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Monday, December 20, 2010

"Sixteen Days of The-Never-Ending-Christmas-Vacation

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved to pay for Winter Vacation Camp

We are now in Day 3 of the "Sixteen-Days of-the-Never-Ending-Christmas-Vacation-of-original-toys/games-to-entertain yourself-without-spending-any-Money if you don't count therapy sessions.

Now I concede that more than one child has had more fun playing with the boxes than with the presents that came in them. And most children with a yard have played mud pies or in the sand pile with just a spoon and a tin can. My children, however, seem to have set the bar for creative play things.

How many children have spent three weeks entertaining themselves by dragging around a flip flop tied to a short piece of rope? Granted, he was three years old but most of the time you can't keep a three-year-old's attention more than three seconds, much less three weeks. And wadding his sisters' shorts into a ball then wrapping a towel around it to form baby "Coverly" is a classic example of a super creative child, or one with some serious issues.

I sold our ancient piano a few years ago but that did not deter my children from developing the right or is it the left side of their brains. I can't remember because my brain has turned to mush. On Day One of the Never-Ending-Vacation, I was privileged to hear a twelve-hour outdoor concert for white plastic barrel, hammer, and galvanized pipe. Music was written with lyrics and actually sung, sort of. The windows in the house are still vibrating.

On Day Two of the Never-Ending-Vacation, when they couldn't find the hammer (I had confiscated it) the five-year-old and the nine-year-old invented the Roll-Out-the-Barrel-with-Your-Sibling-in-It activity. The nine-year-old put her brother inside the plastic barrel and rolled him down the hill. They actually took turns trying to knock the other's brains out and to see who could get the dirtiest as each rolled through the piles of ashes left over from burning leaves. Since I could only see the whites of their eyes as they came mumbling incoherently in to supper, I declared it a tie.

Day Three of the Never-Ending, well, you know, found both children in the pasture again with their toy of choice, the white plastic barrel; only this time they weren't inside rolling down the hill. I had carefully explained that Medicare did not cover barrel-rolling-induced-strokes in elderly mothers. Instead they had straddled the toy four wheel 'gator and were busy "herding" the barrel all over the pasture. I don't know if they were inventing a variation on NASCAR, demolition derby, or playing 21st century Cowboys. If I had known they could have had this much fun with a plastic barrel, I would have gotten them one long ago. Hubby said it was a genetic throwback to his old car tire rolling days although he had to admit he never participated in the Get-Inside-the-Tractor-Tire-and-Roll-through-the-Cow-Patties activity.

The children have now been bathed. It only took a thirty minute soaking followed by fifteen minutes of scrubbings using one bottle of body wash per child tonight. I have had my Valium, Advil, Zoloft, and a quick three minute shower. I had caught just the tail end of their conversation "With the drill and the jigsaw..." so I dared not take any longer.

Tomorrow will be Day Four with only twelve more days left in the "Never-Ending-Christmas-Vacation". I am currently searching the internet for Holiday Camps. Spring break will be here before you know it!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Toys R Not Us

By Jody Worsham.
All rights reserved for custom monograms!

I don't know why I buy the children toys. Years ago when the nine-year-old was a four-year-old, her favorite toy at Christmas was the box our 37" TV had come in. She colored it, I cut holes in it and it became a McDonald's Drive-Thru, a house, a fort, and a space ship among other things. The best part was that after two weeks of non-stop playing, it was in shambles and ready for the burn pile. Nothing to store, trip over, or pick up when she was through playing. And, if she wanted another one, I had only to go to the back door of Sears and pick up another cardboard box.

Yet who wants to be known as the cheap Grinch of Christmas who gives children cardboard boxes? Not I, so when little brother came along every Barbie, Ken, Cabbage Patch Baby, Tonka truck, and match box metal die cast car that ever graced a Toys-R-Us store shelf, is now piled in a baskets in the bottom of their closets. With toy chests you can't close and shelves dripping with toys classic and new, their very favorite thing to do is play in the sand pile with a rusty spoon and tin can.

