Monday, July 28, 2008

Welcome, Matthew Benedict!

Rosie had her baby Friday evening. She had, slow, boring, not-quite-labor all day, and then a very lively time from about 6PM onward until Matthew was born about 10:15. I drove down to be with her in labor, but this is the last grandchild birth I'll try to attend. Sad-but-true fact -- I'm just getting too old. She and Anthony sent me away just about the time things picked up, because it was obvious that I was approaching "basket case" from fatigue. But they did superbly on their own, and Matthew is a sweetie!!

And there is something I'm not too old for -- holding the baby!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pet Pictures as Per Request

Callebaut above, Joe below

And two of Lucas with Tommy

Monday, July 21, 2008

Response to "George"

As some of you may have seen in the comments, my older son "George" chose to take issue with how I named the pets in the previous post. He said:

"I find it somewhat ridiculous, mother, that you have no problem openly naming Lucas, or putting quotation marks around "Joe", as some sort of pseudo-pseudonym, yet feel the need to fake the nickname of our first dog, Callebaut, aka Cal. Not "Bo", Cal. And while I'm not sure what Uncle Bo called his childhood pet, I'm betting it wasn't "Cal". This internet anonymity stuff is a bit odd, I know, but the 35,600 Google results for "callebaut dog" aren't likely to lead anyone to find out who were really are."

So, for clarity --

Dear Only-slightly-pseudonymous George,

You are absolutely right! I should have just used the real names. But I wanted to avoid explaining how each animal was named, so I started with a never-used call name, and went downhill from there. I was just too lazy to fix it.

So the real names, in order, are:
Calico Snifter Boogie -- a beagle of high lineage but unfortunate "printed' pattern on his nose.
Callebaut -- a half-Aussie shepherd/ half chocolate Lab who was too classy to be called Hershey or Nestle
Aborigine Joe -- never called anything but "Joe" (or "Joe-dog" by Daniel and Camilla), half Aussie shepherd, half black Lab (we think)
Lucas -- a cute little black and white no-breed kitten

And by the way, son, if you don't stop picking on me (and your sister), I will tell the whole world that you don't have a weird name like your siblings, but are actually something totally commonplace and boring, like "Brandon". ;-D

Love you!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Tail of a Cat

I have never wanted a cat. Or a dog, either. Or a gerbil or a bird or any other kind of a pet, for that matter. I had one week's custody of the class hamster in third grade. He bit me! And I had one or two ill-fated turtles, before they stopped selling them in every dime store for fear of salmonella, and once an Easter chick that everybody knew from the start was destined to wind up in my grandparents' chicken yard, to provide eggs or meat depending on its gender.

But I didn't mind. My friends read dog stories, or horse stories, or both. I read mysteries, or ballet stories. And anyway, I was "allergic to animal dander." My brother, however, minded a lot. He NEEDED a dog. And so my parents got him a beagle puppy, who lived strictly outdoors, in respect for my allergies. When "Cal" died when my brother was in high school, he was never replaced.

Many years later (he was forty-two), my brother married a lovely lady who was a cat person. It was understood that if he wanted her, Gypsy was part of the deal. And as Gypsy moved on to cat heaven, she was replaced by Samantha and Thomasina. One of them (I can only tell which under direct coaching) has adopted my brother. And the other one (I think) usually deigns to jump on me a couple of times whenever I visit. I have always considered that cat exposure enough for me. I choose not to remember that my allergies have departed along with my NOT LAMENTED allergy to chocolate.

However. . . . I also married, a man whose family had a succession of both cats and dogs all through his childhood, and even after he left home. And he is observant enough to know that I don't have my chocolate allergy any more. So ten or so years ago, when our children begged for a dog, I was outvoted seven to one. I could have cast a veto, but I was assured that they were old enough to take care of a dog, and I wouldn't have to do anything. That was as true as most such promises are. But I kind of got used to "Bo", and when he had to be put down because of lymphoma after only four years, I sent a baggie of cheese and chocolate -- his favorites -- along with the brave souls who were taking him to the vet.

We were pet-free for about a year after that, but I, at least, am incapable of telling a group of wistful children "Nope, no dog again ever." We eventually adopted "Joe", who has been a member of our family ever since. He is definitely Roger's dog, which is good because walking him makes my sedentary computer guru get some exercise. But not so good is the fact that when we want to make a weekend trip out of town to visit the grandchildren we have to find someone to take care of him. We have some awesome friends and neighbors who are willing to do this, but as the kids leave home and the grandchildren multiply we'll want to be gone more often, so we had determined -- no more pets.

Allow me to backtrack a little . I have not yet finished writing the Mom's-eye-view of Katie, our fifth. And I haven't begun at all on Tommy, our youngest. This has partly been because I've realized that they are still living through the parts of life I've described for the others. But I need to give Tommy a couple of sentences here.

Tommy is smart, articulate, computer-savvy, and self-confident. He gets his good looks from his dad, and his pig-headed stubbornness from me. He is wonderful with Daniel and Camilla; patient, kind and willing to have their kind of fun. And a couple of months ago, he got himself into hot water. It wasn't a big deal, really. I almost had a sense of relief that now we knew what the "wrinkle" in raising this one was, since each of the other five had had one. (Some of them I've mentioned here, some not.) But the result was that he wasn't too happy with us for while.

But ten days ago Tommy came into the room where I was ironing with an interesting smile on his face. "Hello, dear beautiful sweet intelligent mother.." Can you tell where this is going? He wanted to know if he could adopt a kitten! He and Katie assured me that the kitten was free (true), that it had had all its shots (not true), and that they would do all the work and pay all the expenses (true so far, except that sometimes I have to open a door that we keep closed in the summer for cooling so that Lucas can reach his litter box.) Obviously, I eventually I said yes.

