guilty pleasure monday: america the beautiful (ray charles)
May 31st, 2010 by wrekehavoc

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

every year on memorial day, i think about the sacrifices men and women have made for our country. sure, i gripe a bit about other things, too, like the rolling thunder people who take over our area for the long weekend.  but i have several family members, living and now gone, who are veterans.  and i am proud of all of them, and i am proud of all the people, young and old, who have chosen to protect my rights.

and i get really tired nowadays about hearing the old crap that’s continually trotted out as supposed common knowledge: that because i disagree with the war in iraq that i somehow don’t care about service people.  it’s actually because i care about service people that i am disgusted with what has gone down as one of the worst military blunders, in my view, in american history. (and we have had our share of those, sadly. you don’t have to look far for them. vietnam, for starters… bay of pigs… i could keep going here…) first and foremost, these are our people — someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s mom or dad, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin… these are people who have stepped up to the plate and who have pledged to protect our nation.

but what exactly are they protecting our nation from in iraq?

i can understand going after terrorists, and frankly, the mess that is afghanistan is partially due i think to our half-hearted attention to that part of the world. i agree there are times when our military stands strong in the face of horror; and that’s a part of the world where we should have been looking all along.

and now, it is all such a colossal mess.

i can’t believe it is yet another memorial day, and we are still in iraq. we still aren’t making a dent in afghanistan. pakistan is nuts. and we are no closer now to finding osama bin laden.

well, maybe there is a segment in this country that finds me unpatriotic. but it is because of the sacrifices and hard work of my immigrant grandparents, it is because of all that my parents have taught me, and it is all because of the world i want my children to inherit from my generation that i disagree with the military direction of this nation.  i disagree loudly. i disagree deeply. and i will disagree patriotically.

and you can bet that i know that i can thank a soldier for that.

blue sky
May 30th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

happy birthday, little man.

one day, not too long ago, you and i were driving in a car somewhere, windows open, music blaring. i miss days like that; we used to have our tuesdays, where you and i would try to cram a little fun into the one day we shared alone. now, of course, you’re a big first grader — almost a second grader — and so our times alone are a little harder to come by.

and when they do, often we find ourselves in car, bound for who-knows-where. sometimes a fun destination, sometimes an appointment. but we sing and we talk and we’re quiet and we’re together, you and me, my baby boy. i treasure your sister for many things; i treasure you for many others. sometimes, it’s hard to say what’s different about you and your sister. you are both my children, but two more different people there could not be. and i’m grateful for that, as it makes me appreciate the different gifts that you both are.  i’ve never been able to articulate those differences and those appreciations well, but i know them, i feel them, i breathe them in every day.

so we were driving, you and me, and the allman brothers started to sing in their meandering, drawl-ly southern way. and little you piped up:

mama, i’m your blue sky. BC’s your sunny day.

and in one second, you put to words something i never could. your sister is a sunny day, filled with light and love, hopeful that each hour will get even better than the last. clouds be damned.

and you are my blue sky… sometimes, a midnight, turbulent sapphire, with storm clouds rolling in ominously. sometimes, a hazy azure, signaling a leisurely languid loll. and then again, i know i will also then see the bright cerulean of your smiling sweetness around the bend, too.

mama loves you, jools. no matter what sort of day, you will always be my blue sky.

black coffee
May 26th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

…because classics are classic for a reason.

i was delighted once again when my friends at coffee for less kindly gave me some Tully’s French Roast Decaffeinated K-Cups to try and review. as i’ve said many times, i love me some K-cups which i dutifully use in my Keurig machine that BS gave me as a present awhile back. this k-cup promises to be rich…smoky…grand…dark on the package, so of course, i broke out my ever-popular mom cup and had me a cuppa.

coffee 2

eureka! i loveloveLOVE this blend, almost as much as i love my coffee people favorite blend.  and as my coffee people fave is sometimes unavailable, i now have a new go-to cup! (which is a good thing; i’m just about out of coffee!)  it holds up black, it holds up with the coffee mate, it holds up to anything! it’s hard to believe it’s decaf, it has such a bold, assertive flavor. ok, so it probably also would not go over well with my mom and dad, who like a more mellow brew.

but for me, it’s destined to be a classic in my morning routine.

a big thank you to the folks at coffee for less, who kindly supplied me with the coffee to review. the opinions are all mine. the love is all genuine. read more about coffee (and the people who love it!) on their coffee blog.

guilty pleasure monday: misty mountain hop (led zeppelin)
May 24th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

Why don’t you take a good look at yourself and describe what you see
And baby, baby, baby, do you like it?

