Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tuesday's menu

What's on your menu for today? I really do not spend all of my time pondering what I'm going to eat! (I take a break to find out what some of you are eating!) ;)

Last month, I asked if anyone had any traditional meals for New Year's Day and I've discussed other family and religious traditions here, too.

I was hoping for a piece of king cake today but I settled for a piece of my son's Darth Vader birthday cake instead. (It did not even come close!) Before I got to the cake, my mother called and wished me a "Happy Paczki (sounds like "punt-key") day" and apologized for not sending me a jelly-filled doughnut. I had completely forgotten about that tradition this year. I've mentioned before that my mother is half-Ukrainian but she is also half-Polish and this is a Polish tradition on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. (Actually, my online searches have taught me that the Ukrainians have a similar treat but call it pampushky.)
(While I'm presenting my report, it looks like the Polish tradition is actually to eat these on Thursday but the Polish community in Michigan, (where my mother was born) influenced by the French tradition of Fat Tuesday, moved it to Tuesday instead so I guess it is an American tradition now!) ;)

I returned with an apology for not sending her a king-cake but they're hard to come by in Kansas! The king cake is not a childhood tradition anyway, just one I acquired when living in New Orleans.

This made me wonder what others are eating after searching online, I've learned that today is also Pancake Day in a few other countries. It seems the origins behind most of these sweet, sugary breakfasts is a combination of indulging on the last day before Lent begins (where many give up sweets, desserts, etc.) and a bit of practicality--Wikipedia tells me that Pancake Day began as a way to use up eggs and milk before Lent began as they were to be avoided during that time.

Now I'm hungry and I've got to get to the store. (That's a dangerous combination!)
Maybe one year I will meet you at IHOP for National Pancake Day.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Carnival time!

And then there are parties that go on for weeks! One in particular does not end until midnight on Tuesday!

I used to say that New Orleans could find any excuse for a party and a parade but of course, nothing compares to Mardi Gras! Katrina left her mark but even that disaster couldn't keep New Orleanians from celebrating Carnival!

I'm still praying for New Orleans--especially this week. I don't know if they have the resources (hospitals, police, etc.) to keep up with Mardi Gras quite yet but I'm encouraged by their enthusiasm.

So for all my friends from New Orleans: Laissez les bon temps rouler!!! Have a piece of king cake* for me! In the spirit of the season, I've downloaded some carnival tunes and will subject the children to them after school. I would love to share some of these songs with you all but am not sophisticated enough to know how to insert audio into my blog. If one of my readers is techno-savvy enough to give me directions, I'll upload them! In the meantime, I'll just keep singing along to myself...I went on down to the Audubon Zoo and they all aksed for you...

*Looks like Haydel's isn't completely back up and running yet but I'm sure somebody is making king cakes!

It's still party time

My son invited a few friends over on Sunday for his birthday party.
We had a Darth Vader cake, made Darth Vader masks and had a grand time. After the boys left however, my son observed that it hadn’t really been a Star Wars party—just a Darth Vader party. We were on the dark side the whole time!

If I had really thought about it, I could have come up with better music than just the movie soundtrack...

Friday, February 24, 2006

The celebrations continue

I propose a toast to the happy couple -- HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my Mom and Dad!

Of course, every kid thinks/hopes/wishes that their parents will stay married forever. Now, as an old married woman myself, I'm in awe of anyone who can even come close.

Thirty-eight years is not forever but it seems like it's close! (I'm sure some days feel closer than others...)

Congratulations, Mom and Dad! (It'll be belated by the time you read this as I'm posting it when you've only got 1.5 hours left of February 24 but it's heartfelt all the same).

****Late Night Revision****
SORRY!!! That was a bit cynical. I am sure that it feels like not a day has passed since the big day in Miami! Truly, congrats! Somewhere in there, you managed to raise five kids and you help us with the eleven grandchildren! Not a bad start at all. Of course, this is just the beginning...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I'm older but he's wiser

My baby turned FIVE today! I guess I'm going to have to stop using that word, baby.

He tells me often that he does not want to grow up. Whether it's a remaining fascination with Peter Pan or the fact that I'm not always the most organized, together example of what a grown-up should be, I'm not sure. I am certain my comments today did not help.

In response to a rather obvious question, my son's response was:

No, I don't feel any different today. I'm just a different number, not a different kid.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Eleven people on a rope

I'm cheating today and posting an email that I received from my sister.

I was requested to forward it to "an intelligent woman, so that she has something to smile about today." I know I have a few readers who fit that description!


Eleven people were hanging on a rope under a helicopter, ten men and one woman. The rope was not strong enough to carry them all, so they decided that one had to leave, because otherwise they were all going to fall.

