Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pete Pete the Preschooler-Age 2

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Smiley Reilly-Age 12

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Kate the Skate-Age 9

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Sam-Mandu-Age 8

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Aidan Bug-Age 8

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Back to School

The weeks before school started around my childhood home were a flurry of activity and preparation. My mom had to get us new clothes, new shoes, new Pee-Chee folders, and whatever else we HAD to have to get us going in our new grade. Each school picture except Bryan's fifth grade photo is in the youtube Photo Memorial at the top of the blog. He was such a cute kid. Those freckles and long lashes. Those big 'ole buck teeth (I had 'em too until mom paid for braces and headgear for us both). When I look at those pictures, a bunch of "first" days of school flash through my mind.

Except the year I went to Grant Middle School and he spent an one more at North Broadway Elementary and his senior year at Escondido High, we always went to school together. I never had to walk onto campus without an ally. At least in theory. There was that day on our way to middle school when he purposely "rubbed" tires with me while we were our riding bikes to school. I ended up being driven to school by a good Samaritan since my knees were thrashed that time. But for the most part, we travelled as a team to first days of school. It was good to have someone on my side. Blood related and all. Especially the year Adrian the stoner chick had it out for me. And the year Liz the gang banger wanted to hurt me. Bad. Oh boy. How did so many people want to hurt me? I was a nice girl. With a big mouth. Having a brother proved helpful on many occasions. And Julie Beach. She was one brave friend who stood by when the lunches were being squished into laps. School was brutal for me at times. Thank goodness my brother had my back.

These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of commotion and chaos in our home. We started back to school over here. Unlike my mom, I didn't need to hurry to Gemco for book covers and lunch boxes. Instead, we cleared out the old (half-finished) curriculum from last year and made room in our school room for the new stuff. My kids don't need to cover their books, since they usually return them to the library. They don't need new school clothes since its so hot here right now they wouldn't be able to wear their fall selections anyhow! I spent many "first" school days melting in my new fall outfit just so I could finally wear it even when it was triple digits hot. What planet was I from? I remember Bryan wanting Vans shoes so desperately one year. Money must have been tight. He got Alphabeta specials: fake vans which he doctored up with a sharpie. Creative fellow. My kids don't even know what name brand clothes are. For shame!

Their first days of school around here means back to routine, definitely getting out of jammies before lunch and hitting the books by 9am. Daddy goes back to work. We brush our teeth more regularly than in summertime. But my kid's school experience is light-years away from Bryan's and mine. Weird. I don't have to pull blankets back and squirt kids with spray bottles filled with freezing water to get them going to make it to school on time. That was a part of my mom's morning routine. Frazzled woman. I don't have to pack lunches. If mom forgot, she'd run by the corner 7-Eleven for deli sandwiches, bagged Doritos, and a custard pie. She even dropped it off at the school office for us. What a mom. My girls do lunch around here. I'm a slug!

There is no threat of beatings upon arrival at school since they are home schooled. Wait, I take that back. "If you're gonna play rough, you gotta be tough! ". My new mantra for the wrestling and tackling taking place between brothers and an occasional sister. Maybe their existence isn't warp speed ahead after all? I hope and pray my kids grow up to like each other. Despite the fact that they don't have traditional "First Days of School" to bond them. Or custard pies in their lunches.
I attached some photos of my kids first week of school commemorated by a Pancake Breakfast at my best friend's home. There was dozens of kids, hundreds of pancakes, chocolate chips, sausages, plenty of whip cream for all. A feast Uncle B would have been proud of. And these funny mug shots--we have some from year's past when we used to go to IHOP for our first day of school tradition. We liked it so much better this year. Thanks Mer. Another "first' without my brother. Next year will be a cinch. Since you know I don't do nicknames, enjoy his funny pet names for the kids too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mr. Blue

I was a Yaz fiend during my high school and early college years. Don't laugh. I am an eighties girl remember? In honor of my fascination with Natalie Merchant, I named my goldfish Mr. Blue. The song is playing on my playlist right now. It is a weird song. I don't even understand most of the lyrics. But the part where she sings,

"I'm Mr. Blue and I'm here to stay with you.

And no matter what you do, when you're lonely, I'll be lonely too."

resonated with me. Recent break-up? Teenage angst? AquaNet inhalation? I have no idea. What did I have to be blue about then? Silly, silly girl. But I was thankful for my fish and I loved him (her?). I had a special pink aquarium and rocks and a little castle for his amusement. Some greenery to make him feel lively and free.

The summer after I graduated from high school, I went with missions organization for three months to a dozen countries in Europe. It was an amazing time. I was there right after the Berlin Wall came down. I remember having a quiet moment in a place called "no man's land", a sandy strip with guard towers and barbed-wire. Only months before my visit, anyone would have been shot for sitting where I sat that summer. Bryan was back home finishing up his senior year of high school. Similar circumstances :) High school is brutal.

While I was travelling, I left my Mr. Blue fish in the care of my capable family. I left plenty of fish food, treats, distilled water (I was a very conscientious pet owner back then for those of you who know me and are shaking their heads.) and handwritten directions for his care. Bryan and my parents pledged their word to look after him. It was fish, I know. But I loved him. He was there when I was lonely, after all. Silly, silly girl.

I returned a changed gal. The transition from my mountaintop experience to the return to my regular life was going to be tough. At least that is what the grown-ups warned me. I wasn't afraid. I had Mr. Blue. And he was here to stay with me.

So after three month abroad, I walked into my room at home and there was my fancy pink aquarium. The water was so black I could not even see the castle. Or Mr. Blue. Where was he? I had abandoned Mr. Blue and my family had forsaken him. Oh the angst.

