keep you moving.  Come back and tell me what happens."

 So I did.  And I got a direct flight that not only kept me out of the eye of (then) Hurricane Irene, but arrived at my destination two hours earlier despite a later take-off.

I had already splurgchased his pens for the Critters, still Magic Marker Man seemed grateful for the cold Snapple I put in front of him.  But not as grateful as I was...


Arriving at DTW half an hour later than expected, I whipped out my TracPhone and dialed my own private taxi service, aka Bobby Lou and her husband Shoe Slinger.  These unfailing Angels had tweaked and adjusted their own schedules as mine was altered for me, driving two hours one way to pick me up in the dead of night, and cruising the (unfamiliar?) streets of the city to await their weary traveler. 

Offers of food (thanks, but I've eaten) and bottled water (God bless you!) and the front passenger seat so that I could stretch my legs were met with teary-eyed gratitude.  Shoe Slinger navigated and drove while Bobby Lou and I debriefed.  After a day in my own dreary company, that time in the car was a balm.

Falling asleep in their guest room was a blur.  The next morning, a home cooked, hearty breakfast fueled me for my three hour drive (in the fueled-up, borrowed compact they'd picked me up in) to the northern hinterlands I used to call home.  I waved goodbye with a lighter heart despite knowing what awaited.


Friday, September 2, 2011

A Few More Words About Bonus Babies

They are...


What an affectionate little Critter ours is! 

Every morning as we wave goodbye to the troupes through the kitchen window, Bonus Baby and I share a little ritual of her making.  First we rub foreheads, then noses, chins, cheeks (she tried to rub eyeballs too, but we modified that to butterfly kisses), and sometimes even ears and elbows.  We seal the whole thing with a kiss. 

I'm not the only one who enjoys snuggling with her.  Husband and the other Critters get a healthy portion of cuddle time too. No one misses their daily hug quota with Bonus Baby around.

Her affection isn't limited to us either.  The other day she squeezed the furnace guy around the knees ("I love you, neighbor!"), blew kisses to the grocery store check-out clerk, and each Sunday shakes hands with, high-fives, or hugs the rest of the congregation as they go up for communion.  She is the vicarious B.B. of all my middle-aged friends, and if you are lucky enough to have white hair, you are automatically one of her favorite people - a fact that warms the cockles of many a geriatric heart.


The other day Third Child asked Bonus Baby what to do if someone is mad at you.  She was just venting and didn't expect an answer, but with typical innocent wisdom  B.B. replied -


"Give what?" 

"Give them love."

(kinda get'cha right here, doesn't it?)


...and sometimes a real Night-full!...

(Bonus Baby has recently entered the phase of nighttime wakefulness.  While this has helped with accidents and midnight laundry, it has added dark circles under the eyes of her parents.  All of the other Critters went through it, so we know that this too shall pass --- let's just hope it passes quickly!  Meanwhile, fears of spiders and the dark accompanied by requests of  "Can I be with you? - it's crazy in my room!" are easily dealt with, and sleep deprivation a small price to pay.)

...but never...


  ("I'm sorry I got in the way, Fudgie... do you forgive me?")


Once upon a time, our family was seemingly complete, but we had a Bonus Baby shaped hole we never even realized existed.  Our littlest Critter fills it perfectly.  Despite the fact that she claims she "isn't a hero", we think she's super! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Whine-a-lots

We are a family of whiners. 

I used to think it was just the kids... but then I listened to myself... and realized that, in our house at least, whining is a learned behavior. Of course, when I do it, its called nagging.

You would think the youngest whiner would be the biggest offender, but no!  The order of hierarchy goes something like this:  Momster (that's me) Only Son, Third Child and then Bonus Baby

Firstborn, Sweetie Petite-y and Husband barely register on the whining scale... but rarely, just like an erratic heartbeat, they too make their displeasure known.

I whine alot* about messes - scattered toys, dirty dishes in the living room, trash and wrappers missing the basket, balled-up socks everywhere, and, oh yeah - BEDROOMS ALA CYCLONE!  Not that the rest of the house escapes unscathed, (no one would ever see the gorgeous, hand-crafted deacon's bench that Father-In-Law made if the Critters had their way) but the Critter-dens collect detritus quicker than a blind alley behind McD's!

I whine alot* about Critters spending too much time in front of a screen, and not enough getting their hands dirty - and I don't mean making mud pies!

