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Sunday, March 29, 2009


After bathing three children, I go through a sort of grooming routine that amazes my husband. Each child needs to have their nails clipped (all 60 of them!), hair brushed, teeth brushed, and ears cleaned.
So earwax is pretty much a standard thing around the house. (More on Q-tip consumption later...)
And what else is a standard thing around this house? Me watching crazy science TV shows and picking up tiny pieces of odd knowledge.
Which brings me to today's topic: Human Evolution and Earwax.
I love this. Talk about a good conversation topic. Impress all of your friends with this potential worthless knowledge over lunch tomorrow, and they'll never look at you the same way again.
In 2006, Japanese researchers found that the 2 types of earwax, wet and dry (who knew?), can be traced back to a single switch in human DNA. This switch apparently happened during the dawn of human evolution and the people with wet earwax went one way and the ones with dry earwax went the other way.
I'll pause while everyone sticks their fingers in their ears and tries to pull out a chunk and figure out what type they have...
According to the study, 97% of the people that live or come from Africa or Europe have wet earwax, while people from eastern cultures have dry earwax.
The study goes on to say that Native Americans, although considered "western" have dry earwax, which further proves their origins of coming across the Bering Strait, bringing their mukluks and their dry earwax right over here.
Are you really interested in bodily excrement? There's also a correlation between earwax and armpit sweat! (See? This is GREAT conversation fodder!) The Japanese scientists further found that people with dry earwax, like those of Asian descent, often sweat less, therefore having less body odor.
Conversely, those of us with wet earwax are stinky.

Think I'm making all this up? Google it. While I watched this on the National Geographic channel, there's also an article from the NY Times online.

Now go wash your hands. No body likes earwax on their computer.

Friday, March 27, 2009

An honest conversation with myself

I spent part of yesterday whining to myself about my so-called writing career, how my blog doesn't get as many hits as I'd like and how much better everyone else's blog is. I was feeling a little down in the dumps and then Ellen came home from school. I was running here and there between computer and dinner and children she started crying. "You never have time for me." So I dropped everything and colored Franklin for as long as I could, until the smell of burning chicken wafted its way over to me.
Today I was revisiting those same crummy feelings that I had about blogging, weighing in what I have, what I wish I had, my upcoming MWLM column (I'm calling it a "must read!") my kids, etc. and then, at school pickup, the principal stopped me.
"Can you keep a secret? Your little girl is citizen of the month!"
Blogging, smogging. I must be doing a good job as a mommy.
So one day next week, the mayor and the police chief of Orrville are going to come to our house and pick up Ellen in a police car. When she gets to school, the entire student body will be waiting for her. They'll announce her and everyone stands up and cheer.
I, of course, get to be there too. And yes, I will be crying my eyes out. (I've already been blubbering all afternoon.)
Also next week she'll make her debut as the star of her first grade musical, "The Cheese Stands Alone," where she will be playing the part of the cheese.
I'm just so proud of her. Makes all of these feelings about blogging seem so insignificant.

And with that, I close this computer and happily head into the woods with six tiny feet in my wake.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Mothering Creed

Originally published on www.momwriterslitmagblog.com
I have the utmost honor of being part of a local club of mothers that has been around for 76 years. We meet every month during the school year and, among other things like chit chat and have snacks, we learn something and do some sort of service for the community.
And like I said, we've been doing it for a long time.
Part of our ritual is all chanting this mothering creed at the beginning of each meeting. It is very homey, very loving, and very outdated. No, very, very outdated. A lot of things can change in 76 years. It got to be that when we would speak the words, I had to my best to not crack up laughing-- there are lines about women being submissive, about honoring our husbands (we've got a few single mother members) and a line or two about God which in my mind is fine, but is not really up to speed with the times.
So wanting to save myself the monthly embarrassment of trying not to crack a smile during this obviously somber poem, I took it upon myself to write a new one. It is taken from something my dad told me every morning before school, and something I tell my children before school.
"Be good, be careful, have fun, learn something, be yourself, do your best, and I love you."
I thought I'd share my "I am a Mother" creed with these readers. It falls under the same hokey category as our old poem, it's just a little updated. It's also strikes such a chord in my heart that instead of trying not to laugh, I now try not to cry. The last line gets me every time.

