life on the funny farm

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cindy-Loo ----Who?

SOME little people 'round here are a bit excited that today is the last day of school, and that there are only 2, count 'em 2, days till Christmas.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas

We had Christmas a little early, at least on a small scale, when my sister and her hubby and their little Christmas cookie came to visit this past weekend. There were breathtaking lights to ooh and ahh over at Longwood Gardens, gifts to exchange (more ooh-ing and ahh-ing), Christmas cookies to be rolled and cut and frosted and tasted, and lots and lots of skating on the pond.
Oh and baby soft elbows and knees to kiss and cuddle.








Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree .....


Went tree huntin' on Saturday and we bagged a good one. Other than the mild disappointment expressed from five of them b/c their tree wasn't the one selected, it went pretty well. The Weather Fairy gave us one perfect day sandwiched between two weeks of deep-freeze. No wind, lots o' sunshine, 45-ish; perfect for the task at hand. Sis, who seems to lack the power of speech, gave each of the kiddos a bag of popcorn, and off we ambled.



We found our tree in short order and hauled it back to the car, and my two young men strapped the bounty to the top.



Next there was hot chocolate to be consumed by all, and the younger kids had the fun of picking out their very own Charlie Brown tree, complete with rickety wooden stand made on the premises.







At the tree farm, we saw some rustic "lawn reindeer" made of logs. So of course the first thing my artist James did once we got home was to make one himself. This was the first time he ever made one and I think it came out better than the ones we saw at the farm.





Once we got our prize home we went ahead and strung the lights and decorated it right away. It won't win any prizes from Martha Stewart, but I love it. It's filled top to bottom with paper chains the kids have made and their "special ornaments" that Santa brings them each and every year. As they unwrap them from the plastic bags and tissue paper, the family room is filled with "I remember this one!" and oohs and ahhs.
The kids love the tree too. In fact, four of them slept on the floor next to the tree that very night, all cuddled up in their sleeping bags, staring up at the lights of their tree.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Grocery Day (Or, Things to be Thankful For)

Monday was Grocery Day, as it generally is, barring the unforseen circumstances that pop up from time to time like the livestock running amok through the neighborhood or one of the kids coming down with the latest rampaging virus.
I know I should dread the drudgery. But I will admit here and now with chin high in the sky that I have come to enjoy my Grocery Day. I should be ashamed of myself, bright, college-educated modern woman that I am. After all, what self-respecting 21st century woman in her right mind would admit to enjoying such mundane Betty Crocker Crap? Clipping coupons, comparing prices, checking ingredients, doing the zombie shuffle though the aisles while singing under her breath to the soft rock piped overhead. What's to like?
Well, I'll tell ya':
Number one: Nowadays I can do this while all the kids are quietly bending their heads over their studies at school. I could enjoy stepping on dog poo while the kids are at school. Not that I don't adore my little darlings, but the days of shopping with three kids under the age of four are none too distant and that memory patch is still a bit raw around the edges. Displays being knocked over, packages being opened, butter being consumed. Sprints to the spooky,
cobwebbed employee restrooms with a potty-training tot doing the crotch grab. Trying to ignore the fumes emanating from the diaper from the yearling seated before me. Attempting to physically locate my runaway and politely asking the clerk to post an amber alert. Not to mention the noses leaking putrid-looking goo, my boobs leaking b/c the need-to-nurse-NOW baby is wailing, or the whining, crying, demands for every conceivable make of cereal, cookie,and popsicle. But now that's all behind me. I have a tranquil hour to myself in the quiet calm of the store. It's like a day at the spa.
Number two: Remarkably, there is not a stray sock or a clump of windblown doghair in sight. If there is a spot that looks like it could use a once-over, someone will get to it. Meaning not me.
Number three: Frugal Me likes trying to see how low I can go with the prices. It's like my own private game show, where I try to see how much I can get in the cart for $200 or less.
Number four: I prefer my little local store to the mega-gi-normous supermarket that most of my friends go to. It's little, nothin' fancy. The clerks know me by name (gee I ... I wonder why?) and the "cart boy" is an older delayed man by the name of Kenny that calls everyone Cupcake and seems to have his speaking voice set to megaphone.
Number Five: I can even do the fridge clean-out prior to putting the newly purchased food away without the guilt that would normally accompany tossing "perfectly good" (what's wrong with the color blue?) food in the trash. I have a spectrum of four-legged critters that can consume all manner of leftovers. If the item in question looks good but is just past the date, some can be fed to the house dogs. If the ham is in the slimy-but-not-yet-moldy stage, I can toss it out to our farm dog. Wilted looking produce can go to the rabbits and the goats get nearly everything else. Guilt-free tossing.

