Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The plagues...

So we were all ready for our Seder tonight.

We had our plague puppets.

What? Your religious holiday does not include finger puppet depictions of boils and cattle plague? No dead baby boys and fierce lions next to your plate?

Lily made place cards.

Bless her sweet little heart.

Fierce animals.

Locusts and blood.

More blood.


Hail, though I think that they look more like boils.

Unhappy Pharoah. Ass kicking Moses.

The brisket was in the oven and the chicken soup was done.

It has been raining for about 24 hours and this morning I noticed that once again our basement was being a total jerk by allowing water to seep in.


I was not about to allow a little water to ruin my Jewish good time. I spoke with my stepmom and we came up with a route that seemed safe for them and plowed ahead.

It was at this point that I started paying more attention to the weather report. More specifically I learned that a state of emergency had been declared and that not only is the flooding widespread, parts of Route 95, the very route I recommended, were expected to be closed.

I called my folks, who luckily had not driven very far and told them to go back home.

We rescheduled. For Easter Sunday. Cause that's the kind of crazy Jews we are.

In the meantime we are working on devising our own set of plagues.

1. Basement flooding.
2. David snoring.
3. Dog anal gland leakage.
4. Dust bunnies.
5. 100 Calorie chocolate theft.
6. Cat vomit.
7. Sties.
8. Abscesses.
9. Bugs of all kinds.
10. Market Basket grocery store.

I think I know what our next homeschooling project will be. I see pus and cat vomit finger puppets in our future...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Where am I?

Oh my.

I just realized that I haven't blogged in three days. Where have I been? What have I been doing to have so thoroughly disappeared?

Well, let me tell you.

I spent a good chunk of the weekend freaking out because suddenly it's Passover and I had nothing prepared. No menu, no list, no plans, no nothing. So Saturday I sat down with my husband, the Jew-in-Charge of Passover and we discussed the menu and I went shopping. It was there that I renewed my once a year love affair with chopped liver.

What is it about chopped liver that so intoxicates my senses? Is it the onions? The eggs? The schmaltz? I do not know. I only know that I bought a pound on Saturday and there is only half a pound left.

Also, the lady bagging my groceries wished me a "Happy Palm Sunday" which I don't think that anyone in my entire life, including the nuns who knew better, has ever done before.

Once I had the whole Passover menu under control I was able to really start worrying about the La Leche League of MA/RI/VT Area Breastfeeding Conference- or more specifically- the Silent Auction, of which I am in charge. My in-laws invited us out to their country house this weekend but I had to beg out. I needed to spend time organizing donations and writing descriptions. David took the children out to see his folks and I stayed home and spent six hours working on the auction. Then I had a salad for dinner and didn't put anyone to bed, and that was really awesome.

Today I finished up working on the auction, got some financial paperwork taken care of and did laundry. And then the children came home, demanding food and love and when they asked me if I had missed them, I lied and "Yes, my darlings, I was lost with you."

Now we are all here and we will have our Seder tomorrow night and we will eat delicious food. Then I will cross passover off of my list and march grimly toward the auction. Once the auction is done I will dash off to see Rebecca dance in a show. Then I will begin to fret in earnest about Lily's birthday which is on the 12th and for which I am unprepared. Then it will be Rebecca's birthday and there will be a dance recital and a gymnastics recital and really, I will not have a moments peace until June.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

She's one of us now...

You know that I have two kids. And you also know that one of my kids is a little, well, let's be honest here- she's a weirdo.

Lily is my little sprite of wonder and zaniness. She is the child most likely to be found in the backyard playing pirates with the dogs, the child who would like to eat cheeseburgers for every meal and the child who likes to put on my bras and nothing else and sing aloud to the family, "I'm a Barbie girl in a Barbie world, my boobs are plastic, it is fantastic!"

Until today, she was also the only person in our family who did not need glasses.

