Friday, August 31, 2007

Straight up the nose

Last night, Meelyn, Aisling and I were eating some frozen pizza. Since our stomachs are made out of gen-yew-wine cast iron, we were sprinkling our slices with generous amounts of crushed red pepper, which is the condiment of the gods. We eat it on everthing except bananas.

The three of us were being very indolent and watching our good friend, Suzanne Wong, on a really premium episode of HGTV's House Hunters, a show in which we neither were irritated by the home viewers' incessant and unreasonable demands for perfection ("I don't like that blue paint at all.") nor shocked by 1,300 square foot houses that were on the market for $295,000.

Everything was going swimmingly both for the house viewers and us, when all of a sudden, Aisling started blowing her nose, again and again.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"No," she said, her voice muffled by the paper napkin she was using as a hanky. She blew her nose with vigor and then examined the contents of the napkin. "Oh, look, there it is." She held out the napkin to show me whatever "it" was.

"No thanks!" I said, backing away with haste.

"It's the red pepper," she explained.

"Red pepper?"

"Yes, the red pepper I got up my nose when I was eating my pizza."

"Aisling, how on earth..."

"I don't know," she interrupted, her eyes beginning to stream with tears. "I thought it would be okay if I just got it out of my nose, but it still burns."

Nonplussed -- and Aisling seems to have me in an increasing state of nonplussedness as time goes on -- I looked at her, thinking that I have dealt with bumped heads and skinned knees and even, at two separate times, fractured arms, but never have I been called upon to treat a nose for red pepper burns. From the inside.

Since I do have an imagination, I could imagine how it must feel, though. Ouch. The effect of capsaisin on tender nose tissues would be painful. Professional assistance was required, I thought, so I dialed the number of my favorite CVS here in the city.

It took me forever to get through their ridiculous guided menu selection ("For the aisle where we display the Q-Tips, press one; for the gift wrap and birthday card section, press two; to find out if there are any close parking spaces available, press three; to talk to an actual living person, press fivesixninesevenzerozerothreetwofiveeightfourtwonine...")

When I finally got a pharmacy technician, I said, "I have a strange question. My twelve-year-old daughter was eating a slice of pizza and somehow got a red pepper flake up her nose. Could I use nasal saline solution to rinse her nose out, or would plain water be better?"

The technician giggled a little. "We get strange questions all the time. It's no problem. Just a moment, let me ask the pharmacist."

She left me to some badly-played Mozart and I looked at Aisling, whose eyes were still flooding with tears as a result of the burning in her nose. I was really hoping that the saline nasal spray would work, because I had no idea how I was going to get pure water into her nose in amounts that wouldn't drown her, but would rinse away the capsaisin. Saline, though, I wondered. Could that make it burn even more? Nasal saline spray, which we use when we feel iickily sinus-y, comes in those handy little bottles and I think we even had some on hand in the downstairs medicine cabinet. Pure water? I got a bewildered mental picture of trying to pour a bottle of water up Aisling's nose. How...?

The technician came back on the line in the midst of all this mental dithering, just as I was hoping the the syringe-top to the nasal saline solution bottle I thought was in the downstairs medicine cabinet would come unscrewed so that I could replace the saline with warmed, purified water...

"The pharmacist says that the nasal saline solution will be fine," she said. "I hope your daughter's nose is okay."

"Thanks," I said. "And thanks for not thinking this was too bizarre."

She laughed. "Oh, the questions we get at night are usually much more bizarre than this, ma'am."

Fortunately, we did have a bottle of nasal saline solution, right where I thought it was. Aisling armed herself with a hand towel and a bad attitude, and I took the little bottle in hand and lavaged her nose a couple of times.

Aisling spluttered and coughed and flung herself around the living room in a manner that she considered suitably dramatic for having jets of water launched into her nasal passages.

"All right, enough already," I said, slightly exasperated, as she gagged and moaned and wailed. It doesn't do any good at all to offer Aisling too much sympathy, we've found out. She feeds on it. She feeds on it to such an extent that a simple sliver in her pinky finger can become a severed arm, lying right there on the floor at your feet, if you only had the sensitivity to understand her pain. With Aisling, it is better to adopt a cheerful, matter-of-fact mien, otherwise she'll drive you mad with her reeling and writhing and fainting in coils. "Does your nose feel better?"

"Salt..." she groaned, gagging right over my shoes in an alarming manner. "It's saaaaaaaalllllty."

I moved my feet nimbly. "Well, yes, it is salty. But does your nose feel better?"

"It tastes aaaaaaaaawwwwfffffuuuuuuuuulllllllllllll," she moaned, clutching the towel to her face and falling into her father's armchair, in which he fortunately was not sitting. She kicked her feet a little bit. Meelyn, who had been a silent observer of this whole thing, rolled her eyes a little and looked at me. I shrugged.


"Uuuuuuuuuggghhhhhhhh....ohhhh, it's terrrrrrrrrrrible..."

"Aisling, your NOSE, is it..."

Aisling looked up at me, the magic of Sarah Bernhardt, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close oozing from every available pore. "Huh? My nose?"

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday's List

READING: Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy. I really like this Irish author and her gentle storytelling, her interesting characters. This is the second book I've read by her, the first being an older one titled Light a Penny Candle.

LISTENING TO: some sort of silly football game thingie, with one team wearing really smashing purple and yellow-gold uniforms and the other team wearing white with blue. It seems to be a college game. On Thursday night?

FAVORITE NEW FIND: CVS brand saline nasal spray. I'll explain why tomorrow.

HAPPY TO SAY: The first, four-hour session of the Shakespeare Workshop went so incredibly well, in spite of the fact that I was so nervous, I was afraid I'd throw up in front of the students.

FAVORITE THING TODAY: Hershey jumping up on the bed with me this morning and snuggling up next to me, his beady little eyes brimming over with love. He is so ugly and not very smart, but he sure is a sweetheart.

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST NIGHT: Not nearly enough for the past three nights. It is affecting my temper. Maybe I don't have PMS after all? Maybe I am just a sour, rotten, sleepless old hag.

SCRAPBOOK PAGES THIS WEEK: None! I am scrapbook-free until late September.

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: This has been a bad month for money, very bad. Unfortunately, the utilities people don't seem to have much appreciation for a spunky phone call where I say, "Hey, listen! You know that $178.47 we owe you? Well, is there a possibility I could work that off by coming down and making coffee for y'all for the next eighty mornings? No? Well, shoot. I think we have a problem, then."

I remind myself during these times that the balance in our checking/savings accounts reflects our choice to homeschool the girls. Any time we decide that keeping up with this choice is too difficult, we can do something different and I can get a job teaching other people's children instead of my own. But somehow, we never get around to deciding that. It's a sacrifice, and sacrifices aren't really sacrificial unless they're hard. Things are hard right now. But next month may well be completely different.

PRAYING FOR: Tom, Sue and the kids. Peter and his family. Lily and her family. Please pray with me.

PMS = Pass My Shotgun

I just read my last three posts and I think I must be approaching That Time of the Month.

If you know what I mean.

You do know what I mean, don't you?

Just give me the chocolate and that bottle of Motrin over there and no one will get hurt.

Gettin' what was coming to you

Years ago, my husband worked with a lady who - although she'd been reprimanded several times - wore inappropriate clothing to work. After being called on the carpet by the owner of the business, she'd sulkily dress in the more demure items in her wardrobe (which didn't exactly make her look like a Puritan goodwife or anything), but after a few weeks, she'd be back to the low-cut tops that showed her midriff, the skin-tight pants, etc. And this was back when Britney Spears was still in diapers.

One day shortly after my husband was hired, this lady, who fancied herself a great deal, was asking my husband how old he thought she was. If I'd been there, I could have told her that this was a mistake. And not just because it was my husband who was being asked; men, unless it's only about an hour until last call and their beer goggles are firmly in place, generally don't do well with questions like this. There were several other employees standing with them and they all looked at my husband with amused expectancy.


"How old do you think I am?" she purred, twisting a strand of her bleached-blonde hair around one talon-nailed finger. She preened herself, he said, stroking an imaginary dust molecule off her bodice, the buttons of which were barely restraining her augmented bosoms. A tiny bit of super-tanned skin below the hem of her blouse spoke eloquently of her many hours spent lounging in a sunbed. She winked at him with one false-eyelashed eye and gave him a big, confident smile.

(All this to sell carpet, tile and hardwood flooring!)

"Uhmm.....errrrr....." my husband stalled, wildly seeking help from one of his male colleagues, none of whom were willing to meet his eye, for some reason. "Ahhhhhh.....forty-two?"

One man made a funny snorting sound through his nose and went off with a muffled excuse about hay fever. The others drifted away, biting their lips and somehow managing to refrain from nudging each other in wicked glee until they were out of sight beyond the Mediterranean tile displays.

"FORTY-TWO??!!" she asked him with Medusa-like menace. "Forty-TWO??!!"

"How old are you?" he asked miserably.

"I am thirty-five. THIRTY-FIVE, you @$$%$&#!"

"Oh," he said, running his finger along the inside collar of his shirt, which he said suddenly seemed way too tight. "Well, you shouldn't ask people stuff like that."

"Well, EVERYONE ELSE guesses that I'm about twenty-SIX," she said through clenched teeth and flounced off, flipping her bleachy hair, her high heels tapping out a furious tattoo on the floor.

One of the other salesmen came up and said, "Dude, that was just......perfect. PER-fect. Thank you."

"Not such a great way to start out the new job, though."

"No, trust me on this. You are our hero."


Fast forward to last week, where I overheard this conversation. The two participants were a very toned, blonde, suntanned, fingernailed, outfitted and jewelry-bedecked person of average height for a woman who probably weighed 105 pounds dripping wet. The other person was a gentleman of about fifty years. They were discussing this last weekend of the summer and all the last hurrahs of grilling out.