Bryan came up behind me and said, "Don't worry sis, its alive. I have no idea how but it is still swimming." And he was. Mr. Blue survived. And Bryan made it through high school, even without the barbed wire and guard tower, a desolate and dangerous place. He was resilient. Like Mr. Blue. He survived. No thanks to Mr. Blue however, since he had apparently forgotten the little fish existed.

Whenever I hear Yaz' Mr. Blue, I think of my brother. Isn't that weird? I KNOW he was NOT a Yaz fan. Think Metallica and Ozzy and dead little chicks. Mr. Blue definitely did not comfort Bryan. But he made it out of high school alive with out him. So there's that. And so did I. Since school is so much on my mind lately, I needed that little reminder. Reilly is fast approaching high school age. Blink. Before you know it. Maybe I will get her a fish?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Grumbling and Grunt Work

Peter in the hole Daddy dug for our new tree.
Summer 2009
This summer, my family has begun a number of home-improvement projects. Remodeling our garage into a game room. Removing 30 year old UGLY junipers from the front yard. Planting our flower beds. Installing a new patio. Replanting our lawn. The list has been long. Bob has been working really hard to complete the projects so that we can start the school year with our house back in order. He is such a hard worker. And a really nice guy. And the bread winner in our family. And a wonderful daddy. And my best friend, my favorite peron. And a hunk.

And a hard taskmaster.

I love him. I do.

But he is brutal when it comes to manual labor. Immovable.

When Bryan and I were pre-teenagers, my dad insisted that we help out in the yard one weekend. In our rural childhood home, there were slopes covered with iceplant. Mixed with a bunch of weeds. Dad required us to get up early one Saturday morning (can I say that I was not/am not/will NEVER be a morning person?) to share in the family responsibility of caring for our home. Bryan and I were less than cooperative. We grumbled and groused. We wheedled, whined and whimpered in unison.

But it was effective.

Man, we were good. When Bryan and I collaborated, glory, we were quite the team.

My poor daddy never asked us to work in the yard again. From that time on, Dad always recruited undocumented migrant workers to do the grunt work around our house (oops! there goes his chance to run for public office! ssshhh. don't tell.) These hard working men would ride their bikes to my house knowing that my Dad would feed them lunch and pay them fairly. Poor, poor daddy. I guess this way was easier than coping with the incessant complaints from his ungrateful children. The very ones he pinned his hopes for his old age on. His firstborn. And his son. We were supposed to work the soil along side him in harmony and helpfulness. Not.

Fast forward to this summer. Bob is working relentlessly without a word of complaint, making our home lovely. And he expects his wife and kids to pitch in as well. On one of the 100+ degree days, after planting for hours, I snivelled that he didn't love me like my daddy does:

"My daddy always paid someone to do my hard work for me. I'm hot. I'm tired. I don't want to do this anymore. Can't we get someone else to do it. Pleeeeeeeeease?"

Dear husband of mine didn't even skip a beat before letting me know that he would happily hire someone to finish up our planting. But he would have to take all the plants back in order to afford it. Drat. The scheme that Bryan and I had perfected as children didn't work on the overseer in charge of yard work around here. Not on my man. No way. Not a chance. All my best bellyaching (and I am good, really good at complaining--huh Meredith?) didn't affect Bob in the least. I finished the planter projects. In the heat. Hard work is good for character building.

Okay, I need to finish this quick. I don't want my kids reading over my shoulder and getting any ideas. Of revolt. Of staging a mutiny of hard work. Yammering just isn't as effective as it once was. Drat.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Twin

I am nearing 40 years old. Just like I did when I was 16, I lament my still acne-prone skin. It is such a bummer. I thought for sure that if I did my time in my teens, I would be released from my vexation as a well-adjusted, extremely self-confident adult. No such luck. I still have pimples. Is that too real for you?
To add insult to injury, my brother had nice skin. He was never afflicted with acne as a teen or an adult. Needless to say, he wasn't very compassionate and understanding of my pathetic pubescent plight. He was my brother, after all, AND a guy.
So I have this huge red bump on my face right now and my children have been trying to be inconspicuous in their staring and discreet in their comments:"what is THAT?" I tried to explain the bane of my existence, trying not to put the fear of puberty in them. My thorough scientific explanation was lost on them. My daughters just say that they are never going to have acne (like you get to decide?). My boys just like the word "zit".
The blemish on my now wrinkled, middle-aged skin made me think of this funny story. My parents, brother and I were out to dinner sometime in the late eighties. He had a mullet and an earring. I had big bangs and shoulder pads. And a zit. It is bad enough to suffer through acne when the rest of the world politely pretends that they don't notice the mark on your face. But to have a cold hearted, callous, crass, unfeeling...well, ummh... younger BROTHER is just too much. Bryan was sitting across from me at Marie Calendars and exclaimed the words that have been seared on my heart forevermore. Here they are:
"If that thing had hair, you could name it and call it your twin!"
To be fair, my parents endeavored to hold in their chuckling. I want to believe that they attempted to be tender and sympathetic. But they didn't try too hard. All three of them busted into big belly laughter. To this day, I am scarred. Not just scars from acne either! In fact, I don't think I ever forgave Bryan for those heartless words. And since he is dead now, I think I will. Right now. After I lick my wounds and remember the anguish of that moment--you clear-skinned, indifferent, funny brother of mine. My kids, who are racing towards their tumultuous and acne-prone teens, will be lucky to miss out on that menacing milestone with Uncle B. See? I am learning to look at the bright side. And to forgive.

WARNING! Tissues Required-Video Slideshow of Bryan's Life-Sorry the music was muted!