Saturday, March 29, 2008

Girls' Day Out

Yesterday, Emily and I decided it was time to take a break from all of our Spring Break activies (i.e. shed cleaning, attic cleaning, gargage cleaning) and go shopping! We headed out to the mall for a "girls' day." It was a perfectly lovely day. We browsed our way through some of the department stores, stopped at Mrs. Field's for cookies and then sat in the massage chairs and got back massages for $1. Then we went through the pet shop and oohed and aahed over all the puppies. We bought new earrings, new sandals and then went for pedicures. We had lunch at the food court and window shopped for some spring clothes, but didn't buy any yet.

I remember being Emily's age and shopping with my mom at the then-brand new mall in the next town from where we lived. It was The Coolest Mall. It had JC Penney, Sears and a lovely department store called The Denver, originally The Denver Dry Goods Company. The mall also had two fabric stores, Baker's Shoes and Kinney's Shoes, a Woolworth's with a lunch counter, Walden Bookstore and several specialty gift shops. As often as we went to the mall and as many times as we walked up oneside and down the other, we probably traveled the distance to the moon and back.

The fabric stores were our favorite haunts -- House of Fabrics and So-Fro Fabrics. From the time I was in 4th grade, I was sewing my own clothes and my mother sewed everything from curtains to suits for herself to sleeping bags and tents for my brothers. (The latter from a company called Frostline that was headquartered in our little town. They sold the kits in their stores, but my brothers would sometimes dig through their dumpsters and get the rejects! Free camping stuff!)

But I digress. This was before the concept of "food courts" at the mall, so for lunch we would stop at Woolworth's, get a booth for two and squeeze in with all of our shopping bags, the paper bags crackling loudly as we piled them high or stuck them under the table. I would usually order an egg salad sandwich and a Coke, and Mom would have a club sandwich and cup of tea. Dessert was a sundae in a tall, tulip-shaped sundae dish.

It was always fun to shop at Woolworth's. Mom like the notions department. My favorite was the record section in the back of the store.

We almost always stopped at Sears to pick up or return something from the catalog department. I think my mother lived there at Christmas time. When the Sears catalog arrived at our house, my brothers and I would search through the pages until they were tattered and worn, circling our favorite toys and marking them with our initials.

At Christmas, the mall was beautiful, dressed in all its finery. A huge Christmas tree with ornaments the size of basketballs graced the center. Santa held court at one end and gift wrapping station took up most of the other.

When The Denver department store closed its doors, that was the beginning of the end for "our mall." A newer mall had sprung up in the next town, twice as big. Eventually, the older mall was torn down and honestly, the day I drove by and saw the wrecking ball, I cried. I ask you, is there anything that is sadder than the death of a mall?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring cleaning

This morning we conducted the annual "cleaning of the shed." We dragged everything out, cleaned out the remnants of eight wasp nests, sorted through a dozen flower pots, four bags of partially filled potting soil, numerous gardening tools, and enough chemicals to kill every weed in town and/or fertilize every lawn on the block. We divided it all into two boxes: live (for the root starter, plant food, grass seed) and let die (roundup weed killer, insecticides). We got rid of a few shelves, hung all the rakes, shovels, and assorted tools in their proper places. Lost toys were rounded up and returned to their homes, broken bits of fence and trellis were discarded, and we made room for the lawn mower AND the snow blower, parked side by side. (In the next couple months, it's any body's guess which one we'll need).

Here's the crew at work:

Wa-ait a minute. . . looks like we're going to have to dock some one's pay. . .

And what's this?

Oh, I forgot. They're management.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Monday

Until my kids attended Catholic school, I don't think I was aware that the Monday following Easter is a special day of it's own. I don't know where I was when they covered that lesson in cathechism, but it was truly news to me. So, in addition to the week for spring break -- the kids had off Holy Thursday, Good Friday AND NOW Easter Monday! What was this extra day besides another way to force me allow me spend quality time with my kids?

