Thursday, April 30, 2009

Memory Replacement Therapy

One summer day, my stepmother plopped a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex in my arms and sent me outside to clean the windows. No vinegar or fancy squeegees or Miracle Cloths or sheets of anti-streaking newspaper for my family. Just me and my paper towels and lots of elbow grease.

As I stepped out onto our porch and began spraying the large picture window next to the front door, an elderly couple who was visiting us at the time took their place inside the house at the same window. They proceeded to supervise my every move by shouting directions through the pane. I tried to ignore their muffled orders, since I was 15 years old and perfectly capable of cleaning windows all by myself, but they would rap the glass with their knuckles until they got my attention. They made sure to point out every spot I'd missed and motion toward the areas I hadn't yet reached. That dear little couple literally had nothing better to do that afternoon than ensure the windows achieved sparkling perfection.

I was not able to appreciate their intentions. In fact, with each passing moment I grew more and more enraged . . . then defensive . . . then frustrated . . . then miserable, until I felt hot tears building . . . pooling . . . threatening to spill down my burning red cheeks. I put my stuff down and took a break. Perhaps they would grow weary of waiting for me to return to the windows and find a crossword puzzle to fill out or a cup of tea to drink or an afghan to place over their laps while they sat in a rocking chair. But noooooo. They kept a sharp eye out, and as soon as I returned to my chore, they took up their sentry position, bony fingers at the ready.

My parents raised me right, so I managed to get through the next hour of cleaning every stinkin' window on the ground floor with those two old people bossing me around. I didn't sass back or stick out my tongue, although I did amuse myself by freezing my face in a big smile while whispering some choice words, ventriloquist-like, behind tightly clenched teeth.

Cleaning windows while at the mercy of geriatric drill sergeants is an experience I wouldn't wish on a CEO from AIG. So why is it, that horrible day is what I recall when I look at this picture?

My mom handmade these tiny crystal angels, no bigger than the tip of your pinky, for each of my daughters. I hung them on a window that receives the morning sun, so I will be reminded each new day how precious and loved my girls are—by me, by Grandma, by God. Right outside this window is a lovely stand of trees, with a sweet baby spruce at the front.

Much better.

Dinner last night: baked ziti, antipasto green salad

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy Blogiversary to Me

I know you won't believe this, but I just now realized that it's been exactly one year since I started this blog o' mine. I am one of those horribly unsentimental people who let all kinds of important dates slip right on by with nary a comment, let alone a gift or card. I remember my kids' birthdays, of course, but rarely do I commemorate my wedding anniversary or Valentine's Day. You can forget about St. Patrick's Day or Grandparents' Day, because I certainly do. My husband lucked out big time when he married me, because when it comes to the Five Love Languages, I do not speak gifts and he totally got away with that one Christmas when he didn't buy me a single present. I know! Most women would divorce a guy over such an egregious transgression, but I was remarkably okay with it.

I actually was working on a little post with pictures from the gorgeously sunny day we had yesterday, when I noticed the date at the top of my monitor. I had told myself months ago not to forget April 29, because I could take advantage of it and offer a giveaway or something to market myself. Readers would flock to my blog and . . . 

. . .  I'm back now. Sorry about that, I fell off my chair laughing. It was one of those desperate, needy laughs that is altogether unpleasant and my falling resulted in a bruised buttock. That's what I get for using the word blogiversary. Still, I don't want to let this one slide by like I did my 100th post. I mean, one year of writing on a fairly consistent basis has got to count for something, doesn't it? DOESN'T IT??!! she shrieked at the silent screen.

So what have I learned in one year?

Most blogs don't last. I am amazed at how many interesting blogs have come and gone in the past year. It's always shocking, because one day they just disappear. Deleted! Or they completely stop publishing. You're going along, checking your favorite site a couple times a week, and the posts stop. No explanation! You keep checking for awhile, and then once every couple of months, and then you accept that it's over. Occasionally, you wonder whatever happened to that person whose life you were following? Are they okay? I promise that if I ever decide to stop blogging (shut up, one-time visitor, who's thinking YES! PLEASE STOP BLOGGING! YOU STINK! I'M OUTTA HERE!), I will leave you a carefully-worded resignation letter.

When you first start a blog, you look at the world through bloggy eyes. I found that tendency in myself really annoying, but I couldn't stop. I was constantly observing everyone around me with a secret agenda. Is that conversation something I could blog about? Should I take a picture of that event and write about it? The upside to this malady is that I started looking at my routine world in an entirely different light. I began noticing the extraordinary moments in an otherwise ordinary day. My bloggy eyes only lasted about 6 months or so and now here I am on the morning of my ONE-YEAR BLOGIVERSARY writing on the fly without any concern whatsoever regarding content or style or reader-interest, which I am so going to regret the second I hit "publish post."