It drove her nuts. She did not like feeling left out. We assured her that based on her genetics it was extremely unlikely that she would live her life without glasses. This did not stop her from asking about it weekly.

"When will I get to wear glasses?" she'd whine hopelessly.

"If you're anything like the rest of us, you'll need them soon enough." I'd reply.

The past few weeks she has been mentioning some trouble seeing things far away. Today we went to see our eye doctor to confirm what I suspected; Lily needs glasses.

She is ecstatic.

She bounced in her seat all the way to the mall. We went to Lenscrafters because we are impatient and like our corrective lenses in about an hour.

Here is Lily without her glasses.

Here she is in her new hot pink wire frame glasses of happiness, joy and clarity.

She is very delighted with her new accessory. The entire drive home was punctuated with comparisons of what she could see with her glasses- everything was a blur before and now she can see perfectly.

Now Lily can rest easy every night knowing that she will not be left out of our fun. The fun of glasses- we know how to live!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Take that you soul sucking boulder!

Ha! The attic- it's my bitch.

Yes, that's right. I swore. On my pretty mommy blog. But this is not a time to be delicate.

It didn't look good this morning. The kitchen floor was filthy. My room was full of the crap which my attic regurgitated. The porch was full of black garbage bags.

I was despondent. Hopeless even. But I went back to the attic anyway. I finished the sorting, pulled out some more crap, swept the floor and declared it Good.

I made a trip to the Goodwill truck where I deposited ten bags of crappy crap crap.

I went to grocery store and replenished my stock of Skinny Cow cones.

Once I came home I had coffee and ice cream and prepared to tackle my room.

Another wave of hopelessness. Must. Push. Through.

Continued sorting, bagging and putting away. I could see the floor! And my bed!

Assigned jobs to the children.

Lily got tupperware organizing duty. She quit after ten minutes. "It's too hard!"

Sat her down and reviewed the terms of her residency here at Shiny Red Houses. Explained that "work" is called "work" because it is hard and often unpleasant. She got back to work.

By 2pm my bed had clean sheets and the floor was swept. The dishwasher was humming and the washing machine was playing backup.

In between schlepping children to dance and Hebrew school I washed the kitchen floor.

I still have more to do. I'll finish going through the kid's toys tomorrow and get things ready to bring to consignment on Thursday.

Victory may be sweet, but victory is also exhausting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pushing the boulder...

Today the girls and I spent the day in the attic stuffing crap into bags and hauling it down the stairs. Some bags of crap went out to the curb. Other bags of crap went onto the porch so that I can take them to Goodwill tomorrow.

I made my first trip to the Goodwill truck today where I dropped off six bags of god knows what.

Tomorrow I have another ten bags going. My attic seems to be a unique breeding ground for decorative baskets, curtains and stuffed animals. I got most of the "throw away" crap out of there, but I still need to spend more time up there sorting through things which can be sold and things which I need to keep like extra blankets and pillows.

You know how sometimes you start one of these projects and you realize that it will never end, that you will spend all of the rest of your days in Sisyphean misery?

That is me in my attic. It is also me in my basement.

I thought about taking a picture of the trash in front of my house, but really, the only thing more embarrassing than having the contents of your attic and basement strewn in garbage bags across a fifteen foot stretch of the curb is having the neighbors watching you take pictures of such trash.

Trust me on this: It's bad. It looks like we are being evicted.

My room is like a toy and home decor flop house. There is a pile of doll furniture which will go to consignment and another pile of throw pillows headed for the same.

Meanwhile, the kitchen floor is filthy and I am all out of light bulbs. David ate all of my emergency 100 calorie chocolate. The children keep chattering at me. Thank god for the dogs. They are the duct tape of my mind.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Pit of Despair or Three Hours in the Basement...

Oh my god.

People, I am so tired.

After a great weekend of 70 degree temperatures, a fancy Saturday night date with David and a joyful twenty-fifth anniversary celebration at our synagogue I ended the weekend with three hours in the dungeon.

