The Fog…

…comes in on little cat feet  like a fire inside of the dishwasher at 3:30 in the morning.  Not only is that a great simile, it’s true. It actually happened.  At 3:30 in the morning.  

I awoke from a lovely slumber one very early morning recently, and noticed an odd scent.  Blaming the open windows I turned my pillow over to the cool side, ready for sleep to take hold again.  But it refused to take hold; it just sat there on it’s haunches, watching over me, willing me to notice that odd scent. Was it stronger? Maybe. Maybe just a little. Was somebody burning tires?  Who is burning tires and how dare they ruin my sleep?!! I reluctantly shuffled over to the windows, sniffed, and decided that since the scent wasn’t stronger, the wind must be sweeping it magically away from the window, making it less pungent the closer I got. Satisfied that some complicated formula of physics was at work, I went back to bed.  I rested my eyes for 20 seconds, and then both of them flung wide open as it hit me: It’s coming from inside the house.  No sooner had the thought completed a full circuit through my suddenly hyper-sensitive synapses, I was out of bed and tripping over the dog, thinking Oh my God Sophie left the hot glue gun on and our insurance rates are going to kill us. After my husband kills us. But first I’m going to kill her. After I know she’s okay.

But it wasn’t the hot glue gun. It wasn’t the curling iron (my adorable daughter has lovely curly hair…why do we have this thing anyway?) It wasn’t anything in any of the bedrooms. I checked all three, efficiently and somewhat panic stricken. The fact that there was nothing almost made it worse.  Everything is worse at 3:30 in the morning.

I not-so-gracefully dashed down the stairway.  The stove. I must have left the stove on! I must have left the stove on, with a pot and the pot is burning and how am I going to explain this to the fire department?  Oh God am I going to have to call them?! Do they keep a list of bad moms who let their children have their own hot glue guns and leave the stove on?  Now our insurance rates are really going to kill us. And everyone knows insurance keeps tighter tabs on us than God does.

A voice inside my head was trying to get through it’s own fog…stop drop and roll! Stop drop and ROLL!! Or wait, didn’t they change that? Wasn’t it just stop and drop now?  How can you be stopped, and be expected to roll, anyway?  Thank God I know CPR. Oh wait, do I?  How does that go again…one breath, two compressions? Maybe it’s compressions first, then a breath. Or did they change that? One finger up from the sternum…or is that only for infants?  For crying out loud, they can’t even keep the Food Pyramid consistent for more than a decade at a time. Who put these people in charge, anyway? 

The mystery intensified.  I stood in my kitchen, trying to locate the source of the awful burning smell.  Stove was off, oven was off, there was no hunk of smoldering stainless steel glaring at me. Thank God for that – once was enough (different fire, different house…a story for another time).  But there was this misty sort of quietly swirling fog, and  I stood there, slowly turning and weaving like a human divining rod with puffy eyes, until I faced the dishwasher. I stopped.  I stared at it.  It stared back. I blinked.  It didn’t. It seemed to say ‘I’m fine. Open me. Go ahead. You know you want to.’  So I did.

smoke

The fog came in, and came in hot and smelly and oily.  Something had happened in there- it was a pile of melted plastic, scorched sprayer arms and unrecognizable dishware.  Pieces were melted onto other pieces like a badly done counterfeit Picasso, the kind that are almost impressive in their awfulness. Mystery solved. There had been a fire inside of the dishwasher. I closed it, not quite believing my eyes.  I opened it again. Still a mess. I struggled momentarily: do I close it and contain it?  Or do I leave it open and hope it cools down faster?

Now, though… now came the really hard part. The clock said 3:39 a.m.  Do I call my husband? What do I say? Who wants to get a phone call from home at 3:39 in the morning when they are hundreds of miles away?  I reached for the phone. I dialed. I cancelled the call and put the phone back.  I repeated this pathetic demonstration of my inability to make a decision three more times.  Well, okay, four more times, but the fourth time I didn’t actually dial (do people ‘dial’ anymore? Why do we say that? We don’t ‘dial’. We press. But ‘dialing’ sounds so much more substantial) so that doesn’t completely count.

Ultimately I did call, and instead of hearing a concerned 3:39 in the morning voice, I heard…voicemail.  I was both annoyed and relieved that I could just leave a nice little message, ‘Oh hi, it’s just me…everything’sfine,thereissomethingweirdwiththedishwasher andI’mwonderinghowtodisconnectitbuteverythingisfine, talktoyoulaterbye’ as if saying it really fast somehow made it less of an issue.  I instantly regretted making the call, feeling silly;  there was nothing he could do about it anyway, why wake him up…and wondered a bit angrily why there wasn’t ‘unsend’ for voicemail, we have technology for everything else, they’ve even got the clouds mixed up in it now for Pete’s sake…if it wasn’t a big deal, why was I calling? And wait a minute…it’s 3:39 in the morning and I’m calling…how can you be sleeping while I am having an non-crisis here, one that I am perfectly capable of dealing with?!  Do you know what mental anguish I have gone through just to complete this call?!  But that is okay, because I can handle this.  I was really just informing you of the situation. Do not help me!  How dare you not help me?!  Wow, I must be a pain to live with. I wonder if it’s noticeable? Probably not. 

