Recycling Day: Too Much Ketchup

Too Much Ketchup
(originally posted 4/16/2011)


Last week was interesting. Daughter Jill and family stayed with me for four days while the painter and carpenter were busy at their house. The invasion discombobulated me a little. I kept forgetting to take my calcium tablet before bed. Also, I forgot what I had in the refrigerator because I’m not used to seeing that much food in there. Mysterious food. The kind I never buy.

But other than that, things went fairly smoothly. The grandkids were on their best behavior. I’m sure there were threats along the way, but I don’t need to know about them. One evening it was just them and me around the dinner table, when the conversation, as it will, drifted to Christian’s food allergies, a subject on which every female in his family is an expert. It began when he was squeezing ketchup onto his plate and, as I recall, went something like this…

Maria: That’s too much. You aren’t supposed to have that much ketchup.
Christian [still squeezing]: Leave me alone, Maria. I can have ketchup.
Grace: He can have ketchup.
Maria: [To Christian] Stop that. Mom said you aren’t supposed to have that much.
[To me] Mom doesn’t let him have that much ketchup.
Grace: He can have ketchup. Ketchup isn’t in the nut family.
Maria: Ketchup is in the tomato family. He can’t have that much.
Christian: I keep telling Mom I don’t have food allergies, but she doesn’t believe me!
Maria: [To Christian] Ketchup is in the tomato family. Remember when you had that spaghetti sauce? Your eye got like THIS.
[To me] Mom doesn’t let him have that much ketchup.
Christian: Ketchup isn’t in the nut family.
Maria: [Heavy sigh accompanied by eye rolling]
Grace: Chili is in the nut family.

Too many nuts in the family, if you ask me.


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Hannah Montana Is Dead


Well, she never really existed, did she. But talk about your BFLs (big fat lies, I think I just made that up). For five years Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah, was the idol of just about every pre-preteen girl in America. I know my oldest granddaughter watched many an episode of the hit TV show and did all she could to help support the franchise. Now if a kid asks, “What happened to Hannah Montana?” her mother says, “Oh, I’m so sorry, dear. Hannah Montana is dead.”

Like most Disney Channel offerings, the show’s premise was always a stretch. Miley Cyrus played all-American teen Miley Stewart, who transformed into her alter-ego, rock superstar Hannah Montana, simply by donning a blonde wig and cooler clothes. Instantly, she was unrecognizable. No one ever caught on! It was Clark Kent and his glasses all over again.

Today the re-imaged Cyrus not only bears no resemblance to the character she once played, she was recently voted “Worst Celebrity Role Model for Kids” in a Yahoo Parenting poll. I guess I can understand why the role of Hannah might have become stifling after a while. But why go so quickly from preteen idol to shock queen slut of the Internet?

Oh, right. Money.


Which is not to say Cyrus isn’t talented. She is. And she certainly isn’t the first Disney star to fall off the Fantasyland castle (think Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan). Her determination to ditch the character that made her famous, however, makes the others look like amateurs.

In an interview for next month’s issue of Marie Claire magazine, Cyrus says her years of playing Hannah may have given her “body dysmorphia.” According to, this is a psychological disorder in which “you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, often for many hours a day.” I get that. For sure the character she played was almost anorexically thin. (She was a pop star after all.) And if body dysmorphia is a battle Cyrus fought and won, good for her. I’m just not convinced that’s what started her down the road to twerking on live TV and swinging naked from construction equipment.

No doubt Cyrus would say she never asked to be a role model in the first place. And I have to admit, as athletes can only be athletes, we can’t really expect entertainers to be more than just that, entertainers. We all know the real role models should be parents or grandparents or people who spend their time doing good deeds and don’t go around blabbing about it.

And who can blame her for wanting to make some money off her fame? God knows Disney made enough. Then again, who would Miley Cyrus be if it weren’t for poor deceased Hannah? Not a 22-year-old making over $50 million a year, I’m thinking. 

Oh, I know I’m on the cusp of being a COP (clueless old person). But remember back in the sixties, when we had that big liberation thing? Women were good and fed up with being treated like sex objects and weren’t afraid of being called feminists. Now entertainers like Cyrus – along with the many manifestations of “girls gone wild” online – could make you think that battle was never fought. I would just like to know, what the hell happened?

