Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Super Mom

One of the amazing things about being a parent, is that at times it makes you so much more than you ever thought you could be.
Just when you think you have loved and are loved as much as you possibly could be, you find the capacity for a little bit more. Just when you're sure you are completely out of patience, you take a deep breath and -- voila! -- there's just a little bit more.
Just when you think you've surpassed your squeemish and frightened level, you look at those little faces, and you suck it up and press on! And that is the point of my blogging tonight. I am quite chuffed with the way that I handled nature's little intrusion into our lives yesterday.
There I was, up to my elbows in peeled potatoes, when the little Princess called to her brother. "Come quick! I have something to show you!"
I was curious, but also relieved to think the small fry would be kept occupied until dinner was in the oven.
The little Prince came in with an update. "Gabby found half a snake in the door!"
To me, half a snake means a dead snake, which is twice as good as a live snake. But, I decided I should check this out for myself, so as to avoid having traumatized children later on.
The first report, as it so often occurs, was innacurate.
The snake half Max saw was still very much connected to the other half, and the whole thing was trying to wriggle itself out of the crack between the front and top of the threashold to the front door. While Max was retrieving me, Gabby had charmed the snake into a little mesh bug cage.
If the snake held still and could be stretched out, it would have probably been about the size of a new pencil. In fact, at first I thought it was an overgrown earthworm. But when it comes to snakes and me, size doesn't matter. All it had to do was move in that snakey way, all coily and springy, and icky, and my eeeewwww button was pushed.
The kids looked at me, eyes filled with wonder, surprise and excitement. This was adventure! Right on their doorstep! I reached deep inside myself and stifled the desire to scream "Kill it! Kill it! Chop it to bits!"
Instead we talked about why it was flicking its tongue out, how it had probably been sunning itself on the doorstep (Kill it!), and how it was probably afraid of us (Kill it!) and how we should put the cage down and not poke at it (Chop it to bits!).
We decided they could keep it (outside, duh) until Dad got home. Then they would all take it to the farthest reaches of the back yard to release it to the wild (where it will hopefully be eaten by a bird or chopped into bits by a lawn mower).
Then I went inside and did a heebie-jeebie dance like you would not believe. But as I danced, I hoped that my Marlin Perkins-esque brave front would rub off on my children and they would not be as creeped out by snakes as I am.
Because of them, I can be (if only for a moment) far more brave than I would have ever imagined.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Shot Over Old Navy's Bow

The struggle to stop dressing little girls like skanks continues.
I took the princess shopping for jeans today. Should be fairly easy, right? Yes, but only if I planned on setting her out on the street corner, instead of sending her to school.
The princess has a rather slim waist but regular-sized thighs and bottom, which makes finding jeans that fit half-way decent a bit tough anyway. Add to that the fact that I refuse to buy her pants that show off her pubic bone, and it become darn near impossible to find pants.
Sure, I had a pair of hand-me-down hip huggers (very cool) when I was probably close to her age. But they were hip huggers, not crotch huggers. And I knew girls who wore painted-on jeans in high school (not me, I like to breath and sit at the same time, thank you). And it was only their faces you saw turning blue.
I thought this whole "Look at me I'm a skank wearing lower than low low riders" fashion had run its course. If so, then the Midwest is truly light-years behind in fashion. This whole low-riders thing is just about the ugliest, most unforgiving fashion ever. It only looks decent on a handful of emaciated waifs. Everyone else -- normal sized, healthy girls -- end up looking like the Michelin Man when they squeeze into these unflattering pants, then top it off with the oh, so tasteful, tight, polyester t-shirt.
To paraphrase Scarlet O'Hara: As God is my witness, I will never set foot in Old Navy again. I wasn't too impressed with their three new categories of women's jeans to begin with. Something like "Skank", "Ho", and "You Don't Have to Pull Them Down, Just Slip In Over the Top."
Little girls have only two categories: The Darling (low rise) and The Girlfriend (classic fit). Although about 75% of their jeans were "darling," I managed to find a "girlfriend." To me, "classic" indicates that this would be about the rise that has been used for a long time.
Apparently to Old Navy, "classic" means within the last five years. I'd just like to know when "classic" came to mean three-inches below the navel.
I'll admit there is a chance this pair was mislabeled -- on the paper tag and the sewn-in tag. They certainly don't look that low in the picture on the web site. Then again, if they did, Old Navy would probably get busted for kiddie porn.
After four stores and nearly an hour and a half, we managed to leave the mall with two pairs of decent jeans. And I didn't kill any one.
Some people wonder why Islam, with all its restrictions and repressions is so attractive. It's simple.
There are no low-rise burhkas.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