Now with the never popular daylight savings time that turns afternoon play time into night time, the children have had to abandon the sand pile in favor of inside activities. Now maybe they will play with some real toys, I thought.

Last night the five-year-old came into the living room carrying a blanket wrapped around a pair of wadded up shorts belonging to his sister. I put down the book I was reading, "How to Raise Your Second Round of Kids when You Are On Your First Round of Medicare", and decided to play along.

"Well, what do we have here?" I asked.

"This is my baby. This is her face. Don't worry, the shorts are clean."

That was reassuring so I continued. "What a lovely child. What is its name?"


"Well that's a very unusual name."

"Yes, but if you call her that, she'll come to you."

Which makes sense, if you think about it; your name is your name after all.

I began to think of what names my great-grandchildren might have, given who their parents will be. Probably nothing I could find preprinted on a Hallmark Christmas ornament or on hot chocolate mugs at Wally World. No Sue or Brandon for sure. I doubt "Coverly" would be on any of those pencils or calculators you find in the bookstores before school starts.

No, I'm sure expensive custom painting, engraving, or embroidering will be required for their names. At least I'll save money when it comes to toys. I'll just spray paint a tin can, add a rusty spoon, and put those in a cardboard box.

I'll write their names, whatever they turn out to be, in permanent marker. Coverly and Preseptorian will think I'm the coolest granny ever! And I will be! Cheap, but cool! After all Toys R Not Us!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Half-Naked Santa

By Jody Worsham,

All rights reserved to clothe the other half

The five-year-old was cast as Santa in the school Christmas program. Yes, this little public school can say Merry Christmas and have a Christmas program without going through 27 pages of protocol to make sure they don't offend anyone; rare, but true.

He was especially excited because he got to say his lines into a microphone. I hauled out the microphone and amp at home and he practiced. "Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight." He opted to say the words rather than sing them; a decision we all supported.

I cut his beard out of quilt batting and secured it to the sides of his hat and got him in his costume for a quick check. I felt like putting a name tag on his costume because otherwise, no one would ever know who he was. He was completely covered in a red suit, hat, and beard. I had him say his lines to make sure the beard would not muffle his words. Yes, this Santa was definitely going to be heard.

Now having subbed in kindergarten one whole day but taught high school students for a long, long time, I knew the kids needed to see him in his beard before the performance. "What if they laugh," he asked. I honestly told him, "They will laugh but not at you but because they haven't seen many five-year-olds with a beard. Ok, they have never seen a five-year-old in a beard but laughing is good. It means they are happy." I don't think he bought that for a minute.

The children did laugh, but not at his beard. The pillow I had used at first for Santa's stuffing was too big and heavy so I had taken his sister's white tutu and pinned it to his t-shirt for padding. It was light weight, fluffy, and, I thought, a clever solution to the padding problem. They only saw a boy with a tutu pinned to his shirt. Something else for him to talk about when he's in therapy

I watched part of the dress rehearsal for the Christmas program or what I thought was the Christmas program. Eighty kindergarten children on a stage at the same time could be doing anything and were. I think they were in the process of re-writing the program and disregarding anything the teachers had planned. Some children were engaged in a calypso type number while others, dressed as cheerleaders, were having a major discussion on the order of letters in the world T-R-E-E-S. At least they weren't trying to spell H-E-L-L-O. I could just see Miss O deciding she wanted to be at the head of the line and the whole program going from G rated to R for language. Everyone got over their giggles at Santa's beard and stuffing. I made a mental note to get BIG bars of chocolate for the teachers.

Performance night arrived and I hustled Santa with his beard firmly pinned to his Santa hat to his classroom. There amongst assorted angels, cheerleaders, human Christmas trees, and I can only assume various mini-sized delegates to the UN, I deposited Santa. I then raced to the caf-a-gym-na-torium to get a good folding chair.

I looked for the kindergarten teachers. If they were highly visible to the audience, I could expect a good show. I noticed four people huddled together against the side wall in heavy trench coats, hats, and sunglasses. They were mumbling something about "Only … eleven days …..till the… Christmas break. I can do this…I..can do this…." Oh, boy.

