Monday, January 31, 2011

If He Doesn't Care About the Top Hat, Why Do I?

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, your son has been assigned to do an oral book report on a biography. He must dress up like the subject of his book and share five facts in two minutes. Then let's say that his subject is Abraham Lincoln... and he thinks he will just wear a suit and call it good.

Really? A nine-year old in a suit posing as a "famous person" could be any one of at least a million famous people. He's not going to give anything away there. As a woman who takes some pride in her children's education AND is sleep deprived in A BIG WAY, I couldn't let my son simply slide by doing the bare minimum...

The project is due tomorrow. He has asked for my help a few times in the last week, but I either didn't have the opportunity or if I did have the opportunity, I didn't have the memory to pick up duct tape. And obviously this project was worthless without it. Tonight while my husband grilled chicken for dinner, I drove six children to Michael's Crafts to fetch duct tape. Now we could get the project under way.

Two hours later...



I don't think Abraham Lincoln wore braces, but then--his top hats probably weren't made out of duct tape either.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Puppy Love



Last week my six-year old son told me quite matter-of-factly, "I know who my Valentine is."

"Who?" I asked mirroring his nonchalance but feeling a little smiley inside. I just LOVE when my kids tell me stuff.

"Katelyn," he said, carrying on with his business of playing.

(Please note that Katelyn's name has been changed lest I betray a confidence. I did that ONCE and have wondered ever since if the Earth shifted on its axis and disrupted that son's chance at eternal bliss due to my meddling. So... never again.)

"Who's Katelyn?" I asked. (Still not her real name.)

"Just a girl in my class," he said. (That much is true--I hope I am not tempting Fate here.)

"Oh, what do you like about her?" I asked, maintaining casual inquisitiveness.

"She's nice... and she laughs at me."

"Oh, she thinks you're funny?"

"Yeah."

Like what else matters!?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

L.T.F.P.

My youngest son lost his first tooth today. He was at play group. He called to tell me the Big News. He is six years old. My oldest son lost his LAST tooth a few weeks ago. Another milestone. He is 11 and well on his way to manhood. But this post isn't about milestones.

This post is about the Tooth Fairy. OUR Tooth Fairy, specifically. How is it that we always get on the beat of the LAMEST Tooth Fairy on the Planet (hereafter referred to as LTFP)? I don't know how the Grand Mother Tooth Fairy divides districts, regions, routes or whatever they call them--but we are always assigned to LTFP. It must be pretty random because my neighbors don't seem to have the same issues with their tooth fairies that we have with ours. Honestly--what else does a TOOTH Fairy have to do besides keep track of children's teeth?! I don't think she has come on time. Ever. Not once.

The scene is always the same. (Please note that I realize that I am using the term "always" enough to negate my credibility; trust me--it's accurate.) The tooth is placed under the pillow at night. The child drifts into blissful slumber. The child awakes, dives under said pillow expecting to find treasure, and comes up holding... a tooth. The same tooth he placed under his pillow the previous night.

My kids don't want their teeth--and apparently the LTFP doesn't either. Sometimes she doesn't show for several days. She occasionally responds to handwritten pleas on the part of my children. At times the money has appeared mid-morning while the child is eating breakfast or otherwise occupied. Perhaps the LTFP just likes to sleep in. I suspect she is either a drunk or she works the nightshift doing something besides collecting teeth. If that's the case, I would like to register our house with a Specialized Tooth Fairy--one that ONLY collects teeth. Surely that would solve our problem.

After my 11-year old's last tooth had been under his pillow for five days, he finally brought it upstairs and said, "Can you just give me a dollar and have the tooth fairy come buy this from you?"

I said, "You think I want to deal with that flake? I'd never get my money back."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Elusive Chocolate Chip Cookie

WARNING: This post has nothing to do with my paper route.



I love chocolate chip cookies. Well, I love WARM chocolate chip cookies. Once they are cooled, they might sit for days in the Rubbermaid container on my counter. But when they are fresh out of the oven, I can pound a dozen of them without even blinking.

I have always loved chocolate chip cookies. When I was in high school, I regularly attempted to make a batch of soft, plump, and gooey chocolate chip cookies. To no avail. EVERY batch of cookies I ever made in high school or college turned out too brown, too flat, and too crispy. What was the matter with me? I was following the directions. It must be the recipe... nope. Every batch was a bitter disappointment. I would go to church functions and see plates full of the "ideal" cookie--why did its creation continue to elude me?

