Friday, March 26, 2010

Sledding and a bonfire!

Malcolm and Lilly on a sled, Daddy on a snowmobile and a giant bonfire! Thanks to our friends whose families own the property and put up a generator with floodlights for the night!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Groundhog was Right!

Punxsutawney Phil was spot on, 6 weeks after Groundhog Day, here is the spring he predicted.

I don't need a groundhog to tell me that though. See, I live in New England. Here, people are their OWN groundhogs! In other words, we peek out of our little dens, we don't see our shadow and out we go in full force! However, we don't do it on February 2. (TOO COLD! Are you kidding me?) Our personal Groundhog Day varies from year-to-year depending on Mother Nature's whims.

Seriously, yesterday, EVERYONE was outside! It had reached 70 degrees! I saw strollers, babies, toddlers, grandmas, crocuses, people eating ice cream cones, motorcycles, convertible cars, classic cars (that you woudn't DARE drive around here in the winter. You'll ruin them AND most are rear-wheel drive which stinks in the snow), subwoofers shaking cars (and my car next to them at red lights), bees, sunroofs open, people in shorts, sandals and yes, even WHITE SHOES BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY! (In my mother's day, this was a fashion faux pas.)

There's something special about the first signs of spring in New England. It's like everyone is coming alive! People are practically jumping into their outdoor swimming pools (before they're open for the season...ewww!)! It's like we've NEVER seen warm weather before in our lives!

Yes, the novelty wears off. We keep having fun all spring and all summer, but it's nothing like the first few days of nice weather! We do start taking it for granted and then the complaints start up again around September or October until we're forced to adjust again. Can you blame us?

My kids also rediscover their scooters, bikes, baseball gloves, daily baths and skinned knees. My kids do play outside all year round, but they've been bitten by the same they can't remember the last time they could take off their jackets and wear crocodile shoes!

Our winters are long here. We're one of those weird families that enjoy winter, but most people around here live for spring. However, it's still New England. This is the place with the reputation "If you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes and it'll change." So, I'm not planting anything just yet. There could be, no there WILL be another frost...maybe more snow! You just never know.

I am loving it just as much as the next person, but I'm still in winter mode (to clarify, I'm still wearing winter colors and still hiding under long pants.) I guess I gotta catch up! Ooh! I think I hear the ice cream truck!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010



"Eek can refer to:
onomatopoeia imitating the sound made by a monkey, mouse or rat
Eek, Alaska
Eek River, Alaska
Eek! The Cat, an animated TV series
A colloquialistic expression denoting someone is nervous about something
A spider given in Halloween event of
RuneScape. "

Who knew this word was so versatile? I thought the only use for it was reserved for an event in which a mouse is witnessed and with the assumption that said witness is frightened by the sight of the animal and makes such an utterance. Well, except elephants. They're supposed to be afraid of mice but I'm not sure if they can properly produce the exclamation given their vocal structure. Maybe Wikipedia could help with that information too. I digress...

So, we live near the woods, right? Woodland creatures have been named after their dwellings, the woods. Mice live in the woods. Mice got into our house.

We had them two winters ago. We heard them scurrying around in the walls and in the ceiling between floors. We got those ultrasonic devices that plug into the wall. If you're not familiar, they're about $12-15. You buy several depending on the size of your house. It's supposed to create a "racket" that sounds like hammering and other construction work being done on your house. The good news is you can't hear the noise, only the mice can! So, they take off to pester someone else and possibly meet with a crueler fate from my neighbors who may not make the same humane choices as we do. We don't do traps or poison.

This was our solution short of getting a cat. We have two aquatic frogs, Jumper and Spring. I replace their water once every 3 months and give them 4 tidy little pellets twice a week. This is the extent of our pet allowance until my kids are much MUCH older. I'm also allergic to most cats.

It worked for two years! We didn't hear or see "mouse one". This was one of my favorite expressions my dad said. I'm not sure if he made it up. He probably did since he was a very clever man. He would insert a noun and follow it by "one". Another example would be if the weather folks on TV were predicting a huge snowstorm and it didn't start when they said it would, he'd say, "I don't see snowflake one." He was also very cynical of people who predict the weather and media sensationalism...often not mutually exclusive.

This winter, the scurrying started up again. We concluded that the plug-in "racket-makers" had run their course. So we bought new ones, but couldn't find the same brand. The scurrying did not go away, but did change locations. Instead of running clear across the ceiling from the living room to the dining room, they confined themselves to the edges of the house. In other words, there was still a racket, but they tried to get as far away from it without leaving the house because it was too cold. We gotta get the other brand next time.

