Friday, November 21, 2014

Then and now, Family pictures 2011 vs. 2014

In 2011, Big M. was 11 years old and had just started middle school.  Little M. was a 6 year old and in first grade.  I was 39 years old and Mr. EM was 41.  Now, Big M. is 14 and (gasp!) a freshman in high school.  Little M. is 9 and a 4th grader.  I am 42 and Mr. EM is 44.  Where does the time go?  

(In case you were wondering, it was just as difficult for Earth Muffin to coax her 3 guys into being appropriate for family pictures this year as it was back in 2011.  Some things never change.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's been a long time, folks...

I haven't disappeared, I just haven't felt much like writing.  Every once in a while I think I should just shut down my blog and walk away from it, but then I talk myself out of it.  There's something comforting about having my blog around, just in case I decide to start writing regularly again.  I keep up with all the blogs on my roll, I check in on everyone once a week or so, I comment sometimes.  I think about writing something, but then I don't.  Sometimes it's because I'm lazy, sometimes it's because I'm busy, sometimes it's because I don't really have the words, sometimes it's because there's nothing going on worth writing about.  In any case, I feel like writing today and I have the time.  This post is just going to be a potpourri of things on my mind, I hope you're ok with that.

1. So, we're no longer vegetarians.  Yeah, I know.  Weird, huh?  It all started this summer when we read an interview with Joel Salatin in an issue of The Sun.  He had a lot of thought-provoking things to say about sustainable farming practices and the purpose of farm animals in this world.  After reading that interview we decided to take on the tome that is The Omnivore's Dilemma and that pretty much sealed the deal.  For us, vegetarianism was a stance against factory farming, not a "let's save every animal's life" kind of thing.  When we really investigated what was in the meat substitutes we were eating and how much better we could treat our bodies, our local economy and our environment by eating humanely raised meat, we decided to take the plunge.  We started with organic chicken and beef broths, eating a lot of soups and stews for a couple of weeks while our bodies adjusted to digesting proteins we hadn't had in over 16 years, then we added white meat chicken.  Now, about 6 weeks later, we are eating all different kinds of meats regularly.  By "regularly", I mean about every 2-3 days.  Big M. has been eating meat outside of our home for a few years now so this switch didn't phase him at all.  Little M., on the other hand, was a tougher sell.  He was staunchly against it at first, picked at his chicken the first few times I made it, but once he tried bacon for the first time he was a convert.  It's a learning experience for me because I'd never, ever prepared meat before now, and sometimes handling raw meat makes me gag a little bit, but overall I'd say this has been a pretty positive thing for us.

2. The boys are doing great.  Little M. is a 2nd grader now and is the apple of his teacher's eye this year.  Seriously, at his parent/teacher conference this fall she couldn't quit raving about him.  It was very nice to hear, but I was starting to wonder if she was going to ask to adopt him!  He's become a voracious reader and loves math and science.  He's very conscientious about his schoolwork and very eager to do a good job and make his teacher and us happy, to the point that sometimes he puts a little too much pressure on himself and we have to talk him down!  His interests and abilities are so broad that I wonder where they'll lead him.  He's so sweet and so precocious, he charms everyone he meets.  Every day is an adventure with Little M.

Big M. is also doing well in school, but that's only because we force him.  He's a bright kid, in all honors classes except for math, and schoolwork comes very easy to him.  If he actually put forth true effort he'd likely make straight A's, because with next to no effort he makes A's and B's.  His real interest lies in performing, he's so much his mother's child!  He plays the saxophone in the school band, has recently taken on the extra-curricular jazz band, starts chorus next semester and in November was a part of the school musical.  He is charismatic and not afraid to look silly for the sake of a good laugh.  I hope he never loses that enthusiasm.  He's turning 13 this March and every day he becomes more and more a teenager.  Raising him is very much like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, we never know what we're going to get.  "Moody" is probably the best way to describe him.  Some days he is so much fun to be around, so funny and witty and whip-smart with his observations of society.  Other days I just wish he'd stay in his room so we're not in the path of his angst.  I know it's par for the course raising a teenager, but damn it's hard sometimes!

