Welcome to my world.....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ireland... Here I Come!

OK - so I'm going to Ireland and I'm sooooo excited! It's not until June of 2010, but we all need something to look forward to, and that's it for me. I think with my red-turning-gray hair and my freckles I'll fit in just fine... Heck, I may not even come back!

I've already been to the Galway Visitors Bureau website to look at stuff to do. I'm going with a friend of mine who has to speak at a conference. I don't even know all of the details, just the dates. What else is there to know? I don't know why I was so surprised that my husband said "go for it" when I asked about the possibility of my going.... I've just got to save up a little bit of money and I'm good to go. On the bright side, I made my last payment on the Mom Mini-van in December so if I budget right, I can put away my car payment money and I'll be covered. Have I mentioned that I'm sooooo excited?

Oh, and the Browns won again today... wow.... go figure!

Short but sweet for today.... I need to go search the internet for a digital countdown timer I can put on my desktop so that everyday I can see how much closer I am to Ireland.

Excitedly Submitted,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Family Christmas Newsletter..... sort of

So every year I get these newsletters from people telling about all the wonderful things that have happened to them this year. With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.... here's ours. Enjoy!


Greetings from NorthRidgeTucky! It's been another year of wonderful happenings at our home!

As many of you know, Joe-Bob and I celebrated our 22 wedding anniversary this past Spring. Who knew all those years ago when he knocked me up that we would still be together today! I guess having all those kids and trapping him so that he couldn't afford the child support payments really helped to keep him at home!

And speaking of the little darlings.... Whew! Another year and none of them are knocked up. I know! I can't even believe it either! But, Joe-Bob and I do keep a strict count on the tampons each month and they are all four going through them at the proper times. Woo Hoo!

Our oldest, Kellie-Mae, is in her last year of college. She managed to get through this year without getting arrested. I can't even remember the last time I had to go post bail. And the thank you card we got from the local cops was just precious. Apparently they appreciate the fact that she hasn't caused any of them to be unable to have children this year. (I do hope Officer Gilroy heals soon, but is has been two years after all, so there may not be much hope of that.)

Next in line is Kandie-Kay. After dropping out of high school we really worried about her, but she's doing really well at "Roxanne's Club for Men." She's moved up to be the Feature Pole Spinner on Saturday night and the convention season was really good to her. The manager tells me that she has a real future there, and that she is the best pole polisher he's ever seen! Her stage name is "Kitty Litter" and they are talking about a statewide tour so if you see her coming to your town, be sure to catch the show!

Kimmie-Sue just graduated from Rehab. She was in the honors program, the fast-track, that they reserve for people who not only use drugs but also sell them. She's only been home a few days, but so far it's been nice. We are working out a program with the dentist to replace some of her teeth but she says she likes not having any in the front. Eh. Go figure. She'll have to find a new line of work, but maybe one of her friends down under the bridge can help with that.

Lastly, there's Kristie-Lee. Her new boyfriend, Thug, is real sweet. The tattoo's don't bother me too much, but Joe-Bob doesn't like the piercings. Kristie-Lee says the spikes in his chin just add to her pleasure, so who am I to argue?

Lt. Dan, our three-legged cat, is also doing well. He doesn't meow much these days, but he still likes to fight with the dog. Why, just the other day I saw him swinging his shoulder and swatting at the dog like he still had a leg there...... ha ha. Just cracks me up thinking about it.

Well, that's about it for now. Hope you and yours are all doing fine. We've got nothing but love going on here at the trailer park. It's so much nicer than when we were living in the station wagon!

Kisses and Smooches,
The Farclaster Family

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cookie Time!

One of my favorite things about Christmas is making cookies. We make at least 20 dozen cookies every year. There are anywhere from four to eight different kinds, depending on how long we can stand working in the kitchen together. And every year the first thing we do is throw out the two dozen odd cookies we find in the pantry left over from last year's baking....

