Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eat That!

"Well... you're just lucky you didn't have to eat what we had to eat when we were kids!"  Now, before I launch into my "I had to eat the yuckiest stuff ever as a kid story," be assured that I am aware of many out there  - many in our own communities - who do not have enough or maybe anything at all to eat.  It's not right.  I have never gone without food.  I have been blessed beyond belief.  My mom cooked and baked and served many delicious meals. This is merely an example of a parental experience that illustrates how food can consume us - ironically - while we are consuming it.
Our son was lamenting about how I once substituted waffle fries for tater tots in the wildly popular and gourmet "Tater Tot Casserole."  He's right.  It wasn't good.  But, what he doesn't understand is that it was not bad either.  It simply was.
To further illustrate this point, my husband and I somehow read each others' minds and quickly staged the biggest, baddest one up-man-ship contest you ever saw... in the Burns house, anyway.  I kicked it all off with,
ME:"Did you ever have to eat beef heart - under the auspices that it was simply meat?"
HIM:"No... but did you ever have pimento loaf sandwiches with a side of pickled herring?"
ME:"Yes... I mean, no.  I have seen pimento loaf and I have eaten pickled herring... separately.  But what about liver and onions... twice a month?"
HIM:"No we didn't have it twice a month... we had it once a week!"
This is where the kids offered their squinched up noses and ewwws and ick comments.
ME:"And what about oyster stew... every Christmas Eve?"
HIM:"Yes. We did that too.  Kids, you don't know how good you've got it!  When's the last time you had to eat anything that had to be fished out of a pool of hot milk and when you finally captured it and slurped it up, you were sure that someone accidentally dropped an eyeball with a rubber gasket around it in your bowl?!"
HIM:"And when's the last time you ate a Miracle Whip and peanut butter sandwich?"
That's where I had to stand down.  Who knows why anyone would ever eat that?  Thank you, Mom for never coming up with that combination.
ME: "And gizzards!  Have we ever even shown you a gizzard - let alone, put one in your food?"
HIM: "Yeah... gizzards.  We had to eat 'em with sauerkraut!"
Okay, so we were going off the deep end for a moment and this is where our son interrupted with, "What's a gizzard?"  Everything was going fine... until then.  For whatever reason, the Dad in this family decided to give a quick anatomy lesson on bird digestive parts - all of them.  Let me just say that when it was over, my ten year old son was laughing so hard, his face was the color of stewed tomatoes (something else I had to eat) and he couldn't catch his breath... and I ended up leaving the table out of sheer disgust.
When the laughing fits ended (both son and father were suffering from gasping for air), my daughter, quietly added, "I liked the waffle fries."  What she meant was, "Someone put me out of my misery... now."
I'm not sure any lessons were learned... Just thankful no one at my house ever said after running into one another, "Hey! You got your peanut butter in my miracle whip!  No, you got your miracle whip in my peanut butter!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Worry Not

Happiness is so much more attainable than we think it is.  Contentment is also sitting right next door.   If only we continued to have the wisdom and faith of children.  Last night, my son was working quite fervently on an origami project.  He is usually uber-quite when making those detailed folds, so it is my job not to bother him.  He's never asked this of me.  It's just an understanding that we have.  So I was surprised when he blurted, "Mom, do I have to go sit with the children for the story of Baby Jesus and all that at Christmas mass this year?"  Since we are in the last days of September, I had to ask him to repeat his question.  "Mom, I mean do I to have to sit on the floor with all the little kids when the priest says, 'Hey, kids, get up here!'?"  First of all, I don't remember the priest ever saying that.  Second, why in the heck was he thinking about that now??  I calmly responded with, "I guess not.  But what made you think of that?"  And here's the wisdom.  "Well, mom, I was thinking about origami for ... like presents and stuff.  Then I was thinking about going to church.  Then I was thinking about sitting on the floor with little kids. Then I was thinking I'm too old for that.  Then I started worrying about it.  Then I thought it would be much better to just ask you now, so I don't have to worry about if for months and months."
You might ask yourself what kind of kid worries about something so trivial.  But that's the beauty of it - the things he worries about are usually fixable.  And he has learned that.  So get it out.  Be done.  Get happy again.  That's his mantra.
Later in the evening, he asked me about Santa.  He asked me if God knows Santa.  I replied with, "I think so... do you?"  Then he confided that he thinks we (his parents) just get the presents and then hide.  But as soon as that came out of his mouth, he recanted with, "Yeah, but I would know if it was you, right, mom?" (all the time staring me down, looking for any ticks or winks that would maybe clue him in)  He hesitated for a moment and then said,  "Oh, I don't know mom, I'm just going with that the guy comes down the chimney and God knows him and it's all happy."  And off to slumberville he went.
And there you have it.  Don't worry.  Be happy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The King and I