"I'll have to be very careful," she said, smoothing her ring-laden brown fingers over her concave abdomen, belly-button piercing on provocative display. "I've gained four whole pounds this summer and I'm getting soooo fat!" And she laughed that tiny, tinkling laugh that makes me want to grab the laugher by the nose and screech "GOTCHER CONK!" pulling her around the room after me in a bent-over, stumbling half-run.

The man standing next to her gave her a brief look. "It doesn't show," he commented shortly. "You still look like an Ethiopian."

I watched this woman standing there, the gears in her mind turning as she tried to turn this dubious remark into a compliment. Because, surely, he meant to compliment her. Right?


I had to restrain myself from throwing my arms around this man and then stepping back to hold him at arm's length, my hands gripping his shoulders and saying, "Thank you. THANK you."

He is my hero.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Permanently disgruntled

School starts next Tuesday and all of our staying up late with a hey-nonny-nonny and sleeping until nine are over, just over.

The girls have been going upstairs at 9:30 in the evenings, turning their lights out at 10:00. Next week, it will be upstairs by 9:00, lights out at 9:30. My husband and I will be able to canoodle on the sofa again; for the past couple of months of summer vacation, the girls have been downstairs so late, the only canoodling we've been able to do is this:

"Will you press the button on the remote to shut the TV off?"

"No. I am too tired."

"C'mon. Please? I did it last night."

"No, I can't. I'm half asleep."

"Okay. On the count of three, let's stand up. One...two...three...!"

[neither of us stands up]


"DOUBLE cheater! You were the one who counted!"

"Let's just leave the television on all night and conserve our energy for climbing the stairs."

The girls have been going to bed early enough that my husband and I have had our lights turned out by eleven o'clock for about five nights running. Even though I am a night owl, I can reconcile myself to that.

What I cannot reconcile is stupid Daylight Savings Time which makes it practically pitch-dark at 6:30 in the morning when the alarm goes off. Why do we have to put up with this?

About eight years ago, I spent a week with Susie when she lived in Charleston, South Carolina. I didn't know about Daylight Savings Time back in those innocent days and one morning I woke up at 7:00 a.m. to pitch darkness and I thought the apocalypse had happened. Susie found this screamingly funny and was stunned and astonished when I quaveringly told her that I lived in a place where it was broad daylight at 5:00 a.m. and what was wrong with this benighted place, anyway?

Now I know.

Indiana is similarly benighted.

Getting up in the morning is punishing enough without having to get up in the dark. In August. Dark mornings are for December, January and February, when it may as well be dark because there's nothing much to do outside anyway.

Equally silly is watching the sun set at 9:35 p.m. Everyone just wants some shade, already. We've seen the hot sun glaring down on us all day. Just....go. Shine on someone else for awhile. This is not Finland. Geez. My younger nephew, Dayden, took this "white night" phenomenon very hard because he kept thinking that Pat and Angie were punishing him by putting him to bed when it was so obviously still daytime.

"What did I do?" he wailed to them, crying stormily as they tucked him in. "I'll be good! I don't know why I was bad!"

Try explaining Daylight Savings Time to a kindergartner. I don't even understand why we have to have it. I ought to be crying too. Maybe I will, tomorrow morning at 6:30.


Earlier this summer, I suffered through a lecture from a middle school teacher who works here in my city. I was there at the pool with my Shakespeare and Greek history books spread out on my bench and she was on the bench next to mine, reading a book and taking notes for a Masters-level class she was taking at the local university. The topic of her impromptu lesson was how homeschooling mothers have a lot of nerve, seeing as how they think they can teach their kids without the benefit of college degree and a valid Indiana state teachers' license.

I listened with boredom and frustration; this isn't the first time I've heard a diatribe like this and I always find that it's best just to let them speak their piece until they run out of steam, keeping an impassive face and maintaining steady eye contact.

When she finished talking, I explained a few things to her about the nature of homeschooling of which she, with her bias, was completely unaware of. Like how if you, as a mom, aren't comfortable with teaching calculus, you can, oh, say....hire a private tutor! Or.....purchase a video course! Or....take an online class on that fascinating thing that Al Gore invented, the internet! Or....sign up for a class at a local junior college!

This woman seemed to think that homeschool mothers can only teach classes on things they are completely proficient in, which, according to her, were: 1. being really weird; 2. dressing funny; 3. baking muffins; and 4. voting a straight Republican ticket.

I couldn't resist needling her e-v-e-r so slightly with the information that my mother, who taught fourth grade in the public school system for thirty-six years, believes strongly that anyone can teach anything, given a good teacher's manual and a cup of flavored coffee.

So imagine my naughty glee when I heard on the local radio news break about fifteen minutes ago that the scores at both of our two high schools and all our middle and elementary schools here in my city have slipped well below the national average in the past three years. And this comes at a time, the announcer intoned in a doleful voice, when more kids from Indiana are graduating high school and going on to college than ever before.

I wish I were at the pool right now. Because if I were, and if I saw her there, I would so be rolling my eyes behind the protection of my sunglasses and smirking just a teeny bit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Requiem prayer

My friend Sue's husband, Tom, passed away at 5:10 a.m. EST. Tom was twenty-eight years old. He died after a brief and hard-fought battle with cancer. He and Sue have two small children.

Psalm 116

I love the LORD, who listened to my voice in supplication,
Who turned an ear to me on the day I called.
I was caught by the cords of death; the snares of Sheol had seized me;
I felt agony and dread.

Then I called on the name of the LORD, "O LORD, save my life!"
Gracious is the LORD and just; yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD protects the simple; I was helpless, but God saved me.

Return, my soul, to your rest; the LORD has been good to you.
For my soul has been freed from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
I kept faith, even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted!"
I said in my alarm, "No one can be trusted!"

How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me?

I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
Too costly in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful.
LORD, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your maidservant;
you have loosed my bonds.

I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.

I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!

Eternal rest grant unto Tom, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. +Amen+

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday dinners and Amish food I have known

For the past two weeks, I've noticed on Sundays that we are all sick of summer food. We are done with the grill: the smoked sausage, the pork chop and the chicken breast have no place on our Sunday menus.

It is time to get back to the food of fall.

Now don't get me wrong; we do have some corn-on-the-cob still in the fridge. And tomatoes. But all of a sudden, when I think "fruit," I realize that I'm thinking honey crisp apples instead of peaches and plums. I'd like to have a toasted bagel with pumpkin butter on it for breakfast sometime soon. I want to make some chunky slow-cooker applesauce.

Last Sunday and this, I brought out two of my cool weather recipes. Last Sunday, we dined on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with green beans. This week, I tucked another beef roast into the oven and cooked it slowly, slowly all afternoon and then made mashed potatoes and noodles, a true Hoosier Sunday dinner if ever there was one. Unless it was chicken and noodles and mashed potatoes.

I can make good noodles, but a few years ago I found out that Kroger sells dried noodles from Der Essenhaus in Middlebury, Indiana, which is a little town in LaGrange county close to the school where I used to work. If you've ever eaten the Amish cooking at Der Essenhaus, you know that it is much more reasonable to just throw in the towel as far as noodle-making is concerned and buy theirs. No fuss, no mess and good noodles. I only make noodles now when we want a fluffy dumpling, which is something I don't allow us to want very often, considering that my fluffy dumplings are made with about a pound of butter.

Thinking about Der Essenhaus in Middlebury gets me to thinking about the Blue Gate in Shipshewana, another place I used to frequent when I lived "up north." My mother and I knew the Blue Gate when it was a cramped little place with mis-matched tables and chairs and ketchup and mustard served in those tall plastic red and yellow squirt bottles. The truly excellent food was served by quiet, reserved Mennonite girls in their plain clothes and white bonnets.

The last time I was in Shipshewana was about five years ago; I went back with my friend Cato and my cousin Carol for a weekend after an absence of about eight years. I was really and truly saddened to find that the original Blue Gate was gone and a new, "improved" Blue Gate had been built in its place. The new Blue Gate was a slickly marketed place with Amish items for sale, placed artfully where they could be examined by diners and squealed over -- "So authentic!" one woman gushed, holding up a patchwork quilt that didn't strike me as being anything close to the best Amish quilting one could ever see. "Look at those tiny stitches!" ("Yes, machines do that nowadays," I thought resentfully to myself.) There were many silk ferns and lots of tacky arrangements on the walls. It looked like a restaurant full of stage props. When our waitress came up to our table, boldly meeting our eyes and calling us all "hun," I felt like I was being punked.

The food was still good, but the Blue Gate was gone forever, taking Shipshewana along with it.

Cato, Carol and I also went over to Nappannee that weekend to eat at Amish Acres, which is still a slickly marketed place, but in a more subtle sort of way. It's not quite so new and crass there; the Amish Acres gift shop has been there for a long time.

We stayed at Der Essenhaus Inn that weekend because I'd heard how nice it was. The three of us shared one room, which was hideously expensive and decorated in an appalling style reminiscent of the photo spreads of Country Living magazine in the mid-1980s. You know. Geese with bonnets on and that kind of thing. I hope they've renovated things since then. Especially if they're still charging those prices.

Anyway, fall food always reminds me of the Amish cooking I have eaten - carb-heavy and relying imprudently on lard, bacon grease and butter. Which reminds may be time to make lemon squares, which we will cut into little bitty pieces.

Oh, who am I kidding?

Volleyball invitational - booohya

Yesterday kicked off the volleyball season with our annual invitational. Three other teams from the area joined us for a tournament. Our varisty team ended up winning the trophy, as well they should have because I watched a few of their games and WOW. Those girls are good. And fast.

