The other day I stopped at World Market to pick up hagelslag*, otherwise known as chocolate sprinkles. They’re not crappy chocolate sprinkles like you get at the grocery store, they’re real European chocolate sprinkles and that’s what my kids like to put on their toast and bagels. While we were in there trying to decide what other delicious chocolate things to buy, York decided to use the bathroom.  In order to get to the bathroom, York had to walk through the wine section. A woman stopped him to ask if he worked there. When he replied no, the women sighed wistfully and said she was trying to buy a bottle of wine for her friend’s birthday but had no idea what to pick.

York glanced over at the wine bottles closest to him. “Why don’t you try some Pinot Noir?” York offered, “it’s a little sour and a little sweet.”

Let’s just pause here to remind everyone that York is not only eighteen, but a Mormon. So he’s about the last person you would ever want to ask for a wine recommendation. But there is a bar where he works and he has to be vaguely fluent in alcohol-ese so that he doesn’t sound like a complete idiot when someone asks him a question about drinks.

“Pinot Noir?” The woman pondered. “That’s a good idea.”

York picked up the closest bottle of Pinot Noir he saw and handed it to the woman. “This is a really good year. I think your friend will like this one.”

Yep, he just grabbed a random bottle and recommended it to the lady. But he has already learned the first important lesson of being an adult: “being confident and sounding like you know what you’re talking about will take you far”.

 

*Hagelslag is a Dutch thing. I can’t remember where we first heard about it but we’re quick to try anything that involves chocolate for breakfast. You can read more about the delightful world of hagelslag here.

*I know it seems like I only write about York.  He has always had the funniest things happen to him, for one thing. He is also very good-natured about me writing about him. Some of the other kids get a little weirded out by it.

 

Sunrise jumping

I grew up surrounded by Night Owls. Everyone in my family stayed up late all the time, particularly on weekends. This was mostly due to the fact that my mother has always been a chronic napper. We all knew that every afternoon was quiet time and there was no reason in the world–none–in which you should wake her up. She was also a champion sleeper-inner. Again, there was no reason that she would ever be woken up.  (“You missed the bus? Too bad, so sad, now get walking. So what if you have to cross a ten-lane major thoroughfare on the way to elementary school. You should have thought about that earlier. And it’s snowing? That’s what boots were invented.”)  This set her up for a pattern which continues to this day. She has to stay up late because she took a nap. But she’s so tired since she stayed up late that she has to take a nap. To this day she refuses to believe that this is all a self-perpetuating problem.

Breakfast growing up was mostly made by us. it usually consisted of cereal which would be eaten while sitting on top of the heating vents in our kitchen, with our nightgowns tented over the top to trap all the warm air.  (Michigan was always cold, even inside).  Lunches were packed by us and starred a PB&J sandwich that had been previously made and frozen. These sandwiches were all lined up in a neat row across the door of the freezer. Frozen, they were actually pretty decent with the peanut butter retaining a pleasant hardness that never froze entirely. But once they were defrosted they were a hideous soggy mess that was particularly susceptible to apples. I can’t tell you how many times I would dump out my Charlie’s Angels lunch box only to find a wet apple-sized dent in the middle of the bread.  Even now I have PTSD flashbacks when I see a package of Uncrustables in the grocery store freezer. I can’t imagine paying money for such a thing.

So, yes, mornings were a time of cold, dark unhappiness. Best to avoid them entirely.

College was a revelation. Classes could be scheduled whenever I wanted? Naturally I never chose anything before noon. I couldn’t understood why everyone wasn’t on campus at 9 p.m., after-dinner seeming to be the most civilized time to go to school. So what if walking home down “Rape Hill” was simply terrifying? At least I didn’t have to set an alarm clock ever.

Even when I worked I waited tables (“I’ll take the lunch shifts, please”) or had a retail job that would let me come late and stay later. Only idiots and weirdos would get up early on purpose!

But then I went and had babies. No matter what I tried, they just didn’t like to stay up late. Or rather, they liked to stay up late just fine. But they also like to get up very early.  And the crummy thing about babies is that once they’re up, they’re up. It’s not like a dog where I could just let it out into the backyard then climb back into bed. No. These tiny people wanted to be fed and played with. So inconsiderate.