The program began. After a near fight, the "head cheerleader", got T-R-E-E-S spelled correctly on the stage and the audience applauded. I'm not sure if the applause was for the head cheerleader's leadership skills or that they spelled trees correctly.

The introductory music for "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" began and all my cameras were aimed at Santa. The big moment had arrived. Santa stepped up to the microphone, but the microphone was still set for the two foot tall cheerleader. Santa was at least three feet six inches tall, not quite ready to ditch the booster seat. He would never be heard, I thought. Not to worry, Santa belted out his lines right through the tutu stuffing and batten beard. No need for a mic for this future Thespian! I was so proud!

After the program I went back to the classroom to get Santa. That's when his teacher told me to leave all of his costume on the table; there was another performance in the morning. Fortunately I had put shorts on Santa to wear under his red pants but that still left him shirtless. To his credit, he did not want me to take his shirt off in front of the cheerleaders who had launched into another chant "Take it off, Take it off, Take it off!" Fashioning my puffy coat into a make-shift dressing room, the tutu attached t-shirt came off and I put my big purple coat on the half-naked Santa. He looked like the guy wearing the purple grapes in the Fruit-of-the-Loom commercial. More material for the therapist!

On the way home, I gushed praise on the half-naked Santa in the hope that it would counteract any emotional scars my creativity had heaped upon him. I didn't think it wise to show him the DVD when we got home.

There's only so much a former short-bearded-tutu-stuffed-Santa-stripper can handle in one night.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Paula Deen Curse

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for Culinary Therapy

Thanks to Paula Deen everyone thinks if you are from the South, you can cook. If you can't make the Southern Sacred Sweet (pecan pie) than you are immediately suspected of being a transplant, an alien, or worse…a Yankee!

I don't know why I keep trying to cook except for fear that my five-year-old will be the new poster child to End World Hunger and I might have to relocate up North! I simply can't cook, or maybe I can't read, or maybe I can't read and cook. It is even difficult to type this, not because of any emotional feelings of inadequacy or failure, but because I burned my finger and I didn't even burn it on the pecan pie I was trying to make. I burned my finger on the syrup that got on the hot pad while I was trying to remove the pie from the oven before the smoke alarm detonated.

Let me back up a bit. I left the house alone this morning at 7:30 for a three hour trip to see my mother to try and convince her that her refrigerator was not trying to kill her, and to make sure she was really alright after the doors to both her freezer and refrigerator fell off their hinges a few days ago knocking her on her ninety-year old behind. That's another story; see previous blog.

The new 46 inch TV my sister and I had gotten her for Christmas and given her early had her mind off the Attack Refrigerator. She was feeling well enough to have me haul her ninety-year-old self to CiCi's Pizza for lunch, Wal-Mart for house shoes, icy hot patches, aspirin, Christmas toys for her great-grandchildren, then to another grocery store to cash a check, then back to her apartment. Each stop necessitated me hauling out the mini-step, flipping down the legs, helping her out of the car, de-flipping the legs, putting the mini-step back in the car, and repeating it when we got back into the car. When I arrived back home at 4:30 my head and back felt like a refrigerator door had fallen on me.

While I was gone, my hubby came across the old screw type pecan cracker that he and his grandmother had used when he was a child. The children were not only fascinated with the machine but were even more motivated to shell the five gallon bucket of pecans (he just happen to have) when he told them I would bake them a pecan pie when I got back.

The nine-year-old has developed a strong desire to cook, probably out of hunger and desperation. I traded her twenty minutes of violin practice in exchange for helping me with the pies. I would make one while she was practicing, and then I would help her bake another one when she finished.