today’s guilty pleasure monday brought to you by the letter C for camping.

those of you who know me in real life know i love nature. oh yes, i really, truly do… love to hike in it, love to play in it, love to search in it. and then, at the end of the day, i like returning back to my home or a lodge or a resort of some sort, nicely appointed with electricity, bathrooms within the building, and nature coexisting outside the confines of my indoor world.  i like indoor plumbing, i like restaurants, and i loveloveLOVE showers. (i’m high maintenance like that.)

so it came as a huge surprise to everyone when i agreed to join our girl scout troop as we embarked on a cabin camping trip to misty mount in the beautiful catoctins. after all, the one and only stipulation i had made when i agreed to help my dear friend M as she led our troop was no camping.  i’ll do lots of things with the troop if asked; i’m generally not a shrinking violet. but please dear Dog, no overnights in the great outdoors. at least, not for me.

in short, i am not a happy camper.

i know this, not from experience but from knowing what camping entails. if i don’t like when ants come into my home, i know i won’t enjoy whatever more interesting wildlife decides to say howdy-do while i’m trying to get some shuteye. i like climate control. i like having a bathroom nearby, one i don’t need to put clothes on in order to pee in the middle of the night, should, ehhem, nature call me. yet somehow, i threw the whole to thine own self be true biz to the wind. and i brought jools and BS up into it for good measure because why shouldn’t we all have fun together! after all, it’s not roughing it. it’s cabin camping! (which my more experienced friends said is a cakewalk in comparison to tent camping.) there’s a building with bathroooms and showers, just a short walk from our cabin. and one my friends graciously organized the whole she-bang, and lots of other families were bringing food and knew what to do.

so thanks to target, we had sleeping bags, we had mess kits, and we had liftoff.

BS was being a super-good sport when he went along with us; i offered to leave him home, but i think the idea of me being lost up in the maryland mountains with the kids probably compelled him to refuse my offer. he, like queen victoria, was not amused, but he came along anyway, bless his pointed little head. we arrived in the sunshine, somewhere before 1pm. the folks who had slept over friday night left us a note; they were hiking, but lunch foodstuffs were available and we should help ourselves. very very kind of them! another mom, her daughter, and another scout were there, so the mom took the kids, including BC and jools, on a mini hike while i waited for BS to walk back from the parking lot, where he had to leave our car. when he returned, he and i decided to hike a little hike ourselves.

now the thing about hiking here is that there actually are no paths. you really are walking through woods, over streams, and into mushy things that may end up on your pants when you sink in them (not that i would know about that personally, though my jeans are currently swirling in round two of my mini-wash-a-thon at the moment in the hopes that nature will leave my levis alone.) and when you’re a person who has fractured, then sprained one of her ankles, you tend to remember that perhaps unsure ground is not the place you ought to be walking until after you’ve had the surgery to fix said ankle and then have had a few months of physical therapy. but of course, this all had been realized as BS and i were deep in the woods.

gee, i hope we can actually find our way back, i mused aloud, fiddling in my pockets in search of crumbs i could start throwing onto the ground. just in case.

fortunately, we soon heard the happy chatter of our kids with the other girls and mom, and we knew we were on the right track. and if i only walked ever so carefully, i would make it back up the hill to our campsite without requiring a med-evac transport. which i did. yay me! well, yay, BS, who held his hand out, gentlemanly, at certain pivotal moments. (like the one, for instance, where i didn’t want to jump down this one giant rock onto the lower rocks at the stream. but i digress.) how cool is this camping business, i thought. it’s sunny, it’s fun, and food is involved!

the others returned, and we proceeded to have a fun afternoon. kids played, grownups ate and chatted, and other than BC getting stung twice by a wasp or yellowjacket on her knuckle (her pal H was stung just before she was) and having her middle finger look like it was blown up and ready to fly in the macy’s thanksgiving day parade, it was a lovely time. i brought benadryl, and since the girl had never been stung by anything in her life besides a mosquito and some sharp criticism, i gave some to her, hoping she wouldn’t have a reaction. and hooray hooray, other than a big old blownup finger, she seemed to keep breathing.

then, the deluge.

grownups made some awesome food in spite of the buckets of rain that came down. i am so very, very thankful to the others who brought so much delicious food and who knew how to prepare it out in a camp situation. (i saw my first camp stove, and in short, i was awestruck.)  i had amazing veggie chili made fresh, i made a smore for the first time in a campfire (yes, i make them in my microwave, don’t judge), and the yummy spinach artichoke dip that my pal and co-leader M brought from whole paycheck foods was absolutely delicious! knowing that jools was not a veggie chili eater, BS cleverly brought along a pack or two of hotdogs, which he and the boy roasted beside some baking dump cake (which i totally have to try at home!) the park rangers do, in fact, check on you to make sure you haven’t brought any grownup beverages (which is truly unfortunate.) while it rained, the boy continued to poke at the fire, which probably ensured that it didn’t go out. in fact, i think some of the boy’s and BS’s happiest moments involved poking at fire. which, in hindsight, should probably frighten me a little, though i prefer to think that perhaps they are both frustrated firemen.

