Friday, April 29, 2011

Bring Backup

Millie writes:

When I am asked what holds the Number One spot on my list of advice for people who are just starting out as parents, I usually say, “Trust your instincts.”

If someone were to ask me that this week, I would have to say it's, “Bring backup.”

Now don't get me wrong: I firmly believe that the responsibility for my children rests squarely on my shoulders and their fathers', and nowhere else. We made 'em, it's our job to see that they grow up healthy and whole and at least semi-domesticated. Raising a child is a voluntary decision, and if you've made it it's your duty to see the thing through personally.

But “personally” doesn't have to mean “alone.”

This has been brought home to me again recently, because I've just gone through a rather nasty bout of pneumonia. I'll spare you the details; suffice it to say that I haven't been good for anything, much less parenting, for the last two weeks.

It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I began to feel better, because – well, imagine what would happen in your house if nobody did any work for two weeks. "Chaos" is what would happen here. Today is the first day I really felt up to taking stock of the situation.

And what did I find?

I found that my family has my back.

Homework got done, the ACT's got taken, Easter happened, people got fed every day. Library books were picked up, bank deposits were made, prom tickets were bought. Floors were swept and vacuumed, the fish and chickens are still here. Someone even bought plants for the hanging baskets. People brought me soup and medicine and emptied my trash. I didn't ask for any of this - it just happened.

I'm experiencing what Lance and I call a “Parenting Payday” with the realization that my kids are in fact extremely civilized, in addition to being loving and thoughtful and even skilful when they want to be. I already knew that my husband is the Veray Parfit Gentil Knight, but a reminder was long overdue.

Who's in your corner? Is it your husband, your sister, your mother, a friend? Perhaps you have neighbors upon whom you can always depend. Cultivate these people and be grateful for their presence in your life. You may not think about it when times are good, but it's the definition of an emergency that it happens when you least expect it – and there's not a single parent out there who doesn't need a little help from time to time.

Who's got your back?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Royal Wedding

Millie writes:

Last night my exasperated 17-year-old daughter asked me, “Why is everyone making such a big deal about this wedding? I mean, it's just two people getting married – who cares?”

Her question took me right back to 1981. That was the year Reagan was sworn in as President, AIDS was first diagnosed, and the first space shuttle was launched – but everything else took a back seat to the “fairytale wedding” of Prince William's parents, Charles and Diana.

Now that was a media frenzy.

Why do people make such a fuss out of royal weddings? Well, one reason, of course, is that journalists hammer relentlessly on anything sensational enough to sell newspapers, magazines or air time. They don't care if something is romantic or horrific as long as it's interesting, and they'll publish any snippets of news, criticism or speculation that will keep their audience coming back. That's Economics 101.

People love pomp and ceremony, and it's hard to imagine anything more rife with custom than an occasion that combines royalty, romance and religion. A royal wedding rolls up Camelot with Sleeping Beauty, spreads the Archbishop of Canterbury on top and sprinkles everything liberally with golden fairy dust.

There's a little bit of horrified fascination in the mix, too. After all, we know how hard it was to plan our own weddings, and what kinds of things went wrong; if it was embarrassing to us to step on our cathedral-length veil and yank it half off our own head during our processional, how much worse would it be to do that if you were being watched by basically every sentient being on the planet? (This is also the basic principle behind the popularity of NASCAR.)

However, I think people are interested in royal weddings for the same reason they're interested in common weddings: hope. Yes, we all know the divorce statistics, and we know that the storybooks glossed right over quarrels about closet space, PMS and dirty diapers. Still, for that brief, shining moment, the prince and the princess have found one another. Faces beam as they promise the world to love and honor one another, and it's perfectly possible that they will live “happily ever after.” We can believe that True Love will always conquer all. Who doesn't want to see that?

Now, will someone please explain to me why anyone watches the Oscars??

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Communing with the Potty

My friend, Mandy, writes a blog that I've been reading for a good while now. She's another home school mama of four, all near the same age as my own kidlets. She's the one who inspired me to give cloth diapering another chance. She's also the one that reintroduced the concept of Elimination Communication. I'd heard about it before, from Blossom's Mayim Bialik... and thought she was nuts. Or that she was an actress with money and loads of time on her hands to give EC the attention it requires. Not something I could do. That was two babies ago, dismissed and forgotten. Then Mandy started blogging about it. Here was a mom in very similar circumstances to myself... and the way she described going about it just made sense.

So I've been experimenting with it. It has been a few days now. This weekend was pretty busy, so I didn't do much with it.. but yesterday I think I caught more than I missed. And I've only missed one pee this morning (totally should have listened to myself! I *knew* she was about to go, but I'd JUST sat down to type this up.. sure enough, one sentence in and I saw her peeing near the couch. I immediately made the "psss" sound I'm hoping she learns to associate with peeing in the potty, sat her down on her pot even though she was done and cleaned up the pee). I call them "catches" and "misses"--no accidents here.

This morning I also caught my first poop! She didn't go all day yesterday, so I knew it was going to happen in a big way this morning. She's always a morning pooper, and when I first started my EC journey (ha, I make it sound as though that was ages ago!) I wouldn't get her out of her night time diaper soon enough and she'd always poop in it before I could. Well, I was awake at 6:20 or so this morning, just kinda laying there gearing up for the day, when she started to fuss. I knew she wasn't hungry and she was in the process of waking up herself, so I hopped out of bed and brought her to her little potty, which is located in the living room right now. I took her mostly dry diaper (she was fussing last night when I was preparing to lay her down, changed her from her cloth diaper to her disposable night diaper and a moment later she peed--she was fussing because she needed to potty and she didn't want to do that in her diaper!) off and sat her on the pot, making the pssss sound. About a minute and a half later she emptied her bladder, much to the delight of her siblings, all up and at 'em early this morning as well. We all cheered for her, which has become our custom. She gave her two toothed grin as I got her off the potty.

Well, I was on high alert for that morning poop. Hovered near the pot for a good bit, nursing her for a few minutes here and there. She wasn't doing anything to show she was ready, so I stuck her (mostly dry) diaper back on (figuring if she was about to poop, might as well just throw it away) and made breakfast for the kids. As soon as breakfast was done, I went back to hanging out near the potty with Kayla. I was playing Words with Friends on my iPad and she was squirming to get off the potty... and when I took her off, I noticed a bit of poop on the seat where she'd been squirming around. "Kayla! You're pooping!" I nearly shouted. I cleaned up the poop with a cloth wipe and sat her back down. She didn't appear to be very comfortable pooping on the pot, but I'm hoping that's because it is a new sensation. A minute later I lifted her up, and behold! There was poop! I got her cleaned up and went back to the bathroom to clean out the potty. When I got back into the living room, she'd pooped a bit again on the floor. Aha, so she poops at least two times before she's actually DONE. I'll keep her on the pot a bit longer next time. And that's what Woolite Pet Stain Remover is for, yes? Live and learn.

