I am going to work on transferring some of my favorite posts from the original Camp Colombo here.  So take a walk down memory lane or visit some thoughts for the first time.  Either way – enjoy!

It’s A Date    2/1George, my date6/10

My cat and I have a long standing date.  It happens every night about 2:30 am.  I am asleep, but not deeply because my brain knows it is almost time.  It starts to wake me up and I hear the click of George the cat’s nails on the hardwood floor.  I keep my eyes shut because maybe it is a false alarm, but the gentle pat of a paw on my arm informs me that this is not a drive by, it is the real thing.  He wants me to get up.  I could ignore him and have tried in the past.  All that does is increase his efforts.  A quiet meow echoes from the floor, then another pat on my arm.  If I opened my eyes I would see him peering at me.  Instead I choose to keep them shut.  I earn a quick slap on the cheek for my impertinence.  What am I thinking, not jumping right up?  Understand the longer I wait, the harder and more insistent the slaps become.  I can’t win this battle.  Besides, I am completely awake now.

Romantically dim light shines from the light over the stove and everything is fuzzy because I don’t need my glasses to find my way around the house.  The usual routine includes a quick game of hide and seek on the stairs.  Can I see his dark blob before I step on it and tumble down the stairs?  Will I avoid the paws that swipe at my legs as I go by?  This is play time in George’s world.  Next we wander to the food bowls.  Have they changed since the last time he checked them?  Will I sit and watch him eat a few mouthfuls?  Which door should he choose to leave the house?  Decisions, decisions.

My patience with this date is slowly waning, and George knows it.  He moves toward a door and with his mini circle accomplished, waits for me to open it.  Out he heads to meet up with the next female on his “date” list, this one of the feline persuasion.  I stumble back up the stairs to bed, knowing I have about three more hours of sleep before the alarm.

What It’s All About   1/20/10 There are times when you get whacked by the “life bat” and as you sit there with your head spinning, you wonder where it came from and why it happened.  Those are the times others step up.  Before you know it, there they are, standing beside you, literally and figuratively, holding you up on all sides.  The group includes the usual suspects, the ones who are always there, that you can depend on through the day to day mini struggles, but other faces show up.  Faces that aren’t part of your regular schedule, but are always in the background, checking up on you, keeping you in their thoughts without the need to express it regularly.  These people shore up the first line, adding another layer of cushion to fall back on.  The extra support gives you a chance to step back and take a breath once in a while.  You know the scaffolding under you won’t fall apart, it is reinforced.  You can place all your worries on it and it holds them, while comforting you.

What am I grateful in life?  The people who are always there, but also the people who quietly take their places in the scaffolding of my life, shoring up the weak spots, lending support that doesn’t need to be acknowledged regularly, but is just there.

The Stomach Bug Attacks   1/10/10

The time:  3:20 am
The place:  JMumbo’s room

I have already been up once because JMumbo was yelling in his sleep.  This means one of two things, he watched a movie that gave him bad dreams and will go back to sleep peacefully, or it is going to be one of those nights.  We went with the second choice.

I heard him call “Mommy” once and sat straight up in bed.  This couldn’t be good.  Sure enough, by the time I had grabbed my glasses and reached the doorway, he was retching over the side of the bed.  The saving grace?  We had pulled his carpet up a week and a half ago to replace it with hardwood thanks to the cat leaving a “gift” there earlier this month.  Subflooring can handle this activity with minimal collateral damage.  Grabbing towels, I wiped his face, the floor and the edge of the sheet.  I stripped the bed with some help from Denny, and resettled JMumbo with a strategically placed bucket.  The nasty bedclothes went right in the washer.

Back in bed, I couldn’t sleep.  I read for a while and started to feel drowsy, so I turned out the light and settled in.  That is when the cat showed up.  He has taken to supplementing his water dish with the condensation from the windows.  I wouldn’t care but I suspect this is what is causing the stomach trouble he is having that results in the “gifts” through out the house.  Up I got to remove him from the window sill.  He promptly moved to the next window.  Repeat process, sending him on his way this time.  I lay back down.

I am a light sleeper.  I am the one who hears the cat wander into my room at 1:00 am.  I am the one who hears the kids whimper in their sleep.  If anyone ever broke into our house, I could greet them at the door, having heard the lock pick working.  If I don’t hear it, (a) it didn’t happen, or (b) I must be sick to the point of exhaustion.  This means that the third awakening courtesy of the cat has guaranteed that I will get little sleep the rest of the night.  I resigned myself to tossing and turning for a few hours, dozing in and out listening for the next session with JMumbo.

At 5:45 am, it commenced.  We made it into the bucket this time and after wiping his face and rinsing his mouth, we headed downstairs.  Neither of us were in the mood to sleep anymore.

This Sunday promises a day of bucket emptying and comforting a sick boy.  I am sure it is not over, and once it ends for JMumbo, the prodigal daughter will likely take her turn.  I can’t complain, we have avoided the majority of sickness this year.  We had the flu early and only small headcolds at Christmas time.  So we have been lucky.

I guess I will count my blessings at home this morning instead of at church, but I am pretty sure God will hear me anyway.

I’d Like to Return This One  10/28/09

Dear aliens who stole my daughter,

Please return the daughter you stole from my house.  The replacement you left is not up to my standards and seems to be defective.  It can’t remember to tie its shoes in the morning or brush its teeth and hair.  Making the bed is a joke and actually putting dishes in the dishwasher is laughable.