The oddest thing started happening, though. I found that after a couple of years that I had more energy and vigor (or was it vim) in the morning.  I actually started waking up before the kids to shower and get ready. I seemed to accomplish so much more when I would get up early. It felt like a revelation!

I also started getting very tired at night. I tried to force myself to stay up but the lustre was gone. I didn’t want to see midnight movies anymore. I certainly didn’t want to have a late-night job.

This summer I have realized that the night-owl in me has completely and absolutely died. And I’m quite happy about that. I love to wake up before everyone and read my scriptures and check my email and computer stuff before anyone is awake. I have so much more energy and find that I get a million more things done when I get a big jump on the day. Part of me feels like this is lame. I never in my life thought I would see the sun rise every single day. And that I would be OK with it.

I do wonder, though, what will happen when I don’t have to be up and around for little kids. Will I stay in bed all day again? Or will I keep my early bird ways?

 

This book has been blowing my mind over the last couple of days. Every few years I’ll find something that rocks my world, but none as done it quite like Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari. The use of word “revolutionary” is kind of my pet peeve, being applied to almost everything from mascara to dishwashers (none of which should be using an adjective stronger than “interesting”). But this book really, truly is revolutionary. It’s non-fiction but told in a super interesting and thought-provoking way. I’d like to give a copy to every single person I know; it’s that good.  Just read it*.

Chasing Scream

 

 

*Yes, Mom, there are some swears in it. Read it anyway. I would even recommend it to the President of the Church, if that tells you anything.

 

 

If you buy it through my link to Amazon I will make, like, one meeellion dollars

This year we got our Big Summer Trip out of the way early on. We had a family reunion with most of Mister’s family out in San Diego. Mister’s Mother turned 80 this year and we all got together to celebrate. We rented a bunch of condos right on Mission Beach and had such a lovely time. The weather was in the 70′s the whole time and we hardly knew what to do without sweat running down our backs constantly. The ocean was mighty cold and it took the kids a while to get into the water.

San Diego Hildie (1 of 1)

I have been begging Mister to please let us have a trip to the beach for years but he finds the beach boring and much prefers traveling to cities where there are piles of things to do and see. But how could anyone hate this? Although the mornings in San Diego were a bit chilly, I liked nothing more than to sit on the balcony outside our bedroom and read a good book before everyone else woke up. Mister gave me a Kindle for our anniversary which was on the first day of our trip. I’ve resisted Kindles for many years but as I’ve entirely run out of bookshelf space, I’m having to rethink my view on e-readers.

San Diego Mission Beach Panorama

 

San Diego Bella Ada Beach

 

The place where we stayed was especially nice because it had a large outdoor terrace right on the boardwalk that runs along Mission Beach. The boardwalk was constantly full of people walking, biking, skateboarding and generally being completely fascinating.  We also had a lovely fire pit on the terrace that we sat around every night. It’s so fun to watch the cousins hang out now that they’re all getting older and the age differences don’t matter as much as they did when the kids were young.

San Diego Cousins Fire

Here is perhaps the most magical wonderful thing about this vacation: there were no bugs. None. Zero. I had completely forgotten that it’s possible to actually be outside in the evening without mosquito repellant. I guess it’s the strong winds coming off the ocean or whatever. But I was blessedly itch-free for a whole week.

Naturally we couldn’t go to Southern California and not hit Disneyland. We haven’t been there in forever. And we haven’t ever gone with cousins. We had a few issues with rides being mysteriously “shut down” off and on all day. It turns out Kim and Kanye were there for North’s birthday. And because they are the most special people in the galaxy, they didn’t have to wait like us rabble. No sireee, they got the whole ride shut down so that they and their cheesy entourage could go without waiting.

San Diego Disney Teacup

 

I made T-shirts for some of the younger cousins. They all requested their favorite Disney character. (Stitch? Really?) I’m truly proud that there wasn’t a single Princess.

