Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm certain you've been waiting with bated breath. Ha.

I took time off but need to write again. So Tom Waits is serenading me and I'm back in front of the keyboard thanks to a small push from a friend in Slovenia.

Speaking of Slovenia brings me to the language spoken there. Our friends there speak English very well. I can't speak Slovene at all. I tried to communicate via a couple of translation tools and called something a cat when I meant a waterfall. I'm thankful to my friend, AleŇ°, for his patience and good humor. I'm sure there are any number of Slovenian people on Facebook who think I'm insane. They're probably right.

Autumn has come with blasts of cool, damp air and gray skies. We're busy with learning activities and getting the house and property ready for winter. Isabella's trumpet and piano practice has Maggie dancing and Max howling along with the 'tunes'. Who knew a miniature dachshund liked to dance? Isabella thinks she'd make a good circus dog.

The idiocy of our federal legislative process continues to irritate my soul. Hello, Democrats! You're in the majority - and you have the White House. What the shiny hell are you waiting for? Why don't we have decent health care legislation passed and signed? You people are driving me to drink.

As the year end comes closer I think of the time since Mom died. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be difficult this year - and for many years to come.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

See, I told you.

Those eyes.
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Those eyes!

I can't thank Karen enough for capturing 'those' eyes. The light from them makes my world shine.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Learning while wet

She has a hard time remembering numbers, she needs things in her hand or in front of her eyes to help it stick. So today she played in the water. She splashed and dumped and slopped like a three year old but she also got it - finally got it - 8 ounces in a cup, two cups in a pint, two pints in a quart, four quarts in a gallon. Then she took her pencil and worked out problems. She could SEE that you need to divide to find some answers and multiply to find others. It made sense to her. A gallon is divided by 8 to find out how many pints it would take to hold that much liquid. A cup is multiplied to see how many it would take to fit inside that 2 gallon pot.

She plans to spend time later this week measuring out how many tablespoons are in a gallon. I think we'll do that outside where the splashing will water the flowers.

Learning and keeping cool. I like it. More importantly, she likes it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rock band 2, time flies and an ostrich bone

Bella wants to buy Rock Band 2 with her birthday money. Holy.... She's just turned 11 and is not too rhythmic but makes up for it in enthusiasm. Guess who will have to play and sing with her? The things a momma will do. Ish.

Speaking of Rock Band - I was serenaded by singing and playing last night until the wee smalls by Boo and friends celebrating their high school graduation. Boo or 'Jofuss' as his brother, Nate, named him on the day he was born - at home weighing well over 11 pounds. My baby sister's baby who has been through hell and walked back in his short 18 years is moving on to the next place in his life. Where has the time gone? How could he be so tall and witty and preparing to take on the world - well college anyway - in a few short weeks? He will leave Peter at home to take care of their momma and dad and the cats when he takes wing and flies off. Peter is up to the task. Nate has trained his brothers well and they're following in his footsteps. They sing, they pay music, they analyze the world, they care deeply about important things. Anne and David have done a fantastic job and continue to do so.

Spending a few days in Madison always does me good. In addition to enjoying spending time with Anne, David, Nate, Joseph and Peter we once again had the pleasure of strolling around the Dane County Farmers Market. What an amazing experience. I question each time why there's nothing like it anywhere in my state. Imagine another place where the grounds of the state capitol are given over every Saturday in the warm months to a huge farmers market. Our growing season is longer but we have nothing to compete with the wonders of the market. (I can't add photos today but I will when we get home.) The fellow with the 'bee hat', every type of cheese you could imagine, flowers everywhere, the fantastic fresh produce. Did I mention baked good of every shape, size, and sort? Amazing, freaking amazing. But the coolest find belonged to David and Bella. The 'ostrich sausage' booth had eggs you could look inside, really good sausage (per david) and ostrich bones for sale. Smoked Ostrich bones for sale! We bought an 'xtra small' one and brought it back to Maggie J who had to stay in the bathroom while we went to graduation. She was stunned. We gave her a bone as big as her whole body. It's a hoot to watch her drag it around.

