If I Should Die Before I Wake

Most of my energy came back yesterday, but it’s a fickle thing.  It likes to hang around all day eating up the Doritos, and then when I need it most, saunter out the door with me asking plaintively, “But where are you going?”  “Out.”  Fickle, fickle energy.

What I’m up against now is the Nighttime Coughing and none of my old tricks are helping.

Falling asleep with a cough drop–doesn’t work.

Sleeping propped completely upright in a chair–doesn’t work.

OTC cough suppressant–doesn’t work.

As soon as the sun goes down The Coughing begins.  Darling Husband has been delightedly making fun of my coughing as payback to all the fun I made of his cough earlier this month.  Ok, I wasn’t technically the one making the fun. Boy8 was.  But I did laugh at Boy8’s antics.  Clearly, Darling Husband is collecting his payback.

And then, when I lie down, it gets worse.  The dragon awakens in my lungs and begins to bellow.  Roar, roar, roar.  After an hour or two of endless coughing, I finally pass out from the drama only to be awakened again every 30 minutes from The Cough.  The Cough leaves me with no air in my lungs and me gasping for breath, tears streaming down my face from the force of the cough, afraid I’ll suffocate by morning. Really, I can’t breathe.  It makes the prayer, “If I should die before I wake” feel dreadfully relevant.

The only thing that works is standing up.  If I stand up, the urge to cough goes away.  I’ve spent the last three nights alternately trying to sleep on a chair, propped up on a couch, or pacing the room mentally inventing various harnesses that would hold me up in a standing position so I can get some sleep.

My last resort is a medicine called  Tessalon Perle.  It’s a gel capsule that is supposed to anesthetize the tickle that makes you cough all night.  Barbetta, my nurse practitioner friend, told me about it at dinner one day.  Someone else at the dinner was complaining of a cough and Barbetta talked about using “pearls.”  I thought this was fascinating since Barbetta is normally highly skeptical of home remedies.  Why would she think that swallowing pearls would help a cough?  But we got that all cleared up (tessalon perle, not pearls) and I said to her, a bit testily, “How come doctors never tell you about this stuff when you have a cough?!  How would I get my hands on this stuff?”  She said that you have to call them and tell them you cannot sleep and ask them for heeeeelp.  I filed this tidbit away for a rainy day.

So this morning, clearly a Rainy Day, after three nights of unrest I called my nurse practitioner (Jen) and got an appointment.  Jen works in the same office as Barbetta, which is a good thing.  I tell Jen all the time, “Barbetta tells me this and Barbetta tells me that,” about my medical conditions.  If Jen didn’t know Barbetta I’m sure she’d just roll her eyes at all the things “my friend Barbetta” tells me.  But Jen knows Barbetta and hopefully trusts that Barbetta knows her stuff.  So when I desperately grapped Jen by the lapels and demanded said, “Barbetta told me that Tessalon Perle can help coughs. Give me some!” she gave it to me.

We’ll know in a few hours whether or not it works.

Oh!  And she also said that it sounds like I had the flu.  The flu!  Influenza, people!  That’s way worse than a man cold.  No wonder there was all that whimpering and lack of energy and tissues everywhere and having my family wait on me.  The flu!  That’s what killed Edward and turned him into a vampire, people!  This is serious stuff!


I finished Breaking Bad two days ago.  I had to buy those last 8 episodes, if you recall.  Without giving anything away to those who haven’t seen it, the one thing I expected to happen, happened.  I mean, we all saw that coming so it wasn’t a big shock.  We were just curious as to how the writers bring it about.

But all the other stuff!  Ay yi yi!  Those writers were brutal.  Wow.  I didn’t expect any of the other thing to go down the way they did.  Breaking Bad is a cautionary tale:  If you do wrong, you’ll get your due.  No exceptions.  Even the innocent bystanders.  Yipes.

Apparently my 70 year old aunt is watching Breaking Bad, too.  She posted a bizarre post on Facebook calling us all “B——, yo!”  Huh?!?  Aunt Ginger!  You are not a 20-odd year old drug dealer!  You’re a little old lady!  You can’t go around calling people names like that.  Someone’s gonna beat you up, yo.

You look like General Zod, yo.

Sorry to out you, Scott, but pictures don’t lie.  We always wondered why you’re never around whenever Superman shows up.



Today we had Photo Club.  For the first two years of Photo Club we’d all blithely show up and sit expectantly waiting for Scott to come up with clever photography ideas for us to try out.  He is the leader after all.  But he kept saying over and over, “I’m NOT the leader!” To our ears that sounded like, “Whaa whaa whaa leader!”  Yup.  Everything’s right with the world.  Scott is our leader.  We all heard him say “leader.”

He finally had a little sit in and refused to come up with new ideas.  We’d meet for Photo Club, Scott would shrug at us, we’d exchange recipes, and go home.

Unfortunately for me, I have one of those “nature abhors a vacuum” types of personality.  If someone’s not getting the job done I feel the need to step in and do it.

