Sad Days

Selam had trouble falling asleep tonight.  It’s been this way for the last week or so.  She cries easier. She wakes up and tries to find me. She sleeps late, because her sleep is so poor. 

I knew it would eventually come out. Her pattern is predictable.  I just have to wait. 

And tonight it spilled out. 

The specific details are immaterial and not mine to tell, but there is a mean girl. She’s not just mean to Selam, she’s mean to everyone. I have inferred enough from my  drop off and pick up visits to know that the teachers are aware of it and are doing the best that they can. Things are hard for this girl. 

And she in turn, makes things hard for everyone else. 

You get it, and you feel bad, but when it’s your child who is suffering, it’s hard to maintain your balance. 

Selam gets it at some level. She has picked up things about this girl’s life and made comments. She’s connected some dots. She has tried to be kind, tried to forgive, but cannot forget. Yesterday, the girl was mean to a boy in class who has some disabilities. Selam saw red. So tonight, I heard the whole sobbing litany of every mean thing that has happened at the hands of this girl all year, most especially the things she has done or said to the boy with disabilities.

I do love her tender heart. 

And I do wish I could protect it. 



It’s set at the edge of town, on a street that seems to be permanently under construction.  The parking lot is a small lake with islands of gravel scattered about.  The skates are in the trunk of the car, together with the bike helmet.  I have barely turned the ignition off before she is waiting by the trunk. I chase her to the warming house. She is in such a hurry. 

Skates on, helmet buckled, winter coat shed in favor of a heavy fleece, she insists on waiting at the door while the Zamboni does its thing. We traverse the small patio between the warming house and the rink. The rink is installed inside a pavilion–there is a concrete footprint encircling the oval and a high pitched roof above.  Melting ice and snow creates a nearly constant run of water from pavilion roof to floor.

The weather is surprisingly warm–in the fifties, and the melt has caused the walls of the rink to fog up.  When the teachers open the door to the rink, she pushes to the front of the line, and skates into a rink immersed in thin fog.  Everything looks like an old fashioned movie.  

They begin their paces and I head back to the warming house to read.  A few minutes in and it starts pouring down rain.  Lightening splits the sky and a grumble of thunder shakes me.  I look up.  The staff don’t seem worried.  I remember that pools close in lightening. Shouldn’t a semi-outdoor arena do the same?  Nobody moves. In the ice rink, I can still see faint outlines of kids in pink and purple coats, moving through the fogged up plastic.  

After a bit I go back to watch her, racing through the downpour.  I can’t see a thing through the plastic walls, so I wiggle through to the penalty box and join the other parents that have sat there.  

There is even more fog filling the rink by now. Great wafts of steam rise from the ice; the children are floating without feet through the mist. They fall and disappear from view, popping up a few minutes later–laughing and red faced.  

Selam is playing some sort of a tag game with her friend.  I can’t quite make out the rules, but the are laughing and chasing each other on the ice.  A young teen–maybe 13–practices alone in the corner. She grabs the blade of her skate and twirls so slowly and precisely.  

The session comes to a close and the children are herded back to the door.  I scurry to catch up with her, but miss out.  She is in the warming house with one skate off by the time I get there.  

“What did you think of the loud thunder you heard?”

“I didn’t hear thunder.”

“You missed that loud bang?”

“I just thought it was the sound of me falling.” 

The Cousins

There are two of them, just two, but they are viewed in the plural.

She knows them apart: Cousin C has a driver’s license, and Cousin B has a trumpet. (Well, actually she doesn’t anymore, but Selam remembers it that way.) Still, they are rarely referred to singly. They are The Cousins.

The Cousins are tall and slender, with brown hair and lipstick. Cousins wear lipstick. Selam thinks that they will be handing it down to her someday.

The cousins will paint your nails for you just for the asking, and even do theirs to match.

“Match-match.” That’s what she used to say about things she had or did that were just like The Cousins. Now that she’s so grown up, she’s more likely to attribute items in common with cousin as adjective.  She has cousin sweaters, a cousin bag.  Things that have been handed down from cousins are either called “my cousin skirt” (or more accurately, “my cousin 90% of my wardrobe”) or by the younger cousin’s name. Selam understands the rules of handmedowns.  Clothes that may have started in Cs closet before going to Bs and then hers are attributed to B.  She wore them last.

The cousins are happy to engage in almost anything that she asks them to do.  They played board games with her over Christmas, and even played dolls for a while.  The feat that won them a gold medal in the cousin olympics was when they agreed to go to lunch with her at the American Girl Doll restaurant and–wait for it–brought their own dolls with them, sat them up on chairs and held doll conversations with Selam’s doll.  Yeah, just try to match those mad cousin skills. (They did transport said dolls in duffle bags because there are some limits.)