San Diego Disney Cousins

We had Grandma’s birthday dinner at Ariel’s Grotto one night and were disappointed that they only do characters at breakfast and lunch. If you go for dinner you won’t get to do a conga line with Minnie Mouse and Pluto but you will get tickets for VIP seating at the cool evening show, World of Color. We enjoyed the show immensely (although I think the girls were secretly disappointed not to see Belle). Normally I hate crowds and all that stuff, but if you have a nice spot already it makes everything so much better.

Hanging out with Grandpa is the best of all, though.

San Diego Grandpa

 

 

Because we were in San Diego with so many relatives, we decided it would be nice for India and York to be able to go through the temple for the first time with their grandparents and aunts and uncles.  What a great experience! And that San Diego temple is sure impressive. (But, honestly, our little San Antonio temple is much, much prettier on the inside.)

San Diego Temple Kids

 

San Diego Temple Grandp

 

We had a remarkably great time on our trip. Most of the cousins are teenagers and older and we had all the single people stay in one condo together. It was the best idea we’ve ever had. Not only did the parents like it but so did the kids. Arabella and her cousin Daisy never get tired of having lots of time to hang out. And the trip was blessedly free of drama. When was the last time you could say that about your family reunion?

San Diego Arabella Deisy

Do you want to know the most incredible thing of all? We had all suitcases unpacked within one day of getting home. It’s a miracle!

 

 

 

 

York just graduated from High School over the weekend. It was . . . how shall I put this? Less than interesting?  I’m certainly glad he graduated.  I know high school was a big pain and we are very proud of York for making his four years there a success (he was voted Most Talented and Class Clown. Guess which one I’m more proud of?). But there are very few more boring events than graduation. Do we really need several perky girls talking about how fantastic they are and how their futures are going to be so awesome!!!!!!?(And yes, it was all girls in York’s grade. Out of the top ten students, only one was a boy. Naturally.) These are probably the same girls who wouldn’t dream of talking to most of the kids in their grade only a week earlier.

Instead of a bunch of boring speeches, how about an elaborate musical number, complete with a rotating stage and ostrich feathers? Now that would be entertaining!  And instead of just announcing the grads (all seven million of them), how about pre-recording each one introducing themselves with a little personality and verve, like they do at the beginning of the Miss America Pageant?  (“Representing the Lakeline Villas Apartment complex, my name is McKenzie Kay Larson!”)

Nowadays they have the graduates wear medals and tassels of different sorts. I guess it’s so that the kids all feel better about themselves, like it’s the Olympics or something. One of the medals means “I’m graduating!” For real. You get it just for showing up. As if the cap and gown didn’t tip everyone off.  Sadly, nobody knows what all the different accoutrements mean. There’s no explanation in the program. All I can assume when I see a graduate walk by with a bunch of medals and tassels is that she must be a really high-strung, Type-A person.

Naturally York couldn’t find his mortarboard when it was time to leave for the graduation. I asked him if he had it earlier  and he said, “no, my gowns been lying on the floor all week and I haven’t seen it.” Oh, super; wrinkled shiny polyester. But he had a cap by the time he walked across the stage so he must have found it. Or maybe they have extras for just such an occasion.

Because graduation ended at almost 11:00 pm (don’t even get me started!), we were pooped and York was antsy to get on with his Marvelous Future, he agreed to pose for one–and only one–picture with us. Naturally he used his his-ultra fake smile that he reserves for all the most important occasions.

York Graduation

 

Let me include one of his senior portraits where he looks a whole lot better. If you know us in real life, you’ll be getting your announcement soon! I like to wait til after the event (just kidding, I didn’t get them done in time.)

York grad serious-1-2-Edit

 

As you probably know by know, we’re Mormon. And one of the rites of passage for Mormons is going on a mission when young adults turn 18 or 19 years old (it’s strongly encouraged for boys–being the fools that they are–but optional for girls). Part of the reason is to tell people about Jesus and all that traditional missionary sort of thing. Part of it is to help them learn to get outside of themselves and serve others; community service being a huge part of missions. I can’t think of many teenagers who don’t need a big fat dose of “you’re not the center of the universe”. Part of a mission is just to help kids learn to work hard, do what’s right and solidify their belief in Christ and all that’s good in the world.