That’s why when I took one of those goofy Which Star Wars Character Are You tests online I turned out to be either Darth Vader or Leia.  What was it that Leia said when they botched up her rescue?  Oh yeah, “Well, somebody’s gotta save our skins.”  That’s me in a nutshell.  As long as you’ve got things under control, fine.  But if I get the slightest whiff that you’re falling down on the job, I’m right there to swoop in and fix it.

It’s tough being me.

Or not.  Consider today’s Photo Club:

As usual, it was Friday and Photo Club was looming and no one had offered any ideas of what we’d do on Saturday.  After a few seconds of thought the idea popped into my head that we could set our shutter speeds very slow, like for 30 seconds, and get a single picture with two or three poses in it.*

Later, another idea popped into my head.  Three different poses in a single shot…what about someone transforming…what about Clark Kent transforming into Superman?!  Aha! I sent a little message to everyone telling them about my idea and asking them to wear their Superman shirts and black rimmed glasses to Photo Club.

I arrived at Photo Club this morning and had a few words with Scott over who had to take charge figuring out how to get the picture done, “It’s your idea, Lizard, tell us what to do.” “Who me?  I don’t know what to do!” I think he’s just glad that he wiggled out of being “the leader” and enjoys being able to throw responsibility on someone, anyone, else.  After talking over what we each had in our mind’s eye of how the picture should look, we all headed for the cloak room where it was nice and dark and we could control the light with flashes.  (Photo Club meets in a church.) We started taking pictures.

First a picture without a flash, just to see:


Ok.  Get out the flash.  Kevin was the Holder of the Flash.

Scott would get into the first pose, Kevin would fire the flash directly on Scott, Scott would get into the second pose, Kevin would circle to a new spot and fire the flash directly onto Scott, third pose, Kevin circles, flash–then time would run out.

I set the camera for 30 seconds.  But first, quick practice with the flash for the proper power settings:


Then practice how the clothes would have to be arranged:


Hold up! Something’s missing:  a tie!  Clark Kent always wears a tie with his button down shirt.  There was discussion about whether or not to call Darling Husband to bring a tie.  (Nah, let him rest.) We looked in the Welcome Center to see if someone had lost a tie recently (no.)  Oh well.  Press on.

Practice with actual costume change:


No…everything needs tweaking and we need a way to tell how much time is passing.  Hannah held the ipad with the stopwatch app and hollered out time periodically.  I pressed the shutter button:


Better, but one Scott is mostly solid and the other 2 are see through.  It was Kevin’s job to work on that problem.*


The pastor of the church walked by and saw the Photo Club all stuffed into the cloak room. “Hey, Photo Club!  What are you doing?”  We turned to look.  And lo!  He was wearing a tie!  There was a bit of tension in the air we considered how we could separate the pastor from his tie, but he looked pretty dapper in the tie.  A little too dapper in his tie and a dark suit. The sort of tie and dark suit you wear to a big event…like a funeral.  Can’t take a tie from a man whose about to do a funeral.  Our better judgement won the day and we let the pastor leave un-accosted.**

We got back to work with Scott doing a lot of costume changes, Kevin circling and holding the flash near the ceiling, Hannah keeping track of time, and me pressing the shutter button.   Gerhard…well, Gerhard was there, but was getting sidetracked by his friend, Harold.***

Kevin began to sweat from all the circling and the picture is too dark.


Whoops.  Missed a flash. Try again:


Scott began to sweat from all the costume changes.  Try again:


At this point, Kevin made the quiet observation that Scott looks more like General Zod than Superman.  Yup.  Kevin was right, but you gotta feel for Scott.  There he was, his turn to shine, getting to be the hero in the picture, and his best buddy just has to point out, “You don’t look like Superman.  You look like General Zod, yo.”  Aw.  What a let down.  The whole exchange struck me as funny and I had to pause in my shutter pressing to get in a good chuckle.

We soldiered on.


So close!  But the 3rd pose is too covered by the 2nd pose.  And then:


Got it!  This is the one.  We all agreed there wasn’t anything else we could do that would make it any better, in camera.  

And that’s when Scott said he wanted the same picture on his camera now, but in a slightly different pose, with the open shirt in the middle.  Time to start all over again.  And we did:  Scott doing the costume changes, Kevin circling and holding up the flash, Hannah keeping time and me…just pressing the button and then standing there relaxing for 30 seconds at a time.  By the end of Photo Club they were all sweaty and shiny but I was cool and matte.

Hey, I may have to save everyone’s skins from time to time, but I’m also really good at delegating.  😉


So…original in camera:


And after post processing:



* If you really want to know what settings we used, and how Kevin solved the solid/see-through problem, ask in a comment and I’ll tell you.

**We found out later it was a wedding.  A wedding?!  In that case we could have totally taken the tie.  There was only one of him and five of us.  Too bad he got away before we realized it was for a wedding.