Selam had to do a presentation at school about her family. After each child’s talk, they get a time for questions and comments.

“Did you get any questions and comments?”


“What did they ask?”

“If I wished I had sisters and brothers.”

“Oh. What did you say?”

“I don’t need sisters because I have cousins and that’s like sisters without having to share your mommy, so it’s extra good.”

They hung the moon, I tell you. The Cousins hung the moon. Image

On Facebook

If you want to follow this blog by facebook, all you have to do is like me. (How pathetic does that sound?) Anyway, there is now a “The Sky is Laughing” facebook fan page, wherein those of you that don’t follow many blogs can get your links. 

Calm before

Early January is such a sleepy time of year for me.  It always has been. Even though normal offices kick back into “regular” mode right after the holidays, colleges have a week or more where we are back at work, but the students and faculty aren’t here.  I meet with students, plan things, respond to overdue emails, and basically work at a slower speed. There is nothing to take home at night, which is nice.

I’ve been an errand running ninja during lunch hours and Saturdays.  Library books are returned.  Car repairs, dentist appointments.  I still hope to get new glasses before Monday, too.   

Ideally, I would spend my evenings getting ahead on various things.  I need a writing sample for an application.  I am preaching once in January and once again in February. I need to get going on those sermons.  I haven’t put away the Christmas tree yet, and I really wanted to sort out some closets. 

But I don’t. 

Early January is a bit of a lazy Saturday morning.  I burrow under blankets with books and the cat.  My daughter dances around until she, too, is piled underneath.  We pull the blanket over both heads, and bring flashlights and snacks inside. The words from the books bounce on the fabric canopy and circle around our chilly ears.  I think they swirl inside, and come out to play in our dreams. 

The housework will wait. 

Dreaming of Spring

First of all, I like winter a lot, so don’t let the “dreaming of spring” title fool you.  The reason I’m dreaming of spring, though, is that I have a few lalabeansie rebate cards that I need to spend by early February, and since it’s after Christmas and both of us have everything we need, I thought about buying something for this spring and summer, when we both hope to do a lot of camping.  We took our first camping trip (just one night!) this fall, and Selam has talked about it often since.  So, we have summer plans of a couple of two nighters, if we get lucky! 

Anyway, I already have all the important stuff–tents, tarps, lanterns, cooking gear, etc.  I have a tiny backpacking stove, but I didn’t use it because it’s a pain in the neck.  We just cooked on the fire or ate cold.  I suppose I could be practical and get a coleman stove (or part of one actually).  I could also get a second thermorest so Selam can have one, but even though she whined about it, I suspect a yoga mat would do the same trick for next time and it’s car camping–not the BWCA.  

I’m thinking of one of three funnish items.  Anyone have experience with any of these? 

First, pie iron(s).  I looooooved cooking on these when I was a kid at camp.  They make a double (which is tempting because it’s just one item to pack as opposed to two) or two singles.  Maybe they’d work on our own fireplace now? The question is–are these fun for someone who is not me?  I am thinking it gets bonus points for being a way to cook without buying a stove, but…..

Second, ice cream ball. Has anyone done this? Is it fun? Does it work?

Third, popcorn popper.  This looks like a lot of fun to me, but I wonder if it’d be too gigantic for my limited storage (though if I ever get around to cleaning out my storage space, that limited storage would be less limited.) Works in the fireplace?  

I wish our state parks had cabin camping in the winter. It’d be so much fun to go! 




New Year, New You?

So, I had such grand hopes for purging and cleaning this weekend, but, well, it didn’t happen. Maybe tomorrow.  I have one more day until Selam is back in school.  Maybe we’ll pick up. Maybe we’ll read on the sofa and go ice skating.

I did get a bit of time on Sunday afternoon (oh, how I love playdates!) to finish up a writing assignment and also spent a little time trying to improve this here blog thingymajigger.  For some random reason, every post that I’ve ever written has gotten the tag”2011″.  I’m going back in time to correct that, but after 3 pages I got bored.  I think I need to do it in small chunks.  I put a new picture up. What do you think?  It’s not perfect yet, but at least it’s unique.

Next order of business is the demise of google reader.

Can we all have a moment of silence for google reader?


Okay, thank you. So feedly doesn’t seem to be all that helpful.  Most blogs that I read these days I’ve been getting via facebook (as in sign up for the blog via facebook and they give you a handy link every time there’s a post.  Should I do that? Would both of my readers prefer that (hi mom! hi dad!) I don’t want to put it on my regular facebook page because I post on facebook way too often as it is.  Also, I don’t friend people that I don’t know so that would cut out others.

