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Everything used to be so simple. Sesame Street is where we should all be living. Twenty years ago. It’s a little dicey on that street these days, and I have my suspicions about Mr. Roger’s neighborhood as well.

And once upon a time, I had a perfectly normal cell phone. It made phone calls, took phone calls, left messages for me to get back to. Sat there in my purse and behaved itself.

When the dreaded “year of the upgrade” rolled around, I deliberately delayed it while four more years crept by.

The debate was: to replace my phone with another “dumb” phone or to jump into the worldwide web of “smarter than a fifth grader” smart phones. Crap. I haven’t been able to help my fifth graders with math for years. Phones are all about numbers. This was not going to be pretty.

I held my breath and leaped into the 22nd century, hoping it wouldn’t be obsolete before I could transfer my contact list. There were a few months of uphill negotiations with my new smarty pants phone but the more I played with it the more I enjoyed it.

Finally there came the day of impasse, and I needed a fifth grader stat….or the nearest equivalent.

I’m sitting next to my tween-ager and casually start a conversation. “So, (fill in any name, there’s plenty to choose from), I don’t suppose you have a minute to show me something on my phone?”

There’s a ten minute silence while the kid finishes annihilating a village “like a boss” on Clash of the Clans. In kid time, that’s a 20 second pause.

“Yeah mom, what?”

“Well, I’ve been using my phone as a camera and I have about nine months of photos and a couple videos I found out that it does, but the problem is, I have no idea how to get it off my phone and into my laptop.”

“Why do you need it out of your phone?” This accompanied with an eye roll, which is impressive since his eyes have not left his iPad screen.

“So I can fix them up and email them. Maybe I can put them on my Facebook if I get around to it.”

“Just Snapchat it Mom. Or use Instagram. Or email it from your phone.”

“Look kid, I just want to have them where I can manipulate them. I need to feel in control here. Those photos are just sitting in there taunting me and there’s nothing I can do except delete them. I did find that little trashcan icon…tell me, where do these things go when you trashcan them? Is there a big dump in cyberspace where all deleted files go to be buried?”

This is not even dignified with a response, as said kid has moved on to Angry Birds. I wait respectfully while he decides whether or not to use a black bird as a bomb for more leverage.

“Moooooom,” he sighs deeply, taking out a laughing pig, “all you have to do is plug your phone into your laptop and push whatever button pops up.”

“But sweetie,” I’m really trying for patience here, “my phone didn’t come with a cord that connects those two things!”

At this point, the child has had enough. He turns fully into my face, trying to refocus his digitalized retinas. “Take the electric plug part off the end of your charger cord. Stick it in the hole.”

This is the child that I made flash cards of the alphabet for when he was four. This is the one I raised singing all the songs from Schoolhouse Rock. This, my progeny, was elected Mayor of BizTown in fifth grade. This kid is a varmint.

“My hero!” I say with a smile. Gently I pry his frozen fingers from his beloved iPad. “Now you can take a break and load the dishes into the dishwasher for me.”

Judging from the loud grumbling in the kitchen, there is no app for that.

Car Campaigns Part 1

As those of you who read “Death of a Champion” know, our recently deceased suburban lived a long and full life with our family. We were there at its conception and birth (the only car we’ve ever purchased brand spanking new) and we were there to mourn its death.

A few appropriate words were spoken by the children.

“Dude, did you get all our Legos out of the back seat?”

As the tow truck carried it away to the giant wrecking yard in the sky, there was only one thought on my mind. We were now on the inescapable undeniable terrifying journey into…car shopping.

You know us well enough to see that this was not a good thing. Making decisions in our family is like the Middle East peace talks. Everyone knows it’s a good idea. Everyone shows up to the bargaining table with perfectly sincere faces and a handshake.

But you are dealing with crazy people. So don’t hold your breath.

Our family wields opinions like small firearms. And nobody ducks.

I decided to launch a pre-emptive strike and fired off the first round.

“I want a Vespa,” I declared, “a green one.”

Everyone was silent for a minute contemplating my idea.

“We can put sidecars on it if you need a ride to school.”

This was met with a great deal of eye rolling and muttering in foreign languages to each other.

