Tuesday, April 29, 2008

To The Bottom Of The Sea

On Friday they had each received a boarding pass and bio of the character they must play.

The twins' bios said they were siblings on the Titanic, having just left England where their father (a university professor) had finished up the semester and was taking them back to New York. They were reading in their bunks when they heard a bump and noise outside the cabin. When they went to see what it was, they were quickly bundled off to a lifeboat. Their father had to wait until women and children were safe before he could join them. Sadly, they never saw him again.

Oh they couldn't wait to get to school on Monday. They both dressed their nicest.

In class they were served by white-shirted 4th graders, who each told their own sad story into the microphone before serving them their appetizers. Some passengers were 1st class and were served right off the bat, then 2nd class, then the poor 3rd class passengers got what was left. Dinner was Swedish meatballs, Norwegian potatoes and corn casserole.

After dessert, the teacher dropped a huge bucket of ice and yelled, "Every man for himself!" Twin girl says they all screamed and ran out onto the playground.

What a day to be a child.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Random Chores

The husband has come up with a new plan for chore division among the laborers.
He presented us with a cup filled with popsicle sticks.
The children eyed it warily.
I sat back with arms folded, jaded from years of coming up with such plans myself and having them last exactly one week.
I kept my mouth set in a prim line of superior and indulgent supportiveness though. Nary a word of doubt escaped my lips.

Thing is, it's working.
The plan is pure simple genius and I have jumped into full participation of it,
and here it is:

He asked me to come up with a list of jobs that needed to be done around the house every single day. These jobs were printed on the ends of popsicle sticks, and dropped into a cup. Each child chooses three sticks, blindly, the moment he walks in from school, and does the jobs immediately.

Here's the math: I decided that I would choose 5 sticks per day also, and 3 sticks per child (4) equals 17 sticks in all. Two of the sticks are blank, so there are 15 jobs listed on the sticks.

Here are the details: The jobs you get every day are random, so you never know what you're going to have to do. This keeps things from getting boring. Getting a blank stick is fun. The most difficult job on the list is VACUUM, which means you have to vacuum one common room of the house (not your bedroom). All of the other jobs can be done in around 30 seconds. Samples are: Downstairs Toilet (wipe it down and swish inside), Kids' Bathroom Counter (wipe it down), Bookcase (straighten it), Pantry (straighten it), Dust (dust any common room with the feather duster), TV (straighten videos, etc)...They're easy jobs, and the only day that they were difficult was the first day. The second day there were only one or two books out of place - 30 seconds to straighten the shelf. Wiping down the stove top is simple when somebody does it every single day. Same with the Pantry, which used to be a collection of empty cereal boxes, half-open stale graham crackers and the packaging from a multitude of fruit cups.

All of the jobs affect the entire family. There is no "Clean Your Room", or "Put Away The Clothes That Your Mother Has Washed For You." These things are expected - you're supposed to pick up after yourself. The jobs on the list are all little things that just need doing every day - they're nobody's mess - they're everybody's mess!

None of the jobs are "time-sensitive". They are all things that can be delayed if somebody has play practice after school, or are otherwise delayed. As long as the kitchen trash is taken out and a fresh bag put in sometime during the day...as long as the floor is swept...one window "windexed"...well, we call it good.

Actually we call it very good. The house has never looked so clean.

The children love it. Sincerely. Middle child says to me, "I like doing this because it's really quick and because you're not telling us what to do."


Monday, April 21, 2008


I think the name "Basil" is tres cool.

But instead of giving birth to another child and naming him, "Basil", I have settled for growing a basil plant.

Actually, I'm growing several because according to internet sources, each one of these little sprouts is going to become rather large! I thought I could just keep them all in this little tin thing on my kitchen window, but apparently I have to transplant them.

Who would like a basil plant?

It's so cool to plant a seed and be surprised by the sprouts coming up.

I am going to make a tomato-basil pizza. How long will it take to grow basil leaves that I can harvest?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Hermit

There really was one, last summer.

Just about a hundred yards from our house runs Kalamink Creek, and you have to cross over it to get into the village. On the other side one day we noticed some fresh wood chips making a beautiful path into the woods south of the road. The next day, there was edging along either side of the path! But the path went into the woods too far to see where it led to.

We were all a-flutter about who could have laid that path, and decided to follow the trail ourselves to find out. We only got a few yards before we saw the sign:


I highly suspect the property south of us is city-owned and the sign was just a ploy to keep nosy people like us out, but still, it was sort of intimidating.

So we stayed away but we watched. (We don't have cable.) Every once in a while we saw a man walk down the path, or back up to the road. He had a blue pickup, and he'd park it just on the shoulder. He made several trips and one day we noticed a big blue tarp through the trees. We craned our nosy necks but could not tell much at all about the Private Property or the man living there.

When we walked by, we walked really slow, and we tried not to look like we were trying to catch a glimpse of him. I wanted so badly to follow that path and see what was in there, but it was too scary for me so I didn't.

Until today.

It's been nearly a year since we first saw the man. I was walking the dog and coming back up the road ready to turn into the driveway when I stopped. Without the full summer foliage it was pretty obvious that the hermit's place was deserted. All of the edging (I could never quite figure out that edging), was in a sorry pile just inside the trees. The woodchips were scattered. I looked at the dog.

"I'm going in there," I told him.

I walked up the path and saw the sign. I glanced up at it and back down really quick. I had some weird thought that if somebody was watching me, and they saw me looking at that sign, that I would seem guiltier than if I didn't. I tried to look confident and purposeful but my heart was beating really hard.