Each year brings a different dynamic to the baking process. The only constant though 22+ years of doing this is my husband, Joe. He is a marvelous chef. Simply mah-velous, dahlink! I think that comes from his chemistry background - got his masters degree in Inorganic Chemistry back in '89. So, when it comes to saucing and spicing and creating amazing meals, there is no one I know who does it better. I am the sous chef.... I chop up little things and I do the dishes. This is a mighty big job because he insists on using every pot, pan, spoon, spoonula, whisk, mixing bowl, whatever (!) he can find in the kitchen. It's my job and I like it.

Baking, however, is a different story. Baking is, in itself, a science. There is no playing around. There is no experimenting. Eggs. Butter. Sugar. Flour. Baking soda. No, baking powder is not a good substitute. Those are the basics. And the proportions matter. If you are out of something, you can't just look around and grab something else. It just won't work. I absolutely ADORE following a recipe. Joe absolutely EXCELS when he is out of something and has to whip up a cream sauce using whatever he finds. It always comes out great. Only real problem with that is we can never duplicate his efforts! Experimentation in cookie world simply means we were looking in the cookbooks and found one we hadn't tried before. But we followed the directions precisely!

The making cookies is something he instigates. He is always the one who announces to the family: "We are making cookies this weekend. We will have family fun time. Or else." Cookies galore flow forth from the oven. But there are always little nuances and the occaisional casualty along the way.

We have four daughters and each one likes to help with one type of cookie or another. Or not help at all. Over the years, my help hasn't changed much - I either help or I don't. Some years, depression gets to me and I just don't want to deal with the hassle. Other years, I'm all about the cookies. It's not a big deal. And really, this has turned into father-daughter time lately and I'm cool with that. They seem to work in shifts. Joe will say "let's do this kind next" and, like a batter stepping up to the plate, the appropriate kid will head for the kitchen.

Lafawnduh is 18 and home from college on Christmas Break. She is #3 in birth order, but the first one to move out and into a dorm for college. She is also the most like her dad. Listening to them bickering in the kitchen is a hoot. She likes things her way - he likes them his way. She did a lot of "giving in" yesterday, but I know that today she is doing the cut cookies and icing them - all alone with no one to tell her that she's doing them wrong. Creative little minx.

Miss Sparklezz (22) and Jewbie (20) are too busy for baking. Oh, they'll walk through the kitchen, get swatted with a dish towel, and steal a few "samples" along the way, but that's part of the game. They just want to wait for the decorating part, so they better keep an eye on Lafawnduh today.

The Cheese is 16 and likes the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses in the middle. She is also hilarious. She is the funniest kid I know, but not in a "tell me a joke" way, in a sarcastic, one-liner way that I know will get her into trouble in some circles, but I just love it. There are many times when I am laughing out loud while thinking "as her mom, I shouldn't be laughing at this but damn this kid is funny!"

Saturday was all about nut horns... time consuming little buggers... plus, we had to get organized for the Sunday Marathon. Sunday we did Christmas Pretzels, Russian Tea Cakes, and Mexican Hats. Cut cookies are today. Next weekend will be Buckeyes... and who knows what other great things we'll decide to try. I already learned something new from Cheese this year....

Me: Cheese, can you help me unwrap kisses for the Mexican Hats?
Cheese: Mom, you can't call them that anymore.
Me: What? Why not?
Cheese: Because it's politically incorrect and could be offensive to Mexicans. You have to call them peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses in them.
Me. Well, crap. What about Russion Tea Cakes? Is there a new name for them?
Cheese: Yep. Sawdust.

.... yeah, that's my kid.

Respectfully Submitted,
Clvlnd K8

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Dreams of Trees....

When I was little, I asked my mom why some trees died in the winter and others were still green and pretty.

“They don’t die honey. They go to sleep. They use up so much energy growing big and tall and providing shade to us that they need a nap. The other trees just sit around looking pretty all year so they don’t need to rest.”
“But the leaves don’t sleep. They fall off and die!”
“Don’t worry about the leaves. Their work is not done…. They provide bedding for birds and squirrels and some of them even become food for the trees.”
“Well I hope they don’t become food for the tree they fell off of! That would be like a momma eating her babies!!!!!”