“Okay, fine,” I relented, seeing that my giant SUV to tiny moped was a pretty extreme rebound, “how about we get a Mini Cooper or a VW Bug? A Jeep?”

My six foot tall and only growing taller sons were having none of it.

“Mom, we want a monster truck!” they countered, “What if we got dropped off at school in one of those?!”

Obviously they thought everything with wheels was an option, including anything made by Tonka.

“I know!” they crowed, “let’s get a limo!”

I spent a moment relishing the thought of having a plate glass barrier between myself and the passengers that not even sound would break. But a mom has her duties and I scratched their idea with the safety card.

“The only car you’ll be allowed to ride in without a seat-belt is a hearse.”

Which was also a valid idea because we used to have elderly neighbors whose granddaughter worked in Hollywood as a horror film make-up artist. She drove an old hearse as part of her shtick. It always gave me a double-take when she parked it out front.

My fearless hubby stepped forward. He wasn’t sure what kind of car we wanted yet, but he knew it wasn’t going to be red. Or black. Or yellow. Or green. He tossed out some targets.

I shot down Hummers (overcompensating much), Prius (batteries sold separately), Camrys (yawn), Cubes (just drive a mail truck already), Volvo (a roll cage with wheels), Lexus (been there, done that), Beemers (so cliché), and what’s the difference between a sport wagon and a station wagon? Ick.

I spurned anything resembling a van (too soccer mom).

I shunned everything resembling an SUV (gas guzzlers).

And while a gi-normous Caddy reminded me of my days in the hood, there’s no possible way you could pimp that ride to entice me into buying one.

Not even in Mary Kay pink.

I was reloading when a daughter said, “Hey, get a Mustang!”

All the kids jumped on that bandwagon. Muscle cars are a big hit when we travel the roads, and I’m always asked to pull up alongside one so they can properly respect the lucky drivers. Camaro. Cobra.

What about a Mazarati? And Lamborghini!

Well don’t stop there, you little fantasy-land mouseketeers! How about we get a Ferrari and call it a day?

The bottom line is that we need a taxi for the next six years that will take the abuse it deserves for not being a Lotus Elise. It needs to be economical, safe, sturdy, and dependable. Translation=boring in the extreme.

Stay tuned as we head into the wilderness in search of transportation.

We’re armed and dangerous.

And no one is interested in negotiating.

And The Winner Is…Part 2

So I’ll wait with my poker face on while she deliberates whether it’s safe to stretch her word far enough into the double word zone but with a letter I may not be able to stretch into a triple later.  To play the S or not to play the S, that is a question.  Also, how many Ds are there in the game?  You could count them up and roll the dice accordingly.  Well, we don’t use dice but it’s an idea.  Perhaps a Magic 8 Ball would come in handy once in a while.  So she’ll put the word out there and maybe it’s only because it was “a really cool word” and it had to be played, points or no points.  Yep, it’s a really cool word all right.  Too bad I’m going to roll right over the top of it and play my X word into the red territory and pull into the lead by 30 points.  Ha.

“Cheater.”  Spoken softly through clenched teeth and with eyes slitted sideways at me.

“I know.”  Carefree.  Confident.  True.  I had looked up every X word variable and stumbled onto this one.  Research pays off.

“What does it mean?”

“An African unit of money.”

“I don’t know how you sleep at night.”

“Me neither.”

And so the tension mounts, as much from our surroundings as from the slowly filling board.  We have to keep vigilant peripheral vision to stop a crawling or stumbling child from landing on the board (we usually play on the floor with cushions) and if someone needs the facilities or to grab a coffee refill, the other is bound to keep her hands off the tiles.  And no peeking on the other gal’s tray either.  Years ago we decided that really cheating for goodness sake was no fun at all.  When the game ends and you realize there are eight blanks played, you know you’ve been duped and neither your victory nor your defeat is worth much.

“Argh!! There is nothing on my tray but junk!”

“I’ll sell you a vowel.  I’ve got four Es.”

“Too bad you have the Q.  And the J, I’m sure.”

“That just means I’m getting all the points.  Too bad you’re gonna lose again.”

“I know.”

“Seriously, I’ll give you a hundred bucks for a T if you got one.”