I was an ignoramus when I created my blog. I did not know one thing about uploading pictures, posting videos, or I read my stepsister's blog and thought to myself That's a cool idea! I hit the "create your own blog" button on a whim, without any forethought, let alone research, which—in retrospect—I realize would have saved me from naming my site The Mommy Machine. THE MOMMY MACHINE? Really??!! Way to alienate half the population, as well as all childless women. Not a single person has e-mailed me to say, "Kim, your blog name is so intriguing. What does it mean? How did you come up with it? Why, oh, why couldn't I have created such a brilliant name as The Mommy Machine? Surely it took weeks of sleepless nights to come up with that one. No? You thought up that gem in two seconds? You're a genius!"

When I first started blogging, I didn't know who my audience would be. I wrote in secret for a couple of months, while I got the hang of it. I kid you not, I didn't even tell my husband! I didn't know what I was doing and I wasn't sure I wanted anyone to read what I had to say. Like most mommy bloggers, I figured my site would offer more of a family newsletter for friends and relatives. What's interesting is that hardly any of my family or friends read my blog! It's not for a lack of subtly-worded emails on my part requesting their attention. I guess my Christmas letter is more than enough information for them to handle. So thank you, Hen and Kel, Barbara, and Aunt Janny for letting me know that you do, in fact, stop by once in a while.

And to the rest of you who have never even met me in real life? YOU ROCK. Thank you so much for your interest, your kind words, and your fantastic blogs that I look forward to reading each week. I am sorry that I don't have a giveaway for you on this important date. It would have been lovely to reward my two faithful readers with a gift or a card or SOMETHING other than my coffee-fueled blathering. The best I can do is say THANK YOU. Sincerely. From the heart. Thanks for popping in and checking out what's going on in my part of the world. You keep me going.

Dinner last night: grilled chicken, baked beans, potato salad

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fool on a Sewing Machine

I was fortunate to grow up in a time when 4-H and Girls Scouts were "in." Maybe it wasn't the time, but the place . . . are kids still participating in these clubs down in the states? I know that they are popular in the small towns of Alaska, and I owe much to both groups for teaching me many skills—especially the fundamentals of sewing. They've come in handy lately.

Every third grader at my 8-year-old's school was assigned an historical figure to research and write a paper about. They all then worked together to create a "Wax Museum," by dressing up as their heroes and posing in front of small sets they had created. My daughter was Pocahontas.

Have you seen the prices of ready-made Native American costumes lately? Factor in the shipping costs to the Last Frontier, and you're talking a small fortune to dress your child for a school activity. I figured I could save a few bucks and make the outfit myself.

Some cooks are messy in the kitchen, and some cooks clean up as they go. Take a look at my sewing table and then try to guess which kind of cook I am.

Pocahontas' dress.
The design was quite simple, but required a meticulous eye for lining everything up. The only reason you're not looking at a bunch of squiggles and butchered fabric is because my mom, the ├╝berseamstress, stepped in and removed the marking wheel from my hand before I could cause any lasting damage. She marked all the lines for me, cut the fringe, and then hid any and all sewing implements from me so that I couldn't "touch up" anything.

If the Pocahontas dress wasn't enough, my eldest daughter had to go and try out for a play in which she was cast as a princess. I found tons of princess dresses online, but they were either super cheap looking (really bad nylon-type fabric) or $100 each. Yikes! Nothing in the dress-up closet fits her any more, so I headed to the fabric store, bought a pattern, and found some material on sale.

Princess Petunia.
This was the most complicated article of clothing I have ever sewn, but I can honestly say that I did most of the work myself. My mom did save my bacon, though, by making the ruffle on the bottom and helping me with that pesky insert? inlay? (the piece that provides modesty) at the neckline.

Dinner last night: Chinese buffet

Friday, April 24, 2009

7 Quick Takes

It's been a busy week—I have a house full of company and the computer seems to be in constant use by someone or another. I normally get up before the rest of the household to blog, but I've got a certain early-riser staying with me who beats me to the family room each morning to check stocks and read the online paper. He's a former Marine who taught me about "Rise and Shine" and "O'Dark-Thirty," so I don't stand a chance of waking before he does.

That's my rambling way of saying, "I don't have a post today." Because I've only got about 10 minutes this morning to sit down and blog, I'm taking a page out of Conversion Diary's book. She reserves Fridays for "7 Quick Takes," a rapid jotting down of seven random thoughts without any worries about writing a coherent piece.