Some people would call it a basement, but it is definitely a dungeon.

I took out some furniture and a rug to bring to a consignment store along with two big plastic containers of miscellaneous pitchers and trinkets. I filled six garbage bags of crap that was too dusty, musty or gross to give away and another six bags of whatnot to give to Goodwill.

I sprayed the damp areas with Tilex and I am happy to say that the basement no longer smells musty. It is however, still gross.

Now that I have removed most of the obvious things that had to go, I must fine tune a few areas. The area where my tools are is a disaster and can be significantly condensed.

I don't want to talk about where I keep all of my leftover paint. I'm not feeling that brave.

I also made an executive decision today. I love to read The Pioneer Woman's blog and I'd be a big lying liar if I did not admit to you that her style of homeschooling is one which has inspired me. I love the pictures of her kids feeding the livestock on the ranch and castrating the cattle between spelling and math lessons.

It made me realize that if Ree can put her kids to work while homeschooling then dangnabit so can I!

I decided that this week will be Spring Cleaning Week. The children will play an important role in the cleaning, purging and organizing of Shiny Red Houses. We'll sort through the attic and purge the toy shelves. They'll clean up the dog poop from the yard and bag all 457 foam flooring tiles that are currently strewn about my backyard.

We will work as womenfolk have worked since the dawn of time, making our cave habitable and rewarding ourselves with the sustenance of chocolate. We will be mighty warriors. We will be feared.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Taking Back the Basement...

Day One:

I made a rule for myself to help me make the tough choices. If I can't find a place for it, I have to get rid of it. Exceptions are Christmas and Halloween decorations. Today I dragged two bookshelves, a bishops chest, a wicker trunk and a desk into the living room and put them to use.

Do you like how you can see the vacuum cleaner in that shot as well as the heap of tablecloths on the dining room table? I'm all about keeping it real. If those bookcases weren't made of cheap pressed board I would paint them red to match the tv cabinet. Sometimes you just have to know when it's not worth the paint.

See that cute little desk in the corner? I dragged that baby up my rickety termite eaten basement steps all by myself.

The dogs will now be sleeping underneath said cute desk.

The bishops chest to the left of the piano? Also dragged that up the stairs all by myself. My mom bought me that piece about fifteen years ago. I think I may paint that...

I moved the black and white rug which had been in the living room and put it in the dining room and I absolutely love it there. While I was in the dining room I took care of a little project that has been on my mental to-do list for months.

We keep this little table in the dining room for the kids to sit at while they paint and do crafts. It gets a lot of use and is covered with paint. I have some oilcloth that I have been planning to use to cover it with.

This project took about five minutes to complete and I feel kind of stupid for putting it off for so long. I just used my staple gun to staple it to the underside of the table. Voila! No more paint smears!

The basement is now far more manageable. Now that I have removed a lot of the big pieces I need to go back down there and start pulling things to get rid of.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The three A's...

Do you ever feel that the universe is trying to tell you something? Perhaps even trying to tell you something big and ugly?

After spending some time in my basement, my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad basement I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into awareness. The awareness that my basement has become unmanageable.

This is an uncomfortable awareness and an awareness that was not without tantrums on my part.

"I love my junk!"

"If I had a house with closets I wouldn't have to store it all in the basement!"

"Life is not fair!"

Though all of those things are true, it does not change the fact that the current basement situation is not sustainable. I accept that it's time to consider some change.

Action will require some hard choices. I'll have to decide which things I must keep and which things I can pass on. My goal is to reduce the quantity of stuff in the basement by 50%.

Some things I may miss. Others I don't even remember that I own.

I will do this. And I will consume chocolate in victory.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In which I am cranky about my basement...

Well, the rain stopped. Finally.