I smile as I think about that conversation now. I developed this idea that trees went to sleep in the winter… a nice peaceful sleep…. That they hid from the cold and the gloom and had peaceful dreams until it was time to wake up again. But this year, something feels different.

I’ve worked at the same place for 11 years. I’ve seen the same trees – mostly – for 11 years. Today, while standing outside, watching the trees, they didn’t seem peaceful. They seemed angry, rebellious. The wind was howling and the trees were swaying and
they cried out to me “NO – Not yet! – I’m not ready for winter!”

The younger, thinner trees sway with vigor. They move back and forth, almost violently, as if daring the wind to knock them over and they bounce back up…. The older, thicker, and maybe wiser trees move more slowly. They give way to the wind because they know how strong it is, but then never give all the way… they gently sway back into their upright position when the wind isn’t watching.

As I watch I get the feeling that they each have different personalities, that maybe they are alive in a way I hadn’t considered before. I know I’m feeling fanciful today but frankly, I have no clue why I was watching the trees.

I’ve never really looked at them before. But all of the movement made them alive for me for the very first time.

Perhaps that is all just my own heart crying out those words. I’m never ready for winter. I understand the reason for it, the renewal and rebirth and the symbolism and all that…. But I’m never ready for it. And it feels like the trees aren’t ready for it this year either.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There's only ONE way to load a dishwasher....

I sat at the kitchen table eating pecan pie with my dad last Sunday and he commented on my husband. J was unloading and then reloading the dishwasher. My dad seemed to think this was woman's work and questioned why - with 4 daughters - did my husband do the dishes. I replied very simply.... because I mow crooked lines in the lawn. As puzzling as this was to my dad, it made perfect sense to me.

There is only ONE way to load a dishwasher. My way. I've taught the girls my way of doing things. The right way to fold towels. The right way to hang clothes on hangers. The right way to load a dishwasher. No need for me to explain these things to you - we all have our own way. But I have a touch of OCD so I need things done a certain way. It's not a "monk" kind of thing or a problem like I can't leave the house, but it does make things easier for me to have a certain "order" about my day. Probably because of the chaos inherent in a household full of women.

My daughters think it is hilarious. I try to chew an even number of chews on each side of my mouth at meals. I like the volume on the radio or the TV to be an even number. I take an even number of steps. I have "stutter stepped" many a time to keep an even number of steps on tile before the pattern changes. My husband likes to adjust the TV volume and leave it on an odd number. I've tried to leave the remote alone, but the best I've done is 30 seconds before I pick it up and click once - up or down - to get back to even. My girls like to walk around the mall, zig-zagging across the walkways, over the various patterns, and watch me try to step around colored tiles placed in random patterns. It's sort of become a fun thing to do, no malice intended, and we laugh about it.

However, the dishwasher has always been sacrosanct. If you load it wrong, you must unload it. I put them away in a certain order and if it is not loaded the proper way, I can't put them away. The Cheese understands where I am coming from and does a really great job of loading it properly. The rest, not so much. So, if they've been coerced into loading, they must unload.

In the early days of our marriage, I didn't want to label jobs as "his" and "hers." Mostly because we had four daughters so that would leave a whole bunch of chores for J and a lot of help for me. Being such a modern wife, I would try to help out and mow the lawn. I did this exactly four times. Then, no more. You see, my husband fancies himself the greens keeper on a golf course or something because each time I mowed, he would thank me and then point out where the lines were crooked. Frankly, in a passive-aggressive sort of way, I decided that he didn't appreciate my efforts and I would stop. We didn't discuss it. I just stopped. I didn't mow again until last summer.

Last summer, he casually mentioned that the lawn needed mowed. I said I would see if I could pay one of the neighborhood kids to do it if he didn't have time. He asked me why I couldn't just do it. I was astounded. Didn't I have enough to do? Why was his time more valuable than mine? I said as much to him.... Why should I mow the lawn when he was just going to complain about the crooked lines? And then he responded with something that astounded me even further. He said... "You mean like the way I don't help with the dishes because you just take everything out and put them back in your way?"