Ok, I am one of those people who failed the Follow Directions Test in college, the one that starts "Read all questions first". Yes, I was standing up shouting "Bullfrogs" to question #3, patting my head while whistling "Dixie" to question # 9 and totally embarrassed when the last question read "Now go back to question number one and sign your name." I read the list of ingredients for pie #1 and dumped everything in the bowl. Only when I turned the page did it give instructions as to the specific order. Also, at no place in the recipe did it say "deep dish pie pan". Fortunately, from my many cooking disasters in the past, I knew to spray the cookie sheet with Pam before placing the full-past-the-brim pecan pie in the oven.

Pecan Pie #2 followed a different recipe. I figured I would claim the better tasting pie. The nine-year-old did a better job of following directions than I did, and she's dyslexic. My pie had to cook for an hour; her's fifty minutes or "until firm." Now if they had just left that last phrase out all might have been well. Exactly what is "firm" and firm compared to what?

After twenty additional minutes of cooking pie #2 trying to determine firm and bandaging my burned finger, I removed the pie from the oven. Firm can be like cheesecake, or pound cake, or Jell-O, or it can be something else.

Anybody ever taste Pecan Pie Jerky?

Curse you, Paula Deen!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Attack of the Refrigerator

By Jody Worsham Nov. 2010

All rights reserved for a Whine Cellar

If you live to be 90 there are going to be some challenges. Our ninety-year-old mother is an avid sports fan. She played professional basketball in the 1930's and to this day when she watches games on TV, she dresses in her favorite team's jersey, has the team throw emblazoned with their logo across her legs, and her Diet Coke in the team sanctioned koozie.

She insists on having more clothes than will fit in her assisted living closet. My sister and I asked her why she needed so many clothes. She said "People talk if they see you in the same outfit during the same month." "Mother, most of these people can't remember what they ate for breakfast." "Well, I can: toast, scrambled eggs and bacon." We bought two of those rolling laundry type hangars to cram into her tiny apartment. Every outfit must have a matching pair of shoes and jewelry. The jewelry we could handle, but finding orthopedic shoes in every color in the rainbow was something else. We resorted to spray paint.

Most of these challenges we have managed to handle but the attack of the refrigerator caught us both off guard. My sister was 2,000 miles away when the nurse at Mother's assisted living facility called her. "Hum, your mother fell. She's alright. She will be a little sore….the…uh…refrigerator door… fell… off…and…uh…your mother fell …back." "WHAT?" "Thedorfellofftherefrigeratorandknockedyourmotherover….but she's ok."

Fortunately Mother did not suffer any broken bones, however, when my sister called me three days later it was Houston, we have a problem! Our mother had decided that the refrigerator was out to kill her. No amount of logic, reasoning, or physical evidence of rusted hinges would convince her otherwise. The refrigerator was out to get her. She took everything out of the refrigerator and placed it on the kitchen cabinets. We talked with the facility manager about getting another refrigerator. My brother-in-law has been checking the hinges daily but still Mother is convinced that somehow during the night when no one is watching, the refrigerator will sneak up on her and do her in.

My menopausal sister was at the end of the chain our mother was jerking, but I knew just what to do. There are certain advantages to being a Medicare mom. It has only been three years since my five-year-old was in the terrible two's. There is a definite connection between the Terrible Two's and the Nerve Wracking Nineties. There was only one solution. Get her mind on something else.

Mother had commented recently on how clear a flat screen television was at some restaurant where my sister had taken her. We had decided then that we would get her a new super large TV for Christmas. Santa is going to make an early delivery.

I had ordered the TV on line and had it delivered to my house so we could surprise Mother. With this newest challenge, my sister told Mother she was getting a new TV, a really big clear one. She would be able to see Dirk Nowitzki up close and really good. She would be able to read the scores at the bottom of the screen without having to get up and walk up to the screen, like she would need to check any stats on a ball game she was watching. In that respect, her mind was as sharp as it was when she was twenty. That was all that was needed. Her mind was now on Dirk Nowitzki.

That was on a Wednesday. I told my sister I would bring the TV and the cabinet to Mother's on Sunday. "NO, I can't wait that long. I'll make the three hour drive today; in fact I'm in the truck now headed your way. I think there is a game tonight and she wants her TV NOW". My sister made the three hour drive to my house in record time without getting a ticket. We loaded the TV, the cabinet I had refurbished to hold it, the chocolate cookies I had made, and she was off on the return trip. Total time as my house 8 minutes and 13 seconds.