Missions are paid for by the missionary and his family. It’s pro-rated by the church so every missionary pays the exact same thing ($400 per month) whether he’s living in Tokyo or a tiny village in Guatemala. The prospective missionaries do not get to chose where they will serve. They go where the Church needs them. Physical, mental and emotional  considerations are taken into account and church leaders prayerfully decide where each prospective missionary will go.  It’s always a total thrill to open the letter (referred to as “a mission call”) to find out where in the world the missionary will be going. It’s always a big joke that you’ll end up going where you don’t want to go. Or to Idaho, which is laughed about as being the lamest place to serve a mission. Although everyone I know who has gone on a mission in Idaho has absolutely loved it. But Idaho and Utah are always the butt of everyone’s jokes.

India and York have both decided to go on missions (in common Mormon parlance it’s referred to as “serving a mission”).  The paperwork and preparations take a couple of months and India had planned to go before York. But she ended up studying in London last semester and it was just too big of a pain to get everything done while she was overseas. So it ended up that York and India turned their paperwork in at the exact same time once India got back. Due to the huge amount of prospective missionaries, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll get assigned at the same time.

 

But they did get their calls at the same time! We invited a bunch of friends over to watch them open their calls. And here is my super high quality collage of the happy event. Before you watch it, let me tell you that India was kind of hoping to stay in the U.S. She was also a little nervous to learn a foreign language.  York wanted to go anywhere but Africa. Why, I don’t know. He just really, really wanted to go anywhere but there.

 

So they’ll be going to adjoining missions in Sao Paulo, Brazil! How crazy is that? They both will leave on September 9th to go to the Missionary Training Center in Brazil. If they get their visas in time; that is the big question mark right now. The Brazilian consulate in Houston seems to be one of the speedier ones, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed!

I remember when I had little kids. There was nothing quite like a Friday afternoon when I would anxiously count down the hours until the babysitter would arrive and then I would be FREE! I didn’t even care where I went as long as no children came with me.  I remember scrambling for a babsitter and wishing there were some way I could just find out who was available instead of calling a dozen girls every single week. (This was before texting, obviously, because I’m super old and so are my kids.)

Mister and I have always gone on a date every week. Always. Because if we didn’t have regular reconnect time, things would get ugly. There would be much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. I would get pretty upset too (ba-dum-ching). We always fit it into our budget because if you think babysitters are expensive, couples therapy and a divorce cost a wee bit more.

Then came the glorious time when our kids were old enough to take care of themselves. Gone were the days of laying out pajamas and trying to make our house look a little more presentable because for some reason I feel the need to impress a 14-year-old neighbor girl. Now I could just shout, “have some cereal for dinner and be in bed by 9!” while we walked out the door. I thought my life was home-free and I saw years of leisurely weekends in my future.

Oh, how wrong I was. Having teenagers makes the weekends crazy complicated.

Instead of going out with my husband, I am now chauffeuring children to and from parties and get-togethers.  It’s possible to beg other parents for rides sometimes, but the more kids you have the slimmer the chances of finding rides becomes.  Sure, Sally’s mom would be happy to take my daughter to the birthday party. But could I bring them back home? And what do you know, it’s also my turn to chaperone the dance! And then there are the times when a bunch of kids end up at our house and I find myself making cookies at 11:00 at night because I can’t just let a pile of hormonally-challenged adolescents go hungry.

Let’s not overlook all the productions and games they have too–one of which will always be on a Friday or Saturday night. If they aren’t playing in the football game they will be cheering at it or playing in the marching band or singing the National Anthem. And of course we must go and watch and be supportive because what kind of crappy parent doesn’t watch and cheer from the sidelines? You want your daughter to end up pregnant? Or on drugs? Because that’s how it happens! When parents don’t show up wearing blinged out t-shirts that say “band mom” in Curlz font, they’re asking for it! Ok, not really, but that’s how it feels.

Maybe the kids have a jazz ensemble concert or a chess tournament or a drama awards banquet. The list of things that teenagers do is eternal.

