Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thoughts on Funerals

I went to my uncle's funeral this week. We all think of funerals as such sad, solemn occasions. You often hear people shudder and say, "Ugh - I hate funerals!" I'm not saying I love them - certainly the circumstances surrounding a funeral are never happy. But in many ways, funerals are lovely. At least this one was. These are some of the things I saw:
  • A woman, small and brave, said goodbye to the love of her life while she was lauded for her last gift to him: the unending care and comfort she gave as he made his way out of this life.
  • My cousins - six of them and their significant others - came together to give each other support after a long, exhausting journey though their father's illness.
  • A three year old girl gave up the natural rowdiness of her age to allow her mama to hold her closely for comfort during an entire funeral mass.
  • Husbands tenderly put their arms around their wives and let them cry while they wiped tears away from their own eyes. Girlfriends stroked the backs of their men softly in an unspoken gesture that said, "I'm here for you, and I'm so sorry..."
  • A friend of my uncle's delivered a stunning and unwavering performance of Ave Maria that brought tears to many eyes.
  • The youngest of my uncle's children, still in high school, had her best friend at her side. She held my cousin's hand and hugged her when she needed it most.
  • A small farming community, packed into a church that was too small for their numbers, told stories of the man who was their beloved veterinarian. There was even a story about bull testicles in there, and what would a funeral be without that?
  • At the cemetery, grandchildren sent balloons up to heaven in their grandpa's honor. I saw them looking up into the sun - watching the balloons until they disappeared (quickly - it was windy!) into the sky.
  • Back at the family farmhouse, my cousin sat casually on her big brother's lap. They talked and joked - the conversation was light, but the closeness between them was not lost on me.
  • The earlier generation of brothers and sisters banded together to comfort my aunt. The wine flowed along with their stories, and laughter was more prevalent than tears.
In this time of great sadness, I watched a family and a community come together and help support those who grieved. It was a beautiful thing to witness. Funerals are sad, yes. But the fellowship and comfort that family and friends can bring to those in grief are amazing and heartwarming acts to witness.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dandelions

With a windblown face and a runny nose
she clutches my surprise in a cold, pink fist.

I picked these for you and Daddy, she says,
her eyes solemn with the importance of her gift.

A golden bundle, so cheerful and sunny;
making both giver and taker smile.

On whose authority was it deemed 'poor taste'
for lawns to be peppered with dandelions?

I'll bet that person was never given a bundle
from a runny nosed child on a cold spring day.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thwack!

I got an email from my mom this morning telling me that my uncle is very close to death. He has cancer, and has fought it for 10 years or something. This just makes me sad. I know everyone has been touched by cancer and that I'm not unique because I know so many people who have either had the disease, are fighting it, or have lost someone to it. My boss had surgery for it this week. She has a form of cancer that is highly treatable. But still... she's only 40 and she lost both her dad and her mom to cancer. The Husband's young uncle (he wasn't even 50) died of Leukemia last summer. It's everywhere, and it just makes me sad...

*****

But I wanted to write a happier post today, so I'll forge ahead because it's about my little guy. The Boy had a baseball game last night and he was very excited because he got to start. He inherited his mother's coordination and athletic ability, which is to say that he plays the game to have fun and be part of a team, and not to smack one out of the park. Since he was one of the few who went to the last practice, his coach awarded him a starting spot. And that made him smile from ear to ear.

When he got up to bat, a sixth grader (who looked like he was nineteen - I wanted to demand a birth certificate check...) was hurling 2,000 MPH pitches. One of those pitches landed with a loud THWACK right on The Boy's elbow. (Today, the bruise is red and blue around the edges and white in the middle. Very odd looking.) It was a really sickening sound, and I'm surprised that he didn't break his arm. The Boy took his base and was wincing like crazy, but didn't want to come out of the game, and I could tell he was doing all he could not to cry. His coach asked him if he wanted to sit on the bench when our team went out to field the next inning, but my little guy really wanted to play, so she let him. After another inning of playing, he sat out on the bench for the rest of the game.

One of the things I love the most about The Boy is his cheerfulness. He doesn't get to play as much as some of the other kids, and I worry that this might hurt his feelings. He is a very sensitive kid. But it doesn't seem to bug him. He gets excited about the innings he does play and enthusiastically cheers on the team when he's on the bench. I think that's what makes me the most proud, is that he doesn't sulk about being benched. Instead, he supports the boys on the team and really stays upbeat and happy the whole time. After last night's game, the mom who does the score keeping for the team came up to me and told me how much she adores The Boy. "He is just the sweetest kid, and always has a big smile on his face. Well, except for when he gets hit by a ball. I love his smile - and I just want to squeeze him!" She gushed.