Our games last about an hour give or take.  We rarely have to prod each other on to make a move.  The closer to the end of the game you get, the trickier the moves have to be, especially if the score is even.  We’ve each made up a 50 point deficit and both know the joy of going from underdog to top dog in the end.  Anything is possible, and somehow attitude is a major component of if and when fickle lady luck decides to join your side.

Don’t give us a chess board or Stratego or invite us over for a game of poker.  We can’t count, we don’t need to think more than one step ahead, and if we are interrupted twenty times in the hour, you wouldn’t expect us to be able to play anything in a straight line.  We tried the online scrabble game, the ones in phones and one on Facebook.  Once in a while we gather a crowd and really cut loose with a game of Take Two.  But it’s just not the same.  No one else can quite grasp the sentiment.

“That is SO not a word.”

“A rubber-soled cloth shoe.  From Norway.”

“Oh whatever.  Can you add an -ER to it?”

“Because then the shoe is shoeier?”

The notebook has a few blank pages left in it.  Maybe if we could get together more than a couple times a year it would go faster, but we’re patient people.  And I need to add more words to the Dictionary.

 

And The Winner Is…Part 1

In my game closet there is a small spiral notebook with years of score keeping running through it.  Red ink, black ink, doodles and stars adorn the margins and some pages have been torn out and tossed ceremonially into a trashcan.  The columns are kept clearly separated and labeled for the most part “Me” and “You”.  Occasionally there was a third player but those pages don’t count.

The players of course, are my sister and I.  Our game of games: Scrabble.

Clear back to the opening pages, I was home with tiny children and my younger sister was doodling variations of “Mrs. B…..” with little hearts on the backside of the scoreboard while waiting for her turn and her future.  Later pages have her lists of possible baby names between tile counts.  This in itself will tell you who normally keeps our running tally.  Big sister trumps little sister, so big sister claims to hate math and can spend the entire game accusing little sister of cheating.  But I’m just too lazy to check her work.  The truth is, she could rob me blind in the score keeping and I wouldn’t have a clue.  There are a couple of pages that end somewhere in the middle of a game that had to be forfeited due to interrupted baby naptimes or a dinner that could no longer be delayed.  But for the most part, my kid sister keeps a beautiful book of numbers.

A circled final winning score shows the end of each match.  Each match brings the updated tally of wins per sister an inch closer to fame and fortune.  If someone played a seven letter coup, it is duly recorded in the margin. If a truly amazing triple was played, there may be stars and notations included.  Early on we played a game where my sis must have been highly caffeinated.  Apparently, she broke 500 points by playing “cartels” and “leakings” along triples.  Even my spell check says that last one is NOT a word.  Most of the time we break 300 each by the game’s end.

You won’t hear me say it out loud.  (Cheater.)

OK, so what is not written down, but guaranteed to have been a large part of the game, is the running dialogue between us, each of whom is equally skilled and both of whom have predetermined herself as the winner of a game not yet played.  We sit down for our games with an aura of victory and the sure knowledge that our worthy competitor is already shaking her head in pity for our loss.

“According to the scorebook, it’s my turn to win today.  You won last time.”

“Yes, but we’re playing at my house.  My house, my rules.  My rule: I’m winning today.”

“Did I or did I not just bring you a coffee?  You have to let me win.”

“Look, I’ll prove it.  I’ll draw my letter.  There.  See?  I pulled out an H.  Clearly the fates have chosen me to go first, and win the game.”

“Pfffft.  There.  Looking like my B is going to trump your H and me and your fates are gonna have a good laugh today.”

“We’ll just see about that.  Pass me the book.”

And now a note about The Book.  We have a couple of our own rules.  What would be the fun of any game if you were stuck with somebody else’s rules?  The game board score boxes of course make sense as do the face values of the tiles and so forth.  But honestly, if I have to actually think while playing a game surrounded by children you are kidding me.  I have a well used and much loved Scrabble Player’s Dictionary and it travels with the game.  There’s no wasting time thinking up a word that may or may not in fact be a word, playing it, and then having to waste more time in challenging it.  If you have to look it up anyway, why on earth not just do it to begin with?  Sheesh.