Besides, what was he going to do about it anyway? My thoughts wandered into the past, to another incident that also involved a fire…in a previous home, the gas fireplace had gone bananas, flames leaping to the ceiling.  That time I did end up calling the fire department, and in an eerie coincidence, my husband was hundreds of miles away and had said ‘Well, I guess you’d better call the fire department’ when I had called. Which was both annoying and rational. Maybe it was annoying because it was rational.  The thing I remember most about that was not the fire, but when prospective buyers asked me, ‘so, have you had any trouble with the fireplace?’ Maybe they worked for an insurance company.

After a couple of weeks of handwashing dishes (oh, the horror!), my new dishwasher arrived.  I had hoped the installer, a super nice guy who looked alot like Randy Quaid on a bad day,  would not bother looking inside of the old one, but he did. Maybe he was just curious…after all, the thing looked brand new on the outside.  All he said was, ‘Hmmm. Looks like you had a meltdown in there”, which was fine by me, because the statement/observation was devoid of any judgement whatsoever, and that is exactly what I was after. Please don’t judge me.  Please don’t tell me I must have done something, it had to have been my fault, this never happens…please just tell me you see this all time, it’s the most common thing ever, and if you only had a nickel for every time… wait a minute, are you judging me with your non-judgement?

It is no secret that I am not good with appliances.  I don’t even have to touch them, and bad things happen.  The Crock-Pot became a Crack-Pot just the other week, splitting down the middle, around the bottom, leaking barbeque sauce abundantly inside of the heating base (I was wondering why my barbeque chicken was smelling extra delicious);  the washing machine, which had at first needed only a good pound on the lower left corner of the lid to get it going, but which suddenly required me to lift the entire back end of the machine off the floor, before letting it drop hard (but not too hard) back onto the floor in order for it to commence it’s job, decided that even that wasn’t enough anymore.  A few months before, the dryer began to randomly threaten to light itself on fire. This latest fiasco with the dishwasher really didn’t surprise me.  It seems to have surprised the poor souls that are forced to live with me even less. It’s more of a form of entertainment, sad as that is.

So yes, there seems to be a pattern of incidents involving fire sprinkled throughout our history of home ownership.  Most people remember their houses by an address, or maybe the color, or the geography…for us, it’s the details of the fire.  Not ‘if’ a fire had happened, because, well, it would appear that a fire has happened in every single home we have owned; no, it’s more of a question of the quality and location of the fire.

I am happy to report that the new dishwasher is doing just great;  it’s some newfangled contraption that has more options than Adobe has updates. Better yet, I did not have to involve the insurance company at all and nobody killed anybody – a major plus in my book. There was a close call just yesterday morning, when, as I was unloading it, I held up a particularly odd coffee cup for my oldest daughter to see, saying ‘Wow, look at this, I put it through the dishwasher and it is crystal clear and  didn’t even break!’ and just then that same coffee cup jumped out of my hand and shattered in a million pieces, mostly inside the dishwasher.

 

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Romance Is A Strangled Robot

I think my insurance company wants to bump me off.  It is true that I have had some hefty medical expenses, with more to come I’m sure, but when I received their helpful brochure titled ‘Take the Worry Out of Your End-of-Life Care’ I felt, well, worried.  At first I was just a little irritated;  why must they insert themselves into every inch of my life?  Why can’t they just pay what they are supposed to pay and leave me the heck alone the rest of the time? How much money do they waste printing up this stuff and mailing it out?”

That mild irritation quickly morphed into concern, and then a real, deep, heart-wrenching worry:  ‘End -of -life’?  Wait, what?  What is this, ‘Logan’s Run’ all over again?  I know I have a condition (and apparently they know it, too), but the doctor said it’s treatable,  I’ll be fine…do they know something I don’t?  Do they possess medical expertise that my doctors don’t? Oh my God, did I choose the wrong doctors? What if they missed something?  Then: “Oh my God…my doctors are incompetent AND they are lying to me. I’m dying.  What should I do?  Should I pack a bag? “

All because a giant corporation sent a brochure.  It is interesting to me how fickle my trust is.  My trust, which had rested securely with an excellent team of specialists, jumped right out of their arms and into the dark world of insurance with nary a backward glance.

