Thursday, December 31, 2009


EG just called me a nerd. Can a mom be a nerd? Is there a discrepancy between the two--kind of a never-the-twain-shall-meet thing? If you parent, can you be a nerd? Do nerds marry?

Which led me to my next quest--I went to and checked the definition of "nerd."

A person who is extremely smart. Most have an obession with some sort of sci-fi saga but some don't. Often rediculed (sic) for being to (sic) dad gom smart. NOT obessed with computers (those are geeks). That one kid who's in your innercircle that all ways (sic) makes the best grades and feels out of wack if they miss an airing of Firefly.

Okay, so what's Firefly? And should I believe an online dictionary which improperly spells "ridicule" or doesn't use the adverbial form of "too?" And "all ways?" Ack.

Which led me to Merriam-Webster online. The definition there is "an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person, especially: one slavishy devoted to academic or intellectual pursuits."

Um--no, thank you. And I won't even mention the colon misuse.

Wikipedia, which a true nerd would view with some derision, says, "Nerd is a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests that are age-inappropriate rather than engaging in more social or popular activities. Therefore, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and considered a loner by peers, or will tend to associate with like-minded people." Wikipedia goes on to suggest that being a nerd is being "hyperwhite."

Guess not.

So, since I am trying to occupy my brain while Rocky reads The Picture of Dorian Gray, a book which he told me he was reading last night at eleven o'clock when his lights were supposed to be out and when in reality he was playing with Matchbox cars, and which I am now lovingly giving him PLENTY of opportunity to pursue since he was so "dad gom" interested in it (HA), I noodled around a bit on Wikipedia (I know, I have fallen so far), and I found this definition: A Public Intellectual can be defined as somebody who uses his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate on or ask and answer questions about a wide variety of ideas. Though the term 'public intellectual' has traditionally remained non gender specific it continues historically to be a role predominantly occupied by men.

Supposedly, the female public intellectuals were strongly involved in feminism, which lessened their respect for being intellectuals.

I guess am a feminist--I had a subscription to Ms. Magazine when I was in high school, for crying out loud. However, I don't dislike men, nor do I loudly proclaim the injustices which I perceive in the roles of women--I just IGNORE them and do what's right for me. I think if all women did the same, there would be no question that we are all equal.

So, I guess I am not a nerd. I am not a public intellectual, nor am I a feminist. I am a woman. And a mom. And a human being. And if you look up "human being" on Wikipedia, you will see that there is a richness and depth of information on humans.

Works for me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Last year, at the end of season clearance sales, the kids and I bought some Christmas ornaments. One reads "peace" in a nice script, and the other "HOPE" in all capitals. Peace was hung on the tree early, along with the rest of the decorations. We had peace this year.

However, I found HOPE in my bedroom, in a box of odds and ends, and hung it on the tree Christmas evening. It is on a branch which I can see from my place at the kitchen table, now canting slightly downhill to the left. However, I know now that we can get through the holidays.

My friend Wendy, a woman I greatly admire because of her faith and wisdom, lost both her parents this year--a double whammy, if you forgive the vernacular. Yesterday, she discussed navigating a new course through the holidays. It makes a good analogy, as we are all on this journey, looking back at the memories, and not sure where we are going.

I remember telling the kids for the past three Christmases, "I don't know if we'll have Grandma next year." What we could not possibly foresee last Christmas was that my brother-in-law would leave us after a short but extremely painful battle with cancer. We didn't see the rocks in the water until we were nearly on top of them. However, they didn't capsize us--not yet at least.

I read recently that an optimist stays up to see the new year in, and a pessimist stays up to see the old year out.

I guess I am a pessimist this year, as I would like to put this year behind me. However, I may just keep that Christmas ornament out where I can see it in 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eight-eyed Freak

Yesterday was quiet and restful. We watched a movie about the Danish resistance to Nazi occupation and ate homemade pizza. We talked and laughed and rested.

This morning, I am cleaning the basement in installments and listening to the girls, who need something to do, squabble. I just told Kiki, "Stay out of her room unless you want her to go in your room."

I just told Nita, "Stop calling each other 'eight eyed freak.'"

Things are back to normal.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The day after

This was a lovely, peace-filled, quiet holiday celebration this year, the kids refraining from fighting (perhaps because Nita slept a good part of the day), with a visit from our friend Nora, a person who brings out the best in the kids.