There you have it. Less diapers being dirtied (I actually had no poopy diapers in the bin this morning, so I didn't have to do an extra rinse cycle before the wash) means less laundry to do, saving money in detergent, energy and water. I could probably go every three days washing them, if it weren't for the cloth pullups that need to be cleaned every two days. That, and it's about to be getting super hot--which means the diapers are gonna get stinky(er) if they aren't washed as often. It just means smaller loads though.

Kinda wish (like cloth diapering) I'd done this from Laureli on. Then again, I was working until Laureli was ten months old, so I wouldn't have been able to do that. Not as often, anyhow. The past is the past and I'm looking forward to the future.

Oh.. and Kayla is doing a bunch of walking these days. I wonder how long it'll take before she associates the feelings of "I need to pee" to "I better get to the potty" and start toddling over there on her own?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

To Dye For

Millie writes:

Easter's on its way, and as I opened the box of decorations this morning I realized that not only did I buy the little cardboard box of dye pellets last night, I stocked up on them at the sales after Easter last year.

I guess I plan to dye just a little, inside.

Anyway, believe it or not there are lots of ways to color your Easter eggs and some of them don't even involve those little dye pellets at all. (You probably already know this, but if you have vinegar and liquid food coloring you can make your own dye.) As long as everyone's making a mess anyway, you may as well give one or two of them a try!

Au Naturel

Yellow onion peels make orange, red onion peels make purple, purple cabbage makes blue, beets make pink, ground turmeric makes yellow. Boil the dye material in water until the water is darker than the color you want on the eggs, then let cool. (Use a LOT of dye material; for example, a whole head of cabbage will dye about 8 eggs.) Strain the stuff out of the water and add a scant ¼ cup of vinegar. Cover the eggs with the dye and let the whole thing sit in the fridge until the eggs are as dark as you want them.


Wrap rubber bands around a hard-boiled egg before you dye it. Vary the rubber bands' widths and the placement for different looks. For colored stripes, dye an egg a light color, let it dry, wrap rubber bands around it and dye it again with a darker color.

Crepe Paper

Have you ever seen crepe paper get wet and bleed dye everywhere? There are two ways to harness this power for good. One way is to boil the raw egg in water to which you've added a few yards of crepe-paper streamer and a little vinegar. The other is to dampen a hard-boiled egg, cover it artistically with shreds of torn crepe paper, and mist the whole thing with water. When it dries the crepe paper will brush off, leaving the color behind.


This is why they put the white crayons in the box. Use one to draw designs on a dry, hard-boiled egg (this requires a leap of faith because it's pretty hard to see what you're drawing) and then dye it. The dye will resist sticking where the crayon's wax is protecting the egg. You're supposed to be able to dip the egg in boiling water, wipe off the melted wax and dye it again to color that pattern, but I've never had any luck with that – it just smears the wax all over the egg. Looks shiny, though.


This looks so elegant and it's so easy to do – just add a few drops of cooking oil to your dye water. Right before you dip the egg, stir the water to swirl things around and break up the oil globs. Lower the egg slowly into the dye, lift it back out and the swirly patterns will stick to the shell. When it's dry wipe the oil off (this works better with oil than it does with wax) and, if you like, marble it again with another color. Pretty.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Minister as Spiritual Housewife

Millie writes:

The Reverend Grace Pritchard Burson is the Associate Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. She and I “met” in the comments section of a mutual friend on Facebook. Our friend had asked whether those Housewives of Whatever shows degraded the concept of “housewife.” In her comment, Rev. Burson mentioned a paper she'd written about the role of the clergy as homemaker. When I expressed interest she very kindly posted a copy for me to read, and when I begged her to allow us to re-post it here she graciously agreed.

I can't speak to the ministry aspect, but Rev. Burson's conception of a housewife's mission exactly matches my own. It is as humble as mopping floors and as exalted as nourishing souls. Please pass this entry along to every woman who has ever questioned the value of what she does for her family.

Grace, thank you so much for letting me share this!

The Rev. Burson writes:

This is a short piece that I wrote in 2004 for a class on church administration in seminary. I was 25, in the final semester of my Master of Divinity degree and had just begun the ordination process for the Episcopal priesthood. The assignment was given early on in the class and asked us to explore an image or metaphor for our future ministry. Having become interested in sustainable farming during my time in graduate school, I had recently worked as an organic farm intern. Although some of the content of this piece seems romanticized in hindsight, I have decided not to alter the original text.

An image I find compelling when I imagine my future ministry in a parish is one that is easy to misinterpret: the image of the housewife. But by “housewife” I mean not the 1950s woman with her crinoline, labor-saving devices, and soap operas, but the much older and more meaningful role of the woman who worked as manager of her own self-sufficient household (whether it included a husband or not). She – in cooperation with whoever ran the farm – was responsible for nothing less than the survival of the whole household, and needed to possess all the relevant skills for the job: the provision and preparation of food, clothing, and household objects, treatment of illness, management of servants and children, and concern for the household’s emotional well-being. The housewife’s job required planning, expertise, and a great deal of emotional and practical intelligence. She was both craftsperson and executive, both focused on the practical and concerned with the personal.

The parallels with parish ministry are many. The parish priest must have a similar combination of craft and administrative ability. He or she must pay attention to practical details but remember that the ultimate concern is people. Both priest and housewife must teach, encourage, monitor, and occasionally discipline.
Yet these somewhat abstract comparisons do not capture the image’s appeal to me, which is rooted in two features of the housewife’s work: hospitality and nourishment. The housewife prepares for guests and incorporates them into the thriving life of the household, providing for their physical and emotional comfort. She cleans the house, prepares food, and readies the other members of the household for the celebration of the guests’ arrival. The minister, for his or her part, must be ready to receive all guests as Christ, welcome them, and incorporate them into the life of the parish. The aim is summarized in the lines of the Advent hymn, with its reference to Christ as guest: “Make your house fair as you are able,/Trim the hearth, and set the table:/People, look east, and sing today,/Love the guest is on the way.” The parish priest “trims the hearth and sets the table” by providing a vibrantly functional parish life that draws the guest in.

