Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Weight of the World

Curious, I clicked on the column "Zen and the Art of Child Maintenance" on Literary Mama. Mistake!

Is there anything more annoying than reading about someone's angst over European travel while the children remain home? Oh--the guilt! Oh--the emails and video-conferencing! Oh--poor Johnny "acts out' upon our return!

Wow. That's really worrisome.

Sorta like the moral dilemma my brother grappled with a few years ago: When the baby cries in the middle of the night, do you wake up the nanny or do it yourself?


Someone sent me an email asking why there's no photo in my profile. Remember the blog title? Minnesota and matron. You don't need to see that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

All About Me

The title really has nothing to do with the post. I'm just enjoying myself so much. Aren't you? Yes, yes! I meant enjoying ME. I know I'm self-absorbed, but in a way that's very interesting to others.

The post is about three wonderful finds-- real gems!

The first is a novel, Abide With Me, by Elizabeth Strout. Please buy this book. Send her money and fan mail. I gasped by page ten and re-examined my hesitancy to read while driving (I see people with book or magazine on the steering wheel in the thick of rush hour on 94E, between 3:45 and 4:14, from Lexington to White Bear Lake exits, all the time, if you're a state trooper or cop and have a minute to spare).

Yesterday, waiting with five children for a table at Big Bowl, I stood smack in the middle of the mall and sobbed my way through the ending. Reading standing up. I gave in entirely, wet and running. Scarlett and Merrick know enough to step aside; the other children grew nervous, lest some of this emotion stream their way. John joined us later, only to find me trembling at the table, head in hands, still spent.

"Finish that book?" The man knows me.

This is her second and I have already purchased her first, the hugely popular and award-winning Amy and Isabelle. I am kicking myself for all the times I didn't pick up that book.

Second is the astounding Liz Rognes. For those naughty readers who missed an earlier post, I recently ruminated on unrecognized talent in our midst. You know, the Caribou clerk with a band on the side that turns out to be amazing or the security guard at Target who's actually an award winning poet.

Not long out of college, Liz gives voice and piano lessons to Scarlett and Merrick respectively. She also sings, composes and generally pursues. Yesterday, weak after my bout with the book, I went to her myspace page.

Go to and listen to Falling. John came in while I was and asked, "Is that Jewel?" Please, don't diminish Liz!

To further amaze: when I emailed to ask her if I could put a link on this blog, she wrote, "I have zero recording equipment, so my songs sound like they were recorded on a laptop with a built-in microphone (um....which they were.)" That's what she can do with a laptop? Imagine Liz in a studio. I have goosebumps. Yes, there's a link.

I cried all the way through Falling. Too much art! I can't take so much beauty in a single day.

The third gem presented itself yesterday, too, but is a slightly different animal. This is Leonardo's Basement in South Minneapolis. A non-profit, Leonardo's is indeed a big big basement and it's full of junk: wires, bottle caps, old toys, ornaments, piles of metal and wood, upholstery, coils of foil, computers, roller skates, aprons, keys, screws, feathers, sequins and fur. The list is endless.

Basically, the staff --and there's plenty of them--hands your kid a blow torch or glue gun and says, "Have at it." And Stryker did. Scroll down the photos and see the table and chair my child and his friend built, in under four hours. Stryker had never so much as tapped a nail before. He came home fully lit.

When I picked him up today (he begged to go back), I spotted him with three other excited boys in the 'control panel,' an elevated contraption of computers, wires, poles and pipes and duct tape. He saw me and pushed a blinking button.

"We got the fog to work!" Fog indeed. I was instantly enveloped in the smoke pouring from a huge tube directly above me.

If yours is the budding scientist, a child with a brain wired to rewire, Leonardo's Basement is for you!

Lots of goodies for one day.

Now, The New Dog

Let's start with this fact: Merrick is draped across my lap while I type. Remember the snot-sodden four year old in the previous post? Poor guy!

We wouldn't have Scruffy at all if it weren't for a friend doing her own dog-shopping. Note, this family has taken its time, been particular. Impulsive lot that we are, Scruffy was the first dog we spotted!

My friend sang petfinder's on-line praises, so I went there with my hankering for a poodle. I grew up with poodles; they barely shed and they're friendly, smart (as dogs go), and malleable. I scrolled through all kinds of poodle mutt mixes and then saw Scruffy. There was something about that rat-like face, that Toto tuff of hair. I thought: that's our dog.

Reason wagged her finger. A decision like this should require more research, greater selection.
Plus, John was firmly opposed to anything remotely related to getting a new dog, including window shopping.

So I sent Stryker shopping. I swear this wasn't consciously subversive, but in retrospect, Freud might win this poker game.