After Nora left, my sister stopped in, and we ate pancakes and sausage, our postponed breakfast, and then we took Harry out with us in the car and looked at the Christmas lights, voting for the best and worst, giving titles such as "festive," "bought the various pieces on sale over the years," "Snoopy's doghouse," "Tasteful Suburban," "Well, at least they tried," and the clear winner of the lack of design award, "Would have to be firebombed if we lived across the street." This particular display consisted of the multilevel roof outlined in six different light colors and types, the garage in three different colors and types, all asynchronously flashing on and off with different timers, and various inflatibles, plastic figurines, and light displays below, including a manger with disproprotionately large lighted animated reindeer flanking the sides, a Burl Ives Snowman presiding benevolently over the scene.

We came home, the kids went off to bed and went to sleep almost immediately, and EG and I followed soon after.

It was a nice day, abundant with peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The gift of peace

Rocky has taken up lying and stealing again in his annual traditional celebration of the holiday--this year he was a "last minute shopper" and waited until the week before to pull out those old behaviors and share them with us. However, the steal/lie/steal/lie cycle is as strong as it ever was despite the late arrival, so I had him under my supervision for the day yesterday, and since I am such an awesome mom, I used his powers for good and had him do housecleaning, including the freezer and baseboards. It helped re-energize me, of course, and we got so much accomplished. Plus, he went to bed about eight last night because he was so tired.

Today the kids are in the living room, entertaining themselves. One of them will say "1-2-3, be quiet," and then they will sit silently for 15 to 20 minutes until someone breaks and speaks. Then the other two hang on for another 20 minutes or so, and I sit and blissfully breathe in and out in the silence.

This has been a long year, one which was filled with stress and sadness, and today, the day before the holiday, we are having peace finally. I got my gift already, and I wish the same for all of you who read this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Strange peace

This last hour has been so peaceful, a word which we don't use much to describe the climate around here. After a morning of us all pitching in to clean for Christmas, I have been fussing around on the internet, Rocky is playing a hand-held game, Kiki is writing in her journal, and Nita is conked out on the sofa, waiting for yet another doctor's appointment. All the symptoms from nearly two weeks ago are back. Maybe it really is a bladder infection. The pets are all napping after a big morning of ball play, and even the bunnies are resting.

We won't be going to our regular doctor, as he is out sick as well, so we have to educate yet another MD about her symptoms. I may scream.

I haven't been sleeping well this week, knowing I was going to have my annual review at work, and knowing that my distractedness this year was not going to reflect well on said review. Then, even though the review wasn't as bad as I had dreaded, I didn't sleep Monday night, and then Nita woke me this morning early, telling me she had gotten sick in her bed. I tucked her in with us, and then couldn't get back to sleep. We were going to have EG's birthday celebration today, but instead we are having CORD, standing for Clean Out Refrigerator Day, a fancy name for leftovers.

So this peace today is doubly welcome--I can feel my blood pressure dropping, and my breathing deepen, and while I am enjoying it, I am also wondering just how to get more of it as well.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mitch Miller

Here EG and the kids view music as an essential background to their day, much like the Muzak played in Kmart stores. What is interesting is what they choose to play, as that is what varies. One night Transiberian Orchestra, the next night oldies (Mom, how do you know this stuff?), and the next night Carrie Underwood with a little classical sprinkled throughout. As Rocky prefers classic rock, like Queen and Pink Floyd, and he is henpecked by his sisters, he rarely gets to vote on what they play.

The past few nights Kiki has been at voice lessons and then at girl scout camp, so Nita has been the disc jockey. It has been The Jonas Brothers two nights in a row so far. And Billy Joel's Piano Man, but none of his other hits.

Yesterday, I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the entire kitchen and hall. The floor, which was put in by my parents, is white on white textured, perfect for a guest bathroom or a kitchen owned by two eighty somethings, but not so perfect for three kids, three labs, and two cats. I used a toothbrush, scrub brush and magic eraser, getting into all the crevices and taking off the ground in discoloration. It took nearly four hours. I then put acrylic seal down and let it dry.

The floor looks brand new.