The minister (unlike the housewife!) hopes that all guests will stay and become members of the household, and it is here that the idea of nourishment comes into play. The housewife is preeminently responsible for keeping her household fed, and for teaching the servants and children the skills they need to participate in the household’s sustenance. Not only does she provide the daily three meals, but also food and drink for festival occasions. The parallels to the priest are obvious: he or she provides spiritual sustenance for the people of the parish household in the form of worship, preaching, pastoral care, education, and outreach. But the housewife teaches her skills to servants and children so they can play their part in the running of the household, without which her workload would be insupportable. Just thus the parish minister must foster active ministry within the parish or he or she will burn out with trying to be the sole nourisher among them all. Nevertheless, the minister remains the one responsible for making it all happen, and especially putting on the lavish feasts and celebrations in the household’s time of rejoicing. Obviously, all households must deal with death as well as birth, sorrow as well as joy, and just as housewives were the ones to wash and lay out the body,comfort the mourners and oversee the wake, the minister cares for and nourishes the parish in times of grief.

A Scriptural warrant for this image of the housewife comes in the wonderful passage at Proverbs 31:10-31, describing the “capable wife” who “looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness,” who “girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong,” who “provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls.” It roots the job of ministry – often at risk of becoming abstract and cerebral – in the realities of life. It affirms the image of a strong woman who rolls up her sleeves and pitches in, who is a good steward of the people and the things of God, who cares intelligently for the members of her household. It is a worthy image for both men and women in the service of God.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Dearest Mollie (oh Goddess of Retirement!):

How does one know when the youngest is a card-carrying adult?


Someone Is Surely Trending Eventual Retirement

Precious Sister:

The youngest purchases a lawn edger.

(on her way out the door to cruise the Middle East over Easter Holidays)

Let the party begin!

Your Skin Survival Kit

Millie writes:

Here in the rainy Pacific Northwest we welcome Spring pretty fervently, as you may imagine. However, even if you live on an ice floe the sunshine and the longer, warmer days come with a downside: dry, itchy, bug-bitten skin. (Maybe that happens on ice floes, too, for all I know.)

Before you panic and head to the dermatologist for these new bumps, flakes and itches, try a few of these home remedies. You may be able to save up enough for that yellow polka-dot bikini you've had your eye on for summer!

Dry, Itchy Skin
Good ol' oatmeal is one of the best skin-soothers you can buy. It contains compounds that fight fungal infections and inflammation, cleanse gently, and moisturize. Run several cups of uncooked oatmeal through the food processor or blender until it's very fine, then add it slowly to the bathtub under warm running water. Soak for at least 10 minutes, then pat the skin dry. You can soak in an oatmeal bath as often as necessary – it's oatmeal, for goodness' sake, it can't hurt you. It will go right down the drain but it does make the tub slippery, so be careful when you get in and out. Oatmeal can help with the dryness and itchiness associated with bug bites, eczema, chicken pox, poison ivy and just general dry skin.

Bug Bites
There are a lot of home remedies for bug bites; you probably have your own favorites. Some people put a damp aspirin over the bite, while others swear by tea-tree oil. If you're bitten near a creek or a river, put mud on the bite and leave it until it dries. An ice cube can make the bite feel better, at least as long as you keep it frozen. Possibly the least elegant but most effective solution I've found is to put Preparation H on the bite.

Heat Rash

If you have a baby – or used to – dig out that old tube of diaper-rash cream. The zinc oxide in the ointment will instantly relieve the pain and itching of heat rash. (If you, like me, are of Juno-esque proportions, you may be interested to learn that it will also relieve those raw patches under your breasts or on your thighs known so flatteringly as “chub rub.”) You can also press diaper-rash cream into use as emergency suntan lotion – it's basically the same as that white stuff that lifeguards use on their noses.


Less rain means more outside play, which means more scrapes and bruises. We always put sugar on scrapes to stop the bleeding. Some of the kids I knew used cobwebs for the same purpose and it seemed to work pretty well, too, though I could never bring myself to do it. Soap and water, hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial ointment and a bandage are your best bets, though. No use fooling around with infection.

The best remedy for sunburn is not to get burned in the first place, but it's easy to forget the sunscreen after a long winter of being indoors all the time. To relieve the pain try covering it with a washcloth dipped in milk or pouring a cup of cider vinegar into a lukewarm bath and soaking in that for a while. Small sunburns will feel better if you hold a slice of raw potato or cucumber over the area. Aloe vera gel is supposed to help (though I never thought it made much difference, myself) but if that's not available, try dampening some teabags in cool water and laying those directly on the burn.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Carrot and Stick, Meet Dungeons and Dragons

Millie writes:

Millie's Third Commandment for Children reads thusly: Thou Shalt Have Chores, and Thou Shalt Do Those Suckers.

I'm sure my kids would disagree with me on this, but I firmly believe that being responsible for a few chores from the time they are old enough to hold a dust rag is absolutely necessary for the development of trustworthy, competent adults.

Not that it's that easy, of course. At first I spent so much time reminding (or “nagging”) kids that it would have been much faster and less irritating to just do them myself. I'm sure that's what Hitler's mom thought. After nearly a quarter-century of using every motivational ploy I could think of to get the message across, I've become an expert on everything from The Chart to The Carrot-and-Stick Approach.

I once wrote an entry about the “House Points” Chore Reward System that Lance and I devised when the kids were elementary-to-middle-school aged and going through their Harry Potter phase. That system was really a lot of fun for all of us, and it worked for quite a long time (kid-time, that is, which is sort of like dog-time). When the kids became late-middle-school-to-high-school age, though, Harry Potter was considered to be a little babyish.

What became “cool” was video games and Dungeons and Dragons.

Enter Chore Wars.

This site is so cool and kid-friendly that I can hardly believe it's free. You set up an account on the site and type in whatever household chores you want, then set up the amount of experience points (XP) that can be earned by doing each chore. Then set up an account for each of your kids (or let them set it up, if they're old enough) and send them on “adventures.”

They will earn XP for each chore they do, and they will compete with one another to see who can “Level Up” the fastest. They can also win in-game prizes (like gold or jewels or potions), and if you want to you could give real prizes that correspond to the virtual ones (for example, a Golden Dishmop could be traded in for a chore-free evening).

It's completely customizable, easy for even non-techie parents to use and – here's the beauty part, for me – it keeps records for you. You can easily keep track of who's done their chores and who hasn't, how often they've been done and by whom. You can choose to award prizes for the kid with the most XP that week (chocolate coins is a good one!) and even set up special “quests” for one-off chores like cleaning the garage or shampooing the carpets.

If you and your kids are in a rut as far as chores are concerned, give this a try. It may be just the spoonful of sugar you need!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Be Careful What You Ask For . . .