And though I hate the redundancy of loading groceries into the cart, onto the conveyor belt, into the car, into the house, and finally onto my shelves at home, there is a certain zen calm that washes over me when the last of the items are all tucked neatly to bed in the pantry or fridge. As I peer into the gigantic, brightly-lit frostiness and gaze at the fiesta of colorful packages , I always flash back momentarily to the days of my youth, when the fridge looked markedly different than the one before me now. In those days, the food packaging tended to the monochromatic, with stark black and white labels devoid of superlatives. Instead of the convenience of the cheese sticks my kids grab for snacks or grated cheese in fancy ziplock bags, we had "guvmint cheese" in a block as long as my arm. Powdered milk, mammoth plastic bags of Puffed Rice, and cans of tuna that could become dinner for six once the miracle of mayonnaise was applied to the formula. I look at the bowl on my kitchen table overflowing with fresh, shiny fruit and recollect that about the only fruit we had as kids was no-brand grape jelly.
And this time of year, these feelings are magnified with grocery shopping for the holidays. It fills me with an enormous sense of satisfaction to walk through the aisles of my grocery store, picking out the items I need to cook the family dinner complete with traditional dishes passed down through the generations. That I can buy the things I need for these special occassions and pay with cash (as opposed to calculating things while filling the cart and then paying with food stamps) marks a notch on my "I've Made It" belt. And aside from that, I love the feeling that the only knock on my door from strangers in the days before the holidays will likely be from a Jehovah's Witness. As a kid, I can remember the good samaritans coming to our door laboring under the load of boxes of donated food collected for "those less fortunate". In my mind I knew how wonderful it was to receive such a bounty. But opening mystery cans dented beyond recognition and boxes of pasta crawling with weevils, it was sometimes hard to fill myself with the gratitude I knew I was supposed to be feeling. And then I would feel ashamed of myself for harboring such thoughts.

What I can be grateful for today is that we are secure enough financially that my kids wouldn't know a food stamp if it bit 'em on the bum. I am thankful that they don't need to wonder if I will be able to stock the shelves with food from week to week. And I am thankful that they will never, at least as children, have to thank a stranger handing them a box of food at the holidays.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Published Again!

Just got word that I'll be getting published again! I had submitted a couple essays to an editor putting together a book on foster parenting and I've learned that at least one will be making it to print and possibly the other as well.
Now I just need to put together a bio and send in a picture. Whaadya think my chances are that I'll be able to dig up a photo of all eight of us that's free of:
a)one kid holding up devil's horns over another's head
b)nose-picking
c)someone crying over being stepped on/poked/shoved/looked at
d)deranged looking parents telling everyone to cut it out this instant and just smile, dammit!
I'd say slim to nill.....