Of course there's the added benefit of being with 'my kind'. I saw two cars with my all-time favorite bumper sticker 'a bleeding heart is better than none at all'. Two! I think I belong here.

I've always heard the old saw, 'the older you get, the faster time goes' which has proven to be true for me. Bella is 11. She can swim fantastic distances, writes a good story, has very few nightmares these days, trained in Red Cross rescue the past two weeks and is planning a near future making big money babysitting and as a life guard. She earned special kudos from her instructor, Cheryl, from Cheryl's boss and our old friend, Mitch and from Adam, her swim team coach. A 52 pound girl who can 'rescue' a 10 pound brick from the bottom of the deep end of the pool and follow the proper steps to bring it back safely to the shallow end is something akin to a mouse pulling an elephant from quicksand. Where did that 26-pound, frail, pale wisp of a frightened four year old girl go? I only turned around and she's 11 and accomplishing miracles.
She pulls away and rolls her eyes when I want to hug or kiss her in public but still wants a lap and a snuggle when we're alone. That's good enough for me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

But it's free...

I ought not to have opened the door when he knocked. But I did and he came in with a brown envelope and an earnest look on his face. Our neighbor down the way. Thank goodness he left his 'concealed weapon' elsewhere. I invited him in. Another mistake. Frank wanted to give Isabella the vinyl pool he had 'sitting in the shed'. He made a point of mentioning he was thinking of offering it on the local internet buy/sell/trade/give away site for $50 but his wife suggested he give it 'to the folks down the road with the little girl.' What was I thinking? What was Gman thinking? We said "Well, Isabella would enjoy having a pool this summer." Mistake #3. Frank asked Gary to drive down in a day or so and he'd help him heft it into the back of his pickup.

Now the pool pieces and liner have been taking up space in our garage for several weeks. With a bit of encouragement (yeah right) from Bella and me Gman agreed to think about where it might be level enough to put it. The last several days have been fraught with efforts to level a spot, figure out how to get power to that spot, actually make the spot level (which is a serious challenge when you live on a hillside) and begin the effort to erect the pool. Isabella, of course, wants it up in time for her birthday which is less than a week away now. The water will take days to heat up enough to be comfortable for the six girls who will hopefully attend her celebration.

Downsides and difficulties thus far: We've spent a bundle on sand, boards...oh and those two vinyl repair kits we've had to buy. We haven't yet purchased chemicals or the floaty things our girl is imagining will decorate this anticipated cool summer play place. The kid is a competitive swimmer. A four foot deep viinyl pool isn't going to allow much real swimming. Our young friend Joe, who is conveniently staying here with his new bride Desi, has sweated and dug and concreted and leveled and worn himself out. Gman is exhausted.

Upsides (or upclines for those of you who are long time readers of the Belle Banner) include: Isabella now knows how to find out if someting is level and to make it level if its not. She identified two butterflies and one moth while supervising our efforts. Isabella has bestowed 'an entire summer of swimming privilege' to Joe for his hard work. Exhaustion has made Gman far less cranky.

No water has been put into the pool. It isn't even ready to be set up quite yet. But I do know one thing. When someone offers you something 'free' it pays to think long and hard about what it will actually cost.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sometimes I really have to stretch to reach them all

I have many children. Four born from my body. Four who came with my husband. One young one who came from sadness and stayed with joy via adoption and fortunate circumstance. And, a few who became mine due to circumstances far beyond their control. It is, frankly, hard to manage to have enough time, energy and brain power to give each one his or her huge share of my heart.

Some make it easy. The small one is right here in front of my eyes each and every day. She has my love and attention poured upon her like water.