They weren't able to name that person, until the woman gave a very touching speech. She said that she would voluntarily let go of the rope, because, as a woman, she was used to giving up everything for her husband and kids, or for men in general, and was used to always making sacrifices with little in return.

As soon as she finished her speech, all the men started clapping their hands.......

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I thank God for the dancing goats

I wonder if anyone has considered erecting a statue to the legendary Kaldi. No? Juan Valdez, perhaps? Whoever actually discovered the merits of the coffee bean needs some sort of recognition.

I had resolved to make some real progress on the WIP this weekend and get a draft done! I have several chapters and many more parts and pieces that I have to tie together. Putting it all together means that I have to get organized.

Unlike other members of my family who are currently organizing the spice cabinet, I am not an organized person. I have a few talents but doing things in logical, methodical manner is not something I do well.

So it is not that surprising that when I sat down to my computer, I played on the internet for a few minutes. I was looking for a movie that I want to see but that does not appear to be playing at our theater. Looking for that led me to some other sites on the same subject, which led me to some historical sites (I love history!) which led me to a new idea for a book!


No, not great. My past writing behavior has entailed coming up with a great idea, writing two chapters that lead me to a better idea at which time I put those chapters away and start on the next book. Lately, I’ve been so proud that I’ve been able to stay focused on one story for a long time now. Until today. I was mad. I wanted to start a new story. I wanted to research this one—it’s so much more interesting!

So I took a shower. (I do that occasionally). Aaahhh! The swirling, all-inspiring steam!! (Actually, I'm sure the inspiration came from all the caffeine in the pot of coffee I’ve just finished) but however the good Lord let the inspiration strike---I saw a way to work this story into the one I'm already writing!

Now to write it all down. After I get another cup of coffee. Sure, it's another momentary delay but who knows what brainstorm the next cup will inspire? Besides, with enough caffeine, I figure I can type about a thousand words a minute so I'll make up the time.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Every day miracles

My daughter experienced a miracle. At least she thinks she did.
A week ago, her brother was sick and quite miserable. She did not see how pathetic he looked, she saw the attention (and medicine) he got.

I wish I was sick too.

Do you want to sound like your brother?

No but I want grape Motrin.

You have a reading to read at Mass. If you lose your voice, someone else will have to read it.

That night, she prayed, Please, please don't let me get sick! Let me stay healthy and be able to read on Friday! The next morning, she woke feeling fine. Beaming, she announced, It's a miracle!

I am thrilled that she made the connection and believes that her prayer was answered.

Was it a miracle? Perhaps not but I am not going to dampen her seven-year-old spirit!

She is home sick today so she got her wish, too. She was able to read last Friday and this week --she got the grape Motrin!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy V-day and GoodNyte

As my mother says, what's the best way to get rid of a cold? Pass it on to someone else!

Well, my son is recovering as he's passed this thing on to me. This is much more than your average cold. So, I've taken to hitting the bottle! (The bottle of Nyquil, that is! It does the trick but does not enable me to stay up and blog in the evenings!)

I will catch up on my bloghopping soon. Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Childhood Innocence

How old were you when you learned that some of the most magical beliefs of childhood were really fabrications, perpetuated by the very people who told you that it was wrong to lie?

(According to my mother, some of my nieces have asked for my blog address so just in case I have some 7-year-old readers out there, I'm going to keep this a little vague. I'm pretty sure that using words like perpetuated ought to slow them down but you never know.) I'm also fairly certain that any of my nieces or nephews actually reading my blog is another one of my mother's exaggerations but again, you never know.

My son lost his first tooth this afternoon and is now blissfully sleeping. He went to sleep well, confident that he had to be asleep before the tooth fairy would come to pay him for his tiny, beautiful tooth. His sister helped him to write a letter to put under his pillow too, asking the good fairy to leave his tooth for another week so he can show his Dad and the kids at school.

Magical times.

On the same magical day however, I had to remind/explain to my daughter that some people "out there" are sneaky.

I let her play on the internet on her own sub-account. (Which means I have set up every parental control possible as she too, is only 7.) I heard her tell her brother about some "superhero" game online and stood on the other side of the wall, listening. (I'm a bit sneaky, myself.) It was a quiz for kids on internet safety. I heard her asking her brother questions like "If someone online asks you to meet them, should you?" and "If you see pictures on the computer that you know your parents would not like, should you tell them?" I could not see the options she was given but it was great to hear "Yay! We got it right!" (Not so great to hear "whoops!" but it was only once.)

