Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sentimental journey….

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Last week I purchased a capture device which allows me to convert VHS tapes to DVD’s, readable on my computer. As an added perk, I am also able to convert cassette tapes into CD’s.  I have had a lot of fun playing with the capture device on both fronts and began turning my old dusty music collection into digital mp3’s that I can enjoy with my iPod.  One of the cassettes I converted last week contained hits from the 1940’s–the music my parents danced and sang to, while growing up. Yesterday as Mary Alice and I drove around town, I hooked my iPod into the car and together we sang along to these old standards.

“Oh I like this one…” Mary Alice remarked when “Dance With a Dolly” began to play. I smiled, not only because she was tapping her toes and singing the verses outright; but also because the song reminds me of my mom.   One of my earliest memories has her helping me put my shoes and socks on, while she sang that song to me.  “How are you liking the music so far?” I asked, already knowing the answer.  “They don’t make music like this anymore” she remarked.  The next song began to play and she fell silent.  I wasn’t sure if the good feelings or sparks of memory these songs were inducing had passed, or if she simply didn’t know the one playing.  “He had a beautiful voice don’t you think?” she asked me.  “Yes he did…” I replied as we drove along.

Some of the 40’s music sounds so corny; by today’s standards, but one thing they all have in common–a hook. Mary Alice and I bopped along to the strands of “Rum and Coca-Cola” by the Andrew Sisters; laughed to the lyrics of “Pistol Packin’ Mama” which carry a lot of similarities with today’s popular country music songs. Of course, Bing Crosby along with the Andrew Sisters were featured heavily “Swinging on a Star, Accentuate the positive and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (From Company C)” helped make our drive all the more enjoyable.  Then we had a nice laugh at the lyrics to “You Always Hurt the One You Love”  “Holy Moly, what a line!” I said before adding “If I broke your heart last night it’s because I love you most of all? Who are they kidding?” She giggled and I laughed as we continued along.

By the time the strands of “Sentimental Journey” began to play, my head was full of memories–my dad playing these songs on the piano; my mom smiling while he did and us kids trying to sing along without breaking anyone’s eardrums.  I looked over at Mary Alice who was singing along–sometimes ahead of the musicians, but in tune and clear.  “This was one of my mom’s favorite songs…” I remarked.  “Really. Is your mother still with us?” she asked me (for the 100th time that day).  “No, she’s been gone about seven years now; but this music reminds me of when I was a little kid.  I can see her standing at the sink, singing these standards while she did the dishes…or some other chore.”  I couldn’t help but laugh at that notion– remembering my mom doing a chore-not sitting idle.

When we finally arrived at her home, I asked her, “Would you like a copy of this music to listen to at home?  It won’t take long for me to convert it to a CD”.  “Well that would be nice, thank you”.  Who knows how long the music stayed with her the rest of the day, but for a short time that afternoon, we both took a nice sentimental journey down memory lane.  I’m so happy music helped draw that out from the both of us.

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card sharks….

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The doll and her girl friends like to talk funny.  They produce long drawn out words and try to throw them into a southern accent, mostly for fun much to the annoyance of their family members.  One night I had the distinct pleasure of turning down the radio in the car so I could listen to their odd conversation.  “What you thanking ‘bowt doing hair?”  “Oh I don’t know, what kind of conver-say-she-on wood you like to hayva?”  “Why are you two talking like that?” I asked and was answered with giggles. “Mawm, dint you know tawlking loike dis is fun?”  The doll retorted.  “Why I surely do…” I replied in my version of a thick southern accent, “I just don’t understand why you two have slowed down your pronunciations to a snails pace”.  The girls giggled again before her friend responded “Way-ohll, no matter how we spake it, it’s fun to do”.

****

The one perk that comes from kids being grounded from the television or computer is finding something else to do–in a family way.  “How about one of our puzzles?” I asked; which was met by loud groans and grunts from both kids.  “All right then, how about another round of Spite and Malice?”  “Mom, can’t I just go onto the basement computer?”  “Sorry no…”  “Can I go over to Jacob’s?” the boy asked,  still trying to find an alternative solution.  Jacob, who lives down the street, offers him a chance to skirt the issue of no computer and no video games.  Last week during the height of his grounding, we were happy to send him down there to get his fix.  Our reasoning was simple, he needs to have friends.  “You don’t want to wear out your welcome baby, maybe you could invite him to come over here…” I offered.  “NO….” he said failing to hide is contempt.  “Besides computer or video games, name something you would like to do…” I asked him.  Shaking his head, he was stumped.  “How about a game of hand and foot Canasta?” I introduced.  “Only if you’re my partner.”  He surprised me.