And my basement never got more than an inch of water, unlike poor Amy whose family was jolted awake at 4am yesterday to the sound of the fire alarm and the smell of smoke. The water in her basement crested at about a foot at which time it shorted out the furnace and sent plumes of oil smoke into the house.

You'll be happy to know that her basement is now on its way to dryness and her furnace has defied all odds and healed itself.

My basement is also drying out. David spent a few hours down there today cursing my treasures and peeling up all of the foam flooring which I put down to try to minimize the dust from my disintegrating basement floor.

My basement floor most closely resembles clay mud. It's dirty, it's damp and resists all of my efforts to make it even slightly unhorrible. I need to do laundry but I don't want to go down there. This is America. You shouldn't have to wear wellies to do laundry in America!

Tomorrow I will be spending part of the day washing all of my foam flooring pieces and then drying all of my foam flooring pieces so that once my basement is done being such a jerk I can lay my flooring and wait for the next flood so that I can do it all again.

I might be a little cranky.

The sun was out today and Lily and I counted five crocuses in the yard and that almost made me forgive the basement for being so wretched. Almost, but not really.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In which I solve mysteries...

I'm kind of a weird chick.

The weirdness manifests itself in all kinds of ways which I will not be sharing with the internet tonight. There is however, one bit of weirdness that I feel I should share, because I am not completely sure how to interpret it.

I like to sleep with my window open a bit. At least half an inch in bitterly cold weather, but more often I have it open several inches. I have a window directly behind my head and I love to be cozy and warm in bed and feel the cold air on my face.

Here in Boston we are having a Nor' Easter, which means that there has been wind and rain for days. Last night before bed I put most of my hair in a top knot, opened my window a bit and went to sleep.

I woke up this morning and made my way to the shower. Once there I removed the doodad from my hair to discover that my hair was damp.

I thought back to the night before. I was certain that it was dry when I went to bed. How odd.

After my shower I went back to my bed and investigated my pillow, which curiously enough, was also damp.

There was only one explanation.

I was rained on in the night and did not notice it.

What does this mean? Shouldn't a sensible adult notice when they are being rained on? How could I have possibly slept through this? What else is happening in the night of which I am not aware?

It's a disturbing thought.

Once I realized that I had, in fact, been rained on, I knew that I needed to check the basement for water. As of two days ago it had finally dried out and the dehumidifiers were no longer bankrupting me with their electricity consumption. I tentatively made my way down the basement stairs to.... an inch of water. An inch of water which I very much did notice thank you very much.

I came back upstairs and alerted David to the situation. Then I demanded that he go see for himself.

"Why do I have to go see it? You just told me that there's water." he said.

"Yes, but I don't want to be the only one worrying about it and if you don't actually see it, it will be like it isn't there." I said.

"Woman, you are insane, but fine, I will go look." he said and headed to the basement.

When he came back up he looked appropriately concerned and I was satisfied in the way only a housewife can be. Now we must wait for the rain to stop, hopefully by Tuesday and we must hope that the water does not rise.

Some people have been asking for an ark. Me, I think my problems will be nicely solved with a sump pump and a shower cap.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The fantasy of the suburban housewife..

I have this fantasy.

I am wearing a long prairie skirt, sturdy wellies and an apron. The deep pockets of my skirt are filled with the crunchy grain of chicken feed. I step out of my house and into the yard where a chicken coop stands. As I approach, the chickens become excited. They rush forward as I open the fence and cluck noisily for their breakfast. The sun is peeking over the horizon and the air is warm and sweet.

With one hand I begin to spread the grain on the ground whispering softly to my chickens. They like it when I speak to them over breakfast. The dogs nose along the border of fence, curious and wanting to sniff these clucking bursts of feathers. I shush the dogs and continue past the chickens and into the hen house. In my hand is a basket and a soft dish towel. The hen house is dark and quiet. I make my way to the nests and reach into each one slowly, tentatively.

Some nests are empty, but most contain treasure. One by one the eggs, still warm, go into my basket. Once I have collected them all I say goodbye to the chickens and head back into the house.