The not quite grown ones who have no other momma use their cell phones to text and text and text me their feelings and their questions and their wonder at the how the world seems to work. I can text a quick reply like a mad woman now, even while walking in a downpour at Walt Disney World. These young people need an immediate response. Each question or comment is 'critical' and they're used to instant everything. I can send hugs and encouragement, a small digitized pat on the back or smack on the rear and it seems to help.

But the grown ones, the really grown up ones are past all that. They long ago took wing and moved on into worlds of their own creation. They experience things for which I have little understanding. They know stuff I will never know I don't know. It's difficult to find the time and circumstance to make sure each is reminded of my admiration and deep affection. It's hard to make sure each knows how amazed I am at what she/he has become. But when it does happen - even for just a moment of meeting the gaze of a pair of handsome eyes, grown up eyes, - it fills me with such a sense of peace and pride I can't begin to express it.

There's an old saying 'You're only as happy as your most miserable child'. Right now I'm pretty happy. It feels good.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How lucky I am to be Meme

Meme, that's me !

Bella gave me the name when she first came. She decided it was spelled Meme and so it is. I have been her "Momma" a long while now but the name still hung around. When Sabina was on the way, Thea asked me what I would like to be called and the only thing name that came to mind was the one I'd been given a few years before.

Now Sabina and Iris call me that funny name. It fits somehow and hopefully one day soon the lovely Ada will laugh and say "Silly Meme" as her cousin and sister do now. Ada of the huge deep blue eyes and the eyelashes that are longer than her hair. Ada, who makes me think of her father when he was little. She has his expressions and the way he'd look deep into your eyes and then grin a huge grin.

Sabina loves nicknames and frequently now calls me "Meem" which makes us both giggle. We are Bean and Meem, quite a pair.
She is so serious one minute and cracking a joke the next. She hates it when anyone is hurt or sad and runs to give huge hugs. She asked Bella "Honey, are you gonna be okay?" Empathy in a not-yet three year old. Wow.

Iris' belly laugh is huge for her little body but it matches her dynamic personality. A two year old who is starting to read, can count and plays computer games - she's amazing. I love to hear her belt out "Meme, that's funny when you do that."

These lovely ones live quite a distance from me but a part of me stays with them whenever I have to leave them.

I am indeed lucky to be me and to be Meme.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How she learns

We school at home. We have for a few years.

Why? Because she doesn't 'fit' in school? Because school doesn't suit her or us? Because we want the freedom to come and go as we please without a schedule forced on us by a 'school year'?

Because we want her to be able to think for herself, to set her own goals and learn about the world freely in her own way and own time? Because schools here teach 'to the test' and not to the individualized needs of the child?

Because with the bus ride and the standing in line and the waiting and more standing in line and another bus ride on top of actual learning time makes for a 9 1/2 hour day away five days a week from mid-August until late May?

Liberals who school at home? People assume that home schooled children are part of an ultra-religious family. That we wear long skirts and don't cut our hair? Ha! We're 'secular', - in a good way, I might add. People who support quality public education for everyone else school their own child at home? Yep. Choice is a wonderful thing.

We use some textbooks, some workbooks and sometimes we use none. We dream and draw and go back over stuff that didn't make sense or didn't 'stick' the first several times. You may choose whatever reason you wish to label why we home school. The point is - we do. And most of the time it works. If it takes three more years to stick that concept she struggles with, that's fine. We have the time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thank goodness, it wasn't dog pee this time

We're awash in dog pee. Poo, too, but not as much because Maggie is - oh how I hate to say this - a nasty little poo eater. I can't figure out how she knows which poo to eat and which to pass up but this tiny, adorable looking little stinker is indeed a stinker. She needs breath mints, mouthwash, gargle and a tiny little toothbrush. [Imagine here if you would that little stick figure emoticon that goes "Gahhhhhh!". That would be me at this point in (not) house training a six pound creature.] I've been told that many dogs eat their own poo but I can't reconcile the cute face of Isabella's adorable mini- dachshund with the fact.