We have discovered more new words than you can possibly imagine.  We have actually discovered the reverse as well and had to pencil in words that ARE words.  Why was “understand” omitted?  Seriously, it’s not there, and neither is “underwear”.  And there are words in there that I know for a fact can NOT be words, and yet there they are.  You can take a tray of ridiculous letters that in no way shape or form are ever gonna be a word, but if on the off chance you could play a Q in the four spaces of a triple box, by golly you start thumbing through the Q section.  What do you know?  My, my, you learn something new every day.  It never ceases to amaze me what qualifies as a word.  And apparently the makers of the book left no stone unturned.  We have an unspoken agreement that we won’t play a word that is in unsavory taste.  Unless it gives us a bazillion points, in which case we don’t let the kids watch.

All’s fair in love and Scrabble.

Dust Bunnies Beware

I am the proud owner of an industrial size regulation yellow janitor mopping bucket. And I’m not afraid to use it. I’m sure it horrifies my family when I go to town on the floors; maybe it’s the way I tie up my hair, roll up my sleeves, and put on my game face. My German roots rejoice over the shiny clean awesomeness of it all.

Yay! It’s so springy. In So Cal we have lovely weather year round but once the last of the frost is gone, we tend to get as crazy as everybody else. We toss open the windows and toss out the kids. Go digging in the garden and digging through new recipes. We have the annual rounding up of the dust buffaloes.

Our home sports mostly tile or wooden floors which is genius for heaps of people trekking through. When the floor is clean, you know it. When it’s dirty, you know it. The tiny dust bunnies scamper along, multiplying slowly beneath the radar. They curl up under the couch and behind the beds, enjoying their long winter’s nap. Come spring cleaning madness, though, the little things are no longer wee baby bunnies.

They are gi-normous dust buffaloes with attitudes!

They hear the approaching sound of doom and shrink into the corners: my cowboys are coming with the vacuum to bring them to justice.

Not many escape.

Speaking of vacuums, my faithful zoomer broke off another piece. This one might be important, it appears to hold the front wheels on. It’s the world’s best vacuum and that’s no lie. It’s got two clear plastic chambers and a spinning air filter that picks up everything in its path and holds it captive until I go tip it upside down over the trashcan and shake. What comes out is enough hair to make an actual buffalo and maybe two cups of filth. It’s better than using the old paper vacuum bags. You never know what’s going on in there until it blows! So when I go to buy a new one, it will be exactly this same model.

I found out you’re not supposed to use the vacuum on hard wood floors because of the rotating brush, so I have a huge dusting mop for those. I push it around and in two minutes, the room is swept. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or if I’m getting gypped. I see the kids who work in the grocery stores and they get to push them all up and down the aisles instead of doing real work like restocking the always-empty salad racks.

Rounding out the list of my weapons of choice is my very wonderful feather duster. You need one, you really do! Only get one with real ostrich feathers; the oils in them suck up dust like you won’t believe and grab on till you walk outside on the balcony and whack it firmly against your palm over the neighbor’s back fence. They should also have the opportunity to dust, I’m only sharing the love.

I’d like to close by mentioning two of my favorite people, persons who come to mind when I’ve got microfiber cloths in one hand and the Lysol in the other. Inspiration for the joys of hard work that isn’t actually hard, and the excellent attitudes behind it: Flylady.com and our elementary school janitor, Mr. Calvin.

Now that I’ve dropped names, someone go clean up that mess.

Not Again!

It’s time to Spring Forward. Twice a year we move the clocks, replace the batteries in our smoke detectors, and get our teeth cleaned. Gooood times.

How was your week? Mine’s gotten better since I filled my camelback with espresso.

Everything has been coming at such a fast pace, I fall into bed exhausted each day only to smack the alarm clock across the room the next morning.

I have jet lag and not even a vacation to remember for it.

Every time our wonderful government changes to Daylight Saving Time the chickens and I go on strike. We plan on making hay while the sun shines, and not one minute before it does.

I always thought we invented this lovely little torture device to help out farmers. So originally, I was okay with it. I can put up with some inconvenience if it helps them feed America.

But then I actually pushed a couple of Google buttons, and do you know what? It’s a lie. Turns out, farmers were the biggest opponents of the idea. They have to wait for the dew to dry on crops before they can harvest them, while the market runs on, hours ahead of them.

