Meeting an Astronaut

In Space, anything is possible.
Or perhaps,
“Whip me, beat me, take away my charge cards… NASA is talking!”

From SpaceCamp? No? JB had never seen it either, which downgrades his Eighties movie knowledge from Deficient to Abysmally un-American. I could focus an entire series of posts on the movies he’s not seen. Hey…

However, tonight I’m hear to talk about meeting a astronaut. My friends, when I stop to catalog my many blazing failures as a wife and mother? Then I consider last week’s’ Air Force One adventure and tonight’s Meet the Astronaut? In my opinion, any surplus emotional capital now lives in my corner.

I wouldn’t know a Bieber if he sat down next to me, but I am over the moon (pun=totally worth it) about meeting an astronaut. That’s me, Proud Geek. Then I realized that Space Camp has an adult program. It’s ON, people. Who wants to go to camp with me?

Wait- back to the kids, since this is about them, right?

Not only did Zach meet a live one, complete with blue suit and nifty patches, but Bill– we’re likethis– approached Zach rather than waiting for Z to chase him down. I expected an astronaut to be pompous, but William McArthur, a North Carolina native was above and beyond (again, totally worth it).

Zach, to his credit didn’t drool on himself. But other than name and rank, he was basically speechless. My son. Speechless. The child talks in his sleep.

The pictures, Stephanie. Yes, well. As it would turn out, my camera made it, but my SD card did not. Nor had my phone (so I thought). A few minutes after taking this shot, JB took back his phone and wandered off with Elliot.

To look at a Turtle. When less than 5 feet away, stood an astronaut that has BEEN IN SPACE. Sigh– can you just visualize the gnashing of teeth and wailing (mine) that could have been?

But then during the presentation Bill called on Zach by name. Who needs a picture of their very first meeting when you have this one?

Zach’s face stayed like this for most of the talk. Without words coming out of it.

Except during the questions.

When McArthur asked what types of supplies might be delivered to the Space Station, I muttered Tang. Which Zach overheard and answered.

Cue audience laughter. Next step– show Zach a container of Tang.

At the end, before the Colonel could finish “any questions” Zach’s hands flew into the air.

You never know what’s going to come out of a 5 year old’s mouth, so both JB and I tried to get him to ask us first.


“Is the robot still on Mars” was his question. Not, “what’s it like to pee in space”. Though that’s also a valid (IMO) question.

Yes, is the answer, by the way. With a new one going up August 6th.

Then, after the Colonel reminded the audience that China also wants to explore space, but–unlike everyone else–doesn’t want to share knowledge, Zach had another question: “well, what happens if they get there first?” Very much concerned that if China calls “shotgun” on space that we’ll never ride front seat again.


By the time we left–with assorted schwag, autographs and foam astronauts– two very tired kids were mostly slurring nonsense from the backseat.

When suddenly Zach mumbles that he needs an engineering degree– and can he “get one those from NC State”?

Yeah, kiddo. NC State has a few engineering programs.

Feeding the Small People

Right? Is my kid too: fat, thin, tall, short, active, lazy, worried, ambivalent, loud, quiet, shy, fearless. Is he happy, sad, confident or scared? Eating enough, or too much?

Every caring mom worries. Some of us worry to a clinical degree–medicate!–but most of us worry within the bell curve of normal. Some of us worry about one thing to an extreme (child abductions, oh my!), while maintaining a comfortable level of sanity for everything else.

What do I worry about? It’s not the amount of attention and time given to my children. My slack-ass-parenting days don’t bother me, since I don’t indulge in them very often. I was more of a perfectionist control freak than I realized, but much to Z’s relief, E’s noncompliance dilutes that more every day.

I spend most of my worry energy on the food they eat, the nutrition I’m providing for them. For several reasons:

1) I am currently overweight, and have been since my own Small Person days. I know exactly what it is like to be the fat girl, rocking corduroy (why, WHY) pants from JC Penny’s Husky section. As a kid, I was judged, teased, and excluded because of my weight. Ten year old me remembers, like it’s a printed photograph in an album, having to sit at the table listening to my mother tell my father that the doctor said I was, “moderately obese”. Awesome.