yes. that must be it.

anyway, the light rain became heavy rain. we three retired to our cabin; BC slept in a bigger lodgey-cabin with my friend, the organizer, her family, and several other girls. (bless you, my friend.) the minute i sat on my bed, it sagged 3/4 of the way to the floor. a great sign in sleepland, to be sure. i crawled into my new sleeping bag. have sleeping bags gotten smaller, or have i gotten bigger? i remember fitting myself and a friend once in a bag, and now, i barely fit myself comfortably. i tried to stay on my side in an effort to preserve my back. and i tried desperately not to move. every move made a noise, and every noise, i feared, would wake up BS. the light shone in through my window, and i watched it blurry and hazy-eyed (my glasses were resting on a makeshift table of board games we had brought up.) jools, on the other hand, slept like a rock; his sleeping bag was practically off him, and he was just the best. sleeper. ever. would that i had been him.

when i saw BS stir, i knew the morning must have come. i didn’t have a watch (and couldn’t have read it even had i wanted to without my glasses on), but he did. when i don’t sleep, i just get boohooey. but when BS doesn’t sleep? well, let’s just say he’s not his usually, happy-go-lucky self. and waking up meant having to put clothes on to get to the bathroom (which, i will say, was very nice to have, as opposed to say a latrine. but still not psyched to have to put on clothes to get there.) i let him hike to his bathroom in the rain first, and i somehow ended up waking up the boy. it was 6:00somethingish in the morning. after he returned and i trudged to the ladies room, we did what any normal family would do: we broke open our two packs of donuts and started to inhale them. powdered donuts! jools exclaimed, mouth stuffed to the brim. mpfmpfmpfmpfmppfffffhhhhhh! yep. they’re definitely an important part of his training table. then, as others were still asleep, we played a game of yahtzee. the boy actually rolled a yahtzee and beat us both. badly. badly enough as in he wants to actually save the score sheet badly.

i’m sure my grandchildren will one day hear the tale of just how bad grandma is at yahtzee.

we finished, and people were beginning to stir. but watching hellboy struggle putting on his raincoat and whining because the sleeves were saturated was the straw that broke the camping camel’s back.

we’re done, BS simply said.

i am so grateful to all the families who did all the work while i did precious little, and i do mean precious little. they organized things, they fed us, they were so amazingly wonderful and generous to us. and i’m hoping they know that our experience is not any reflection on all that they did at misty mount.  if my house wasn’t a shambles, i would totally want to invite them all over for a thank you festivity.

so, in their honor, some zeppelin. cos nothing says thank you like robert plant.

little miss can’t be wrong
May 20th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

you know the type.

so i’ve just returned from my monthly IV of gammaglobulin goodness, a ritual i endure every four weeks for the rest of my life. it’s not so bad — the ladies who take care of me are amazingly wonderful and endure ME relatively well, considering i have to go through seven bottles over the course of about 5 or 6 hours (on a good day) with veins like keith richards’. today, i blew first IV connection in my right arm thanks to having thick blood that apparently clotted, leaving the IVIG nowhere to go but backwards. poke number two in the left arm worked for a short while until something ouchy and stingy happened. luckily, by this time, i had only one bottle left, so the lady i annoy the most (and who i love to pieces) put in a butterfly on another site in my right arm and i did not move my arm for about 30 minutes. no biggie.

in fact, i was able to run to the nearby wegman’s, which was cool because jools had run out of his favorite Phillies Graham Slam ice cream, and wegmans is the only place around here that sells it.  so, since i was finished at two, i skedaddled over to the wegman’s before starting the 40 minute+ drive home.  since it was 85 degrees out, i decided to park in the “underground” lot. i zipped over to take the stairs, but as the elevator doors opened right up in front of me, i figured what the hell — i’ll climb in since it’s going up anyway.