***Harold is a conspiracy theory nut and lives off the grid in New Mexico.  He refuses to have mail sent to him because he doesn’t want the government to be able to track him down.  He has his mail sent to Gerhard’s house in Pennsylvania, who then sends it to Harold’s P.O.Box in New Mexico.  Something went wrong and Harold didn’t get an important piece of mail. Gerhard was talking to Harold about it during our meeting.  There’s always something interesting going on when you’re with Gerhard.

Bird Killer on a Rampage

So the other day a friend of mine (Jeff, the judge) enigmatically posted on Facebook “Despite all the snow this winter, my annual battle against starlings has been a complete victory for me!”

Battle?  Victory?  That sounded deliciously violent so I asked what he was talking about.  (It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?) He said it was Just Too Much to explain in a simple Facebook post.  A few days later I received the following in my email inbox.  I will share it with you:


One of the things my father instilled in me is a love of songbirds.  He taught me to set out nesting boxes in the summer and feeders in the winter.  He taught me to identify songbirds and to track visitors to bird houses and feeders.  But he also taught me to be a bird snob.

You see, I only care for certain birds, and I don’t cater to the rest.  In fact, I actively discourage them.  I chase sparrows out of bluebird boxes and destroy their nests.  I put up wren houses knowing the holes are too small for any other bird.  I don’t feed non-native birds, bullying birds, or squirrels.  In particular, I do not like starlings.

You’ve seen starlings, although you may not know it.  These ugly, unkempt birds have dark gray-brown feathers speckled with white.  They perch by the dozens cheek-to-jowl on power lines and incessantly poop on anything passing beneath them.  They send out scouts in search of feeders and, when they find one, they invite the entire flock to devour and scatter food while chasing away other birds.  They hog the feeders, chase away other birds, and chow down until the food is gone.  Starlings are a nuisance and I am proud to contribute to their starvation and eradication.

Starlings, which are native to wide areas of Europe and western Asia, were introduced to New York City in 1890.  Why?  Because Shakespeare enthusiasts wanted to introduce into North America all of the types of birds mentioned in the Bard’s works (Henry IV, Part I).  See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=call-of-the-reviled.  Does that make any sense to anybody?  It’s just another in a long list of British imports for which I am not thankful.  The Redcoats, haggis, and incessant U.S. media coverage of the Royal Family also top the list.  What good have the British given us anyway?  Charles Dickens, Narnia, Middle Earth, 80’s pop bands, Martin Freeman, Downton Abbey, and … well … that’s about it.  Now, thanks to Shakespeare groupies, I can’t park my car at the curb without it getting splattered with starling droppings.  Thanks to a bunch of radical bibliophiles, I have to wage war with starlings to attract the actual native American birds like cardinals, finches, juncos, mourning doves, chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, or woodpeckers.  The conspiracy theorist in me believes that Shakespeare was a ruse to cover up a revenge plot by bitter Brits who can’t get past the loss of their colonies.  Get over it!  We won.  You lost.  Keep your stupid birds.

After years of trial and error, my yard is now nearly a starling-free zone.  Each of my feeders was selected for the sole purpose of feeding songbirds while thwarting starlings.  I have a multi-port tube feeder with an exterior sleeve that drops and closes the feeding ports if the weight on the perches gets too heavy.  Six songbirds can feed at once, but a couple of starlings are too heavy.  Plus, the perches are small enough that starlings can’t sit on the perches and pick seed out of the ports.  I have a wire mesh feeder from which starlings don’t even attempt to feed.  I put out suet, which starlings love, but my suet cakes are enclosed in a cage that permits small birds to enter but keeps out the larger starlings.  I recently learned that although starlings enjoy peanuts their beaks are too soft to peck through the shells.  I’m experimenting with a whole-peanut feeder now.

The more soft-hearted among you may lament the fate of starlings.  Not me.  When I see starlings straining desperately but unsuccessfully to reach the seed and suet, both important energy sources for birds during winter, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction.  I have won.  I have saved the food and suet for birds that matter; birds that trace their lineage to the earliest days of our country; birds that bleed red, white and blue; birds that raise their young on American values; birds that love baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet; birds that stand up next to you and defend her till the end because there ain’t no doubt they love this land.  God bless the U-S-A!

You can call me a radical, geo-centric isolationist if you want to, but I’m right.  And you would agree with me if you ever stopped to look into the eyes of a starving chickadee denied access to feeders by starling bullies.  I’m not stopping with starling-resistant feeders, by the way.  I propose that we build a fence to prevent more starlings from crossing our borders and consuming vital limited resources.  We should arm border patrol agents to patrol that fence.  And we should toughen our bird immigration policies.  Don’t mention immigrant bird amnesty to me.  We’ll talk about immigration reform after you clean the starling poop off my car!

It’s time for American patriots to rise up and resist the scourge that is the starling!  To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce [native songbirds] under absolute despotism, it is [our] right, it is [our] duty, to throw off such [starlings], and to provide new guards for [songbirds’] future security.”  Huzzah!  Huzzah!  Huzzah!