Mollie writes:

Being a nice Catholic girl at heart, I've always wanted to go to the Holy Land since I was a wee thing. Long after I lost my interest in organized religion, that aim has taken seat in my soul, enough that I've always saved a little money "just in case" the opportunity came up.

Well, that never happened while we had kids at home, so once things were "organized" after the kids were grown, John and I started our "bucket list." It wasn't so much a list of things we wanted to do before we died, it's a list of things we want to do while we're still able to - be it physically, mentally, emotionally or fiscally.

It's been 6 years since the youngest turned 21 and John and I realized that we had a few good years between kids and grandkids. So we 'scaled back', sold the bigger home, bought a smaller one and started saving money for making our wishes tangible.

Last year, we realized that if we really wanted to go to the Holy Land, we could if we saved diligently for it. And voila, with the help of a really good travel agent, we found a cruise that starts up in Rome and travels the Mediterranean and winds up in Athens. Stops would include Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt Israel, Syria, and on.

So we opened up our purse and booked the cruise. It's all paid for and our tours scheduled, and we leave in the next few days. The only problem is that we didn't plan on all the political stuff.

It's hard to plan a trip to Egypt, Israel and Syria and NOT take the political climate into consideration. I suspect I'm the only person I know who just assumed that the status quo would remain during our brief foray into the Middle East, but there you have it, Egypt and Syria are now powder kegs.

So our tour has been rebooked to exclude Egypt and Syria. We are still going to Israel, and I'll get to see what I really wanted to see, Jerusalem and Bethlehem and Nazareth, but Syria and Egypt are off the radar.

We've been to Egypt when John had meetings at the Aswan Dam and in Cairo. So I'm not feeling sorry for myself at all. And, I really don't need to see Syria - especially when I found out that I needed a visa that costs several hundred dollars and won't be give to me if Israel is on my passport.

So, our schedule was changed to include more of Turkey and the Greek Isles. Works for me. This means I can leave my flack jacket at home and bring more sun screen. It means that we see exactly what we wanted to see. I've always wanted to see Ephesus, one of the oldest cities of the world, and the place where Jesus' mother spent her final days.

So here we go. We are 61 and 58 respectively, and happy to be seeing all that we will see. I'll try to keep in touch, if for no other reason than to confirm that there IS life after children yet before grandchildren. We are young enough to enjoy the trip, and old enough to pay for it.

Mazel Tov!

for the best travel agent in the world, contact Janel Fidalgo at:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dress the Part

Millie writes:

Have you ever experienced this? You go to the same restaurant two Fridays in a row. The staff is the same, the crowd is the same, even the weather is the same – but the first time you're wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, and the second time you've “dressed up.”

The first Friday you are seated between the bathrooms and the kitchen. The second Friday you're seated by the front windows.

Whether you think it's a pity or a blessing, it's a fact that people respond to you differently depending on how you present yourself. When you are out in public, you are representing your job, your group or your family – like it or not – and how you dress affects how seriously people will take you.

Oddly, it will also affect how seriously you take yourself.

There are reams of articles, columns and books to tell you how to dress suitably for most professions. One universal snippet of advice to people climbing the corporate ladder is to dress a level above your current station; people will subconsciously assume you're capable of being in charge, because you look like you're capable of being in charge. Take careful note, SAHMs and SAHDs, because this applies to you, too.

Ours is a visual culture, so you might as well make this work for you. The board room and the restaurant aren't the only places where people will give you different feedback depending upon how you look. A well-groomed person will be taken much more seriously at the doctor's office, the mechanic's garage, and the parent-teacher conference. If you look like a grown-up with some authority, that's how people will treat you. This is why they call it “Face value,” chicks.

I get it, I do – not only is a SAHM frequently operating on one income, she needs to be able to move. She spends much of her day (especially in those early years) on her knees cleaning up messes that defy description or playing with her little ones on their own levels. She's as apt to be up to her elbows in fingerpaints as her kids, and there are diapers and spit-up and thrown food with which she must contend. Also, said kids are apt to rise for the day at an unreasonably early hour. Anything other than your husband's old college t-shirt and a comfy pair of jeans is ludicrous, right?

Well, hear me out.

Unless you have a baby under 3 months old – in which case getting dressed at all is a miracle, some days – it is just as easy to dress like a grown-up as it is like a teenage boy. It doesn't take any longer to slip into a (washable!) cotton sweater and a pair of dark (so it won't show the stains) khakis than it does to pull on that baggy tee and holy sweat pants. In the summer, a pretty pair of capris with a gauzy top is cool and practical. If it's more your style, slip into a full gypsy skirt and a peasant top (probably not a white one), or wear a flowing, transparent tunic over a matching tank and leggings. You can be comfortable and still feel pretty.

Face it, girls: the jeans and t-shirts are comfy, but sloppy. They're fine for gardening and camping, but after high school they are no longer appropriate everyday wear.

Dressing well doesn't take any longer than dressing badly, though it may take a while to build up your collection of “grown-up lady” clothes. Grooming well does take a little more time, though not as much as you may think. Make the time. (You should know, after reading this blog for a year, that a woman with six kids doesn't say that lightly.)

This is basic self-care, and it will help you nourish your own soul in the midst of giving so much of it away on a daily basis.

If your hair is always in your way and you spend your days with it bundled back into a tail held with broccoli elastic, getting a cute low-maintenance short cut will help you feel pulled-together and confident. If, on the other hand, you love your waist-length mane of hair, give yourself permission to spend a little time blowing it dry, French-braiding it, or whatever you do to style it in the most becoming way. Time invested in caring for yourself is a lot cheaper than therapy.

Put on a little mascara and some lip gloss every day, even if you don't think you'll be leaving the house; in the first place, having your Game Face on will give you courage. In the second place, it's always those days when you're wearing the bleach-spattered sweats and your hair looks like you slept on it that you run to the store for a jug of milk and find yourself in line behind your old college boyfriend who's a doctor now.

(Since Millie is the self-confessed sex maniac of our little group, I feel safe in making another point - you will be a lot more attractive to your mate if your hair is clean and you're not wearing a gravy-stained t-shirt. Shaving your legs on a regular basis and wearing a little perfume will remind both of you that you are a couple too, not just parents.)

I discovered this “dressing up” thing when I was in my early thirties, and in addition to finding that teachers, pediatricians and clerks in snooty department stores took me more seriously, I experienced a couple of unexpected side-effects. For one thing, my (then) husband started treating me like another adult again (as opposed to a “mom”), probably because I started acting more like one.

For another, my kids began to listen to me more.

It makes sense, after all. I “looked like a Mom,” instead of like a 17-year-old working on his car. I looked like someone with authority, someone who knew what she was doing, and it affected the kids in my house as surely as it did the adults in the outside world. Most importantly, it affected me. Dressing the part made it that much easier to play the part.

