Unscheduled Blogging Break: the Good, the Bad, and the Still Dirty House

I haven’t posted in nine days, which in blogging terms is closer to seventy-four years. Didn’t plan it, didn’t resurrect posts from my archive (most of which make internet bulimia look good). I don’t really know what happened, beyond your common-or-Dr. Seuss-variety slump.

A few years ago, Angela from New York sent us the children’s book Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear by N. M. Bodecker and Eric Blegvad. It’s a poem about a woman in New England who has chores galore before winter comes. “Stack the stove wood, string the beans, up the storms and down the screens.” Round and round and in and out she whirls, while Hubs lolls in bed and then waits for his tea in his rocking chair.

Dick isn’t that bad, we live in an apartment, and if ignoring your children were an Olympic sport I’d be the Shawn Johnson of mothering. (Finally a gold in something!). So other than the adequately-helpful husband, easy access to mass-manufactured canned goods, and kids happy to watch movie after movie, my life is exactly the same as the under-appreciated, over-worked Mary Dear.

That’s my excuse for not blogging, anyway. Of course, probably you managed to find other means of entertainment in my absence (Just kidding! — of course you sat and moped while I slumped and Michael Phelps won yet another gold medal. I mean, after awhile, doesn’t all that winning and breaking world records and million dollar bonuses from Visa get just a bit . . . old?).

Have you noticed how many sports have four events or four strokes, or how much better baseball would be if there were only four innings? So I tried to think up four categories for my blogging break, but there’s a reason I’m not an Olympic athlete, despite doing my best to eat as close to 12,000 calories a day as possible. So I fell back on pros and cons:

Seven Pros and Cons of the Blogging Break

(1) Pro: Fun Outings with the kids (pools, dinosaur museums, parks)

Con: Since Susan (turning 4 in October) will not start kindergarten for 734 days, there are more pools, dinosaur museums, parks and McDonald play places in my immediate future than June Cleaver ever imagined.

(2) Pro: All this swimming = best tan of my life.

Con: All this no-routine-in-general, not-going-to-the gym-in-specific = flabbiest stomach since Spot vacated the premises.

(3) Pro: Gorgeous Utah weather — it’s getting chilly after dark now, and we’ve been stopping at parks on our way home.

Con: That’s on our way home from seeing every single (cheap) house, townhome, and condo in a thirty-mile radius. Apparently we are poor, picky, poor, and soon-to-be homeless.

(4) Pro: Quality reading time.

Con: Spending the better part of two days reading Breaking Dawn = “quality” might be a stretch. (That’s nothing time-wasting-wise though — I read Scarlett, arguably the worst book ever, in 18 hours straight).

(5) Pro: More time for “real life.”

Con: The house is still a mess anyway. “Real life” should not include “clean house.”

(6) Pro: Time with good friends from high school and my sister.

Con: Real-life problems like complicated pregnancies and lousy husbands are much harder to cope with that quirky servers and mean Stumblers and feelings of raging blogging-inadequacy.

(7) Pro: If you don’t post, turning on the computer is much less “what-if-no-one-commented-on-my-last-post” angst-ridden.

Con: If you don’t post, getting fewer comments is almost for sure. (Although I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the emails, tweets, and IRL comments; my acknowledgments page is all ready in case I ever write anything real).

If you wrote a great post while I’ve been gone, let me know. I hate it when people say that. Duh, all my posts are great, and if you weren’t such a loser, you’d know that and whenever you come back from a break you’d be camped out at my blog catching up. Right? Well, let me know if I missed your epic/ramble/etc. I’ll stumble it for you! Seriously. Unless you’d rather I didn’t, in which case tell me why, ’cause I’m planning a post on Adventures in Stumbling.

We’re going to my dad’s family’s reunion tonight; back late Thursday. Had to promise Dick I’d do all the laundry this week in exchange for him getting to go on the funnest camping trip ever with the coolest people ever. ! So if you send me a post url after 3 pm today, I’ll stumble it early Friday. I’d really like to read your post, stumble it, and then get some feedback from you as to what sort of response/traffic you get from the experience. Like a focus group, only better.

Banana Popsicles: Potassium, Fiber, and Chocolate, Oh My!