However, during that time, the house was quiet, and I was remembering my mother. She, too, didn't play music that often, but when we were getting close to Christmas, she would pull out her Mitch Miller Christmas Albums, her Perry Como and Andy Williams, and we would hear the same music we had heard every year during our childhood. I scrubbed the floor and "heard" some of the old songs, and felt at peace. Somehow I knew my mother was close to me, in her kitchen, in the quiet of a weekday afternoon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To sleep, perchance to dream

When I was an undergraduate, I was an English major. I wasn't a distinguished English major, as I did not embrace a lot of the writing which we studied, as I found it less than profound or beautiful or moving or relevant or any one of a number of things, including that I just didn't like what I read.

Shakespeare was the most challenging, as I had to read his entire works in a semester along with my other coursework. Mind you, this was before video/dvd availability of the works, so the only recourse I had to supplement what I was reading was 33 1/3 rpm recordings of the plays. I heard and read so much Shakespeare during that 12 weeks that I started to speak oddly.

Much of Shakespeare is a blur. I am uncertain how he could have written so much in his life as I had enough difficulty reading it all; I do suspect that he may have been bipolar and spent much time in a manic phase where he could accomplish so much. I do know that there is some discussion that Shakespeare was really a group of individuals--as a mom who works and is going to grad school, I know that it would not have been impossible for one individual to do that much work in so little time.

But I digress. During the time I was in the course, I was having a rough time, working two jobs and going to school, every spare moment spent in coursework. I was struck by the character of Caliban, who was described as a "freckled monster," but who was the only human inhabitant of an island. In the play, Caliban said:

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

I thought that summed up so much of what we all have felt at one time or another.

I went to a hospice workshop on grief on Sunday--the topic was getting through the holidays. Not enjoying them, just getting through them. And since then, I have slept deeply and well each night, fully giving myself to the process, resting in the fullest sense of the word. I haven't slept like this in three or four years now, and I feel like Caliban--I have waked after a long sleep, and yet I can sleep again. However, I don't need to dream, as the reality of this peace is riches enough right now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Magnum Pretty Irritating

Today it is cold, in the thirties, and rainy and gray. EG and Kiki went to church early to sing at the early Mass, and Nita and Rocky and I are joining them at noon, when EG cants. We had a quiet morning, as quiet as it ever gets around here, with dogs yapping and cats galloping, and constant water use monitoring, to prevent An Unfortunat Septic Issue.

Just now, I sent Rocky to get dressed for church. He came back in a short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt, a la Tom Selleck, only tucked into his tightly belted pants, with the shirt buttoned up to the neck. All he needed was a pocket protector and calculator in his belt--Magnum meets the Big Bang Theory.

"Ack!" I said. "Do you ever look in a mirror?" Nita went out of the room, giggling hysterically.

"Yessss," he said hesitantly, completely missing that I was being rhetorical, as I know he looks in the mirror, practicing for that highly anticipated day when he gets to kiss a particular girl in his class, who according to Kiki is a real doll and most likely has no idea he has designs on her.

"Go change," I said for the umpteenth thousandth time in his life. "Wear something long sleeved; it's thirty-some degrees." He has numerous sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, which he is apparently saving for a day when it is eighty degrees.

So he comes back in his oldest long-sleeved shirt because I didn't specify exactly that it should be long sleeved AND church appropriate. "Um, what happened to all the good long-sleeved shirts I gave you?"

"They're in my closet," he said reasonably. "I like to trade off." With what, the Hawaiian shirt? Alternating between the people of WalMart and a luau?

I give up. At least this one has all its buttons.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dr. Mom

Nita has asthma. Whenever she gets a cold, she will get a stuffy nose and drainage. Then she coughs, and then she gets sick to her stomach from the coughing. Plus, we always have our annual holiday season sinus infection.

Normally I can keep things under control by pushing fluids, but Thursday she couldn't keep anything down no matter what I did. Plus, she slept all day. I finally called the doctor, of course right before five o'clock, as we were dealing with dehydration. And the nurse referred me to the emergency room, which I suspected.

What bugged me was that, when I tried to explain our situation to the admitting clerk, she said, "You can tell all that to the nurse." The nurse didn't ask any questions other than, "She's vomiting?" When I then tried to describe the symptoms to the ER physician, he cut me off. I didn't back down, and continued explaining. He tried interrupting me, and I talked over him. That probably sealed my fate as being labeled An Irritating Person. Since my medical training is nil, my opinion and experience, as the mom, obviously meant little. ER doctor said Nita had gastroenteritis and a possible kidney or bladder infection. Wrong end, dude. However, getting fluids into her was my main concern, so I encouraged the nausea medicine. Nita was so sick that the nurse thought she was severely delayed and asked me, "Can she drink from a cup?" Um, yes.