Rottenecards_57659850_ywyj58qgrd.jpg Created by: Kimmy B


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Photo credits:
DisneyChannel. com

The Chickens, the Coyote and the Hole in the Roof


I got caught on the phone yesterday with seven-year-old Cosette. I called to see how her mother was feeling, as she had been sick for a few days, but I never did get to speak to her. Once Cosette answers, talking to anyone else in the house is not an option. You can either settle in for the duration or hang up (assuming you have an excuse she’ll accept) and try again later when she may be otherwise occupied, perhaps in telling her brothers what’s what. I had some time to kill, so I let her carry on.


Lately Cosette has been concentrating her efforts on getting some chickens to raise in the backyard, so as to provide the family with fresh eggs daily and fried chicken on an occasional basis. Her father, who grew up in the country, and her mother, who is severely ornithophobic but a real trooper, are indulging her in this pursuit, despite the fact that they live in a crowded St. Paul suburb where you’d think there’d be better zoning restrictions.

I have to say Cosette knows more about the habits of chickens and the perils of owning them than I have gleaned in a lifetime. Her father will construct a chicken coop this fall, she says, with the goal of purchasing about ten baby chicks next spring. However, the instructions for building it are woefully lacking, so he has some research to do.

The chicks will have to stay in the basement until they are old enough to face the elements. Her mother is not pleased with this arrangement, but Cosette assures me that Mom won’t have to do a thing as she and five-year-old Bret Jr. will take care of all the chicks’ needs. This includes going into the basement every hour and squeezing them so that they don’t get pasty butt.

I had never heard of pasty butt, but I’ve since learned it is a very real affliction wherein poop dries around the chick’s “vent area” creating a seal that fresh poop cannot breach. The cure, according to Cosette, is to squeeze the chick until the poop comes out. Now I have not attempted to assay the validity of this claim. God help the innocent, that’s all I can say.

Assuming the chicks make it through this ordeal, when they are four or five weeks old they will be moved outdoors. This doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods, however, as Cosette has learned a coyote was recently spotted in the neighborhood. Said coyote has, in fact, killed all the neighbor’s chickens. (Yes, it is a neighborhood already rife with chickens.) As there was no roof on their pen, the coyote was able to jump in and then…hen havoc. The neighbors had to buy more chickens.

Okay, this next part is a little shifty, but I’m going to tell it just as it was told to me. I asked Cosette if she wasn’t worried about Ursa, their beleaguered dog, with a coyote running around. She said she has a plan for that.  She is going to dig a hole in the backyard with a ramp that runs through the house and up to another hole in the roof. Then, aided by a “machine” she has yet to build, she will “launch” either Ursa or the coyote (this part was a little vague) into the ramp and out the hole in the roof, to what end I’m not sure.

Frankly, I think she was just adlibbing by this point. If you don’t cut her off, she will continue embellishing with information only she can comprehend. I said I had to go start dinner. Cosette said, okay, but to call her back, as there is a lot I don’t know and she needs to bring me up to speed. I can hardly wait.


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Photo credits:
chickens – (stock.xchng )
coyote sign –


Birthday Season


Birthday season is upon us. We have birthdays throughout the year, of course, but from May 24 to the end of July, it’s birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday. The sons-in-law, present and future, must get sick of it. Even I get sick of it. They’re good sports though. They usually show up.

We celebrated daughter Jill’s birthday at my house a week ago Saturday. It rained hard all day, so no sending the grandkids into the backyard and letting them loose on the wildlife. I have a playroom full of toys upstairs. Sometimes they play in there; more often they haul things out and leave them in various inconvenient places around the house. One of their favorite things to do is jump off the bed in the guest room into piles of blankets and pillows. From downstairs you hear thump, crash, scream, thump, laughing, thump, crying. Someone could be killed up there, but we first-floor dwellers like to pretend all is well right up until the time someone has to administer first aid.

Sometimes they call us from the phone in my room. (Jill last week: “Stop calling me. Do you hear me, Grace? Just stop now.”)

