Monthly Archives: December 2010

Early Strategist


Holiday Hams

Fun. Potty Training. Gifts. Silliness. Dogs that cling. Dishes. Food. Cookies compliments of Twinkletoe’s and Clementine’s kitchen marathon. More dishes. Pine needles everywhere. Snow shovels. Egg nog. Laundry. Did I mention dishes? Sleds. Cuddling. Ice skates. I think some of my pictures are blurry because my eyesight is blurry – either age or thyroid or both. Oh, and dishes.

A Merry Multitude

It’s Christmas eve and it was bound to happen – my smiles turned to tears, an outburst, emotional meltdown, a few self pitying words, an understanding audience (oh thank goodness), and then a return to normal. No. Better than normal.

It is sometimes a tough time of year. Ask your friendly ‘clinician’ about holiday meltdowns….I’m no exception. This week (this VERY week) holds two deep losses for me. It seems these two losses have really become more than two – s0mehow multiplying over time.  Somehow deepening. I won’t detail the ‘why’ and ‘who’ and ‘what’s up’ here. It’s enough to say I’m holding the loss, holding the love, heeding the gentle and loving support of my family. And really, I think it’s ok to give 1/2 hour of my day over to a little mourning in exchange for the catharsis of being a family – for being the parts of family that are deep and abiding and constant. I’ve worked hard to shape what I have here in my home, and for the depths of home. Today, the depths were necessary for some grieving. And, for the purpose of moving into fuller merriment.

In the spirit of “the spirit” , this is what moving forward looks like today for our merry multitude:

Twinkletoes, Clementine and Blueberry have been busy all day making holiday cookies. Cookies include my fondly (re)named”Mexican Wedding Balls” – they always make me think of my mom since they were part of her cookie tradition. In typical family style, Twinkletoes is our baker. Her sous chef is Clementine. And the junior sous is certainly Blueberry. Snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, and chocolate brittle are on the cooking menu too. Blueberry is totally enjoying wearing his apron and cooking alongside the cooking duo…now trio.   


Mr. SillyPants, who worked this morning, is now home and is preparing to play the organ at church tonight. In anticipation, he’s practicing on the piano (his lovely Steinway) and pulling music left and right out of his music files. I imagine there is some wrapping to be done, too. Plenty of time 🙂 We’ll all be at church at 10:30, save 1. 1 will have to stay home with the wee one, and we’ve agreed the dog isn’t up to the task.

Speaking of wrapping…. in the tradition of my family, all of the gifts from Santa arrive wrapped in red and green tissue. Nothing fancy – just names written by the ‘elves’ in a variety of styles.  On the other hand, the biggies have been busy, excitedly wrapping their contributions to tomorrow’s gift giving. It turns out Waffle’s is a particularly fine gift wrapper. I, on the other hand, am a lame wrapper. My mom was the best wrapper EVER – she made the gift wrap a true part of the gift. Sorry to disappoint – hard as I try, I turn out wrapped gifts that make wrapping look like a necessary evil. The kids tell me that I’ve turned out a few birthday cakes that have that look, too. They’re right.

Speaking of Waffles, he and Clementine were sent on an errand to collect our Eve dinner. We opted to do something new this year and ordered sushi rolls for dinner from our favorite downtown restaurant. Twinkletoes and I are wondering how in the world a little food pick-up has lasted nearly 2 hours (OK, they did get a ‘tip’ in the form of coffee money – Clementine’s favorite fair trade coffeehouse is near the sushi restaurant).  We all complimented Waffle’s ‘murse’ as he walked out the door. Style 101. In about 1/2 hour we’re going to be digging in and enjoying our favorite food! It’s a GREAT break from the tradition of making our holiday eve dinner – and judging from this morning’s meltdown, it was a wise plan.

I haven’t seen hide nor hair of Songbird and her sidekick, Futball. They ran some ‘craft shop’ errands earlier today and then hustled downstairs with glue guns, art supplies, sharpies, gift wrap, and tape. I think there is a production going on in the hinterlands of our home. I said production! Not REproduction! (I am a mom to young adults – this is not a taboo subject around here!).

Finally, I have spent the afternoon reading my mind numbing, mind pleasing novel. I’m nearly done and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed it very much. It’s been entertaining and relaxing – and that’s TOPS on my holiday wish list. I can say that I’m most excited about having a whole week of R&R with my family over the next week. We plan on doing some ice-skating, some XC skiing, and a whole lot of reading and game playing. We are all in need of spoiling and indulging, so I hope that we are successful in giving each other a good bit of TLC this week.

P.S. It’s past our dinner plan hour and the dynamic duo are still MIA. We think they might have absconded with the sushi and headed to Central America. Go figure. (And if you read the last post about the Beast, they might have slipped from the car seats right into the road on their way home).

P.S.S. Did I mention that Blueberry has been in DRY underwear ALL day long? We might be there – we just might.

Service the Beast

Mr. Sillypants here, filled with experiences from a short but event-filled tryst with our most aged and venerable of cars, the Isuzu Rodeo which routinely graces our driveway.

This miracle of engineering has served our family for nearly 2 decades.  Bought first by Ms. Plum’s mother, the “Beast” left the Isuzu showroom in immaculate condition in 1992.  It served her well, also stepping in to help when Ms. Plum needed an extra car.