Last week I threatened to throw the blender off our balcony if it got left out ONE MORE TIME. Dick likes to make smoothies, which is great because the kids love them, they’re pretty healthy, and blah blah blah.

But who has to clean up after them? Me. That’s who. And somehow putting the blender back, which takes five seconds, is the absolute last straw.

I told Dick that the kitchen was like my office, and how would he like it if I messed up his office?

Of course he wouldn’t like that, he admitted, but now he has another way to irritate me: asking if I’m ever going to do the dishes in my office. So, I’d like to take back what I said about the kitchen being my office. I hereby lay no claim whatsoever on the kitchen or its contents.

In that spirit, I’ve been doing more “Cook with Your Children” stuff. I want my kids to learn to cook, be aware of sound nutritional principles (whether we live up to them or not) AND to appreciate that the food on the table doesn’t just magically appear.

One of our more successful experiments so far is Banana Popsicles, which we first had during spring break at The Well-Rounded Woman‘s house. Apparently in Arizona it’s a good idea to start freezing your fruit in March.

For this project I had only one lovely assistant, Susan, as Spot was napping and Sally was attending that ill-fated musical with Grandma.

Here she is holding the ingredients. I don’t know how bananas can be both green and freckled at the same time.

I like my bananas ripe in general, but they need to be pretty firm for the freezing and impaling process. Speaking of processes, here’s the complicated recipe:

I stole the phrase “not lengthwise” off recipezaar.com, I think. In case that sounds like “not-counter-clockwise” or something, here’s what they look like before you pop them in the freezer:

And here’s Aunt Marcy demonstrating the proper dipping technique, or at least, what results from proper dipping technique. (Notice her new pretty not-wedding ring):

Dick’s boss’s name in Egypt was Falak. She was kind of a pill, that woman. Here in Utah we have neighbors named Fallick. Anyway.

Whatever your name, these Banana Popsicles will work for you! Next time I’d like to try a layer of peanut butter topping (think Reese’s makes some), freezing for a minute, and then a layer of chocolate. Yu-um.

This weekend’s Things That Must Go features a $50 Giveaway from Hanes! (More Underwear + Socks = Less Frequent Laundry Loads!). Check back to share your Things That Must Go and to enter the contest.

Dear Sally, Grandma thinks you’re autistic and she can’t stop talking about it

{Back to HELP WANTED.}

Sometimes I think about homeschooling. This thinking usually peaks around May and plummets in July. The timing is handy, making me look forward to both summer vacation and to school starting again. And even though I know it’s a cycle, I can’t avoid it because let’s face it: two universal truths are competing here.

1) Kids are annoying. (Yes? You disagree? How about “high-energy” or “best-enjoyed-after-long-stretches-away-from-home”?)

2) Public school policy can be moronic.

I think I’m pretty rational (if liberal) about school attendance, so imagine my surprise when Sally’s school started sending home truancy notices last year. As if their attendance policies were somehow more significant than mine. Wait — Who gave birth to this kid? That’s what I thought.

When I reported to the school secretary, she advised getting doctors’ notes in future, as illnesses are excused. I asked, “How about I just tell you she’s sick. Because I don’t take her to the doctor for every cold or stomach bug, and I assume you don’t want green snot and vomit everywhere.” And the secretary kindly told me I could bring Sally in for them to determine that she is sick. As if I need anyone else to tell me my kid’s sick or to dispense a heavenly benediction upon my decision to keep my kid home from school. Just when, exactly, did public school import Principal Mao?

So. There’s a lot to be said for homeschooling, namely: freedom from dimwit public “officials” with unimaginable thirsts for power.

Then again (it’s July, after all), there’s much to be said for saying adios every morning at 8:30 and feeling genuinely excited to pick up the kids at 3. Love you again!!

I admit. This seems pretty unbalanced on the side of arranging things for mom’s benefit. Sure, Sally gets interaction and learns stuff at school. But I could set up playdates and fieldtrips and such. And now that she can read (after agonizing about her not reading by five, she read Harry Potter 1-4 last week), I am ultra-plus confident that she can and will learn whatever she wants to.

So why are we gazing longingly at the bins of Elmer’s glue and plastic pencil keepers? The stacks of freshly-cut paper and the Barbie backpacks?