Apparently, in some countries that are predominantly Catholic, Easter Monday is a day of celebration that includes egg rolling contests and even dousing other people with water which, at one time, was holy water blessed the day before at Easter Sunday Mass and carried home to bless the house and food. I don't know of anyone who has water fights the day after Easter, and I don't think that was what the school was suggesting we do with the kids, although I'm sure they would have been amenable to the idea.

Yesterday, because the church gets so crowded on Easter, there was a second mass held downstairs in the cafeteria. That's where my family ended up. It's always a bit of a disappointment to not be in the church that is all decked out for Easter with lilies galore surrounding the baptismal font, the full choir and our own parish priest. However we were among good friends and fellow parishioners that we've known forever, and sometimes I think that such simple surroundings humble us in a good way. Besides, the visiting priest who celebrated mass for us made it very special. He was warm and kind and had a jovial way about him. He talked about how quickly the celebration and joy of Easter day seems to wind down and we fall back into just ordinary time. Even though Easter is celebrated for seven weeks in the church, before we go back into "ordinary time", it seems that without the bunnies and baskets and pretty bonnets to remind us, we're quick to forget. He likened it to the day after the Super Bowl! The following Monday can't possibly rival the celebration of winning day.

The priest yesterday challenged us to keep up the level of joy that we would feel if we ourselves had entered the cave on Easter morning and found Christ had risen (and for this, he suggested, we should be grateful that we were at mass in the basement, as it made the exercise easier to imagine!) How quick we are as humans to fall back into our everyday ways, letting go of the celebration. He instructed us that we should be singing as we left, out into the parking lot and beyond. For the mass may have ended, but the celebration and joy have just begun

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Takes a Detour and other ramblings

On Monday, we woke up to 8 inches of snow. It was the heavy, wet stuff that covered every twig on every branch and piled up high on the bird bath so that it looked like a beautiful white cake on a pedestal plate. By the afternoon, most of it had melted. Yesterday and today were warm and sunny, near 60 degrees and the moisture from the day before had coaxed little green blades of grass to peek up from the ground. The week has been going well. Luke and Em are in school (their spring break is next week), Dan is traveling, and Joe and I are both busy -- me with work, running the other two kids around and my usual volunteer duties, and Joe with dentist and ortho appointments, programming a new laptop and catching up with friends. In between, we've managed to meet for cups of coffee, usual at our kitchen table, and yesterday we both came from opposite ends of town to meet at our favorite sandwich shop. We feasted on the sub sandwiches and diet Dr. Pepper for me, Sprite for him. I finally got to ask all the important questions -- where is your roomate from, does he have brothers and sisters, what's his major and does he study much, what do you usually have to eat in the cafeteria, what are your new friends like, how many times have you really done laundry since you've been up there (twice, when he ran out of clothes). We even talked some more about his classes and profs and who he likes, doesn't like. He seems to like just about everything. When the hour was up, we both ran off in separate directions. This afternoon, after the younger two got home from school, the boys and I were stretched out in the living room while Em was playing on the computer. In hushed tones, they spilled the beans on some things they have observed about her -- music she's listening to that she shouldn't be -- and admonished me for letting her stay on the computer too long and talk on the phone too much. I listened, exhausted, but with interest. Ten years ago I thought it divine intervention that we were blessed with a third baby, and a girl at that. Lately, I'm thinking that God is having the last laugh, and it's a cruel joke to have a pre-menopausal almost-50-year-old sharing a house with a pre-pubescent almost 10-going-on-16-year-old. Some days, when the hormones are running rampant, I wonder which one of us is going to be knocked down first. Tonight, I went to my book club meeting, (we are officially the Book Bags), where we discussed When Crickets Cry, by Charles Martin. Lynne did a review on this book months ago and I loved it. So did all the other Book Bags. Our selection for next month is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Since there was a "buy one get one half off" deal at Border's, I also picked up Elizabeth Berg's Dream When You're Feeling Blue. So, I have two brand new books to add to my ever-growing stack, and all is right with the world. I think I'll call it a night.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Everyone home and accounted for