You’d think Lee, who turns two in July, would be a little intimidated, but he isn’t. He’s child #3 and no one has told him he’s fragile. Usually he just does whatever his three-year-old brother, Bret Jr., is doing. Bret falls on the floor, Lee falls on the floor. Bret stomps his rain boots, Lee stomps his rain boots. Bret shows off his Batman pajamas, Lee shows off his Superman pajamas. And so it goes. Riding in the car is interesting. He hates stop lights. The car rolls to a stop, and he starts yelling, “Go! Go-o-o-o!” Also, for some reason, he calls me Grandpa. I tell him, “No, Lee, Grandma. Grandma Judy.” I could be talking to the garden gnome.

Bret Jr. assumed the role of event photographer this time around, which is how I end up with pictures like this:


Cosette piano

Lee away

Maria no

Meanwhile, six-year-old Cosette informed me that by the age of 13, you know everything there is to know. I have no idea what kind of convoluted thinking led to this conclusion. I never argue with her. She’s creative.

I made cupcakes for the party. Well, I always make cupcakes, because the only kind Christian can eat are dairy-free, so that’s the kind I make. This time, however, I found a mystery bag of Baking Flour in the cupboard with a farmer or a sailor or something on it. I think I’ll use up this flour, I thought. So I did, only to discover too late that it was wheat- and gluten-free. Probably no one will even know the difference, I thought. But they did. I cannot be expected to put on the perfect party for every occasion, now can I.

New rule for next birthday: no using Grandma’s artificial fruit as hand grenades.

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All Together Now…

So, long time no post. I feel guilty. I do. It wouldn’t bother me except that I’m supposed to be chronicling my grandchildren’s formative years. If I don’t do it, who will? Nobody, that’s who.

It’s January, so obviously I didn’t get around to reporting on the annual school Christmas programs in a timely manner. I have five grandkids attending that grade school now. You’d think there’d be a prize or something, but so far zip.

Bret Jr. Is Enthusiastic


Boy Bret performed admirably in the preschool Christmas program. He sang when he was supposed to sing, sat when he was supposed to sit, and when it was time to hold their paper trees and stars aloft and sway to the music, he could have been conducting the William Tell Overture.

Cosette Speaks


The elementary school program, meanwhile, put all the classes on stage at the same time. None of that tedious shuffling back and forth we’ve seen in the past. Lined up front and center were the kindergartners, clueless as cattle, a pair of animal ears or horns stuck on each little head. Cosette was a cow. It was a speaking part. Which makes a lot of sense if you know her.

Grace Endures


The second-grade girls were little angels. No, really. They had wings. At one point between songs, I looked over and saw Grace sitting on the riser, chin in hand, looking about as bored as anyone wearing wings and a tinsel halo can.

Christian Is Good


There was less poking, nudging and tittering among the third grade boys than you might expect. Christian isn’t usually what you’d call a model of decorum, but he stood up straight, sang and didn’t cross his eyes once … which is more than I can say for some of his friends.

Oh My Maria


So there they were, the entire student body (it isn’t a big school) gathered on stage. I expected to be somewhat moved, surrounded as I was by progeny. What caught me off guard was seeing Maria wearing a little black dress and standing with the other seventh grade girls. I remembered her first Christmas program. She had her elf hat on backwards so the bell on top dangled down in her face. I looked over at Cosette standing amid a herd of pint-size sheep and donkeys. And I’ll tell you the truth, I could have wept.

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Take Your Best Shot

Not long ago, I made a startling discovery. I don’t need eyeshadow anymore. That’s right. I am at an age where the skin around my eyes pretty much matches the color of my eyeshadow. You probably think I’m exaggerating. Take a look.

Photo on 2013-10-04 at 10.24

Photo on 2013-10-04 at 10.09

Okay, which eye has the eyeshadow? Isn’t easy, is it?

Which doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped wearing eyeshadow. What if someone said, “Oh, I like your eyeshadow,” and I had to say, “Thanks. I’m not wearing any.” How embarrassing would that be? An awkward moment all around.

So I’m dealing with these changing appearance issues, and in the meantime, I know the time has come to update my profile picture – on this blog, on Facebook and anywhere else you need to slap a photo.