You are a representative of your vocation whether you're a lawyer, a barista or a stay-at-home mom – or a combination of the three. To the people you meet, casually and otherwise, you are the face of your career. If you look ragged and dowdy, people will assume you don't take it very seriously. If you look calm and put-together, people will treat you and your job more respectfully.

Including yourself.

* * *

There are a few web sites out there that can help you in your search for wardrobe and grooming ideas that are fast, inexpensive and practical. One I read regularly is Beauty Tips for Ministers, written by the lovely PeaceBang. Not only is she alternately profound and hilarious, her tips and exhortations are applicable to anyone, not just ministers.

If you know of similar sites, help the rest of us out and leave a note!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It Ain't Easy Being Me, Part Deux

Mollie writes:

Well, it's been a year since Millie and I fell off the deep end and took up the mantle of domestic blogging. We were both utterly convinced that we have the answer to everything (actually, we are still utterly convinced) and that no global drama isn't mirrored in the accidental trivia of a normal day in our homes.

The nice thing about writing this blog, for me, is that it provides me the opportunity to do things I haven't been able to do for years. I'm trying to remember the last time I wrote a full paragraph in one sitting once I had children. But, the opposite has occurred to me - when was the first time I wrote a full paragraph at one sitting after I had kids.

Frankly, it was when we started blogging.

So I write every day. Not all is for the blog, but it's a long unkept promise to myself that I'm finally keeping. Not that my scribbles (what's the high-tech term for scribbles?) are of any particular value, it's just one 58 year old diva ranting, laughing, snickering or just lamenting. And it's the fact that once I post something it's in the universe forever that cautions me.

Millie and I are reasonably certain that we've seen it all - domestically. Kids with seizures, kids with incredible talents, kids who are deployed, kids who fib about their homework, kids who hide their dirty socks under their beds (that is where all those missing socks are FYI, marinating under the bed with the kids' tidy whities).

So I'm watching CNN this morning (sadly, I'm addicted) and heard that the nuclear disaster rating for Japan's impacted power plant now equals that of the Chernobyl disaster. And included in the report is a clip of my favorite tight black t-shirt explaining to me about the similarities.

Back in 1986, we were living in Switzerland with our toddlers. John was on an engineering assignment and I was learning how to avoid "boil wash" on the washing machines in our apartment building (that's another blog altogether). After John's work was done, we rented a teeny tiny motor home and toured France.

We were in Versailles (in a teeny tiny campground) at a patisserie when I spotted a Le Monde newspaper shrieking the news. I beat a path back to the campground with my croissants and a newspaper, and spent the rest of the morning reading the article s-l-o-w-l-y, using my petit Larousse to translate the hard words. Once I figured out that we were in a 'red spot', I grabbed my kids from the playground and immediately insisted that they stop eating the dirt.

We returned to Switzerland where we had good friends who gave us irradiated food (go figure) to sustain us until we knew more about radiation in the non-irradiated food. Once we realized that the gloomy cloud was about to become world wide, we were in an airplane, headed to Boston where my sister-in-law (a chemistry professor, no less) kindly bit her tongue while I washed, washed, washed the kids' clothes over and over.

I've always wanted to blame my MS on my exposure to Chernobyl, but, frankly, who knows? My poor immune system could have been naturally inclined to it, or maybe it was the 3,231 tube steaks I'd eaten as a child (nasty nitrates . . .). But in any event I learned, in 1986, that you can run but you can't hide.

So when the news of the nuclear crisis in Japan was broken, I had a little pragmatic history with it, as does every mom raising kids world wide in 1986. I was more concerned with the immediate disaster (remember that earthquake and the tsunami?) than I was about the potential nuclear fall out in my own back yard.

We need to be more aware of the world we live in. We take earthquakes and tsunamis with equanimity but we panic when our disasters are man made.

We should.

I'm interested in hearing about Chernobyl, 25 years later. We all will eventually die, but, for me at least, I'd like to hear more about what numbers we have accumulated about the increase in MS, cancer, and other disorders (or decrease, though I doubt it). But even more, I want to hear more about TODAY, what Japanese moms are doing in Japan to recover from their grief over lost children, lost spouses, lost homes and lost hope. It's not that I'm a sadist, it's just that in addition to learning about nuclear waste, we can also learn about grief management, shock, sorrow and despair and rebuilding, pragmatically rebuilding, and celebrating what remains.

So here I am, a slumbering 58 year old moderately obese white female, asking the obvious domestic questions. In the end, these are the questions we all want answered. But it's settling on me that questions that start in the home are universal.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Big Brother is Watching

Millie writes:

I tend to stay away from religion and politics in this blog. I've found that nothing will alienate people as quickly as declaring one's affiliations up-front, and you can't have a productive conversation with someone who's already decided to disagree with you.

The four of us – Millie, Mollie, Maggie and May – may self-identify differently so far as political or religious labels are concerned, but where the rubber hits the road on most topics – love, marriage, child-rearing, right and wrong – we tend to agree with one another, more often than not, pretty much right down the line.

However, it's hard for me to imagine any thinking being agreeing with what's happening in one Chicago public school.

Briefly, Chicago's Little Village Academy – a public school, despite the pretentious name – has outlawed sack lunches. The kids can eat the cafeteria lunch – or they can go without.

Citizens, this is over-reaching.

I get that it's fashionable nowadays to bemoan the “epidemic of obesity” among today's youth; I get that it's difficult to teach kids who are wired on sugar or buzzed on caffeine; I even understand that school is a place to learn to make intelligent choices in all sorts of categories, including health. In fact, that's my point in a nutshell:

School is a place to learn.

School is not a health clinic (though some schools do have health clinics, that is not the educational system's function). School is not a day-care center. School is not a dentist's office or a political indoctrination center or a church. School is a place to learn how to make small decisions so that, as adults, you can make the big decisions for yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a proponent of a bag of Big Macs for every meal. I think that healthy kids need healthy food, exercise, fresh air and plenty of sleep. School work = brain work = hard work, and they need fuel that will carry them through the day with stamina and energy.

Neither do I think that an occasional Twinkie will hurt anything.

The point is that what my kids eat – as well as what they wear, where they live, how they worship and whether or not they take fluoride pills – is my business. These things are judgment calls – and in the case of my child, the only judgment that counts is mine.

The public school district – which I hasten to remind you is run by your government on your tax dollars – has the right to recommend that parents keep the soft drinks and the candy bars out of the lunch boxes. They have the right to recommend water instead of milk, whole-wheat wraps instead of white bread or low-salt options. However, they are not private schools – they do not have the right to make these decisions for families.