Nibbled to Death by Coughs

A true story:

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  She didn’t have any brothers or sisters.  Her father worked shift work.  It rotated: for two weeks he worked all day; for two weeks he worked all night.  After working all night he would come home, put a thick blanket over the window, and sleep all day long.

During the weeks when her father was sleeping all day, 26 of them every year, the little girl had to stay very, very quiet in the house.  She learned how to play quiet games like Traffic Jam where all her little matchbox cars would be lined up in a row and silently move forward an inch at a time.  She learned to doodle with smooth ball point pens, never scratchy pencils.  She learned to walk noiselessly and never snapped any twigs in the hallway when stalking prey.  She read many, many books.

She grew to love the silence of the house.

At that same time there was a different little girl.  Her babyhood was one of quiet happiness.  And then a little sister came along.  Then a brother.  Another brother.  Another sister.  Another sister.  Another brother and a last sister.  Her life stayed happy, but was never again quiet.

Babies cried, toddlers tantrumed, mothers hollered, brothers shouted.  Though she was the oldest of all the children, she stopped growing earlier than the others and ended up being the smallest.  In order to keep her younger brothers and sisters in line she had to learn to speak her mind.  She had to be bold.  She had to be LOUD.

She grew to love the noise of her home.

When the two little girls grew up they became acquaintances.  One day they met at a bowling alley where their children were bowling with a group.  The alley had just opened for the day and the group was the only one there.  There was the smell of stale cardboard pizza, the sight of the faded neon carpet, and the sounds of children laughing and talking and balls rolling and pins falling.

Twenty minutes after the group arrived, the bowling alley owner turned on the music.  Loud music, so that it could be heard over the laughing and talking and rolling and falling.

The quiet little girl, now all grown up, frowned and turned to her loud acquaintance and murmured, “Why did they do that?  Everything was just bearable and then they had to turn on that music.  I wish they hadn’t.”

The loud little girl, now also all grown up, looked shocked and boomed, “Oh I love it!  It was too quiet in here.  I love the noise.  I was the eldest of eight.  When I moved away from home I lived in an apartment all by myself.  The silence was oppressive.  I would feel twitchy unless I had on the television and the radio at the same time.”

“Really?  When I’m alone I keep my house completely silent.  Listening to music in the house makes me twitchy.  I never use the tv for background noise and when it’s on, I keep it as low as possible and still be able to hear it.”

The two woman gave each other friendly “huh, well, waddya know” looks and went on their way—the quiet one sighing over the music and the loud one humming along.


Oh the noise!  Oh my poor little ears!  Oh the cacophony!


As happens every year, Darling Husband and Boy11 have been afflicted with Coughs since 7:52 a.m. on December 14th.  Ahhh….remember way back to December 13th when our house was peaceful and quiet?

At first they coughed just a few times here and there….and then it got worse….and worse…and worse…until the two of them were hacking away and doubled over and getting tears in their eyes from all the coughing.   Cough, cough, hack, hack…a few times every hour…a few times every half hour….every 10 minutes….every three minutes!


I haven’t been able to finish a sentence without pausing to wait for someone to stop hacking in 3 weeks.  You should have seen me trying to read to them.


The extraterrestrial peeked (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) through the louvers of the closet door.  The boy had (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) returned to bed.  The mother placed a tube in the boy’s (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) mouth and left the room.  The boy quickly held it up to the light above his bed, (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) heated the fluid within it, and placed it back in his mouth (pause for cough, cough, hack hack) as the mother returned.

The old scientist nodded. (pause for cough, cough, hack hack)  A trick known around the galaxy. *


Boy8 and I were being as patient as we could but the constant cough, cough, hack, hack wears on a person.  It was all we could do not to say, “Would you just STOP MAKING ALL THAT NOISE!?!?!”

Boy8 handled it the only way he could–by making fun it.  He’s developing quite the sense of humor and his impressions of Darling Husband coughing are hilarious.  Well, they’re hilarious to everyone except for Darling Husband.

Darling Husband is getting better, but Boy11 is still hacking away.

It doesn’t help that I started watching Breaking Bad in the middle of this whole mess.  The main character is diagnosed with lung cancer (first epiosde, I haven’t spoiled it for you) and HE COUGHS, TOO!   I just can’t get away from the coughing.  Every time the actor coughs I shake my head and think, “Lame!  That cough was lame!  If you want to hear a real cough, just head on over to my house and I’ll show you a real cough (yo.)”


* Excerpt from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in his Adventure on Earth” a novel by William Kotzwinkle.  You probably recognize that author’s name from the very famous book “Walter, The Farting Dog” (which I also own).  With a resume like that you know he’s a good author.

But seriously, it’s a fun little book.  It’s based on the movie E.T. and does a nice job of flushing out the details.  I read it as a kid and recently bought it to read it to my kids.

(Do I need to state the obvious, that I was the quiet little girl in the story?)

New Year’s Resolution: Stop Being a Bad Guest

Did I tell you what a bad guest I’ve been lately?  No?