I was reminded of this event because the caring people at Premiums R Us Insurance called me today.  More accurately, their caring robot called me today, and then put me through to Brittany, who sounded all of twelve years old and was ready to inform me of my ‘choices’ regarding my very own health and the care of said health.  Unfortunately for Brittany, she made the mistake of asking me for identifying information.  Which would have been fine, had I been the one calling them.  But they were calling me.  I reminded Brittany of this, in my favorite motherly-with-a-dash-of-condescension tone.  “We have to know who you are before we can give you the information”, she informed me, in her favorite ‘I’m-the- insurance-company-so-you-will-do-as-your-told-and-I-will-pretend-to-care’ voice.  I decided to risk it all by asking her, “How do I know you are who you say you are? You called me, remember? You could be anyone trying to steal my vast fortune”.  She didn’t laugh. She probably knew I have no vast fortune because she knew how high our premiums and co-pays and co-insurance and deductibles (separate deductible for prescriptions, of course) are.

She went on to inform me that she was with the ‘Informed Choices’ division and that she was calling to ‘help me with my upcoming appointment’. It didn’t really matter much that I didn’t ask for help and I didn’t need help and I didn’t want help.  After a little digging around in the form of asking Brittany some difficult questions, the answers to which were not in her script, I surmised that ‘Informed Choice’ is code for ‘we want you to go to this cheaper facility for your procedure, even though the one your doctor prefers is covered.  This will make it more difficult for you to reach your deductibles, thereby allowing us to pay less. We are willing to lie to you to make this happen. Don’t worry, Back Alley Bob is in our network so you can relax’.  This really frosts me – not so much the heartless money grabbing (it is a marriage of insurance and government, after all); no, it’s the charade of ‘caring’ and ‘this will save you money’ that I really find disturbing when in fact there is no care and any money saved will be theirs. The fact that these conglomerates and the people that work for them know  my diagnosis  and continue to play this game is heartbreaking to me. It’s as if I (and others) are of so little value that this sort of sanctioned lying is somehow socially acceptable.

The robot called back later in the day to ‘ask about my experience with my earlier call’ according to my husband. I think it’s entirely romantic that my husband is willing and downright eager to throttle a robot in my defense.  They, of course, already know my experience because ‘all calls are recorded to cover our backsides. I mean, for quality assurance’. Still, I hope they call back.  I have a great idea for how they can save tons and tons of money.  Maybe even millions.  All they need to do is dismantle the Informed Choice division. Boom. Done. Millions saved all around.

Shortly after my encounter with Brittany, I had a pang of remorse.  Would I forever be flagged as a ‘problem patient’?  I imagined Brittany typing curtly into her omnipotent computer, ‘patient is a rude b****.  Withhold payment of claims immediately.‘  I mentioned to my husband that I probably got myself flagged as a ‘rude b****’.  He consoled me with, “but honey, at least you’re MY rude b****”, which is a line that has probably never appeared anywhere, yet should be in every Jennifer Aniston movie ever made.  Chivalry is NOT dead, I tell you!

 I think it’s entirely romantic that my husband is willing and downright eager to throttle a robot in my defense.

It’s high time I got my relaxing-yet-fun-filled days at the beach as well.  That is what all of these insurance companies show, isn’t it?  People holding hands, walking along the beach, smiling contentedly among the three, maybe four, generations of their perfect stock-photo families. Something like this:

Or this:

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Or,even worse, this:

 

expat-older-couple-on-beach

So, where is it?  Where is my care-free, health-filled life on the beach?  Of course we know that these are just stock photos used to make us think and feel a certain way.  Do people really do this?  Do they even know how hard it is to walk next to someone when they have their arm around your neck?  And heck, it’s the middle of April in the Midwest, there is no way I’m putting on anything gauzy and white.  Isn’t gauze hand-wash only? Why do these people always have white on? 

Just to assuage any concern or worry that you, my dear readers, might have, my diagnosis is not terribly horrific.  A subtle swelling I had on the side of my neck, that everyone assured me was ‘nothing’, turned out to be non-Hodgkins lymphoma, of the indolent variety, after being excised and biopsied by a surgeon who was willing to balance performing potentially unnecessary surgery versus missing a potentially deadly disease. Luckily for me, after much protest, my caring insurance company ‘allowed’ the procedure, bless their hearts. There were several subsequent procedures that they allowed as well, but only after interrogating my specialists with questions like ‘is she having a problem?’.  The lovely Jane at my oncologists’ office, whose job it is to deal with people like this all day long, tells me that she scolded the person who asked her that question, ‘Well yes she is having a problem, she has cancer for crying out loud’.  I love Jane and her touch of East Coast accent.

As it turns out, I don’t need the Informed Choice division at all.  I have Jane.  She schedules all of my procedures.  She gets all of my insurance approvals.  She keeps track of my appointments.  She even gives me printouts of lab work and sends me hard copies of various results in the mail and email.  I have never once had to ask for anything…she just does it.  And when I call her for the fourth time in the same day, she never ever groans or sighs…all she wants to know is what she can do for me. She doesn’t use a robot to carefully ration her time and resources out to patients.