When I had been married a couple of years and my first child was still quite small, I scheduled a day that I would go spend a few hours with my sister-in-law (who lived an hour away) learning how to make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. She was going to coach me, step by step, and I was going to learn the Secret. Then tragedy struck--my son got sick. In the name of responsible parenting, I canceled my mentor session. It was as if the holy grail was being wrenched from my grasp. Was I destined to create mediocre cookies... forever?

Understand that canceling my session with my sister-in-law was nigh unto canceling an overdue therapy session. I was in the throws of New Motherhood, and I was lonely. I needed that interaction like I needed food and water. Just as I was about to fling myself into the Abyss of Self Pity, I chose a different course. I would get out of the house and do SOMETHING. I put my baby down for a nap, hired a teenager to come babysit, and went to clean my neighbor's bathrooms. Service is supposed to be good for what ails you, right?

Then I came home and decided to attempt the making of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie... again... by myself. My efforts were without faith. I had been making these attempts for over 10 years always with the same result. Yet I persisted.

I located a recipe in my Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook and proceeded to cream, mix, stir, and drop. I even had the gall to add salt to the recipe because of a tip a roommate had shared with me ages (read: 4-5 years) prior... Then I baked the cookies. Imagine my shock and disbelief when I pulled them from the oven--soft and plump and gooey. Surely there was an imposter in my midst. Surely someone had switched MY cookies with these delectable beauties. I baked the next batch. Same result. And the next. Perfection. The holy grail was mine. The journey was over.

Epilogue: My cookies became legendary in that neighborhood, and I developed quite a reputation for my MAD SKILLS in the chocolate chip cookie-making department.

Fast forward 11 years.

My son (the sick baby who foiled my plans many years ago) and his friend are hosting a basketball camp for kids in the neighborhood, and they want to make chocolate chip cookies for it. I coach them through the process as I sit on the couch, knowing that if I step into the kitchen I will dominate the process. After all, I AM the Chocolate Chip Cookie Making Master--am I not?

Step by step I tell them the ingredients and the order of operations. They cream, mix, stir, and drop. All four dozen cookies come out of the oven with a deja vu familiarity. They are brown, flat, and crisp. I say nothing knowing that children are no respecters of cookies. By the end of the day, the Rubbermaid container is void of so much as a crumb.

Later my husband and I are in the kitchen and the children are all in bed. My husband says, "How did Jacob get his cookies to turn out this way? This is just the way my mom used to make them."

I... kid... you... not.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Am I a Morning Person?



First of all, I need you to know something. I am NOT a morning person. Hard as this might be to believe--it's true. I blame my mother... Each night I stay up late working on things I have wanted to get done all day... only to wake up regretting it the next morning.

My husband and I have a little routine.

At 4:25 the alarm* sounds on the dresser two feet away from my husband's side of the bed. We don't have nightstands. He gets up and walks the two steps to shut it off.

A minute later I begin to surface to a faint state of consciousness with an inkling that an alarm has sounded somewhere in the distance. I stir--just enough to let my husband know that I am surfacing. A part of me--the devil on my shoulder, I suspect--longs to hear the words, "Do you want me to do your paper route for you?" While the angel, if you want to call her that, reminds me that he needs his sleep at least as much as I do, and I just need to put my feet on the floor.

This morning I surfaced more slowly than usual. I heard the very real, almost tangible words, "You know that I will do your paper route whenever you want me to, don't you?" YES! I mean, yes--yes, I know this. Was that an offer or just a statement of fact? I continue to surface from a delectable slumber within the warm folds of my quilt. My feet hang over the side of the bed. I consider plunging back into the depths.

"Put your feet on the floor." I'm thinking about it, Angel. Back off.

"He needs his sleep..." I know, I KNOW!

Seriously, that angel needs to take a vacation. My feet hit the floor and I sense that I am suddenly vertical. I feel my way to my closet. I've won--or lost, depending on whose side I am on, and the jury is still out on that one.

Yes, this is the ritual every morning. When I first adopted the route, I vowed that I would get up when the alarm went off and my responsibility would not become my husband's burden. The first time I "let" him attempt the paper route, it was because I was SUFFERING from mastitis. I was so incredibly sick that the thought of moving nearly reduced me to tears. When he left to conquer my route, I lay in bed considering how long it would take him to do what would normally take me 30 minutes. Oh, help.