I couldn't agree more. In fact, I love to squeeze that kid. As often as I can. He's very squeezable.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Public Service Announcement

For your information: The Lean Cuisine Rosemary Chicken meal is fabulous.

If you are a cow or a deer or a grasshopper. BECAUSE IT TASTES LIKE MUDDY GRASS.

Bleck. Nasty. Ick. Got one bite in and wanted to hurl...

Now what am I going to eat for lunch?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth and a Birth Day!!

Today is my baby brother Z's birthday. He's 25. Ack! To me, he'll always be that little 8 year old who couldn't pronounce his R's when I left for college.... Although he's now mastered all of his pronunciations and stands close to a foot taller than me.

Happy Birthday, little brother!

And Happy Earth Day to you all.
(Isn't it ironic that I forgot to take out the recycling bin on Earth Day?)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bon Jovi-licious!

Last night I got to see my boyfriend Jon Bon Jovi. He looked me in the eyes and crooned about how he'll be there for me, these five words he swears to me...

Swoon.... See? This is him singing to ME: (never mind that the photo was taken from the jumbotron because we were two miles above the stage... he WAS singing to me. I mean it!)


And look at how excited I was to see him! I could hardly keep my shirt on!!!


Ha, ha, ha. How many of you actually thought that was me??? Nobody? Damn. This is actually a picture of the woman we called the "pole dancer". She was VERY excited and must have been really warm since she had to tuck that shirt all up under her bra and all. And the seats must've been super uncomfortable for her, which is why she went into the aisles and gyrated against the handrails instead of staying in her assigned seat.

We had a great time at the concert, but our seats were pretty sucky. See this giant support beam in front of us? You can actually see a teeny bit of Chris Daughtry in this picture.


But even with bad seats, the concert was amazing. I'm so glad we went... Here's one last piece of eye candy - just for your viewing pleasure:


And that, my friends, is what I like to call perfection. Sigh.....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Seven Years

Joseph... Of course I thought of him today. All week, I have been wearing the angel necklace that The Husband gave me that Mother's Day after he was born/died. (I struggle with how to phrase that. Do I refer to it as the day he was born? Or the day he died? Sometimes I just refer to it as the day we lost him. But that doesn't capture it quite right either...)

Most of his things are buried in the chest in my closet. I don't need them now, like I did while I was still unable to breathe without pain at the thought of him. But I do have one memento that has remained out these seven years. The hospital staff made footprints on paper for us and we framed them and I hung it on our bedroom wall. Below his tiny feet, I wrote this phrase:

"Most people only dream of angels... We held one in our arms."

I stared at those footprints for a long time tonight. For a few moments, I was sad today. But mostly I just sat back and took note of how richly we have gone on living since that day.

Saturday Mornings

I love Saturday mornings... Even when I have a busy, non stop weekend planned, they're still the best.

I have such high ambitions on Saturday mornings. Here's what's running through my mind: I wonder when bulk garbage day is... I really should prepare for it so that I can be organized when they pick up everyone's piles and piles of junk... But that's so much WORK. There are so many things we need to discard. Why are we such hoarders??? I'm sure there's something more fun to do instead. Wouldn't a nice shade of yellow look nice in the sun room? Or is that cliche? Is yellow paint in a sun room expected? Because I like to be different when choosing my color schemes. Or is it bright and cheerful? I do love a nice yellow. And, speaking of the sun room, that berber carpet is horrible. I wonder how hard it would be to rip it up and put in some cork tile or something breezy and simple to install... I should google 'easy to install flooring'. Oh, but the family room needs painted and rearranged too. Hmmmm. Which is more important: the sun room or the family room? I'm also bored with the bathroom. So many ideas!

So little time. We have two First Communions, two softball games, and a BON JOVI concert to go to this weekend.

Maybe I'll see to the sun room next weekend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How Do you Say Awkward in Japanese?

So I'm at lunch today at my conference. I'm the only one attending from Giant Ass Bank, so I'm wandering, trying to find the nicest, un-vulturey people to sit by. I sat by a woman who looked to be about my age. Score! I thought. She looks harmless, she won't try to sell me something while I'm eating the southwest chicken and soapy cilantro infested rice...

Wrong. Turns out that she works for a well known Internet Security Products Firm and was well into her pitch before I had my napkin on my lap. I politely listened, chatted with her, learned that she was based out of San Francisco and finally, near the end of lunch when the sales pitch ended only after I suggested she give me her card and I'd 'see what kind of reception senior management will give to the idea', I moved into small talk.