I am a mother.
I vow to be good—good to myself, good to my family, good to my friends, and to offer help and heart whenever I can.
I vow to be careful—to take each step and speak each word with care, doing my best to keep myself and others from harm.
I vow to have fun—to enjoy life and spread joy to all those I meet , know and love.
I vow to learn something—to never end the quest for knowledge and to continue to better myself by learning from others and from my own mistakes.
I vow to be myself—to stand strong in my beliefs, to fight for what I truly believe in, and to support those close to me.
I vow to be a mother— to my children and my family, to teach them what I have learned.
I am a mother. It is who I am and who I will always be

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The weekend wrap-up

It's not often that one can look at the calendar and say, "wow. These two days are completely blank." It's like the Halley's Comet of family life, and as infrequent as a solid night's sleep.
But that's the absolute pleasure we had this weekend. Well, not the sleep...that was still choppy. But the days were blissfully empty, and for once we didn't take it for granted and all waste away looking at each other wondering what to do. Instead we really filled our time being together as a family, knocking some things off of our "someday-we'll-get-around-to-it" list that were long overdue.

1. I stayed in my PJs until noon on Saturday.
2. I took my daughter out to lunch on a special date, just the two of us. I let her order whatever she wanted, just not the popcorn chicken because that's overpriced. The boys were busy building me new garden boxes. (Apologies to the neighbors for having to put them right in the middle of the yard.)
3. We watched Nim's Island in the afternoon. I spent a good thirty minutes of it daydreaming about running away to smoking volcanic island.
4. I did a trial run of my April Fool's Day dinner class that I am going to teach at the local community center. Cupcakes and parfaits for dinner? Delicious.
5. Ellen and I worked into the night on a book she's been writing, putting the illustrations with the text and binding the whole thing together with purple yarn.
6. For Sunday breakfast I cooked oatmeal on the stove. I was the only one who ate it, but I promise it was very good.
7. We raked the back woods, clearing all remanants of our dog. Man that dog could poop!
8. Special dinner date with my husband. I overate.
9. A 3 mile walk with my friend around the block, where we typically burn more calories in our flapping lips than our flapping hips.
10. Bubble baths, coloring, snacks, and the kids are off to bed. I popped pocorn I didn't have to share and am taking a work break to write this lovely list.

Maybe I'll cap off the evening with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and toast to simplicity, and the Halley's Comet of weekends.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Our first Ribbon Festival

And make sure you notice the flying leap off of the stage!

What a nice review!

This world of writing combined with the Internet makes for strange relationships. I know personally that I have befriended many wonderful women, most of whom I have never met, nor spoken to on the phone. I'm not even sure if I could pick them out in a lineup.
But somehow, in a strange way, these relationships are very important. We are friends, we are colleagues, we are soliders fighting the same battles of motherhood. We share similar hobbies and we support each other through the tinest blog comment or emails.
My week has been extrememly long. I've got a giant workload, new things on the horizon, and a 50:1 ratio of laundry to food. And when you're feeling completely frazzled I think it's only second nature for self-doubt to rear its ugly head.
Then along comes one of those friends.
Besides having a normally fabulous blog, Loren recently read my book and wrote up the nicest review. You can read it here and then look around at Loren's blog. It's 5000 times better than mine!

Now off to that laundry...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


All those who have ever used a Dustbuster to clean the kitchen table, raise your hand.

Those of you who think it is a great idea, raise your Dustbuster.

(Can you guess we had rice for dinner?)


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dairy-free soda bread

A lot of my personal friends know this, but my baby is allergic to milk. Allergic, not "lactose intolerant" so that means it can't even touch her skin.

And since I want her to actually get some nutrients, I'm what they call an 'extended nurser' which honestly would have freaked me out before I had children of my own, but now seems completely natural and normal.

This means that I myself have to eat dairy-free. And it also means that I haven't had pizza for almost a year. Same for ice cream, cream cheese, cheese crackers, even Goldfish. (And guess what, there's even milk products in salt and vinegar potato chips!!)

But it's St. Patty's Day, which means I am required by law to make soda bread.

And here's what I came up with...

2 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup if you have 'plain' soy/rice milk)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

1/4 cup white rasins

1 Tbl vinegar plus enough vanilla rice milk to make 1 cup (or whatever non-dairy product you've got, see note above about sugar)

Mix with a wooden spoon in a big bowl and bake it in a loaf pan at 325 degrees for about an hour.