I think it needs to be rewired also because its brain performs a mind wipe every day on its way home from school.  When I ask what it did all day, it replies, “Nothing”.  I went to school, I know that SOMETHING goes on there all day.  Oddly enough, it can repeat entire episodes of Hannah Montana and Suite Life.  Over and over and over.  But only the most obnoxious lines.  I do not enjoy this.

It can find time to sing endless repetitions of Taylor Swift songs in its room, to the point where they are stuck in my head and I find myself singing them in the grocery store, but can’t find time to clean the bathroom.

Speaking of bathrooms, showers are taboo…until it gets in one.  No washing of the body, it might melt, and why would it let soap touch its face?  Winning the “Get in the shower NOW” battle means another one later called, “Get out of the shower NOW”.  And it NEVER combs its hair after a shower, just walks around with the towel wrapped around its head.  Later I find the towel in a puddle on the floor, usually its bedroom carpet, where it is mildewing nicely.

So I would like you to return MY child and take back the preteen replacement you left instead.

A Dissatisfied Earth Mom.

A Walk at Dusk   10/6/09 I spent most of my day looking out the window at the sunshine, wishing I was actually in it.  About 6:00 last night, I put aside my “list” and headed out into the autumn air.  I grabbed the prodigal daughter and we headed up the hill on a short walk.  We don’t get many opportunities to just spend time together, usually there are multiple things tugging on my shirt tail, including one named JMumbo, who was otherwise occupied with his “harem”.

We made it to the top of the hill and spotted our neighbor and her dog, who was watching the prodigal daughter intently.  My girl is an animal lover, she delights in them and would love a dog, but we don’t have the time to devote to one.  (A bit of honesty here – I don’t want another entity to care for right now, and we know that I will be the one walking it in the snow.)

Settling on the edge of the driveway, I watched her play with the dog and soaked in the joy on her face, storing it up for the next time the preteen monster took over her body.  I chatted with our neighbor about many things, including how lucky we were in regard to our neighborhood.  Nice kids, pleasant people, both always ready to help out.

Before I knew it twilight had descended and it was time to head home to the never ending list.  It would be easier to handle having taken a break, less intimidating when faced with the remembered moments from the dusk of autumn.

Moments in the Life of JMumbo   10/2/09 A few snapshots from my day.

Most people rarely see 4:00 am. College students pulling an all nighter, second shift workers, and maybe some farmers, but the majority of the population isn’t usually awake at this time. Why would they be? It isn’t light out, even in the summer the sun is not contemplating the illumination of the earth. Most stores aren’t open, and if they are the clerk’s heads are nodding. Cable television is full of infomercials and the worst reruns imaginable. It is not a time any one would choose to be awake.

My son did today.

I heard him go to the bathroom. Little did I know that he never went back to sleep. My first inkling came when I arose at 5:30 am and heard him rustling around. When I peeked in his door I could see the glow of the Nintendo through his covers. (It is always better to play UNDER the covers, it’s darker in there.) 5:30 and he was already conquering the universe as Yoda or Darth Vader, depending on what side of the force he woke up on. My husband clued me in to the 4:00 am wake up when JMumbo tore downstairs at 5:45, engines primed and ready for the day. Two sips of coffee were not enough preparation for the energy filling the room. And I dreaded what was to come later in the day.

What came was one of those moments that capture your heart and remain there forever. It was like every corny Hallmark card and forwarded powerpoint I had ever received that brought tears to my eyes. It was my son getting off the afternoon bus. He paused at the bottom step, contemplating the rain that was falling steadily. Then, his chin up, a look of triumph on his face, he opened his mouth and stepped into the rain. Four steps later, he stopped, spread his arms and tilted his head again to catch more rain drops. No rain coat, no jacket at all, just JMumbo and the pure joy of rain. How can I dislike the weather when it gives me this?

Some Phrases From My Day    9/14/09

“I thought I might bring you some ice cream.  I really don’t like it.”
(Please do, I actually am a repository for ice cream that people don’t like)

“I don’t eat ravioli”
(Except if Chef Boyardee makes it, then it is the best meal ever)

“I don’t want to put the stuff on my warts, that’s gross.  You do it mom.”
(Because it ISN’T gross for me?  They aren’t even my feet!)

“Why do I have to get all the garbage?”
(Because I am the meanest mommy ever?  Because it is the latest torture I have designed for you?  Because it is one of the ONLY jobs you have in this house?  Because if you don’t you may end up part of the garbage?  Feel free to choose an answer)

“Why do I have to brush my teeth?  I brushed them this morning.”
(And we would NEVER want the toothbrush to come near our mouths more than once a day, that would ruin the whole rotting teeth look we were working on for Halloween.)

Hope you had as lovely a day as I did.