LiveStrong Wimps Out

First of all, let me say I admire Lance Armstrong. He's an amazing athlete, and an incredible spokesperson for the fight against cancer. Him and his little yellow bracelet have probably done more to raise cancer awareness than just about anything else.
As a person who's family has been decimated by cancer I believe strongly that we need to find a cure for this horrible disease. I've lost my father, my sister, a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law, and at lease one friend to the rampaging killer. And my mother is a 36-year survivor of cancer.
Having explained my support for Super Lance, I must admit I was less than taken with his recent cancer forum for presidential candidate hopefuls in Cedar Rapids. For those of you not lucky enough to be from Eastern Iowa, let me explain. Lance invited candidates from both parties to discuss cancer, research, goverment's involvement, etc. on Aug. 27 and 28, in Cedar Rapids. Iowa's first in the nation caucus position does get us a lot of candidate face time every four years.
Only four of the bazillion Democratic candidates participated, which is still more than the two lonely Republicans who showed up. Among the reasons cited for the mediocre response were timeliness (cancer is not currently grabbing headlines), and the crowded campaign schedule.
But everyone is missing the obvious reason: what's there to discuss?
The forum was billed as an opportunity for candidates to outline their "policies to address America's #1 Killer." Was anyone surprised that these candidates, looking to drum up support, all said "spend more money on research." If so, they should be taken out and beaten.
They are in the middle of a campaign, for God's sake. They have one two answers to just about any question right now: "spend more money" and "form an exploratory committee." Increase in the number of left handed pole vaulters with athlete's foot on their big toe? Increase federal funding for research and treatment.
There's a part of me that wonders how much good increased funding will do. I'm sure there's new equipment to buy or labs to build, but who's going to do the research? Are there a plethora of researchers out there just sitting around doing nothing? Or are we going to buy the researchers away from researching muscular dystrophy, muscular sclerosis, autism, heart disease, AIDS, or any of the less-well publicized but no less deadly diseases?
I didn't attend the forum or even watch it on TV, what with recuperating, vacationing and all. My rant is based only on what I heard reported on the radio and read in the paper. However, I doubt that I would have been able to watch more than, oh, 30 seconds of this drivel before I made myself watch reality TV as a very painful penance.
While I admire Lance's dedication to keeping the spotlight on cancer, I can't help but think that any money spent to organize and run this joke of a forum could have been better spent on (all together now) funding cancer research.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