The truth is, Sally needs other adults to love/emulate/admire. The longer she’s at home all day with me, the more needy she gets. I was teaching her Sunday school class at church until recently, and she always wanted to sit right by me, kissing my arm and distracting everyone.

Last June, Dick came home from a business trip on the last day of school. I picked him up at the airport and then we went to Sally’s school. I thought she would be ecstatic over seeing her beloved, fun, tolerant father. But she barely looked at him. She was inconsolable for a couple hours because she wouldn’t be seeing her teacher anymore: Mrs. Machol had announced that she was switching schools next year.

We reminded Sally that we were hoping to move too before the next year, and that she would be in second grade anyway. “But I won’t see her ever again,” she wailed.

Honestly? I was a bit miffed. Wasn’t she excited to see Daddy? Wasn’t she delighted about getting to be with Mom all the time? I promised to take her to the library (like kid crack) and swimming lessons (more kid crack) and Grandma’s house (ultimate kid crack), and, nothing.

Of course she bounced back, and this summer has been pretty good. But I want you to know that I am buying school supplies tomorrow, and next week I’ll call the school to see who she gets for second grade.

As long as her teachers are like Mrs. Machol and not Principal Mao, public school is best. For mom AND for Sally.

Don’t forget to go share your Things That Must Go. The LLBean Tote Bag giveaway ends tonight at midnight.

p.s. I don’t think Sally’s autistic. For one thing, she’s very affectionate and, for another, Grandma, despite all her other perfections, is not a trained psychologist. I’m sorry Sally was so crazy at the Little Women musical, Mom, but I don’t think autism was the problem.

For Nana and Grampa in Florida — Thanks for the dorky husband. Also, you’ll be glad to know your grandkids can swim

dick and susan swimmingFor a few months after my sister’s husband left her, Dick and I were really nice to each other. I cooked his favorite meals (or at least I cooked: not sure if they were actually favorites). He started putting Spot to bed along with her sisters.

Of course he does this completely wrong, letting Spot play for “five minutes” in the big girls’ room before being banished to her lonely crib, but I accepted that it was a nice gesture.

We celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary and recounted our highlights, which consisted mostly of remembering fights in exotic locales (remember that discussion in Hyde Park when we went to Iceland and England for Spring Break at Columbia? There’s a reason people head SOUTH for Spring Break).

Then this weekend we went to my parents’ to celebrate my sister’s birthday. My dad got a little upset when I volunteered Dick for some outdoor labor, saying I shouldn’t “take advantage of his good nature.” I think my parents have spent the past ten years living in fear that my shrewish nature might finally push Dick over the edge, and I suppose now they’re really worried: What if Dick decides to follow the Prince of Darkness’s example and leave his innocent wife and three kids?

Well, I got news for you. First: I want Dick to know that if he ever left, I wouldn’t fight him for custody of the kids. It’d be a sacrifice, naturally, but he can have them all to himself. And second, I cannot imagine a person more different from my more-selfish-and-self-centered-than-Lindsay-Lohan-and-Bill-Clinton combined PoD brother-in-law than Dick. Whereas the PoD has both a Bentley and a Mercedes, Dick would like to buy a bike. From DI (like Salvation Army). Because riding a bike would be better exercise than the train.

I could go on, (I could mention our connubial life, and how superior Dick is in that area as well, but I wouldn’t want anyone to think that my sister and I compare notes on that sort of thing. But we do, and Dick is. Much.)

Mostly I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I am blind to Dick’s flaws. He does have a few.

Number one being that he is, in all honesty, a dork. I should probably look in the urban dictionary for a term from this decade, but “dork” just fits. Here he is, pretending to drown. How inappropriate.

dick pretends to drown, susan swims the length from jane on Vimeo.

Just ignore those pet names we have for each other.

And here is Sally doing underwater somersaults. I am afraid that I might be a dork, too. At least I didn’t attempt a Michelle Obama-style bump. It’s humiliating enough to have your high-five go unacknowledged.

sally doing flips in the water from jane on Vimeo.a>.

