possumThough I’m well aware that there’s a lot of wildlife running around our suburban neighborhood (where we’ve lived for 25 years), this morning’s sighting of a possum on our back porch was a new one.

I’ve seen foxes, raccoon, even a deer – complete with antlers – trotting down our street. But this little guy was a complete surprise. Thankfully Middle Sister had her phone and got a quick shot.

In other backyard wildlife news, we have a pair of cardinals for the first time in several years – always a treat.

And our robin family is getting along quite well. We think the little peeps cracked out yesterday. I missed an awesome photo this morning when Mama robin was peeking over the edge of the gutter on the roof, looking at me to see if I noticed her and whether it was safe to swoop over to the nest. You can just barely make out her silhouette here as she sits on the eggs/babies.

nesting robin








Such fun, right here in our own back yard!

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ABC’s of Parenting: “L” is for Laughter

A happy, healthy family laughs together. Being a family can be hard work, but finding the funny side of life makes it easier.

An example of Middle Sister's sense of humor. She and her sister took turns drawing funny pictures for each other on this dry erase board on their door (when they both lived at home).  Note: we are are actually fans of our president and the ACA - the drawing is tongue-in-cheek.

An example of Middle Sister’s sense of humor. She and her sister took turns drawing funny pictures for each other on this dry erase board on their door (when they both lived at home). Note: we are are actually fans of our president and the ACA – the drawing is tongue-in-cheek.

I’ve actually known families in which it seems that not one member ever cracks a smile. That’s a red flag for me. Something is wrong in a system where stony faces/frowns are the norm.

Our family has, you might say, been through more than its fair share of difficult times. The joy we found in just being together is what kept life sane. And now our little world is full of bizarre references and inside jokes, any of which, if said in the presence of another family member, will produce huge laughs.. A few examples from the archives:

Squid Fat Patagonia! These words were the topics of three articles in a National Geographic we had in the house once, and they were the only words that appeared on the spine of the magazine. Their crazy juxtaposition was a delight.

“I want to install a small man” Puzzling words said by The Boy one day when he was driving the Cougar, which the kids shared in high school. His meaning – which definitely required explanation – was that it would be helpful to have some tiny person in the console who would hold his drink while he was driving. Very weird.

Tidbits Pineapple These words appeared on a box we had in our bedroom one spring day while in the process of switching our closets from winter clothes to summer clothes. They amused The Husband so much he took them as his alter identity…we all started receiving texts and calls from him under the name of “Tidbits Pineapple.”

“This is funny in two ways” I once wrote this phrase on my answer slip for the game “Things,” to make sure the reader understood that my answer made two jokes at the same time. I wanted credit for both jokes. We were all in a silly mood, anyway, so this one made us laugh until we couldn’t breathe. And now this sentence is sometimes paraphrased, as in “This is not funny in any ways” or “This is funny in at least one way.” Always good for a laugh.

Laughter really is the best medicine. What family jokes keep you in stitches?

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Beautiful spring evening

This winter felt so long it seemed there would never again come a time when it would be light enough for a walk after dinner.

But tonight, after dinner, I went on a few errands with The Husband and THEN still had plenty of daylight for a walk. On these spring days I’ve enjoyed the parade of blooms:

First – crocuses, then: narcissus, daffodil, snowdrops, forsythia, Bradford pear, hyacinth, tulip trees…and now phlox, tulips, bugles, redbuds, and flowering crabapples. Soon will come the spirea, hydrangea, and irises.

It’s like living in the Secret Garden.

Overheard while out walking: Two boys playing and goofing around in their driveway, calling in to their mom, “Can we stay out just a little longer? Five minutes?”

Ahhhhh…spring is really here.


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Just call me Superwoman.

One of the things I love about my job is its flexibility. Never a problem scheduling appointments, picking up kids (in the good old days), etc. That flexibility makes handling the many details of life SO much easier.

imageBut a day off, like today (Easter Monday – a perk of working for a church), is still like getting a present all wrapped up in beautiful paper with a big bow.