Because she is from the Bay area, I told her how my brother and his wife were married this past December and had a beautiful reception near the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. She gushed about how beautiful that site was and I went on to tell her about the Lion Dancers who were at my brother's reception.

She stopped and looked at me with an odd expression and said, "That's odd... Was it a Chinese wedding?"

I explained that my sister in law is Chinese and this is where the conversation got really, really weird.

She sort of gave me a stern look and said. "Well. I'm Japanese." And she got up and left.

I was thunderstruck... I think she thought that I was telling her about the lion dancers only because she was Asian. But I wasn't!! I was telling her about it because it was soooo cool.

After I told The Husband about this conversation, he told me I should have chased after her and yelled, "Well that's GREAT! Because I just LOVE sushi!!!"

Greetings From Sunny Arizona and Another Bad Mom Story

The Husband and I are in Arizona this week. I'm attending a conference for work, he's out golfing with a buddy who lives here. Something about that doesn't seem quite fair, but it is a nice way of getting a vacation of sorts out of Giant Ass Bank.

The conference is dull this year, and very commercially. And the vultures, er, I mean vendors are swarming me like I'm prime road kill. All because I have GAB's name on my name tag. It's futile to try to get them to understand that I have no buying power, even if I loved and believed in the product they were trying to sell, I wouldn't be able to purchase it no matter how much I evangelized it to the big guys. They still swarm, they still try to sell.

And so, instead of mingling in the "solutions zone" on break, here I sit on the patio of my hotel room, overlooking a lagoon of sorts that is a weirdly unnatural shade of green. Giant, scary, radioactive carp keep splashing out of the water and ducks (geese? whatever they are) keep flying in and out of the water. If the water didn't look like the bubbly swamp in Shrek, it would be quite pretty.

The pool, however, is amazing in it's chlorinated blue cleanliness. They have a sandy beach where kids can play, a water volleyball area, and an adult section where you can swim up to the bar and relax (we might just have to do that later tonight...) Yesterday I skipped out on lunch and sat by the pool while I drank a marvelous concoction called, appropriately it turned out, a Sunburn. It was pineapple juice, rum and cranberry juice. Yum. Three drinks and full Arizona sun for one hour made for a very cheerful, but sunburned me. Today I'm regretting the sun because I look like a lobster.

The trip has been nice, but I have yet another bad mom story to share. My readers are going to start thinking I'm a completely incompetent parent, but sometimes it's good to let the world know you're not perfect. Ha! As if anyone ever had that impression of me, even for one second... Anyway, this one is really eating me up inside. I feel like I want to puke when I think about it. Last night was The Biggest Loser finale. I've watched this show since the first season, and this year I never missed an episode. I told The Husband that we had to schedule our plans around the two hour finale because I just couldn't miss it. I had to watch it while it aired or I might catch a spoiler on the web today. I even told my pal webgal not to email me or blog about the show until 2 hours later - just to make sure I didn't find out who won.

Arizona is two hours behind Iowa. Five minutes into the show, Hollywood texted me and announced the winner. D'oh! I was so mad at first! We thought she was at home, watching it on tv. The Husband called her to say, "Gee, thanks for ruining it for your mom. She's mad. The show just started here..." I overheard the conversation and took the phone from him because I could tell she was upset. She was on the bus on her way home from a track meet. She was crying. Then it hit me like a Tyson right hook - In a moment it all came rushing at me - I understood exactly how she was feeling. And I felt like scum. Here was my sweetheart of a kid who just heard from someone on the bus who won The Biggest Loser, and she instantly thought of her old mom who loves the show. She had no idea that I was two hours behind her, and probably thought I wouldn't be able to watch it, so she wanted to share the news with me. (I am starting to choke up as I type this... Gah!) And how does her mom repay her for this thoughtfulness? I get mad at her for spoiling the surprise. I can totally feel her feelings - the initial thought of, "Oh, Mom will want to hear this - I'll text her - she'll be so excited that a girl finally won the title of Biggest Loser!" Then - the crush of her Dad calling (with my encouragement) to tell her that I was miffed at the spoiler. What a letdown she must have felt. She must have been like, "God, I was just trying to tell her something that I thought she'd be thrilled to know..."

I called her later and apologized, and she seemed to be feeling fine, but man. I still feel like shit for making her feel bad. I wish I could take back the conversation with The Husband about being miffed by the spoiler, cuz if I'd have thought it through, I would have realized that she didn't know I was a dork with no life who was watching that show while on vacation...