After that game, I took her brother upstairs for his bath and left her to her Hello Kitty search. Moments later, she kept yelling "MOMMY!!! COME HERE!!!" I was sure it was some new coloring page or maybe there was a new Hello Kitty movie out so while I planned to check it out, I wasn't in a rush to leave my son in the tub for the computer emergency. When I did arrive, she wanted me to know that SHE had won a NEW LAPTOP COMPUTER! The blinking ad at the top of the screen had told her so, and now she just had to fill in a few fields...

So, I had to explain that there are people who design these things to trick people and she should not fill out anything without checking with me first. "That's why I called you!" she answered quickly. "It said I WON but I only had 30 seconds to get the prize!"

What seven year old could resist that?

Your [technical] assistance, please

Does anyone know how I can have Blogger send me an email when someone comments on my posts?

I put my email address in the box where it says "We will email you at this address when someone leaves a comment on your blog." However, I have never received an email from Blogger. Am I missing another step?

It is certainly not critical. I can scroll down through each of my posts but I don't always do this daily. So I occasionally get behind on replying to comments. If anyone has any helpful advice, I'd greatly appreciate it.


Friday, February 10, 2006

helpful, She tries to be

Wednesday night C just kept coughing in bed. While I used to force my daughter to take medicine when I thought it was necessary, any type of coercion just backfires with my son. (That kid has his own "force" and will willfully refund anything he does not want to swallow.)However, that night the coughing was nonstop and I knew I had to get him to take something.

My husband suggested putting the cough medicine in his water. I've done this with his Motrin on occasion but I didn't think the cough medicine would work well diluted. It was flavored water though, so thinking he might not detect the medicine and it was better than nothing, we gave it a try. He drank several sips and while he did not get the whole dose, he was sleeping quietly within minutes.

So we all got to go to sleep. The next morning, when he did not want to get up, I told him he could just wear his jacket over his pajamas and stay in the car while we took his sister to school. He grabbed his water bottle on the way to the car.
Taking a sip during the ride, he whined, "Mommy, when I'm sick my water tastes like medicine. Even my juice tastes like medicine!" (I had put berry flavored Motrin in his apple juice one day).
My daughter, ever observant, looked over and explained, "Of course your water tastes funny. It's pink."

She went back to looking out the window quietly and I could not believe that was the end of it. It took a full 10 seconds for what she'd said to bounce around the car for a moment and then hit her. "MOMMY!! His WATER is PINK!!! That CAN'T be GOOD!"

(Flavored or not, WATER should not have a COLOR! )

However, she quickly noted my lack of alarm as I tried to change the subject: "Hey, look at those birds over there!"


"Is today library day at school, Sweetie?"

Momentary silence. Then she gets it. "Mom? Did you put MEDICINE in C's water bottle?"


"You did! C, don't drink it! She put medicine in there!"

By now, C is looking queasy. He manages to croak out a "WHAT?!?!?!"

She is trying to be a wise, protective force for her brother but still lacks the wisdom to use The Force effectively.

Better, He is

My son has been sick all week. My daughter has the sniffles and an acute sense that she is not getting her share of attention.

C has needed many more hugs, someone to sleep in his bed with him and finally, when he feels a little better--someone to play toys with him. After having him home all week from school, we've spent much time playing with toys and watching Star Wars Episode II. (Star Wars is the latest fascination--hence the title of this post. Even when the television and the lightsaber that speaks are off, I still keep hearing Yoda's voice in my head!)

I did get a chuckle yesterday when, surrounded by Star Wars figures, Buzz Lightyear figures and many of Buzz's friends from Toy Story, my son was worried he'd be "all alone" when I went to, ahem, powder my nose. After honestly being with this kid 24/7, I thought he could handle five minutes with the dozens of little friends surrounding him. As he started sobbing, coughing and trying to yell (he had no voice) "Mommy, don't go! I will be all alone!" I simply, cheerfully said, "Yup."

He looked a bit surprised but then was fine. He played alone in there for at least ten minutes before coming to look for me.

My daughter did the first reading at Mass today. We were there, even got that part on video for Dad but had to leave halfway through the mass as C still wasn't feeling great. So we were there to see her process in and for her big moment but didn't stay to watch her carry the special book back out of church. She really isn't getting her share of attention this week.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The beat goes on

Do you find yourself still living in a novel days after you've finished reading the book? If it's a good one, I do. I just don't want to let go of the characters quite yet. Or in this case, I can't let go of an object. The haunting rhythm that beats quietly throughout The Painted Drum did not stop sounding when I closed the book.