Later that night I called my sister to see how things were going. "Great! The refrigerator is no longer a threat. Mother has stopped relating the story of the Attack Refrigerator to anyone who walks by her door. She has her Mavericks jersey on, her throw blanket, and her koozie all ready to watch the game tonight AND she even opened the refrigerator and put the cookies you made inside without using the Grab-it stick we got her to pick things up off the floor." This was real progress. "So the refrigerator is no longer an issue?" I asked. "Not the refrigerator. We'll have to see what challenge tomorrow brings."

Todays' challenge met and conquered, now on to the next. When your mother is 90…that's a good thing!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Friday Shopping Tips

By Jody Worsham Nov. 2010

All rights reserved for mobile SWAT shopping cart

Judging by the massive preparations going on, you would think the 8th US Army battalion was preparing for a twenty-five mile hike or Elvis had been discovered living in Greenland and tickets were going on sale in thirty-six hours for his next live concert. Actually, it is just Black Friday Survivors getting ready to launch their next shopping spree.

Food, gum, bottled water, a camp stool, bungee cords (for attaching two shopping carts together), and a thermos of coffee are crammed into a duffle bag and strapped onto their backs. Others are perfecting their fake limp in order to snag a handicapped scooter at Wal-Mart. Still others are preparing by sleeping an extra eight hours two days before the sale starts.

The first rule for Black Friday Shopping is to plan ahead. Several online Black Op sites feature comparison shopping, store maps, launch times, and a printable list for the what, when, where, and time for each store's specials as well as links to cyber sales that may or may not coincide with Black Friday or the alignment of Mars and Jupiter.

Once you have your plan of attack, it is time to suit up. Boots with steel toes are recommended if you plan to battle it out for the latest electronic must-haves; otherwise your best arch-support-long-term-standing-in-line-NASSA-designed-foam-lined-gel-tennis shoe will suffice. Outer wear should support sub-zero temperatures if you are waiting outside in a line six block long. Inner wear should support tropical approaching desert temperatures to compensate for the body heat of ten times the maximum capacity of persons in any given store at any given time.

The plan is to arrive at the first shopping stop at least five hours before the official sale starts. Sometimes rooky salespeople will panic at the sight of a restless mob and begin giving out vouchers, armbands, or secret locations of the "real" TV's, computers, I-Pads etc. Hint: If you are a retired airline stewardess, veteran air traffic controller, or former kindergarten teacher, you can usually pick up some part time work on Black Friday working crowd control.

Here are a few lesser known tips for Black Friday Shopping that I have gleaned from past Black Friday Sales Survivors.

  1. Always shop with a partner. If there is a limit on the number of items you can purchase, you have an extra person to buy the additional items needed. Also you can swap out if you need to make a potty run.
  2. Make sure your i-phone is powered up for any online specials or E-bay auction items. This is also necessary for communicating with other operatives located in nearby stores
  3. If a particular item is not at the top of your list, wait until the frenzied shoppers have decimated the pile, and then circle your buggy in a six aisle radius. Often when mob crazed shoppers come to, they realize they don't need six waffle makers or portable DVD players and will dump them on the nearest shelf. I found $3 mixer on the underwear aisle that way
  4. If the shelves were empty before you got what you needed, hang out around the check-out lines. Many sale items will be eliminated at the register due to maxed out credit cards.
  5. Security knows nothing. If you want information, ask a person with a walkie-talkie attached to their belt, ear phones on, wearing a really ugly vest, and preferably standing on a ladder with a bull horn. If that fails, follow the buggy with the most items in it or the person wearing the camo t-shirt with BARGAIN SHOPPER embellished in crystal dots.

By following these simple tips, you , too, can spend the next eleven months paying off your credit card in order to take advantage of the next Black Friday Shopping Op!