Something has changed.   Although it's been coming on, it was not until a moment that happened about twelve minutes ago,  I realized the transfer of power is now complete.  Oh, many changes have come about in the last week since King Henry - King of the Shi-Poos - has taken the throne.  For example, I should have sensed the change was now permanent when I realized that I have been up before break of day (waaaay before dawn) for the last seven days.  I should have clued in when I realized the first aroma that meets me in the mudroom is that of a healthy blend of vegetables, protein, and crunchy goodness that ensures a shiny coat.  I definitely knew something was brewing when as I sat at the breakfast table this morning, over my bowl of Life cereal - the same breakfast I have methodically eaten for the last twenty years - I slowly became aware of a whirl of high speed chase spinning around me and the entire first floor.  King Henry was evidently ready for his daily exercise.  This included a full throttle, four legged, ears flying sprint that began in the kitchen, skidded through the dining room, flipped up the floor rug in the office, and ended with a curtain-billowing race behind the sofa - about seventeen times.  These all should have been the tell-tale signs that a puppy has been crowned and is now wielding his authority at the Burns house.
However, the "Ah-ha Moment" that confirmed that I have become a peasant in my own home was when I returned to my home this morning after a few hours of classroom volunteering.  The excitement that my puppy feels when he sees me... somehow... makes him lose control of his bodily functions.  It's very flattering.  Not really.  So after much consulting, reading and discussion of these matters, I have been lead to believe that if I want to stop this behavior, I need to approach the King at his level.  This means that I have to go all "Mission Impossible" through the living room until he comes into view.  At that point, I then get down on all fours and oh so carefully, approach his crate with my eyes meeting his - so he knows  I am not interested in dominating him... and ultimately he is supposed to keep his fluids in the appropriate storage areas of his body.  I am not talk to him or pet him until we are outside and the deed has been done.
But here's my question... what if I do want to be the boss... and I want him to know that?  For the love of Pete, I want some living being in this house to know that I am in charge!  It's not enough that I have become a professional schlepper of kids, their belongings, their companions, and their companion's belongings - now here I am - army crawling through my living room in the dark of night, using code words and signals - just to schlep my dog out the door to use the outdoor facilities!  What have I become?
And there it is.  He may look all cute and furry... but at the end of the day, he's just a soft, happy, friendly bundle of pent up fluids.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bifocals and Junk Food