The boy learned the game over Christmas when he partnered up with his Great Grandmother, a Canasta champion from way back.  Grabbing the doll to partner with daddy we began to play.  “I don’t understand this game” the doll said not entirely happy she was stuck playing this game.  “That’s okay, you’ll learn as we go along.”  The game consists of 4 different games within a match.  The team with the most points after the fourth game is the winner…so the game can last a good long time.  The boy and I won the first game, the doll and dad the next two. The final game came down to the doll talking in her southern speak, just to irritate and distract the boy.  The boy in retaliation made odd noises trying to distract and annoy his sister while dad and I  sat back, soaking in all the splendor of a family game night.  In the end, the boy and I triumphed to the delight of the doll who said, “Thank goodness this is over!!”  The boy and I gave one another a high five  while trying to rub salt into dad’s competitive wound.  “Yeah whatever…. I know you two cheated…” Dad said in return.

“Whoo hoo mama!!  Now can I go over to Jacob’s?”  The boy asked.  “First you better call to see if its all right with them” I replied.  I figured he had served his penance for the night and hanging out with someone other than his family is a good thing–for all of us.

 

torture comes in many forms….

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In anticipation of making some big changes this coming year, we’ve begun the process of getting rid of the junk we have accumulated over the years.  You know clothes, toys, paperwork; all the clutter we removed from the upstairs and hid in the basement–and boy is there a lot of junk.

“Mom, you’re not throwing this out!” the doll asked as she looked into the garbage bag filled with old school papers I saved for no other reason than I didn’t know what to do with them. “Sorry doll.  You can’t tell me this holds any sentimentality to you?” I said holding up a barely legible “book” she wrote in first grade.  “No, it doesn’t, but I don’t see any of the boy’s paperwork in there either.”  Ah there’s the rub; it’s always there.  “Take a look at that bag over there…” I said pointing at another bag, filled to the brim with paper and spiral notebooks.  Seeing she was not alone in what I was purging she happily disappeared up the steps, away from the memories being released.

I came across old letters to Santa Claus by both kids and my personal favorite picture of the boy and doll meeting Santa–the doll hanging on for dear life to her father’s hand,  seen as part of the boarder of the picture.  She was not happy to be on this old guy’s lap.  Meanwhile the boy’s smile said it all… “What the heck I’ve Santa’s ears all to myself!”  The picture is priceless.   I also came across the doll’s fan letter to Selena Gomez a few years back, which I promised to mail, but never did.

Another bin is now filled with magazines I ordered for the kids; filled with short stories, to help fuel their imaginations.  I wonder what I’m supposed to do with them…recycle, donate or destroy?  The memories in that part of the house are so thick I don’t think a knife can cut through.

Last night my niece Lauren suggested I should be tortured for posting some old childhood pictures of she and her sisters I came across, on Facebook.  All three girls made funny comments about how they looked, what they were wearing and whether or not they saw themselves as “cute”.  I used to watch my nieces while I was in college and we had some knock down dragged out fights, which we laugh about to this day.

I wonder if my kids will look at upon these blogs the same way… “Mom, please write in your will that you leave the rights to the Mean Mommy Memoirs to me so I can publish them and use the money they produce to support myself when I’m older”  The boy suggested the other night.  “Bud, if they could make money, don’t you think I’d try that myself?  I mean after all, a little extra money around the house would come in handy–don’t you think?”  “Nah, besides you’ll be dead and dead author’s materials are worth more.”  “They are huh..?.”  Smirking  he added, “Well, that’s just what I’ve read”.