With the unfortunate passing of Ms. Plum’s mother, the Beast came to our family full-time.  It has served admirably in a number of roles, providing faithful transportation for both Ms. Plum and I.   It also towed our modest but enjoyable boat anytime we needed.   In recent years, it was used by our exchange student (remember “Schwartz”?  anyone?  anyone?), who once remarked, “I love the way the back end slides around when I’m driving in the snow.”

Truthfully, the Isuzu does extremely well in the snow.  Equipped with four wheel drive, it has a confident stride as it makes its way through a myriad of slushy, snowy, icy conditions, never failing to trudge through whatever Mother Nature throws its way, much the same way that Christian Okoye (the “Nigerian Nightmare”) used to blast through defenses when playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Thanks to the plethora of salt used by the Madison area road authority, the Beast is showing signs of wear.  In fact, the body has steadily started to erode, so much so that a few things thrown into storage areas in the back of the vehicle have immediately clacked around like a steel ball in a Pachinko machine, ending up on the ground beneath the rear tires a few seconds later.  Our mechanics have told us the car will likely rust out around us before the major pieces (engine, tranmission, brakes, etc.) fail.

Most recently, the Beast has become Waffles’ chariot.  Time was when Waffles and I found a church parking lot to review the basics of the manual transmission, the need to engage the clutch *slowly*, the importance of finding the right gear, the importance of using just the right amount of gas to keep the car running without lurching when starting from a stopping position (even on a hill.)

Truthfully, Waffles has become an expert in manual transmissions and now says he will “always” buy a manual transmission, if it is available.  This, of course, makes my heart jump.  I was raised with manual transmissions, having driven countless tractors, trucks and even semis between field and farm when I worked for a landscaping company as a youth.  I can still remember the intimate details each gearbox of my favorite manual transmission cars – – – how my 1970 Volvo 144S had a long throw with the shift lever but a very positive engagement; how my 1968 Chevrolet El Camino with its “three on the tree” felt more like an old style pickup than anything else; how my 2006 Volvo S40 turbo with its *6* speed manual transmission felt more like a racecar than a sedan . . .

I would, also, always buy a manual transmission if it were available . . .

I had the chance to drive the Beast again, last week.  We were in a shortage of cars and I was asked to drive the Isuzu to work so that the other cars would be available for Ms. Plum and daughters.  Two things quickly became evident.  First, the car never warmed up – – – I drove it for a full 45 minutes before seeing the first nudge in the temperature gauge.  (Waffles said later that he thought this was occurring because it was Winter.)  Secondly, the engine ran rough, skipping, coughing, hesitating and loping along even at slow speed.

The cold issue was easily fixed.  I’ve had a number of cars with faulty thermostat valves.  After $8 at Napa, Waffles and I replaced the valve and found the car now warmed up within 5 minutes – – – definitely a plus when you’re asking the heater in the car to remove the ice from outside and *inside* the windshield (an unfortunate side effect of the Beast’s rust issues . . . ).

However, the car continued to run rough, so much so that we had Waffles select other transportation when needing to run errands in this crazy week before the holiday.  In the back of my mind, I wondered if there was something more serious going on.

Ms. Plum and I stopped by the auto parts store this afternoon to get new spark plugs for the car, hoping that such a simple change might make a difference.  Late this afternoon, in the shadow of a setting sun, I had a chance to replace the plugs.  Truthfully, I was a little skeptical that it would return the Beast to working status.

Also, the work itself was mired with a few challenges.  To wit, if one were to write down a procedure for replacing spark plugs on a 1992 Isuzu, you might include:

~ drop the ratchet extension into the bowels of the Beast

~ use a screwdriver to try and liberate the ratchet extension

~ swear silently as the screwdriver drops out of your hand to a location near the ratchet extension

~ swear audibly when the second screwdriver isn’t quite long enough to reach either the ratchet extension or the first screwdriver

~ breath a huge sigh of relief when the ratchet extension and screwdriver were delivered from their respective purgatories, thanks to the presence of a much longer screwdriver and a flashlight, held expertly by Blueberry

In short, the plugs were replaced.  Oddly enough, I also found a vacuum advance hose going to the distributor which had become detached at some point in the recent past.  (Suddenly, I realized that I may have found the “real” reason for the impaired engine performance.)

Remember that this car was the pride and joy of Ms. Plum’s beloved mother.  The car has served admirably for countless trips, commutes and outings.  It has shuttled people to innumerable appointments, has towed the boat, transported pets and, most notably, been a living rememberance of Ms. Plum’s mother, a woman of indescribable warmth and character, a living legend in our lives.

It is a living legacy of her beauty, her quirkiness, her personality.

Imagine, also, my joy when the engine roared to life again, renewed and ready to serve our family again, both as a chariot and as a testament to someone both beloved and missed.

The Beast lives on.  It has new life and we are, in some small way, renewed.


Flower left this morning. We had 4 months of her sweet presence. Our home feels like we are missing someone now. We don’t question the missing – it’s here and palpable.

This morning I went downstairs and wake her up to say my final goodbye. I had to work, she was still sleeping.  I sobbed into her warm shoulder, holding her tightly in my arms as I whimpered my goodbyes.

This video sums up the completeness of her immersion in life here; in life with her friends and life with us.  Sledding down our local hill, famous for its steep icy slope, did not disappoint. Flower, if you’re reading this, “IT WAS BEASTLY!”

Come back soon our sweet little Hungarian Princess!

Merry Music

Making merry while also saying goodbye to our sweet Flower.

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