Okay, Informed Choice.  I choose Jane. Please go away now.

But first, call me again so I can demand your identifying information and give you a piece of my mind.

 

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“My Petronus is a Sloth”

I have accidentally become Harry Potter-literate.  It happened the instant the bad guy was revealed to be the good guy.  My feelings toward Professor Snape reversed in a matter of seconds, leaving me emotionally bruised and bludgeoned. Of course this was late in the game, so I had to work backwards in the books to find what exactly had happened, when, to whom, and for the love of God, why?  As a result, I absorbed quite a lot of vocabulary.

Until that moment, I really had very little interest in the series.  But in that fraction of a second, when Harry saw Snape’s past, everything changed.   My children looked at me with concern when, while watching the final installment of the Harry Potter movies, I gasped sharply,  “What?! Wait, what?! OH MY GOSH! WHAT?! ”  This outburst was even more robust than the time when I literally leapt from my seat, fists raised to the Heavens, as the 10th Doctor was saved by the Tardis at the very last possible nanosecond: “YESSSS! I KNEW the Tardis would be there! Thank God!” then being reduced to a quivering pile of tears when he was forced to send Rose to the other dimension. “NOOOOOOOO! Why?! No no no no!!!”   These people exhaust me.

There are a handful of shows that I am attached to.  Luckily for me, and those who have to live with me,  the seasons are staggered, so that I am not left all alone, lying awake at night worrying about  Carrie or Quin or Ray or Gemma or Jax or Vic.  I don’t need to lose sleep over Doug Stamper’s sinister plans or Tom’s intentions with Claire, or vice versa.  I don’t need to ponder and fret over how on Earth Chuck and Wendy Rhoades are going to keep their marriage intact with Bobby Axelrod between them. And now, Moulder and Scully are impossibly back, and I don’t know what to do with that.  One evening, early in my series-watching phase, as I prepared myself for an emotionally trying episode of Dexter, my husband said, ‘It’s not on, remember? The season ended last week’.  I stood up. I might have backed away slightly. What are these words you are speaking? Dexter needs me! Debra needs me!  I remember feeling slightly disturbed by the deep sense of disappointment I felt, considering how I am really not a T.V. watcher.  Except for a  handful of shows that I have gotten sucked into. Accidentally. Why do I root for Ray Donovan?  He’s worse than his foes. Why did I root for Dexter? Or Tony Soprano? Or Walter White?  All of them as bad, or worse than, their foes. And Jimmy McGill!  What a relief that he finally got out of Davis and Main.  That place was killing his spirit.

My daughters enjoy Harry Potter and seem to have the stamina for it, so I was not all that surprised when the lingo of the wizard world began dotting our daily life. I will admit that I have at times felt the teeniest bit proud for understanding said lingo, and being the desperate homeschooling mom that I am, I decided to put some of this Harry Potter stuff to good use by shamelessly turning everything I could into ‘teachable moments’.  ‘Teachable moments’ would be my children’s key to a lifelong love of learning. It says so in parenting magazines and homeschooling blogs written by experts who have never parented or homeschooled a day in their lives. Academically, however, it looked like a beautiful concept.

I must confess, in the past I have gone somewhat overboard with the ‘teachable moments’.  There was a short time, from approximately 2005 until last Tuesday, when everything was a ‘teachable moment’. Everything. Tying shoes became a convoluted lesson in aglets and the physiology of the human hand, with an emphasis on the thumb and it’s adjoining network of tendons. My children began to hide from me.

There was a day not so long ago when I pounced upon the all-important ‘teachable moment’, the subject of which I forget;  the words ‘honey, let’s look closer at this’ had barely left my lips, and my 11 year old daughter threw herself face-down onto the carpeted floor in the upstairs hall, dramatically kicking her sneakered feet, hands over her pretty newly-pierced ears.  A muffled scream drifted upwards, and a tormented voice implored  “Noooooo! The knowledge! Get it off! It burns!”

I would have to be more stealthy in my well-intentioned attempts to give my children the ‘key to a lifetime love of learning’.  Enter Harry Potter.

After breathlessly witnessing Professor Snape’s petronus, a lovely Silver Doe, scamper away, I thought it would be ever so fun to incorporate the idea of spirit animals into our creative writing lessons.  First, I dabbed a stray tear or two from my eyes while pondering the deeper significance of Snape’s petronus being exactly the same as Lily Potter’s.  Then I gave an assignment: ‘My Petronus Is A _____‘.   All 3 of my kids typically work independently, so I was not surprised when the house was quiet.  I could almost feel the creativity flowing through the air.  I inwardly patted myself on the back for grasping such an engaging and meaningful ‘teachable moment’.