Right before Christmas I went to my parents house and finally retrieved a bin of pictures my family created for every member; shortly after my mother died.  Then any time one of us came across anything that remotely could belong to a family member, they had a bin in which to put it in. As I waded through all the ugly grade school pictures I came across two letters I had written to my mom.  One was a check list of everything I needed to take to camp.  In the other letter I was asking mom to forgive some dumb thing which no doubt led to my being grounded.  I laughed, “Mom why the heck did you save this?” as I read the darn things.

But I know…

as my kids will someday know…

as we all know…

Ah….back to the torture of the basement….

timing…

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Bedtime every night presents different challenges.  The boy is offered the chance to read for an additional half an hour, if he goes without arguing.  His sister is not simply because she slows down to a snails pace and uses that extra half an hour to actually head to bed.  Several times she comes out into the living room to show me she’s brushing her teeth; combing her hair; making sure her hamster has all its needs; saying goodnight to the dog; before coming back to say goodnight to me three or so times. “Mom are you coming?” she asks wondering if I’m ready to say nightly prayers with her and the boy.  Once prayers are said, both kids are expected to turn out the lights and go to bed.

******

“RISE AND SHINE BOYS AND GIRLS TIME TO GET UP FOR SCHOOL!!” I yell down the steps from my bedroom.  The hope is the kids are already awake or my loud shrill voice will wake them up.  This morning they were both still in “bed” and not happy with the prospect of getting up.  “Come on Bay, time to get up lets get moving…” I said to the boy.  The doll, who pulled her covers over her head asked, “Why do we have to go to school today?”  “Because today is Monday and it wouldn’t stink unless you had to get up for something…” I replied.  “Har har mom” she replied.  “Well now that we’ve established communication, time to get yourself up and moving lets go…”

Both kids slowly began their morning processes to get ready for school.  In the meantime I went into the kitchen to make breakfast and lunches for the kids.  The boy wandered into the kitchen and faux coughed.  “That’s not a convincing cough…” I said to him.  “I don’t feel horrible I just don’t feel good..” He explained.  “Well unless you’re vomiting on my kitchen table, you’re going to school”.  I informed. “Oh I know, just giving you my observation…” he concluded.

A short time later the doll walked into the kitchen dressed, combing out her long hair.  “Mom I want my hair cut today!”  “I know doll…we will very soon…” This is a cyclical conversation we share almost every morning awaiting her hair to grow out 12 inches from the base of her neck.  Her desire to donate hair and her want for short hair have been at odds for the last two months–but we’re close! “OH DANG IT!!” she shouted.  Surprised I began to question until she said aloud, “Today is MONDAY and I have gym on Monday!” And then she stomped off toward her bedroom to change her clothes.

A short time later I looked at the clock…7:52 am.  “TIME to GO!!”  That’s when the real craziness that envelops my house begins as the kids scramble to put all their elements together so they can arrive to school on time (crossing fingers).  The boy who used to be my most deliberate child is actually the first one out the door: backpack-check; lunchbox-check; coat and hat-check.  “It’s foggy out here…” He states as he begins to walk out.  I pay no mind as I turn back to encourage the doll to get a move on.  Then something pulls my attention back toward the boy.  The traffic on my street is nonexistent for this time of the morning.  Living down the street from the school, there should be loads of cars zooming up and down, but there are not. With a sweeping look to my left I realize there are no cars parked in the school parking lot.  Something is wrong!!  “Mom I think there might be a delay…” the boy offers.

CRAP! I think as I ran to the laptop.  Sure enough, we are in a two hour delay for an ice storm that occurred overnight.  “YOU MEAN WE COULD HAVE ALL SLEPT IN?” the doll yelled at me.  “Apparently so…” I said, just as disappointed as she–but not for the loss of possible sleep, but rather for the fact I have to put up with them for another two hours now.   As they settled in to wait for school, I asked the doll “Isn’t gym first period?”  “Yes” she replied.  “Well when you have a delay, don’t you typically lose your first two hours?”  “What are you getting at?” she asked, though she already knew.  “Well you may as well change out of your gym clothes and back into your regular school clothes” I informed.  “I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO SAY THAT!!” She shouted, as she stomped off toward her bedroom, upset at having to change back into the clothes she had on originally.