The principal at Little Village Academy, Elsa Carmona, disagrees. She told the Chicago Tribune, "Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school. . . . It's milk versus a Coke."

Hey, Elsa?

That is a choice for PARENTS to make.

Friday, April 8, 2011

365 on 365

Millie writes:

Well, here we are – it's been one year since Mollie and I started this blog, and this is the 365th entry.

It's been a most rewarding year for me, as we've explored every topic from pre-natal nesting to post-retirement sewage referendums and all points in between. We've been joined by Maggie, May and a delightful assortment of guest authors. We've heard from a lot of readers, both here and on Facebook, and we've learned (we're still learning) a lot about the mechanics of writing a blog.

Thank you for being with us this year, for letting us share in your triumphs and setbacks and for listening to ours. If you have a favorite post, it's easy to share it with your friends – those little buttons at the end of each entry make it a cinch to share the blog through email, Blogger, Twitter, Facebook or Google Buzz.

What sorts of issues would you like to see The Four M's deal with in the coming year? What topic we've tackled has tickled you? Do you have a question about life, love or parenting that you've always wanted to ask Millie and Mollie?

Whether you've been here from Day 1 or you're a brand-new reader, leave us a note today (you don't have to sign it!) and let us know you've been here. Millie, Mollie, Maggie and May have a lot to say, but the best blogs are collaborations between the authors and the readers.

Thanks for being such a big part of our first year!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Oh yeah . . . I went there.

Millie writes:

So as you might have guessed from last Monday's blog entry (read that entry here if you haven't seen it already) there came a time when home schooling, added to my existing workload, became a little overwhelming. After some very earnest discussions with Lance - and feeling a little like Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the church door - I posted the following missive in our dining room:


So what if you left your socks on the coffee table? It’s not a big thing.

But say that each of you does ten of those tiny things a day – and that’s a pretty low estimate.

That leaves me at least 60 small jobs I need to do before I can start my own day. In fact, these small jobs take up MOST of my day.

You know that I am home-schooling now. This is something that takes a tremendous amount of work to do well, and it requires a great deal of studying and preparation.

This means that I am no longer available to pick up your socks, argue with you over whether or not you need to make a lunch, or beg you to take your laundry downstairs so that I can wash and fold it for you.

In fact, until you can all step up to the plate and do your own chores COMPLETELY without being nagged or reminded, pick up after yourselves, and perform the mechanics of daily life without needing me to cheerlead you through them, I am going to suspend the performance of my housekeeping duties.

This is not a punishment. I am not helping you by assuming responsibility for things you should be doing for yourself, and even if I wanted to keep doing it I no longer have the time. When we can ALL contribute to making our home run smoothly, I will be very glad to resume my vocation.

Until then, no more housekeeper.

(Still Wife and Mom, though.)

I thought all my troubles would be solved, and went to work armed with the glow of rectitude and a renewed sense of purpose.

Well, if you're a parent, I don't need to tell you what happened next: Nothing.

A week passed and dirty clothes piled up, the lawn got taller and lunches went unmade.

During the second week I couldn't stand it and pointed out my Manifesto to the kids - they hadn't noticed it before.

Three weeks later I finally admitted defeat. I had a good cry and a good scream in private, then a good laugh at myself in public, and talked to the kids AGAIN about pulling their fair share. They cheerfully agreed to do so - they have always been nothing if not cheerful - and we settled back into the same old "Mom reminds, kids drag their feet" dance that parents and children have done since time immemorial.

As they've gotten older, they've gradually improved - quite gradually, in some cases - to the point where I don't spend my days anymore chasing around after them to clean up their own messes. In fact, most of them have grown into remarkably responsible adults - a couple are still in school, but even they've come a long way.

It just goes to show, though, that parenting can make even a Millie lose her sense of humor, her sense of perspective and her patience.

And that it will all usually come out okay in the end, anyway.

The Kidney Island Vortex

Go figure - it's April 7th, and we have snow on the ground. As I'm writing this, it's purt near melted, but last night we had an inch or so.

If we have many more winter/springs like this, I'm gonna have to learn how to drive in the stuff.

What's that . . . . . ? A pig flying????!!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut

Millie writes:

As a woman, my instinct when someone has a problem is to support them, brainstorm with them, and help them to come up with a solution. This works pretty well when the problem is something like teasing, homework, or whether to wear the green dress or the blue dress to prom.

However, as a mother I tend to use the Listening-Ear-and-Wise-Counsel technique so often that I forget it isn't always appropriate. Every problem isn't a nail, even if “Maybe you should try this” has begun to look like a hammer.

Sometimes I just need to shut up and butt out.

My husband is dealing with some thorny work-related issues right now, and I'm biting my tongue to keep from offering him some advice (and if anyone knows of a better deterrent than tongue-biting, I'm all ears, because that's only working about 2/3 of the time). I am so used to being asked “What should I do?” that now I apparently think I have the answer to everything. In this case, I don't. He's smarter than I, he's savvier than I, and he is much more experienced in this particular realm of Corporate America than I will ever be. He doesn't need me to tell him what to do.

He needs me to keep my mouth shut so he can think.

Loath though I am to admit it, my kids also need me to keep my mouth shut far more often than I actually do. The college kid can choose his own major. The high school kids can choose their own friends. Everybody can remember to do their own homework – and if they don't, they'll learn their lessons a heck of a lot quicker than if I run interference for them with their teachers.

When you spend your days with tiny persons looking to you for advice and direction, it's all too easy to get into the habit of telling people what they should do. As they get older they may ask for it less, but you have so much help to give that it seems a shame to make them suffer through the learning process when you could just tell them – right? After six kids you'd think I'd know this, but it's something I need to re-learn every four months or so.

It's true, I do know a lot about a lot of things. I've built up a store of ideas and shortcuts and discoveries that have stood me in good stead, and I'm glad to share them when I'm asked. Maybe overly glad, but I'm working on that; just as I'm working on the mantra, “My Husband is Not My Child.”

Can you recite a mantra with your mouth shut?

When is a Vote Not a Vote?

Mollie writes:

I learned something new about Kidney Island this last month. We've all gone feudal!

In the effort to force an un-sewer upon 400+ residents in an area on South Kidney Island, our Water and Sewer Commissioners have proposed a LID for our neck of the woods. A LID is a Local Improvement District in the State of Washington. What the bottom line of a LID is: our commissioners can assess us for a Sewer to Nowhere without bringing it to a popular vote.