Day One and We’ve Just Begun   9/9/09 All that keeps running through my head are the lyrics to the Barenaked Ladies song, “This is Me in Grade Nine”.  Just change the nine to a six and you have the last few days for mom.  Not for the prodigal daughter of course, she is calm, cool, and collected.  EXCEPT…

The first real homework showed up today.  You know, beyond the multiple permission forms and “yes I read it/saw it go by my face at some point” papers we all sign the first week of school as parents.  I knew we were in trouble when Math was part of the package.  The stress level automatically ratcheted up several knots.  (Those knots are what was forming at the back of my neck.)  We made it through the math with only a small meltdown about expanded form and trillions.  Put it this way, neither of us got to the point where we raised our voices.  That is small in my world.  Then came Science.  Don’t you know, we forgot our science textbook in the flurry to get to band.  Understandable, they are switching classes for the first time, they have more to think about.  Well what were we to do?  Mom suggested we use a dictionary to look up the vocabulary words she had to define.  Silly Mommy!  They are ONLY found in the science textbook!  No where else!  What was I thinking????  Apparently dictionaries are not the places to find words and their definitions.  That idea must be old fashioned, out of date, so “80’s”.  The teacher said to use the textbook you moron Mommy!  That is what we MUST use.

Guess what the old fashioned, out of date, so “80’s” mom did?  She called the teacher and got the okay to use the archaic dictionary to look up the meaning of the science words.  And they were all in there!  I was shocked!  The prodigal daughter did try to old “I’ll copy the meaning of this word that actually has the word in it because it is a tense, but no one will notice” ploy, but she forgot her mom was an English teacher and knows that trick.  Poor Girl!  She had to think about her homework.  What is wrong with me??  🙂

I’m Enrolling at Hogwarts    7/18/09 If I didn’t want to before, I have decided I must now.  The sixth installment of the movie was excellent and once again I wished to be striding the corridors with my robe and house colors on.  Even the snow looks fun, not cold and nasty like it is here.  I know it is a movie, but I think it must be different there, less ice and wind, more lovely snow and crisp breezes.  Plus you get to say things like “pip, pip”, “lovely”, “snogging”, and “bloody hell”.  Exclamations sound better when expressed with a British accent, it’s a proven fact.  Think about it, you’ll agree.
To be friends with Hermoine and Luna, watch Harry finally figure out that he really cares for Ginny while she bids her time.  Learning from Professor McGonnagal and Professor Flitwit?  I would even sit through Professor Trelawny’s class and endure Snape.
The castle with its winding corridors, tower rooms and fireplaces. The huge dining room.  I should have been a boarding student somewhere or gone to summer camp.  I would have settled right in and wallowed in the experience.
So I am enrolling at Hogwarts.  If I try hard enough I might make it through the barrier at 9 and 3/4 and board the Hogwarts Express.

Button, Button, Where is the Button?    3/23/09 Why, oh why, is it so impossible to sew a button on to clothing correctly? In the last month I have started to button 4 different pieces of clothing and had a button come off in my hand. This morning I sewed it back on while I was still wearing the vest because the bus was coming and the kids needed fed.

You know me, I don’t buy cheap jackets. I buy from Eddie Bauer, Land’s End, Coldwater Creek. If I am buying a jacket, I am going to wear it, so it will be decent quality. The Eddie Bauer jacket I can live with, I have owned that particular piece of clothing for over 15 years. The Coldwater Creek jacket? That one irritates me. It is a whopping year and a half old and isn’t even one I wear every week. The vest from this morning? Less than 6 months old and again, rarely worn because it has been too cold for just a vest over a shirt. A little quality would be nice.

I even had to bring one of the acolyte robes (the kids who help with the service during church) home because when we buttoned Joe in, you guessed it, off popped the button. And me? I put the button in my pocket, forget it is there, and find it 2 months later when I stick my hand in the pocket again, usually to put a button there!

But we should continue to buy and pump up the economy. Maybe they weren’t American products. Yeah, I’ll blame it on the overseas producers. That would work, but I don’t seem to be able to tell the difference any more. It’s all shoddy.

It Has a First Name, O-S-C-A-R    3/12/09 Thanks to my obsession with FB, I have been experiencing cyber versions of my HS and college reunions.  I keep running into people from both, much to my surprise and delight.  One of these encounters led to a phone call between my several times over roommate from the East Lansing years, Julie.  She doesn’t sound any different.  And we fell right back into the comfortable routine of conversation, as if we had just spoken last week instead of over 15 years ago.

The memories popped up in the conversation revolving around weddings, children, and our lives.  Julie had posted pictures from one of our soup making experiences.   I am still a soup maker, it is one of my comfort places, a bowl of soup, a cup of tea, and a good book.  Food was always the great equalizer with me and many of my memories revolve around meals made with family and friends.  Julie and I were experts at creating feasts from nothing.

We first lived together one summer, taking over the upstairs of a house.  We had a small kitchenette that we shared with the cockroaches, who ran for their lives when we flipped the light on.  It became a game to see who was faster, the cockroaches or us.  That summer we lived on bologna and white bread.  We ate it with big slabs of onion and mustard.  Why anyone wanted to be around us as we sweat onion and bologna scent is a question I have never been able to answer, but it wouldn’t have mattered to us anyway.  We were invincible, as dynamic a duo as Batman and Robin.  We sucked our roommate PJ in whenever we could, convincing him that we really did know what we were doing.  I know we all worked, but this was one of those summers that seemed to be filled only with sunshine, fun, and friends.  All fueled by Wonder bread and Oscar Meyer, who really does have a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

Melancholy and Nostalgia   2/24/09 Recently I found some old friends on Facebook.  Friends from college that I worked with and lived with.  It prompted me to post some pictures from those days, which led to several hours of scanning and cropping and posting.  It prompted a trip down memory lane.