It was just another morning until the unexpectedly heavy pockets of gravity started popping up. I was dropping everything I put my hands on. Not too unusual for an early morning, except that it kept happening.
Then gravity seemed to loosen up, and suddenly little things like the refrigerator and the wall started bumping into me. But not just me -- the cake pan bumped into me, then ricocheted (there was little gravity to stop it) and bumped into my husband's, his Kingly-ness', bowl of oatmeal. Luckily gravity still had a tether on that.
His Royal Highness suggested that I sit down before I fell down. It sounded like a good idea to me, what with the funky gravity situation and all. Then I noticed my tiara seemed to be giving me a headache, and I thought I might have a little royal lay-down, anyway.
That plan was discarded, however, when I looked down the long hallway gauntlet. What
with the furniture moving around and all, I thought it prudent to take up the throne in the living room rather than risk falling over the royal banister and landing in the dungeon.
This was when things got weird. And lucky.
For this was when my husband, His Majesty, and forever here forward known as Protector of the Queen, had the good sense to call 911. For a while, I thought perhaps he was playing the jester when I heard him say something about "my wife, 41, having a stroke." It wasn't until he said "ambulance" that I realized something was seriously wrong.
With very little rhyme or reason -- no high blood pressure, smoking, excessive drinking, weight problems, etc. -- I had a stroke.
I was blessed, and very lucky. I had a wonderful, observant, calm and quick thinking husband who called for help right away. The doctors, nurses and technicians at Mercy Hospital were skilled, compassionate, and caring. Just short of a week later I was back home, hugging my wonderful little princess and prince. There have been no lasting side effects (as far as we know).
I've tried to keep a sense of humor about the whole situation, how could anyone tell the difference between my usual grace and coordination and my stroke-stricken weaving and bobbing?
But deep down it still scares the bejezus out of me. I wanted to be more humorous about the situation, because there has been plenty of funny times. It just escapes me now.
One friend today said that when her mother had a stroke they began working right away to practice all the skills she used. They were more concerned with walking, talking and using her hands. Those are all skills or abilities that, thank God, I did not have any changes in (I'm still as coordinated as ever -- no more, no less).
I wondered about writing, the whole thinking process, finding just the right words to express just the right ideas. How best to practice that? Well, try writing something. So, here it is. Not exactly what I wanted or expected, but something.
And I'll keep trying.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I spoke with the Queen Mother this morning, as I do every morning, and I answered the same questions I answer every morning. QM has a bit of a dementia thing going on, but most people probably wouldn't notice. It's only when she asks about things that she really should know, or that I know I've told her recently, that it catches me off guard.
For example, this morning she asked how old my children -- the little princess and prince -- are. For the record, they are 9 and 6, the same as they have been for the past five days when QM has asked. And there is three-years difference in their ages, just like there has been for the past week.
On the other hand, she told me she was looking forward to getting a perm today. She has had this on her schedule for about two weeks, and has reminded me of it nearly every day. I even verified it when I made a deposit to her personal account at the nursing home just to cover the cost. I suppose tomorrow, and every day for the next week, I can look forward to hearing that she has had her perm (and that they need to be more careful when they give her a shower).
The QM has been in and out of the nursing home for about four years now. She has lost strength in her legs and has fallen a couple times. For the last 10 months she has been pretty much confined to a wheelchair, walking only during physical therapy sessions or on supervised walks from her room to the dining room.
The last time she was "on parole" and living alone in her home, I happened to run into an acquaintance who worked at the nursing home. "It's so nice your mom was able to go home," the young woman said. "She really didn't belong at the nursing home. She's so with it."
I didn't know what to say. One of the last times I visited QM (that time), she was holding court, telling a group of aides (this one included) about a trip my brother was taking. It sounded great, it all made sense, it was completely plausible.
It was also about 90% inaccurate. The basics were correct, and most of what she said had happened at one time or another, or was going to happen. But somehow when she put it all together, well, she put it all together.
So, where does that leave us now? Well, the QM will probably be just fine for a couple of weeks. She will know exactly what's going on at the nursing home, she'll remember how old the kids are, maybe even remember they'll be starting fourth grade and first grade later this month. She won't remember it's my brother's birthday next week, but then, neither would I if I didn't have it on my calendar.
And I'll start thinking she's got it all together again, she's really with it this time. I may even think that if she didn't really need that wheelchair to get around, she probably wouldn't need to be in the nursing home.
Then -- BAM -- she'll ask me what my middle name is (the same as her first name), or ask me if I ever was a teacher (up until five years ago), or when her birthday is. All of these are questions she's asked me before. And I'll be speechless with surprised that she doesn't remember.
And part of the surprise will be that I've forgotten that she doesn't remember.
And I'll wonder, which one of us has the dementia?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Back to School Shopping