He brought the papers back to our garage to fold them, asked me a few logistical questions, and set out. I couldn't sleep. I was so sick and wanting to curl into the fetal position SO BADLY, and I COULD. NOT. SLEEP. Feet on the ground. Clothes on. Keys located.

Somehow I found my way to the route where he was a few houses up the first street. We switched cars. I assured him that I could endure 30 minutes to save him an hour and a half. Eventually, I made my way back home... and back into bed. Yuck. That was not fun.

Later when I was a couple of months pregnant, he insisted on folding the papers to allow me an additional 30-45 minutes of sleep each morning. He did that for months. Then, as I think I mentioned previously, he took over the entire route for two months after our baby was born. Truly--I wish every woman had a man as selfless and shareful.

So no, I am not a morning person. I like to stay up late writing, reading, or whatever else. For the first two months of having this paper route, I quit every single morning. No lie. As I drove to pick up the papers, I would tell myself, "Today is the day. I am done. I am quitting today." Then somehow I would find myself awake and happy to be so... and then I would find myself going to get the papers the next morning.

If anyone wonders what possesses me to keep at it day after day, well... "An angel makes me do it."

Early bird or Night owl?

*NOTE: A little aside about our sideways alarm clock. The alarm clock that I have had since high school died last week, so we are using this one (probably Rob's clock from high school--notice the wires sticking out where the stand used to be) until we can think of a good reason to have the numbers read horizontally again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Runners

Do you consider yourself a risk taker? I don't. Not really. Probably one of the reasons I married an accountant instead of a stuntman. Not that I have ever even met a stuntman. Ever.

As one who drives the streets in the wee hours of the morning, I have discovered a fair number of risk takers among a certain breed of people: RUNNERS. They either like to tempt fate or they think they glow in the dark. I can testify that they DO NOT GLOW IN THE DARK!

Let me tell you something about night vision: It isn't as good as day vision... unless your a bat. And most of them are actually blind, so never mind. (Many don't even have eyes; hence the saying, "Blind as a bat." That's no compliment... in case you were wondering.) Assuming that most people's night vision is impaired, why do some people insist on running in dark clothing--in the dark? Perhaps they are planning to run right into the sunrise when the traffic will actually increase and they will suddenly bear a stark contrast to the beams of light cast all about them. Yes, that must be it.

On occasion I will be driving along and a runner will just appear out of nowhere. They were seriously blind to my view until they were right in front of me... to the side. Thankfully, these incognito runners don't run down the middle of the road. The fear, however, is that something would cause me to swerve and I wouldn't have seen the runner prior to swerving.

Speaking of swerving (we were, weren't we?), I didn't swerve once... and hit a skunk. P.U.--that's all I have to say about that.

[OK--maybe not. I just looked up how to spell P.U. (did I just admit that?), because I don't think I have EVER actually written that expression. If you believe everything you read on the internet--which I don't--but if you do, it is "a shortened term for puteo, which is Latin for 'to stink, be redolent, or smell bad.'"]

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: swerving, no--RUNNERS. I should be embarrassed to admit that I am runner who has actually run in the dark darkly--as in, without a light. I just leave and forget to grab my headlight and can't be bothered to go back and get it. For what it's worth, it always makes me feel very vulnerable.

Wow, talk about a RAMBLE! Do you run? Do you take risks? Have you ever swerved... or NOT? What did you hit? What is your opinion of those cool reflective vests that runners sometimes sport? When I see them, I think "Man, there is someone who has something to live for!" What do you suppose that is?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Up and At 'Em!

In February 2009 my children were over at our neighbors' home for the evening when the dad started talking to them about taking over his paper route. (He and his family were moving.) He didn't really expect THEM to do it, but somehow the topic came up. One of my darling children exclaimed, "My mom will do it!" What!? They came home and reported that they had found me a job. How nice. I didn't realize that I was looking.

Actually, there had been one isolated conversation in which I had mention how nice it would be for us to have a paper route as a means for my children to earn some money. Unfortunately, this paper route--due to distance and time constraints--was not the paper route for children under the age of 10.

When the dad spoke to me about it, I ended up agreeing to sub his route for a weekend, see how it went, and then we would go from there. I delivered those newspapers on February 28, 2009 and have been delivering them every since. It's a little crazy, I'll admit and 4:30 is always earliest at, well, 4:30 in the morning!