A light went on for both of us. At the end of the day, we both needed to accept help in whatever form it was offered, be gracious, and don't sweat the small stuff. He really doesn't need straight lines in the lawn and I really don't need the dishwasher loaded "just so." It's nice to have someone pitch in and help around the house - to see that maybe you've had a rough day and want to just sit and drink some coffee - or a cold beer on a hot August afternoon. It's actually nice to loosen up a little on our tight reins of control.

So the next time my dad is over and my husband is loading the dishwasher, I may ask dad to lighten up and give J a hand.

Respectfully Submitted,
Clvlnd K8

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

John Elway - the AntiChrist

I've been a Cleveland Browns fan since 1975. After doing the west coast tour for United Air Lines (San Fran - Salt Lake - LA), my father was transferred to Cleveland. I arrived in February, a cute little freckle faced 9 year old who only knew snow from our trips into the mountains. This was a different world for me. The Midwest is a very different world from the West Coast. Here, I discovered football.

For me, football was all about my dad. Looking back, I don't even think my dad liked football, but for some reason I thought he did. As the oldest of three kids (younger set of twins - boy/girl), I was always looking to get my dad's attention. I was definitely a "people-pleaser" in general.... got good grades, was involved in everything, had a million friends but no one really close to me, band geek.... but I think I particularly wanted my dad's approval.

I learned about football so we could watch games together and talk about sports. But we never watched games together or talked about sports. I was still a girl. My dad had firm ideas about how boys were different than girls. Mom dealt with us girls and Dad dealt with my brother. This made me angry. My way of dealing with the anger was to become the world's biggest Browns fan.

One of the great shameful secrets that I keep is that my parents are from the Pittsburgh area. They say things like "warsh the dishes" and "jeet yet?" and they are Steelers fans. Seems silly to be ashamed of this, but by the time I was 13 I was in full fan mode and hated (HATED!) all things black and gold. Instead of being mad at my dad, which would have been completely unacceptable, I chose to hate his football team. I don't think he ever really knew or cared, but there it is.

I will say that I do dearly love the game of football. While my friends were falling in love with Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett, I was hanging up posters of Brian Sipe (Browns QB - '80's). I was memorizing stats. I was watching games. I still get so excited at kickoff. I joined the band in the 5th grade with all of the other aspiring musicians - except they wanted to rock n roll or maybe play in an orchestra someday. I couldn't wait for high school and marching band. It was a way for me to be connected to the football games every week. My only regret is that I didn't learn to play the sousaphone and go to OSU and have a chance to dot the "I."

At any rate, I am left with a love of almost all sports, but football in particular. And I am left now, at 43, in a love affair with someone who has broken my heart more times than I can count. The Drive. The Fumble. The Tramp Stamp. Oops, forgot to mention that one. After years of thoughtful consideration, last summer I had a Browns Helmet tatooed on my lower back. My children informed me that it is called a "tramp stamp." Who knew? Anyway, they are now blaming my tat for the utter agony that has been this year's season. But I digress....

my tattoo 1

There are certain rules that I live by now as part of my Browns Fan-dom. I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers. I hate the Baltimore Ravens. I'm suppose to hate the Cincinnati Bengals, but really, they are more worthy of my pity than anything else. Their fans know my pain. AND, I hate John Elway.

The next shameful secret came when my oldest daughter - at the age of 16 - announced that she was a Steelers Fan. O. M. G. Where did I go wrong? What parenting rules did I break? Was someone going to call children's services and take my baby away for being abused? Something must truly be wrong with me if I raised "one of those" kinds of people..... But I finally figured out that she like the Steelers for reasons much like why I began to love the Browns in the first place. It gives us a safe place to fight. We argue about football. We yell during games, talk smack during the week, insult each others players, and then we hug each other. It's been a great way for us to work through anger about other things in a safe place so that we don't really hurt each other. I'm so glad I understand it even if she hasn't quite figured it out yet.