3. Mr. Em and I...what can I say?  I love that man.  I love him more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.  We have a good thing together.  We know it and we don't take it for granted.  I know, I know...blahblahblah...sickening lovey-dovey BS.  Shut up!  We're happy and we don't care who knows it.

4. Do any of you watch that crazy-ass show Doomsday Preppers?  Because if you do, you may have seen Mr. EM's sister and brother-in-law on a recent episode.  Yep, he's the guy who makes his own pepper spray and looks like he was totally turned on standing in the middle of his "circle of force" weapons in his garage.  Mr. EM has been going on for as long as I've known him about how crazy his family is.  Now I get what he means.  Don't get me wrong, I think preparing for natural disasters with a plan for shelter in place is responsible.  However, keeping 7000 rounds of ammunition in your bedroom to ward off "roving bands of marauders" in the event of economic collapse is maybe going a wee bit overboard, no?

5. I lost a cousin to suicide on November 1st.  He had just turned 20 a few days before that.  It was a huge shock to our whole family because no one but his parents and sister knew that he'd been suffering from a mental illness.  He'd been battling depression and schizophrenia for over 2 years and had even been hospitalized a couple of times.  I have to say he was very, very good at hiding it.  Every time we saw him he appeared to be just as happy and carefree as a young adult should be.  I cannot begin to describe how devastating it was to not only receive the news, but then to relay it to my children, who'd always loved spending time with him and thought he was the coolest person they knew.  It's been just over 2 months since it happened and for the most part life cruises along like normal, even though he's never far from my thoughts. But sometimes, out of nowhere, some innocuous reminder of him will bring me to my knees...a song on the radio that I remember he loved or that reminds me of him, a picture of him with the boys on our screensaver, anything.  Last week I was cleaning out a catch-all basket on our phone table and came across the thank-you note he sent us from his high school graduation and I couldn't do much of anything the rest of the day except read it over and over.  Why did I still have that?  I don't make it a habit to keep those kinds of things, after I know we've all read them into the recycle bin they go.  Now I feel compelled to keep it because I'll  never read anything he's written ever again.  And I simply cannot imagine how his parents, my aunt and uncle, are coping.  If this is how I'm feeling in the aftermath of his death, how on earth are they getting through each day?  These thoughts are particularly strong when I hug my boys.  I know what they feel like in my arms, I remember what they used to feel like and I feel how much they've grown and changed now, I look forward to what it'll feel like to hold them as they grow into adults.  My aunt and uncle will never again feel him in their arms.  That just breaks my heart over and over again.  I've lived a very blessed life, I know that.  I've not had tragic, terrible things happen to me. This has been the most difficult and sobering experience of my life.  I know that I'll never really get over it.

So, on that note, I think I should sign off for now.  If you're still with me after my hiatus, thank you!  I make no promises for how much I'll be posting in 2013, but I do hope that it's a blessed and productive year for you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

 Little M. turned 7 in May and had a few friends over to celebrate.

 On Mother's Day we spent the day at my parents' house, MIL joined us.  We celebrated our motherliness and Little M.'s birthday.

 We took a trip to the St. Louis Zoo in June...

 We were finally able to get into Caribbean Cove to pet the sting-rays, it was awesome.

 Penguin and Puffin Coast is one of our favorite attractions at the zoo.  They are so amusing to watch and the temp inside this attraction is a delightful 50 degrees!

 Approaching the Arch, before I was identified as a threat to national security.

I got a picture of these three handsome guys hanging out in front of the Arch...

 Little M. could barely contain his enthusiasm, while Big M. could barely summon any.

 Big M. is a pretty skilled photo-bomber! (Arch museum)

 I love this quote.  Tecumseh was one smart dude.

 Our riverboat cruise take-off hindsight, this was more a waste of money than a good time.  The scenery along this part of the Mississippi isn't much different than where we live and it was hotter than hell that day.  We sat on the upper deck for about 10 minutes, then spent the rest of the cruise in the air-conditioning.

 Big M. challenged his dad to an arm-wrestling match, Little M. tried to help.  They were no match for Mr. EM's incomparable strength.