That’s not a childhood I want for my children. Which means that I also drink more water, and eat fruits and vegetables. I need to time limit some of my sedentary hobbies– reading and the internet– in favor of active ones. Or modify those sedentary activities a bit– by doing squats or stretches while on the internet, or pilates twists on the floor while I’m reading.

2) E didn’t (doesn’t) eat very much. Coupled with his history of failure to thrive, there have been too many close moments of, “shit, just feed him potato chips and ice cream”. But alas, all calories are not created equal, and filling him up with junk just to get him to hit a magical percentage just felt wrong. At three, he’s finally at the 5th percentile for weight, and the 50th for height. With so many obese kids running (or not running, actually) around these days, it feels lonely to be on the other side of the weight problem with your children. Lonely and strange.

But when given the choice for dinner the other night, he dive-bombed for a rice cake. A brown rice, no sugar rice cake. Want to be skinny, eat like a skinny person– isn’t that what the diet gurus say?

3) And finally– Have you ever read a food label? Sawdust, yummy. Or maybe you’d prefer something a little less natural? How about this list of chemical additives? **Please note, not all additives are toxic nor does natural mean safe. **

Perhaps it doesn’t bother you that the carrageenan emulsifier in your ice cream (ironically for us, this is often an egg replacer) is a big money-maker for FMC BioPolymer, one of the parts of the diversified chemical company– FMC corporation. FMC BioPolymer is also raising prices and has also recently acquired a natural food company. Yippee!

Google confirmed my suspicion that almost all chemical companies are somehow tied to the devil, Monsanto. In the interest of self disclosure, I assume anything touched by Monsanto is tainted by demon blood.

Food ingredient shit makes me crazy. As a consumer, I should be able to walk into a store and buy food. I shouldn’t have to decode whether the claim all-natural on the front is true (probably not– use of natural isn’t regulated). They should have to list everything– not just “natural flavors”. Arsenic is a natural flavor– is that what’s in my nutrigrain bar, since fruit was definitely not?

I want their brains and bodies to grow and to be strong. To be strong enough to fight off the environmental crap that they are exposed to every day. I mean the plastic they make those kid-protection-bubbles from isn’t safe either.

Properly Folded Towels

Finally– a properly folded towels movement. Though I disagree with their methodology, I heartily support the effort.

See, y’all read this and think…um, what’s so hard about folding towels? You just fold them, right? Surely you’ve not gone to the dark side of towel-fascism?
And–most importantly– surely you are not complaining– out loud— about how someone else folds a towel? After all, it’s a towel you didn’t fold yourself!

I’m going to kick my toe in the sand and grin ruefully here, as I fully admit to being totally batshit about how my towels are folded.

I didn’t used to be. Seriously. I totally remember thinking my own beloved Nanny was totally batshit about the towel thing, after being lectured about how I had not only folded the towels wrong, but had also neglected to line up the seams properly. I mean, I fixed it–because even at 75 years old, 60 inches tall, and 80 lbs–she scared me into compliance. But in my head? I decided she had WAY too much free time and WAY too much OCD.

Then I moved to a Small House and became a Stay at Home Mom to Small People, quickly realizing that there are like 10 things in my life that I can fully and consistently control. And one of those things happens to be my towel folding methodology. At this point, my entire day can be totally ruined by looking into my teeny-tiny linen closet and seeing a torrential mess of jumbled, ill-folded bath towels. Beyond the visual affront, a full load of clean towels will simply not fit unless arranged properly. I mean, I stopped insisting that other people coordinate the towels into specific color stacks. And I’m only talking about two shelves of ordered happiness, having now long given up on anyone else turning the bottles label-side out, in line by size. That’s progress, people.

Yes, I do recognize how utterly unimportant and ridiculous this is in light of world hunger, deficits, and civil rights violations. But somewhere in my utterly non-linear ADHD brain I crave straight lines and order. My inability to attain this order in more than 2 shelves of towels is one of those big life failures I struggle with on a daily basis. So, dammit, just fold the damn towels the way I want them, and no one will get hurt.