What fun we had.  So few responsibilities or worries.  We paid the rent, we hung out, we hid Kevin in the bathroom closet.  My roommates even rescued baby bunnies one weekend that I was gone.  They lived in a box on the kitchen table for a few days. (The bunnies, not the roommates)  We existed for the moment, defending each other from the outside world and sometimes fighting among ourselves.

This was when I went to my first Jimmy Buffett concert and became a parrothead to the core.  We went in a limo with margaritas for all.  The Neville brothers opened for him and it was one of the best times I ever had.  Later a group of us went to Pine Knob for an afternoon of sunshine, reggae music, and silliness.  Rosy and Kevin took pictures at all the snack centers with the kids working there.  It was a photo essay of junk food.

I spent Saturday’s with Dylan, going to the beach, or hanging out at the house.  He followed the meercats, laughing with joy that they followed him in a never ending game of chase.  We always filled a balloon for him at B’zar and tied it to his wrist so he wouldn’t lose it.  He was my steady date, and I adored him.  At a year and a half, he would never break my heart.

We spent our nights working at B’zar.  We lip synced to songs, did group dances, and entertained the customers and ourselves.  Kevin did an excellent Axel Rose interpretation and we would demand it at the end of the night.  I spent parts of my days there also, moving from a waitressing job to a job in public relations and marketing for them.  This made me the ideal person to set up the after hours get-togethers.  I could leave early, pick up the beer, and get the jello ready.

We invited everyone that couldn’t make it home over for Thanksgiving dinner.  Our Christmas tree was up and decorated with the “Chucky” doll from the crane machine and the fruitcake ornament.  Our lunch meat coasters were ready to prevent the tables from water rings.  We roasted a turkey and a ham, complete with pineapple and cherries.  Everyone brought something; food, drink, laughter, and a sense of surrogate family.  If we couldn’t be with our biological families, we could spend the holiday with our adopted one.

We seemed to smile all the time.

The pictures were the story of me and my two roommates, Rosy and Kevin, and the duplex we lived in.  Which I discovered is no longer there.  They tore it down and ripped the street up.  How does that happen?  How does part of your life just go away?  Of course the house is not the only part of that time that has disappeared.  Kevin is gone also.  I still have trouble with it.  That he is gone, the way he left.  Only Rosy and I are left.  Only our memories remain.

Forget Supernanny, I Need a Time Management Consultant  1/23/09

My children are early risers. They tend to get up by 6:30 am most mornings. Sometimes they get up before 5:30. It is just the way it is.

You may be thinking this is helpful on school mornings, no dragging kids out of bed to go to school. You would be sadly mistaken. My kids get up, they just don’t get ready. Too many other things to do. You know, dance around the room, defeat droids with your Jedi powers, read a book (something I CAN understand-I would lay around reading too if allowed), anything but get dressed.

JMumbo will get dressed. He just doesn’t brush his teeth or put shoes on. Doesn’t even consider brushing his hair. Minor details in his life. Too many worlds to conquer on DS and Bakugan guys to figure out. He eats waffles with syrup for breakfast, that helps clean your teeth, doesn’t it?

The prodigal daughter won’t even get dressed. There are HS Musical songs to sing, calendars to update, and desks to rearrange. The bathroom sink? A big hole in front of the bathroom mirror, which is there so you can watch yourself sing into your toothbrush. Mom is just a big meanie for making her think about being dressed before 7:10 am, which is the latest she has to appear to get breakfast before school.

I finally made a rule for her. You are not downstairs before me, you ride the bus to school. JMumbo is younger and is actually okay with it. The big issue with him is putting his shoes on. He hasn’t learned to tie his shoes yet and trying to untie the laces from yesterday and retie them as the bus heads down the road toward the house, doesn’t work.

Do they have a reality show about a Time Management consultant with a British accent? Because that would be perfect for our house.

Customer Service?    1/14/09 There is a huge customer service industry in the world today.  The definition of customer service should be “the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase”.  That makes sense, taking care of the person(s) availing themselves of a company’s products or services not just at the time of purchase, but the entire time the customer uses the service.  Doing it right when the customer is actively involved in the purchase is great, but what about the follow up?

Why has this surfaced today?  Because in the last few weeks I have battled the garbage company concerning the picking and choosing of what garbage they will pick up and when, and a discussion with a company that I purchased a waffle maker from who still haven’t gotten it right.

The garbage company didn’t pick up all our garbage one week.  Apparently the extra bag from Christmas had blown into the ditch and they “didn’t see it”.  I can completely understand them missing the large white bag sitting a mere two feet from the rest of the garbage.  I guess two feet exceeds the area they are paid to visually scan as waste management engineers.  I am expected to climb down into the ditch to retrieve the recycle bins they have thrown aside and pick up the pieces of recycling they didn’t bother to put in the truck, and search the field across the road for my missing garbage can lid that they did not place back on the can the way they found it.  I’ve lost two of those in the last year.  But that doesn’t fall under customer service I guess.  Not coming back for the large bag of garbage they “didn’t see” does.  We were told to put it out the next week instead, and no, I couldn’t talk to the guy in charge because he was out on the road and couldn’t be reached.  He did call us earlier in the day, must have used the one way cell phone that time.  I left my number in case he called in on his walkie-talkie and also for the manager.  Neither bothered to respond.  I guess that doesn’t show up under the customer service section of their handbook either.