At first I had reservations about taking the route because of what people might think. After all, I knew what I thought whenever I heard of someone adopting a paper route. Really--who gets up that early in the morning EVERY morning unless they're desperate?

For me, I liked the idea of having a little extra money--of my own. Granted, all of my husband's salary is used to support our family. I understand that there are equity issues. But I knew that if the paper route money was just going to get sucked into a great big vacuum, I would have no incentive to do it. No, I needed it deposited into a separate account where I could watch it grow.

Besides the little extra money, I enjoy having something that compels me to get out of bed. No doubt that makes me a little weak-minded, but I like having something that forces my feet on the floor every morning. My best mornings are those that are jumpstarted with a list of "To Do's" that help me feel like I have made a dent in the world. While I have never been successful at getting up to read, I love getting up to do something physical that gets me moving.

Then once I finish my route, I am awake and I head to the gym. My day is in full swing. It's crazy but it works!

How do you jumpstart your day?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gratitude

Since graduating from college, I have wished for the opportunity to work as a server at a restaurant. It isn't something I think I would particularly enjoy. I have only wanted to be on the other side of tipping--to better appreciate the server's perspective and what is required to do their job well.

Being a paper girl has afforded me the experience of working in the service industry. While I have VERY little contact with my customers, my customers do enjoy the fruits of my labors EVERY SINGLE DAY. My customers consist of 140 newspaper subscribers. That isn't a lot, but it is enough. (Of those subscribers, three of them take the paper only on the weekend and two take the paper only on Sundays.)

Nine of my customers have requested that the paper be placed on their porch EVERY SINGLE DAY. One such request came with the added commentary, "Shouldn't be hard from St. James." I thought, "It shouldn't be hard for YOU!" In actuality, it requires my parking the car, walking up to their gate, and flinging it across their yard onto their porch. Honestly, it's a pain. But the real pain of it is that they have NEVER given me a tip--nor so much as an expression of gratitude. Apparently, they feel entitled to this extra bit of service.

Juxtapose this with a sweet woman who started subscribing several months ago. The subscription came with the request for her paper to be placed on her porch. Admittedly, I groaned inwardly. She lives on a circle where she is the only subscriber; plus, there is no straight shot from the road. The walkway up to her door requires that I walk up the driveway in order to get the paper in front of her door. Imagine my delight the first time she greeted me (in the wee morning hours) and placed a $20 bill in my hand and thanked me for my efforts in getting her paper on her doorstep every day. After that, I fairly floated up to her door to deliver her paper. The task was accomplished much more easily and proved satisfying, even fulfilling. I felt appreciated.

This dear woman has continued to leave a $20 bill in an envelope addressed to me once a month. On Christmas Eve she left a gift bag full of presents that proved to be a wonderful assortment of treats for my family to enjoy over the holidays.

When I think of tipping a paper girl $20 each month, I recognize how quickly that increases the cost of one's subscription. It probably hardly seems worth it. Then I realized that this woman doesn't view it as an extension of her cost, but as an expression of gratitude. She does it because she APPRECIATES my effort and wants me to know it.

Recognizing how much heartfelt gratitude serves to lighten a load or make a cumbersome task enjoyable, I would do well to look for more ways to show my gratitude for the many individuals who bless my life.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Car

Let me tell you about my car. It is a dark green 1995 Toyota Camry. I like it so much that I almost named my daughter after it--as it is, her name is Kamryn. Close enough. I purchased the car December 31, 1996. I had graduated from college that year and in November I totaled the 1986 Ford Taurus my dad had acquired from my grandmother's barn and sold to me. (You can't begin to imagine the layers of dirt on that interior!) I was working as a marketing specialist for a multi-level nutritional supplements company and still living in student housing.

While I was thrilled with my purchase, I did not realize it would turn heads. As it turned out, it was the envy of the parking lot at my apartment complex. It WAS a nice car, after all.

In May of 1998 I got married. My Camry was the only asset I brought to the marriage--and I was still paying for it, so I guess that would make it a liability. Plus, it was depreciating! (Too bad I didn't own any land.) Twelve-plus years later we are still driving that car--AND using it for a paper route.