That is the end. In my chicken fantasy the sun is always shining, I always have on an adorable prairie skirt and I never actually cook the eggs. I don't eat a lot of eggs come to think of it. And I am chronically overburdened by the pets I already have. However, it is a persistent fantasy, the kind of fantasy that can only be had by a certain kind of housewife. The kind of housewife who can romanticize being thrifty, who fantasizes about raising fowl, who longs not for flashy gems, but who can be content with all of the creatures of her queendom. She is the luckiest housewife of all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In which I ramble on for a bit...

Remember back in January when I said that I was going to floss every day? Well internet, I have failed you.

I have not flossed in weeks.

Also, my basement? A mess again! We had a bit of flooding which meant I needed to move things about in order to dry the moisture and then just when I had everything nice and dry, a dryer sheet clogged the drain of my utility sick which meant that all of the water from the washing machine went cascading onto the floor. I'm still trying to get it dry which means running the dehumidifiers 24/7 and creating a big scary electrical bill.

Meanwhile, the attic is mocking me. A complete horror. I wish that I had one of those chutes that I could put outside the attic window leading to a dumpster. Then I could just throw stuff down the chute and out of my life forever.

My achievements of late have included playing Scrabble and reading murder mysteries and coughing. The coughing is getting better, which I feel is important to mention since my mother is hounding me to go to the doctor.

While the children were away I did clean the house and it was simply amazing to go to bed Tuesday and find that the house was still clean the next morning. Then the children came home and it seemed that the house immediately sagged, knowing that the chaos of children would reduce the tidiness to squalor by the simple virtue of them walking through the door.

This week I found myself driving at night which I rarely do. I like driving at night because it gives me an opportunity to practice using evasive maneuvers if I am being followed. Sudden right turns and speed changes are essential to losing your tail if you are being followed. I know this from reading Jonathon Kellerman and Robert Parker books. Losing tails is one of the most important pieces of staying alive in this deadly world.

I spent some time out in my workshop today and while there I checked in on the hermit crabs, who I had kind of been hoping would die already. David bought them for the children last year because he hates me, I mean he wanted to thrill the children. The children were thrilled for about an hour and then the hermit crabs had to go live in David's office because it was clear that the cats were determined to make a meal out of them and would stop at nothing short of hermit crab tartare.

Since then the hermit crabs are infrequently fed and are generally ignored, which for some reason they seem to like. They continue to live, even though my friend Jim swore that they wouldn't survive the first month. When I go to the pet store David asks me to find the crabs bigger shells but none of the stores carry bigger shells- I don't think most hermit crabs live long enough to require bigger shells. They are miracle crabs and should probably be studied by hermit crab specialists, preferably in a lab somewhere and not in the office.

Perhaps that should be my next giveaway! Win a free set of hermit crabs! I'll even throw in Rebecca's frog and snail! The kids will never notice.

Do you feel like I've rambled on enough? Me too. Good night.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Codeine is my co-pilot...

Why hello there! I bet that you are wondering where I have been.

"Has she jetted away to Paris for the weekend? Or perhaps she has been touring the vineyards of California," you wonder.

No, none of those things are true. In fact I spent the weekend in bed coughing.

I coughed on Friday. Then I coughed on Saturday. The coughing continued Sunday and in fact today involved copious amounts of coughing as well.

I thought about blogging and giving you all of the details, but really, even I thought it was boring.

Today though, today I have some bona fide news!

The children are away for a few days. They have gone to spend time with my folks on the cape where they will be hopelessly spoiled and completely loved. They left my custody at 11:00am this morning and then the fun began.

First I went to Target and coughed there and bought some more lemon zinger tea and cough drops.

Then I went to Urban Renewals and coughed there and also found a pair of Lucky Brand jeans in the next size down that I can cram my body into.