The other night, my son and I were sleeping in the livingroom. (He's sick but that's another story). At some point during the night, the front cover to our furnace popped off. (I believe that is the technical phrase that repair experts use--"it popped off.") Of course, I was unaware of the source of the problem. I was aware that I was freezing and no matter what I reset the heater to, it would not turn on. I considered going to the garage to see if the fuse switch was off or to the basement to investigate but I knew both areas were colder than where I was, I was exhausted and everyone else was sleeping fine so I tried to curl up on our cooling leather couch.

I thought again about a few young characters in The Painted Drum who are waiting in their small, cold home for their mother to return one winter evening. The oldest daughter wants to turn the heat up but her mother has gone to arrange for some more heating fuel. The daughter had been told that there was just enough fuel to last until her mother returned as long as they did not turn the heat higher. As I lay on our leather couch, which felt colder by the minute, I reflected on how lucky I am. Not only can I go get another blanket out of a closet but I knew the heating problem was some sort of physical problem that we would fix. So many others have no heat because it's something they cannot afford.

We have an agency here in town that assists people who need help finding enough food or enough money to pay their heating bills. Most of our local churches donate money each month to the program but I will call today to see how else I can help. It is sad that in this country where many have so much, so many go without.

Which leads me back to The Painted Drum once more. Louise Erdrich creates very real characters with very human flaws and is also able to use them to comment on larger communities and our society. The same mother who went out for heating fuel also considers having sex for money so she can buy food to bring home. A local war veteran makes the comment later: I want to know something. Why I saw men die for oil in this country where a woman has to sell herself for bread and peanut butter.

Lines like that tend to haunt me for a while.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Painted Drum

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. you have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.

The quote above is not why I asked for the book. The quote above is one that I found when I thought I was finished with the book.

When I reached what I thought was the end, there was another chapter to go. As I read it, I recognized that the writer saw the need to wrap things up, to end where she'd started and tie up any loose ends. I like a few loose ends--they make me think more about the characters and their situations. So I was skimming through the last chapter, already planning to tell you all that the book should have ended a few pages earlier, when I got to the quote at the top. The quote is from Faye Travers, the first and last character we meet in the book, and it is what she imagines that her mother could tell her, rather than simply saying "good night."

There are three separate, vivid tales within this one novel. The link between the three stories and families is the drum. The drum contains the spirit of a young girl -- a spirit strong enough to save the lives of many others. Whether this girl was sacrificed to save her baby sister or gave her own life willingly to save her younger brother is left to the reader to decide. There is no doubt that she was and is a strong, protective force.

In two of the stories, we see how the loss of a child affects various family members. In the third we watch a desperate mother almost lose her children twice.

As compelling as these stories are, Erdrich enhances them with intimate details of wildlife as well. Her accounts of ravens made me feel like I was back in Fairbanks, where the ravens--who do laugh like humans--were everywhere. Her ravens live in New England but their actions captivated me more than the human characters on many pages. Wolves, dogs and even a bear have important roles in this spirited novel as well.

This is only the second of Ms. Erdrich's many novels that I have read but it will not be the last.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

...a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet

Who did you want to be when you were growing up? This is not about what you wanted to accomplish but who you wanted to be.

When I was in elementary school, I thought Lory was a boring name. Dorky, if you will. I didn't mind my real first name but it's longer and by then everyone was calling me Lory anyway. I know, it's not bad and even a little original in it's spelling. Original names are always misspelled, which takes away the unique quality. There was always at least a Lori and a Laurie in my class with me.

So when I was pregnant with my first child, my husband came home from work with a new, exciting original name. Madison. I liked it. It was unique but hard to misspell. You didn't expect it for a girl but it sounded cool. As I nodded my head, I asked where he had come up with such a name. It had been the name of one of his young patients that morning. Oh.

Still, so what if one other child in the city had the same name? In the following week however, we met two Madisons at the playground. Another was at the hospital. I talked to my sister that week who told me that her pregnant friend (due the same time as both of us) was going to have a girl and name her Madison.

It seemed that Madison was the new name for 1998 so I promptly rejected it. I was glad when we met a few more in Alaska. My daughter would not be one of 4 or 5 other Madisons in her class!

She is now in second grade and of course, she has not had a Madison in her class yet.
She told me this morning that she is sick of her name and wants to change it. "Well, your middle name is beautiful, too," I suggested.

"Nope. I wish I had a different name."

"What do you wish we had named you?"


Of course.

"Do you know anyone named Madison?"


"Why do you want your name to be Madison?"

"It's cooler than my name."

I sigh. "It's funny. We thought about naming you Madison."

"I know. You told me before. But you messed up and gave me my name. I'm changing my name to Madison."

She typed up "Madison" in a huge font on the computer this morning, printed it several times and has put it on her bulletin board and taped it to her bedroom door. She is answering to the name "Madison" today.