Lord help me

As I sit here at the desk on my daughter's laptop, giggles and squeals coming from the next room as they clean up and pack, all I can think is,
"What was I thinking?"
Rosie had approached me weeks ago with one pleading, begging request for her approaching 13th birthday. To stay in a hotel room with her BFFs. After grilling her on her sanity, I gave it some thought (and researched some prices on the interweb) and it actually looked to be less insane than initially thought. Turned out I could get a suite for not much more than a hundred bucks. In the realm of birthday parties, I figured I was getting off easy. The girls could have two beds in one room and I could have the sofabed in the next. The cost also included full breakfast in the morning, afternoon "manager's reception" and of course the hotel pool the size of a postage stamp.
And so I entered into this lunacy.
First, a trip to the mall. Yes, the mall, on a Saturday afternoon during Christmas season. Took me nearly as long to enter the lot and find a parking space as it did to drive there from the boondocks. Once there, I threw a few dollars at each of them and let the mob go their way as I went mine, with promises to check in periodically by text. This suited me just fine and was probably the only sound decision I made.
Next, on we went to dinner and an appropriately embarassing song to the birthday girl by all the wait staff (they made Rosie stand up on her booth, I loved it).

Then onto the hotel. Oy. After all, the diminutive pool could only keep them amused for so long. So after showering and changing, they were off to play in the elevators and "explore". I was torn between being a hovercraft parent shadowing their every move, being a Nazi parent confining them to the hotel room for the duration of the night, and being a liberal pushover parent letting them run amok while I cowered in the room praying they wouldn't get in trouble. I chose the latter, but I suppose God enjoyed a laugh at my expense when the manager yelled at them to stop running around. Well. At least that gave me some leverage when I suggested they needed to stay in for the night.
But it was only 9:30, after all and a girl's gotta have fun. So when they went down to see one of the gals off (she couldn't stay the night), they snuck in an extended stay out of the room by getting milkshakes at the hotel's restaurant. Then, of course, they just wanted to check out the fitness center (all this communicated by text). The stinkers didn't get back in till midnight. A more responsible parent would have had them tucked in bed with lights out at a more reasonable hour but I.....uh..... fell asleep.
THEN, my Mom Hearing evidently still in full working order, I caught them trying to sneak out of the room at 3am "To play cards in the lobby"
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well, sputter, stammer, steam, "I think NOT." Made them march their hineys right back into their room toot suite (get it?) and it was lights out and not another peep.
Of course by then I couldn't sleep much for fear they would try some teenaged foolhardiness again and my Mom Hearing would be turned off for the night. So I spent a miserable few hours tossing and turning on the less-than-comfy couch until it was at last time to start the new day and get the hell home.

And here I sit, all packed and ready to go, eyelids held open by an infusion of hotel coffee, while the girls clean up their disaster of chip bags, candy wrappers and soda bottles and bag up their wet swimsuits. And I have to ask myself, have I lost ALL sanity? How was it I was ever convinced to partake in such lunacy? When Rosie asked for this weeks ago, I thought: what a nice reward for my straight A/ student council/ star soccer player. What a special treat for a young lady turning 13 years old. Why not?

Now I know why not. If I ever consider doing this again with any of my other kids, I beg of you, talk me down!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks .... Again

A couple days ago we enjoyed a nice, if uneventful, Thanksgiving. No dossiers in the making, no kids waiting in the wings, no far-flung vacations (dreamt of, but never fleshed out).
Instead we cooked a traditional Turkey Day dinner for our core family of 8 plus about 5 of our relations. Two turkeys plus a chicken, Big Mama's cornbread dressing, yams, Mae's corn casserole, about 5 pies, etc, etc, (burp) etc. It was all quite yummy to be sure but, quite frankly, I don't know if 10 - 12 hours of cooking can be justified by "yummy".
What else have we done besides cook and eat? Well, we're currently in the company of James' best friend Madiyar from Mass, who flew in on Friday. They've enjoyed a few quiet days of hanging out together and speaking rapid-fire Russian. We've had a couple other friends over as well from time to time and have kept busy stringing lights, throwing away moldy caved in pumpkins, and watching the first of the Christmas movies. We've begun the process of addressing and stuffing the envelopes of our Christmas cards, which always seems to take sooo much longer than I think it will. Though a dear friend of mine told me I get the prize for being the first Christmas card she received, I'm quite sure I will be the last for someone as well.

Tomorrow I will put M back on a Massachusetts-bound plane, take a couple kids to a couple appointments, and with any luck cook up some turkey soup for dinner. Tues will begin school again and we'll be back to the grind. But as long as that grind includes Christmas, I'll be happy. Call me a sap but I love the whole sloppy mess.