Before 10:00 this morning I had checked off all the really unpleasant chores on my list. By 11:30 I had remembered several other nasty tasks that needed doing and got them finished off, too. All that’s left for today is time together with a friend, making a delicious treat to share at staff meeting tomorrow (thanks to Mary at Family Life With imagethe Mom Who is All Hart), and playing around with my new iPhone.

It’s amazing what warm weather, blooming trees and flowers, and an end to SAD will do for a person’s energy level.

Hope you’re having a Superwoman (or Superman) day, too!

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Cell phone follow up OR Customer Service Win #956

There’s been a pretty happy-ish ending our cell phone purgatory tale of woe.

imageFirst, a little back story:
Because, as I mentioned yesterday, The Husband also goes by the alias “Consumer From Hell,” we have never paid for a cell phone. Never. Five people on our account, new phones every year and a half for each person, and we Never. Pay. For. Phones. In fact, we rarely pay for the upgrades. That’s the beauty of having the Consumer From Hell in your family. You see, every time we make a change, the phone company completely screws something up. Mr. Consumer From Hell is happy to wear down every customer service rep for hours on end, until they give him an enormous credit on our bill, free service, free upgrade, whatever. Oh – and there’s his secret weapon: the customer retention department. Want to get your way with a service that’s trying to pull a fast one on you? Demand to speak to a customer retention person.

Now, for the final chapter of our weekend phone purgatory odyssey:
The Husband returned from the phone store 40 minutes past their closing time. Here was his story:
•He remained buddies with the awesome on-site sales people. They immediately offered him a big credit on our bill, which effectively made my new iPhone free of cost.
•He was on the phone with customer service people most of the time he was there, and on them he unleashed his wrath. Their first solution was that Oldest Sister, who is 100% an innocent bystander in all this drama, would have to find a store in Chicago, find a way to get there, and have them give her a new SIM card (because they had indeed, mistakenly shut down her phone). Guess how well that solution went over?
•Final solution: Surprise, surprise, they do have a way to reactivate her phone remotely, though it’s “against company policy.” Ask us how much we care about company policy. So Oldest will have her phone automatically reactivated later today because the rep condescendingly offered to “expedite the process” (we hope…).
•The customer retention department will be in touch with us (No, they won’t. The Husband will end up spending another hour on the phone at some point forcing someone to talk to him. He will win.) about a reduction to our monthly rate.

A couple more follow-ups:
•Once Middle Sister’s account was reactivated in the proper phone, we were able to listen to a voicemail that had been left the phone thief. The message was for a young lady in foster care who had attended the Good Friday service, who had been suspected all along.
*Middle Sister communicated with a person from the church, and found that another phone had been stolen at the Easter Vigil last night.
*There’s some small chance we may be able to get the phone back, which would mean we’re one phone up and The Husband would then have a smart phone.
*And I’m now having my usual slight grieving process over changing phones. Stupid to be so attached to an inanimate object, but I always miss my old phone when I trade up. The fact that I traded up to an iPhone helps.

Looks like an eventual happy ending.

Oh, and by the way – Happy Easter!

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Lost in phone purgatory

We are experiencing one of Dante’s lesser known rings of hell – cell phone purgatory.

It started last night. Middle Sister went to a VERY unsavory part of town to attend the Good Friday service at a friend’s church. While there she left her purse unattended (two times, no less, and she knows what a careless thing that was to do…) and her phone was stolen. After much discussion, we called to have it de-activated late last night.

imageIn the light of day, we re-evaluated. Assuming her phone will never be seen again, here was the plan: I get an iPhone (which I’ve been considering for a while, for the sake of synching with my all-important iPad), and Middle Sister would take over my Galaxy, which was the exact same model as her lost phone.

Good so far. But it had to be done today – tomorrow’s Easter and the phone stores will be closed. I do NOT get involved in the ins and outs of our cell accounts, so The Husband had to go to the store with me. He is only available on the weekends. So…urgency.

Had a lovely experience at the store with a very pleasant and efficient young salesman. It took an hour to do all the details – reactivating, moving data, blah blah blah. Anyway, we had plenty of time to visit. He could easily be one of our kids’ friends, and I’d have him over for dinner any time. But it took so long, we had to dash out of the store without double-checking everything, in order to complete another vital errand before the day was over.