I whine alot* about having to scrimp and make do, and about my latest aches and pains.

I whine alot* about whining alot* about whining* --- it's a vicious cycle.

Only Son whines* about  limits on his screen time, doing chores, doing more than his fair share (ha!), getting his hair cut, whatever is for dinner, homework, and his sisters - especially when they're in the bathroom.

Third Child whines* about not having the latest and greatest, well... everything!  Including her own room.

Bonus Baby whines* about no more potty training treats, not enough play dates, wanting "just two more minutes" before bedtime and one more verse of whatever the lullaby du jour may be.  Come to think of it, she's the only one who really has anything worth whining about.

Bonus Baby whines mostly to me, Only Son and Third Child whine at everyone, and, while I nag the Critters, I whine to Husband.  And he doesn't like it...

Then again, neither do I. 

So, what to do about all of this whining?

I tried posting mantras - you know, power of positive thinking blurbs - taped in inconspicuous (but heavily trafficked) areas of the house - like computer monitors and the door jam of every bathroom and Critter den.  Some are for everyone's benefit, and others for my sanity....

Spend your dash wisely.
(if you don't get it, think tombstones...)

Lord, may I be a blessing to those I meet today.

Bless me as I bless others.

Deal gently.

...and my new personal favorite (which I recently found on a wooden shingle and hung above the Critter's school portraits)

Thou Shalt Not Whine!

I'm the only one who notices them any more...

Bonus Baby can't read yet, so she's off the hook.  As are Husband, Firstborn and Sweetie Petite-y since they've already got the message.  And for the rest?  I'm considering stronger measures. 


*The above lists in no way encompass the breadth of actual complaints.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Aunties

Among our many reasons for the family road trip, seeing The Aunties ranks right at the top of the Critters' list.  Pretty much mine too.

And while most disclaimers come at the end of something, just let me preface the remainder of this post by saying that these rocking Midwest ladies are some of my favorite people in the whole world.  I love them all dearly, and am pretty sure they love me right back... which is why I can poke fun at them with impunity!

Not that I would ever do such a thing!  No, if Husband's Sisters are looking at this and laughing right now it's because of how accurately I have depicted them.  In fact, if they know how to, I'm pretty sure they will each enlarge the above image to check out their eye color, what that is in Bobby Lou's hand, and whether or not you can see Auntie JuneBug's tattoo. (You can!)

For years now I've wanted to do a pencil portrait of them similar to the one I did of Husband's Brothers...

 but who has time?

Besides, this is how I usually see them given that we spend our vacations together.  And even when we don't get in much beach time - or, ahem!... when someone doesn't make it to the reunion - this is how they are indelibly imprinted on my mind.

Sometimes they actually make it into the water.


That would be Auntie-In-Law.  She can swim rings around the other Aunties - literally. 

She's as much a favorite as the others.  Besides swimming (and biking, kayaking, hiking, and visiting places on her ever-expanding bucket list) she usually hosts us in The Orange Room above her garage for a night or two each summer.  This privilege (for us) includes scrumptious homemade meals, homemade wine, computer expertise, poolside lounging and free psychological evaluation.

And this would be Auntie Faux.  She is Auntie M.'s best friend, and just like cubic zirconium, it's hard to tell the difference between her and the real thing.  Each year she and her family (which includes some very pampered four-legged Faux Cousins) camp with us.  Thanks to her, my Critters actually get to see an occasional vacation picture. (Note where the camera was last post...)

Besides vacationing together with the whole family, Husband's Sisters get together for occasional W.A.M. Weekends.  I would tell you what W.A.M. stands for, but, as Husband would say, then I'd have to kill you. 

I have only attended one of these due to distance.  As I remember, it was a lot of fun - dressing up, going out to dinner, sharing stories...

...but not as much fun as the last W.A.M. Weekend I heard about.  The evening started out much the same...

Then, thanks to Auntie-In-Law, a novelty cocktail was introduced...

Another pumpkin Martini anyone?

(There are two additional Aunties-In-Law who live "out of state":  Auntie M2 has only made the reunion a few times, but Auntie Real Live Poet hasn't even met most of the Critters (What a shame! Who's to blame?) as our vacations rarely coincide. Neither of them should, however, be lulled into thinking that they are above becoming blog fodder...)