At the time, Stryker was bored and kicking about for action. Since I am source of All Things, he was unrelenting: "Give me ideas! Something. I need something to DO." After even a few minutes of this (yes, my threshold is that low) I was ready to suggest a game of 'cross the street blindfolded.'

Three facts about Stryker. Fact one: he LOVES shopping. When we drive by Target, he rolls down the window, leans out and yells, "I love you Target!" I am not making that up. Fact two: He loves animals more than shopping--more on that later. Fact three: Thurston's death hit our 11 year old son, hard. Really hard. It took me a month to convince him that he didn't murder his dog. Again, more later. Oh, and Stryker loves screens of all sorts.

Dog shopping on-line was a miracle, a combination of pleasure too vast to comprehend. "You are THE best mother in the world!"

Successful multi-tasking is such a rush. I simultaneously launched myself in Best Motherland and handed off a time-consuming task. Why not let Stryker log the hours?

Well, hour. He races into the kitchen with pages of possibilities, all terrier mixes. There are 8 to show, but -- and he can barely contain himself--the best, the greatest, the most amazing dog he'll save for last. Our dog.

And yes, that dog was Scruffy. Half poodle, half terrier.

Now, John could not say no to just looking! We purposely left wallets at home so we wouldn't be impulsive. The foster family said Scruffy was perfect. Didn't shed, smart, malleable--plus, minimal barking. "He's amazingly mellow for a one year old. And he loves other dogs and children."

Scruffy sat mournfully on the stoop, watching us drive away. Scarlett cried.

All the lack of wallet really meant was an additional drive to Apple Valley to retrieve our pet. Hey, we managed to wait until the next day!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Do I get to officially coin a term? Blethic may end up in the Matronly archives, much like 'chicken,' or the term may pave my way toward fame (finally).

John and I routinely use chicken in this sense: "how's your chicken?" That means: "how's the squawking, flapping, needy, greedy, confused mess of mind and emotion?" So instead of "how's your day?" we might inquire about the state of the chicken. Just seems to encompass more of the chaos, at least mine.

So. . . finally, a comment! See post below. I am now thoroughly infused: audience! Hooray! Even if it's a row of one, munching popcorn and scrolling, alone.

Now an audience needs to be fed, coddled, kept happy (or else hate mail?). This is responsibility! Weight!

I find myself feeling a work ethic toward my blog: when was my last post? Was I clever and interesting in the four minutes and 29 seconds my schedule allows for blogging? If there's a work ethic a blog commands -- obligation -- mine feels like a blethic. You heard it here first.

Blethic could also be appropriate blog decorum for visitors or (in my sad case) visitor.

We won't cement the use of the word, quite yet, since it's so early in the lexicon! I would hate to be picky about content and limit blethic's possibilities before it's even fully launched. Yes, I googled the term and seemed to get back something vaguely mathematical, causing the synapses in my brain to immediately misfire.

Having satisfied my blethic for the moment, I can now take four 9 year old girls and one 4 year old with a sniffling whine-drenched cold to the mall. Oh goodie.

The new dog's story will be next. Stay tuned (see me creating sense of anticipation in visitor).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The New Dog

For those of you who don't know, our dear old Thurston died on August 20th. He had an amazing life that extended beyond the scope of other people's reason. "Isn't that dog dead yet?" was a regular salutation, especially after he started wearing diapers at night. Yes. And then when our nearly 15 year-old Springer-Irish setter mix could no longer move and we were unable to manage his pain -- yes, he lay dying, whimpering despite quadruple the dose of doggie morphine -- we brought him to the vet for the final shot. We draped ourselves around that dog for hours before his death and were all there at the end. To say that it went badly is perhaps the understatement of the century. The children screamed and wailed. When I was returning to the tiny room where we were saying our final good-byes, the somber couple in the waiting room exchanged whispers: "It doesn't sound good in there, does it?" "Horrible."

Thurston! Kiss the next snout you see. This was a dog who could savor a meaty bone while children climbed on his back.

Scruffy came with the name and his story is next. But this turned into a post about our old dog.

Hate Mail

No, I haven't gotten any --yet.

But if you haven't checked out Heather Armstrong's web site (on my links), it's worth going to just for the hate mail. The thrill isn't so much the hatred itself, but the amazing things Heather can do in response. She's particularly acedic in replies to the people who don't actually hate her, but write sort of sympathy emails, or the "I worry about your mental health" emails.

No hate mail here, but critique! Commentary! First from a friend who says "you don't understand the concept of blogging." I'm supposed to write more. And just to show you how darn sensitive I am--how utterly reactive--I am instantly composing this post. This also means I am indeed desperate for audience. Infected with need for audience!

And speaking of Heather Armstrong, that link has been my blog's biggest hit! So of course you've already gone there. Is it a compliment when people say "I love your link" instead of "love the blog?"

I better start writing more-- and sharpening that wit. Maybe I should lower that profanity bar.