 Dinner at Cheese-ology, a macaroni-n-cheese restaurant...YUM!!!  Big M. had the Bacon Bacon, I had the Creamy Pesto, Mr. EM had the Spinach Artichoke, Little M. had the Classic.  We were all impressed and very full afterwards.

 *sigh*  I'm disappointed by the fuzziness of this picture!  This is a statue of Chuck Berry in the U-City Loop, a very cool part of St. Louis.  Lots of cool shopping, restaurants and people-watching, a must-see part of the city if you ever find yourself in St. Louis.  Chuck Berry is from here and owns a bar/restaurant very near this statue called Blueberry Hill.  He still lives in the St. Louis area and still plays shows at his bar several times a year.  They always sell out, we've never been able to get in.  

 Ben and Jerry's for dessert!

 The Ben and Jerry's shop in the U-City Loop...Scoops in the Loop!

 Staycation, Day 2...Grant's Farm, where the Anheiser-Busch Clydesdales live.  It was a very hot day, can't blame the horses for getting up close and personal with their fans.

 Grant's cabin

 Feeding baby goats, one of the boys' favorite activities there.

 We all loved the elephant show!

We capped off Staycation 2012 with a trip to a local landmark.  

I have more summer pictures on my phone, but haven't taken the time yet to get them onto the computer.  It's a whole "process", you know how technology is.  Stay tuned...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lock up your children, Earth Muffin's taking over the Arch!

I used to have one of these keychains...until last Thursday when we took the boys to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, also known as the St. Louis Arch.

Little M. had never been up in the Arch and it has been his 7 year old dream to go to the top.  We hadn't really planned a family vacation this year, so we decided to make it a "staycation".  We planned to go to the top of the Arch, take a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi, eat at some fun, local restaurants and visit Grant's Farm the next day.

Back to the keychain for a moment...I've had it for a few years.  Mr. EM bought it for me.  Fortunately, I've never had occasion to use it, but I live on the outskirts of a pretty sketchy neighborhood so it did give me a little peace of mind.

So, on Thursday we had tickets to go up in the Arch at 11:00. We got in line to go through the x-ray/metal-detector thing at 10:45. Mr. EM had left his knife in the car, but as we were waiting in line we saw a sign that said that knives with blades of less than 4 inches that were not springloaded were ok to take in so his knife would have passed inspection. It was our turn to go in, we all loaded our stuff into the little buckets and waited on the other side. The boys' buckets passed through fine, but they commented, "WHOA! What is that?!" when mine went through. Then they motioned for a Department of the Interior officer to come over and take my bucket, telling him they saw some "suspicious cat's eye thing." Mr. EM and the boys waited nearby and I walked with the officer a little ways from the inspection area, totally in plain view of everyone entering and exiting the Arch. I figured I'd be able to explain to him what it was and be on my way. Not so much. When I told him it was a self-defense keychain my husband had bought for me, that I lived in a sketchy neighborhood, blahblahblah, he turned it over and over in his hand and then said, "You know this is the equivalent of brass knuckles, right?"  I just shrugged and told him I'd never thought of it that way, I'd never had to use it, it was just a peace-of-mind thing for me to carry to protect myself. He said he understood, but he had a job to do and he'd have me on my way in just a minute. At this point, I still wasn't really expecting this to turn into an "incident". He got on his little walkie-talkie thing and called for someone, spoke in code for a little while and then asked for my license. I gave it to him, and then he proceeded to dump out my purse and go through every nook and cranny of every single thing in it, and that kind of bugged me, but I didn't comment. The minutes were ticking away and we only had an hour to get on a tram to the top of the Arch so I figured if I just kept my mouth shut and cooperated I'd be on my way faster. After about 10 minutes of him waiting for someone to talk to on the walkie-talkie, bouncing my keychain in his hand, I gave Mr. EM an exasperated look. He hollered for me to just give it to them so I could go. Now, bear in mind that I was wearing a flower-patterned sundress and flip-flops, hardly the look of a terrorist! I said, "Look, can't you just take it from me and never give it back? I'm here with my family, this is my 7 year old's first time in the Arch. We're on vacation. Why does this have to be such a big deal?" At that point, the guy suddenly started acting afraid of me, like he didn't know WHAT I could be capable of. "Ma'am, I understand, but I have a job to do. They've called me over here to INVESTIGATE THIS SITUATION and that's what I intend to do." So, I backed up, put my hands up, apologized for my impatience and shut up. He walked over to another DOI officer, this one was a woman, whispered something to her and they both approached me. She asked me to come with her a little bit away from him "so we can talk". I asked her what she wanted to talk about, she asked again to go over with her to "talk". I told her that anything she had to say to me could be said in front of him, that I wasn't a criminal and I wasn't comfortable walking away from the view of my family. She did NOT like that and suddenly took on the "bad cop" role, asked me if I lived near a "major university", which I didn't get at all, but I told her that I did not. (Forgetting about SIUE...ahem) Our conversation went as follows:

Her: "Where do you live?"

Me: "Alton, IL"

Her: (smirking) "Alton? Well, you live in an area with a lot of resources for protecting yourself from violence." (Um, really? Maybe, but these resources are not very widely advertised. Whatever.) "I teach a few different self-defense programs in this area and I can direct you to one in your..."

Me: (I cut her off, her condescending tone was pissing me off.) "I've taken 2 self-defense courses, one in college and one in Alton. They were helpful, but this keychain offers additional peace of mind. That's all it is, peace of mind." 

She smirked at me again. And she was kind of homely and had bad hair. So there.

Anyway, I turned to the guy again, because I was much more comfortable talking with him than her. I told him that I'd been through the scan at the county courthouse in the spring and got through it with no problem. He said, "Well, they probably thought it was just a keychain." 

GAH...THAT'S ALL IT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!

I took a deep breath, told him it WAS just a keychain, I had no intention of hurting anyone with it, blahblahbalhAGAIN and he cut me off and asked Miss Bad Cop for a warning form. 

And then my head exploded. I asked, "You're writing me up?!"

Bad cop smirked and told me, "It could be a citation!"  REALLY?! He told me he had to do it because he'd called my name in, so now there had to be paperwork. Whatever. Why didn't he just offer to take it from me right from the start and send me on my way? Why did he let my kids see their mom go through this BS like she's some kind of criminal? I was so angry I was shaking and ready to cry. I hollered over to Mr. EM, "I'm getting a written warning!" He didn't say anything, but I could tell that he was ready to cut loose a hippie-liberal tirade! Miss Bad Cop again felt it necessary to say, "It could be a citation!" I didn't even bother to look at her because I would have said something that probably would have gotten me in deeper trouble. I asked the guy if there would be a fine and he said no, and that's all good and fine but then WHY do it? Why not just take it from me and let me GO?! 

As he handed my license, my keys minus their chain and my warning to me, it was on the tip of my tongue to say, "Thanks a lot for making my kids watch me go through this." But I caught Little M.'s' concerned face in my peripheral vision and Miss Bad Cop was still standing there looking all ridiculously superior and I just wanted it to be over. He gave me everything and started to tell me to have a nice day, but I just yanked it all from his grip and stalked away.

EVERYONE entering and exiting the Arch in the 25 MINUTES it took for them to take away my freaking KEYCHAIN saw this. I got stared at the rest of the time we were there. It was so humiliating. We all had to use the restroom before we got in the tram and I got stared at by every woman and girl in line. It was all I could do to keep the tears in until I got in the stall...but then I got so mad at myself for crying because I didn't want ANYONE (especially the boys) to see me crying about this, so I quickly pulled myself together. I just wanted to stand in the middle of the ground floor and YELL that they were worried about a KEYCHAIN. 

Now, tell me, LOOK at that thing and TELL ME that a knife with a blade of less than 4 inches without a springload would be SAFER. 

WHAT. THE. F%&K?!?!

And now, since we've been home I've done some research about them and it turns out that in some states it is legal to have them, but not to carry them on your person. Seriously? Some crazy asshole in Colorado can buy automatic weapons on the internet and shoot up a movie theater full of people, but I can't have a pointy keychain that might injure someone if they tried to attack me?! The FDA is totally cool with pumping our already obese children full of genetically-modified food, but I'm a threat to national security because of my KEYCHAIN?! And I really don't know what else to do, other than gripe about it and never visit the Arch again. A strongly-worded letter might end up putting me on some kind of watch list...and I can't help but wonder if I'm already on one! 