Next hurdle... my daughter Lafawnduh is dating a new boy. They'd been friends for a few years and she asked me for permission to date him. I said "why would you need my permission" and that's when she dropped the bomb... "he's a Steelers fan." Oh, baby.... what good could come from this? What about my grand babies? I will not suffer grand babies in black and gold onesies! She has promised me that if they marry and have children, they will raise them in My Faith - the church of the orange and brown - and I trust her to do just that. It will be a difficult road for them in a mixed marriage, but that is a long way off. I will wish them the best. At least she didn't bring home John Elway.

John Elway is the AntiChrist. I blame John Elway for our lack of a Super Bowl Championship. It's all his fault. He knows it, I know it. There is a special place in hell for him - right next to Art Modell. (Wow - just saying all that felt really good.) I've been to Denver twice in my life. I love to golf there. It's beautiful and the people are really cool. But if you ask me to meet you there for dinner and the restaurant is owned by John Elway, I ain't going. People have tried. I have made scenes. It wasn't pretty but I made my point.

I don't know John Elway and I guess, ultimately, he's probably not that bad a guy, but you have to consider the source. I'm a Browns fan. Good, bad, ugly, I go on hoping and dreaming that someday they will make me proud. Until then, I'll keep waiting. And watching. And drinking the Pepto Bismol.....

Respectfully Submitted,
Clvlnd K8

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Naming of Kids is a Difficult Matter....

My children have been known, from time to time, to complain about their names. I'm not sure really what their problem is since we don't call any of them by their real names anyway, but complain they did. On this particular day, I felt the need to sit them all down and explain to them how lucky they were.

I've always taken names very seriously. I often wondered what parents where thinking when it came to naming their children... Tommy Thompson? Dick Trickle? Really? This was the best you could do? You had 9 freaking months to come up with something and THIS was it? Geez. (yeah, I'm judgemental. deal with it.)

When I found out I was pregnant with #1, I spent a great deal of time analyzing names. I look at Name Books and made lists of family names. I tried to come up with derogatory rhymes or other things that kids would call them on the playground so I would be able to avoid them. I even laid out their initials and monograms to make sure they didn't spell anything troublesome. (Monograms were popular in the 70's and 80's). I was bound and determined to not make them easy targets for the vicious little brats they would go to school with.

And it's not like I had a bad name or was picked on or anything about it as a kid. I think I developed this concern partly out of judging what I felt were other people's bad choices and partly from Ann of Green Gables. I just love those books. And I just love the movies. (Megan Follows is one of my favorite actresses - no clue why - but she was great as Anne.) So maybe Anne's desire to be Cordelia colored my motives.

Once I had a few options, I would give them to my husband who, god love him, didn't seem to think this was as big a deal as I did. However, he did humor me and pointed out other problems I didn't notice until we had one girl name and one boy name picked out. (He vetoed Cordelia right off the bat with no good reason!)

We did this for each of our four children. It took less time with #2, #3, and #4 since we kept the same boy name and only had to find a new girl option. And each time we thought we'd get our boy so I didn't really consider the big picture.

So that brings us to last week. I told my girls they should be very grateful for their names. It could have been much worse. Had I called Miss Cleo and been told that I would have four daughters, they could have had A THEME. Perhaps flowers: Lily, Rose, Violet, and Iris. Or maybe gems: Ruby, Opal, Emerald, and Pearl. Literature is an option: Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and whatever that last Bronte sister's name was. You get the point. And so did they.

I could go into detail on what each name is and what it means and how we arrived at that name, but that isn't the point. The point is that they have made new names for themselves. These names have been given to them by friends or family members and the truth and love behind each name has made it stick. I guess, in the end, my mission was a success... none of them are saddled with names that hurt their feelings or make them sad.

All my love to:
Miss Sparklezz / aka Sparky (Kayla)
The Jew / aka Jewbie (Carolen)
Lafawnduh / aka Boo (Rebecca)
The Cheese / aka Queso or Fromage -when we are feeling European (AnnMarie)

Respectuflly Submitted,
Clvlnd K8

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Island of Forgotten Dishes

We have a buffet in the dining room that is covered in dishes. Not just dishes but serving platters, Tupperware containers, etc., etc., etc. None of these are mine. These are all items that other people have left at my house. I "store" them there in the hopes that someone will recognize them and take them home. I don't remember my mom ever having this problem, but then again every dish of this sort in my house either had masking tape with our last name on it or she would use a black felt pen to mark her territory.