Time passed.  I finally couldn’t resist the urge to go upstairs and interrupt what must be furious and inspired writing.

My son was happily engrossed in some sort of electronic device or three, headphones snugly protecting his skull from any outside interference. I picked up his paper on which was scrawled one scant paragraph. It wasn’t even indented. I sighed and turned back into the hallway, ready to see what my uber-creative daughter had come up with, hoping the paragraph was at least indented.

Obviously drained from the  mentally taxing writing experience, she was adorably asleep, surrounded by electronic devices and stuffed animals.  I gently jiggled her awake, and asked what had happened with her assignment.  She scowled and turned away from me, snuggling deeper into the covers.  I jiggled her again, not quite as gently this time, and told her that she shouldn’t be sleeping if her assignment wasn’t finished, or worse, not even started! What had she been doing all this time? Had she been sleeping all this time?  How was she ever going to find the ‘key to a lifelong love of learning’ if she was sleeping?  I worried that I had been premature in my feelings of success earlier.  This was not what I had in mind; this wasn’t even remotely close to educational success! They were doomed. All three of my children were doomed and it was all my fault.

I heard a mumble from somewhere deep in the pillows.  “What was that, Sophie?  I couldn’t hear you”, I said, with sort of a defeated sigh, from my spot in the doorway. The muffled voice was less cottony this time, and I had to laugh just a little bit.

“It’s okay, mommy.  My petronus is a sloth.It’s going to take a very long time to write my assignment.”

Well played, Sophie. Well played.

 

 

 

 

There’s An Ax For That

‘Smart’.  That is the word now, the buzz, the marketing of technology and all of the things we must have if we want to be thought of as ‘smart’. How could we not want ‘smart’? How could we allow ourselves not to be worth all ‘smart’ has to offer?

Not wise; not learned; not educated; not scholarly. Just ‘smart’. Snappy and sharp, just right for a modern society that can’t be bothered with more than one syllable at a time.

When we first moved into our current abode, it was not ‘smart’.  I was fine with that. I am not exactly keen on the idea of my toaster knowing more about my blood sugar levels than I do.  I don’t need the refrigerator getting flirty with my husband. I’ve heard Siri in the car and she needs to just back off.

My husband has a ‘smart’ car. It has this terrifying piece of technology that will make the car go faster or slower depending on what the car in front of it is doing. All by itself. It is also supposed to stop if the car in front of it stops. This is supposed to make it safer.

I had a ‘smart’ vacuum cleaner.  Not one of those adorable little round nubs that wander aimlessly around the house, discreetly not doing it’s singular job.  I could do that myself. No, this was a regular-looking vacuum that was supposed to ‘sense’ when it was gobbling up something it wasn’t supposed to.  In hindsight that sort of technology would have been more helpful to me in the form of a chip inserted into the brains of my children when they were small (and sometimes even now, judging by the things my 14 year old son seems to think are edible or at least taste-worthy).  The dog could benefit as well.

Now, I am not exactly what you would describe as a  ‘dress’ person.  I’ve tried to be a ‘dress’ person. I have tried to be the sophisticated, stylish mom who wears a pretty dress and lip gloss even when she doesn’t have to to go somewhere. These episodes are usually short-lived; an hour or two at most, or until I have to do something ordinary, like anything between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

There was a particular day last summer when my stamina kicked into high gear, and I was able to pretend that I really was that stylish super-mom in the maxi dress for almost an entire morning.  True, I sacrificed doing a few things; walking the dog, or really doing anything with the dog; working at my desk (I kept rolling over the hem of my dress with my chair and became trapped more than once); doing anything outside; doing anything inside; or generally moving around.

As I walked carefully past the stairway, consciously ignoring how completely uncomfortable I was in this maxi dress, I decided that I could handle a quick vacuum of the stairs with this fabulous ‘smart’ vacuum cleaner. I could be stylish AND capable.

Everything was going swimmingly for the first few stairs.  But then, at about the same time the vacuum cleaner began to sound quite unhappy, I felt an odd squeezing sensation around my legs.  It was like being hugged with fabric, only the fabric was moving.  I hardly noticed the odd scent of burning vacuum parts as my stylish death trap became tighter and tighter.  By the time the penny dropped, half of my dress was inside of that vacuum cleaner, and the spinning brush underneath was up against my backside, and not in a good way.  There I was, half a maxi dress short and trapped on the stairs by my ‘smart’ vacuum cleaner which was now giving off an angry odor and refusing to return the other half of my dress to me.

So, when it was time for a new furnace and my husband told me how it was going to be this fantastic ‘smart’ heating and cooling system, I was not enthusiastic. When he suggested  it would be a good idea to have a ‘smart’ doorbell, I was not enthusiastic. I don’t need ‘smart’ for those sorts of things.  I need ‘smart’ for every day, ordinary things, like getting into the house that I’ve locked myself out of.