If this were an isolated incident, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it, but it seems to be spreading like an infectious disease.  We purchased a waffle maker.  It quit working during brunch the day after Christmas.  We mailed it back so the company could send us a new one.  Two weeks later I finally received an email stating they had received it and were unable to send me a new one.  It was out of stock.  They did credit my card with the total amount for the waffle maker, which I hadn’t paid in full yet because I was paying in five installments.  They did state in the email that I could go to the website and look for a comparable product.  My family loved the waffles, so I headed to the website.  Low and behold, I found the waffle maker they said was out of stock on the the website, sitting pretty, just waiting to be ordered!  I took the time to make a phone call and was apologized to because I was correct!  My waffle maker was really available!  The customer service representative set up another purchase for me.  I thanked her and hung up.  I then received an email from the company confirming my purchase…by check.  Oddly, I had never mentioned paying by check, but opted for the five payment option to be charged to my credit card again.  HMMMMMMM…
So am I paying for the product twice?  Do they just not listen to people when we speak?  Or was I performing a minor miracle and speaking in tongues?  Maybe an alien was channeling a message for help through me and it’s classified – if I really knew what I said, they would have to kill me.

Customer service.  The ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer’s expectations.  They exceeded my expectations, but not in a positive way.  They haven’t even MET the positive side of my expectations.  No wonder the economy is in such trouble.  The services don’t serve and then wonder why people won’t support them.  Why should the population get behind bailouts for companies that don’t really serve?  That manufacture products as throwaway items, items that must be replaced in two or three years because replacement parts are no longer available.

Customer service.  The industry where service is secondary.

The Meltdown is Dormant – For Now   1/9/09

I really don’t understand it.  What did women do that resulted in some cosmic power deciding not only will we experience mood swings and emotional crisis’s ourselves, but we will also relive them through our daughters?  The roller coaster the prodigal daughter has been on this week has left me drained.  She is fine.  Happy as a lark right now, but how long will it last?  The many responses I have received to descriptions of her meltdowns has encouraged me because I am not alone, but makes me wonder why the majority of responses were from women who have girls in the middle of  meltdown melee or have already lived through it with their daughters.

The only reason I can pinpoint is the whole apple in the garden piece, but even God couldn’t be that unforgiving.  To saddle us with a lifetime of riding the emotional roller coaster is pretty harsh for encouraging a man to eat an apple.  And what happened to Adam, who seemed to have no willpower himself?  He had no ability to say no?  But women ended up with the agony of childbirth and everything that goes along with the getting and bearing of children.  Apparently that was not enough.  It was then decreed we would have the joy of living it twice when granted daughters.  Gee, thanks.

The meltdown is dormant for now.  When it will erupt again is unpredictable.  What I do know is that is will be just as emotional and draining for both of us.  I shudder to think what will happen when the hormones really kick in.

Round Two in the Prodigal Daughter Meltdown     1/6/09 It happened again.  Another meltdown.  It started after school when she was doing homework.  Simple math problems she is very capable of doing if she takes her time and focuses.  Tonight was not one of those times.

Once it starts, it spirals into a black hole of issues that really have nothing to do with what started the whole mess.  No friends, no one who likes the same things she does, failing 5th grade, never getting into college.  (Apparently one bad math grade in 5th grade can do that these days)  It is like a warped Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going.

What do you do?  Nothing she says makes sense.  Very little is rooted in reality.  A majority is the change in routine or possibly the return to routine, and the feeling that she will NEVER get all the things she wants to do crammed into her day.  She never stops moving.  Even when she sleeps she tosses and turns, never really resting.  How do instill tranquility in a 10 year old who looks at life as a whole world of living, just waiting for her to grab it and run.  And she does run!

The meltdown subsided and she was smiling by the end of the night.  When will it hit again and how do I prepare for it, deal with it?

Am I Looking in the Mirror?    1/4/09 It is one of those days.  Christmas is over, school starts again tomorrow, and my daughter has crammed twice the amount of activities into the last week that she should have.  The result is overload and meltdown.  And it makes me wonder…was I like that in 5th grade?  Did I lose it completely and breakdown into raving tears and ranting?  Did I tell my parents they were the worst ever and blamed me for everything?  I want to say no, but have a nasty suspicion I am watching myself grow up before my eyes.  I remember the out of control emotions and the feeling that I would never get to do everything I wanted to.  I remember the desire to have my “quiet” time.  I still crave that time now, and never feel like I have accomplished all the tasks I want to.

Who needs old films and video?  I have my childhood, live and in person, playing in my house everyday.  And I wonder, where did my parents find the patience and tolerance to let me live?  Will I find it before I go completely crazy?

Once again, sorry Mom and Dad.

It Oozes    12/18/08 Elementary schools ooze.  I never realized it before.  Having small children at home you see it everyday, but you don’t really think about it.  When there are 400 of them around you for 6+ hours a day, you begin to really see it.

The oozing.