as the doors were about nearly closed, i heard a voice shriek: hold that elevator! my pavlovian response, of course, was to stick my hand on the door and get the sensors to realize the doors shouldn’t shut. (why didn’t i press a button, you wonder? well, you need a PhD to read the actual buttons on that particular elevator; for a machine that literally only goes between two floors, it’s a bit unreal.) in walks a tall, poodley-haired suburban blonde lady and her equally tall, late teen/early 20s daughter. thanks, she said. i smiled politely, nodded at her, and did what all self-respecting people do on an elevator; i moved to the far corner.  i hurt my foot this morning she announced, perhaps to the daughter, who didn’t say anything. yes, i hurt my foot this morning, she repeated louder, clearly looking to justify why she had made a person stop an elevator that was nearly closed so that she could ride. i looked at her, wondering what exactly she wanted me to do — perhaps break out my medical kit?

then, she looked at my two bandaged arms. in a voice usually reserved for naughty children who have just pushed someone else’s child down off a cliff — or maybe her bichon frise just made a little pooh on your lawn, she exclaimed, “Uh oh! Uh oh!”

realizing that she had not, in fact, turned into a teletubby, i knew i was the reason for the uh ohs. for that split second, i wanted to say well, i was shooting up my smack today, but i missed. shit could happen to anyone, right?

but i didn’t. somehow, though, i knew she was demanding an explanation for bandaged arms. and as the nice girl i forever am, i had to give one. i had some IVs in my arms today.

Uh oh!

am i riding this elevator with rainman’s mother?

the IVs save my life.

that gave her an inscrutable look. the doors then opened, and i made a beeline for the frozen food section.

i me mine
May 18th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

this morning, i read an article in the washington post about the clashes between families and childless folks in urban areas.  there has been a resurgence in the past five to ten years of people with children returning to the cities and taking over places that childless folks assumed were their domain; urban parks, stores, and restaurants are now places where people with children demand equal footing.

to be sure, some businesses are attempting to bridge the gap with family-friendly happy hours. (!) (wish they had had them when i had young children.) and i certainly think that public parks and public property are places where children ought to be able to share space with dogs and dogs with children. but i also think that parents these days have developed a sense of entitlement — that they are now parents, and so the world should bend to them — coupled with unrealistic expectations about life as mom or dad. don’t get bent if you are asked to fold up a stroller before getting on a bus. i’m sorry if you are upset that you’ve children in tow, groceries in hand, and a bus driver who requires you to take your $500 stroller and fold it. maybe you ought to reconsider how it’s all done– have someone watch your kids when you hit the grocery. use a grocery delivery service. buy a car. take a cab.

move to the ‘burbs.

i once got into a huge tussle on my favorite board, dc urban moms about this topic. a parent was upset because a local watering hole (a place which hosts poetry slams and which, at least at the time, was not meant to be a kid-friendly place, at least not at night) was somehow unable to accommodate her baby with a highchair when she was taking her baby out to dinner with her hubby at 9pm one weeknight. to me, there were all sorts of wrong in this concept. i’m sharing bits of it because it pretty much says it all.

if you sense that a restaurant isn’t family-friendly AND the proprietor is not really interested in making it family-friendly after you’ve
asked about making it so, it is the proprietor’s right to have his/her place of business as he/she feels it ought to be, and it is your right as a consumer to not patronize the place. if everything were family-friendly; if every neighborhood catered perfectly to people with families, well, i think we’d be living in some sort of perverse disneyworld-like situation. no, thanks. i like my world with grime, even if i have to shield my kids from it now and again.

i have two children (one who has always behaved perfectly everywhere and one who, well, to put it nicely, is working on it), lest anyone out there think i am someone who is not herself interested in child-friendly places. and child-friendly places do NOT mean you’re doomed to only chuck e cheese and mcdonalds (which, for the record, i abhore and don’t even allow my kids to eat
their chicken nuggets after watching “supersize me”). [snip] places that are noisy; places that have highchairs; places that welcome you and your business are the places you might consider supporting by bringing your families there. heck, my kids enjoy a variety of ethnic foods, so it isn’t like our life has been wildly limited by this idea.

but what burns my butt is this presumption that because we are in a new phase of life called parenthood, everyone must bend to our experience by having what we want in every venue we want it. face it — there are some places where kids ought to be left home, at least in the evening. as one poster noted, some places are not venues that are even ENJOYABLE to kids; maybe they’re too
fancy or too cool or too high-falutin.’ and while you might not consider your child’s spitup to be nuclear waste, some people might think that this is not the experience they signed up for when they sat down for a nice meal. (and believe me — it isn’t just the childless patrons out there — when i go out for a special evening meal sans mes enfants, i don’t want to see someone else’s kid barf, nor do i want to smell someone steaming in an overdue diaper change, either.) just because *you* have a glass of wine before you have your meal so that you are feeling good about your restaurant experience with your children doesn’t mean that the people next to you who have to listen to your kids shriek through dinner are going to be equally mellow (unless perhaps you buy your dining neighbors some wine, too.) in short, i don’t just get annoyed with the parents for how they manage their children in public; i am annoyed with them for even bringing their children into an inappropriate venue in the first place. and a glass of wine won’t make me feel any better about that.