I have some new information that will no doubt be very important to the world of marketing!  Now I know why all the sugar-infested, fatty, delicious, super-gooey food is arranged on the middle shelves of the super markets!  It's not what you think - no, it's not for those short people in our lives that are made into zombies for a few seconds each time they see a package of Sponge Bob or Fred Flintstone snarfing down something crunchy, chocolaty, or sticky - no, I've got the answer!  Those middle shelves are reserved for ... people with bifocals!!!  That's the only damn shelf we can see!  Except, the experts are totally misreading their audience - they need to place items like "Super Smart Vitamins for Middle Aged People" and "Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches that Make You Look Younger" in those hot spots!  Heck, they could put anything there that looked edible or age-defying - and whatever it was would be flying off those shelves like hot-cakes!
Yes.  I am wearing and adjusting to my new "progressive-lensed" eye wear.  When choosing my new specs, I really tried to find something funky that would somehow "young-up" the trauma of ordering bifocals.  The new pair are quite fine.  I just didn't anticipate the inadvertent nodding and swaying of my head.  I may have needed to consider purchasing a head strap or something. When I first put them on in the eyeglass clinic, I was ecstatic - I could see!!  Later, I went for a walk with my bifocal sunglasses, and I had a very odd sensation.
When I was a kid, we used to hang out on Friday nights in the basement (rec. room) of whosever parents were hosting the Bridge party.  We kept ourselves busy with activities like pretending we knew how to play pool, making shrinky dinks, or shocking the heck out of the "Operation" guy.  One of these friends had a Hams Beer sign in their rec room that lit up.  What was different and "cool" about it though was the fact that it had some scenery of a mountain and river that actually changed from season to season - all within a five minute period.  It did this over and over again.  One time, due to some 1970s lighted sign malfunction, the sign broke and would only change from winter to spring, winter to spring, repeatedly - kind of quickly.  If you let your eyes settle on it too long, it would eventually make you want to vomit.
And this my friends, is how it feels to one day be skipping along in a harmless, half-blind fashion wearing single vision glasses - to walking along a path being strapped up with your first pair of bifocals - shamelessly asking fellow walkers where the nearest rest room is.
So once that pleasant sensation subsided, I found myself in Target... again. As I was looking for something that was half healthy, didn't contain peanuts or tree nuts, non-dairy and gluten free for school snacks for my children, I was shocked and amazed at the visual clarity of that middle to low shelf.  The Kashi Wonder Twigs were not nearly as visible as the Avatar Air-Bender Fruit Snacks!  And the colorful Danimals Crush Cups were far more eye-catching than the plain ol' Market Pantry tubes of lemon yogurt.
So, either the marketers are feeling sorry for the middle-aged, visually impaired and want them to feel more youthful by allowing them to only be able to read the labels of the Toy Story Easy Mac - or - they are just banking on the fact that we will only buy what we can read.  I just know the response from my seven and ten year old after helping me bring in the groceries was much more enthusiastic than usual.  I actually heard one of them say, "Dad must have done the shopping - this stuff is way too good!"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

By The Pool...

This week has left me with so much to write about - but nothing that anyone would want to read.  So, I pulled out my handy dandy Book of Write - and searched for an idea.  This was the prompt.  "By the pool..." And only one story came to mind.  Sorry sister... it had to be told.
Back in the old days, before computers, cell phone, wiis, and the like, there was something called "figure out how to have fun on your own."  There was also something called, "In the summer, you must have swimming lessons!"  So the summers essentially, belonged to the two of us: me and my sister - except for swimming lessons.  Without fail, for three weeks of each summer, our day began at 7:30 am so that we could be sitting on the edge of the outdoor pool in new one piece swimming suits to begin the bobs of torture and laps featuring the newly learned whip kick at exactly 8:00 am.
Now I want you to picture something for a moment: two girls whose hair had not yet been combed, toast crumbs still in the corners of their mouths, shivering in their awkward bodies (because June in Iowa is often still in its infancy - and rarely hands out temperatures higher than the 60s at 8:00 am).  So, it was often a bit nippy these mornings.  You may ask, why not have lessons in July - when it's too hot for Tarzan?  The answer to that lies somewhere deep in our mother's 1977 rationale for how to start a summer.  We don't know.
Okay, so now you have an idea of how chilly and brisk it could be.. and probably you also have an idea of how enthusiastic we were to be there.  So, one fine June morning, by the pool, we were instructed to jump in and start doing 500 bobs - or something.  It was frigid.  So cold, that before the lessons began, we had been crouched up in our towels by the side of the pool while our teeth chattered.  When the Rico Suave instructor finally appeared with his bleach blond hair and muscles popping out of everywhere, we all became a little nervous.  When you are a fourth grader, with morning hair, jelly remnants hanging out on your face from your morning toast, and you are sporting a jungle green suit adorned with appliqued white palm trees and criss-cross straps in the back... it seems that the whole world is better looking than you are.  So busting out of your towel and cannon-balling into the -40 degree pool isn't what comes to mind first.  Just ask my sister.
Out of nervousness, or feeling like she needed a parka... she did the unthinkable.  She jumped into the waves of ice... with her towel still wrapped around her.  Now, once you're like over forty and could give a rip about what the rest of the swimming lesson world thinks of you - it's no big deal - just an inconvenience.  But not when you're ten.  When you are ten and you jump in and fully submerge you and your towel in the freezing water in front of your peers and the super hot, Rico Suave swim instructor... it's a little more traumatizing.  And memorable.  So memorable that your little sister (me) can tell the story with such clarity - it's eerie.  What happened next wasn't as pleasant for the little sister.
My sister, quickly aware of her faux pas, spring-boarded out of the pool, threw her sopping wet towel at her laughing sister, and hopped back into the pool to finish out the lesson on the back stroke.  When the lessons were finished, the still-laughing little sister didn't fair so well.  The embarrassed older sister quickly nabbed the only dry towel left (mine), and stormed off to the changing room.  By the time, I caught up to her, my towel was no longer dry.  It was just a pile of wet left on the slimy cement floor.  I guess that was the fine for laughing.  It's okay... it was worth it.   For a chubby eight-year-old with a lazy eye and a bad haircut, it was completely worth it to seem just a little cooler than my older, better-looking, smarter sister... even if it was for just one cold second.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Huckleberry and Friends