It started with me inviting my entire family to a friend’s house on Christmas Day.  No, we weren’t invited to their house–we invited ourselves to their house.  And on Christmas day, of all days.  It couldn’t be Arbor day or even a Friday night.  Nope, it’s gotta be Christmas.  Why?  The Doctor Who Christmas special, of course.  We don’t get BBC America and that was the only station showing it.  But our friends do get BBC America.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the only station they get since that’s all they watch.  There’s probably a really long wire from the BBC studio in England strung across the Atlantic ocean directly into the back of their tv.

We had to rearrange their entire living room so we could all fit around the tv and we had to bring additional furniture: a bean bag chair and a chair made out of bungee cords.  No, I can’t really describe it, but it’s bouncy (obviously.)  It wasn’t long before our host had to decree that the “person sitting in the bungee chair cannot bounce during the show.”   Boy11, being the one in the bouncy chair, kinda sorta tried not to bounce but you could see his heart wasn’t in it.  BoUnce.  Sit still for 4.329 seconds…boUnce.  Sit still for 4.329 seconds…boUnce.  I had to toss him off the chair.

But the worst part is that my host ended up having to cook dinner for us.  Oh, it’s a long story and I tried to bring food and do the cooking myself, but it didn’t work out that way.  The host ended up missing the pre-show special.  Bad, bad guest.  Next year we might have to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special through their front window with our noses pressed against the glass.

Later in the week I ended up at Jo-Ann’s house.  Thank the Lord she’s known me for 26 years and met me at my all-time low socially awkward stage.  I’m sure you’re thinking, “Yeah, we all went through that socially awkward stage,” but mine was extra bad.  You know how every graduating class has those 2 or 3 kids who are just so weird that no one can stand them?  I mean, really, no one can stand them? Yeah, that was me.  I’ve alluded to it with my friend Barbetta.  When she found out that I was in the high school band (clarinet) she said, “The band?  Oh, then you must have at least had geeky band friends then, right?”  I had to tell to her that even the geeky band members were lofty heights higher on the social ladder than poor little me.

The only thing, really the only thing, I had going for me was my sense of humor.  The problem was that I was such a social pariah that no one was willing to speak with me to uncover my wit.  For some unknown reason (see “Thank the Lord” above), in the first week of 10th grade during hell on earth gym class, I initiated a conversation with another student for the only time from 4th-12th grade.  The other student was Jo-Ann.  I made a few funny comments and we’ve been friends ever since. For the most part I’m better now socially, but Jo-Ann stuck with me through my years of extreme awkwardness.

So, there I was last Friday at Jo-Ann’s house.  She made the terrible, terrible mistake of showing me her daughter’s Monster High dolls.

Oh my word.  Oh. My. Word.

See, now that I take lots of pictures of people I have front-row insight into how women view themselves.  It drives me absolutely bonkers for a perfectly normal looking, attractive woman to cringe and cower at a picture of herself.  I cannot tell you how angry and frustrated I get at the distorted self-images women have.  I am furious at a society that pushes unrealistic expectations on women.

I haven’t looked at little girl toys since I was a little girl and I don’t have daughters so I haven’t been aware of the ridiculousness that’s thrown at little girls.  Seeing those Monster High dolls at age 40 was like being tossed into the deep end of a murky and slimy pool.  These dolls are misshapen caricatures of the female form, complete with a perpetual porn star arch of the back and anorexic arms and legs.  Here’s a picture.  

And so the ranting began.  While Jo-Ann sat there being her usual quiet self, I went on and on about how unconscionable it was that anyone would make something like this and don’t women have enough problems with their self-images without this crap and why would any store be willing to sell such atrocities to children and more than that, why would ANYONE GIVE THESE TO THEIR DAUGHTERS?

It wasn’t until poor Jo-Ann started muttering about, “Well, the first one wasn’t so bad and she uses her own allowance, so I don’t actually buy them for her…” that I realized I was railing against Jo-Ann.  Sigh.  Well, I guess she’s used to my social awkwardness by now.  I hope she forgives me.  What a bad bad guest.

And then Rob, Jo-Ann’s husband, went to get us food from Checkers at my request. Rob and Jo-Ann had never eaten there. Before he left I said, “You are going to get a lot of fries, right? They’re the best part of Checkers.”  Rob answered, with great confidence, “I’m going to get a LOT of fries!  Fries everywhere!”

But when he came back there was only 1 small fry for Rob, Jo-Ann, and me to share.  I began to tease him a bit about “what happened to all the orders of fries you were going to get?  Lots and lots of fries, you said.” Rob has a pretty awesome sense of humor, but he just Wasn’t In the Mood.  Apparently, putting in a large order at the Checkers intercom wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. He said, “I meant to order fries, but then there were all these kids meals, and all the different drinks, and, and…I got confused!”

So, I backed off and then promptly forgot that all 3 of us were supposed to share the teeny order of fries.  We sat down to eat and the fries were in front of me and I proceeded to snarf up the entire thing of fries without offering any to anyone else.