Junior varsity didn't do so well as far as winning games went, but their level of play was completely different from last year. This is Meelyn's second season and Aisling's first; we also have two other twelve-year-olds, one of whom is so good that I was awestruck by her instinctive knack for the game. As I watched JV matches yesterday, it was a real thrill to see flashes of brilliance as the ball was volleyed and volleyed back and forth across the net. Of course, there were a few times when the ball would be served by the opposing team, only to land with a dismal thud right in the middle of the court, a feat which makes my husband, who is the assistant coach, drop his head into his hands, his ears turning bright red.

The JV coach doesn't fare much better in this regard, but he has learned the knack of chewing the girls out for being lazy and distracted without making them all cry. Which is quite a valuable skill. Because as it turns out, it's hard to bump, set and spike when your eyes are welling with tears.

I spent a lot of my day working in the concession stand, which is one of my favorite things to do. For some reason, it just suits me. And not because I get to eat. Shut up. You can't stand there and eat if you're working the concession stand. We sold lots of different candy, plus chips and granola bars and packaged cookies and crackers, cups of watermelon chunks, homemade cinnamon buns, pulled pork sandwiches, baked potatoes, walking tacos, hotdogs and nachos, plus a multitude of soft drinks. I enjoy serving people when they come up to the window, plus I had the vantage point of being able to sit on a high stool with my feet on a cooler and see straight down one of the courts. I also had the advantage of a nice fan casting its cool breeze over me as I sat during slow periods in the un-air-conditioned gym.

Yes, you read that correctly. The gym was not air-conditioned. Yesterday wasn't as bad as last year, I will say that. We actually had a lot of rain yesterday and that helped keep it cooler in there, although it didn't do one blessed thing for the humidity. It gave us a lot to offer up, let's put it that way.

In spite of the sticky heat, it was still as really fun day. Meelyn's serve is deadly, causing all sorts of mayhem and leaping about for the other team. Aisling's serve has shaped up so well that she scored four straight points in one game. Volleyball is enormously fun to watch and I sat with the other parents (very nice people, all of them) and cheered until I was a little bit hoarse.

We all missed one spectator, the grandpa of a girl who isn't playing this year. He won the Our Favorite Fan award at the banquet in November 2006 and got a little teary-eyed when he laughingly came forward to accept it.

He had a very loud and gravelly voice and trumpeted forth with some trenchant witticisms and sporting lore that always made me laugh.

His advice for a good serve? "Get a little aiiiiiiiir under it!"

For the team, preparing for an opposing server's onslaught? "You watch this one. Sheeeeeeeeeeeee's tricky!"

What about a dive onto the court, resulting in bumps, bruises and floor burns? "Rub some diiiiirt on it!"

I miss him this year. So the other parents and I entertained ourselves by calling out encouragement in his style. It was a hoot, the kind of hoot you can only have when you've drained six bottles of water and four Diet Cokes and your shirt is sticking to your back and your bangs are sticking to your forehead.

A short time before the four McKinneys left to go home and take showers (we'd been there for about eight hours at that point), some of the other mothers and I looked at each other and agreed, "We look AWFUL." Our daughters were all glowing with perspiration and looking sensationally young and vibrant, but we, the older generation, just looked damp and draggled.

My family agreed: Never have showers felt so good as they did yesterday evening. I was in my pajamas by 6:30, my clean hair smelling of shampoo and tidily fastened up in a barrette, sitting on the sofa in front of the fan, ready to spend a pleasant evening watching television and reading with my husband while the girls went upstairs to watch Princess Diaries 2, a movie of which they never tire.

I love volleyball season.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Did I just do that?

Today, while the girls were at volleyball practice, I was walking through the house picking things up and returning them to their places while deep in thought: I was thinking about how on earth I am ever going to cram Shakespeare's life and the English Reformation and Counter-Reformation and Elizabethan/Jacobean theater into four tiny little hours on Tuesday.

In my left hand, I was carrying some shredded junk mail. In my right hand, I was carrying a plastic cup half filled with water.

As I walked into the kitchen, I dropped the cup of water into the wastebasket and threw the shredded junk mail into the sink and turned around to walk back out. I stopped and had a total Scooby Doo moment -- "Rut ro!" -- and then sheepishly fished the wet mail out of the sink and the cup out of the wastebasket, performing a quick switcheroo with no one the wiser except Hershey and Wimzie, who will never tell because I gave them each a cookie.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Making hay while the sun shines

I'm glad I'm not a farmer, that's all I've got to say. I would hate to be out there making hay in this weather. I'd rather be indoors, making my own kind. Although to be perfectly honest, I'd rather not make any hay at all, preferring, when all is said and done, to sit and read.

My "hay" is housework today. I've taken up a few tasks that I've been neglecting, accomplishing a surprising amount of work in a relatively short time. I've taken down curtains, picked up bathroom rugs and done a load of towels, the companionable chugging of the washing machine keeping me company as I traveled around the downstairs with my long-handled Swiffer, taking down cobwebs and dusting the walls. As soon as the sun moves, I'm going to get doggy nose prints off the south- and west-facing windows. I've vaccuumed the whole downstairs, including baseboards, registers, cold air return ducts and behind furniture. (I found three ink pens under my husband's reclining chair, that miserable hoarder! Wait 'til I get my hands on him! He obviously didn't know they were there either, but still...)

There is still a lot to be done. A lot. One of my most-dreaded fall cleaning tasks still remains, which is dusting hundreds of books and straightening up the shelves they sit on. When we moved to this house several years ago, I patted myself on the back smugly for donating several hundred books that I deemed non-essential to our lives, but the number seems to have increased again. Do they breed? Could I put a group of young female books in one bookcase and young male books in another bookcase, shelving all the old books -- ones passed down from my grandma to me when she died -- on the middle bookcase, to act as chaperones? I can just see my great-grandmother's copy of Anya Seton's classic, Katherine, glaring fiercely at Meelyn's new copy of The Taming of the Shrew as it tries to mingle with the devilish Wine for Dummies.

Or....maybe not. If you've ever read Katherine, you'll know what I mean.

Thursday's List

READING: Next of Kin by Joanna Trollope, which could probably be one of the most beautiful novels I've ever read. It's unusual subject matter and not for every taste, but it's one of those books that changed me, made me....stronger, maybe? I don't know.

LISTENING TO: Aisling playing Vince Guaraldi's moody, evocative version of What Child is This on the piano, bookended by a rollicking rendition of Linus & Lucy and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.

FAVORITE NEW FIND: Standing in the pool while reading, see below. I can hardly wait to get back in tomorrow.

HAPPY TO SAY: All the HISTO and Shakespeare Workshop binders are assembled and ready to move out the door. All Hamlet books and study notes (complete with an ink pen and a highlighter marker) are rubber-banded together. I just have to print out the handouts and I'm ready for Tuesday. Feels soooooooooo goooooooooood!!!! I've been working all summer to accomplish this gargantuan task and I got it finished before deadline.

FAVORITE THING TODAY: I just had a really long drink of water, water of the perfect degree of coldness. It tasted so good, better than champagne.

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST NIGHT: I got a lot of sleep last night because I took a Benadryl to help me get there. I've had four nights in a row of sleeplessness, the combination of a couple of good library books, excitement about Shakespeare and my regular cycle of insomnia.

SCRAPBOOK PAGES THIS WEEK: None, and I don't plan to do any until the girls and I go back to our 4-H scrapbooking workshop at the end of September. We have a lot of prints to sort through and plans to make for upcoming pages. We'll be too busy getting our school year off to a start to be fiddling around with the scrapbooks, although they do beguile us from their honored spot on the coffee table.

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: I feel too good about all those binders being filled (forty-two total, nine of them with a sixteen page book inside that I copied off on our printer. In color.) So I don't really feel much stress, other than I have to attend a homeschool group board of directors meeting tonight, which I definitely don't want to do. Oh, I enjoy seeing the other board members, but I wish we could be seeing one another for pleasure instead of business. Urk. Board meetings are very, very dull -- I hate meetings of any sort -- so how I ended up as a board member of two different boards (homeschool group and volleyball league) is beyond my knowing.

PRAYING FOR: Young Peter, who's out in California with his family, receiving the proton radiation therapy for a viciously malignant tumor on his spine. It isn't going well. The tumor is badly placed, wrapped around his optic nerve, so that destroying the cancer may well mean destroying his vision. Everyone is praying firmly and fervently for complete restoration of his health -- a miracle. St. Peregrine, please pray. Join me in an Our Father for Peter, if you would.

Back to the grind

I have finally forced upon my lazy self the realization that summer is nearly spent, and with it, its indolent ways.

So I guess that means the girls and I are going to have to get back to our regularly scheduled housekeeping again. During the summer, you'd be surprised at how easy it is for me to avoid cobwebs hanging from the crown molding - our ceilings are very tall and just so long as I can keep my eyes firmly fastened at around the eight foot mark, I'm fine. Ditto to dust on high places, like the top of the fridge and the china cabinet and the bookcases.

Low stuff is a bit more difficult because I was brought up by a mother who insisted on dusting the baseboards with old toothbrushes, but I have trained my eye to seek out the middle distance. If the middle distance includes a piano bench with sheet music spilling off it onto the floor or a dining room table piled so high with HISTO binders and books on ancient Greece and Shakespeare books and an absolute welter of highlighter markers, ink pens and sticky index tabs that have escaped from their package, I just shut my eyes and feel my way into the kitchen. I can tell that's where I am because of fourteen tomatoes on the windowsill next to a picture of the Pope and three dirty cereal bowls in the sink, which is right next to the EMPTY dishwasher.