If this particular plan were to go forth, approximately 400+ property owners would be assessed for a $40,000.000.00 system that doesn't address solid waste. We are looking at an average of $90,000.00 per property. Most of the people in our neighborhood can't afford to write a check for that amount, or finance it with a second mortgage.

If this proposal came to a popular vote, it would be voted out on a heartbeat. This is not to say that these South Kidney Islanders are anti-sewer, or anti-environment: these citizens pro environment. But in the absence of water testing, growth projections, and other tangible data, the vast majority of us are absolutely certain that throwing $40,000.000. at an undefined problem is, frankly, stupid.

So the commissioners came up with a plan that circumvents the popular vote. If the LID is passed by our commissioners, instead of having a poplar vote on this issue, the citizens in the effected area have to stipulate that they are AGAINST the Sewer to Nowhere, to the tune of 40%.

AND, here's the rub. The county will only accept opposition from land owners. You can live here all your life, serve in the military, pay your taxes, practice lawful citizenship, etc. and you can't express yourself on this issue if you live in this area unless you are a member of the landed gentry.

So if you RENT your home, you are without a vote. And trust me, if your landlord is assessed $90,000.00 for a sewer to nowhere, it will show up in your rent! But you can't vote. Does anyone else consider this taxation without representation?

But, wait, there's more! Votes are counted by amount of land owned, not by number of citizens. What this means is if you are a developer and you own 20 acres, you get 20 votes. And if you're a homeowner and you own 1/4 acre you get 1/4 vote. Vive la riche! All it would take is one major landowner with unbuildable land to outvote hordes of folks who can barely afford their current mortgages.

And, yes, grasshopper, there are folks like that out there. Some of the large property owners are Lind's Drugs, Nichols Brother's, Payless Foods, and Trinity Lutheran Church. And, yes, they are pro the Sewer to Nowhere.

And if that weren't enough our commissioners assure us that our local, state, and federal governments are just rolling in dough, waiting to give us free money (read tax-payer money) to offset the cost. This is the same federal government that plans to shut down Friday, April 8th, nationwide, and this is the same state government who has made enormous cuts in services state-wide to accommodate a failing budget, and a local government that partially shuts down on Fridays because the tax dollar doesn't go so far!

There's a group of concerned citizens who are well informed on this subject (read licensed engineers, scientists with PhDs, etc.) who are stridently against this LID. It will bankrupt our community and it won't address the issue of water quality of Holmes Harbor, where we ALL live.

What it will do is enrich the real estate community in the form of sales of foreclosures, and developers who have managed to "improve" lots that were previously un-sellable because of septic issues. It will marginalize folks who don't have $90,000.00 sitting around collecting interest, and it completely omits those of us who pay taxes, serve our country, but, for whatever reason, don't belong to the landed gentry.

These same citizens will have to look for homes elsewhere, which will impoverish the area. We'll have a sewer system that doesn't process solid waste, and we will have managed to do this without determining if Holmes Harbor is really as endangered as developers and real estate agents say, since they never took the time or paid the expense to do appropriate fecal coliform testing or document what causes red tides in the area.

Who will be left are the enriched land-owners who can now sell a lot for a whole lot more since they no longer have to prove that their lot "perks" - a fancy term that means that a septic system is no longer necessary. And it will have been paid for on the backs of the foreclosures and bankrupt citizens who never got a chance to vote!

This is NO WAY to build trust. What we have here are real estate folks who stand to make money if this passes, and developers who stand to make money if this passes - pure and simple.

There was a public meeting at Trinity Lutheran Church last night to explain all this to the locals. One Water and Sewer Commissioner didn't even bother show up, and the other two showed up, once again, without water testing data, proof of government subsidies, or any evidence that Holmes Harbor is endangered.

The two attending commissioners read the community and voted to postpone the LID until further documentation can be presented.

We're waiting . . .

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

Mollie writes:

I've been writing a lot about poo-poo and ca-ca lately, as well as e-mailing my senators, congressmen, the media, etc. And it looks like "The Sewer To Nowhere" is in temporary hiatus while more "research" is done.

Don't think that your life is over because the kids are grown and you don't run marathons. You can stay constructively busy by being an advocate for good citizenship just by posting your thoughts on your blog, then e-mailing it throughout the universe.

More tomorrow when the Water and Sewer District meeting is over, meanwhile . . .

Just saying . . .

Monday, April 4, 2011

WORF WORF!!!!!!!!!!

Mollie writes:

It's official, I've found a dog that is actually cuter than Boatsie the Wonder Dog! His name is Worf, and he's Roger's and Joy's dog.

He's a chug (Chihuahua/pug) and is ABSOLUTELY the cutest little guy on the planet. His uncle Boatsie played with him off and on all day Sunday, until the little fellow made the the old man exhausted!

I can't imagine a home without a pet, unless allergies are a problem. There is something exclusively lovable about a mutt - and put our two mutts in the same back yard together and you have perpetual ecstasy!

Home-Grown Math

Millie writes:

This goes out to all you home-schoolers out there. Jack and I home-schooled for half his eighth-grade year - I usually look back at those months with quite a bit of nostalgia, but I ran across this old math worksheet today and wonder if it was really as much fun as I remember it!


Problem 1.1
Monday morning, Jackie left the following things for his Mommy to do:

1. Pick up the sweater in the back yard; wring out the sweater
2. Put sweater in laundry
3. Pick up the socks in the back yard; wring out the socks
4. Put socks in laundry
5. Pick up cap in the back yard; wring out the cap
6. Put cap in laundry
7. Pick up broken sunglasses in back yard
8. Glue sunglasses back together
9. Put sunglasses away
10. Pick up chair in back yard; dry off chair
11. Put oatmeal box on kitchen counter away
12. Take down propulsion experiment and put pieces away

If each of these activities takes five minutes to perform, how long will it take Jack’s Mommy to finish? ______________

Problem 1.2

Jack’s Mommy has five other children and a husband. If each of those people leave the same number of things for Jack’s Mommy to do every day, how much time will that take her? (Remember to add Jackie’s time to the total.) _________________

Problem 1.3
Each of the six children in Jackie’s family have an average of 2 daily chores. For these chores to be accomplished, Jackie’s Mommy must remind each child for ten minutes per chore (averaging in the arguments). How much time does Mommy spend daily reminding children to do their chores? _______________

Problem 2.1

Jackie’s Mommy homeschools Jackie for six hours a day. She also must spend at least two hours a day planning what she and Jackie will do the next day. If you DON’T count the weekends, when she plans Jackie’s 8th Grade Curriculum, how many hours a day does Jackie’s Mommy work on school-related things? _____________

Problem 2.2
Jackie’s Mommy also cooks, cleans, makes after-school snacks, does all the laundry, shops for groceries, irons, works in the garden and drives people places (like to the doctor, the dentist, the optician, and choir practice). If she spends a half-hour a day on each of these things, how long will it take her? _____________

Problem 2.3
If Daddy stops talking long enough, Jackie’s Mommy can sometimes sleep from midnight until 6 in the morning. How long is that? _____________

Problem 3: Add up the answers to problems 1.2 through 2.3. How long is that? _________________

Problem 4
: How many hours are there in a day? __________________

Bonus Problem: When will Jackie’s Mommy read, write, bathe, sew, watch a movie, proofread a paper or go to the bathroom? _____________________________________________________________________

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring in My Step

Millie writes:

There comes a day every year when you wake up with the sun streaming through the window - quite often there is birdsong involved, too. You jump out of bed with alacrity instead of your usual surly sluggishness and think, "It's time to go outside!"