But I digress from the whole point of the post, which was Thanksgiving. To wrap it all up with a pretty bow, here's what I posted about the day two years ago, when we were fresh off the boat (er, plane) from Kazakhstan:

Giving Thanks.....
... For:
the smell of turkey roasting
pumpkin pie
when one of my kids says, "You make the best (xyz) EVER!"
Rosie's turkey pictures
Christmas music on the radio
family games
watching A Christmas Story with the kids on the couch
my comfy bed
getting closer and closer to a "good night's sleep"
washing laundry in my washing machine (instead of the bottom of a shower)
drying laundry in my dryer (instead of draped over radiators)
first trip back to the farm for fresh milk
Sophie's neuroses, and her cuteness
healthy happy children
wonderful, caring, helpful extended family
friends I've met along the way
Borya
Ylia

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Pat on the Back for my Girl ....




From one of Rosie's teachers today:

Mrs....,
I wanted to let you know that I am giving Rosie a Wolf Ticket today for her overall performance in class. I have been very impressed with her both academically and socially all year! She is so polite and kind to her classmates and her teachers. On the academic end of things, she is always completing her work on time and participates in class on a regular basis. I know that a lot of times, the students who are always doing the right thing get left out of the Wolf Ticket program and I don’t want this to happen to Rosie! I have already seen Rosie for the day, so she is unaware I have done this. Feel free to share the news with her. I am proud of her and I am certain it will continue throughout the rest of the year!



~Ms. S

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sign of the Times

My daughter gave me her Christmas list yesterday. Well, first of all, she didn't "give" it to me. She forwarded it to me. From GoogleDocs.
Gone are the days of adorable Santa wish lists with misspelled, oversized words that slant down the page.
This was a neatly typed list, no spelling errors in sight, with hperlinks to the products requested that I might better view the items and have access to all pertinent ordering information.
While the efficient me loved the practicality of such a list, the mushy me was ready to cry reminiscent tears remembering back to some of the lists of days gone by. Lists that implored Santa to bring a Babrbie laptop and Barbie boots and a Barbie RV. Lists that asked for a jumprope and an Easy Bake Oven. Letters that inquired as to the health of Mrs. Claus and the elves, and wished Santa a safe flight. Little drawings. Sniff. Letters that smelled of purple crayon and spilled juice. Sniff, sniff.
I'll be alright. Just give me a moment.....

Resolution Time?

I know it's only November, but I'm thinking I already need a resolution, b/c clearly I'm not making the time for writing. Letting life's busy-ness push aside things that are important and fulfilling to me.
So from now on, I am going to say no to some of the should do's and yes to some of the optionals.
Like just today, for example. What I should have done with the kids was put away the patio furniture and cut back some of the plantings for the winter. What we did instead was go to the library, followed by some driveway games, and topped off with a walk into the fields to pet the ponies and do their hair all pretty. On our way back in through the barn, just for good measure, we stopped to pet the bunnies. Minnie was furtive as ever and Alice is just enormous, no other word for it. She's roughly the size of a cocker spaniel at this point.

And know what? I'm not done yet. Tonight I'm taking them out to the movies, goldangit. Just try to stop me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What To Post, What To Post?