Something changes in the fall, and it might have something to do with the fact that we spend a lot more time in the house. If I have to be indoors a great deal of the time, I can't abide the disorder. It weighs me down like a college dictionary on a Twinkie. That's not to say that clutter doesn't mysteriously seem to build up, but I have found a voice modulation technique (VMT hereafter) that works very well. It goes like this: "IF YOU TWO DON'T PICK UP YOUR CRAP, I AM GOING TO PUT EVERY BIT OF IT I FIND IN A BOX AND DRIVE IT OVER TO ST. VINCENT DE PAUL!! AND I'M LEAVING IN TEN MINUTES!!!"

In our house, we ascribe to the "do a little every day, that's what keeps the dirt away" theory. We clean, dust and vaccuum the upstairs on Monday and Tuesday and do the downstairs late in the week, looking ahead to the time when company might presumably be invited or drop by.

The girls do the sinks and the countertops in the bathrooms every day - or at least they're supposed to. I've found the VMT to work wonders in producing shiny sinks as well. They're also in charge of the bathroom wastebaskets. I do the upstairs bathtub; my husband cleans the downstairs shower. I clean the toilets and Swiffer the bathroom floors.

Upstairs, the girls trade off on sweeping and dusting their bedroom and the playroom. I do the small upstairs hallway and my bedroom. My husband sweeps the stairs and the landing.

Downstairs, the girls clean, dust and sweep the living room, dining room and foyer, all except for my desk in the dining room, which is my private domain. I take charge of the kitchen and laundry room which, heaven help me, includes sweeping out the dogs' crates and washing their bedding.

I cook dinner; the girls do the dishes. I load the dishwasher with breakfast and lunch dishes; the girls unload it when the dishes are clean. My husband washes, dries and folds all the laundry, asking only that the three of us put ours away, which is a pretty darned good deal.

Every night before we go to bed, we are all bound to scout the downstairs and carry up any superfluous belongings that are junking up the place. My husband was in the army before we married and it absolutely ruined him for clutter. He becomes visibly nervous when a single barrette is lying innocently on an end table. Drives him bonkers.

He is always very pleased when fall comes around and he can finally dry his palms on his Dockers and really enjoy our home. He is often so contented with life in a dustless, clutter-free home that he comes home from work around Michaelmas, bearing pots of hardy mums in many colors, and pumpkins, white and mellow orange.

The most fun I've ever had

Yesterday, when Aisling was at her two-hour piano lesson, Meelyn and I had some errands to run. We went to Office Depot and we went to Hobby Lobby and by the time we'd climbed into and out of the van a few times, we were sweltering.

"It's too hot," said Meelyn, lifting her very cute bangs off her forehead to allow a sullen puff of 90 degree air to momentarily provide the illusion of "coolness."

"I know," I sighed, taking in a sorrowful glimpse of the enormous, clownish frizz of hair on my head in the rearview mirror.

"Can we go to the pool? When Aisling's done with her lesson?"

We haven't been to the pool in three weeks or so. During June and July, we go about four times a week, staying for at least three hours every time. When August hits, we're all a bit sick of it. Plus, there are some fun things happening that we'd rather go to and there's volleyball practice, so the pool gets shoved onto the back burner. But yesterday, it sounded like heaven. Heaven.

So we went. The snack bar was closed for everything except soft drinks, chips, ice cream and candy, so we went and got a turkey sandwich from our favorite little deli shop downtown and carried them there, laying out our belongings and sitting down to eat in the sunshine. By the time I'd taken my second bite, I thought I was going to melt, just like the Wicked Witch of the West, only in my own sweat instead of a bucket of mop water.

An new idea suddenly came to me. "Girls," I said, struck by inspiration, "I'm going to take my book to the edge of the pool and read there."

Normally, you can't do this at the pool because there are just a lot of other people around. It would be impossible to stand poolside with a library book and have it remain unsplashed. But yesterday, all the public and private school kids were all sitting in hot classrooms longing for the water. We, the fancy-free homeschoolers, practically had the whole place to ourselves.

So I found a nice stretch of poolside to stand at and went in up to my neck with my book propped up in front of me. It was the perfect height to just be able to look straight ahead, no sun on the pages, no sun in my face.

I've done a LOT of reading in my life, but never any reading as pleasant as that was. It was blissful.

We stayed for just over three hours before I sighed and realized that we had to get home to take the dogs for their afternoon walk.

I hope we can find some time tomorrow to go back and do it again. Volleyball practice starts at 4:00, so maybe if we get to the pool right at 11:00, we can do it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How must we then dine? Part I

When my family gets together for dinner, it is a spectacular production of spectacular proportions.

There are eleven of us in the immediate family: Poppy, Nanny, me, my husband, my brother, my sister-in-law and then the grandchildren in order of their ages: Meelyn, Kieren, Aisling, Dayden and Kiersi. Kieren and Dayden are my nephews, aged thirteen and six. Kiersi is my niece, and she is eighteen months old.

Our favorite family dinner is spaghetti. My mother is famous for her homemade sauce, and when she invites us all over for dinner, she makes enough to feed an army. She makes it in a a vat that is practically the size of an old-fashioned wash tub. She cooks the pasta in a pot in a size that is normally associated with the food service industry.

We also have garlic bread, usually two loaves. Well-buttered. We put it under the broiler so that half the pan comes out slightly blackened, the way all normal people like to eat their garlic bread. The rest of the pan is served raw, barely more than lumps of dough. Can you tell which kind I like?

Salad is also on the menu, and it isn't just any salad. It usually features homemade bleu cheese dressing, from a recipe passed down from my grandma via Julia Child. The salad has lettuce of several different varieties, plus tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe some carrot. Peripherally, shredded cheese, croutons, craisins, sunflower seeds and crumbled bacon is served. If you don't like bleu cheese, my mother usually has an assortment of three hundred other salad dressings available, including, at one noted dinner, ranch, bacon ranch, garlic ranch, peppercorn ranch, buttermilk ranch and parmesan ranch. Just in case.

Kieren and Dayden are also very fond of alfredo sauce. I have a homemade recipe for this and sometimes I make it, but sometimes my mother just opens a jar of Prego alfredo and this seems to do the trick, although I can't eat that stuff.

You may wonder if there are leftovers. Yes, there are. Enough for my parents to have a couple more meals, at least. But the point is that we, the descendants of hearty, solid Irish, English and German peasant stock, all eat with great gusto, commenting favorably about a piece of garlic bread toasted to perfection; a particularly toothsome meatball.

For dessert, there's usually something chocolate, which is our one common denominator. Although my mother has been known to break out with pies at unexpected times. Apple, pumpkin, pecan, sugar cream...she is the queen of all pie bakers, having learned the secrets of a lard-based crust from both her grandma and my father's.

Just in case, she often bakes some chocolate chip cookies. Because someone might get hungry.

And my brother has been known to bring an enormous plastic canister of Chex Party Mix along, just in case someone feels like eating something salty.

Strangely enough, my father and I are the only ones who qualify as really and truly fat. Everyone else has a certain solidness, except for Kieren, who is growing fast, and Dayden, who is so picky, he will only eat noodles with a little bit of sauce and his own boogers. And maybe a piece of bread, the crusts of which he gives to my father.

We enjoy food. We love cooking it, serving it, eating it. We sit around my parents' dining table for an hour or more, clearing away dishes and bringing in new ones, refilling drinks, halving "just one more slice" of cake with some other brave soul. Feasting is part of my family's culture and spaghetti is often the meal we gather to eat. Strange, since none of us have a single drop of Italian blood, but truthfully, we'll eat just about anything.

How then, shall we dine? Part II

My mother and father told me the funniest story yesterday.

It seems that they were invited to eat Sunday lunch at the home of some fellow members of their church, Mr. and Mrs. Stringbean. Mrs. Stringbean pressed them most earnestly to come and eat, and temptingly mentioned homemade spaghetti sauce and a wonderful dessert, which were to be shared by two other couples, making a party of eight people.

My mother, who has never met a spaghetti sauce she didn't like, accepted eagerly. She and Poppy drove to the Stringbeans' house after church, their stomachs rumbling comfortably, pleased at the thought of spaghetti and dessert.

The Stringbeans were wonderful hosts, my mother said, inviting everyone in to sit in their attractively-decorated living room. Mr. Stringbean and the rest of the guests chatted while Mrs. Stringbean finished up the preparations for dinner, shooing away anyone who asked if they could help, saying cheerfully that she had it all under control.

Finally, she appeared in the living room doorway. "Everything's ready," she chirped. "Everyone come help yourselves!"

As it happened my parents were the first ones in line ("Age before beauty?" I asked my mother. "Shut up," she replied.) So they were the first ones to see the feast spread out before them, buffet style.

The spaghetti consisted of approximately two cups of cooked pasta, reposing modestly in a very small strainer. The sauce was in a saucepan of the type that I usually heat a can of soup in. For eight people. Each person had one piece -- a small piece -- of toasted garlic bread.

And that was it.

"Go on!" I said in horrified delight. "THAT was LUNCH?"

"Yes," said my father. "I'm really glad I realized that she meant that to serve all of us. It kind of....dawned on me. Because it would have been embarrassing if your mom and I had split that pasta just between the two of us and then gone off with a couple of pieces of bread, each."

Yes, that would have been embarrassing. But funny? Oh. My. Gosh. Funny?

"How big were your servings?" I asked.

"About the size of my palm," said my mother, who has very small hands.

"Shut. Up."

"No, it's true. And then Mrs. Stringbean said, 'Oh, I have got a wonderful dessert today!' I was really excited about that dessert," my mom said wistfully.

"I was picturing something chocolate," added my dad.

"Like...maybe she was serving us a very small lunch because she had this huge torte with whipped cream and shaved chocolate and pecans," my mother continued, her voice soft with longing.

"I know," I whispered, laying my hand on top of hers. "I know."