I like my old profile picture. I was three years younger then…


In the interest of full disclosure, however, you have to update these things once in a while; otherwise, you’re like those people on Facebook who put up a picture of their cat, or worse, a picture that’s 12 years old but you like it better than any of your recent, more telling photos because you were thinner then and life hadn’t etched permanent worry lines around your mouth. Man up, I say. These people are your “friends.” They know what you look like.

Confident in the knowledge that I don’t want to be THAT GUY, I got up yesterday morning (I look my best at dawn), put on a full complement of makeup and snapped approximately 54 self-photos in a futile attempt to find one that resembled the me of three years ago. A sampling:


If you guessed the right eye, you’re right.

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The Fourth Star on the Left


I added a star to the tattoo on my ankle yesterday in honor of my sixth grandchild, Lee, now 9 months old and definitely star-worthy. It was a little hard finding exactly the right position for star #6 and then it ended up slightly bigger than I expected, which is the kind of thing that happens to me, but nevertheless I’ll be taking my six-star ankle to the grave, unless of course a seventh star comes along, but what the heck, let’s just put the whole damn galaxy on grandma’s foot.

Today five-year-old Cosette called several times saying we needed to go to Target right away so she could show me what to buy for her birthday, just around the corner next September. I felt guilty saying no until she said, okay then, she had to call Auntie Jessica, goodbye. Her brother Toddler Bret calls me regularly as well. For some reason he always seems agitated on the phone. He left me a happy birthday message recently that sounded like he was being attacked by pirates.

On Thursday I drove for an hour through snow and sleet to watch Christian’s wrestling match only to find it was cancelled due to the weather. (It’s almost May, for cripe’s sake.) Now eight, he just started wrestling and takes it very seriously. He came out of his first practice and told his mother, “I can’t show you any moves, Mom, because I might hurt you.”

A few Saturdays ago, 12-year-old Maria came over to get help building a model of the Eiffel Tower for a school project. I have never built the Eiffel Tower before, but apparently my expertise in this area is legendary. We made it out of shoeboxes, of which I have an ample supply. Well, not really out of the shoeboxes but from hundreds of little pieces cut out, glued together and sprayed heavily with black paint. I figured the Eiffel Tower was easier to build than some other famous structures I can think of. Her friend Madeleine chose the Colosseum in Rome, which her father helped her build out of a laundry basket and I’ll bet that was no picnic.

Which brings us to seven-year-old Grace. The last time she was at my house, she watched me applying face makeup with endless questions about what different products were designed to do. I explained, for example, that due to some unfortunate over-tweezing in my youth, I have to pretty much draw on eyebrows now, and that should be a lesson to her not to go around mindlessly plucking at things, and anyway her eyebrows are perfect so it shouldn’t even be an issue. Always take advantage of these little moments to teach, that’s what I say.


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Stories from Drawer #3


I am having my house painted. I mean I am having my entire house painted, every room, every closet, every wall, every ceiling. And of course, once you commit to painting every room in the house, you notice all the other stuff that’s been irking you for the last twenty years, and hey, why not put those projects on the list too, until you realize you have kind of a big thing going on.

I can’t say why, after living with my home’s flaws for years, I chose this particular time to tackle them. I hate to think it might be because my subconscious knows I haven’t long for this world. (Time to get your affairs in order, spruce up the house before the kids have to put it on the market.) That’s how my mind works. That’s exactly how my mind works.

The painters arrive tomorrow. The first thing they’re doing is removing all the 1970s-era popcorn ceilings. It’s a fairly messy job and it means everything in the area where they’re working has to be moved out. Consequently, I have the contents of the guest bedroom, playroom and office squashed into my bedroom with the existing furniture. It looks like the Goodwill in there.

It was cleaning out the office that nearly did me in. I’ve been meaning to do it periodically for years. Now and then I’d make a half-hearted effort – maybe toss out some old bank statements – but nothing that made a dent in the ever-replenished stacks. Sometimes the only thing that works is the imminent arrival of workmen.