And I'm very glad I did. Tommy, who begged us for a little brother or sister until it became obvious that it wasn't going to happen, now has something younger and smaller to care for. He spent his entire last paycheck on Lucas' vet visit. He wakes up reasonably cheerful in the morning to the sound of a bell on a collar. He cleans the litter box without being reminded.

Of course, right now, Tommy, like all red-blooded American boys, is taking a Sunday afternoon nap. And Lucas, who seems to have an insatiable urge to be "UP" as high as possible, has made his way onto my desk and is blocking my view of the monitor as has chases his tail. I still don't have any desire for a pet. But I guess I don't mind being entertained by somebody else's!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wednesday Afternoons

(This is the post that was percolating when I pinched my finger into a giant blood-blister trying to remodel a lampshade. All better now. AND the lampshade works just fine.)

I am a creature of habit. My kids would probably tell you that I am rigid and stuck in a rut, and Roger will politely say that I'm "not as spontaneous" as he is, but the truth is that I am just more comfortable when I have a general idea of what's coming on any given day. For the next year! We have a giant wall calendar in our kitchen that literally has "Major Grocery Shopping" written on every other Thursday from here through December -- which is when it ends -- with deviations for things like Thanksgiving. Somewhere on September is written "buy new planning calendar", because I need a while to get all the birthdays and regular monthly meetings and grocery days and suchlike transferred before November, so that I can start writing in things for January as soon as I find out about them. I prefer to believe I am organized! ;-D

So it should be no surprise to you that I have a regular weekly "plan of action". Sundays are big family breakfast, mass (unless choir sings on Saturday night), dinner, and our couples' group once a month. Monday is music planning stuff, or sewing, or nasty big jobs like cleaning out the basement. (The rationale is that I'll be well rested after the weekend.) Tuesday is laundry, ironing, and menu planning and grocery list. Wednesday is changing beds, sheet and towel laundry, and bathroom cleaning. Thursday is grocery shopping (and maybe some random stuff like mending on non-major shopping weeks), and choir practice in the evening. Friday is more laundry and ironing, plus going over the schedule for the upcoming week. And I usually cook an extra-nice dinner because some of the family fasts breakfast and lunch most Fridays. Saturday is mopping, vacuuming, housecleaning. Lather, rinse, repeat.

To be perfectly honest, most weeks are not that cut-and-dried. This week, for example, I did grocery planning on Monday because we have a funeral to attend on Tuesday. And in the summer, the kids do more of the work than during the school year. And when that next grandbaby arrives, I'm out of here no matter what day of the week it is.... But getting back to what I was saying, I like knowing what's on my agenda for any given day.

Those of you who work outside the home probably are thinking "That's all she does?!! I do all that stuff in my evenings!" But I promise you I don't sit around and eat bonbons and watch soap operas. For one thing, we don't have a television. For another thing, I need to be frugal with my grocery money, so I cook mostly from scratch and spend several hours with the weekly ads figuring out which of the things I need are cheapest where this week. (I have a regular route that includes five to eight stores on one loop with no gas wasted. When we had six kids at home "major shopping" took about five hours, with another two or so for putting things away.) But I spend $160 a week for our current family of four, including all paper, cleaning, and hygiene supplies, which is only $16 more than the government's "Thrifty" plan for just food. And we eat VERY well. I could probably cut back to below the thrifty level, and we'd still be healthy and happy. I'd just have to bake cookies more often instead of buying them!

When I had six kids at home, especially when all of them were under twelve, the weekly schedule listed above took ALL my time. In fact, at that point I didn't have time for choir. The kids started helping as soon as they were able, but some things (changing the sheets on top bunks for example) were just not in their ability range. And that Wednesday list of beds, bathrooms, laundry took the whole day.

Somewhere along the line, though, it got easier. Even when a kid can't make a top bunk, he can strip it. And when older siblings can entertain younger ones, you stand a chance of getting a bathroom cleaned all in one shot, instead of stopping several times for childcare responsibilities. About the time Tommy started kindergarten, I discovered that I could (usually) get out of the house for a Wednesday mid-morning Eucharist. I would then grab a Coke or a mocha at the Tim Hortons' drive-thru, pick up Tommy, and finish my work. Later, when he was gone all day (waaah, all of my kids are gone!), I had a mental breakthrough. If I worked REALLY hard I could finish all the work (except maybe folding that last load of towels) before time to leave for the noon service. And then I'd be free until school was out. To go to the library. To go sit by the river and watch the freighters go by. To hit Barnes and Noble, make a list of new books to look for at the library (frugal? me??), and get a real mocha in the cafe. Heaven!!

Tommy will be a junior next year. He's the only kid without a driver's license. It's been years since I needed to be home by the time school let out. I can go places any day of the week, and I often do. But I still clean bathrooms like a dervish on Wednesday mornings, because Wednesday afternoons?? They're all mine!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Just in Case You Didn't Notice . . . .

When I got home from the weekend, I was too tired out from having fun with Daniel and Camilla to do a proper post. But I did manage to change my blog header. Did you notice?

I am now the grandmother of FOUR! Arwen and Bryan let us know that Camilla will have a sibling, due in February. Hurrah! Rosie and I wouldn't mind at all if we had to share our birthday. Maggie thinks that she should get to share hers, since we already have someone to share with. Actually, any February birthday will be fine! (And as Tommy's birthday is at the end of January, that's a possibility too.)

New grandbaby! Thank You, God!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Where I'm spending my weekend

I have an actual post percolating, but I hurt my finger while trying to modify a $6 lampshade to fit an antique lamp that only $60 lampshades fit, and I'm typing with three fingers instead of my usual four. But I'm going to have a great weekend hanging out with these folks and their parents, and will be back next week, unless Daniel's baby sister or brother arrives!