1. Susan Boyle. I can't believe how cynical I am, but the moment I watched this clip I figured the producers had set it up. Perhaps they are trying to recapture the lightening in a bottle that was Paul Potts. Now I don't necessarily think Miss Boyle was in on it—she seems to be an absolutely lovely, talented, authentic person who deserves every bit of adoration that she is receiving. But Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan? Big fakers.

2. I try to spare the two of you who read this blog by not writing about my fanaticism toward the TV show, Survivor. That said, I am now going to write like the fan that I am . . . I was pleased with the booting of Tyson last night. I think he was very smart and I dug the way he could deliver his hilariously sarcastic comments with such a straight face, but he was one mean dude toward Sierra. Viewers never saw her behaving in a more negative way than anyone else, but if she was as horrible as the rest of the players were saying to each other, then Tyson was a smart and powerful jerk picking on a dumb and powerless girl. Go JT and Stephen! Woot!

3. My oldest daughter is driving me cur—azy with a song/dance that she and her 5th grade friends are learning. They've compiled a various assortment of lyrics and motions from movie scenes as well as from their imaginations into a complicated routine, and my big girl practices it over and over and over and over and over and over and over. And over. In the car. At the dining table. In my bathroom when I'm trying to brush my teeth. On the sidewalk as we're walking to the library. Any where, any time, my daughter will bust a move or belt out a song. Help me, Rhonda.

4. I keep seeing and hearing on an almost daily basis a quotation attributed to Margaret Thatcher. I've seen it in the paper and on blogs, received it in emails, and heard it on the radio and in conversations. "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." If I didn't know better, I'd think that the economy is on a lot of Americans' minds.

5. Scribbit posted about making her own mozarella cheese. I love sliced fresh mozarella and fresh tomatoes. LOVE it.

6. I don't have a good view of Mt. Redoubt so I haven't been able to take any decent pictures, but saddlepotatoes went up in her husband's plane and got some fabulous shots of the volcano.

7. TGIF. I no longer work outside the home, but I still find myself feeling giddy at the thought of the weekend. So much potential. You can clean out the garage in a weekend. Or put in a garden. Or lay around and read a novel. Whatever your plans are for this weekend, have a great one!

Dinner last night: spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread, steamed carrots

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cold Morning

Technically, it is spring. The sun shines brightly . . . but its rays are without warmth. The grass is showing . . . but lawns stand brittle and brown. Trees wave gently in the morning breeze . . . but their limbs look thin and naked without leaves.

Shadows stretch out long.

Thin sheets of ice over mud puddles
break up like shards of glass.

Patches of alders stand useless,
with no leaves to offer shelter and
their choicest bark stripped away by hungry moose.

Tightly closed buds reach for the sun, though,
and soon the trees will recover.

Dinner last night: sour cream enchiladas, refried beans, sweet corn

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

These Boots are Made for Walkin'

Now that the twins are closing in on their third birthday, they are demanding to go outside every day. I am happy to oblige, as the destruction they wreak on the back yard is much less aggravating than their indoor messes. I've accomplished little in the way of housework this spring, but I'm enjoying my daily dose of fresh air . . . and watching the girls play is good for my soul. Late mornings, you can usually find us strolling down a dirt road.

God bless the person who invented rubber boots.

Sticks . . .

. . . and stones . . . 

. . . go nicely into people's newspaper boxes.

I've managed to thoroughly agitate these dogs . . .
My work here is done.

Let's head back home for lunch and a nap.

Dinner last night: chicken pot pie, tossed green salad

Monday, April 20, 2009

Old Lady in the Snow

Every time I walk down to the mailbox, I am startled by our tree wrapped in burlap to keep the moose from eating its bark. EVERY TIME.

Dinner last night: roasted chicken sandwiches

Friday, April 17, 2009

Serenity Now

I thought it would be nice to take a photo of Grandma with her granddaughters dressed up in all their Easter finery. Is it asking too much for people to sit still for five seconds with open eyes and a normal smile? Why, yes, Kim. Yes, it is. 

Quiet on the set! Easter Portrait . . . Take One! What the . . . ? CUT! Someone get those two to open their eyes, please.

Okay, let's try this again. Easter Portrait . . . Take Two! For crying out loud . . . CUT!! Now the little one has her eyes closed.

This is it. C'mon now! Let's get serious. Easter Portrait . . . Take Three! Wait . . . what are you doing? CUT!!!!!

Please, people! Quiet on the set! Easter Portrait . . . Take Four! Annnnd . . . CUT!!!! Why in the world are those two girls tilting their heads like that?

Let's try this one more time. Easter Portrait . . . Take Five! Okay, girls, give us a great big smile! Whoa! Not that big! I said, not that big of a smile! Tone it down! You look insane! Hey! Toothless kid!! You look crazy! CUT!!!!!!