My father cleared his throat and took up the tale. "But that's not what it was." And his voice was mournful, the pealing of a single, deep-voiced bell, heavy with the sorrows of desserts pondered and dreamed of, but not obtained. "Mrs. Stringbean came out of the kitchen with a tray. And on each tray was a little plate. And on each little plate was some watermelon, two slices per person. Two tiny, little slices of watermelon cut thin, so thin you could read the dictionary through them."

I sat back in my chair, white with shock.

"'I picked it myself, just this morning,' she told us," my mother said, gripping my fingers tightly. "Watermelon. It was watermelon."

"What is wrong with those people?" I asked, my voice harsh. "Watermelon is not dessert. Watermelon is....a snack. And everyone knows that the best way to eat watermelon is in Jolly Rancher form. Never in slices straight from the garden."

My mother raised her shoulders helplessly, letting her hands fall into her lap. "What can I say? They're very thin people. Not gaunt. Not heroin-addict-thin. But thin. Thinner than us," she said, lowering her voice and shooting her eyes around the room as if she were afraid that people with noticeable hipbones were lurking under the windows outside.

"They just don't know," my father said solemnly. "They....just don't know."

My breath caught in my throat on a ragged sob. "I'm sorry. I'm so. Sorry," I said. And allowed the tears to fall.

It could mess with your mind if you let it

So, if Ron Howard played the character of Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show in a home-spun depiction of small town 1960s Mayberry, North Carolina, how did he end up playing a teenager of the 1950s in Happy Days?

Does he have some kind of...time machine?

Was H.G. Wells his grandpa or something?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Looking forward to the weekend!

Pat, my brother, called me from work today and began our conversation by saying, "You know you are my favorite sister."

(I am his only sister.)

"Thank you!" I said brightly. "You're so sweet. And it was so nice to talk to you. 'Bye!"

"Ha ha. Very funny, " he said.

"Okay, so what exactly do you want?"

(He has no bargaining points with me right now because I was able to figure out the flash drive all on my own and he didn't have to come from work and get the knees of his suit all linty and dog-hairy from my carpet by crawling under my desk in search of a USB port on my CPU.)

"We-e-e-ell," he said, "I was hoping to take Angie to the antiques auctions this weekend..."

"And you want us to keep the kids?" I cut in eagerly. It's been too long since they've come to spend the night with us and I adore having them here. I'd keep them if I could. (Plus, I can totally understand why Pat and Angie wouldn't be excited at the idea of taking a 13-year-old, a 6 -year-old and an 18-month-old to an auction of antiques. Phew.)

I feel very lucky because I even managed to snag the new beagle puppy, Louie, for this overnight. Wimzie and Hershey will be quite excited to have a house guest of their own. All of Wimzie's mothering instincts come to the fore when she meets a new puppy and she all but puts on an apron and a ruffled cap and heats up baby bottles whenever she sees one. I don't think Hershey actually knows what puppies are, but he doesn't react to them the way he reacts to cats, squirrels and rabbits, so it's all good.

Don't let the cows see you laughing

Yesterday, my little Carmel group met for one of our twice-a-month meetings (Patricia declared us to be done with St. John of the Cross as we finished with our discussion of his poem, "The Lover and the Beloved"; we are starting in two weeks with Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.) The girls came with me, bringing their prayer books, Rummikub and the Pirates of the Caribbean LIFE game, plus water bottles - an interesting choice of items, I thought.

It was wonderful to be there with them in the church before the Blessed Sacrament, hearing them make the responses as we prayed the ancient words of the psalter together. Teaching them to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (lauds and vespers) is one of the best things I think I've ever done as part of our homeschool's religious education curriculum.

On our way home, we scraped up enough money out of my Vera Bradley change purse, known affectionately as "Quilty," and the floor of the van to buy iced teas for the girls and a Diet Coke for me at McDonald's, then headed our way merrily home. I was pleased because I really like Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity (she's very simple and sweet and thus understandable to a thickheaded person like myself - St. John of the Cross was very, very deep and don't even get me started on St. Teresa Benedicta...even her autobiography was hard for me to understand). Meelyn was pleased because she had won three out of four games of Rummikub; Aisling was not pleased because she deeply wanted a snack wrap from McDonald's.

So we were whizzing along the interstate and we passed this herd of cows, standing out in the heat and the sun, staring haughtily at the cars driving along.

As we approached them, I noticed that the cows weren't standing in the grass; they were standing in a pond, up to their udders in water. All of them. Just standing there, enjoying the cool water on their nether regions, cloaked in that ineffable bovine dignity that always makes me feel that laughing at a cow is as socially unacceptable of laughing at a nun. A nun standing in a pond. Because everyone knows that the only thing one could say in such a circumstance would be, "Hello, sister. Is the water pleasant today?"

We waited a few miles, until we'd crossed the Mississinewa, before we started giggling.

Friday, August 17, 2007

PRODUCT REVIEW: Dinovite, a dietary supplement for dogs

The day the vet told me that both of my dogs were allergic to flea bites, I felt that I had been singled out for a great hearty joke played by Mother Nature. How could dogs be allergic to fleas? Don't dogs and fleas go together like peanut butter and jelly? Like Martin and Lewis?

Or maybe more like Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock.

But anyway. The vet assured me that the most common canine allergy is to flea bites. The flea bites cause a reaction that is manifested by constant scratching, biting, chewing, digging, rolling and general malaise. Wimzie, whose skin is more sensitive than Hershey's, generally gnaws all the hair off her hind legs and her girl parts and just looks defeated and miserable: Her button-bright eyes get dull, she drags along on her walks -- usually the joy of her day -- with no energy and her personality becomes notably more unpleasant. I can't really blame her for being short-tempered. It would be awful to itch and itch and itch all the time.

Before this July, the only thing we could do to stop the scratching, digging and biting was dose the dogs with prednisilone, the canine version of the steroid prednisone. I absolutely hated giving her those pills. The side effects in dogs are generally the same as they are in humans and I know people who have been knocked cock-a-hoop by taking prednisone for various ailments (most notably my friend Martha and my grandpa, both of whom used predisone for their fibromyalgia.)

The steroids worked, but at what price?

And speaking of price, they weren't cheap. Wimzie's medication was costing almost as much per month as a medication that I take. Only I have health insurance and she doesn't.

Other than the pills, the only therapy the vet could offer was a cortisone spray meant for "hot spots," which are random places with a super-itch where a dog can bite in one spot until she bleeds. This spray was about as effective as spritzing her with the morning dew. It did nothing to alleviate the itch. All while costing a pretty penny; $12 for a tiny spray bottle. Between the two dogs, we could have easily used four of those bottles a month.

Since moving to this house where we have no yard, our dogs don't suffer as much from flea trouble as they used to when they had an enormous suburban yard to run around in. Back then, we bought Frontline or whatever that stuff is called. It does stop the fleas from breeding and infesting the house, but it doesn't stop them from biting. And biting is the problem.

But still we have the biting. Scratching. Digging.

I listen to talk radio a lot and in the past few months, I've been hearing a commercial for a product called "Dinovite".The claim is that this product will stop all the above symptoms by improving the dog's diet with minerals, digestive enzymes, vitamins, etc. The spokesperson relates that dog food is cooked in the factories at very high temperatures and that all the good stuff is zapped out of it. This is all stuff I can understand, but I don't really "get" how all that is supposed to stop dogs from being allergic to flea bites, so whatever.

I started doing some online research, going to the Dinovite website and also doing searches of product information and consumer reviews. I felt that I was reading a lot of positive things and frankly, it unwinds me so much to see my pets so miserable that I was willing to try a little snake oil if I had to.

So I bought the smallest size available, which was about a three week supply for both of our dogs. The website made the h-u-g-e disclaimer that I'd have to wait for three months to see the full benefits of Dinovite, which I cynically felt was long enough for the manufacturer to soak me and a bunch of other rubes for $90 each and then peacefully retire to the country to grow cantaloupes.


Our container of Dinovite arrived while the girls were still vacationing at the lake. I was anxious to see what this stuff was all about and I opened it, finding a dark greyish-brown powder, slightly grainy in appearance, that actually smelled very pleasant.* Like brewer's yeast. I was surprised, because frankly, I thought it was going to smell like road kill.

The instructions said to sprinkle it directly on the dogs' dry food, four tablespoons a day for Hershey and one-and-one-half tablespoons a day for Wimzie. I gave it to them like that and both of them backed away from their food bowls with accusatory looks, as if I'd just given their kibble a dusting with Barkeeper's Friend.

I'd read something on the website about using beef broth to moisten the Dinovite and the dog food and tried that; Hershey ate it happily, but Wimzie (the dog that I was most interested in seeing ingest this wonder product) stalked off in a huff and went behind the couch, refusing to come out even for cheese.

Cheese! Cheese might work, I thought. So I sprinkled some shredded cheese on her bowl of kibble, Dinovite and beef broth and set it on the floor. She came running as if she just knew, the little brat, and gobbled down the whole bowlful, looking up at me soulfully afterwards. I rolled my eyes at her and left her trying to lick the glaze off her ceramic dish.

The dogs have been eating the stated amount of Dinovite since the first week of August, and although there is still some scratching and biting, it has dramatically decreased. DRAMATICALLY. For the past two years, Wimzie's hind legs and bottom have been denuded of hair by this time in August, yet her her little rear is still furry. Hershey has completely stopped rolling on the floors, trying in vain to scratch his poor back. There is still some scratching and biting, but after not-quite-three weeks, there has been an amazing improvement.

The Dinovite seems to be working. It is working and it is NOT costing as much as the prednisilone that I hated to give them. I am cautiously ecstatic. Wimzie's eyes are still bright and she has energy and an appetite and she obviously isn't suffering from her "summer complaint" as much as she has in the past. And as an added bonus, her breath isn't bad anymore. And considering that her pre-Dinovite breath could fell an ox at thirty paces, that is kind of a big deal.