Aw man.  I just realized that I totally forgot to reimburse Rob for buying us dinner.  Uuuuugh!  Bad, bad guest!

On Darling Husband’s birthday this past Sunday, we were celebrating at a friend’s house.  Boy11 made a cake and we were cutting pieces to eat.  Mmm.  Cut a piece, swipe a little frosting off the cake plate with a finger, cut a piece, swipe frosting with finger.  After receiving a few sidelong glances it dawned on me that maybe people don’t like it when I stick my finger in the frosting left on the cake plate.  I mean, if I saw someone else sticking their finger in the leftover frosting on the cake plate, I might feel a little grossed out, too.  Sigh.  Bad, bad guest.

New Year’s Resolutions:

Do not invite myself to friends’ houses on Christmas day forcing them to cook for me.

Do not rail against my friends’ kids’ toys.

Do not make fun of someone who just bought me dinner.

Do not lick the frosting off the cake plate.

…  Wait, scratch that last one.  Let’s change it to:

Do not get caught licking the frosting off the cake plate.

First Bleary Day of the New Year

After a wild and crazy New Year’s Eve party last night (picture us sitting somewhat droopily playing a never-ending Domino game until 3:00 in the morning) it’s time to wake up and face the day.

Boy11 got 4 hours of sleep last night and is priming himself for a bracing day of Being Crabby.

Boy8 got 10 hours of sleep and is Peopled Out and is bracing himself for a lovely Whine Session because we have dinner plans with friends.  “Why don’t we ever stay hooooome?” This is the kid I have to hide when people ask questions about unsocialized homeschoolers.  Left to his own devices Boy8 would quite happily never leave home again unless the destination involved the words “Pizza Hut.”  A few friends who’ve known him since birth have been shocked to hear his voice for the first time this year.  Honestly.  He’s slowly coming out of his shell but not without the aforementioned whining.

Darling Husband, well, I don’t know what Darling Husband will do today.  He’s one of the most even tempered people I know so he’ll just putter around being his usual pleasant self. 

I got 8 hours of sleep and am about to go on a hunting expedition to find breakfast.  From what I can tell, it’ll be leftover Halloween Frankenberry and chips and salsa for me.  

Happy New Year!

Too Cool, Toddlers, and Time Machines

I’ve taken some toddler/preschooler pictures this month.  I do not like taking toddler/preschooler pictures.

The first toddler’s pictures were for a Christmas card.  My cunning plan was to take the pictures in the fall, set the little girl loose in her backyard, then chase after her snapping pictures like a desperate paparazzo.

Yes, the singular of paparazzi is paparazzo.  Thank the heavens above for the internet so I could look it up.

The internet.  We are all just so cool nowadays I can hardly stand it.  We drive around in our cars and speak to the air, “Call Mom!” and the car calls Mom!

And we’re so blasé about it, too.  Aren’t we ridiculous in our blasé-ment?  

What would it be like if we could make a time machine and bring someone like Leonardo da Vinci forward in time?  How would he react to the things we have?  Can you see him startle when you first flick a switch on the wall and the room is blazing with lights?  Can you see the tears in his eyes when you take him on his first airplane ride?  Leonardo wouldn’t be blasé about electric lights and planes.

I saw some show where they took some guy—I think he was an aboriginal guy from the Australian bush—and plopped him down in a big city.  He started off in the airport with those sidewalks that move.  They’re like escalators but instead of steps they’re just a long strip that moves you along so you don’t have to actually put one foot in front of the other and walk.   The man was awed, of course, and when he went back home he tried to explain what he saw, “There were paths that moved for you.  You stood on them and they walked for you.”  His people thought he was nuts.

We are just too cool and we don’t even know it.  

Well that went off track.  Back to my original idea for this blog post: Christmas card pictures with toddler.

I was going to take the toddler outside, follow her around, and get lots of shots until I had a bunch of adorable candid shots to choose from.  But the weather was rainy, the family got sick, and it didn’t work out until cold bleary November.  We had to do shots indoors.  I had to use a flash.  This meant I couldn’t follow her around snapping like crazy.  I had to pose her, hope she didn’t run away, snap, then wait for the flash to power back up and, snap, and wait for the flash…. All that waiting for the flash can really mess up toddler pictures.  They do not hold their poses.

To make her stay in one spot we kept giving her This Is Not A Toy items to play with.

We gave her strands of wrapping paper ribbon…


…we gave her glass Christmas tree ornaments…


…and we gave her strings of electric lights—turned on.


It worked insofar as she stayed in one spot, but the problem was that she was so busy amazing at her good luck in getting to touch all the This Is Not a Toys that she didn’t look up from the things we handed her.  I have a ton of pictures of the top of her head.

Here’s the picture I like best:


See, people who can’t do their own portraits want a chance to get formal, posed pictures.  They ask their photographer friends or hire a photographer to take their formal, posed Family Portraits.  That’s all well and good and has its place.  I got a bunch of Family Portrait shots that the family loves.  They’re happy, so I’m happy.