A few days after we moved into our happily un-smart home, I locked myself out of it.  I was able to get into the garage, but not into the door. I tried lots of things. I tried drilling random holes into the area around the jamb. I tried dragging the extension ladder around the back to see if I could get in through an open upstairs window. Not only did it take forever to get it back there, it was a sweltering August day and after several sweaty attempts, I had to surrender.  It was just too big and heavy for me to get up to the window. Maybe there was an ‘app for that’ but my smart phone, which would have had such an app, was locked inside the same house that I was locked out of.  If it was so smart it would have jumped off the table and into my purse before I left.

About to give up and resign myself to living in the garage with 3 small children until my husband got home from his trip in 4 days, my eye spied a glimmer of hope in the form of a big, beautiful ax.

It took a few tries, but that ax got us inside the house. ‘Stand back kids, Mommy’s got an ax” isn’t something one gets to say every day. Chopping our way into the house was loads more fun than explaining to my husband what had happened to the door.  Heaving that ax at a steel slab of door was so much more gratifying than gently clicking an icon on a screen. The children were so impressed with my ax wielding technique and my super-human ability to save them from the wild and unforgiving wasteland of the garage, that the moment we got into the comforting embrace of the house, they asked in that sing-song way children have,  “can we go play in the garage?”

My husband has a special bond with technology. He does not understand how I can be perfectly happy writing my grocery list on a piece of paper with a (gasp) pen.  He tells me ‘there’s an app for that’ right on my phone, where I can enter my list right there.  In the time it takes to find the app, open it up, get stuff entered on the tiny keyboard, save it somewhere, and hope to be able to retrieve it once in the grocery store, my list is written neatly on paper with zero autocorrect corrections and I am halfway home from the store.

He recently brought up the idea of installing a ‘smart’ security system for the house, presumably to save me from my own house-unlocking tactics, or maybe to save himself from having to replace doors and locks and knobs.  I told him I didn’t really think we needed such a ‘smart’ house.  That ax hasn’t failed me yet,  and I will never have to worry about upgrades or security holes or viruses. If the power goes out, my ax will be there.  If the grid goes down, my ax will work just fine. If the wi-fi wobbles or the Internet hiccups, there will be my ax, ready for anything. My ax will never require the protections of a Faraday cage.  My husband keeps telling me that there is an app for that. If we got this ‘smart’ system, there is an app that comes with it for getting into your  locked house. As long as you have your smart phone with you, and it’s charged, and you can find the app, and remember the password.

No thanks honey.  I have an ax for that.

 

 

 

Is There Spaghetti in Heaven?

Hello and thank you for stopping by!  If you did not arrive here accidentally, you are truly a brave soul.

Does the information ever stop? Ever?

As a homeschooling mom, I am the lucky recipient of much advice from many sources; of course this has its benefits, but the sheer volume of everything can be overwhelming and can deviously overshadow the simple goals that  most of us have for our children…whether we home educate or not.  It’s easy to forget that our children are going to be okay whether we are the seasoned homeschooling parent or the new one, the family who attends public school, the family that employs a private tutor, or those that prefer private schools, faith-based private or charter schools.  Our goals are not that different, it’s just that we choose  different roads to get there. One is not always better than the other. Even one that is perfect right now, might not be perfect next year.

There is no universal ‘perfect’ anything, except maybe in geometry.  We each have our own perfect, and I often wonder if it is one of those elusive things that we will not be able to see clearly until we are looking back. Instead of two roads diverging into a yellow wood, we might have three. Or four. Or nine. We may even find ourselves clearing the way ourselves, testing ourselves in uncharted territory- much like Lewis & Clark bumbling through half the country and then tackling the Rockies just for kicks. Much like me, staring blankly at my oldest child’s calculus, hoping for a glimmer of . It seems that we are all travelers. I am sure I am not the first to wonder if the roads less traveled make all the difference?  Or is it that the roads not taken make all the difference?

In a probably misguided effort to take the road less traveled, I decided it would be a great idea to expose my children to the ‘ancient’ arts, and so I have been sharing with them stories of  the great philosophers and theatricals:  Euripides, Socrates, Aristotle, Archimedes, Hypatia, Sophocles.  I have been fortunate in that I have been able to anchor history, geography and philosophy with excellent resources and a seemingly bottomless internet (which has it’s own pitfalls).  I wonder though…do I want this for them, so that they can have something beyond the usual? Or do I want it for me, so that I can say that they have something beyond the usual? Is their education simply a reflection on me? If I ask enough unanswerable questions, does that make me a philosopher? Or just annoying? An annoying philosopher, perhaps?