I think I may be onto a good thing.

*Dinovite details (courtesy of ; scroll down)

Dinovite Canine is a nutritional supplement designed to promote
your dogs good health. Dinovite Canine is a coarse powder, the consistency of
ground pepper or coffee, made from all natural ingredients including: omega 3
fatty acids, trace minerals, antioxidants, digestive enzymes, spirulina,
diatomaceous earth, montmorillonite clay, zinc and beneficial bacterial

Ingredients: Ground flax, kelp meal
(Ascophyllum nodosum), yeast culture, ground grain sorghum, diatomaceous earth,
zinc methionine, montmorillonite clay, yucca schidigera, alfalfa meal,
spirulina, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation
product dehydrated, Lactobacillus casei fermentation product dehydrated, Bifido
bacterium bifidium fermentation product dehydrated, Streptococcus faecium
fermentation product dehydrated, Aspergillus oryzae fermentation product
dehydrated, zinc sulfate, vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12.

Recommended dosage is 1 to 2 tablespoons of Dinovite per cup of dog food
fed to your dog.


For all of you who don't know, "BABW" stands for Build-a-Bear Workshop. How could you not know that? You mean you don't have a child in your house whose every other sentence is one of the following?:

1) "For Christmas, I either want a BABW gift card or you can just order some BABW outfits online for me to unwrap."

2) "Mommy, do you want to give my BABW animals a nice goodnight kiss?"

3) "Oooh, Mommy! The BABW website has updated and it has the cutest, most adorable-est outfits and accessories!"

4) "When is the next time we can go to the mall and visit BABW?"

The only thing I can say about the Build-a-Bear Workshop offerings is that at least they're not disgustingly expensive like those American Girl dolls. I hashed that one out with my girls a long, long time ago when we happened to be flipping through an American Girl catalog together and I saw a pair of teeny-tiny pajamas with a price tag of $30.

"Thirty dollars? Thirty DOLLARS??!! I've never spent thirty dollars on a pair of pajamas in my life! I don't think that all the pajamas I've bought for the both of you since birth have added up to thirty dollars!" I shrieked right before I fell prostrate in horror at the idea of such mad extravagance.

The girls agreed that if they ever wanted an American Girl doll for Christmas or birthday, they'd have to ask Nanny and Poppy. I told them that I would never, ever countenance getting them one of those overpriced, overmarketed creatures. With children starving in the world, it just seems wrong to me to spend $90 on a doll. Especially if I'm going to have to buy her a pair of thirty dollar pajamas so that she can lay her vinyl self down in a canopy bed that costs forty bucks. What a racket. Those American Girl historical books really suck, too, so my enthusiasm in getting dragged onto that particular bandwagon was very, very muted.

Enter Build-a-Bear Workshop, where you can buy a big teddy for $20 and have the pleasure of choosing a heart, giving it a kiss, making a wish and then putting your little foot on the pedal that blows his plushy hide full of stuffing. I applaud the person who came up with this monstrously brilliant idea - I have to say, the whole BABW experience is a lot of fun and has given Aisling a great deal of pleasure, even though I'd rather have a root canal than visit the store more than a couple of times a year. I'm more of a BAFW (Build-a-Fajita Workshop) kind of girl. Even though every time we go in there, we see people aged from two to ninety-two. All of them squealing.

In addition to lots of different animals, BABW also sells little bitty outfits for the eighteen-inch bears and rabbits, of which Aisling has one of each. (She also has a white BABW dog named Izzie who goes with her everywhere.) The outfits are so cute that Aisling, Meelyn and I can't help but stand there and squeal like idiots. There are also wee little shoes and panties and socks; Aisling's teddy wears glasses just like her own and today we saw miniature MPaw3 Players for the animals to listen to.

Aisling had some allowance money saved up, plus a $25 gift card that she's been hanging onto since her birthday in June. I told her that I'd take her to the mall before school started up again; she has been spending a lot of time on the BABW website, trying to decide if she wanted to place an online order or actually go to the bricks-and-mortar and see and touch the clothes for herself before purchasing.

"Oooh, look at this black polka-dot tunic," she gushed. "Wouldn't it look cute with these tights? Or...maybe I should get the Hello Kitty sage green camouflage skirt? The cheetah print top with the black shrug? But look at this cuuuuute sundress! Oh, I can't decide!"

Meelyn and I exchanged a look. It's the look we always exchange when it becomes obvious that Aisling is going to need some guidance, otherwise we're going to be in Build-a-Bear Workshop until they throw us out at closing time.

She had enough money to buy three little outfits and -- a true child of the Clinton and Stacy generation -- she makes sure that everything she buys will coordinate with the eight million pieces of BABW clothing she already owns. I've never seen such carefully and fashionably dressed plush animals. They dress much better than I do. I've been thinking about carrying one around with me so that I can show it to everyone I meet; that way they'll know that I really do know what's what, even if I am wearing an outfit accessorized by a necklace I got on clearance at Wal-Mart.

On our way through the mall, we made a quick detour through the handbags and the ladies' fragrance section at Macy's: Dooney & Burke has a little purse shaped exactly like a frankfurter with handles and Sarah Jessica Parker's new perfume, Covet, smells like the water that faeries took their baths in, so light and sweet and pretty that I'm still smelling my wrists and saying, "Mmmmm....!" three hours later.

We had lunch at Quizno's and my roast beef was very good, although Meelyn was not impressed with her little Italiano wrap sandwich.

It's been a very fun day, something new to do since we're sick of being at the pool.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thursday's List

READING: In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. As it turns out, this is one of those books that everyone in the world knows about except me. Brede is about a group of Benedictine nuns living in cloister in the late 1950s. It is truly one of the best books I've ever read and I hate putting it down, hate that it is finite and that I'm almost finished. Rumer Godden did a remarkable job of explaining the hows and whys of cloistered life, and also of making each nun, so anonymous in their black and white habits, come to life with vivid characterization.

LISTENING TO: The beautiful sound of a vaccuum cleaner that I am not pushing: The girls and I are doing a little cleaning. Our housekeeping gets very lax over the summer.

FAVORITE NEW FIND: There is a bee-yoo-tee school in my city that offers a full range of services, from hair styling (yay!) to Brazilian waxes (eek!) for lovely low prices. The students are all supervised closely and everyone is so nice. Meelyn got her hair cut yesterday and it looks amazing. Naughtily, I told her that I wanted to wait to see how her hair came out before I scheduled an appointment for myself. She's thinking about getting a pink streak; I'm thinking about getting a manicure. Aisling is thinking that any lapses in grooming can be attended to by an extra squirt of mango-papaya body mist. We all grow at different rates.

HAPPY TO SAY: Hamlet tickets are ordered and our reservation confirmed and the first day of the workshop is less than two weeks away. I am terribly excited. It kind of feels like waiting for Christmas. Also feeling terribly pleased about our homeschool group's upcoming tours at the Indianapolis Museum of Art - I'm working with a person there and hoping to get something a little bit new for this year. And art! Art classes are working out perfectly for our schedule, plus we have the excitement of Speech Club starting up in our other homeschool group. I was a bit surprised to find out how much the girls are looking forward to this. Hm.

I also went to confession last night with the family, right before the Mass honoring Mary's assumption into heaven and that's always a good, good feeling, no matter how much I hate the idea of being held accountable for my stupidity and how much I dislike the notion of humbling myself. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful," wrote St. James. It seems that he knew what he was talking about.

"Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure," wrote the author of the Didache in AD 70 (4:14, 14:1). It is a good to know that the four of us are doing something that has been happening since the earliest days of the Church, following the ancient pathway of Christians.

FAVORITE THING TODAY: The girls had volleyball practice for three hours this afternoon and I had that time to myself. I think back on that vacation week without them and I shudder, but having three hours every now and then is a blissful thing.


SCRAPBOOK PAGES THIS WEEK: None! I'm enjoying not worrying about it. If it gets done, it gets done. If not, the world won't stop spinning. Truth be told, there's not that much going on in these declining weeks of summer that needs to be documented anyway.

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: Strangely enough, for anyone wound as tightly as I am, I don't seem to feel stressed about anything right now. I think it's because all of our homeschool stuff for the next year is falling into place with gratifying simplicity. Why is that? It makes me very nervous when I'm not....concerned....about something. There! I did it! Now I feel stressed!

PRAYING FOR: A good homeschool year for us, our seventh.

Lessons in haircolor

I was born a blonde, a beautiful blonde with curls and pink cheeks and long eyelashes.

In the name of all that is just, WHAT HAPPENED??!!

I became a brunette by age six and got progressively darker as the years went on. Until I hit about thirty-eight, when I happened to look in the mirror and notice that there was another color staking its claim on my head, pushily. Obnoxiously.


I thought I would be okay with turning grey, but it turns out that I'm not. Who knew? When I was younger, I could totally see myself with two long grey braids and a pair of tiny, blue-lensed glasses, or conversely, a nice, dignified chignon with pearls. I have a friend with really pretty salt-and-pepper hair, always fashionably styled and she wears it well. But she doesn't have this crazy mass of twirling, curling irritating hair. If my hair were a person, it would be tattooed with lots of facial piercings and wearing hipster jeans with a thong sassily showing itself above the waistband, braless and barefoot. It would no more consent to lying down respectably on my head like my friend's hair does than the Pope would consent to saying Mass in a pink tutu.

So I color it, making sure to go a shade lighter than my "natural" hair color, which is the color my hair was through my twenties and thirties. My late mother-in-law (God rest her) was a hairdresser and she warned me that too many ladies hang on to their natural haircolor for far too long, leading to the confusing sight of a group of eighty year old ladies at the bridge table, three of them grey or white and one with the vivid hair of a thirty year old. As we age, everything fades: eyes, eyelashes and eyebrows, lip color, cheek color...we have to be prepared to take everything down a notch when we hit middle age, Verna used to say, or we'll look garish, like vaudeville performers when seen backstage.