But when you are the photographer, those pictures aren’t as much fun.  Yes, they’re necessary.  They can be pleasant, but they’re not fun.

Photographers like to get the pictures that tell a little story.  They like the pictures that make you wonder what happened just before the shot or just after.  Or make you wonder what the person in the picture is thinking.  Or what they’re looking at.

The reason I like the above shot best is because you wonder about it.  Who is handing the girl the lights?  (It was Darling Husband.)  You notice the way she is looking at whoever hands her the lights.  Is she happy about it?  Is she confused?  What’s that little girl going to do with the lights now that she has them?

It tells a tiny story and I like it.

Here are the pictures I like best of the little girl’s older sisters.  I like them because they’re between the formal poses and the girls are moving and relaxed and simply being “kids.”



That last one was almost formal, except for the way her finger is smooshing her face.  But I love that.  It feels very “real” to me in a way that pictures where your hands are positioned ‘just so’ don’t.  I also like her red nose.  She had a cold and kept blowing her nose.  That’s not what you want in a formal portrait, but it’s what helps make this a fun picture.  It’s a memory.

In the next one, the girl with the finger-smooshed face drew a picture of her sister, pictured below.  It’s hard to tell whether the sister (below) finds the picture flattering or not.  (Kinda reminds me of when Napoleon Dynamite draws that picture of the girl he asks to the dance.)


And of course:


Nobody leaves without singing the blues

Sometimes you plan your life and sometimes life plans for you.

Apparently Boy8 is destined to be a blues musician.  A few weeks ago he bought himself a fedora and he wears it everywhere.  See?


For Christmas he asked for, and received, a pocket watch.  And also for Christmas Gerhard bought him a harmonica.  Turns out Boy8 has been wanting a harmonica for quite some time.

Fedora, pocketwatch, harmonica?  The boy has a destiny, people, and I’m seeing cool blue neon lights in his future.  But we’re a musical family around here.  A few weeks ago I dyed my hair red…


…for an 80’s Murder Mystery Costume Party.  My character was April O’Neil.

Never heard of her?  Neither had I.  And neither had anyone else at the party.  Apparently she was the reporter on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon.  It took half the party just to explain to everyone who I was supposed to be.  “Oh, look!  There’s Crocodile Dundee!  And Madonna!  And Jessica Rabbit!  And…Dustylizard….um…who are you supposed to be?”

Kevin took pictures of everyone at the party.  The first is of Darling Husband in his Teen Wolf costume.


See Darling Husband’s chest hair?  Nothing like getting dressed and having your husband holler out, “Where’s my chest hair?  Has anyone seen my chest hair?! I can’t go to the party without my chest hair!”  After the party the itchy chest hair was flung in the back of the van only to be discovered days later by the boys.  “Aaaah!  What in the world is that?!  …Oh, wait.  It’s just Dad’s chest hair.”

Darling Husband was quietly amused that his character was Teen Wolf.  Teen Wolf probably didn’t have grey hair and wear bifocals.

And here I am in my April O’Neil costume wearing some ninja weapons for good measure.


Anyway, for Christmas this year I asked for, and received, an Irish Tin Whistle.  With my red hair and tin whistle and Boy8 with his fedora and harmonica, I can play some peppy Irish reels and Boy8 can play the blues and we’ll have people totally confused at our expensive sold-out concerts.


A Christmas picture for you.  This rose bush sits under an overhang outside the local library.  Water drips on it all day and then freezes encasing the buds in ice.


Is your 8 year old bored? Won’t leave you alone to rest? Read here for The Answer.

So Boy8 gets home today after a lively afternoon of playing with friends and announces a full 50 seconds after walking in the door, that he’s bored. Wow. Don’t tell me kids have short attention spans. 50 seconds, people. That’s a lot of seconds. I’m so proud.

I couldn’t help him. I spent 109 hours yesterday afternoon trying to take family portraits of a good natured dad, sweet mom, happy first daughter, engaged second daughter…and an 18 month old third daughter. If you’ve ever tried to do that then you’ll understand that I’m Wiped Out. My legs are aching from all the running around, squatting, lying down and jumping back up that had to be done. 18 month olds absolutely do NOT want their pictures taken. Ever. Ever, ever. Boy8 and Boy11 even came by later as reinforcements to stand behind me and dance about. She loves them and they always make her laugh.

And yup. They did make her laugh. She was grinning and chortling and having a grand old time…about 4 minutes after I tidied up my lighting gear and camera. Argh!

But bored Boy8 was not about to let his weary old mother rest. While I was busily employed bringing all the fruit to the bottom and clearing out all the jelly Boy8 kept hanging on to me and reminding me that he was still bored.

I spied the glass bunnies that I used to play with when I was a child and told him  in my Storyteller voice, “Way back in the olden days when I was a young girl and everything was in black and white, I used to play for hours and hours with those glass bunnies. Yes, those very same ones you see there! Would you like to play with them? You’re old enough now.”