What think ye?

Our foodgroove

We’ve done it. It’s been just about a year and I’ve managed to cut our food budget by about 30 percent, eat out less, and eat decent food more.  Phew! I think a year of it counts as an actual pattern, right?

So, a little over a year ago, I got a Costco membership from my delightful sister, BIL and nieces as a birthday gift.  The first time I went I did what I always do in grocery stores–I bought a bunch of random crap and continued to have nothing to eat.  I quickly saw that I could find myself penniless (but well stocked in fruit gummies and toilet paper) if I kept down that road.

So I actually, seriously took a look at which food (and related–I included toilet paper and cleaning supplies in the list) items I buy over and over and over again. There were only about 30 of these.  I then resolved to buy only these things at Costco, spread them out over the year and see what happened.

Now I go to Costco once a month for a big buy.  At that time, about half of the things I buy are things we will go through in a month’s time (milk, Diet Coke, bread, cheese, fruit, veggies), and the other half are things that I rotate through (I buy a case of red beans one month, a case of black the next, a case of chicken stock the next, etc. etc.) This leaves me with a pantry stocked with most of my go-to items. I can cover a good 80% of our meals on this.  The key is to not get sidetracked by the cool samples and fun new products. We can not afford fun new products in a gigantic size–not financially, and not in terms of freezer space.

I then go to one other grocery store about 2 weeks later–sometimes it’s Costco again, but usually it is a regular store- to get the smaller quantity items and whatever we might have run out of.

This keeps me out of the grocery stores, where I tend to make lots of impulse buys that either go bad or that languish on my shelves.  I have about 10 main recipes for dinner.  We go through those 10 menus in the first 2 weeks, and then most of the new recipes that I try will be in the second half of the month, after I’ve restocked from the smaller store, or if I’m not into it, I just recycle the same menus.

We’ve been eating out usually one night a week, and then have leftovers one night a week, so I’m cooking 5 nights a week–almost exclusively with the crock pot, because I’m fancy like that.


When I mentioned that she was still wearing her pajamas and it was 4 o’clock, she cried. 

“Why are you crying?” I asked

“Because I missed the whole day.”

“You didn’t miss the day, you just spent the day in pajamas (and high heels, I thought, but didn’t mention, as it didn’t seem to be the time)” 

She was distracted, at last, by the arrival of the mail, and with it, the american girl catalog that showed her all the wonders of the girl of the year.  

Soon, that, too was discarded into the feral cave that once was our living room. 

The tree is still up, dripping with ornaments. It’s too small for our ornament collection and yet, there’s something about the assault of glitter that works.  The stockings are still hung. Mary coos patiently over baby Jesus in the creche. Maybe we’ll take it down soon. Maybe we won’t. 

The coffee table is askew. She pulled it out of the way in order to do some dancing with the wii game.  It’s overflowing with snacks, both real and plastic.  The plastic snacks have been dutifully fed to her babydoll and AG doll.  This is the first we’ve seen of the babydoll in months, but somehow today, in the snow, she needed to be fed, needed to be brought out of the wooden cradle where she has languished recently.  

Three second grade novels are splayed on various surfaces. She has this habit of reading from multiple books at once. Drives me crazy.  

Under the Christmas tree two pairs of boots and my slippers are neatly aligned. Apparently Santa specialized in used footwear this year.

Besides the pajamas, she is wearing her cousin’s handmedown character shoes (at least 4 sizes too big but they have heels and must be worn) Christmas socks and 11 rainbow loom creations: rings, and bracelets. A stack of colored pencils cluster on top of paper where something has been drawn.  

The TV has been on almost all day, while she drew, and crafted and read and tended to the needs of her baby, her AG doll, her tummy.  

She is now curled up on the floor. She has taken two afghans and clipped them together with large flowered hair clips. She has crawled between them, and drug both dolls with her. She watches the Wild Kratts, makes a bracelet and languidly looks up at me on the sofa, where books and computer have entertained me all day.  Crumbs and game pieces have settled between the cushions.

She is still in pajamas but we’ve hardly missed the day. 

It worked so well

last time….when I was looking for a piece to work up for the writing workshop.  Anyone have any ideas of stories I could rework for this thing I have to write about being a female head of household? The editor is very forgiving–anything in the general range of topic will work.  I’ve been working all day on a piece that is turning out to be rather smarmy and over-thought.  I’m not so much of an essayist–more of a story teller, I guess. 

I was kind of thinking of playing with “where my mother is” a little bit but maybe there’s a better story out there.  blech. 

This thing was due in December but I got it extended to January 6. Pushing it….(though fair enough, once I know what I’m going to write, I’m very fast, so the crunch is for the idea, not the writing time.)