"Can I come in your house?"
"Can I have a Popsicle?"
"Do you have any snacks?"
"Can I have a glass of water?"
"I know Karate."
"I can play any kind of music you want on my harmonica."
"I just saw your dad driving in the car." (My Dad lives in Iowa)
"Do you comb your dog every day?" (We don't have a dog)
For those of you that have been around this blog for awhile, you may know exactly where the above listed line of questioning came from.  For the rest of you, I will clue you in: The Boys Are Back in Town!  We have some great neighbors who happen to be the proud grandparents to three rather inquisitive, enthusiastic, friendly, story-telling, visiting about eight times a year, and somewhat-overbearing grandsons.  The boys range in age from five to nine and a half.  These grandsons live "in a forest far, far away in a tree that's like six buildings tall."  Translation: somewhere in Wisconsin.
This past Labor Day weekend, we had the pleasure of their company once again.  I happened to be tree trimming when they arrived.  They like to be involved with all things Burns.  So - you guessed it - I had six little hands joining me by my dead lilac bush, grabbing for the biggest branches possible and then six little feet hauling them off to parts unknown - all within approximately four seconds of arrival on site and then subsequent presence in our back yard.
Our children have always loved when the boys visit because our neighborhood does not include other children their ages, and so they are often found kicking stray sticks and rocks around in our cul-de-sac looking for friends and adventures.  When the boys visit, there is never a spare moment to wonder what to do next.  In fact, at one point during the weekend, my son announced that he and his sister would be "playing in shifts" with the boys - as it can be an athletic and/or Olympic event at times.
Throughout these visits, my husband and I are often barraged with strings of questions and hours of stories.  We know far more about the goings-on in their family life than should be permitted.  But most of the stories are just down right entertaining.  For example, I was enlightened this weekend on the intricacies of housebuilding with the use of just one hand.  I also now know how easy it is to learn how to play a variety of instruments - the middle boy can play the harmonica, the violin, the drums, and a "tootaphone."  He can play any song.  I asked him to play his favorite on the shiny harmonica as he brandished it around in our garage.  He said he needed a little practice first.  I said I'd be happy to wait.  He left.
These boys are kind and generous.  They always bring candy and trinkets for my kids.  They also leave a variety of toys and clothing items around our yard.  There have been several desperate hunts for shoes and sweatshirts in our yard as their parents were backing out of the driveway "politely" announcing their departure time.  So when the sun had set on Sunday evening and it looked like it was time to pack it in for the night, my husband kindly bid the boys a good night and reminded the youngest to take his shoes with him.  To that he replied, "I don't wear shoes anymore, I just lose 'em."  And that's when I heard my husband laugh and call to him, "No problem, have a good night, Huckleberry Finn!"
Good-by summer.  Good-bye boys.  We'll see you when the snow flies - might want to pack some boots, Huckleberry!