But I digress. Maggie will occasionally 'do her business' outside but more often than not she'll squat and pee or poo in some corner or doorway. She's learned we don't like it but she hasn't chosen to let us know she needs out when it's time. She has learned to be sneaky so we're less likely to catch her 'in the act' and use the technique taught by The Puppy Whisperer which is to say 'ah ah ah' and place her outside.

Anyway, this evening at bedtime Isabella went to help Maggie find the pink 'lellafant' she seems to need to take with her under the covers each night. Isabella yelled downstairs 'Oh no! I think Max has peed inside now, too. That puddle's too big for Maggie to have done it!" Gary and I were both especially tired from the long day and week and stared at each other with dismay, each hoping the other would go check out the problem. I must have stalled longer because he went upstairs and asked Isabella to show him where to find the mess. It only took a moment to hear him laugh and say "Isabella, you're seeing puddles where there aren't any. That's just a shadow on the carpet. But please take Maggie outside for a few minutes before you go to bed!"

Thanks the goddesses for small favors.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No matter how many children I have ...

...I still seem to collect more. One who needs advice on cooking, dealing with 'boys' who won't grow up, menstrual cramps and how to budget for a vacation. One who needs dog training advice and encouragement to get out and get busy. One with problems way to big for me to help much so we chat and visit and I applaud and commend where possible. I get text messages at all hours of the day and night. I get surprise phone calls "May I come over? Will you come get me?" I do my best to support them but it's never enough. And contrary to the somewhat popular opinion I don't know everything about anything.

There's also the whole Easter thing to explain to a 10 year old. What do rabbits, candy and eggs have to do with Jesus? See I told you I didn't know everything.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A coat of paint for my soul

Painting the walls in the house is supposed to move me forward. If the upper floor of the house looks less like Mom's house I'm hopeful it will help me miss her a bit less and move on a bit further in the process.

So a nifty green and light milk chocolate are the colors in the living room, hall and stairwell.

Now what color do I need to paint inside my head?

Don't get me wrong, I'm doing okay. But clearing out her stuff is still ahead of me and that paint color isn't looking too good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Unlike Miss Hannigan I'm thrilled to be...

...drippin' with little girls. Adorable, funny, smart, mischievous and lovely. My lovely Bella, of course, doesn't seem small when compared to her three little nieces: Sabina, Iris and Ada. A couple of days spent with them is like a giant mood elevator with a touch of back pain thrown in. I seem to have a bit of trouble when I fold myself into tiny spaces playing hide and seek with a giggly two year old.

Ada has grown so much. She's amazingly calm, a very observant baby and can nearly sit up on her own. She loves to roll around and looks at her 'big' sister with complete adoration. Iris had better start eating a lot or Ada will be as big as she is soon. Speaking of Iris, she's really reading; 26 months old and she looked up at the sign above us and said "aisle 6, Mimi, this is aisle 6'". Wow. She's so funny, can figure things out so quickly and is deeply entranced with ears. She couldn't stop gently tugging on Maggie's droopy mini-dachs ears and seems to really enjoy giving Ada's ears (which resemble mine, poor baby) a pull now and then.

Sabina is more three year old than two now. She's speaking in such complete sentences and expresses herself so beautifully. She is very empathetic and wells up in tears if anyone is hurt or upset. Her curls are changing color a bit but are still more copper-colored than any other shade.

What did I do to deserve these wonderful little human beings? I feel very lucky, very blessed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Poster board, construction paper and all that

Isabella chose to learn about the solar system and to produce an informational display about it at our 'science fair'. She perused books, the internet and her favorite placemat. She learned a lot and frankly so did I. Astronomy and knowledge about things celestial has grown enormously with the help of super duper telescopes and those amazing space 'probes'.

We learned why Pluto is now just a dwarf planet and what a dwarf planet is exactly. Amazing.

So now it's nearly done, she only has to put a few last details on it. Hopefully the puppy won't chew on the corners or wet on it.

