Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Day I Set Myself on Fire and Other Kitchen Fire Stories

The cutie pie that prompted the flour mess which kept me cleaning in the kitchen and not in another room while our stove fire started! Thank goodness for messes!

You know how they say things come in threes?  Well, this week I finally added a third kitchen fire to my list of accomplishments.

Yes, you heard me right.  I’ve started three kitchen fires in my “quasi” adult life.  And I’m not a professional cook.

I know that fire is a serious thing.  I was a Girl Scout and often assigned the job of “woodie” as a camper.  (Stop snickering, you dirty minded readers.  A woodie is someone who gathers fire wood, starts the fires, maintains the fire-water bucket complete with stick so small critters can escape, and most importantly, cleans the latrines…)

I also know that there are many people who have been victims of fires in their life and who have had their person or property damaged by fire.  My heart goes out to those folks, and I would never treat those types of situations lightly.  But humor in life helps assuage tragedy and so I share my own rather ridiculous fire related stories with thankfulness as a way to laugh at my perpetual mishaps.

The first fire-related incident took place over Thanksgiving many years ago.  I was about 16 or 17 at the time and was helping my mother set the table for dinner.  Reaching over a candle, with what I thought was enough clearance, I set an item down for the place setting, then wondered aloud, “What is that smell?  Is something (meaning food) burning?”

The response my parents gave me was not what I expected.  Out of what seemed like nowhere, they threw me on the ground and started beating at me.  Apparently, I was on fire.  Smelling the singed ends of my hair afterwards, I realized that the sleeves of my 80’s style polyester sweater had just grazed the candle, allowing flame to travel up my arm to the tips of my hair.  Remarkably, aside from my hair and my pride, there was no damage.  The sweater had some crazy chemical layer that had burned off; not a mark remained.  My family loves to recall this event, dredging it up when I set the table near an open flame or reminiscing fondly over turkey about the time I caught myself on fire.

It was probably about 12 years later, in a townhouse apartment that I shared with my husband, that I started my next kitchen fire.  Absentmindedly preparing a BLT dinner, I had wandered into our dining/living area when I heard a loud bang in the kitchen and ran in to see open flames on the stove.  I had set a dinner plate on a hot burner and it had heated and shattered, setting the bacon greased towel and bacon pieces that it contained aflame. I seem to remember my husband dealing with this particular incident as I reacted hysterically.  Amazingly, once I catch things afire in the kitchen, I mentally block the aftermath.

Not quite 5 years later, (though I am averaging one fire per decade of my life so far) this week, I completed the cursed trio of kitchen fires.  Having a productive morning of baking three batches of zucchini bread with my daughter, making homemade smoothies and lemonade, cutting up the week’s fruit produce for easy eating, doing multiple loads of dishes, and cleaning up my daughter V’s flour sensory play, I popped some boxed mac & cheese on the stovetop for lunch.

While the water boiled, I busily vacuumed the flour mess off of my daughter’s booster seat and argued with her over the use of the vacuum only to have my senses send me a warning message as I said “What’s that smell?”  I turned around to find the cardboard mac & cheese box tipped into the gas flame burner and burning at an alarmingly quick rate.  I gasped, grabbed the box, threw it in the sink to douse with water, then opened all the windows and turned on fans to dissipate the smoke.

V was all in a dither.  “What’s the problem Mommy!”  “What’s on fire?”  “Come here Mommy, I show you where the fire lives.”  (Note to self:  fire belongs in the fireplace.  Even a two year old knows that…stupid, STUPID Mommy!)  Apparently, “you light a fire, you have a little picnic, then you blow it all out.”  That’s what you are SUPPOSED to do with fire.

Lesson learned, V.

Evidently, I have a problem in the kitchen.  Or I am cursed.  Hopefully, with the culmination of my third fire experience, I’ll be a little more aware and a little less distracted in the kitchen.  But with each mishap, I have to admit the dreamy, crazy multitasking aspects of my nature haven’t much changed.  Perhaps my husband should kick me out of the kitchen as a potential hazard to people and property.  Here’s hoping.

I hope you enjoyed a laugh with me today, but seriously, if you don’t have a kitchen fire extinguisher on hand, and you plan to invite me over…you are taking your chances.  Get a fire extinguisher, check the batteries and operation of your smoke detectors, and stay alert while cooking.  I’ve learned these lessons firsthand and thankfully, I’m here to share them with you today!