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical when I pulled it out of the oven. But I gotta say, it's actually pretty good. My soda bread craving is satisfied.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A change

Just a note to everyone who has followed me in the Bargain Hunter and/or Wooster Weekly news over the past few years...
...Some may have noticed that my weekly column hasn't been appearing as much of late. As I understand it, the paper itself has been shrinking a little and the columnists have just been rotated, or something along those lines.
After some deep thinking and a leap of faith, I have decided to leave that publication. Readers can still catch up with me here on this blog or stay tuned for some news-- I hope to be returning to the print world soon.
Trust me, these kids give me plenty of fodder, and I've got to let it out somewhere.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mag-nificient Mag-azine

I haven't been very good with this blog thing lately, mostly because I've put every spare minute (and then some!) into the new design for Mom Writer's Literary Magazine. Please visit! It was a ton of work and I'm kinda proud. :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Through Toby's Eyes...

(From a Facebook deal-- thought it would be fun to blog)

Toby(age 5)

1. What is something mom always says to you?
"No, Toby!"

2. What makes mom happy?
When I am good.

3. What makes mom sad?
When Norma died.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
When she dances in her underwear.

5. What was your mom like as a child?
I don't know, but she has funny stories, like how she used to put a blanket on her head and pretend she was in a fort.

6. How old is your mom?
25 (ooh, suck up!)

7. How tall is your mom?
35 feet long

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Play outside with me.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
Watch Spongebob

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Singing and guitar playing

11. What is your mom really good at?
Yelling at me.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
Shaking a glass of chocolate milk.

13. What does your mom do for a job?
Teach music class, do work on the computer.

14. What is your mom's favorite food?

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
She can ride 4-wheelers

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Paula Deen and Barefoot Contessa, all mixed up together.

17. What do you and your mom do together?
Nothing. All she does is work all day.

18. How are you and your mom the same?

19. How are you and your mom different?
I have a big freckle on my leg and my mom has a big freckle on her butt. (OK, this is true...)

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
Because she likes to cuddle with me.

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
She can't keep her eyes off of him.

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
The cabin.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Easy steps to a family meal planning caper

We all know someone like this. The kind of person whose organizational skills make us want to rip through her kitchen and stuff her freezer completely full of three year old frozen corn and popsicles just like ours. And then we want to move to her pantry where we want to rearrange her canned goods and make sure she’s only got tomato paste instead of diced tomatoes and then, the coup de gras, mix up and throw out half of her plastic container lids so that she’s got a totally mismatching set like the rest of us do.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For years I have known a very organized woman who puts my entire existence to shame. I am not an organized person, despite what others think. One look at my desk will quickly clear up any suspicions. This friend of mine seems to have her entire life in order, including meal planning. For years now, she has been treating her family to – oh, it even makes me flinch to say it—well planned out family meals. In fact, she plans a month (a month!) of meals in advance, does her big shopping trip and it is probably at home watching TV and sipping tea at 4:00 while the rest of us, or at least me, are standing in front of the freezer wondering what we can defrost and fry up and serve with whatever shred of vegetable is left in the fridge.
But no longer. I decided that I wanted to be that person, the envy of all of my mom friends, who have hearty meals steaming on the table the minute my husband walks in instead of the recent usual, “there’s some cold sloppy joe on the stove.” So I turned to the Internet and the aisles of cookbooks in the library, and after minimal research, I have learned that all of the sources say just about the same thing, all in perky and promising tones. They assure happy and simple mealtimes if you just follow these happy and simple steps:
Make a list of meals! Sit down with your family and have them all choose a favorite dish for the week!
Lay out your recipes in the kitchen and make your shopping list while looking at the ingredients you already have available in your pantry and refrigerator!
Post a menu on the wall so that everyone knows what to expect for the week! Stick to your plan!
Pre-prep your meals! Get casseroles and dishes prepared a day or two in advance and store in the fridge for those really busy nights so all you have to do is an easy 30 minutes of cooking!
Review each new recipe with the family and if they enjoyed it, place it in your “favorites” file and plan to put it in the meal rotation!
Sounds simple enough, right? Amidst the cookbooks and Web sites, I can only imagine how this happy and simple planning would go in my family…
Our list of meals! The children all choose noodles and chicken nuggets. Husband chooses steak. I’ll never get the pan chicken in the caper sauce I’ve been drooling about.
Making the shopping list! I have nothing but a fridge full of capers and a freezer of chicken.
Post a menu on the wall! The children who can read are now complaining and begging to switch taco night to Thursday and everyone wants to know what a caper is.
Pre-prep your meals! Really? Kidding, right? I don’t have time to prep meals, let alone pre-prep. Besides, how does one pre-prep a bowl of buttered pasta?
Review each recipe with the family! The kids give it all a “thumbs in the middle,” husband takes a line from my Grandfather and says, “well, I wouldn’t climb a mountain for it.” I bow my head and lick the caper sauce off my plate, knowing full well that this will never make it into the rotation that I know will never be.