Pumpkins as an Alternative Energy Source

Use pumpkins as an alternate energy source?¬†Well, not really, but pumpkins, SEER ratings and gas furnaces are all related in my life right now. Which might seem odd– to you. Stay with me for a minute- it’s like a Seinfeld episode that will (kind of) make sense in the end.

Our house is a 1969 original. I think some people would call it vintage, which is a really nice way of saying old. Our air conditioner–when new–was maybe an 8 SEER. To qualify as energy efficient (and get the the tax rebate!), a new unit has to be at least a 16 SEER. We’ve fixed random-whatevers on that thing 5 or 6 times over the years. Then there is the gas furnace that turned 30 last year. In 2006, a few months after Elliot was born, it started doing this crazy blower-fan, pilot-light, crackle dance, whoosh-whoosh thing. We had it cleaned and it behaved itself for about a month. But one afternoon, during that 3 months of hell that other people call the “newborn phase”, a horrific sound–similar to a revving chainsaw–started downstairs. Want an adrenaline rush? Try hearing a noise in your basement that is reminiscent of bad Criminal Minds episode while home alone with your–SLEEPING–children. I grabbed hairspray and a lighter– thinking blow torch– and investigated. And I’m not even ashamed to admit that after realizing it was a gas-heater issue and not a serial killer that I decided not to wake up the 3 month old and 2 year old to evacuate. I did turn the thing off at the breaker and plug in the carbon monoxide detector. I’m a good mom, really.

So dealing with these issues, every season, has desensitized me to the whole efficiency/cost thing. The most recent repair was only a month ago, and the service tech warned me (again) that both the AC and furnace were close to death, and that the merciful thing for us all would be to replace them. I think he actually said, “I mean, we can keep replacing this stuff every few months if you want to, but it’s a waste of money and seems kind of dumb in the long run.”

Spending $4000 right before Christmas? Sometimes I hate being a home owner.

Okay, so the thingy that makes the thingy (it’s actually called a capacitor, but, really–who cares?) broke again right before we left for DC. Despite being the end of October, temperatures were a balmy 80 degrees. Of course, that didn’t last, and we’ve had a cold house for the past week or so. Why? Because I had to make a phone call to schedule an appointment and I hate talking on the phone. Especially when the result will be my having to talk to a salesman. Unfair stereotype or not, they often seem to come prepared with their “little woman doesn’t understand shit” sales pitch, which just pisses me off to no end. I do have to give this dude credit, he started off with the overly simplified dumb-pitch, but modified quickly after noticing my annoyed head-nods and hand waving. And his simplified start is probably more related to the general comprehension of who he talks to and not my gender. Probably.

Mostly we didn’t have working heat because I just am who I am, and simple things often take me a disproportionate amount of time to complete. I waste more time trying to remember that I need to do some random 5 minute task, you know later, than it would take for me to just go ahead and do it.

But I digress–Halloween is over and we had pumpkins everywhere. A few farm visits, a few State Farmer’s Market visits and suddenly you have a 5-member pumpkin family living on the dining room table.

(Numerous pumpkins + fall weather) – working heat = muffins.

This is how, for the first time ever in my life, I ended up carving pumpkins for roasting. It’s also how I ended up trying to make roasted pumpkin seeds (failed twice, before kind of getting it right the third time). As an aside, can someone please explain to me the relative effort/benefit ratio of fresh pumpkin? To me, the muffins taste the same as those made with canned pumpkin and cleaning a pumpkin is just a hot mess of slimy pumpkin guts. And, seriously, what the hell am I going to do with all of this puree? This is what is left after 48 muffins and two loaves of bread.

With any project that requires a certain degree of patience, I have to let my mind wander in order to slow myself down. Obviously, disemboweling several pumpkins is not a 5 minute task, so I started thinking about how dry the air was; how I needed to remember to put lotion on Elliot’s face when he woke up; how the winter-stale-air funky smell had already started; and how my first round of massacred pumpkins didn’t quite cook soft, despite roasting for over an hour.

All while trying not to cut off my fingers, because I didn’t stop to sharpen the knife beforehand and I was cutting round objects (and not really paying attention). People, I am my own worst enemy.