“Mom, for the record, Monday’s stink….”  The doll said as she prepared to walk out the door for school.  “…but this Monday so far hasn’t been as bad as it could have been without the delay.  So I’m good with going to school now”.  Smiling and giving her a hug and kiss goodbye I said “Good, I’m glad now lets make this Monday the best day yet!” The boy, walking past us added “But what will Tuesday do to make this Monday look poor?”  Looking at him I replied,  “Let’s not cross any bridges until we come to them…”  “What’s that mean?” He asked.  Smiling back I said, “Go to school and figure it out…”

 

mean mommy duties…

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Every where I walk in my house, I see remnants of life left by my family.  A shoe here, a sock there; the afghan that was left where it fell on the floor; instead of folded and resting on the couch. What irritates me the most however are food wrappers left on end tables, bedroom floors or shoved unceremoniously under furniture–as if by doing so, means they never had the junk food to begin with.  “Bay, what the heck?  The garbage can is in the next room, really?”  “Sorry Mama” he says, picking up the hundreds of wrappers found and depositing them in the trash bin.  Or I”ll hear from both of the kids  “That’s not my wrapper…”  As if that response clears them of any responsibility to clean up after themselves”.  “I don’t care whose wrapper that belongs to.  Why is it not in the garbage?”

We finally put the boy’s bedroom back together, yet he refuses to sleep in his bed.  “Whatever bay,  when your back is messed up in your 40’s you can look back and blame yourself” I told him.  Honestly if that’s the least of our concerns, then so be it.  But in doing so, we found so many candy wrappers, one would believe he robbed a candy store.  “Mom, those are really old, I mean from way back…” He tried to explain.  “Okay, if that’s the case…why are they under your bed and not in the garbage can?”  Standard Stock Boy Answer (and constant mom irritant): “I forgot”.

*****

“Hey did you know we own a dishwasher?” I say sarcastically aloud for all to hear.   “Well I never know if it’s clean or dirty” the doll said in response.  “Really?  Because your job is to empty it every day.   So you can’t tell the dirty dishes from the clean ones?” I asked in return.  “Jeeze mom, at least I rinse my dishes off.” The doll replied while shooting a pointed look in the boy’s direction.  “Irregardless who does what…WHEN are you going to get off your duff and put the dishes away so we can reload the darn thing ? Or should just let the dishes continue to stack up in the sink?” I asked to anyone within ear shot of my bellowing voice.  “How come you never yell at Dad for leaving dirty dishes out?” The doll said trying to deflect. “Oh she does…I’m just allowed to ignore her” the hub announced as he passed through.  “Well that’s not fair!” the doll tried to argue.  “No, but…” Hub looked over to me and winked.  Not appreciating his little gesture I said, “You know honey, it would be nice once in a while to not find your cereal bowl in the sink every morning.  I mean really, how hard is it to put the damn thing in the dishwasher?”    “Apparently very difficult.  Doll do your chores and help your mother out…” he said and then beat thief out of the room.

*****

As I wander down the steps each morning to rouse my children from their slumber to prepare for school, I find remnants of their lives littered across my living room.  A dirty cup here, a food wrapper there and inside the sink, instead of inside the dishwasher, a cereal bowl.

Yep this is home.

cats, dogs and their similarities to my kids….

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“Doll tell me about Dominic…” I said to the doll this morning.  “Mom, you know that’s Mary’s imaginary thing not mine!!” she yelled from the living room.  Laughing I replied, “Yeah I know, just testing….besides, I think I would have heard about Dominic before she brought him up.”  A few minutes passed before the doll said, “Remember when I had an imaginary boyfriend?”  I was hoping this imaginary friend came from her little girl past, not something she was making up to have one.  “Tell me…” I said fishing.  “He didn’t like me going to sleep”.  “Oh yes, I remember him now, I used to come in and tell him to knock it off and let you sleep.” I replied.  “Yes, he was a party animal.  Remember when I had imaginary dogs and cats and they would take showers with me?  You would come in and be so mad at all the water on the floor…”  The dog and cat reference was new (revisionist?) information to me.