Spring definitely has been poking its head in around here so we thought the mice would go back outside for good for another season. We haven't heard any more scurrying for awhile. Well, on Friday night, while Lilly and Andy were getting ready for bed (very cooperatively I might add! Thanks, guys!), Dave and I were downstairs sitting on the couch.

All of a sudden, Andy yells, "I found a rat!". I'm thinking, OK, it's a huge, misplaced puff of laundry lint. After all, it's almost always that gray color. Could be a stuffed animal or simply a....mouse....nah, couldn't know, the racket! So, down the stairs he comes in typical boy fashion. Something fuzzy is in his bare's it? He gets closer! AGH!! EEEEEEK!!! A MOUSE!!! Oh, wait, it's dead...or is it frozen from fear. Gee, no one else is! Truthfully, I wasn't scared...just grossed out. BARE HANDS, OK, PEOPLE?

Andy, "So, is it a rat?"

Dad (calmly): "No, just a mouse."

Andy: "Is it dead?"

Dad: "Yes."

Mom: "Are you SURE it's dead and not just playing dead?"

Dad: "Yes."

Andy: "It is real 'cause I felt a bone."

Lilly (accusingly): "It's so cute. Did you POISON it?!?"

Mom: "No, of course not."

Andy: "I thought it was fake and then I felt a bone."

Mom: "Oh GOD! Don't put it on the couch!" (yes, it's an ancient and horrible couch, but STILL!)

Dad: "Why not?" (he's kidding right?)

Mom: " 'Cause it's germy!"

Dad: "Nah. It's too new to be germy."

Mom thinks to herself. Men. Boys. What planet are they FROM? Also, what is the threshold that defines when a dead mouse (now "Eww!" instead of "Eek!") becomes germy? Anyone know where Gil Grissom is these days?

Mom: "Andy, go WASH YOUR HANDS!!" (in typical Mom fashion)

I can't be too hard on my husband though. He got up and got a plastic bag and provided a proper Ziploc burial and I didn't even have to touch it. Thanks, Sweetie! Hopefully, that's it for the mice for another 9 months!

Below are some of many familiar far as I know...not "Eek"-evoking.




Monday, March 15, 2010

Who is Todd Cooke?

This was the question I asked Andy when he told me he had a biography book report assigned last Tuesday.

He told me, "My friend got Helen Keller and I got Todd Cooke."

I'm thinking...OK...I consider myself educated in many areas. This should include all of the "popular" biographies assigned to 2nd graders (George Washington, Helen Keller, Pocahontas and other various and sundry educators, inventors, business men and women), but Todd Cooke. Todd COOKE? Athlete? Politician? WHO?!?!?

So I ask. I'm only human right? "Who is Todd Cooke?"

Andy says, "Hmm. I'm not sure. Let me double check the book I got from my teacher. (looks in his backpack). Oh, I mean Henry Ford!" TODD COOKE? How did he come up with THAT? OK, whew. Henry Ford I know! I HAVEN'T been under a rock.

My friend says that Henry Ford (aka Todd Cooke) is perfect for Andersen. He loved to take watches apart and tinker with combustion engines. This is right up Andy's alley. This is the child that took my vacuum cleaner apart at age 2. He was 2, not my vacuum cleaner. Of course, I couldn't put it back together so I got out of vacuuming that day.

This same child also used to peel and break every single crayon to see what was inside. You got it. The whole box. After all, maybe green has a different middle than brown that may be different from red, etc. Every toy car he owned (or still owns) have the rubber tire parts removed and are driving around on their rims. So, OK onto Henry Ford.

With Andy, I have to reel him in. My daughter has trouble getting started and planning a big project. Andy, on the other hand, wants to start the project at the end (skip the research, skip the roughdrafts). So, he's already printing out pictures of Henry and asking where the gluestick is. Of course, I let my kids do as much on their own as possible, but I have to make sure Andy at least follows the directions and does this in steps.

The mystery has been solved though. Todd Cooke is a REAL PERSON! I almost woke up the entire house with my outburst of laughter the other night. I was the only one still awake and I was watching TV. I'm a night owl and particularly relish the time after everyone's gone to sleep. This often comes at the expense of my alertness the next day, but I've been setting limits on myself better.

What comes on but a commercial for Todd Cooke, a local business man with a website and an 800 number. My son obviously saw this ad too (albeit earlier in the day) and got his wires crossed with the American founder of the Ford Motor Company.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Calm Before the Spring

"Play Ball!"

This is usually the signal to start a baseball game, right? Well, in our case, we have baseball games, soccer games ("Gooooooaaal!" no, they don't really do that at my kids' games) and karate equipment ("Hi-YA!" They DO do that.)! Harry and Malcolm are 5 and hence, are starting T-ball this spring! Oh, and they're doing soccer...oh, and Andy's also playing baseball. Karate? That's not going, Lilly still hasn't tested for her black belt so she hasn't quit yet. All four are still chopping, punching and kicking up a storm.