Glitter glue, cool typefaces and a nifty printer assisted her in her efforts. So did her minions - otherwise known as Momma and Poppa.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'll bet you didn't know

a tiny dog can take up a lot of room in a young girl's heart. Isabella is head over heels in love. She's one of those clumsy little puppies whose back feet swerve around to nearly meet her front when she runs.

She's curious about new things, too. I'll bet you couldn't tell.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Magnolia Joy

That little red-brown dog now resides at our house and at present is whining in her crate in the laundry room. Her name used to be 'kiwi' but Isabella has given her a new name (see title). She will be called Maggie J

I have truly lost my mind.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A puppy? I don't need a puppy.

But Bella does. She NEEDS a puppy. The central focus of her life has been to have something to love and snuggle, some creature who loves her with total devotion. Mr B loved her like that but hated chubby girls. Seriously, why would a sweet-natured, gentle, loving black lab HATE chubby girls? Well, more than chubby - I hate to use the word obese but it fits the three little girls he tried mightily to attack. And, after four years of effort he finally bit the one who lives next door. I know she has 'issues' and almost undoubtedly tormented him and Max in their pen but we couldn't have a dog who bites around and dear Mr. B went to the vet's office and didn't come home. The dog who slept on her bed the night we brought him home and who loved her with a depth that seemed endless went away nearly a year and a half ago. She still mourns for him. Max is a fine dog. But he's not her heart's companion. So today when Desi called to ask if I would take the mini-dachshund puppy she cannot keep I hesitated to even consider it. I said 'no'. But somehow we're going to meet her tomorrow and talk about this little brown thing who poohs in her crate and still potties on the floor.

Perhaps I weakened because Bella is down with a fever and very sore throat. Perhaps I'm barking mad. I may still be paddling but I've come to doubt if all my oars are in the water at present.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Neti pot is a strange enough name but Nose Bidet?? Be careful what you read when perusing your gmail. Seriously.

I had the misfortune to listen to Sean Hannity for a few minutes today. What is up with that crackpot? Do people really listen and believe his crap? What alternate reality does that guy live in. And I do mean that - seriously.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

how long can you tread water?

It's one of those days. You know the ones. Where no matter what you need to do you just want to crawl back under the covers and pull them up over your head. A few more gray, damp, dismal days and I may have to head for the sun somewhere. Blech.

But helping Bella get ready for the her science exhibit and learn more about the early days of the country before it became a country, help her find synonyms for interesting words and practice, practice, practice that math has pulled me from the depths. Well, that and a dose of Animal Crossing. Tom Nook, Peanuts and the other inhabitants of Bella's town (Mist) have once again cheered me up. Simple pleasures are best, I guess.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I'm missing my 'big' children and my momma. Everyone is so far away today on this gray, cloudy, windy, depressing day. I need a hug. And a kick in the ass to get moving.

Bella is down with a nasty tummy virus or something - not peanut butter caused - I think.

I haven't told Gary yet that I've encouraged Ashley to 'come home'. She so badly needs to change her life. I've offered her six months free room and board if she agrees to my terms.

Oh god, I do tilt at windmills...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I need a phone, just a phone

I don't think I need to surf the net and post from my phone. I waste enough time at home doing that. I don't have a paid job any longer so I don't have to keep up with stuff every freakin second of the day and night. Would it be fun to surf and post? Well, yeah. If I have to I can Twitter from my phone and wait to check updates from others when a computer is available. Hell, why do I need to read people's 'twit'ter every second of the day anyway? So no Blackberry for me. Iphone? It's fun and interesting but not for me. I just need a phone. It doesn't have to play music or store many photos. It doesn't need to tell me how to get places - and by the way I don't want Google telling people exactly where my phone and I are located. Buncha busybodies.