I ended up putting cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (non-toxic air freshener) in a casserole dish full of water (humidity booster) below the roasting pan (faster cooking time) in the oven. And that’s the thing with having The ADHD– for every time it causes me problems, it also helps me think of solutions that the normal, attention-paying person would have missed.

Two hours of pumpkin roasting/muffins baking raised the air temperature at least 4 degrees, which is more than the furnace could do yesterday. But thanks to the three males who complained incessantly of being cold–despite the Small People’s refusal to wear socks and the Large Male Person’s refusal to wear a sweater–we actually have two shiny, energy efficient units today.

Wallets and Weather

Having ADHD causes moments of extreme D’ohness, which I usually control nicely with pharmaceuticals. Sometimes though, my internal Homer breaks free and I got nothing but D’oh for ya. Two epic fails this week–read on and enjoy.

First was The Wallet. No, it did not used to be a ziplock bag. However, my other one was really messed up after it got run over by a half dozen cars on the side of a busy highway. The how of my wallet being on the side of a highway remains a mystery. I assume I put it on top of my car and that it eventually fell off.

Note: Much thanks to the stranger that saw the wallet, retrieved it (and its contents), and managed to track me down through my insurance company. I promise the fact that I spent 5-10 minutes considering the potential for you to be a serial killer is a function of my overactive imagination, and not a reflection of your kindness.

Next was The Cabana. A group of friends with similarly aged children decided to take a trip to Wet’n Wild waterpark. To a kid (as memory serves) a waterpark is, like, the coolest thing…evah. We had tickets, I reserved the cabana ($100 split among a group isn’t expensive) and we were ready to roll.

Until it started storming last night and I realized I hadn’t–not once–checked the weather forecast for the day of our trip. Actually checking it–50% chance of rain– made my head start to hurt; reading the small-“cabana-fee-non-refundable”-print triggered a full headache. But, one thing about living in NC–if you don’t like the weather just wait an hour, it’ll change. My friends, good-natured people that they are, loaded up minivans with kids and contraband snacks, taking the risk that the storms would hold off until the afternoon.

This is about what it looked like when we got there. And it stayed looking like that for the next two hours.

See, there is a difference between forgetting important details ahem– the weather forecast for an outdoor trip–when the plans do/don’t include Small People. Your adult friends might give you a hard time, but it is unlikely that you will have to drag them — limp-bodied, purple-faced, and screaming — out to the car. I mean, it’s happened…but it’s just not as likely.

But when you forget those kinds of details and those adults are now the Parents of Small People (six total, ranging in age from 20 months to 3.5 years) the potential for disaster is high. Now it’s not just your screaming kid, but the screaming kids of your close friends. And being trapped in the car with them screaming for the 1.5 hour trip back home.

Elliot yelled at me for 15 minutes the other day because I gave him a bowl of Craisins rather than leaving them in the bag. Zach has thrown himself to the floor and sobbed over getting a blue, instead of an orange, cup. Anyone with kids knows it would have only taken one of them to start in on a good tantrum before the rest of them followed.

For close to two hours we sat under our nonrefundable cabana listening to the repeated PA-announcement of “…park currently closed due to bad weather. We will re-open as soon the threat passes…”

What did our group of perfect (today, at least) Small People do? They re-stacked the brick edging, cleaned up trash, examined leaves, hopped on the steps, turned loungers into climbing structures, snacked (contraband snacks = best thing ever) and remained generally affable.

Right as I went to petition for a cabana-fee refund (inexplicably easy–it only took me saying “I worked Customer Service for 10 years, and I assure you that they don’t pay you enough to deal with me if y’all try and fight this”) the storm system broke enough to give the kids 30 minutes of play time. We all got rain-checks and went out for pizza.

As an adult, the natural conclusion was that the trip was a consummate failure. But as one of the Dad’s pointed out to Joel, none of the kids realized that they had gotten screwed–thus no tantrums. In the car–right before he passed out–Zach told us that the “Wet and Water” park was “so much fun” and “we should do that again”. And we are, next weekend, sans cabana and weather permitting.