The past eight weeks have flown by and Joey is home for Spring Break. All weeklong, the rest of us have been looking forward to this day. Even Luke and Emily both expressed that they missed him and couldn't wait to see him! These are the same two kids that were so excited to get their hands on the Playstation, glad that it was down to just two of them. Yesterday, Emily mused, "I wonder what he'll look like? Will I recognize him?" My mind flew back to his trip to Europe, sophomore year, when he came home with a piercing. (He already had an ear pierced, but this was larger and something that I told him, no way, no how, not now.) Since Joe has his own blog now, I have to be careful not to tell tales on him -- retribution and all. But, suffice it to say, when I talked to him on the phone last week and he asked, "So, are you picking me up at the airport or just Dad?" I asked back, "Why, did you get something pierced?" He assured me that he was coming home as he had left, without any new body decorations and we did laugh about it. So this afternoon, we all piled into the van -- Dan, me, the two kids and the two dogs, and headed off to the airport to get him. (And Emily did recognize him, right away -- funny girl). I had a pork loin cooking in the crockpot, so when we got home it was just about ready. It feels great to have all the kids at home again. All three of them "helping" at once in the kitchen, bumping into each other, stealing pieces of meat off the platter while I'm trying to finish up the potatoes, heat the vegetables in the microwave, get someone to fill the water glasses. It's amazing how the house can seem so empty and then again so full by the absence or presence of just one person. When we sat around the table and joined hands for grace, I held on just a little bit longer after saying "amen." I know that we've entered the next phase in our lives when it will be rare for all of us to be home together, just the five of us. I think of what Dan said when we sent Joe off to college. "We worked so hard to build our little family, years of waiting and then the joy of having each of them. And now, it's already starting to pull apart as they'll each go on their way." I know the week will go fast. He has friends to visit, we need to sit down and figure out plans for his high school graduation party (kind of backwards, but we still get to have the fun of him walking with his class through graduation), he'll have dentist and orthodontist appointments to take care of while he's home, and he brought home a suitcase packed with textbooks so I guess that means there's studying to be done. So, I'm looking forward to the week ahead, but now that it's here, I hope it will just take it's time and that I remember to savor the time. Because next Saturday will be here all too quickly. It's nice to have a houseful again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Answer to #6

I guess there aren't a lot of John Wayne fans out there (sigh.) The answer to question #6 of the Movie Meme is Stagecoach. It was filmed in 1939, directed by John Ford and the first of many movies that he and Wayne worked on together, set in Monument Valley. Dan and I took a trip down there years ago, when Joey was a baby, and it's just beautiful country. We have a picture somewhere of us standing in front of a stone building that was used in the movie The Searchers .

I can't say that Stagecoach is my absolute favorite John Wayne movie -- but it's such a classic and it's that one that made him a star. I would be hard pressed to choose my favorite. In Harm's Way was wonderful, and so was The Quiet Man. In both movies he starred with Maureen O'Hara. But then, then I love the westerns, too, especially McClintock, The Shootist (with Lauren Bacall, makes me cry everytime), and, of course, Rio Lobo with Jennifer O'Neill. And who can forget, the only movie for which he won an academy award, True Grit. Katherine Hepburn starred with him in that one.

My brothers loved all of his movies and we would stay up and watch The Sons of Katie Elder every time it was on the late, late movie (and the three of them would have to act out the river fight scene every time). And then there was War Wagon. A big favorite. I know nothing about trucks, but when my oldest brother got one of those monster pickup trucks back in the 80s, he named it the War Wagon, with the letters emblazoned on the plastic shield at the front of the hood of the truck. The only John Wayne movie I could get my kids interested in was The Cowboys. (I never did like Bruce Dern, because he shot and killed the Duke in that movie.) And, one more, I have to mention Hatari. Not a western, but it just goes to show you what great range that man had, from fighting the cowboys and Indians to facing wild animals in Africa. I wasn't as interested in the war movies, but he was as well known for them as the westerns. The Green Berets and The Sands of Iowa Jima are classics.