Places! Easter Portrait . . . Take Six! Alright, girls, lookin' good . . . wait a minute! Did you not hear what I just said about toning it down? CUT!!! Someone wipe that enormous grin off the kid in the middle.

Beautiful! Hold it right there, girls! I think we've got it! Easter Portrait . . . Take Seven! Hold that smile . . . hold it . . .

Oh, no. You've got to be kidding me. CUT!!!!!!!

Dinner last night: Hawaiian pizza

Thursday, April 16, 2009

They're Weird, But I Love 'Em

When I was a kid, my sister and I dyed real eggs. My mom would hide them on Easter morning and we'd search for them. It wasn't until I was 30 years old that I discovered other families hid chocolate eggs and plastic eggs full of candy and money.

I was educated by a friend of mine, who regaled me with stories of her family's annual Easter celebrations. All the mothers filled dozens and dozens of plastic eggs with candy and marked a special egg for every child. Inside each special egg they tucked $20!

My friend told me about the year that she was in charge of hiding all the eggs outdoors while everyone ate dinner inside; she hid the eggs so well, they couldn't find one of the money eggs. They looked in all the children's baskets, in case one of them had accidentally picked it up. No money egg. The adults split up and scoured the property, lifting stones and checking tree branches. No money egg. To this day, the whereabouts of that money egg remains a mystery. It has become a family legend, how great an egg-hider my friend is.

I'm a odd mix of naivete and street smarts, I guess, because—although I had never heard of a money egg until her story and had, in fact, not participated in her family's Easter egg hunt—I knew exactly where that money egg was hidden. In Uncle Ernie's shirt pocket. Or maybe under little Benjamin's hat. That egg was found by a devious family member who knew how to keep his mouth shut. But I digress.

I've tried over the years to do the same thing. Not hide $20 bills, but hide eggs full of candy and coins. And you know what? My girls prefer real eggs. They're not going to spit out a jelly bean if it accidentally falls into their mouth, but they really do get excited about collecting the most hen-laid eggs in their baskets. It means a good three days of yummy high cholesterol snacks. Tell me, what kid doesn't love a hard-boiled egg with a little salt? Or an egg-salad sandwich on whole wheat bread? Oh, right. Most kids.

Dinner last night: ham and bean soup, cornbread

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Princess Central

"Four girls." "FOUR girls." "Four GIRLS." No matter how you say it, that's a lot of princess dresses.

My twin daughters recently discovered the closet that houses all the make-believe clothes that their older sisters have collected over the years. The gowns, tiaras, and slippers that their grandmas and aunties have bought them. The Disney outfits that friends have passed on to us after their daughters outgrew them. The Halloween costumes that I've made each October. And the princess dresses. Holy Snow White, the princess dresses.

Milady would like her tea and crumpets now.

Dinner last night: ham-potato bake, green peas, salad

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Iceberg Graveyard

April is the month when I notice tiny birds pecking in the brown grass, look around at the blue sky, turn my face toward the bright sun, and think to myself Yay! Spring is here! After counting five straight days of dry pavement, I nudge my husband. My annual declaration of "I think it's time to take the snowtires off the minivan" is usually followed the very next day by a raging storm that leaves at least half a foot of snow on the ground. 

Spring is not a lot of fun in Alaska. We call this time of year "Break-Up." It involves snowing and melting, thawing and freezing, expanding and retracting. And mud. Lots and lots of mud. Still, there's a certain appeal to dirty water.

If you walk down to the edge of the trees,
you can see for yourself.

The silty water rushes quickly by,
carrying large chunks of ice away from land.

As the tide goes out,
lopsided icebergs settle down to rest on the muddy flats.

Dinner last night: Italian chicken strips, fruit salad

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rising from the Ashes

You may take my title literally—since I've recently enjoyed the dumping of ash from Mt. Redoubt's volcano upon my head—but metaphorically speaking, I feel rather like a phoenix emerging golden and reborn from seeming death. Perhaps I embellish with the phoenix reference. 

Maybe I'm more like a molting eagle,
preparing to take off from the beach
and soar among the clouds . . .

Alright, alright. I'm just a raggedy-tag mother lumbering toward her computer at o'dark thirty, steaming mug of coffee in her hand and a thrill in her heart, happy at the thought of returning to one of her very favorite pasttimes after six weeks of self-imposed exile from the Internet.

Since we don't have a single phoenix in Alaska (I hear it's too cold up here for them to nest properly), these pictures of eagles will have to do. 

I feel refreshed and renewed and ready to fly.

Hello, cyberworld! Kim is back and ready to blog.

Dinner last night: Easter ham, scalloped potatoes, asparagus, tossed green salad, crescent rolls, lemon cheesecake