I won’t be telling my hens about the movie I watched the other day.

It said the mass market for eggs compels some chicken ranchers to keep their hens in artificially lit henhouses on timers. Eggs are produced with greater regularity and business booms because ranchers are outsmarting the finicky creatures. Hens lay eggs during warm daylight hours, and when the sun or the temperature goes down so do they.  What motivates these ladies is a 12-hour-a-day year-round simulated vacation in the Bahamas.  Sounds great until you realize this can only go on for a couple of years before the exhausted things are turned into pot pies.

Believe it or not, cows are not interested in moving their milking times around in the morning just because the dairy moved the clock hands forward an hour. I imagine the dairymen are not going to house their cows in giant artificially lit stadiums, though.

Not so surprisingly, the grilling and golf industries voted two enthusiastic thumbs up, convincing our government to stretch DST from six to our current eight months long.  I suppose they don’t think about where the chicken and beef on those barbecue grills came from?

And if you had a choice between an extra hour of sleep and an extra hour of golf, which would you choose? I know, right?

Research shows our risk of a heart attack surges by 10% on the Monday and Tuesday following our big Spring Forward.

That could be from the alarm clock shrieking into our ears in the dark.

It could stem from our attempt to defeat the jet lag with gallons of caffeine and sugar.

It could come from reading about how the egg industry treats chickens.

But I ask you: Are we going to keep putting up with this nonsense?

When I want to be healthy, wealthy and wise, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, get off my roost!

Is it Too Late to Mail a “Happy March” Card?

I feel the need to apologize to everyone who didn’t get a Christmas card from us this year.

That would be all of you. Sorry.

It was all mapped out in my head and on the calendar. In my world, that’s a slam dunk.

My favorite part of Christmas is the cards. I love to receive them, thank you! And I love to send them. We may or may not get a tree. We may or may not get cookies made. The tinsel can get tossed any-ol-where. But addressing cards and sorting photos and buying pretty stamps are my cup of tea.

Can you believe there was a time when the kids were little and we made a family project of it? They hand decorated each card with a drawing or their name and we learned how to address an envelope correctly. Someone licked the stamps. Someone licked the envelopes. We used ink and rubber stampers to decorate the back. And drove to the post office.

Along the way, I learned the trick of using a damp sponge to seal the envelopes instead of the “lick em and stick em” routine. Even the stamps aren’t the licking kind anymore, thank goodness. Anyone else out there remember the joys of “tacky tongue”? Please tell me I’m not the only one. Please.

If I we had a very eventful year, I typed up a little insert. It was usually letting you know we had (once again) added onto the family or had (once again) added onto the house and everyone’s age, school doings, blah blah blah. Things a grandparent would want to know, but bore your single girlfriends to death.

The advent of the Costco photo greeting card was just in the nick of time. The older the kids got, the less they wanted to sit for an afternoon of card making. And I realized that I could order glossy cards pre-signed with everyone’s name and age. I could add a photo that was worth a thousand word newsletter!

Now they just had to pose for an afternoon of photo taking. There were haircuts and outfits and location scouting. There was bribery. There was begging. There was Kodak! There was the sun in their eyes. There was a bee in the grass. There was junior about to fall out of the tree before mommy could get into camera position.

Fast forward to the Christmas Card of 2012. There we all are, grouped together smiling in the den. Such a lovely family. Ha.

What you don’t know is that eldest son’s girlfriend was taking the photo, causing him to ruin the first ten shots with ridiculous faces. My arm is around youngest son’s waist: and squeezing. He’d better be taking this seriously if he knows what’s good for him. Both daughters are behind us, the only willing participants in the shot although half of the time one or the other of them are rolling their eyes at all the brotherly antics going on. Child number four wisely posed on the other side, far from my reach. The camera will show another dozen shots where he felt the need to only insert half of his head. Hubby’s smile is fixed between admonishing everyone else to smile. Our cheeks are starting to ache.

Out of some 30 shots, the one you got was the only one that worked.

When I asked the family to sit together for an impromptu photo this last Thanksgiving, they scattered faster than roaches when the light turns on. They wouldn’t sit all in the same room again until January.

