My Apologies to Bill Watterson

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So, I put the kids to bed tonight and I kept hearing giggling coming from upstairs. So I went upstairs to see what was going on. Apparently the kids were using an invisible ink pen to make Calvin & Hobbes anatomically correct in one of their C & H books. Then they were using the little blacklight at the end of the pen to check out the results.

I blame their father.

I Built a Spaceship (And I Learned How to Build My Own Grow Room)

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OK, so here are updated pictures (including the final version) of the Halloween project:


This totally looks like two Darth Vader heads kissing, to me.

Below are pictures of the UFO after I’d finally gotten it off the porch and put it on the lawn. It is a 9 foot diameter PVC frame covered with adhesive-backed shelf-liner which I then covered with mylar. When I was researching how to attach mylar to a PVC skeleton on-line Google took me to a bunch of helpful sites like and which provided instructions on how to build your own grow room. Good to know. It will certainly make the midnight raid on my house less unexpected.

Anyway, the ship has little bowling pin aliens in the “windows.” The inflatable cow is attached by a fishing line and has a spotlight shining down on it. The aliens in the windows are backlit by green electroluminescent lights. And the sign says “AREA 151″ because that’s our street address. It worked out pretty well. We had a kid’s Halloween party the next day for 19 kids.

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We provided silly string guns so the kids could ambush the aliens. This is what happened:

IMG_4652They shot the adults. Understandable mistake.

IMG_4655 IMG_4664 IMG_4656

But they also attacked the cow, the lawn, and each other in addition to the aliens in the ship.

And the treehouse…

IMG_4669 IMG_4668

… was the scene of a tween rave. Juice boxes, empty candy boxes, and silly string on the walls. Because that’s how we roll.



Another Project Update, This is

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So, here’s a picture of the Halloween project I’m working on so far: IMG_1134


Annoying Voice in My Head: “Is it Yoda with one ear?”

Me: “No.”

AVimH: “How about one of the Pac Man ghosts with one giant ear?”

Me: “No.”

AVimH: “How about that cartoon eagle?”

Me: “You mean this one?” samtheeagle

AVimH: “Yes.”

Me: “No. What is it with all the cartoon figures?”

AVimH: “Yoda isn’t a cartoon. He’s one of the greatest philosophers of all time!”

Me: “What! He’s a muppet in a science fiction movie!”

AVimH: yoda

Me: “You just said that in Yoda’s voice, didn’t you? Nevermind, I no longer care.”

Anyway, tomorrow I’m going to try to finish the entire skeleton on the project.

AVimH: yodaquote


AVimH: yodasaying

One important thing my kids have taught me is this: If someone starts doing jumping jacks on your last nerve then Just Walk Away. Like I’m doing now.

Project Update

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So, my new project involves math. MATH! I spent three hours last night relearning how to calculate angles and measure an arc. What is really irritating is that I used to know how to do this stuff. I think teenagers are right—they really are smarter than adults. The sheer amount of knowledge I have lost since high school is frightening. Even scarier is that all that lost knowledge was replaced by stuff like the theme song to Caillou and the names of all the original Wiggles.

So, anyway, I have my starting specs. And I learned how to draws arcs, and how to bend pvc pipe. So here are my first progress pics:

The nail rainbows are actually templates that I will use to bend the pvc pipe. I would have them leaning up against the wall rather than flat on the porch where they can be stepped on, except that I accidentally nailed them to the porch floor.

You would not believe how long it took me to accomplish so little work.

New Project

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So, now that I’m just about done with the treehouse I decided to build something new. Something for Halloween. I should have it done in a few weeks. These are (most IMG_1126of) the materials. Any guesses?


Guilty Conscience: “A pipe bomb?”

Me: “What???!!!!! NO! God, what is it with you and pipe bombs?”

Guilty Conscience: “A sex toy?”

Me: “Seriously????!!!!!…..Wait, that is something I’d like to see…But, again, NO!”

GC: “A bong?”

Me: “Sure, you got me. Instead of handing out candy at Halloween. I’ll just offer the kids a hit off my giant bong. That would go over really well. ‘Hey, nice costume. Want to hit this? Hey, can I have that Kit-Kat?'”


I’ll post pictures of the progress. But meanwhile I’ll give you a hint. It is not a bong, although this component does seem a bit bong-like:

Treehouse of Horrors

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treehouseofhorrorSo, now that the treehouse is almost finished the kids decided that they wanted to spend the night in it. They picked a night and were really excited about it. That night finally came yesterday. I inwardly groaned when they reminded me. Because I didn’t want to let them sleep outside by themselves all night I resigned myself to sleeping on the porch within earshot. They got their stuff ready and I opened the back door to start taking it all out to the treehouse. And then inspiration struck. The kids came outside with me and I looked out into the absolute blackness that was our backyard and said, “Wow, sure is dark out there, huh?” And that was all it took. All three chorused, “Mom, I don’t want to sleep out here,” or some variant thereof, and I got to sleep in my own bed. Parenting manipulation WIN!

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What is a Hero?