I've taken everything down a notch in the past few years. I wear brown mascara instead of black. I use pink blush instead of the deep rose I used for years. Same way with lip gloss or lipstick. Instead of the black fingernail polish I usually favor, I've moved to a medium-blue shade.

(I was just kidding about that last part.)

Today, I was long overdue for a color job; I had a quarter-inch of grey roots that were making me cringe every time I looked in the mirror. I had two boxes of Clairol Grey Solutions 6A (my hair is both thick and long-ish and won't settle for just one box, oh no no no no...) It doesn't take much time and gives me a good excuse to sit still for 25 minutes and read my book - no one will come near me with the strong smell of the dye on my head. I washed it out, conditioned it, and now I can't leave it alone because it feels and smells so good. It turned out well; I really like the Clairol brand. I feel that I am definitely worth the L'Oreal, but I don't like the grey coverage I get with it. Sometimes it "takes" for me and sometimes it doesn't.

For another four to six weeks, I am covered. Then I'll do my roots, and four weeks after that I'll color my whole head again, a never-ending process. Just like the rest of womandom, with all the waxing, the bleaching, the polishing, the smoothing, the moisturizing, the plucking, the conditioning....It's kind of like being a farmer, I think.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

FEAST DAY: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This feast day is one of my favorite things about being Catholic: Mary is a person, honored and loved, a mother. We fulfill her prophecy in Luke when she said in the Spirit, "All generations will call me blessed." She is not, to us, just a womb-for-rent - she is the one chosen from all the rest, chosen before the dawn of time, to be the mother of our Savior.

Mary was a person of great importance in the newborn Church, the first follower of Christ. It is speculated that she gave birth to Jesus somewhere between the ages of fourteen and eighteen and that she died when she was in her early sixties. The common thought is that she left Jerusalem with St. John well before the Jews were scattered in the diaspora; evidence has pointed to the fact that she went with him to Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey.

A house has been excavated there - an ancient house with an altar built into it, discovered under very unusual circumstances. The first church there was called St. Mary's, named during a time when churches could only be known as St. Somebody-or-Other's if the saint had either lived in the town where the church was built, or if a relic of the saint was enshrined at the church.

Since Mary was assumed into heaven, we don't have any relics. It is part of the dogma of the Catholic faith that she, like Enoch and Elijah before her, was taken up to heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit, not under her own power as Jesus did, which would be an ascension. We know this to be the truth because of the absence of a grave, among other reasons; the early Christians wouldn't have lost track of Mary or buried her somewhere that was later abandoned. The Church has always taken Mary's unique position as the mother of our Redeemer very seriously.

The Assumption of Mary. Photo credit: EWTN

The Feast of the Assumption is one of my favorite holy days. I love thinking about the reunion Jesus and Mary had in heaven; how happy they both must have been to know that they'd never be parted again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'd like a ticket to the gun show, please

You find the strangest things online when you're researching Greek history.

Like this picture of Brad Pitt as Achilles from the movie Troy, for instance.That movie was not really all that great, but I have to admit that when Brad came out, guns a-blazing, I immediately sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Helloooooooo, Achilles."

My husband, who has some guns of his own, rolled his eyes. Although he doesn't have a suit of armor like that, complete with the nifty feathered thing on a helmet. Or a crossbow and chariot.

Brad Pitt as Achilles in the movie Troy. Photo credit:

I don't seem to find this picture of Achilles with Patrocles - Achilles is on the right, you'll know him by the fancy hat - nearly as interesting, I'm afraid. I mean, look at the arms on that anciently rendered Achilles. Please.

All I have to say is that writing these HISTO Ancient Greece questions and doing all the research that goes with them is a tough job, but someone has to do it. You just go ahead and grab a Diet Coke and put your feet up. I'm going to sit here awhile droo....I mean, researching. Ancient Greece, yes. Shut up.

I think I cane

August is always a strange month for me. It's strange because it is the month when my grandmother died in 1981, unexpectedly from a heart attack after experiencing a blessed remission in the lung cancer that was eating her alive. It is also the month in which, three years later, I was in the car accident that changed the rest of my life.

The good news is that I wasn't drunk and nobody died. Except maybe a tree. Well, and my car, which was a really hideous butter-yellow Aries K. It was just an instance of driving too fast while listening to the radio and going over a blind hill like a bat out of hell. Stupid, so stupid.

I was not belted in. It was 1984 and seatbelts weren't often worn. So my head went through the windshield, permanently scarring my forehead and taking a lot of the hair forward of my ears with it (which grew back) and most of my left eyebrow (which didn't.) I also broke both of my legs; my right ankle was nearly snapped in half and my left knee was destroyed when the engine block was forced back into the front seat, due to the impact with an enormous old oak tree.

Because I had such a severe concussion, I can only remember bits and pieces. I can remember being so afraid that Jim, my boyfriend, was dead. I don't remember walking on those two badly broken legs with the ankle and the knee and the whole bit to find help, but I do remember flagging down a car. When the horrified occupants got out of the car, I remember saying simply, "Jesus sent you."

That's all I remember until we were in an ambulance. I kept calling for Jim, who had a concussion of his own and a broken arm and leg to contend with, asking the paramedic if he was alive. "He's okay, he's right here," the paramedic soothed me, joining my bloody hand with Jim's. The paramedic held my other hand.

The next thing I remember was lying on a bed in the emergency room, crying because I couldn't remember my name. It was dark and quiet in there and I kept sobbing to the nurse, "I don't know who I am. Who am I? What's my name? Why can't I remember who I am?" She looked at me with enormous pity, stroking my cheek and telling me to hush, hush. Everything would be okay. And it was okay a little bit later when my Dad came through the curtain, having been routed from his bed by the phone call parents pray they'll never get, and took my hand, saying in his quiet way, "Your name is Shelley and you're my daughter." I don't think I'll ever forget the enormous sense of comfort, the sheer relief, of being known.

I was in the hospital for two months, missing the first quarter of my senior year, plus having to drop out of the two summer session classes I was taking. I had a lot of unpleasant experiences in the hospital: a staph infection that led to a temperature of 107 degrees and a night spent in a bed full of ice, hallucinating and holding onto a nurse's hand - Debbie, who stayed over her afternoon shift to sit by my me and see me through the night - as she quietly comforted me. I wish I didn't remember so much about that night. I also had some deep-vein blood clots that were a terrible cause of concern. And I had to learn how to walk again.

I walked with a walker for about three months, and a cane for about a year after that.

Because the muscles in my legs were so atrophied, I had to sleep on my back for over a year, every single night. I have never slept on my back since.

For a long time, I was able to ignore the extent of the injuries that would be with me forever. My left knee has only about 30% range of motion and is completely bone on bone. It's hard to climb up or down stairs, difficult to walk on uneven ground. My right ankle is very, very mean to me when the weather is wet or cold. Having been so severely whiplashed, my neck gives me trouble from time to time. I've felt these things a lot more since I was about thirty-five. It's so much fun getting older!

Last year, I sucked in my breath and took a step that I'd been studiously avoiding for a long time: I filled out an application for a handicapped placard to hang on my rear-view mirror, giving me access to special parking places. I didn't really want to do it. I didn't want to give in. But it was time.

One year later, I'm faced with another new step -- I've begun using a cane whenever I know I'm going to be walking for a long time, or if I know I'm going to be walking over bumpy grass, like at the 4-H Fairgrounds last month.

It was a hard decision. First of all, I have my pride. Who wants to walk with a cane at age forty-four? I mean, my husband is a runner, now doing two half-marathons a year (I have the feeling that Boston lies somewhere in his future, and I'm not talking about any measly thirteen miles, either) plus 5ks here and there with Meelyn. And here I am with him as he puts on his racing bib with its ID number and his computer chip on his shoe, leaning on a cane.

"You were in a car accident," he says firmly, holding my face and looking straight down into my eyes, wiping away my tears with his thumbs. "I knew about this before we were married, which, by the way, was sixteen years ago. And I think you're fine the way you are. With a cane, without a cane. Just don't hit me with it, that's all I ask. Even if I deserve it."

The other bother I have is that using a cane makes me feel like I'm giving up. I don't feel like I should give up. I'm a Catholic. We believe in miracles. We believe in healing and that it definitely happens in the next world, but can also happen in this one. If I walk with a cane, I wondered fretfully, does Jesus see that as an admission of defeat?

No, said one of my friends. It just means that you're doing what you need to do as you continue to wait for healing with hope. To quote the epistle of James, "faith without works is dead," so I should see this as an opportunity to exercise the fruits of the Spirit, particularly the virtues of patience, faithfulness and self-control, she continued. God will do His best for me, I can trust in that.

And meanwhile, I can assemble a rockin' collection of canes and walking sticks. I already have the old, grey orthopedic cane that I used in college. It is horrible and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy's mean Aunt Ethel. I also have a bronze-colored aluminum cane with a Derby handle and a black offset cane with an ergonomic grip. I see these canes as ones to get me to the grocery store, to the State Fair, to the movies, to Bump Day at the Speedway.

But here's a picture of the one I'd like to get as the kind of cane one would walk with at the art museum, at church, at the theater and other nice places. It is a nice brown walnut with that really pretty brass derby handle. I hope to order it in a couple of weeks.

I've also ordered some St. Roch medals. St. Roch is the patron saint of those who suffer from knee troubles; he himself was healed of a terrible injury to one of his knees. I'll have Father bless them and attach them to my canes, effectively putting St. Roch on the case, asking for his prayers as I continue to hope for healing. There is actually a St. Roch parish in Indianapolis - we may have a Mass offered there for this intention. I love being Catholic.

We may go and light a candle, keeping hope alive.