Yes, this is a totally crazy schedule. Yes, we may have to reduce it, but we'll take it one step at a time. This is how our weeks will look this spring: 2-4 baseball games during the week (that's if my twins end up on the same team) and, assuming the same team thing, 2 on Saturdays.

My twins are still young enough that they only play soccer once a week. It's from 8am-9am on Saturdays, so there shouldn't be any conflict with anyone's baseball games.

Karate is still twice a week. We can choose any two days M-F. The blessing here is that Lilly and Andy are in the same class now as are Harry and Malcolm. The two classes are back-to-back and life is GOOD in the karate chaffeur department.

OK, I know you're asking "WHY is she DOING this?!" Well, one reason, the most obvious one, is my kids (especially my boys) I think are the most active beings on the PLANET! Their energy is unprecedented. For example, my son, Andy, will shovel my entire driveway (which is not short)clear of wet, heavy snow and then come in and ask when we can go to the big hill in town and sled for the remainder of the afternoon (or right through dinner and into the evening if I didn't set limits!). Come summer, this shoveling and sledding will be replaced with endless amounts of swimming. These are just some manifestations of their boundless energy.

The only thing I can do with them is get them to exercise. My daughter, being 10, has found pleasure in doing more calm activities lately, but is still very active. My children do sleep well and can wind down, do homework, read/look at books, play with Legos and do puzzles. However, this is MUCH harder to accomplish without at least one hour of running, jumping, climbing, etc. As you can imagine, rainy days are VERY difficult. That doesn't mean that the boys don't go out though. Thank goodness they enjoy getting wet!

Ironically, all of these activities actually help me too. Our family, especially me, does not do well without structure. Even when the weather's nice, when we don't have any plans, my boys find ways to get into fights outside (not just the verbal kind either). I also get much more done around the house if I can plan tasks around things. My husband is a huge help too. He will shuttle around the sport participants and I will stay home with whoever is not participating or vice versa. This way, everyone gets to split up nicely. We do "schedule" downtime as I know the family needs that too, but there just can't be too much of it!

Can it be hectic? Absolutely! The spring is usually the most busy time for us. Since we live in a cold climate, spring is the only time to play town baseball. Andy loves all sports so he does this one in the spring. My twins really enjoy doing soccer and want to stick with it. Since they're only 5 and they haven't tried baseball yet (well, T-ball at their level), we kind of have to bite the bullet and double up this spring. This way, they can each see what they like better and go down to only one next spring.

For now, I am savoring the warmer days and the slow pace of the kids coming home from school and going out to play. Soon, we'll be "going out" to "play"!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"At the Car Wash..."

"...whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Workin' at the car wash, girl. Come on ya'll and sing it for me. Car wash..." ---Rose Royce, MCA Records, 1976

OK, so I'm dating myself here. By the way, hi everyone. I'm back to stay and write often and a LOT! Watch out!

Some days since I last wrote have just been too jam-packed to take in/take jaw off the floor, digest, critique, put a humorous and positive spin on it and then share with you. I have decided, however, just to write some of it even if I can't write ALL of it. So, here goes..."reset button"...onto the "car wash incident".

We've had a messy winter in the northeast. Not nearly enough snow as I would have liked while other parts of the country got way MORE than they would have liked. However, it seemed like I had to wash my car at least once a week! This is a often for me.

My minivan is a dark maroon, so it really shows the dirt. We knew this going into it when we bought it, so I'm not complaining, just amazed at how much faster it got dirtier this winter than last!

I would wait until a snowstorm was over and all the slushy, salty, sandy, gross mess was dried up on the roads. I also knew it was time when I would open the rear hatch and there would be so much crust covering the paint that telltale fingerprints (telling the tale that SOMEONE'S BEEN IN THE TRUNK...check it out next time you're stopped at a red light behind a dirty car) wouldn't even SHOW. Bad. Yes.

Boom! Then it would snow again...just enough to make a MESS and not enough to enjoy (sledding, snow days, snowmen, and for Andy, shoveling as he lives for it). Back window? Do I HAVE one? I can't see through it. Telltale prints? Nope. Back to the ol' car wash.

Last Friday was no exception, well, "except" for the fact that it was supposed to be like spring this messy roads in the forecast! Malcolm is no longer afraid of the loud brushes and the jets of water spraying directly at his little face looking out the window. So, I don't have to wait until he is not with me to do the soapy, watery, frequent task.