Regardless of what the calendar tells you, this is the First Day of Spring.

It came late for me this year, but when it hit this morning it hit hard. I weeded 2 1/2 flower beds before the rain finally drove me back indoors (it was gorgeous when I went out, but Oregon springs are notoriously fickle). This isn't even a drop in the bucket of what remains to be done - we have a huge yard and a lot of container plants, too - but it's a start.

Gardening, like everything else in life, works better when you spend about half the time actually doing the work and the other half sitting back on your heels entertaining grand fantasies about what you would like to do next. I have visions of moss, this year, and splashes of red astilbe against yellow daylilies. I want to find a mail-order source for nasturtiums so I can truly plant them everywhere. The little maple didn't survive that last ice storm . . . maybe a tree rose, in its place?

During intermission we went to the feed store and discovered it was Peep Season - and in addition to the usual chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys there were quail, chukar and pheasants. We were sorely tempted - especially by the quail, quail chicks are chipmunk-striped and about the size of walnuts! - but we're already over our Urban Fowl limit so we resisted.

This winter was long and hard, but spring has come (as it always does if you wait long enough). The Earth seemed completely barren but now it's teeming with new life, as the daffodils, crocus, tulips and hyacinth all bloom together as if they're afraid they'll miss something. There's finally ground-in dirt under my fingernails again . . .

. . . and it feels great!

April Fool!!!

I was inspired by Millie's entry yesterday, and so while Phil was at work, I put together a "pizza" for dinner. It's been a while since we've been grocery shopping, so I had to improvise a little bit. The "crust" of the pizza is a giant cookie, made from a pumpkin cookie kit we bought from Cost Plus World Market back in the fall. The "sauce" was the frosting that had come with the kit, but for someone making their own dough, strawberry jam would work just as well. I made the "cheese" by putting about half a package of white chocolate chips in the food processor and letting it run for about 30 seconds, then spreading it over the surface of the cookie. Then I sprinkled dried cranberries and dates on the top to look like pizza toppings, and voila!

It was quite well received, although it took him a moment to understand why I was bringing him pizza for dessert. ;-)

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

Millie writes:

When I was growing up there was always a certain amount of cruelty associated with April Fool's Day. It seems someone would always carry a prank just a little too far and someone would get hurt. What should have been a funny, joking sort of day was often used as an excuse for all sorts of mean behavior, which was dismissed with, "April Fool's! Jeeze, can't you take a joke?"

This is why, when I had kids of my own, I decided to re-make April First into a gentler holiday. We took the focus away from making fools of each other and put the spotlight on fooling around together!

Little kids think it's just hilarious when things aren't the way they "should" be, which is a fine characteristic to exploit on April first. Turn the table upside-down before they appear for breakfast, then set it as usual and pretend you don't notice anything. They'll be astonished! At story time, read their favorite books as usual - but hold them upside-down and "read" as though you're talking backward. Again, pretend nothing is unusual - when the kid turns the book right-side-up again, say, "Oh! I didn't even notice - it must have been the April Fool!"

They may grow more sophisticated as they get older (though I'm always surprised at how well the good old jokes still work - I actually got Jack with the old "Henway" chestnut last week!) so you have to find new ways to mess with 'em. Fill a backpack with Superballs and a hatchback with balloons. Serve dinner directly on the table - no plates or utensils - and hand out serving forks to eat with. (This works particularly well with spaghetti.) Whatever you do, act surprised that they're surprised, and blame it on that enigmatic gremlin - the April Fool!

For the last few years Lance and I have made an April first tradition of serving a snack that is food that looks like some OTHER kind of food. You can find all kinds of useful recipes on the Web - we've made candy sushi, Rice Krispies meatloaf with ice-cream mashed potatoes, candy fried eggs with caramel bacon, individual "chicken" pot pies that were actually filled with vanilla pudding and dried fruits and many other delicacies. This year I fooled them twice - not only were their ice cream cones actually cupcakes, but they got 'em for breakfast (since that was the only time they're all going to be home today).

Being an April Fool is as much fun for me as it is for the kids. It's entertaining to take an "Animal House" approach to your usual routine and look at things through fresh eyes. It helps to exercise everyone's senses of humor and wonder and gives us all a chance to laugh together.

No foolin'!


It's hard not to admire someone with a backbone.

Every so often, you come across people who just don't cave in. If you look at the above picture, you'll see the presence of two such folks.

The picture is of Rose City Fred Meyer, formerly situated on Sandy Boulevard in Portland Oregon. Smack dab in the middle of the picture, you can see a house, yard and out building. Encircling it is what was once a Fred Meyer Store.

Back in the 40's Mr. Meyer wanted to build a shopping complex at 70th and Sandy Boulevard, a few blocks from where my husband grew up. Mr. Meyer, bless his heart, was successful in buying all the residential property at his proposed site save one solitary parcel. It seems that a Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Murray didn't want to sell - they'd paid off their mortgage and were living in comfort right where they wanted to be.

Mr. Meyer made them fair offers, but the Murrays wouldn't budge. In the end, Mr. Meyer had to make a hard decision about what to do with this investment.

He built around the Murrays.

When I was a kid in the fifties and sixties, we'd shop at that Fred Meyer. We'd park on the roof and take the stairs down to the store. Freddy's had roof-top parking since there wasn't much of a parking lot, and street parking was inadequate. We'd turn off Sandy Boulevard, drive north past the Murray's, then turn on the ramp to reach the roof-top lot.

This continued for years until well after the Murrays and Mr. Meyer passed. A developer bought the properties, tore down the Fred Meyer Store. And, it's my understanding that the house itself was moved to another location.

It's nice to think that the house survived the decades. Life moves on, and what's today's development is tomorrow's tear down.

But the spirit of the Murrays lives on!