Bluetooth? Maybe. I'm on the road a lot and people call me (and I call people but don't tell anyone) when I'm driving. So a Bluetooth headset might come in handy. But hands free speakerphone could work too, don't you think? I am not impressed with people you see in shops and on the street talking, it appears at least, to themselves. With further examination I'll notice that thing around one ear. It seems silly and self-important to me but what do I know? So if I do get a Bluetooth headset you have my word I will only use it in the car.

But really if you can't talk on the phone and drive then you can't talk with anyone in your car either. Seriously. A conversation is a conversation whether you can see the person you're speaking with or not. Or, am I missing something. Holding a cell phone makes the conversation more dangerous?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mental telepathy or something

My aunt called today. She wanted to make sure we were okay. We talked for about 10 minutes about life in general, she was trying to avoid mentioning Mom but I wouldn't let her. We both needed to say we missed her.

Within 5 seconds of hanging up the phone rang again. It was Mom's long time friend, Helen, calling to see if I want more of the wildflowers she collects. She had some red and orange daylilies saved for Mom. She was really calling to check on me.

Hmmmm, I wonder if I was sending out signals or something.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thank you, Suzie and Happy Birthday Abe

Suzanne, you call made my day. You make me smile and cry and laugh. Maggie sounds like a hoot. I have to meet the dog who owns your heart.

200 years ago a (scrawny, rather ugly - I imagine) baby boy was born. His strength of character and force of will changed our world forever. Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln. Someone is following in your footsteps. I wonder if you could ever have imagined.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentines and old friends

It's time. Time for Bella to decorate that box and make the treats she plans to hand out to her friends tomorrow. The freshly made rice krispie treats, dyed with a bit of red and squished into heart shapes with the help of a mold will be done at the last minute 'so they'll taste perfect.' Therefore the floor is strewn with card stock for making the tags for each carefully prepared bag and the paper used to cover that important box.

Gloria called to check on me. Old friends are the best. This one can often read my mind and occasionally I can read hers. It's wonderful to have connections that reach unseen across the miles. We used to share details of the lives of our little ones and now they have little ones. Time really does fly.

The spring peepers are back

The sound last night of the peepers calling from their muddy little homes lifted my spirits more than I thought possible. The cold and dreary days will pass. Spring will come.

It's been a long winter here - a 'dark night of the soul' to borrow from St. John of the Cross. Mother's final decline and passing on the morning after Christmas was both horrible and beautiful to witness. She was so physically ready to leave but still holding back mentally, I believe. But in her final days, though she didn't seem much different outwardly - not more breathless and no additional pain - she seemed to 'know' she didn't have much time. She had me buy Christmas cards to mail to people she hadn't spoken to in a while and who she knew needed to hear from her. She called Chris and Eric on Christmas afternoon when she would traditionally not call but wait to hear from her grandchildren and spoke with them at length. By the time Jen, Tim and Heather, Jeff, Thea and Sabina arrived on Christmas evening she had seen or spoken with each of her twelve grandchildren in the previous weeks. She had completed specific tasks she felt were important like shredding old paperwork and calling a cousin she hadn't spoken with in years, checking on a frail family member she was worried about.

She went to sleep that night after a joyous evening with some of her grandchildren and her namesake great-granddaughter and did not awaken the next morning. Our world is so much smaller without her in it but we all know she left without fuss or noise just as she wished. And, she left in privacy but yet surrounded by people who loved her deeply. She did indeed do it her way. The day after her death a deluge of rain fell flooding streets, road and creeks. Then (this was December 27 in mid-Missouri) a huge double rainbow appeared in view of our home. A sign? It sounds silly but it was very comforting nonetheless.

So we go on with life, working toward the 'new normal' without her here. This past weekend my sister, Anne, and my daughter, Jen, arrived to help tackle the sorting and disbursing of her personal 'effects'. It was both painful and joyous requiring frequent breaks to cry or gather strength or share memories. It also required wine and margaritas.

Spring will come but not soon enough for me. I need blue skies not gray and sun, lots of sun.