It shows up from the moment you walk in the door, but you don’t realize it until about late October when the cold weather kicks in and they have been shut up together for a month and a half.  Then it begins in earnest.  The kid who wipes thier nose on the back of their hand then holds the hand out, challenging you to a thumb war.  The child who grabs you around the waist and buries their face into your hip, cleverly cleaning the leftovers from the chocolate snack on your sweater at the same time.  The kid who sits across from you, ecstatic to be using the blue highlighter, who puts it in their mouth, completely covering it with saliva.  It’s everywhere.

Elementary kids definitely ooze.  The joy at the idea of Christmas oozes out of their faces from Thanksgiving on.  Kids sing Christmas carols walking down the hallway, excitedly discuss what Santa will bring them and where they saw him, talked to him, had breakfast with him, name the reindeer, and repeat lines from their favorite Christmas shows.  They admire the Christmas related clothing of their teachers.  They ooze excitement.

No one can watch a kid skip down a hallway, humming to themselves without beginning to hum along.  You can’t watch a second grade class put on a Christmas play with out giggling as they sing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” complete with choreography.  Try to watch a class of kids decorate an ornament, pencil topper, or gift box on the computer without wanting to make one yourself.  You can’t.  Their complete and utter dedication to living life to its fullest oozes out of them and covers you, giving you no choice but to join in.

We grow up and forget how to ooze.  Maybe every 10 years everyone should spend a week in an elementary school, learning how to ooze again, to let life spill out of every pore filling the hallways.  To take every moment and fill it with the excitement of life.

I am learning how to ooze again.

Amazing Grace  12/1/08

Some of you know that I am the Superintendent of our Sunday school.  I fell into the position a few years ago and never gave it up.  It has become a bright spot in my life when other areas were not as brightly lit.  Yesterday was Youth Sunday and as always, I was amazed by the kids.  Here’s my response, composed during some of the prayers.  I’m sure God understood.

When the position of Sunday School Superintendent was first handed to me, I was unsure about accepting it.  The time and energy to make the Sunday School function and grow was more than I thought was available in my life.  I struggled with the decision for several weeks and realized that I had forgotten to consult the one person who could really help me make the decision.  Once I gave the whole thing over to God, the rest was easy.  And here I am, 2 ½ years later, still acting like I am in charge of the Sunday School (because no one is ever really in charge) and confident that God’s advice was right.

I love our Sunday School and all the kids that are part of our congregation.  I love that they are always willing to go along with whatever crazy ideas Karen and I come up with; building a replica of the temple from Kleenex boxes, acting out the Gospel, touring the church on a symbol hunt, or beginning a recycling program.  I love that they enjoy getting up in front of the congregation and showing off what they know and how they see the world.  I love that they enjoy each other so much.

Where is all this coming from?  Today was the fifth Sunday of the month, Youth Sunday.  The day the kids take over the service.  One of my favorite Sundays.  It doesn’t matter that I am part of the creation and presentation; I am still awed by the power of our kids interpreting and presenting the different readings and prayers.  What a spectacular sight!  Our youth leading the congregation in prayer and worship!  How different the words sound when read by a teenager.  The ideas they choose to place emphasis on, the cadence of their voices, their pauses, and the energy that shines onto us all from them.  What power the words impart when read by the youth of the parish.

Karen deserves so much of the credit.  She spends her time looking for and helping shape the ideas that create the design of the service.  She runs the “dress rehearsal” and motivates the kids to take part in forms they are comfortable with.  I provide my students with a framework and examples.  I help type it up so it is easy to read. T hen we turn it over to our students and God, giving them the opportunity to bring their own personalities and beliefs to you, the congregation.  And they always come through, sending chills down my spine, impressing me the depth of their understanding.

So I thank all of you for the support that allows me to be part of this special mission in our church.  Thank you for letting us share your children and then give them back to you, showcasing the inner spirit that shines in all of them. Thank you for showing the Sunday School how important they are.  Thank you.

One Quick Thought  11/5/08 I know it may seem like sacrilege, but does anyone else vote in a church?  I do.  Talk about not separating church and state.  I voted for President in a church.  I guess you really can’t get away from it completely, no matter how apathetic we become as a nation.

It just appealed to my warped sense of humor.

Feeling Helpless  10/30/08 This is the type of day you spend feeling helpless.  A good person has passed away and what can I do?  Not really much of anything but wait to see what his family needs, then try to supply it.  It is not a good place for the caretaker in me.  I know I can’t fix it, that this situation will take an enormous amount of time to settle and will never really be okay.  That there will be days years from now when I look across the street expecting to see Rich and he will not be there.  No one to comment on my gardens, share a laugh with, or just wave to as he walks by.  No more wayward golf balls for JMumbo to find and return, or just squirrel away in his room.
Many people’s lives were touched by Rich and I hope he understood that.  No one should have to wait until passing away to realize how integral they were to the people around them.  It is one of those times that makes people question their faith and rage about why this good person.  A question there is no satisfactory answer to.  But what answer will satisfy at a time like this?
So I will spend some time feeling helpless, which may be a lesson for me in itself.  That everything can’t be fixed, that I must sit back and let life take its course.  It is not something I do easily.  I want to make life better for people.  My lesson is, that is not always my job.  So I will support and care, listen and comfort.  Doing my part and understanding this is all I can do.