Got home, ate supper, and started messing about with the phones. Loading email accounts, sifting through contacts, all that stuff you do when you get a new phone.

Red flags started popping up all over the place. Every photo I’d ever taken on my old phone (including ones I’d deleted over a year ago) was still there. Annoying, but fix-able. My new contact list included every contact in Oldest Sister’s phone (note: she was not intended to be included in these new arrangements at all). Still fixable, but even more annoying. Some of my important contacts were dropped in the transfer. GRRRRR.

But here’s the big Kahuna: I tried calling Oldest Sister, who is in Chicago visiting her boyfriend for the weekend, just to say hi. And mysteriously, Middle Sister’s phone rang. I had Middle Sister text me, and sure enough – the text appeared on my phone as if it had come from Oldest.

So now I’m wondering if our daughter in Chicago has phone service at all, or if she’s now existing under her sister’s account. No way to tell because when I call Middle Sister’s number, I get Middle Sister’s voicemail message… no one picks up.

Next step: Text the boyfriend in Chicago and ask him to have Oldest give us a call. One more complication…they were out to dinner with his parents, and Oldest had – for the first time in her life – accidentally left her phone at his apartment.

AAAAAAAARGHHHHH…At this point I looked up at the clock on the wall and saw that the phone store would be open for 20 more minutes. (It’s a good thing I noticed their hours when I was in the store today. It’s a new location, and it doesn’t show up on any Google search anywhere.) The husband grabbed both phones and ran out the door. Thankfully the store is only five minutes away.

It’s now 20 minutes past their closing time and he’s not back yet. So we don’t yet know the end of the story. I’m just hoping my young salesman friend is still as friendly by the time The Husband gets through with him. The Husband’s nickname in the family is “The Consumer From Hell.” Never, ever cross this man in a business transaction. You will absolutely lose.

I’m still trying to decide on the moral of the story. Don’t go to Good Friday worship? Never leave your purse unattended? Never leave the phone store without trying every possible permutation of actions on every single phone? Or if you must do these things, make sure you marry someone who would keel over dead before he’d let a salesperson get the last word?

Maybe by tomorrow I’ll have that figured out.

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Back to the ABC’s of Parenting: “K” is for kitchen

I’ve often heard it said that “the kitchen is the heart of the home.” If that’s true, our home may be in big trouble because our kitchen is so tiny it certainly couldn’t house an organ capable of keeping the whole place alive.

imageBut, as for most families, our kitchen is important component of our family life. There’s the meal-making, of course. That was a part of my parenting identity that I always found fulfilling (though I definitely have plenty of days when planning, cooking, and cleaning up after a meal is at the bottom of my list of interests).

There are many, many memories of cozy afternoons with the oven humming as we baked a special dessert. Steamy summer days when we chopped up fruit, veggies, and herbs for salsa. Happy school vacation days when we made batches of Kool-Aid play dough, with the sickly sweet fragrance of artificial cherry or grape wafting up from the warm lump of dough.

I have snapshots happily tucked away in my mind of toddlers tearing through the drawer full of plastic containers, dumping Cheerios out onto the floor for a more accessible snack, bouncing in the “Johnny Jump-Up” clamped to the door frame, sitting beside the Crock Pot and picking out the frozen vegetables to crunch on.

imageAnd then there was that summer, when The Husband and I were both still working for our local public school district and had 10 free weeks in June, July, and August, when we completely gutted and redecorated the entire kitchen. The whole family was in on the project. Middle Sister was my partner in decorating. Oldest removed all the cabinet doors and helped with the staining and antiquing. The Husband did the heavy work – replacing the countertops, installing the wainscoting and back splash, inserting the sink. The Boy did the bits under and inside the cabinets, as he was small enough to wiggle in and good enough with tools to do whatever was required.

The project took all but the last three days of our summer vacation to complete. Our only vacation time that year was an overnight at the nearby Great Wolf Lodge on one of those three days.

I still love our kitchen, and over the 25 years we’ve been in this house, I’ve just about gotten over the inconvenience of its tiny size. It’s big enough to hold plenty of wonderful memories.

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