St. Roch, pray for me and my knee. (And if you wouldn't mind, throw in a few for my neck and my ankle.)

No school like homeschool

That's our feeling anyway. Aisling has never been to a traditional school, although she was briefly enrolled in our neighborhood's public school kindergarten, way back when in another city, another neighborhood, another house. Meelyn went to public school up until second grade, when we pulled her out after realizing that she was having much more trouble in math than we had ever dreamed.

I had been helping her with her math homework every day after school and I was feeling uneasy. By January of that year, I had assembled a little tutoring program to help her feel a little more confident - and if you think that wasn't a lot of fun, sitting there at the kitchen table doing extra math after already doing a math page, a phonics page, a reading story and spelling words, well, you just don't know what fun is and you should immediately go impale your foot with a screwdriver so that you can just laugh and laugh and laugh and yes, that's what it was like -- and almost immediately discovered that my seven-year-old, who was getting the equivalent of a B in math, couldn't even count to one hundred.

"By the way," I remarked conversationally to her teacher one day, "did you know that Meelyn can't count to one hundred?"

Her teacher was horrified and I felt sorry for her. I think public school teachers get a bad rap. With all the hoops that public schools make their teachers jump through, it's a wonder that anyone even wants to be a teacher anymore, without so many parents out there making their lives a misery because they seem to think that the word "public" somehow conversely means "private," as in "My daughter can't count to one hundred, you idiot, so find some way to spend some one-on-one time and teach her how to do it."

Public school teachers don't have the time to privately tutor their students. If they're very lucky, they might have a student teacher or a mom who is willing to volunteer her time and listen to the children read, but for the most part they are on their own.

But you know who did have the time to privately tutor my children? Me. And I had plenty of motivation, too. I have gone through my entire life as a complete dunce in math. My SAT scores revealed that, while my score was nearly perfect in the verbal part of the exam, my math score was so low, it was as if a sack of potatoes had been propped up in my chair and told to do algebra. It was just sad. I am so aggressively right-brained, I should tilt when I walk.

Meelyn and Aisling may never like math, but they'll be able to do it.

Originally, I had planned to go back to teaching when Aisling went off to first grade. My husband and I had planned that I would work as a substitute; there's actually some fairly decent money in substitute teaching. Enough for our small needs, anyway. We thought that working as a sub would be a smart idea because I'd be able to set my own schedule for the inevitable dentist appointment days and sick days and field trip chaperone days. Then when the girls got older, I could look around in the area for a job as a high school English teacher.

Homeschooling stopped all that. And honestly, I'm thankful. I never thought I would enjoy homeschooling as much as I do, but I'm even more surprised about the girls. They're already dreamily talking about when school starts and going to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and going to the Indiana Repertory Theater to see Hamlet and getting back to the good ol' Wordly Wise vocabulary books. Meelyn is scheduled to read The Yearling this year and she started on it today because, as she says, she "just can't wait. September third is too far away."

With that in mind, I put in the big order for textbooks last week and they should be arriving any day now. Opening that box is one of the girls' favorite things to do, digging down to see what Mom bought, for clues on what we'll be doing this year and how it differs from last year.

We love that back-to-school feeling in the air, although I prefer to look at it as "forward."

Forward-to-school. Our favorite time of year.

(Well. Other than the last day of May, that is.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

I was better at driving backwards

That's what my dad told me when he was teaching me to drive: That I was better at driving backwards. For some reason, it just felt more natural to me and I could steer the car in a figure eight around the orange traffic cones in reverse, but headed forward, it was another story. Although there was that unfortunate incident where I was backing out of the garage and took the clothes dryer with me. My father ran out of the house, wild-eyed and waving his arms, shouting, "Stop! Stop! STOP!" I stopped, looking nonplused at the dryer, which was attached to the front bumper.

"Didn't you hear that?" he asked, turning a very alarming shade of plum.

"No," I mumbled, wishing I had the power to disappear. And remove dents from clothes dryers. "I was listening to Bon Jovi."

They are the reason I wrecked my mom's Whirlpool dryer. It's hard to remember after all this time, but I'm sure it had nothing to do with me not paying attention to what I was doing as I backed out of the garage.

Meelyn doesn't seem to have that trouble. We stopped on the way home from Nanny and Poppy's house today in a different church parking lot and she drove around - both backward and forwards - like a pro. I even had her pull into a couple of parking places, one with a curb in front of it and one with nothing in front of it but air and grass. On the curbed space, she did touch the curb with the front of the van, but heck...I do that on a regular basis, especially at Blockbuster, where they seem to have a very tall curb.

She pulled into the second parking space perfectly, and already seems to have a clue about which way to turn the wheel when she's backing out of a space and turning right or left.

We will be able to deliver her at the front door of the driving school here in our city with great pride, turning her over to someone else, who will teach her how to drive on the actual streets. Because he will have his own brake pedal. And his own steel-reinforced nerves.

But if she keeps up like she's started, he may not need either one. Meelyn may be a natural. Or a biological sport. One or the other.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Meelyn at the wheel

We went to the 10:30 a.m. Mass today since we couldn't go to yesterday's Vigil, what with my brother's birthday party and all. Afterwards, we went to a store my husband's boss found - a runners' store. My husband, the half-marathon enthusiast, has been needing a new pair of running shoes for about a month. All the support is gone from the old ones and he says his legs feel like bricks and his knees hurt. Being an old geezer of forty, he needs to protect his knees, so off to the running store we went.

The rule, we were told, is six months or five hundred miles, whichever comes first.

Five hundred miles? Running?

Just thinking about that makes me want to go lie down.

Meelyn has decided that she definitely wants to run the Indy Mini-Marathon again next May, but while we were in the store, she picked up brochures for two other runs; one in Indianapolis to benefit lung cancer research (my grandma died from the ravages of lung cancer in 1981, God rest her sweet soul) and another in Oxford, Ohio to benefit Oxford, Ohio. Both of those are 5K runs, which are a nice little bit of gentle practice for the Mini.

Kieren, my older nephew, is thinking about running the Mini next May with Meelyn and his uncle. We're also trying to get Aisling to do the 1K Kids' Run in Oxford, but are meeting with limited enthusiasm on her part. Extremely limited.

Saucony - the shoes of choice for the runners and volleyball players
in our family.

Anyway, we had a nice lunch, which was a special treat. We went to O'Charley's, where we had a waitress who didn't seem to love us, even though we were prompt and precise with our orders and didn't ask for anything annoying, like "Oh, and on my club sandwich? Could you please put the bacon on the side and the tomato on the side and the turkey on the side and the bread on the side and could I substitute the sliced ham for prosciutto and a mango for the tomato and you know what? I'm going to need fat-free mayo instead of regular mayo and is this salt in the shaker sea salt? Because that's the only kind I can eat. And oh...I'd also like an iced tea with the ice on the side and a slice of lemon on a plate. But not a small side plate because I need to have somewhere to put my torn Splenda packets. Something more like a salad plate will do."

My mother has a friend who orders like this and I've never been to a restaurant with her yet that I haven't wanted to throw a basket of dinner rolls at her head. And you think I'm exaggerating right?


After we ate, we went back to the church parking lot so that Meelyn could have some driving practice with Dad in the car with her. She was very cute there behind the steering wheel, listening soberly and attentively as her father instructed her to step on the brake before shifting into drive, only checking out her hair once as she adjusted the mirrors. Her dad wanted her to pretend that the parking lot was full of cars, so he was instructing her to drive down the middle of the lots, making wide turns to avoid taking the bumpers off imaginary cars.

Aisling and I teased her while she was going through the two lots, saying, "Oh, no! Watch out Cadillac Escalade on the right! Ouch! Just dinged a Lexus! Parishioners are fleeing for the fields! Father has come running with the censer and some holy water! People are falling to their knees and praying for heaven's mercy! Aaaaahhhh!"

"You guys," giggled Meelyn, executing a perfect left hand turn with just the right amount of pressure applied to the gas pedal. "I swear."

"Yes," I said, pointing to an imaginary figure up in a tree. "That elderly lady who sought refuge in the foliage is swearing too."

Meelyn gets her learner's permit in seven and a half months. How could that be possible? I mean, isn't this the same person who was bringing me a clean diaper and a box of wipes only a few years back and offhandedly remarking to me, "Here. You may need this"? She'd then arrange the waterproof mat from the changing table on the floor where I was sitting and playing with the infant Aisling and then lie down and look up at me expectantly.

"Pee yew," she'd say conversationally, pinching her tiny nose with her tiny fingers. "Stinky!"

And now here she is, driving.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

All day long today

All day today I have thought it was Sunday. I'm so confused, probably because I stayed up until 5:00 a.m. talking to Bridget at the little mini-retreat we went on.

Tonight was my brother's party for his 38th birthday at our parents' house. Mom baked a lasagna and made garlic bread and salad, plus chocolate cake for dessert. It was very nice, especially the look of chagrin on my brother's face when we all dramatically sang, "Haaaaaaaaaaaappy biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirthdaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!" Yes, we make it just that obnoxious. Why? Because we can. My younger nephew conducted us with a spoon and we were in a very shaky three-part harmony at the last line.

But it all seems kind of Fellini-like three hours later, because I am so sleepy.

On the way home, we decided to go ahead and pray our family rosary in the van. We'd been talking about computers, so I was thinking about computers and when we got to the line in the Apostles Creed where we're supposed to say, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, Amen," I changed out a word and said, "the computers of saints, the forgiveness of sins," etc.

It made me think that St. Thérèse of Liseux, who often embarrassed herself by falling asleep while praying the rosary with the nuns in her Carmel convent, was up in heaven, emailing a group of my favorite saints and saying, "We need to pray that Shelley has a good night of sleep tonight, because she is, like, punch drunk."