We have always enjoyed entertaining and having company. This began very early in our marriage due to necessity more than anything else but we truly love it. When we were first married, I was 20 and my husband was 22 and we were pregnant. Before we knew it, we had children that were 6, 4, 2, and the new baby. The vast majority of people in our "circle of friends" were just thinking about marriage. We were the only ones with kids. We were broke. We were making ends meet but you could no longer call us at 6:00 pm on a Friday night in September and suggest hitting the new comedy club or going out to dinner. For heaven's sake - where was I going to find a sitter during high school football season? Not to mention that this type of evening used to cost us around $150 and we didn't have that.... So we invited people over. We'd throw a meal or snacks together and play euchre or pinochle or something after the kids were in bed. That was our way of keeping in touch with our friends - we'd just have them over!

Through the years our entertaining has continued and expanded. Whether it's burgers and brats in the backyard for The Jew's birthday party in July, or the mexican theme of fajitas and home-made guacamole for the 11 guys in my fantasy football league at our draft party, or even filet and lobster tails served formally for 20 people from work, we love to entertain. We love having people in our home and sharing our love for them with food and conversation and maybe a little guitar hero for dessert. (Nothing more fun that adults singing and playing drums / guitar after four or five martinis!) Whenever we have these parties, the kitchen seems to be the center of everything. While my hubby and I are prepping, people pitch in to help or bring a dish to share. This inevitably leads to the population of the Island of Forgotten Dishes.

I used to walk past the vast array of fiesta ware and it would make me sad. There were some really nice pieces here and I wished they were mine. We have spent a lot of years treading water in the financial end of the pool.... worrying about "needs" for me and the hubby and then stretching to "wants" for the girls. There wasn't much left after that. It is only recently that I've been able to look at things like table cloths and serving platters and think maybe now I can get some cool stuff for when people come over.... complete sets of things instead of 6 bowls with different patterns because that is what mom or the mother-in-law or the aunt or someone gave us along the way when they were done with it. I was feeling grumpy about my mis-matched sets.

But today I gained a different perspective and it kind of snuck up on me. I was cleaning the kitchen and found a pot with a lid and matching pan that belonged to a friend. As I made room on the buffet for these new visitors I realized where they came from. Last week, very close friends of our lost their daughter. Other friends wanted to do something to help so they dropped off a brisket and bbq sauce at my house and I delivered it for them. These were the pans from that meal. And suddenly I felt the love. I looked around and felt love from the pie pan my mother-in-law brought over on Thanksgiving containing my hubby's favorite pecan cheesecake pie. I felt love from the large oval platter that Bean had brought over a few months ago containing her famous Thai Noodle Salad with Peanut sauce. I felt love from all of these dishes that use to mock me. Because they each ended up in my house by way of people that love me.

Now, when I walk by the buffet, I'm not sad.
I'm actually pretty darn blessed and I give myself a little hug when I see this reminder of the great people in my life.

Respectfully Submitted,
Clvlnd K8

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Under Construction

So, I've recently learned about the wacky world of Blogging.

And while I always thought bloggers were just people with way too much free time, I've come to realize that this can be a sort of therapy... a way to express yourself that you don't find in everyday life. It feels like a safe way to vent. I don't have to fear the rejection that we sometimes get in the real world when people don't want to hear what we have to say, don't really care, or just plain don't realize how badly we need to say certain things. Most people don't mean to hurt us, it just happens. But this seems like a safer kind of thing.

My writings so far in life tend to be more conversational in nature, like I'm just talking to myself (prolly 'cause I mostly have myself to talk to). I tend to be a stickler on things like spelling and punctuation, but sentence structure may go out the window. Who knows. This whole new world I'm entering is still under construction.....

Respectfully Submitted,