My card tradition may take a necessary detour.

I realize not everyone does cards anymore. I have a brilliant artsy girlfriend who is a graphic designer, photographer and witty mommy. She emails a full color photo card/newsletter right to my inbox that knocks my socks off. Of course I’m jealous. She’s saving trees. But I have a hard time hanging it on the fridge.

There’s a good nine months to think this card crisis over. I’m considering everything from Photoshopping their heads onto some lined up bowling pins to candids of them asleep, drooling on their pillows.

“Visions of Sugarplums” I’ll call it. Oy vey.

Death of a Champion Part 2

So Tuesday I limp home, and start looking for mechanics.  I call hubby to report.  He’s taking it in first thing in the morning himself. I’ve been fired from mechanical maintenance.

Wednesday, the car is repaired by a man whose name I cannot even pronounce, let alone spell, for a “good deal”.  Fine.  We team tag with the cars and get everyone home and two working cars in the garage by dinnertime.  High Five! We had waffles, by the way.  Pretty good last minute meal.  Anyhow.

Wednesday night is Bible class, so rush, rush, and all jump in the car for the trip across town.  Backing out of the garage was the easy part.  Apparently putting it into drive was an issue.

Remember we got the Suburban brand new?  We have the “base model”.  Translation: every possible thing that we can make of plastic, we will.  The plastic expires, apparently, at around 10 years.

I have Tupperware that lasted longer.

The entire gear shift handle has broken off inside the steering wheel column.  In his confusion (translation: “WHAT IN THE…?”) hubby puts it into park and well, we are parked.

At this point, everyone hops back out of the sub and hovers while the situation is assessed.  I have pulled out my zen.  Big can of it.  This is just enough.  “Everyone into the Lexus and we’ll figure this out tomorrow.”  Yeah, at that point, our huge kids take one look at the parents’ faces and decide they can sit in each other’s laps across town and not make a peep.

We are not going to be held hostage by a big blue bucket of bolts.  It can just sit there and think about the error of its ways.

Maybe I’ll get it fixed.  Maybe I’ll put it on Craigslist for free.  Do you know what gas costs these days?  Do they sell mopeds with attachable sidecars?

Today, I am enjoying a beautiful sunny peaceful day at home.  There is nowhere I need to be, the kids are all able to get home from school on their own.  I am thankful the car, if it had to die, died peacefully here and didn’t strand us elsewhere.

The sub gave it’s all to the service of our family, took our abuse and still carried entire water polo teams, sheets of plywood, bales of hay, couches, and a group of my girlfriends into Palm Springs for a weekend of birthday fun.

It was the Party Sub. It was the Clydesdale of cars.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Hopefully, I will see you next time around….in a new car.

Disclaimer: This was an email two years ago and I felt much better after I wrote it. The sub is still among us, a one-eyed elderly retiree leaking bodily fluids into an oil pan in the driveway. You can’t get out of the driver’s door without first rolling down the window and pulling the handle from outside.

It wants to keep us.

Death of a Champion Part 1

It is such a good thing that I hedged my bets and stayed home today.  As you know, I took our Suburban in Monday for an oil change.  I go to the dealership because they also go over the whole car, hoping to find other things wrong and therefore get to keep it for a week, do a million dollars of repairs, and then pat me on the head and send me home penniless.

So I told Anthony right up front:  “Take a good look at this car.  We got it brand new 12 years ago exactly.  We have 5 kids.  They are monsters.  There is nothing breakable on this car that is not broken.  There is nothing moveable that we have not moved.  Permanently.  I have a bag full of parts in the backseat that I do not intend to stick back on.  Take the car and change the oil.  Make THE LIST, and I will go home and look it over (translation: “I will laugh and file it in the round file”) and get back to you.”

So maybe I was just curious about what they would find.

“Oh yeah, and don’t set the parking brake, because the release broke awhile back and I have to thread a shoelace up through it if it gets accidentally set.  And sorry about that door.  You just put your finger into the jagged hole – gently! – and pull the door shut when you’re ready to drive.” Armrests are for wimps.