And now, I'm all frustrated and fired up about this again.  So, I should probably just shut up about it now.  I leave you with a favorite song of mine and it's delightfully funny video...Maria, I think you will particularly enjoy it.  

(Sorry about the bulk of my story being in such tiny print.  I took most of it from a Facebook message I sent to a couple of friends when the incident was very fresh in my mind.  I tried a few different ways to change the font size, but couldn't seem to do it.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Now, my name is MCA, I've got a license to kill...

I was so sad to hear about the passing of Adam Yauch, also knows as MCA, of the Beastie Boys. 

I've been a huge Beastie Boys fan since the mid-'80's and MCA was by far my favorite of the three.  Their albums Check Your Head and Ill Communication were major players in the soundtrack of my college years.  I've seen them in concert twice and have pretty much every piece of music they've ever recorded.  If I had to pick a favorite Beastie song, this would be it:

But I'm glad that I'd never "have" to pick just one, because their music is such a great blend of rap, hip-hop, rock and funk that your "favorite" song might just depend on your mood that day.  I always loved the way MCA's voice stood out so strongly against the others.  They are all really cool guys, but something about him made me feel like he was the coolest.

I knew he had cancer.  He was diagnosed in 2009.  Last I'd heard anything about it, he was in recovery.  The Beastie Boys are all pretty private about their personal lives, and I'm not big on trolling celebrity gossip anyway, so I wasn't aware that he'd gotten sicker in the past several months.  I knew they'd been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I didn't know that he was too sick to attend the induction.  Friday afternoon after my students had left school for the day, I opened up the internet on my computer and the first headline I read was about his death.  It was a little like a kick in the stomach.  He had a 13 year old daughter.  He was happily married.  He was only 47 years old.  Damn.

My Facebook was flooded with posts about him.  I read a few celebrity tweets about him.  I'm not surprised that he was so well-loved among his musician peers.  So far, my favorite tribute is this rather unconventional cover of what is probably their most famous song...

Thanks for the rhymes, MCA.  Rest in peace.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This? Is awesome.

So, like most everyone else on Facebook, I am totally digging the Gotye song, Somebody I Used To Know.  It took me a few listens to dig it, but now I can't keep it from bouncing around in my head.  And now it's even WORSE because a friend showed me a video of a group covering the song and it's simply too cool not to share.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

10 things that drive me bat-shit crazy...

...about my mother-in-law.
I will be the first to admit that I fared pretty well in the MIL department.  I appreciate that and do understand that plenty of people have it far worse than I ever will.  I credit Mr. EM with cutting the apron strings all on his own long before I knew him, which helped create some boundaries that she has been forced to honor. 

That doesn't mean that she can't make me just a little...or a lot...crazy sometimes.  It seems like I go through cycles.  Sometimes the things she says or does just roll off my back.  I can chuckle at her, shake my head at her, but not be bothered by her.  Then there are times when everything she says and does rubs me the wrong way and I can't hardly stand to be anywhere near her.  Nothing she does is abusive or dangerous or anything like that.  It's just those "little" things that family members do that cause other family members to roll their eyes, inwardly groan...we all have family members like that.  You're thinking of at least one right now, aren't you?  Don't worry, I won't tell.  Your secret is safe with me. 

And to make you feel better (and because I just spent about 24 hours with my MIL and it's fresh in my mind), here are 10 things about my MIL that drive me bat-shit crazy...

1. Every bed in her house is uncomfortable.  Every. Single. One.  And she refuses to entertain the idea of getting a futon to replace the leaky aerobed in her basement because futons are "ugly".

2. She is the person for whom the term "impulse buyer" was created.   She is constantly trying to send stuff home with us that she doesn't need or want, but has because she can't stand to not buy things.

3. She's a big Nicholas Cage fan, but not the good Nicholas Cage.  Not Moonstruck-Raising Arizona-Leaving Las Vegas Nicholas Cage.  She likes Ghost Rider-National Treasure Nicholas Cage.  And that's fine, to each her own, but she gets offended when we disagree with her about the "genius" that is Nicholas Cage.