Paper routes are hard on cars. I drive 15.9 miles every morning in my car. I speed up and slow down several times along my route besides putting the car in park (several times each morning) for the "more particular" subscribers. In the past month, the car surpassed the 200,000-mile mark... but it continues to get us from here to there.

Here is a list of some of the details that give our car character: 1) The front passenger-side window no longer rolls down. 2) The automatic lock no longer works on the driver's door. 3) The mural drawn with a four-year old's rock the entire length of the car. 4) The tape deck. 5) The driver's door and the rear passenger door both have door handles that are going to break off any day--but at least those windows still roll down! Truly--why would we ever want to part with it?

This post begs the question: Why do you drive the car(s) you drive? Only no one even knows this blog exists, so who is going to answer that question? Or THAT one for that matter?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Time of Day

My alarm sounded, as usual, at 4:25 this morning. And, as usual, I did not want to get out of bed. My husband didn't want me to have to get out of bed either. I could tell he was having an internal conflict, trying to convince himself that my sleep was more important than his own. I managed to save him from himself by putting my feet on the floor first. After all, he has already delivered my papers twice this week and that already feels like asking too much.

Why 4:25, you might wonder. I have until 7:00 a.m. to get the papers delivered, so I why wake up at such an unearthly hour? Several reasons, actually. Few runners and walkers emerge before 5:30 in the morning and I detest having to drive around them or hope I see all of them. Exercise classes at the gym start at 5:45. If I get up when my alarm sounds, my timing to make it to a class is pretty perfect. Besides, I told myself when I took this route that I had to have a set time to get up; otherwise, I would torture myself every day by repeatedly hitting the snooze button.

One hour and eight minutes. 1:08. That is how long it took me to finish my paper route this morning, starting the clock when I pulled out of the driveway and stopping it when I pulled back in. OK, so I don't literally use a stopwatch, but I do clock myself every day using the digital numbers on the dashboard. I like to be as close to one hour as possible. This morning I went to the dock, and noticing a decent breeze, decided to take bring the papers back to my garage. Then on my way back to the garage I was thinking about something other than my garage, so I was almost to the start of my route when I realized I didn't have any folded papers. I flipped a U-turn and eventually found myself in my garage, folding papers at lightning speed. Yes, I was tired.

Still, that is a pretty respectable time--all things considered.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Girl = Woman

Funny thing--last night I was pondering elements of my life that might be unique enough to blog about... Hmmm... Hmmm... Hmmm... then in came to me--MY PAPER ROUTE!

While I realize that I am not the only mother of six with a paper route, I may be the only one blogging about it.

Today is the perfect day to start my RAMBLINGS because 1) My husband--dear, sweet man that he is--actually delivered my newspapers for me and I am well rested and 2) I got a $100 tip in the mail! You read that right. I am a little beside myself--myself. Further, (I guess this could be considered #3) when I typed in www.papergirl.blogspot.com to see if it was already taken, it WAS--by someone who shares my same first name, started blogging in 2000 and hasn't done a single (no, not one!) post, and is probably not even a "girl" anymore... but then, neither am I. Well, technically, yes--but you know what I mean... don't you?

On that subject, when does someone of the female persuasion go from being a girl to a WOMAN? Not that it really matters... until you are making reference to someone in their early-twenties (say, a clerk in a store or someone on a hiking trail who just gave you directions) that you don't know by name. Thankfully, they will never know how you referred to them, but still, I stumble on the word "woman" when making such references. It just sounds to BIG and presumptuous--even for me. And again, I have six children and recently sluffed my 20-year reunion.

This is a good time to whip out my handy dandy thesaurus--or not. Some of the synonyms for "girl" are: babe, bimbo, chick, dish, doll, honey, lassie, miss, sweet thing, and tootsie. Obviously, most of that list self-selects out for anyone trying to maintain any degree of self respect. "Miss" has possibilities--I've even used that one to Girl's faces before. Too bad uppercase and lower case punctuation isn't apparent in verbal communication. Late teens and early twenties would be the perfect time to gradually transition from girl to Girl. Don't you think?

The synonyms for "woman" were less than helpful (aunt, daughter, grandmother, mother, niece, girl, she, spouse, wife). "She" seems like a bit of a cop-out, but then the challenge of the situation is the point of this post (in case you were wondering) so I empathize with the thesaurologians' (apparently not a word) dilemma.

Thankfully, "girl" is synonymous with "woman." Hence, the title of this blog.