I know, I know... she'll get over it and she won't be scarred forever, but still... If my plane crashes tomorrow, it'll be one of her last memories of me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Leading by Example

Sigh. Being a parent is hard. And I write that in my whiniest, saddest, poor me writing voice.

But what’s hard about it isn’t the stuff I usually moan about. It’s not the driving all over the state from activity to event and back again; or building a diorama of an Incan village the night before it's due. It's not holding back a little one's hair while she barfs into a bucket, or running to Wal-Mart at 6:30 on a Sunday morning before church so that you can buy the red visor your kid needs for a softball game later that afternoon. All of that stuff: piece of cake.

It’s the decisions and sticking with rules and consequences that suck. And – I’m going to maybe be a little bit too honest here – it's hard to set a good example for your kids. I struggle with this, and worry about being a hypocrite. It makes me feel terribly guilty.

Everyone tells you that kids learn by example. So I try really hard to set a good one for my critters, but sometimes I screw up. Like when I made a seriously smart ass response to an incident with Hollywood’s confirmation teacher. Hollywood’s teacher accused 15 out of the 18 kids in her class of plagiarism on their saint reports. Confirmation Teacher told Hollywood that she knew she couldn’t have written the report because the words used in it weren’t those of a junior high kid. I watched Hollywood work on that report. She didn’t steal the content – she didn’t plagiarize. In my not-so-wise parenting moment, I jokingly told Hollywood she should re-write her report to dumb it down so the teacher knew she wasn't copying it. Something like this:
Saint Cecilia was, like, a totally wicked cool chick. She’s, like, the patron saint of music, and I, like, chose her for my saint because I, like, think music is whack. When she was forced to marry a dude who, like, totally made her want to hurl, she didn’t, like, completely freak out - instead she went all serious and kept thinking about God in her mind…
You get my point. Yeah, it was sort of funny, but not a great parenting moment. Instead of teaching her to take the high road, I taught her how to be a smart ass. Something, incidentally, that she needs no help learning. I should have held my tongue. Which is true a lot of the time. I really should talk a lot less in general. That would serve me well.

And then there’s being healthy. I’m always telling the kids to eat healthy snacks. I don’t keep a lot of junk around the house because I’ll eat it. But we have things like chips and sweeti-ish cereal and if the kids ask for those as snacks, I’ll say “No – why don’t you eat a piece of fruit instead.” But after they go to bed, do I go for a banana? Hell no! I’ll dig to the back of the highest cupboard and find a chocolate truffle that I’d hidden there. I already suffer guilt for eating chocolate, but the parental guilt on top of the 'this is dumb, your ass isn't going to shrink by eating this' kind of guilt is a double whammy.

Lately we’ve been trying to get Hollywood to be nicer to The Boy. Hollywood is a lovely child, and I love her more than all of the chocolate truffles in the world, but… She tends to bark at her brother way more than she should. She flips out on him and goes into super bossy, authoritarian, terror mode - especially when she’s stressed or tired. It’s something we’ve been working on with her, and to be fair, I think she's improving. But last night she had another incident where she went nutso on him and The Boy ended up in tears. She got privileges removed and will hopefully learn from her actions. But here again, the guilt... I'm feeling incredibly guilty about the times when I do the same thing (snap at the kids and freak out when I shouldn’t) on a stressful day!

I could go on, but this post is already too long. Mommy guilt. What a powerful emotion. I suppose you just move on and do the best you can every day. But there’s a lot of nagging in the back of my head that wouldn’t be there if I could find it in me to be a better example to my kids. I suppose like everything in life, I should try to focus on, and celebrate the successful examples I am setting for my kids. Because I suspect there are a few good things that they're learning from me too.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mememememe

Jess at Riley’s Ramblings tagged me for a meme. If you haven’t checked out her blog, do so now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Oh – and if you haven’t pre-ordered her book yet, do that too. It looks fabulous and I can’t wait for May 20th to HURRY UP AND GET HERE.