4. Macho Man.  *sigh*  He's a whole post in and of himself, but I try not to waste too much mental energy on my dislike for him.  He treats her really well, he's a great provider, he obviously cares very much for her and for all of those things we are grateful.  It's just that she's dated a lot of really cool guys over the years, so why was he the one that stuck?!  "You know, those wind turbines are an eye-sore and they're right in the middle of farmers' fields.  They can't even crop dust any more!"  "Some kids just need to be whipped, you know what I mean?"  "That n*%ger in the White House ain't my president, that's for sure!"  Those are just a small sampling of the nuggets of wisdom he likes to impart Every. Time. We're. There.

5. "So, when you try to sell your house, how much are you going to ask for it?"  NOT HER BUSINESS.  She super-crazy-nosy about stuff like that and it kind of makes my skin crawl.  She's constantly telling us about how much her friends spend on cars, vacations, jewelry, etc.  I'm sure she cannot stand that we avoid her questions, change the subject, give very broad and generic answers.  I don't care, that stuff is NOT HER BUSINESS and I plan to keep it that way!

6. She doesn't like to travel, therefore no one should travel.  She obsesses over our travels.  What time are we leaving?  How long will the trip take?  How many stops will we have to make?  What time will we arrive?  What's there that we need to see/do anyway?  What if someone gets sick/injured?  She has a friend who is retired and bought an RV so she could travel to Florida for 3 months every year.  She doesn't not approve of this arrangement.  "All she does is the same stuff she does here in Illinois anyway.  What's the point?"  The idea of seeing another part of the United States does not appeal to her.  Again, that's FINE, but she thinks everyone should have the same opinion she has.

7. She is impossible to shop for because if she wants something she buys it for herself. 

8. She expects us to take the kids to the doctor every time they sniffle.  If one of them coughs even one time while we're around her, she will call us the next day wanting to know when they're seeing the doctor for "that cough". 

9. She LOVES to talk on the phone.  About nothing at all.  For a really, really long time.  (This one no longer affects me personally since we dropped our land line and only have cell phones!)

10. She takes it very personally that we don't follow her recommendations on things as mundane as what brand of yogurt we buy.  Seriously.  "Didn't you just LOVE that Blue Bunny yogurt?  Isn't it just WONDERFUL?"  When we said we didn't really care for it much, she got a pinched look on her face and said, "Oh.  Well.  I guess I just won't recommend food to you any more.  I never know WHAT you're going to like." 

You know what, though?  There are two sides to every coin and I'm pretty confident that we drive her as crazy as she drives me.  (And I'm not a mature enough person to keep to myself that I kind of like that!)  So, without further ado, here are 10 things about the Earth Muffin clan that drive MIL bat-shit crazy...

1. We don't take the kids to the doctor every time they sniffle, cough, sneeze, run a fever, fall down, get a splinter, puke, get constipated, or even break out in a rash.  We take our kids to the doctor when they appear to be really, really sick or injured.  End of discussion.

2. We don't tell her how much we paid for our house, how much we plan to ask for our house whenever we sell it, how much our property taxes are, how much our vehicles cost, how much we spent on last summer's vacation or any other major purchases. 

3. I exercise restraint and caution when she tries to send random crap home with us.  I will not be a pawn in her impulse-buyer game!  (This one is actually a pretty regular bone of contention between Mr. EM and me.  So far, I'm winning)

4. We don't spank our kids.  Never have, never will.  This does not mean we don't discipline them, though she and Macho Man would disagree.

5. We don't allow smoking in our home. This would account for her infrequent visits.

6. Our kids will go way longer than she thinks necessary between haircuts.  And baths. 

7. We don't like to chit-chat on the phone.  We say what we have to say and then we say, "Good-bye."

8. We are really not fans of Nicholas Cage.  He's made some good movies.  He's made even more shitty movies.  We also don't watch "Revenge".  I don't know why, we've just never watched it.  Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it.  We just don't watch it.  AND THAT'S OK.

9. We don't eat meat.  She claims to "never know what to cook", which is total BS because she's a great cook and prepares plenty of delicious meatless meals for us. 

10. We will never move into the house across the street, next door, on the next block over or anywhere within a 50 mile radius of her home. 

Ah, family...