If I get enough requests, I just maybe she’ll post that famous buttered pasta recipe...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Blushing—it’s more than just rosy cheeks…and necks…and arms…

Even imagining everyone in their underwear doesn’t work. In fact it just makes it worse.
I never thought that I would ever do any public speaking. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, because I actually like it. The opportunity to share what I’ve got to say or do really appeals to me. The problem is that I have a little issue with blushing.
Actually, it’s a large issue, one that stretches from the top of my head all the way down to my middle. Whenever I am in front of a group of people, my face, neck, chest, and even the tops of my arms go from a pasty Ohio-winter-white to red and splotchy, like someone just shot off a slingshot of tomato sauce at me.
So I frequently find myself standing in front of a group of people looking completely horrified and embarrassed, but strangely enough, not feeling it. My voice doesn’t crack. My palms don’t sweat. I don’t find myself sprinting off to the bathroom. On the inside, I am perfectly calm. It’s just the outside that appears as nervous as a turkey in November.
All of this makes me wonder why it is that, even though I feel fairly relaxed, I turn beet red the moment I step in front of a group of people. I turned to the Internet, and learned a thing or two from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s “Ask A Scientist” site.
Not to my surprise, blushing is an “involuntary sympathetic nervous system response….caused by the dilation of the small blood vessels in the face, leading to increased local blood volume…[because] the facial vein that supplies the small blood vessels in the face is responsive to beta-adrenergic stimulation…which occurs when adrenaline binds to receptors on the surface of the responsive cells.”
Er, I suppose that’s what you get when you ask a scientist.
Basically, something deep within our nervous system and circulatory system makes us pretty in pink, even when we don’t wish to be.
The article continues by asking the question, “why do we blush?” And the answer is pretty much as mysterious and the pattern of blotchiness that is guaranteed to appear on my neck.
From the few studies that have been done so far, they have found that blushing is a response to “undesired social attention.” This, to me, makes perfect sense. It has nothing to do with being embarrassed, it has to do with the fact that people are looking at me and I’m not 100% sure I don’t have a stray eyebrow or a booger in my nose.
Personally, I can further prove this hypothesis true, for I believe that my blushing problem stems mostly from my sixth grade English class and my teacher, Mrs. DeFlorio. [Name changed to protect the guilty.]
We were doing a lesson on debates and I remember specifically that my group was arguing for cryogenics, and we talked an awful lot about Walt Disney, even though I can pretty much assure you we had no grasp of the concept whatsoever. In any case, when it came time for the actual debates, Mrs. DeFlorio lined us up at long tables and set up the video camera to record us so that we could watch back and review our debating techniques, a good teaching tool.
Well it so happens that I got stuck sitting next to Peter Donatelli [name changed because if this info got out to my old classmates they’d laugh at me] who was a rather bad boy, but for whatever reason I thought he was fairly handsome for a sixth grader.
Combine the fact that I was speaking in front of the class, being recorded, AND sitting next to Peter, and my skin was practically on fire.
To make things worse, when we watched the video back, Mrs. DeFlorio said, “let’s rewind the tape and watch it in fast-forward so we can see Karrie’s face turn red all over again!” Cruelty, I say! Cruelty!
And that is why, to this day, I blame Mrs. DeFlorio every time I stand in front of a crowd and sing, speak, or teach. It’s all her fault. Well, hers and that blasted involuntary sympathetic nervous system.

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