Which, if you’re still with me, is how we get to Drawer #3. That’s the bottom drawer of my file cabinet, where I tend to throw all the oddball stories I’ve run across, clipped, saved and forgotten over the years. Of course, much of Drawer #3 went into the recycling bin. But you’d be surprised, some of this stuff holds up remarkably well.

Like this letter that the Smithsonian’s Paleo-Anthropology Division sent to a man who kept mailing them objects he believed to be of enormous scientific value. (Originally published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune but undated. I’ve edited it down a lot.)

Dear Sir:
Thank you for your latest submission to the Institution, labeled ‘Hominid skull.’ We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents ‘conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man 2 million years ago.’ Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety of Malibu Barbie.

Without going into too much detail, the specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on. Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation’s Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name ‘Australopithecus spiffarino.’

The entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your backyard. We are particularly interested in hearing your theories surrounding the juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered with the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9mm Sears Craftsman automotive wrench.

Harvey Rowe, Curator, Antiquities

Photo: Google Images,
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Odd Notions


It occurred to me recently that some very odd ideas pop into my head at times. It worries me a little. I start to speculate on what’s causing them – cells flickering out in my neocortex, say, or overloaded circuitry from having too many grandkids to worry about.

Usually it happens when I’m performing some mundane Chore of Daily Living, when I’d rather be somewhere else doing something else. Last Sunday I had to go to Target to pick up groceries and other sundries. As I walked in the door, I had a sudden urge to check out other shoppers’ carts. If someone had already picked up a lot of the things I needed, I reasoned, I could just casually grab their cart while they were thumping the melons and my job would be half done. Even if I was caught, they’d just mistake me for another distracted shopper. (Ha, ha, silly me! Why would I want your things?) And it isn’t really like stealing if they haven’t paid for the stuff yet, right? It’s just inconveniencing.

I didn’t do it, of course. I do have a conscience. “What would Jesus do?” I asked myself. Probably he wouldn’t walk away with someone else’s shopping cart at Target. Then again, Jesus could just pick up a loaf of Wonder Bread and a package of fish sticks and be good for a month.

When I got home from Target, I went out in the yard to kill weeds. I detest killing weeds, which is why they get away from me. Come August, the crabgrass arrives as if out of nowhere and spreads like the ebola virus. I was spraying away when I started to fantasize that I was an unfeeling killer, spraying poison gas as the weeds begged for mercy. “No, no! He’s just a baby!” the big weeds screamed, as I blasted a little guy just poking its head up. “She’s a bad ‘un,” the old-timers warned. “She’ll hunt ’em down, every last sprout.”

“That’s what you get!” I thought, spraying Ortho Weed B Gon with abandon. “Go live in the wild somewhere!” And don’t start writing me about the evils of lawn chemicals and the virtues of organic lawn care. I recycle. I drive a little economy car. My yard is a war zone and I need the hard stuff.

Where was I? Oh yes, odd notions. I don’t know, maybe everyone has crazy thoughts at times. I don’t think I’m abnormal or anything. I don’t dream about stabbing an old woman in her kitchen or anything. Well, just the one time.

Photo: Google Images,
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Grandma Judy’s Birthday

Grandma Judy had a birthday this week. She doesn’t care much for birthdays anymore and would prefer to forget them altogether, but people keep making her celebrate anyway.

Grandma Judy’s idea of a good birthday is finding an expensive present to buy herself. This year she bought TWO presents (because she deserves it): a silver bracelet from Turkey and a black corded clutch purse from the 1940s. These things help Grandma Judy feel a little less irritated about life. She bought some shoes, earrings and books too, which didn’t count as birthday gifts, but what the heck, she was out.

Grandma Judy’s family took her to Red Robin Gourmet Burgers for dinner, an excellent choice when your party includes five children under age eleven, including a toddler who gets mad if you put the wrong food in front of him. Grandma Judy finds her grandchildren highly amusing even when their parents do not.

Grandma Judy’s grandchildren gave her several wonderful homemade drawings to help her forget how much she doesn’t like birthdays. These children are the most precious things in her life. So if there is a lesson to be learned here, I guess it would be: if you are going to get older, better get yourself some grandkids. Also, there is no harm in surprising yourself with a nice birthday gift.


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