“Don’t you have any matchbox cars? When I was a little girl, I used to line them all up in a big traffic jam. The first car would move forward an inch. Then the second car would move forward an inch. Then the third car would move forward an inch. I could fill days and days playing Traffic Jam.” Boy8 stared at me incredulously and said, “Did you really play that? Really?” I could hear Darling Husband snorting from the other room. Hey. I was an only child and had a very boring childhood. You gotta do what you gotta do to fill the time. Yes I played Traffic Jam.

Boy8 politely declined playing Traffic Jam.

“You could read a book. I have hundreds of children’s books I’ve collected just for sweet little you.”

No. He claims he hates reading. Oh, just break your mother’s heart in two why don’t you?

He wanted to do something physical he said.

“Make an obstacle course out of couch pillows and whatever else you can find and run through it.” Surely he’ll do this. He loves doing this and it makes a ghastly mess.


Sigh. “Then how about we put this lazy boy chair back and you massage my scalp while I fall asleep.”

And he did. Honestly. He really did. I just woke up about 20 minutes ago.

And that is how you do it people. If your child is bored I’ve just given you The Answer. Don’t give me your silly excuses that it’ll never work with your children. That’s not my problem. I’m busy. I still have all that fruit and jelly to clear out.

Candy, Girls, Taco Sauce, and Terrorists

Trick or treat night.

First—the costumes.

Boy8 was easy: pirate.

I thought Boy11 would be easy, too:  Jedi.  A few years ago I made monk’s robes for the boys when we were learning about monks in our history classes. My sewing skills are about as good as my cake decorating skills so you know that was a fiasco. The only reason I forged ahead with the monk’s robes is because Jedi knights are really just monks with telekinesis. I knew we’d get a lot of wear out of them.

About half an hour before we headed out I said, “Well, Boy11, what’re you wearing for Halloween?”  He surprised me by saying he wanted to be a wizard.  He would wear his monk’s robe and carry a staff.  Ok–that’s easy.  We have the robe and the staff–no problem. See?


Darling Husband on Exciting Nature Walk from Oct 13th last year. With staff.

We had the robe and the staff, but we didn’t have a wizard’s hat.  But we did have a “Eurasia” hat.  At our church, we had a thing where we learned about Eurasia and everyone got hats.  We haven’t worn our Eurasia hat since then.  It turns out that the Eurasia hat makes a plausible wizard’s hat.


The first person who saw Boy11 asked if he was Noah.

The next person asked if he was a hobbit.


A dwarf.

Blind man with a stick?



We finally made it to Gerhard’s house. He asked what Boy11 was.  Boy11 said, “Whatever you come up with.”  We explained about the wizard and the Eurasia hat and Gerhard said,  “Eurasia, huh?  So you’re a terrorist from Afghanistan demanding candy.”  He gave Boy11 some stale Easter candy and taco sauce.

Yes, really.  Taco sauce.  He knows Boy11 likes that brand and it turns out that Janet (Gerhard’s wife) doesn’t.  Janet was happy to get the taco sauce out of the house and Boy11 was delighted that he scored a jar of taco sauce while trick or treating.  Win-win.

While the boys trick or treated, I had fun peering into people’s houses. Sure enough the neighbor from Texas with the 800 shiny painted ceramic statues of animals in his yard had a deer head on his wall and was watching a John Wayne movie.  Of course he was watching a John Wayne movie.  I’ll bet they play on a loop all day long.

I pretended to take a piece of candy from Boy8 at another neighbor’s house.  She was very disapproving that I would take candy from a child and reprimanded me.  I suppose she thinks I’m a Horrible Mother. I’ll probably get the stink eye whenever I pass by her house: “There goes that Horrible Mother who steals candy from her children. Those poor little dears.”

At another house, with a porch light on, we knocked and a girl peeked through the window in the door.  The boys heard her yell in a panic, “Oh no!  Mom!  We left the porch light on!” The mother came rushing to the door with a pan of freshly baked cookies and gave each of the boys a cookie–still warm.  Guess they didn’t want terrorist tricks played on them.

All in all, even though it rained on us we had a blast.

But Boy11 almost missed it. All throughout this past month there was a contest at church to see who could bring more candy for the church’s Light the Night event—the boys or the girls.  The boys won.  The prize for winning was for the girls to serve the boys ice cream–tonight.  Oh, Boy11 wrestled with the issue—trick or treat and get candy or make the girls serve him ice cream while he demanded more, more, more!  Boy8 just snorted and knew the truth:  candy is way better than girls.

We bumped into a 12 year old friend of Boy11 while we were trick or treating and the two of them bemoaned the fact that they could have been being fed ice cream by the girls at church right at that very moment.  And such is the confounding life of an 11 and 12 year old.  Candy or girls?  Candy or girls?  This year the candy won, but I’m thinking not for long.

And since I know this won’t last much longer, it was all the sweeter.  In a few years, I will dearly miss going trick or treating.