Then I went to Kohl's in search of a wide white belt to wear with my new vintage aquamarine dress but they didn't have any. Also, I coughed.

By now I was tired so I came home and got into bed with the dogs and watched Law and Order until David was done with work so that we could go out for an adult dinner.

Rebecca has called me five times to tell me that she loves me and misses me. Lily did not want to talk to me on the phone and when her sister asked if she missed me, she replied, "Not really."

Now I am home and am enjoying not arguing with children about brushing their teeth and going to bed.

Tomorrow I am going to clean the house completely uninterrupted by demands for lunch, clean clothes and flame throwers. Because that is the kind of fun an adult woman has when her children go away. She cleans in silence and thanks god for the privilege.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Unexpected lovliness...

Today should have been one of those horrible days where the kids do nothing but wander around the house whining and carrying on and I become increasingly cranky and threaten to beat them with my shoes.

My reserves are low because of a strange cough virus which seems to be accompanied by muscle tightness around the back of my rib cage. Basically, I need to cough but I can't take a breath deep enough to do it properly.

The children's reserves are low because they stayed up late last night, determined to not sleep a wink until I returned from a dinner out with friends.

Do you like how I just threw that out there like I eat out all the time? Amy and I were both invited out to this dinner and it went against our most serious anti-social tendencies. Somehow we put on our big girl pants and went out to dinner like the grownups do and had a wonderful time, though you must know that we rhapsodised the entire way home about how wonderful it would be to get back to our warm beds.

So today had all of the ingredients for a day of great unpleasantness: tired children and a sick and tired mother. Add school work and allow to stew until the screaming begins.

The morning did include Lily screaming that under no circumstances was she tired and would I stop bringing it up because it was making her mad. And then she cried.

Somehow the schoolwork got done and then we all read for a while. Then Rebecca made lunch for her sister. I paid Rebecca $6 to clean the bathrooms and another $1 to vacuum the stairs. Nothing puts that kid in a good mood like capitalism and I was delirious for having avoided the task.

Then Lily and I snuggled and we all read some more. We had dinner at 5pm and the table was cleared by 5:25.

For the past two hours the girls have been playing with their teddy bears, an elaborate game involving broken bones, hospitals and many wardrobe changes.

This is the part where I go on a bit about homeschooling.

It's not like this for everyone. I know that.

But I have to tell you, and I whisper it as I do, but the change in these children and the way in which they relate to each other since we have started homeschooling is extraordinary.

There is all this time for them to be with each other, to discover each other again. They play and they bicker, but the quality of their play, the laughter makes me ache. They are so happy, so stinking happy. It makes them very easy to be with.

I imagined when we started homeschooling that I'd feel shackled, ready to chew my own leg off to escape and have a few moments to myself. It has not been like that. It has been the opposite- I adore being with them.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I love this life.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The difference the sun makes...

Here in Boston the weather has been gray and dreary for weeks. Though I am a lover of cold and winter, I have to confess that by the end of February even I start to get grouchy about it. It didn't help that we all spent most of February in hibernation because of illness, but really, the pace of of family had ground to a halt.

Today I woke up to something that felt like a miracle to us all- the sun was out and it was warm. By warm I mean 44 degrees, but around here that counts as warm!

I have been so productive! It's like I got a new set of batteries- the laundry is done, the homeschooling is done and I remembered the pick up the dry cleaning! What won't I do next?

Rebecca has been feeling very productive too. She received this wonderful book for Christmas and it has been the jumping off point for many projects.


She has been making these sweet cows for her friends recently.

It's been keeping her very busy. I like busy children. Busy children let me read murder mysteries. They used to let me read murder mysteries and eat bonbons, but I don't eat the bonbons so much anymore. Want to know why? Because I have lost 24 1/2 lbs! I have no idea how I have managed this. A bit more exercise and bit less chocolate. Who knew?

I hope you are getting a bit of sun wherever you are. It seems like with just a bit of sun, anything is possible.