OK, I pull up and put my $10 bill in, 'cause it says they accept cash $1's, $5's and $10's as well as codes that you get when you fill up at the attached gas station. (Oh, sorry, this is an automatic humans except the simulated robot voices that sound like them.) Not this $10 (my only cash on me), not this time. It kept going in and coming back out. Oh, that's because there's nowhere to receive change for my $6 cheapo wash. Only people who pay for the $10 wash get to use $10 bills...there was NO signage to this effect...just figured that out on my own!

OK, I'll find my debit card...darnit...oh, look! A line is forming behind me. Doh! I hit the steering wheel with my elbow as I was putting my card away. Is that going to be OK? I think so...uh oh...

I hit start, take my foot off the brake, put the car in neutral...sit and wait...track starts moving...clang, CLUNK!! My car is being pushed up on the left side by the little wheels on the track and slamming down again...this is not good. Some comments from the patient but concerned Peanut Gallery in the back start..."Mom, what did you DO?!?!" "I'm scared..." Reassuring comments TO the Peanut Gallery, "Oh, Mom just knocked the car out of the track. I'll back up and try again."

Back up, try again. Fully-automated plastic curtains close on the car wash as the machine thinks my car is all done and waits for the next person's money. (Hope they don't try a $10 bill for the cheap wash). I hit the "HELP" button and ask for a code from the human inside the gas station whose voice is real. They graciously give me one. I enter it. Redo. Let's roll. Look! The curtains are opening. Yay!!! Wait a minute...

Clang, CLUNK!! Not AGAIN! By now, poor Andy is crying. I don't blame him! It was quite a jolt! I reassured him again, but he just wanted to leave. Well, Mom can't get out of line because there are now...1, 2, 3...uh, 6 cars waiting behind us. Rose Royce was right that "...those cars never seem to stop comin'".

Thankfully, I could back up enough to once again attempt to put my (explicative) tires in the (explicative) track. WHY is this the first time this has EVER happened to me when I've done this 100 times?!?! There go those (explicative) curtains they're MOCKING me! Speaking of mocking, some guy (employee? random guy trying to torture me?) walks out from the front of the gas station (he's NOT in the ever-growing line...just walked up to me...). Why did he care? I dunno, maybe he's a friend of the curtains because he says, "You have to pay again. You missed your wash." (Ya think?). I said, "I already paid and I'm not going to pay again." Off he goes...good riddance, man-on-foot.

Third time is usually the charm, right? Let's hope so. At least Andy has stopped crying now. Drive up, hit the HELP button again to talk to the human. I must say, no one was honking at me, which I appreciated. I assumed because they just wanted to see how this nightmare would END and didn't want to disturb the show!

While waiting for the human to talk to me over the loud speaker, a man yelled out the window from the car behind me, "Take your foot off the brake!" "Well, dude, I would, but see, I'm waiting for the human to give me the code!" I didn't really say that. I figured, I can't say anything to make myself look less blond or less "clueless mom in a minivan". It was NOT the brake, it was my dang elbow that caused the whole problem, at least the first time.

Hark! Here comes the human that matches the voice! A different "human-on-foot", a female this time, not in a kind mood though. She said that I MUST line up my tires on the track and next time, open my door to SEE if they're lined up...(I DID! was my elbow first, then I don't KNOW WHAT the second time and...oh, NEVERMIND...there's just NOTHING I can say right now...). She typed in another code with her eyebrows furrowed.

Behind her was a youngish man who had emerged from one of the cars in the queue, dressed as if he was clearly coming home from work (...on a Friday...sorry, guy). He stood there and said, "You know you have to put your car in neutral, right?" I felt like he was really trying to help, although he was kind of smirking which made it unclear what he was doing...other than trying to move me the heck THROUGH. I tried to explain to him, since I thought maybe he'd understand about the elbowing and the second time fluke...

He commented that I still had my foot on the brake, as he could see my brake lights (smirk again...grrrrr to myself...). I explained that the human just left and I didn't want to roll over her toes since she was already in a bad mood, I hadn't started my wash yet and gee, I was talking to HIM now!!

He did end up walking me through though as I could barely think anymore..."put the car in neutral and THEN hit the start button..." I was moving!!! NO CLUNKING!! Cheering from the Peanut Gallery! Triumphant "YYESSS!!" from smirk from the dude in the business casual clothes with magnetic ID badge around his neck...and this time, a comment to boot...oh lucky me. "Next time put your car in neutral!"

So, we made it through. I'm not sure if anyone in that line bailed with their car still dirty. I was NOT going to look BACK!!! Even though my break-away mirrors were pushed in from the car wash and I couldn't see the reflection in them, I peeled out of there FAST! I thought maybe someone might be waiting for me who may do something worse than smirk. Not really, but I got out of face was almost as red as my maroon car! I pulled over in the next parking lot, fixed the mirrors and went home to Facebook about it.

"Let me tell you it's always cool..." Sorry, Rose Royce, not ALWAYS...