Some weekends we scramble to find a movie that will start after 7:45 and be done by 10 because that’s the window we have after, say, dropping Arabella off at her friend’s house and picking up Finn at the bowling alley.

As if this weren’t bad enough, we now cannot go to sleep at a decent hour on the weekends either. I used to have all these fantasies of going to bed early once I didn’t have pesky kids needing a drink of water every five minutes. Yeah, that’s never going to happen. Because now I have to wait for kids to show up when their curfew is over. It doesn’t matter how tired we are, we’ve got to stay up and wait. Mister and I are fond of playing a charming game called, “who is more tired”, the loser of which gets stuck on sofa duty waiting for children to come home, hopefully without car accidents being involved. This is even more nerve-wracking once the children have driver’s licenses. We are just positive that they will die before the night is over. If they don’t answer their cell phones it’s because they are dead in a ditch. If they are late it’s because they are at the Emergency Room. Probably the police will show up at any second to break the bad news.

Basically by the time Sunday rolls around we are physically and emotionally exhausted and the fun weekend we had in mind never actually materialized.

Yes, we didn’t have to pay a babysitter anything, but I’m just about to the point where I’d like to pay my kids to spend a quiet weekend at our house.

No, no, I’m not the one getting a job. Mister likes to tell me I ought to start winning the bread around here, but I’m much too good at being a stay-at-home mother. It’s time for the children to start looking for jobs!  India has just returned from college in London (I kept meaning to write about that and now she’s already home) and the boys are running out of spending money. So now comes the fun part of filling out applications and trying to figure out how to make the most money with the least work (isn’t that the eternal struggle?).

My first job was at Pier One Imports when I was 16. I spent my days arranging throw pillows and restacking baskets. I felt terribly grown-up, especially when I had to take someone’s charge card. Back in those days we had to put the card on a slider machine that would make an imprint. We’d give the bottom copy to the customer and keep the top copy.

credit_card_swiper

It felt like playing shop like I’d done a million times as a little girl, only this time I had surly customers that were actual humans, not Raggedy Ann. Once I had a customer make so many purchases that there was no room on the counter and I had to do the card slider on a stack of crates near the check out stand. Only I forced the credit card thing back and forth so violently that the top crate tipped over and out fell a huge stack of bowls. Every single one broke. I didn’t have to pay for them, thank goodness.

I also only made $3.35 an hour. Chances are you made $3.35 as well since this was the minimum wage for about fifty years.  Payday was the only time I liked having a job.  Who remembers the sheer thrill of receiving a paycheck that was over $100? I felt like the richest person in the world.  It sure beat babysitting which generally only paid $2 an hour if I was lucky. The really cheap people would pay $1.50 and hour and they generally had the most dreadful children of all. Nowadays my girls make much more than minimum wage babysitting.

I hated babysitting. Just hated it. I’m still not very fond of other people’s children, truthfully. I love my own but find other people’s kids annoying and problematic.  But babysitting was the only choice for a 14-year-old girl. It’s still the same today.

York, in true Ferris Bueller style, got the exact job he was hoping for and started today. Finn and India are still looking but both had interviews this week.  Mister is finishing up a Masters degree at the University of Texas and will probably be switching jobs or looking for something new soon too. So basically it means that all I do is help the people around me fill out applications and resumés. it’s as scintillating as it sounds.  But my job is to make my family self-sufficient and doesn’t self-sufficient children sound like the best thing ever?

 

BBW

Remember being a young teenage girl and realizing that you might just maybe, possibly smell bad?  One day you’re spending your babysitting money on Wacky Packs and Hubba Bubba and the next day you’re riding your bike to the drug store to buy some Love’s Baby Soft, because what if you stink? What if that’s the real reason no boys like you???  Those early teenage years are brutal as your mind discovers dozens–nay, hundreds–of bodily flaws it hadn’t known about six months earlier. Body odor, whether real or imagined, is one of the easiest to solve. The shape of your nose, the ability to “pinch an inch” on your stomach, or the ever-growing colony of blackheads on your nose might be tough to get rid of, but smelling good is a no-brainer.