i was brought up by people who taught me that i have rights, and they extend as far as where the next person’s start. i was also brought up to believe that there are others in the world whose needs and interests are just as important as mine — and sometimes, moreso — so consideration is always in order. that means everything from getting up and offering seats to elderly people,
pregnant women, or someone who clearly needs my seat more than i do. it also means, for me that even though i would like to go to some trendy place, i need to recognize that some venues are clearly better for my kids, for their comfort as well as for that of others. my kids “practice” their restaurant behavior in places where the restaurants are more prepared for little patrons who may not be ready for fancy or trendy places; and anyone who patronizes such family-friendly places knows what they are in for when they walk through the door. (highchairs are a dead giveaway.)

i am certainly considerate to others when i see them bring their children into a restaurant or other venue which i don’t think is an appropriate choice for them — it isn’t like i storm out — but honestly, it does often detract from my enjoyment of the place, and it isn’t like i have a money tree in my backyard to even go out to such places all that often. when i do, i really wish people would think first before bringing the kids. (i mean, sheesh, 9pm is not an appropriate time in my book to be starting dinner out with a toddler –
not if you care at all about the kid being into solid sleep patterns. i feel sorry for the kids in that situation.)

there will be plenty of time for my family to go to nicer places when i think they won’t disturb other diners. if i really, truly want to go to more grownup places, i get a sitter. but right now, mostly i really prefer hanging with my kids. if that means that for a few years, we go to more relaxed, family-friendly places for the time being, so be it. it’s all about expectations. i think some people fall into parenthood and naively think that their life won’t change — they are just adding a child/children into their 20-something, 30-something, or 40-something regular routines. your life DOES change — and in ways for which you aren’t prepared, way beyond sleeplessness and all the other stuff 10,000 parenting books tell you. imo, you need to adjust your expectations a little – it is only temporary, after all.

i got a lot of private email cheering me on; i also received some slams over judging people who take babies out to dinner at 9pm. hey, you are the one with a burgeoning sleep problem looming on the horizon, i thought to myself.  unless we were on vacation, we would never have taken our children out to dinner that late. (and even on vacation, that sort of start time is a nonstarter around here. we try to keep a semblance of a schedule in our lives, if only to keep everyone on an even keel.) to each his own, i suppose.

but seriously. people need to understand that children aren’t accessories to and for a life already in progress.  children change the equation. as as a parent, you need to alter your expectations accordingly.

it is different; it is not worse.

guilty pleasure monday: 7 and 7 is (love)
May 17th, 2010 by wrekehavoc

how many hit records boast a simulated atomic bomb?

i’ve been neglecting my blog, and especially my guilty pleasure mondays. i do have a good excuse, of course, one that doesn’t involve dogs eating homework or kids discombobulating; we recently began renovating our home.  the first time we renovated, i was very ill and on percocet.  while i’m not a big advocate of drugs, i think now that being medicated may be the way to go when you watch other people destroying your abode.

anyway, watching my roof explode into shambles started me thinking about bombs hitting buildings… and ultimately, to the wacky world of arthur lee and love.  arthur lee and love probably never received the sort of appreciation they deserved by their contemporaries, which is a pity. two albums, da capo and forever changes, are absolutely classics in rock.  there are jazzy spanish guitar riffs (as in the masterpiece alone again or), there’s childlike psychedelia that probably inspired copycat madonna (like my other favorite she comes in colors, a song that has also made it into guilty pleasure mondays but as a cover by philly band the hooters.)

and then, there’s 7 and 7 is. this song, straight out of the mid-60s, sounds like what happens when you cross a mod with a punk, if the latter had only really been invented at that period. (would that create a pod? a munk?) i read somewhere that the drummer had a hell of a time keeping up with the rapidfire changing tempo of this little ditty, and eventually, arthur lee himself ended up drumming.  the lyrics are inscrutably beautiful and jarring; and the music plus the lyrics push ahead until you hear the bomb. (is it reverb? anyone?)

and then, there’s this odd little oldies melody that’s played, as if to say hell, the world ended but we can still sit here and watch a sailboat and have a beer.

i adore it. and to me, these guys birthed all sorts of acts without ever really having anyone pay homage to them. at times, i hear the jam, i hear the stone roses, i hear so many others.

i wonder how many of them know of love?

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