“Well that was stupid.  Dogs and cats tend to dislike one another, why would you invite them into the shower with you?” The boy said jumping into our conversation. “THEY WERE IMAGINARY BOY!!” the doll replied highly annoyed he had thrown in  his two cents.  “You never know bay, in some families, dogs and cats tolerate one another….maybe even ours…” I offered hoping he could see the similarities between themselves.  The boy continued to taunt his sister until I finally said, “You know, my mornings would go so much better if you two didn’t talk to one another….”  The boy with said a smirk “I know mama, I’m just poking a bear with a stick.  I’m the bear poker–figuratively speaking that is.”  “How about you being a nice older brother instead…”  I proposed to him.  Smirking he said “Ugh, um but being a poker is much more enjoyable.”  “So let me get this straight, you would rather be the dog who chases and pokes the cat?”  “Well when you put it that way….yes”. “Well then you better be ready for some sharp paw swipes on her part…”  The doll smiled and imitated a cat swipe with her right hand while adding a very coy “RAWR”  Both kids stopped, looked at one another for a moment and began laughing.

Our morning saved by laughter…between a boy (basset hound) and a doll (tabby cat). Thank Goodness!!

Hugs; daily doses of love…

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“Boy!” His father called.  “Yes dad?” the boy came into view.  “Stand here, flat footed, up straight now hold still” His father directed.  “Okay now come with me….” and both Dad and boy disappeared into the bathroom which holds our only scale.  In the meantime, the doll catching on to what her dad and brother were doing tried to butt in “Hey no fair, measure me, measure me.”  Her father acting flustered did just that.  When all was said and done, their father turned toward me and said, “We’re raising giants.”  “How so?” I said with a smile.  “The boy weighs 190 pounds…”  “No I don’t dad, it said I weighed 188.2 pounds.”  “Close enough”.  “Easy for you to say..” the boy argued briefly.  “Well he’s 190 pounds and 5’10” which surprises me.  I thought he was taller.” The boy stood in my kitchen, pushed his chest out briefly and flashed a sheepish grin before retreating back into his room.

The doll meanwhile looked at her father with mild disgust.  “What’s your problem?” he asked her.  “Sure, you tell mom about the boy and forget all about me.  What am I chopped liver?” “Pshaw doll, pshaw” he replied.  They both began to giggle before he said “Alright….the doll is 5′ and almost 1″ tall and weighs…..?”  “Dad, a girl never says her weight out loud…” I interjected.  The doll turned her head and asked “Why?”  “I’m out!” her father declared and left the room.  “Because it’s nobodies business but your own” I replied.  “But what if I just tell you how much I weigh?”  “If you want to doll, but if anyone ever asks you,  just tell them it’s none of their business.  So how much do you weigh?”  I added to see how she would respond. Smiling she said, “That’s for me to know and you to never find out.”  “Okay” I said and tried to move onto other things.  “Wait, mom, don’t you want to know how much I weigh?”

*****

“BOY!” I shouted toward his bedroom yesterday.  “Yes mom?” he said.   “GET IN HERE!!” I yelled back.  The boy entered the kitchen looking a bit worried. After spending a week in the dog house, his demeanor was tentative.  You wanted to see me…? he quietly asked.  “Yes I did.  Do you know what yesterday was?” I asked him.  “Inauguration Day?” “Besides that.” I replied. “Martin Luther King day?” he asked again.  “Not just that, keep trying…”  He lowered his eyes to the floor as if searching for a clue…  I watched him wrack his brain but come up empty handed.  Finally he said in a conciliatory tone “No, I don’t Mama”. Sizing him up and down with my eyes; seeing my handsome boy standing before me I said, “Yesterday was your national holiday….”  The boy smirked and then said, “Mom what are you…” before I cut him off.  “You see yesterday, January 21st was National Hug Day.  You did not give me a hug, therefore I expect to get a hug from you right this very minute!”

He smiled and we gave one another a great hug.  I became acutely aware of just how big my baby has become as I rested my chin upon his shoulder blade.  “You know the sad thing about this is, in a few years I won’t be able to rest my chin here…instead my nose will be using your shoulder for a Kleenex” I said and smiled.  “He laughed, finished off the hug with a huge squeeze and said “We don’t need a holiday mom…just everyday.”  “Your right….” I said as we separated.

After he departed the room I yelled “DOLL!  GET IN HERE….”