So you shouldn’t be surprised when your thirteen-year-old daughter wants to stop in at Bath and Body Works when you’re at the mall. You haven’t been to that store in probably a decade since you decided once and for all that you do not like to smell like fruit. You don’t really mind the idea of visiting Bath and Body Works until you realize your daughter will be smelling each individual item in the store.  Not just Cashmere Glow lotion, but Cashmere Glow hand sanitizer, Cashmere Glow Shimmer Mist, Cashmere Glow Shower Gel and the Cashmere Glow scented candle.  This will then be repeated with every single scent. At first you are game, washing your hands in the little sink and trying out a matching lotion. But pretty soon everything starts smelling too sweet and too cloying. Being the good mother that you are, you still gamely smell everything that your daughter holds out to you (“ooh, that’s nice!”, said in your most enthusiastic voice possible). But inside you want to run away. Quickly.

But Bath and Body Works has formulated their store to be hypnotic to the female consumer. Once you get over the initial fight or flight response, you begin to be lulled by all the flowery packaging and colorful shelves.  The smart and pragmatic woman inside of you is thinking, Sheer Cotton? What exactly is that supposed to smell like anyway? Your lizard brain, however, is saying Flowers. Cotton. Pretty. Yes.

Before you know it the “buy 2, get 5 free” sign seems like a really superb idea even though you hate shower gel and never use it. Why stop there, though? Who doesn’t want a butterfly-shaped plug-in that makes your house smell like a giant cupcake?  And why not buy the enormous three-wick candle? Because, really, don’t you need more Love & Sunshine in your life? Yes, you think tearily, I do need more Love & Sunshine. I really do. Or maybe you just need an Oahu Coconut Sunset. Even though that name makes zero sense it registers on some primal level. Hawaii, coconuts, beaches, happiness.

Then you spot Country Chic. Oh yes, that’s you all right. You’re humble and approachable in a Country sort of way. But also chic and stylish (wearing three-year-old capris qualifies as chic, right?). So that sounds perfect for you. Even though “country” in reality means Walmart and trailer homes not charming cottages and antique barns.

You’re eyes are darting madly by this point; yes, an Endless Weekend is pretty much your ideal. Wait, that would mean the kids are home every single day. Scratch that; no Endless Weekend.  Paris Amour. Now that sounds more like it. Paris, the City of Lights, the City of Love. That overpriced city where people are rude and the métro stinks of urine and everything costs way too much. And lets face it, you can find cuter things that say “Paris” at Target than in France. No, forget it, you’ll be passing on Paris Amour.

You reach for the next scent, Mad About You. Oh please. You’ve got to be pretty desperate to think that your lotion has feelings for you. Keep going. Amber Blush? Twilight Woods? The English language is starting to take a shape of its own. What do all these words even mean? A haze is washing over your mind as well as your nose. You aim towards the door, temporarily blinded by the shiny silver covers for the hand soaps (“Oooh, I must have those . . . .”).

Fortunately at that moment your daughter has finished her purchase and is jauntily holding her bag full of Velvet Sugar sweet nothings. You grab her arm and steer her out of the store, never so happy to smell the stale, piped-in air of the mall. And then you look down and notice something. A bag in your hand. What? How? You don’t even remember getting out your credit card. And so the endless cycle continues: each birthday and holiday, some woman will receive a gift purchased at Bath and Body Works. I didn’t mean to buy it, your eyes say as you watch your friend open her present, it’s just that Shimmer Mists were on sale, the Midnight Pomegrates were calling and I couldn’t say no.

We live in a cul-de-sac which in real-estate terms is the equivalent of living in a wonderful dreamland. I don’t know why. When you live in a cul-de-sac there is never enough parking. We, and our guests, are all left to wonder do I park against the curb like a civilized American is supposed to? Or do I park face-in, like the spokes of a wagon wheel? Usually nobody can decide so if you pull into a cul-de-sac on a busy night, you’ll see cars crammed every which way. Which is frustrating and dumb. Especially for the kids who were told that living in a cul-de-sac would be dreamy because they could play without anyone running over them.  Apart from the thousands of people who took a wrong turn in the neighborhood and need a place to turn around and, hey look, there’s a cul-de-sac!