While one may not agree with his politics, there is no doubt that Wayne's passion and loyalty to his country ran deep. He once described himself as "old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness, flag-waving patriot." He had a sense of decency in the films that he chose, and rued the path that Hollywood was taking in the films that it made. He said, "I don't want ever to appear in a film that would embarrass a viewer. A man can take his wife, mother, and his daughter to one of my movies and never be ashamed or embarrassed for going."

Furthermore, he said, "I have tried to live my life so that my family would love me and my friends respect me. The others can do whatever the hell they please."

"We must always look to the future," John Wayne once said. "Tomorrow - the time that gives a man just one more chance - is one of the many things that I feel are wonderful in life. So's a good horse under you. Or the only campfire for miles around. Or a quiet night and a nice soft hunk of ground to sleep on. A mother meeting her first-born. The sound of a kid calling you dad for the first time. There's a lot of things great about life. But I think tomorrow is the most important thing. Comes in to us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

John Wayne died in 1979 of lung cancer. He holds the record for having starred in the leading role in more movies than any other actor. Of 142 movies, he was the lead in all but 11. But as much as he was admired for his movies, he became an icon for his patriotism and loyalty to his country. He was honored with a Congressional Medal of Honor. It simply states: "John Wayne, American". God bless him.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Movie Meme

I saw this movie meme today at Baseballs and Bows. It looked like fun, so I thought I would try it.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick 10 of your favorite movies.
2. Go to IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and find a quote from each movie.
3. Post them here for everyone to guess (if you know them all, please don't guess every one).
4. Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie.
5. No Googling or IMDb-ing. That's cheating, and that's no fun!
Here are my quotes:

1. It will come to you, this love of the land. There's no gettin' away from it if you're Irish. Gone With the Wind (said by Scarlett's father, guessed by Lynne)

2. The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. You've Got Mail (guessed by Joe)

3. Your girl is lovely, Hubbell. The Way We Were (guessed by Robin)

4. It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (guessed by Ter)

5. I had a farm in Africa. Out of Africa (guessed by Ter -- her favorite movie of all time:)

6. My friends just call me Ringo - nickname I had as a kid. Right name's Henry. Here's a clue -- 1939. John Wayne. Directed by John Ford. And the movie is . . . ________________??

7. I just have one question: What's with the turtlenecks? I mean it's the middle of summer. Something's Gotta Give (guessed by Gail)

8. Oh, Vermont should be beautiful this time of year, with all that snow. White Christmas (guessed by Robin)

9. Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you've gotta do? (Here's another clue -- Next part of the quote: Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.) Finding Nemo (guessed by Bill)

10. I'll never let go, Jack. I promise. Titanic (first guessed by Robin)

Leave your guesses in the comments section. Good luck! (Tip: you may have to think back long and hard on some of these).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Absence makes the heart grow. . .

fonder. Or elsewhere. I hope you haven't all gone elsewhere. I didn't mean to take a break from my blog. It's just that things got a bit busy and before I knew it, it had been a few days, and then I couldn't think of anything to write about, and then it got to be a week, and then I thought, well, I better come up with something good because it's been a whole week. And then it was 10 days, and I thought, well, now I really need to come up with something good so these people don't think I've been sitting around, reading books, eating yogurt covered raisins and letting my house and kids go to pot.
It's like the "Cathy" cartoon I used to read years ago. Her boyfriend comes by and says, "Let's go out," and she says, "Okay, but let me freshen up a bit." And for the next eight frames she's changing clothes, putting on makeup and realizing that it's been 10 minutes, then 15, then 20, and as the time passes she's panicking that it's been so much time, she better look REALLY good because she's been in the bathroom so long, so she's re-doing her makeup, washing her hair and after an hour and a half. . . well, you get the picture.
I guess blogging is like exercising. Once you take a break, it can be really hard to get back into it. Except, from what I'm told, with exercise, you really start to miss it. So far, that hasn't happened. I take a break and I never miss it. But I do miss blogging. And during the past week and a half I've been writing posts in my head. But just like when I just think about doing sit-ups and going for a walk, I don't have much to show for it in the end.
So, for better or worse, I'm back!