Bill had been needing a haircut for some days.  Two boys had been needing haircuts for some weeks.  One boy had been needing a haircut since his last haircut.  I had hoped haircuts could be accomplished in a joint session, one that did not involve me, at Bill’s favorite local barber.  Instead, I found myself driving my shaggy husband to the airport for a trip with my shaggy boys riding along behind.

The dog decided to come along too.

And I happened to realize on the way that I had left my cell phone behind.

After dropping my husband off amidst so many tears you might have thought he was heading off to war, I returned to our little town and went to the barber shop.  Mary and Peter had fallen asleep, so I left Katie and Jenny in the car, parked right out front, to monitor them.  I got the boys in line.  Jenny kept going from the car to the shop and in no time at all, Peter was awake and playing in the corner with the toys.  A few minutes later, Katie comes in with Mary on her hip.

Fortunately, it’s a pretty big shop.

After Katie deposits Mary on my lap, she says she’s going back to the car for the keys.  It was a warm day, and I had left the car running with the air on.  A second later, she returns to tearfully tell me she had hit the automatic lock on the way out.  So, the keys are in the car, which is running and keeping the dog cool.

And my cell phone is at home.

I have several friends who would happily respond to my need for help, but I don’t know their phone numbers.  That’s what the cell phone is for, right?


The barber shop had a phone book, but a quick flip through it did not reveal the names I sought.  That’s the problem with having transient military friends.

While Fritz had his head shaved and Billy had his hair trimmed, I sat and thought.  I estimated I was 3 miles from home, and the road, which I have biked and run, is not a good one to walk with children.  I have AAA, but that would have taken up to another hour of my day which was rapidly approaching dinnertime.  Fortunately, I do live in a small town, and my dentist is also my neighbor’s dentist and was located about 200 yards down the street.  After Fritz was done, I sent him to the dentist’s office to ask them to call our friend who was able to get spare keys from our house and drive them over with very little waiting on our part. 

I really hope my husband can take the boys to get their haircuts from now on. 


Meanwhile, my husband, visiting Texas, has some free time.  He finds a barber shop which bills itself as a man’s barber shop.  When he tells me this, I immediately think of pinups on the wall, but he describes the pool table in the corner and the strong smell of aftershave.  As he takes a seat, someone asks him if he’d like a beer while he waited.  And not just any beer, no, a bottled local brew.

“And it was free!” he tells me.

“How much was the haircut?” I ask.

“Twenty-six dollars,” he responds somewhat sheepishly.  That’s about double our local barber.

“Then it wasn’t free,” I tell him.

Fortunately, we’re not moving there any time soon, so it won’t be a habit.


Back to Fritz: when he got his ** “high and tight, skin on the sides” ** the barber finished him up with a good dousing of aftershave.  He smelled so good and reminded me of his dad every time he passed near me that afternoon and evening. 

Of course, he hated it, and happily took a shower at his first opportunity just to rid himself of the stench.

** For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology of a military haircut, a high and tight is when the sides and back are very short and most of the hair is on top.  Skin on the sides means that you shave it all the way down.  Fritz got this cut nearly a week ago, so you can see it’s growing back already.

School Day

On the way home from a visit to our favorite local ice cream place…

…and I have to stop right here and gloat mention that I’ve had my heater turned off for more days than I can remember and the windows open wide, even at night…

…a visit which commenced at a time at least one hour prior to the end of the local elementary schools’ day, Jenny asked me if my mother had made me do schoolwork

I told her no, that my mother made me GO to school  And then I came home and did homework all.night.long.

She was surprised that I hadn’t been homeschooled.  My mother worked, I explained. 

“What did your dad do then?” she wondered. 

They have no idea how lucky they are.


These guys paid us a visit on Valentine’s Day.  I don’t know what they are.  My bird experts are all unavailable right now.  We love living in this part of the country partly because of all the different birds we get to see.

Note that this was taken during school hours and all the children saw them.  I never got to see interesting birds while I was at school


And then this morning, Katie came running in from the backyard where she was reading her history book in the sunshine (note: I did not get to read history books outdoors on beautiful mornings while I was in school to announce that there was a wounded bird in our yard.

“Leave it alone!”  That was the first thing I shouted.  “Get back to your math!”  That was the next thing, directed at the boys who had sprung from their seats.  Unfortunately, there was someone at the door, and in my absence, they all ignored me.

It was a goldfinch.

Here are my children doing schoolwork

Yes, that’s a bird in Katie’s hand.

He is pretty cute.  But his eyes kept closing.  I don’t know what was wrong with him. 

Normally a bird would be wide eyed and shaking like a leaf.  And not in a child’s hand.  Even a cute one.

I made Katie put him down by the back fence.  He blends in really well.

I zoomed in so you could spot him.

I love my camera.

Thank you, honey.

Anyway, I shooed him through the fence so the dog couldn’t get him.  Or the children.  There is overhead cover at that spot, so I thought he’d be protected from the hawks we often see.  A short while later, Katie said he was gone, but she felt that a particular goldfinch she saw flying around was him.  Perhaps.  I hope so.  He may just have been dazed, perhaps he flew into a window and needed a rest to recover.

Or maybe somebody’s cat got him.  Don’t want to know.

Don’t you just pity my children their oppressive school conditions?

Better living through Apps

During the summer months, I’m a pretty good housekeeper.  But when school is in session, that necessary work takes priority, and cleaning house takes the back seat.  Oh, the basics get done…the kitchen gets cleaned and the toilets get scrubbed…but the detail work like fingerprints on walls or chaos under the bathroom sinks does not.