We also have kind of a steep driveway so we decided we out to put a big cement slab in our backyard so the kids could play basketball and ride bikes without being run over by the teenage boy next door who drives 80 mph while checking his text messages.  Our backyard is quite big but very awkwardly-shaped (thank you again, cul de sac!), so pouring a big pile of cement on one side of our house will use up space that has otherwise been reserved for broken gardening equipment, dandelions and misplaced flip-flops.

A neighbor of ours just built a cement pad in his backyard and gave us the name of his cement guy. The cement guy came over and gave us a quote and we thought it sounded ok so we hired him. Within a few days we had a bunch of guys building supports and getting ready to pour our cement. Only we had to fix all the broken sprinklers first. And you know that they were all broken, right? Every single one.  Mister fixed most of them, but I was left doing the last one by myself and let me just tell you, the glue for PVC pipes dries in about a nanosecond. And if you haven’t gotten the pipe pieces just right, you’ll have to cut the whole thing out and try again. And then you might still not get it right. Which means cutting out another larger section of pipe and trying once more. Let’s just say that after a couple of hours I had crossed “sprinkler repair person” off of careers I might pursue once my kids leave home.

The lucky day for the cement pouring finally came. I had expected something like Rolly from Bob the Builder but we had a full-sized cement mixer pull up in front of the house and a bunch of guys showed up, tromping around in big rubber boots. There was a little machine that showed up as well, kind of like a cross between a small dump truck and a zamboni. This little machine was mean to haul the cement from the truck into the backyard. Wheelbarrows are so yesterday, apparently.

The first couple of loads went down OK but then the zamboni dump truck got stuck in the grass on the side of the house. Even though we live in a place that has been having a drought for a few dozen years in a row, the ground on that side of the house stays perpetually damp. And under all that grass was a big sloshy pile of mud. The dump truck zamboni spun its wheels and ripped up a bunch of grass. Then it slid around and knocked down the gate into the backyard.  And then it got stuck. It spun it’s wheels and sprayed mud everywhere and refused to budge. Mister stood on the porch and shouted helpful suggestions to the workers who spoke approximately three words of English.

The cement guys eventually got the zamboni dump truck out of the mud only to have  it smash into the rest of the fence and knock it over. And then it got stuck again. The whole thing looked some sort of fake-hilarious scene from a romantic comedy. Only with a languid guy leaning on a cement truck, yelling in Spanish.

At this point Mister had to take a chill pill (literally) and I started to worry about all the cement. What would they do with it? What would happen if they couldn’t get it into the backyard? We offered wooden boards to help the little zamboni get some traction (helpful for about five seconds and then those too were covered with slippery mud).

Mister finally suggested we throw some kitty litter on the mud to see if that helped. It did! A tiny bit. So I drove wildly to the grocery store to load up all the kitty litter I could find (just the cheap stuff of course. No need for $20 rose-scented products.)  We tossed kitty litter all over the ground and the zamboni dump truck was able finally dump it’s load of cement and retreat, defeated, to the front yard.

By this point my boots were caked with filth and the side of our yard was utterly destroyed. The entire fence was lying on the ground and a big fat sow would have been in heaven at the sight of all that mud.

The man with the cement truck left–to do what with all that cement I can’t even imagine. It’s not like he could just pull up at the corner and offer to pour cement in some stranger’s driveway.

The cement guy apologized profusely and put the fence back together fairly well. The ground dry out some more and he has promised to come back and finish the job. But so far he has remained elusive. We gave him his last payment when the cement truck showed up because that’s usually the straight-forward conclusion of the job.

Now we have a bit of a cement slab and several nagging children who want to play hopscotch in the privacy of their own backyard.  What will happen? Will we get ripped off or will the nice cement guy come back when we’ve had a few more days of hot sunny weather? I will keep you posted. In the mean time I leave you with this picture; I especially like the way the shed looks like it’s about to fall off a little cliff.

Concrete mess