After a few bite-size lessons on a few of the better-known philosophers, I instructed  my 5th and 8th graders to come up with what they felt was a philosophical question of their own. There were only three rules: 1. it couldn’t be one of the famous ones; 2. it had to have meaning to them personally and 3. it should not have an immediate or easily found answer. Whatever the question, there should be at least a little bit of pretzel-brain involved. No trees falling in a forest, thank you very much.

Throughout history, important questions have been posed. Deep, thought provoking philosophical questions are sprinkled across time like dandelions on my spring lawn. Aristotle asked, ‘What is virtue?”. Plato asked ‘How is truth possible?”. Haddaway, Tina Turner and the Bee Gees asked “What is love? What’s love got to do with it? and How deep is your love?” respectively.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the more ‘philosophical’ a question is, the least likely there is to be a clear answer and the more likely there is to be mental turmoil.  I imagine an ancient Greek stage, a bearded Sophocles forlorn and melancholy in a robed puddle, soulfully asking “Do you know where you’re going to? do you like the things that life is showing you?”

We all know kids ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. It’s their job. As parents (and educators) we are supposed to encourage it without the help of a good stiff bourbon.

The question that my youngest asked was not ‘where does space end’, or even ‘what went wrong with the platypus’.

It was:

“Is there spaghetti in Heaven?”

Interesting, I thought to myself (right after inwardly gloating ‘adorable! My child is SO adorable! I’ll be redeeming those Mom points now, thank you’).

The question was adorable, but it also met all three of the requirements. We checked, and could find no mention of spaghetti in any known works of the ancient Roman or Greek philosophers. A brief look at modern-day thinkers like Thoreau, Rand…even Kripke, turned up nary a mention of spaghetti or it’s parts or the sum thereof.

So now, we forge a trail off the path which was off the road. When was spaghetti invented? By whom? Was it accidental? What was it like? When did jars of sauce first appear? What about the machines in the factories? Who invented glass? Are there different kinds of glass for different things? What about tomatoes? Who decided they would be good to eat? Are there different kinds for different things? What about the pasta? What is the difference between pasta and noodles? And on and on and on and on some more.

I am thankful that we can do this. We can go down the trails, we can go into detail, we can spend as much time as we want on what interests us, and we can cover geography, history, math, science, agriculture, nutrition, economics, theater…on spaghetti.

How awesome! How fantastic! Yes, the possibilities are awesome and fantastic. But they are wildly limitless as well, and it can be tricky knowing where to stop. Exhausting, even.  I don’t want to look back and say “Oh gee oops. We went into such great detail on the history and science of spaghetti that we completely forgot about the Opium Wars and pretty much the rest of the civilized world, although we did take note of that flock of seagulls in the 1980’s”.  I remember having an unusual discussion with one of the kids about history, and how there is just so much of it and so many kinds of it.  A person could spend a lifetime studying one battle of one war.  What was history class like in 5000 B.C.? Was there any history? Or was it just, you know, ‘his story’? For that matter, what was math class like before Pythagoras came along? Was he the harbinger of the ‘new math’ that would drive parents nuts? What must it have been like to be in the first math class to teach Pythagoras’ theorems?

Back to the question at hand, then. I like to think of Heaven a bit like concept of perfection.  We each have our own. That can’t possibly be an original thought, but it’s a nice comfortable one for my theologically confused mind. We decided that since there is nothing that says there is not spaghetti in Heaven, there must at least be the possibility of spaghetti in Heaven.

So yes, Sophie, worry not. There is spaghetti in (your) Heaven.

“…but what about angel hair?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember the Time…

Hi there! Welcome to my little corner of the world! Grab a cup of coffee (or tea, a soy latte, margarita…anything you like) and enjoy true stories from the frontlines of that battleground disguised as motherhood. I am so excited to be here! Thank you for carving out some of your valuable time to be here, too. In all honesty, I am not even sure what a soy latte is…but I have heard about them.

I hope you enjoy my very first blogpost!

We all have stories.  And I would be willing to bet that we all had the same thought when those stories happened: “Oh, I’ll remember this one for sure!” But then life happens. Focus shifts. It’s not so much that the stories and moments lose importance; it’s that our energies are demanded elsewhere. And although I joke about it, I am thankful that I am reminded of the stories and moments that have shaped my little slice of heaven.

Where to begin?  I’d like to start with what I like to call the Story of the Spring Fairy, because it is one of the most enduring stories I have, and also because just the other day it came up. Again.

As I was loitering in the kitchen with my 3 children on a random mid-March afternoon, listening to the wind trying to force its way down the chimney flue, the oft-asked question ‘how many days until Spring’ was boldly answered by my youngest.  In a proud and somewhat forceful tone, she announced what sounded like an edict from some Roman emperor: ‘There are 5 days until Spring’.  She said this not so much as an exclamation of joy; more like a statement that was not to be challenged.  A fact, for sure, but said in such a way as to ward off anyone from even thinking of questioning her, or, God forbid, looking it up on the Interwebulars to check her accuracy.