And it makes me grumpy.  I go about my day noticing all these things that I should be cleaning…would be cleaning…if only my darling children were off at school freeing me to polish the chandeliers and take a toothbrush to the gunk around the sink faucets.

If you’ve read Sink Reflections by FlyLady (a good book, by the way), she breaks the home into zones and every week you work on just a little bit in that zone.  Instead of getting annoyed, frustrated and upset at the fingerprints on every wall in the house, you only worry about the ones in that week’s zone.  In 15 minutes a day – only 15 minutes – your home will begin to look better, one zone at a time.  I read Sink Reflections years and years ago (after failing to make heads or tails of the website), and made a Control Journal – a checklist of things to do throughout the day or week.  I copied her detailed cleaning lists for the various zones off her website and for some time used the FlyLady program to organize my cleaning.

Then, in 2003, my husband deployed, I began homeschooling, and my 4th child was born.  I quickly realized that FlyLady wasn’t going to help me survive the year, so I took a very practical approach to housework:  I hired a cleaning lady.

And for 7 years, in 3 different states, I continued to support the local economy and my personal sanity by outsourcing the grunge work.  These fabulous women didn’t do fingerprints any more than I did, but every now and then, instead of finally tackling that sticky kitchen floor (which wasn’t sticky because it had been mopped recently by someone else), I would spend a few minutes vacuuming the couch or decluttering a closet.  Life was good.

Then we moved here, and I weaned myself off my domestic help, cold turkey.  It’s been a year.  I’ve survived.

I don’t have an infant.  I now don’t even have a toddler.  I now have capable helpers, not just mess-making helpers. 

But I still have 6 children at home 24/7.  And I still have fingerprints on the wall.

And after a year, and especially after half a school year, I have clutter build-up and a disorganized pantry and a thick layer of dust on the ceiling fans.

And I’m grumpy and I start thinking of sending my children off to school just for a month, just so I can clean.

However, a few weeks ago, I actually made it onto Facebook, an infrequent occurrence, but the timing was perfect.  One friend mentioned an iPhone / iTouch / iPad app to another friend.  The app is HomeRoutines which is basically FlyLady for your personal handheld device.  No more Control Journal.  No more spinning your wheels and not having any idea where to even start on cleaning your house.  The app is fully customizable…I even have a to-do list for glasses of water per day (I am very bad about drinking enough water).  It’s exactly what I needed to prioritize my cleaning and inspire me to do just a little bit at a time.

Now, once again, I am not getting annoyed, frustrated and upset at the fingerprints on every wall in the house.  Now I am only annoyed, frustrated and upset at the fingerprints in that week’s zone.  I’ve been using the app for 2 weeks now, and I have to admit that I haven’t done much additional cleaning – it really shouldn’t be that hard to find 15 minutes a day, right?  But at least, I am letting go of most of the mess and just focusing on one area of the home.  It feels better, even if it doesn’t look much better.  Over time, I expect improvements. 

And when summer comes, I’ll know exactly where to start.


I can not fully describe my emotions a few nights ago when I should have been in bed sleeping, but was instead surfing the Catholic blogosphere.




I won’t even link to the pages that so inspired these strong reactions.  However, I will link to these posts which are like a bright light cutting through murky waters.  He makes every point that I shouted at my poor husband who got the full brunt of my ranting.

Lila: Is it moral to lie?

The Lila Enigma: Selective Outrage?

Common sense, people.
BTW, if you, gentle reader, are ever fleeing an unjust law, come to me.  I will aid and abet.

Same old same old

My almost 11 year old son was showing off his pinewood derby car to the almost 12 year old girl down the street.  Since these two are normally at each other’s throats, I was surprised to hear their conversation be rather pleasant.  The girl was suitably impressed with his artwork and asked if he had done any other painting.  It was all very polite and almost adult…and I began to wonder if my son had turned into a different creature.  Should I begin to worry about how he spends his free time?  Might he be beginning to see girls in a different light that would require closer supervision?  Is this the start of him mooning around moping after girls and wondering why they never pay him any attention?

Then the girl asked, “Want to go jump on the trampoline?”

And his response: “With you?  No.”  And they went outside.

No supervision required.

Another week ending

Mary had a thermometer in her mouth.  When it beeped she pulled it out and announced, “48 inches!”


It would be much easier to be a saint if people would stop irritating me.  Billy’s Cub Scout Pack has been promising for several weeks that potluck assignments for the Blue and Gold Banquet would be given out by den.  The banquet is tomorrow.  I got the email this morning, sent late last night.  I wasn’t planning on going to the store today. 


Mary really wants me to go and watch Barney with her.  Yeah, me.  This is the best I can do for a blog post today.

Homemade Valentines

Fritz, my boy
You are half a man
Omelets you make
In a pan
Soon you will be
Taller than me
Fi fi fiddle dum
Fiddle dum dee.


Oh my Billy
My sweet, my sweet
When you walk by
The birds do tweet
The sun does shine
And life seems grand
Especially when you
Hold my hand


O Kate
You do so rate
High in my esteem.
You help me cook
You help me bake
And you help me clean.


My daughter Jenny
Doesn’t cluck like a hen-ny
We didn’t name her Benny
‘Cause she’s a girl.
She has big green eyes
She is quite a prize
But she doesn’t wear ties
‘Cause she’s a girl.


Peter Peter
Gumbo spice
Come over here
And kiss me twice
Once on this cheek
Once on that
Now I’m happy
How ’bout that!


Mary, my little cutie pie
If you were sad, then I would cry
Usually, though, you’re very happy
Especially when you’ve had a nap-py.