What could be more fun that going back to school shopping with your kids? I don't know, maybe gouging your eyes out with a blunt instrument?
Actually, my little angels were pretty good when we hit the mall a couple days ago. At least they seemed well behaved compared to some of the little hellions around us. This may have been due to the fact that I had carefully and calmly explained every little detail of our outing. I also warned them (and reminded myself) it would be crowded, noisy and unpleasant. And of course, I threatened that if they misbehaved I would make poster-sized prints of their naked baby pictures and plaster them all over the school.
Iowa has a "tax-free holiday" shopping weekend, suspending taxes on a very specific list of clothing for two days. This ensures that the stores will be teeming with tired, cranky parents with a specific budget in mind arguing with their tired, cranky kids with specific fashion desires. Luckily my kids are young enough that I can bend their fashion desires to my will (and pocketbook) with little opposition.
That is not to say that we always agree. For instance, they had the kah-utest! plaid capris at that find French department store, Tar-jay. I was oohing and awing over them for our 9-year-old daughter, thinking that maybe our sock and underwear budget could be stretched to cover one more outfit.
"Oh, aren't those just too cute?" I asked the Princess.
"Uh," she replied, hesitating to miss an opportunity to be fiscally irresponsible, "not really."
I plunged ahead, ignoring the Elvis-worthy sneer and dismissive tone of voice. "But that plaid is sooo adorable," I gushed. "And it comes in purple."
"Yeah, I just don't really like plaid," she said.
Doesn't like plaid? Doesn't like plaid? I did a memory scan of the entire birthing experience, wondering when my genetically-predisposed-to-like-plaid-child had been switched at the hospital. Nope, must have been when she was kidnapped by aliens.
Doesn't like plaid? And now, when she has a skinny little butt and can wear plaid without looking like a couch. Somehow stripes going in two different directions seem to have a 3-D effect on my butt, and God knows, it doesn't need that kind of... enhancement.
I sighed wistfully and steered the cart past the displays of cheeta-liscious outfits, and the low-rise lounge pants with "hottie" spelled out on the butt. Excuse me? I am not dressing my 9-year-old like a skank, even if that means breaking her little fashionista heart.
Oh, I know, the real battles are yet to come. But if she wants to wear a teeny-tiny, microscopic mini when she's in high school, I just might say yes.
Especially if it's plaid.

Friday, August 3, 2007

My First Blog

This is it. I've decided to take the plunge. After five years of writer's block, I'm doing something constructive. Or productive. Or, well, at least I'm doing something, darn it.
I quit my job as a high school English and speech teacher about five years ago so that I could concentrate on writing the great American novel and raising our two children. All you stay-at-home parents out there realize the folly in thinking there is any free-time involved with that particular job. Yeah, I know, "excuses, excuses," but it's true. At first any extra time was gobbled up painting and decorating the home we just moved into (quit job, move into new house... sounded good at the time), along with getting our oldest into preschool.
Then my elderly mother started having problems -- medical and memory -- and I expanded my taxi service to include her trips as well as my kids'. Of course, she still lived in the town we had just moved out of. Tack on an extra 30-min. round trip on those excursions. (Yeah, I know, "cry me a river." Well, it's my bloggy and I'll cry if I want to.)
So, bingo-bango-bongo, here we are 5 years later. Mom's been in a nursing home for about 10 months now, so the worries are less, even if the visits aren't. Our kids will be starting first grade and fourth grade in about 10 days (Woo Hoo). And I'm thinking maybe, just maybe, I'll find the time to get some writing done.
Hey, I got this done, right?

OK, so the name, Sandwich Mom on Wry. I'm going for a little label humor here. Those of us taking care of both our children and our parents are often called "the sandwich generation." And "wry" -- get it? Sandwich, rye bread, "wry" humor. Oh yeah, I'm all about the puns.