Sitcom with Your Spaghetti Anyone? 10/19/08 Anyone who says writing a sitcom is hard obviously doesn’t have family.  I  went to dinner today with the family and laughed my way through 2+ hours of spaghetti and idiosyncrasies.  What else can you do when the house is averaging at 90 degrees and someone is offering to turn the heat on?  It was like one long hotflash in there!

I was a bit bummed out that there was no music playing when we sat down to eat because getting 11 people to sit in seats at the right time in the right place would have been so much more fun if it had been like musical chairs.  The minute the music stopped everyone sat.  If you had spaghetti at your seat, you eat, if not, tough luck!  Some seats had bonus plates of pasta with extra forks so you didn’t have to transfer.  You can’t make this stuff up!

It just spiraled from there, from having chilled sherry handed to me (my alternative was Lake Niagara Red), to someone else being denied pie.  The master of the house was not happy when that happened!  It wasn’t on purpose, it was carried over to the table, then removed again before he could get his fork into it.

Family, the best sitcom out there.

Bonuses in Geekdom   9/8/08 You know what is great about working in the elementary school?  I can wear all the fun little embroidered outfits my friend Colleen sends me.  The HS kids would make fun of the tshirt with the pencils and apples, the elementary kids love it.  Finally, a place I can truly revel in my geekdom without explanations.  Although I do feel sorry for all the HS kids who used me as their role model or permission to also revel in geekdom and feel cool.  Geekdom is not for everyone.  You have to be pretty strong willed or just plain old to truly be a geek.  Talk about bucking the status quo!  Forget the goth look, the grunge, the preppy, put on a pocket protector or embroidered outfit, and you are on your own in a sea of conformity.  Except in an elementary school.  There you are just cool, and pretty, and nice.

And they will tell you if they think you look funny.  Not in a mean way, just in a “wow, that’s a bit different, but we like it” sort of way.  They commented on another teacher’s hair today.  It was awesome!  They loved it.  And Kindergartners are constantly amazed by the littlest things.  My cooperating teacher added the sound of splashing to a computer piece we did.  Every time a kid moved their name into the “pond”, it splashed.  They ooohhh and aaahhh every time!  It never got old!  Makes me want to rewind my kids to see what I missed because I was so busy trying to get them dressed and fed.  Makes me think everyone needs to spend a week in an elementary school once in a while, just to remember the joy that went along with living.

I did find one 1st grader who is planning for the future.  He is already quitting school.  Imagine, he has plans for 10 years down the road!  He has a future in world domination because he has patience.  Plus he beat me at putting all his letters in the alphabet arc first.  I might have let him win just a bit, but hey, he put all the letters there.  Mostly because I told him I didn’t think he could.  That trick never gets old and always works.  Even with the big kids.  Contrary nature, a most effective tool.

How are my former HS kids?  TO’ed that I am not there.  And letting me know about it.  Do I get the “I miss you” from them?  No, I get “Why aren’t you there!” and “I can’t believe you left me for my senior year!” because apparently I did it on purpose.  Apparently I live to mess up their lives.  It’s not like I dropped off the face of the earth, I still live in town.  They still wait on me at the grocery store. They still see me at sporting events.  They know where I live.  The immediate gratification is gone.  They have to work at it now.  Not something teenagers are terribly keen on.

Reality 90210, No Way!  WAY!   9/3/08 I watched the premiere of the new 90210 last night.  I had to, I spent the 90’s watching the first one, no way was I going to pass up the new one.  Plus I had to see who besides Jenny Garth needed a job and showed up.  Who did???  Shannon Dougherty of course.  That made the show for me.  You know that Brenda means trouble, especially where Kelly is concerned.  And there they were, in the new Peach Pit (which is now some sort of hang-out/coffee bar with Nat still at the helm) chatting about how long it’s been.  Brenda is staying for a month, more than enough time for her to mess up Kelly’s life, no matter what they said about starting over.  Personally I never felt anyone compared to Brenda and her particular brand of nastiness.  Not even Valerie.  Brenda was the best, a combination of shock, plotting, and rebel that brought them all to their knees more than once.
But I digress…
Basically it is the same show, just set in the next decade, with a transplant family from Kansas (but they didn’t name any of them Dorothy, which I would have loved!) not Minnesota, and Dad as the principal of West Beverly, which he apparently attended.  Kelly’s little sister Silver attends also.  I haven’t figured out if this is Erin all grown up, or if Kelly’s mom had another child.  Kelly is a single mom, but dad is a mystery still.  I think they want us to believe it is, Brandon, but no confirmation yet. What I really liked is that they brought back the idea of Jim and Cindy Walsh.  You remember, the parents everyone on the show loved because they had rules and consequences?  The adults all the kids turned to when they were in trouble?  They are back, a little hipper looking, but still as caring.  One of the final scenes last night was the mom holding up the matchbook from the San Francisco restaurant her daughter flew to for dinner.  Mom thought she was going to the local burger joint.  How did Mom find the matchbook?  She went through her daughter’s pockets, that’s how.  Good for her!  And then the daughter was punished!  No texting, right home after practice, no social activities for a few weeks.  Yeah Mom!!!!