The meds for the stomach did the job. Within minutes, Nita had a popsicle and then another and then a cup of Gatorade, which she nursed through Hannah Montana, a rare treat, as we don't have cable TV at home. She perked right up once the show was over, and we came home.

Yesterday, at our follow up visit at the regular doctor's, he found an ear infection.

I realize that medicine is an iffy proposition, as sometimes it is more of a puzzle than a clear diagnosis, but to me, why not listen to the mom. I said it all started in her sinuses, why not at least look in her nose and ears and not diagnose it was likely her bladder?

There is an old saying that the only difference between God and a doctor is God doesn't think he's a doctor. And He most likely has a better grasp on anatomy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

She can be bought

Amber the Elusive Kitty will come downstairs only out of necessity, to get water. She will also come down to nag EG about the cat food bowl being empty and to complain if the litter box is getting disgusting. She does most of her complaining somewhere near the stairs, as the baby gate and radio fence prevent the dogs from getting to her.

Amber doesn't like me, as I am the dog wrangler. Plus, if I pick her up, it is to administer a flea treatment, cut her nails, or take her to the vet. In her kitty brain, I am not a Nice Person.

However, I have discovered that even Amber has a price. So, every couple days, when the kids and EG are gone and we are alone except for Dirty Harry, I put a tablespoon of milk in a saucer and put it down for Amber here in the kitchen. Then I hold Harry while she drinks her milk. She is skittish, jumping if the rabbits move in their cages or the furnace kicks on, but I notice that she also has taken to sitting across the living room and staring at me, apparently sending powerful suggestions to me to "give Amber some milk", suggestions which I am too dense to get. Or not. Maybe I am just channeling cat and refusing to acknowledge what she is saying. Two can play at that game.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Friday, I took the rabbit to do his hospice visits. While I was there, the aide asked me to visit another resident. This lady was so sweet, so excited to see the bunny, and when she reached out to him, I realized that she was extremely spastic, her arms flailing around uncontrollably.

She realized it, too, and stopped extending her hand. I paused. However, Bob didn't hesitate. He stood on his hind legs, extending his head to her hand. Following his lead, I extended the basket closer. When her hand touched the rabbit, the lady's arm tremored, ruffling his fur, but Bob didn't move. Within seconds, all involuntary movement had stopped, and the lady's hand rested quietly on the rabbit's back.

Once again, I was humbled by his ability to discern what I could not.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Periodic Table

Yesterday, Kiki was helping Nita with her homework, which consists of Kiki pompously lecturing everyone within earshot about the "realities" of eighth grade.

Initially, she was regaling Nita with tales of painful torture devices and mind-numbing acts of cruelty, but now she mostly talks about the more mundane (and less frightening) activities of the day. Nita eats it up, obviously storing these nuggets of wisdom so she can be the maven of middle school.

In a rare moment of generosity, Kiki asked Nita what she had covered in school that day. Nita replied, "We learned about the periodic table of the elephants."

Kiki was, for once, speechless. In the moments of silence which followed, I was picturing a huge poster with Dumbo, Jumbo, Babar, and Horton. Snorky from the Banana Splits. And what about those Heffalumps from the Pooh cartoons? Would they qualify? And wooly mammoths, of course. After all, they started the whole thing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cracked pots

An old, dear friend of mine died last week.

He had been drafted at eighteen and had served as a medic in Vietnam, seeing the worst imaginable injuries and wounds, a witness of what people do to one another with the excuse of "peace-making."

He and I could spend hours talking about something as serious as this or nothing at all.

I hadn't seen him in a while, as we had moved away, and he and I no longer worked together. However, we had shared acquaintances yet, and it was through a friend of a friend that I heard.

At the funeral, a minister who didn't know him well despite my friend's devotion to his faith delivered the eulogy. He told us that my friend, like all of us, was broken and that caused him to take his own life.

My friend was not broken; however, like all of us, he was flawed, cracked if you will. My sister said, "We are all cracked pots--that is how The Light gets inside." I don't care for the term "cracked pots," as it sounds too much like "crackpots."

However, I do agree with the sentiment. Flawed is not broken, it allows access to what is inside us.