Anyway, here are the rules for the meme:

1. Link back to the person who tagged you.

2. Post these rules on your blog.

3. Share six unimportant things about yourself.

4. Tag six random people at the end of your entry.

* * * Six Unimportant Things about Monnik * * *

  • In college, I worked as a waitress in a fifties style diner. One of my co-workers was a sweet, but kind of stalkerish guy who washed dishes and sometimes cooked at the restaurant. His name was Ruben, and he wrote me a poem which he put in a flimsy 5x7 frame and presented to me along with a box of Nutter-Butters. The Husband also worked at the restaurant at that time, except he wasn’t my husband then. We sort of kept the fact that we were dating on the down low at work. But eventually it became obvious that The Husband had impregnated me. This made Ruben very sad. We got into a horrible argument. (Ok, I’m being dramatic, here… it wasn’t horrible. But it was an argument.) Ruben disagreed with me about the pronunciation of The Husband’s last name. I may not have waited until I was married to get knocked up by this dude, but I did know how to say his last name. But Ruben insisted that it was pronounced differently (an error most people make upon trying out our last name) and so we argued. And that was the end of his gifts of poems and cookies. Why, oh, why did it have to end that way, Ruben? (disclaimer so that The Husband doesn't worry that I'm pining away for my long lost love: I saw that our vending machine had Nutter-Butters in them today -I wisely ignored them and ate my oatmeal instead- and it reminded me of poor Ruben.)
  • My very favorite color is purple. It always has been. Some things that I love that are purple: my stuffed bunny named Jannelle (who is now mostly gray instead of lavender but still around instead of spending eternity in a land fill somewhere like the rest of my stuffed animals), the dress I wore in the Olan Mills wagon wheel picture when I was four, the bedroom my dad painted purple for me when I was little, the prom dress that looked better on my friend G who graciously loaned it to me for senior prom (which was a disaster and a story for another day, but the purple dress was oh, so pretty), the great purple handbag I got before Casual Corner closed, my purple wallet, and the purple square painted on my living room wall that looks like this picture:
    Photobucket
    Except that this is something I made in photoshop. But it has those prints of my kids and that saying and a painted purple rectangle that The Husband framed out in black trim on the wall, and, well… I love it. And I love purple.
  • I chopped my hair off last week and about a gazillion people at work have commented on it.
  • I won an award at work this week and have to get my picture taken with the head honcho here at Giant Ass Bank, and for some stupid reason it’s making me really nervous… And then tomorrow I have to have lunch with the president of my division and one of the Veeps from the division and I wonder what in the name of Methuselah I am going to talk about for an entire hour with these people. I know – it’s weird that I’d worry about what to talk about. I hear ya, but it really is something I’m kind of stressing over.
  • I love sushi, pasta, seafood, and all things made in a bakery.
  • I’m wearing a pedometer today and it’s digging into my waist. Not terribly comfortable…. It says I’ve taken 1315 steps so far. Which means I am a slug. But I am going to walk 2 miles at lunch…

So yeah. That’s six things. I’m tagging Mom in Scrubs, Krobzoo, WebGal, Debbielou, Barb, and Mama P. Hope y’all have a great week!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kindergarten Wound-Up

The title of my post today if apt on two levels. First, it's how Bumblebee says "Kindergarten Round Up". Secondly, it's how she's been all day - bouncing off the walls like you wouldn't believe.

Kindergarten Round-up is where kids who will be in kindergarten in the fall go and meet their teachers and get a taste of what school will be like. Bumblebee has been looking forward to this all week.

This morning she was furious that her brother and sister got to go on the bus to school and she didn't get to. When I told her she had to wait for another two and a half hours, she freaked out. She was antsy and wound up all morning, which made it hard for me to get any work done.

So, to pass the time, I put her hair in curlers:


Then we got her dressed in her favorite outfit:


I told her to look cool for the camera. This is her attempt at being cool. I have no idea what that footprint shaped smudge on my door is, but I guess it's time to wash the door, huh?


Then it was time to go. She had a blast and was so excited. It's sad, really. My baby getting ready to go off to kindergarten. But she's so cute and smart and ready for it, that I'm not getting too worked up over it. At least not yet. I do have until August, after all.

Yeah. Those of you who are sick of hearing me bitch about living in Iowa, look at this. This is what my driveway looks like right now:


And this is what my front yard looks like:


It's freaking APRIL. Die already, winter, mmkay??

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Word of the Day

I was perusing one of my geeky political blogs this morning and found this quote:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton may have been joking Tuesday when she challenged Senator Barack Obama to a bowling match, but she’s no stranger to kegling.

I looked up ‘kegling’ and was amazed to learn that it's definition is, simply, the sport of bowling.

Who knew?

I didn't know the meaning of this word, and thought immediately of kegel exercises. I thought the author of this post was saying that Hillary is no stranger to clenching her nether regions very tightly. I will spare you my thoughts on why a nicely toned vajayay (thanks Grey's Anatomy writers for creating that term) might benefit Hillary.