Once inside the woods, I hurried over a log and had to unwind the dog from around a mossy tree. I saw a dishwasher on its side, and further up a flatware basket that must have gone with it. That sort of spoiled things for me.

But then I saw the teepee.

A huge tree that had been growing on the banks of the creek had toppled over and somebody had taken saplings and leaned them all in a row against one side, and then all in a row against the other until they came to a row of crossed points at the top. The felled tree's limbs acted as crosspieces, supporting the small row of trees on each side. Like a long teepee. It was so cool. Pretty big inside.

I peered my nosy head in close between the trees to see inside, and I saw a long cushion. Like for a bed. It was really dirty and old. And small.

I turned around and stopped looking. I thought about all our excited nosiness last year, and how uncomfortable that little bed looked for a grown man. I felt cold and I wished I hadn't come so far in. His poverty had seemed sort of romantic to me from far away. I could see my big warm house from where I stood.

"C'mon dog," I said, and we went home.

Strange Things I Have Seen

The country is way stranger than the city. Way.
When we lived in the city, everything was sort of the same.
Baskin Robbins, Einstein's Bagels, Kroger, Target. They're all over the place, and they're all the same. Everything is really neat and tidy. People get mad if children ride bikes over a corner of their lawn.
Here people think nothing of turning an entire backyard into a huge BMX track.

In the country you go to "Rick's 2-Fers Party Store", and the ice cream place is called, "Lumpy and Goomers". And we have an annual Tractor Pull, and boys from the high school walk around in overalls and John Deere baseball caps there. Trucks are for haulin', and if your truck doesn't have a few finely placed dents here and there...well, you're sort of suspect.

It's so weird and cool.

So anyway just yesterday I saw three strange things.

First I saw a tractor pulling this huge tractor-wheel by chains. There was a child sitting in the middle of the wheel, which was on its side and being dragged through the dusty shoulder of a little two-lane highway. He looked like he was having fun and getting really dirty.

Second, I met a man at the I-Scream shop (we eat a lot of ice cream in the country), who started talking to me, animatedly, on the topic of baldness. I had never seen him before in my life. He didn't really introduce himself, he just started talking about the male pattern baldness that runs in his family. He chuckled and lifted his hat because he's about seventy and still has hair. Then he sucked some air through the sides of his teeth, glanced skyward and shook his head with a smile. I felt it might be my cue to speak and said encouragingly, "I guess it missed you, huh?" He let all the air out in one gush and leaned over to slap his knee like that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard and shook his head while he laughed loud and long, and then got real serious and quiet all of a sudden, leaning in toward me,
"You know my uncle?"
I did not, but like anyone else would do, I nodded.
"BALD AT AGE TWENTY-EIGHT!!" he roared and laughed and laughed some more. I just stood there, looking at him with this crazy smile on my face, my eyes wide. I was thinking how nice it was to be happy like that.

Finally, and this was walking home from the ice cream place, I saw this person on the horizon. I thought it was an old man because he was all bent over and moving really really slowly, but I kept my eyes on him as I got closer because it looked like he maybe needed help crossing the street or something. He was in the middle of the street for a really long time. Then I realized, as I got closer, that it was a woman with a helmet on her head, and two ski poles, and some sort of long roller-blade-except-not things on her feet. Right then I was sort of entranced by the whole image, especially after the kid on the wheel and the not-bald man. I was smiling as she drew near, except that she didn't really draw near, it's just that I was walking towards her so it seemed like she was moving a little bit. She was not. She was this summer-cross-country-skier person in full gear. Head to toe pads, full body suit. And she was really really bad at it. I thought it must be her first day because she looked pretty athletic, but she was obviously having a painful time.

So on an ill-advised small-town impulse, I stepped out of my hermitish self for a second to hail her with a wave and a nod. I even spoke and called out, "How's it goin?" Apparently it was going really well and this was only her third week she said with a smile and turned her head as she rolled past me (at this point there was a dip in the road and she was actually picking up a bit of momentum). I thought she would roll on by and that would be it. But no, she stopped herself deftly with those ski poles (actually, she stuttered to an ugly stop which I immediately felt responsible for and quickened my own step away with another wave and a hearty, "Good luck!").

The woman continued to balance herself with head turned my way though, and kept talking - about the sport (which is actually sort of cool), and her attempts to learn it, and how she was looking for other interested people in the area so they could start a club, and the whole time I was going, "oh no, oh no, oh NO" and backing away while nodding, walking backwards but continuing to give polite signs that the conversation was ending...but she kept talking. She was a Talker. At one point I realized that I had backed away so far that there was a huge telephone pole directly in the visual line between us, blocking her entirely from my view. I had to sort of crane my head around it to see her. I felt foolish about this rudeness on my part and stepped out from behind it sheepishly, and just stood there with a big high closed-mouth grin, nodding and shooting my hand out occasionally in an attempt to give a casual wave goodbye, but then letting it fall uselessly to my side in surrender. I think I might have missed a few things she said as I froze into a statue of blankness. My mind tends to shut off like that in the presence of Other People Who Talk Alot, but mercifully she was beginning to roll again and seemed unable to keep her head turned backwards in a comfortable manner. I started a little when I realized she had stopped talking and jerked back to reality enough to yell out another robust, "Well good luck!" like a parrot cawing out the same phrase again and again it seemed all I was capable of at the time.

On returning home I reflected on the beautiful strangeness of the world. I'll bet those city people are strange too, they've just got it covered up a bit more.
I like it here in the country where the dirt is right near the surface, and the trucks are denty, and the strange people like me ride wheels, laugh too loud and get from here to there any way they can.

Monday, April 07, 2008

He Made This Up

Hey Mom,

Want some green tea????