I tried to keep the car decent.  Sure, road trips and beach sand and meals on wheels occur, but that’s washable.  It was when my adorable last born child keyed my car (it’s the happy face on the driver’s side) that I realized this was the family vehicle; I should just breathe and let it go.  After all, priorities, right?

So Anthony changed the oil, made the list, didn’t even try the lecture, and handed my keys over.  “One thing,” he says, as I’m trying to slink out the side door, “Both brake shoes on the back are cracked.  If you want to fix just one thing, you may want to do the brakes.”  Good idea.

I already know about the brakes.  My oldest daughter drove all the way to work and back about three months ago, with the parking brake set.  How was she supposed to know it was set?  It’s broken, right?  No one was supposed to set it.  So the weird smell and the odd behavior of the car seemed…odd.  Sigh.  So for three months I stall because we just DID brakes, it seems like, and as long the car will stop, we’ll get around to it.  Grr.

Tuesday, two blocks from home, the brakes give way.  I have had this happen before if we must be honest, and I swore never to repeat the experience.  You are coming up to the intersection, brake slowly, then a car jumps in front of you (or a wildebeest, if you must make the story more dramatic to stave off a furious husband) and you hit the brake hard, and suddenly you hear a *pop* and feel a —-sliiiide—- and the car is simply not going to stop, so you pump the brake while looking frantically side to side for a soft tree to land in, and the car grinds slowly to a stop right where you desperately need it  to.

You can’t use the emergency brake in an emergency, remember?  You don’t have your lace-up shoes on.

Victoria’s Victorian Secret

I blame Victorian Magazine for starting me down the path of misguided inspiration.

Back in our Diaper Days, I bought one just to admire a living room that wasn’t covered in toys and spit up.  It called to me like a siren to a drifting sailor. Not a single thing in that period of my life was “done” or “clean” or “beautiful” for more than two seconds together.

The glossy layout room, however, had clean and coordinating furniture complimented with glossy tables, bouquets in crystal vases, meaningful family photos tastefully framed and artfully placed.  The floors had pretty rugs, the walls had faux paint, the lampshades had tiny crystal beads.

Sign. Me. Up.

Where to begin?

Hm.  The only space I could find that the kids couldn’t reach was the ceiling.

Except the part over the bunk beds.   That had footprints on it.

No problem.  Start small, right?

So I took the broom and carefully went around the perimeter of the living room ceiling, getting down a few years worth of cobwebs.  Instant improvement. Only a little of the popcorn came down.  The kids had a snow day.  It took the rest of the morning to clean the mess. It took months of staring at that magazine while nursing before I mustered my next ambitious plan.

There came a day we decided “That’s it!  We are sick of sagging ugly second-hand furniture!”  We need something rugged yet regal.  Sturdy yet sleek.  Cleanable yet classy.  We brought home the most beautiful set of leather couches you have ever seen.  They were the real deal.  They were placed lovingly in the room and the plastic packaging removed.  They smelled delightful.

They were a presence.

And then the unthinkable happened.  A small child without warning, enjoying everyone’s happy awe, pranced in and sat on a couch.  The poor thing could not have known that this was art, not furniture.  That it represented a sizable chunk of our family change.  That if so much as a crumb or scratch appeared to mar the view, all would be lost, she would never have attempted it.

Accompanied by a fatherly shriek that closely resembled a little girls’, the couch was rescued from this threat on its life.  The couches were carefully re-bagged and returned to their rightful owners the very same day.

Gone now are thoughts of wallpaper or using any color of paint on the walls but white.  Deep colors chipped if so much as a nerf dart hit them.  Doorjambs collected daily handprint donations of catsup and mud pie. Nope.  White washable paint, by the five gallon drum, for every room of the house and applied frequently is how we roll.

On the upside, it’s a very fast clean for a room.  On the downside, it takes the average kid less time to muck it up than it took you to prep the job.

If only I had looked carefully at the photographs, I would have discovered Victoria’s little secret to a sparkly perfect house sooner.  There were no people in it.  I suppose Social Services would have something to say about locking the kids outside. More on that in a later blog.

As I could not have a lovely house and my lovely kids in the same place at the same time, my Victorian Magazine era wound slowly to a natural end.  It isn’t about the house after all, of course. It’s about the family that lives and loves and prays and plays in it.