Dick thinks I should get the kids in swim team. I think he should try driving them everywhere before he starts inventing new activities for them to do. I know, Nana and Grampa, Dick was a star in swim team. But, remember how annoying it was driving him to all those practices?

What? You say that sort of hands-on parenting is what produces such wonderful, dorky grown-ups? Argh.

Well, swim lessons start again on Monday, and I’m planning to keep my dorky husband, and that’s what works for me this week!

Things That Must Go and an LLBean Tote Bag giveaway are this weekend!

A Man for Marcy — Updated

We took the kids to Lagoon yesterday (more on that next week). I expressed some purely platonic (“He is sooo cute!” “What a great smile” “Look at that those shoulders!”) admiration for one of the young men in the Broadway Rhythm show, and when Dick pointed this out to me, I told him I was just scoping out men for Marcy, who will soon be free to admire in a not-so-platonic manner.

He might be a little young, but he is agile and nubile and such white teeth on that boy. Here he is again. I am so, so sad that I didn’t just march up to the stage and get a real picture, but I don’t know if Dick would’ve believed it was only for Marcy.

So Gray is forever blurry, but oh-so-beautiful. (Those shoulders!)

I’m thinking this could be a regular feature around here: A Man for Marcy. Only for my favorite sister (Happy Birthday, Marcy!), would I do something like ogle strangers.


p.s. We’re moving servers this weekend, so apparently our sites will be down forever. Or hopefully 24-72 hours. Which is basically the same thing. I had some great plans for Things That Must Go, but this server has been a giant fuse short of a motherboard for awhile now, so, what can you do? Hope to see you again soon! Things That Must Go: Computers, Computers, Computers. I know I’d be lost without them, but really, they’re bad for my blood pressure. Apparently our servers got upgraded, so we’re not moving. And after I had packed all my china so carefully.

Sugar and Sugar, and Everything Nice

Last week Mary Poppins visited, and she brought a craft. I think she got the idea from church, where the nice ladies helped the kids make sugar cube temples. Families are big at the Mormon church. By big, I mean important, though often they are above-average-in-size, too.

Dick and I were married in the Manti temple ten years ago, and the temple is a symbol of our marriage and our family, of our belief that we can be together forever. Even on the days when that sounds more like making license plates with my bare hands for seventy years than a heavenly blessing.

Mary Poppins is a bit more secular than that, and apparently feels she has to compete with those Disney Princesses. So she called her craft:

Sugar Cube Princess Castles


When planning a war campaign craft, the most important thing is gathering the correct supplies.

A box of sugar cubes is just over a dollar. Glitter, glue sticks and tin foil are cheap at the dollar store. I cut up a cereal box to get the cardboard for the bases.

Sugar + shiny stuff = serious enthusiasm. When we ask Susan what she wants to be when she grows up, she says, “Just like Sally.” It’s only a matter of time before Spot realizes that she, too, wants to be just like Sally, and also that sugar tastes better than glitter.

Wrap the tin foil around the cardboard for the base, like so. And stop eating the sugar!


While they concentrated on their castles, I pondered the fact that Sally now has freckles on her chin, and her ears are still elf-pointed, just like her daddy’s. We got her to think positively about the birthmark on her arm by telling her that it was how I knew I was taking the right baby home from the hospital. My sister asked me today if we’d be letting Sally get her ears pierced soon. Probably for her eighth birthday, but only if she realizes she wants it done. So far she hasn’t mentioned it, or the fact that she has Spock ears. Wonder how we’ll make her feel good about those.


Here’s Susan with her finished castle. Mary Poppins forgot to buy the right kind of glue (plain old school glue is best), and some frustration was expressed when trying to get the dang cubes to stay stacked, so we did squares and triangles, and built a house.


Here’s our best rendition of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It’s a castle just like the house we’re hoping to buy before summer ends or Mary Poppins loses all patience (whichever comes first) is a castle.

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“Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb. You gonna arrest me? Bomb bomb bomb bomb! During the war I was a BOMBadier!”

Diet Coke and Mentos on the 4th of July from jane on Vimeo.
My younger brother Ryan has been wanting to show us the beauty of a Diet Coke/Mentos bomb for some time now. What better day than the 4th of July? Notice Sally trying to save Spot.

And that is not me screaming.