Denny thinks I am nuts for even spending time on it, but he didn’t spend all those years in West Beverly, nor does he still secretly watch reruns of it on Saturday mornings.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on a Trip to Rhode Island  8/20/08

1.  You can fill Bill Lanier and Shaquille O’Neal’s shoes, if you put one foot in front of the other.
2.  Putting a cherry on top makes anything Delicious!
3.  You don’t need a radar detector, just three year old twin boys to yell “POLICEMAN! POLICEMAN!”.
4.  Digging a big hole on the beach with a bunch of kids is the most fulfilling and creative activity I have ever been a part of.
5.  Being brave means going out past the breakers and diving under the waves the first time.   After that, it’s just fun.
6.  Standing on a big rock next to the ocean makes you the tallest person in the whole world.
7.  Animal crackers taste best after a day at the beach, when fed to you by a three year old, but only when you make the noise of the animal you just ate.
8.  14 year old cousins have excellent hair.
9.  Roasting marshmallows, eating chocolate, and nibbling on graham crackers is great, except when some adult tries to stick them all together into a gooey mess.
10.  Snails attached to rocks are amazing.  And fun to take to grandma so she can cook them for supper!
11.  Helping your cousin crack a lobster is a wonderful experience.  So is watching your daughter eat one.

On the Road with JMumbo  6/23/08 JMumbo and I headed down to Hornell today to return the Time Warner cable boxes.  I don’t know if anyone remembers, but we used to be able to watch tv for free.  The channels were limited, but who watches all 2678 channels available now anyway.  Honestly, we all end up watching maybe 10 on a regular basis.   And even then, I can’t find something on I want to watch most of the time.  So we switched to Direct TV, about the same number of channels, but around $20 less a month when all the specials run out.  This resulted in the need to return the cable boxes, and we thought we would try Hornell, a much closer locale than Rochester or Batavia.

We cruised into Hornell, ready for a scrumptious lunch at Burger King, fine dining for the 7 year old set.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Every meal comes with a toy that will fall apart or be left laying on the floor for mom to step on in the middle of the night, but must never be thrown away because it is PRECIOUS!!  (gollum, gollum)  I, of course, had no cash, so we walked down to the bank.  Do you notice a pattern with the Colombo family and ready cash???  We withdrew money and headed back to the BK mecca.  Bonus for JMumbo, he received not one, but TWO sets of chicken pieces shaped like crowns.  Most Excellent!

Our meal finished we headed toward the address I had looked up for TW.  I found the road, but nothing bearing any resemblance to an office was on it.  We turned around and decided to stop at the police station and ask.  Those wascally wabbits listed the address of the TOWER, not the office!  The officer explained how to find the office on Main Street and with JMumbo’s help, we pulled in right in front.  The lovely lady inside explained to us that we could not return our box here, but we could call the Rochester office and have them pick it up.  BONUS!
Back into the car with only one minor injury, JMumbo whacked his head into the side of the cable box on the way out the door.  Of course the entry way was the size of my stand up shower, so it was inevitable.  We made it through Walmart with no injuries, except to my wallet, and two lovely lilies.

JMumbo loved the farm market, being quite selective in his choice of corn ears for dinner, much to the amusement of the other two ladies picking their ears.  He also chose a lovely watermelon and some great pickling cukes.  We did buy some of the most expensive strawberries ever, but it made him happy.  He thought he was the king of the world when we had the corn and watermelon at dinner.
Minimal whining, virtually no begging, and still home before everyone else.  Excellent day, even Kerouac would have to agree!

Flea Markets are All Wet Sometimes  6/20/08 Today we took a trip to Clarence with a side of Akron.  The family piled into the Acadia and drove to Akron to my kid’s favorite restaurant, the Candy Apple.  JMumbo even has a shirt that proclaims him a “Candy Apple Kid”.  Mom and Dad met us there for a lovely breakfast.  I had Eggs Benedict, one of my favorites that I can’t make myself yet.

From there we made a quick stop at Mom and Dad’s.  Denny and I were taking advantage of the low babysitting fees – this time Dad wanted me to take home a box of my old dolls.  I picked out a few and left the rest for him to recycle. 🙂  Then it was off to Kelly’s Antique world and flea market.

If you live in the WNY area, you know that today was not prime marketing day for the fleas.  It was spitting rain, windy, and dark.  The bonus was we had excellent parking choices.  The downside, not many sellers of wares.  We did find some excellent Star Wars toys for the kids, including a Barbie sized Princess Leia doll.  Denny had a chance to lust after the Hoth set with Luke, Han, and 2 troopers, and the Biggs and Wedge set.  The one he would have come home with if I had more cash was the Luke doll complete with fighter pilot jumpsuit, helmet, etc.  All the accessories every 50 year old man needs to reenact A New Hope, Star Wars IV.  He did get a Boba Fett action figure to put on his Star Wars collection shelf.  (Everytime I write a blog, I realize how strange my family really is…)  We did visit the actual Antique Barn and found a lovely bar, complete with stained glass, wine rack and mirror.  Anyone looking for a Christmas present, it is going for the low, low price of $11,000.  🙂

We topped off our day with ice cream in Warsaw, at a drive through ice cream place.  Of course we drove past the ice cream place, turned around to go back, pulled into the driveway, realized we had no cash, pulled back out, went down Main Street to the bank, and finally returned to reward ourselves with cones.  JMumbo managed to dump his before we were completely out of Warsaw, resulting in an unscheduled stop to repair the cone and wipe him off.
Just another day at Camp Colombo!


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