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Last month I listened to my mom die, nearly four years after her death. It was on a 911 audiotape played over video footage of my mom’s house burning down. One of the many lawyers at the mediation played this as part of his presentation. My attorney warned me ahead of time that the footage and audiotape would be played and that I could step out of the room if I wanted. I decided to stay. There were two things that compelled me to stay: the first is that I didn’t think that what was on the tape would be any worse than what I was already imagining. And the second reason I wanted to stay is because I wanted to be present for those last moments of my mom’s life in the only way I could be.

And it turned out to be an experience I was grateful for.

I mentioned before that my mom had advanced multiple sclerosis and that she needed 24 hour care. She was very fortunate to be able to stay in her home and hire personal caretakers, some of whom became her best friends for nearly 20 years. On the night of the fire, her caretaker, L, was staying with her. My mom’s best friend’s son, R, was staying in the garage apartment. When the alarm sounded L had to come downstairs and pass by the front door to get to my mom’s bedroom. She called 911 while she was helping my mom into her wheelchair. I could hear my mom’s voice in the background but I couldn’t make out the words. And there was a man’s voice even farther in the background but, again, I couldn’t make out any words. I believe that voice belonged to R, the caretaker’s son who struggled to get into the house to rescue the women. He was unable to break through the door, however. L couldn’t say very much to the 911 operator because she was quickly overcome by the smoke. There were a few seconds of coughing and then silence. It was very fast.

Right after my mom died an arson investigator explained to me that fire sucks all of the oxygen out of a home very quickly. So, for the next two years I assumed that my mom had died in her sleep. I was horrified to learn that she and L had been conscious before they died. I can’t even imagine how they felt. I still can’t. It makes my heart hurt to think about it.

As I was listening to the tape for the first time during the mediation I was sitting right next to L’s adult daughters, one of whom quietly sobbed throughout the presentation. After all parties went to separate rooms so that negotiations could begin, the daughters’ attorney invited me in to meet them. I had long wanted to do this. I started crying right away as I said how sorry I was for their loss. I told them that I felt deeply indebted and humbled by their mom’s actions that night. And equally important to me was this: my mom died knowing that not one, but two (R was trying to get in also) people cared enough about her to come to her rescue at the risk of their own lives.

That is a hero.

All my gratitude and love to L. and R. And to those who cared for my mom for so many years. You are forever in my heart.


First Day of School. No Big Whoop!

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Brace yourself. I know this is against the mom code. I did not take any pictures of my sons before they left for their first days of school this week.  I know, I know.  They will never be in  these grades again. (I feel certain of this because they get nothing but ✔+ marks on their report cards. The teachers tell us that is good.)  You know what else?  I didn’t take any pictures of them when they came home, either.  I heard that gasp.  It didn’t bother me a bit.

Maybe, it bothered me just a little.  That, and all the adorable pictures shared on Facebook by my friends of all their adorable kids in their back to school clothes and shoes and backpacks.  I love looking at those pictures. I think about the ones I didn’t take.  I feel a pang of guilt.  It passes.

Back when the boys first started school, I made a big fuss.  I would buy new clothes, shoes and backpacks. I would load the backpacks with supplies they didn’t even need.  Haircuts two weeks before school started were mandatory.  And, of course, there were pictures.  Pictures with eyes closed, backs turned, and blurred by fidgeting. Pictures of my boys with blank stares or looks of dread.

For the first few years, the first day of school would be a flurry of activity.  A special ‘first day of school’ breakfast, lunches packed with first day of school notes, and me talking about how exciting it was that they were starting school.  The mandatory, “I can’t believe you are in ____ grade this year!” would be repeated several times.  All this would end with my insisting we take pictures and the boys struggling to stay still for them.

It took me a while to realize it, but my boys weren’t enjoying all the first day of school hoopla as much as I was.  In fact, it was making them more anxious.  They would complain that the new clothes were uncomfortable.  Aaron would ask why I insisted on buying new clothes when his old ones still fit (which they did) and were already “broken in”.  That’s his code for comfortable.  Nic hated breaking in his new shoes on the same day that he had to start a new school year.  I was piling on too much new all in one day.  Topping all of that off with my need to take pictures to commemorate the day was too much pressure.   back to school bw

Nic thought I was making such a big fuss and wanted to take pictures because he was never coming home.  “Ar you making me live at school like the teachers?” he would ask.  Aaron made it clear that pictures were unnecessary and part of the “pain”.

When Nic got to third grade, the first day of school extravaganza came to a screeching halt.  He was struggling with school, understanding the world, and keeping it all together.  Keeping with a routine, making things calm, helping him feel safe were more important that getting that great first day picture.  To keep his anxiety in check, I played it off as no big deal.  “First day of school.  It’s no big whoop.  Right?”  He would smile because he liked the sound of the ‘whoop’.  It was a genuine smile, not like the forced ones in all those first day of school pictures.

The low-key routine seemed to suit Aaron as well.  “See, Mom, I didn’t need any new clothes.  And you didn’t need any pictures.  And, it was still the first day of school.”

So, every year now, that is how we do it.  First day of school is no big whoop.  We are all calmer and happier.  I may not have those first day pictures to share but I do have two boys starting the school year with real smiles on their faces.