The discussion, or rather, the passive absorption of this newly imparted wisdom,  turned  abruptly to a subject that both makes me laugh and cringe, and my gut instinct to surreptitiously change the subject before it escalated was too slow, forcing me to stand there helpless, waiting. I knew what was coming.

There was a nanosecond of silence, and I knew there would be no going back this time, no changing of subjects, no gentle redirection to something else, anything else.

At that tenuous moment, that moment when the silence has not quite finished, my oldest spoke.  “Remember the Spring Fairy?”, she asked in a general sort of way, almost rhetorically.  Was that a touch of bittersweet?  I flicked a glance her way in hopes of catching a clue in her expression. I caught a hint of a grin. Or was it a smirk?

Anything premised with ‘remember’ or ‘remember the time when’ makes me slightly anxious…what are they going to remember this time?  When I broke the chair at the pizza place? When I had to use an ax to get into the house? When I threw up in the parking garage?

So, in honor of Spring and all things cringeworthy, here is the story of the Spring Fairy.

Several years ago (okay, more like 12 years ago), when my oldest two were littles and my 3rd ( bless her heart) was a nausea-inducing swelling in my midsection, I accidentally made up the Spring Fairy.  I was forced to, really. Some would say I blatantly lied to my children to get them to go to bed.  They would be correct. Some would say desperate times call for desperate measures.  They would also be correct.

We had recently transplanted from the Midwest to what seemed like a new planet at the time – New Jersey. My husband was travelling. I was pregnant and exhausted. The kids were giving me an unusually difficult time at bedtime.  As I recall, I was near tears. I just.wanted.to.sleep. and maybe enjoy a few non-vomiting minutes of bliss.

To my astonishment, I heard the following words come out of my mouth: “Well, we have to go to sleep! Tomorrow is the first day of Spring, and that means the Spring Fairy comes tonight!” Wait, what? What did I just say?  I just created a brand-new family tradition! What could be better? There must be Mom points awarded for such creativity. Two thoughts immediately sprang forth, fighting for first chair in my brain: one telling me how brilliant I was, and the other telling me there would be consequences. The first thought was like sparkly confetti gently falling upon my shoulders; the second was more like a firm ‘oh dear’ in the form of a face-palm.  Brilliance won, and consequence was admonished with a sharp ,’well, they will probably not even remember this conversation in the morning’.

They remembered.

So began several years of playing Spring Fairy…suddenly realizing at 10 pm ‘Oh my gosh, tomorrow is Spring and I have nothing for the Spring Fairy!”.  My husband, rightfully so, thought I was nuts.  But I clung to my Spring Fairy. For the kids, you know.

One year, it was late, with only one small store open for miles, and all I could find was soap. Yes, soap. And you’d better believe the kids remember the year when the Spring Fairy brought them soap. (To her credit, they were quite nice soaps.) ‘Remember the time the Spring Fairy brought us soap?’ has been asked more than once.

Finally, in the last year or 3 (I’ve lost count) the idea of the Spring Fairy has faded. You might have heard an audible sigh of relief. My oldest is 17, if that gives you any idea how long I have been playing at this charade.

As we lingered in the kitchen talking about the past gifts of the Spring Fairy, my oldest mentioned that she always wondered why nobody knew what she was talking about in kindergarten.  They had never heard of the Spring Fairy. She didn’t know that it wasn’t a ‘thing’. (I should have adjusted for that-I  had no idea that the Spring Fairy would take on a life of its own) .My son, who I had been so sure knew the truth about the Spring Fairy added ‘Remember the year she brought us soap?”

Just then my youngest looks at me, wide-eyed, and says in an almost-hushed tone, ‘You mean it’s not a thing? She doesn’t go to all the houses? Not everybody has the Spring Fairy? You made it up?”  This is a girl who has no time or tolerance for Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy, so it is that much more surprising that the concept of the Spring Fairy had ever even taken hold with her…I had been assuming, wrongly, that she was just playing along, hoping for something other than soap.

I went on to explain how it all came about, how I had two little kids, one on the way, a big complicated move across the country, multiple living arrangements, New Jersey jug handles. It was hard. It was exhausting. I just wanted to sleep. And they understood, and we laughed- not entirely because it really was so funny, but because for us, it’s not surprising at all.  Which makes it all the more funny.

A second nanosecond of silence filled the air, daring someone to say those words again…and my brain filed through the seemingly endless supply of things that they could remember.

My son said, ‘Remember the time you threw up in the parking garage?’

 

 

Next up:   Is There Spaghetti in Heaven?