It is such a paradox that my life seems busy to the point that I actually feel winded, yet when I pause for a moment to post to the blog, I've got nothin'.
I mean, I haven't updated in a couple weeks. I should be able to write volumes. Perhaps it's just that it all seems so darn mundaaaane.
After all, where's the fun in writing about parent meetings at CCD? Never mind that I was asked to come to said meeting in error, b/c it was geared towards parents of confirmation candidates. But how do you get up and walk out on the grey-haired director of the religious ed program when she's in the middle of reading scripture?
Should I have written about the day I had to drive back and forth to Wilmington (an hour away) not once but twice in one day? Once for myself (wonder why I need therapy), then another "family counselling" session for all the kids and myself, followed by individual appointments for all the kids of mine with letters behind their names to see the doc (it's med check time). Let's not even talk about the fact that I had to go in yet again last night for one kid's individual appointment and yes, you guessed it, again tomorrow for another kid. Wonder if they'll let me rent a cot in the office?
Are carpool details blogworthy? I'm thinking no. Even though some of us nearly came to blows this week over some misunderstandings of who would be driving whom. No sooner did we get it all sorted out and planned for the remainder of the week then the rest of the practices for the week were cancelled.
I could journal my experience chaperoning the 2 day/overnight field trip to a camp with the 6th graders, but I'm working hard with my therapist to put that all behind me.
Would my readers find it interesting that we had to shell out hundreds of dollars in cavity repairs for our kids this week and we're not done yet? That we're behind on laundry? That no matter where my weary eyes look around this house they find something that should be picked up, put away, paid, fixed, or cleaned? Doubtful.
Perhaps I should detail the decisions I make day to day. Like:
Should I retrieve the runaway ponies this instant or wait until I can put the perishables in the fridge?
Do I drop what I'm doing to put an end to yet another squabble or let them work it out (ie rip each other's throats out like wolves)?
Should I cut all James' curls off like he wants or hide all the scissors?
Keep an iron will for the needed weight loss or give in to chocolate?
Cook a meal or pick up the phone?

So I'm sorry to disappoint, my blog friends, but I've got nothin' for ya'.

Better luck next week .....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Caboose

Almost forgot to add Daniel's first day of school. Hey, he started school a couple days after the others, so don't look at me that way!

Have your best year yet, Daniel!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Day of School (3 Weeks Late)

Learn lots, Bella.....

Have a great day Julie!

Rosie, your project turned out great. Nice job!

Time to go scope the freshman girls, James. Keep that smile turned on....

I know, I know, Patrick, sophomores have no time for Moms and their 1st-day-of-school-pictures. Have a nice day young man!

Bye kids, I'll miss you!
(Woo-hooooo!)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Must be doin' somethin' right......

Had a full docket this afternoon. Had to run out for appointments and carpools for about 4 hours, but lucky for me I've got great kids. Julie cooked and served dinner for the rest of the kids. Patrick unloaded the dishwasher and Daniel emptied the kitchen trash and took it downstairs to the garage. All without adult supervision.

If I'm not careful I'm going to be out of a job soon....

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Visit From PawPaw and Granny Caggy and Aunt Mary

And what a lovely visit it was.

There was help finishing summer homework.




There were family outings.



There were card games learned and games played.




And of course, lots of love.....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How do you spell 'cute'?

How do you spell 'will'?
.......

How do you spell 'miss'?
.......

How do you spell 'all'?
........

Fresh Air Fund












New York City.
Long bus ride.
Meet new family.
In the country.
See cows grazing.
See plows working.

Smell by-products 8-(.

Greet brothers, sisters.
Hugs from family.
Swim in pool.
Pet the ponies.
Hold the bunnies.
Goodnight from bunk.

Bowl a strike!
Pick a tomato.
Family game night.
Family dinner time.
Say the grace.

See the pond.
Play with dogs.
Help with chores.
Play video games
(Rot the brain).

Form new friendships.
Count the stars.
Go for walks.
Chase the butterflies.
Discover new life.

Pack the bags.
Give hugs goodbye.
Promise to return.
Climb on bus.
Wave goodbye.
Home to Mommy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Obrin and the Great Outdoors

Obrin doesn't seem to like being outdoors as much as we had expected. Guess it's just not what he's used to. I tried to encourage him to climb a tree this morning but he was having none of it. But he finally agreed to smile for the camera while actually touching the tree.



He did seem to like the vegetable garden, though, and picked a nice tomato.




Rite of Passage


Can we talk?
A whispered secret.
Clothes rinsed out.
A drawer opened.
Some guidance given.
Mark the calendar.
Hug girl goodbye.
Greet young woman.


(Mum's the word)

Family Game Night


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