Labor Pains and Stretchmarks

It helps to have support!

I’ve been thinking this week how internal growth and expecting a child share some similarities…

It is hard work and uncomfortable.

Facing things we want to change in our lives is a difficult process.  It requires endurance, stamina, sometimes intense discomfort, and often a whole lot of aching.

It causes some sleepless nights.

Sometimes you just have to get up, pop on a movie or immerse yourself in a book and give yourself a break from the process, so you can rest through the sleepless times.

We aren’t always sure what to expect.

Changing yourself can affect your relationships and impact your subsequent life choices.  Once you commit to the change, it is hard to predict what will happen, but chances are, it will be worth it!

It can be simultaneously anxiety provoking and exciting!

Internal growth can be freeing, can open our hearts and minds and bring greater joy and authenticity to our lives.  But it isn’t a painless process.  It is one that can create some anxiety, uncertainty, and confusion.  At the same time, feeling yourself move past some difficult stages, toward the future, can create a sense of empowerment and hopefulness. Allowing all those feelings to coexist during the process helps us move through those moments where we may want to turn back or stuff something down again.

You can have a new life.

We all have the power to make changes inside ourselves.  It isn’t always pretty and can be as scary as facing down childbirth, but in the end, it can be extremely rewarding.

I’m doing some intensive internal work right now and having been through this process of self-analysis, discovery, weeding, stretching, learning, and growing before, I know I won’t regret the effort.  Though each labor is different, and we can’t predict the outcome of stretching ourselves, growth is empowering and life giving.  It is what keeps us from stagnating inside and allows us to move past the internal barriers that seek to limit who we are.

So I’m going to face down my comfort zone, knowing that I’m in for some pain along the way.  Because even if the experience isn’t perfect, I know what I really would regret is shutting down inside.  I would regret missing out on the person I am meant to become.  Instead, I know I’m going to wear those stretchmarks with pride on the flip side.

Linking up with Shell’s

The Ants Go Marching and Other Bug Related Fun for Kids

(photo by PML)

My little gal, V, has shown an utter fascination with the small creatures of the world lately.  From slugs to ants, bugs have been on her curious brain!  She enthuses over them, cautiously and gingerly touches them with exclamations of pride, and points them out everywhere we go.  So I have become a mom that pets ants outside of the strip mall smoothie place and one who carts slugs on mulch pieces to somewhere other than our vegetable garden.  It’s been real…

Not wanting my ant-induced itching inclinations to impact my girl’s passion for the little critters, we went to the library to stock up on all items bug related for some fun theme reading.  Here are some selected choices for your insect explorations:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle:  We own two copies of this (board and hard cover) as it has been a favorite of V’s since she was quite small.  She has always enjoys the part where I exhaustedly and speedily read all of the crazy foods that caterpillar eats on Saturday!

Miss Spider’s ABC’s by David Kirk:  The brilliantly colored illustrations make this book so appealing to little ones.  They can learn about all types of bugs that come to the surprise party for Miss Spider while learning their ABC’s!

The Eensy Weensy Spider by Mary Ann Hoberman:  The classic song is told as an extended version with lovely illustrations; you can use this in combination with some music time for your little one.

Chirping Crickets by Melvin Berger:  This non-fiction title for kids is very informative and even includes a craft and other activities on the back page!

Thinking About Ants by Barbara Brenner: What a fabulous book!  It takes the perspective of an ant and has interactive questions that really draw kids into learning about ants.  Using the questions as prompts, V has decided that she is a purple ant, I am a blue ant, and Daddy can be a red ant and that we all have matching antennae, abdomens, and food!  The stories she is coming up with after reading this title are hilarious and hearing a two year old pronounce “antennae” and “abdomens” is darn cute.  There is a reference in the back to help parents talk about the types of ants depicted in the illustrations.

About Insects:  A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill:  This simple book describes characteristics of insects using illustrations of different bugs.  It is almost like a very elementary field guide and overview of the insect world.  V loved using it as a reference for the bug movie we watched: MicroCosmos.

If you want to go beyond the page and the species found in your own front yard, I recommend checking out MicroCosmos.  It is a quiet (with the exception of some rousing musical accompaniment) documentary about bugs from the perspective of a bug.  Kind of like a real-life “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” experience from the bug side of things.

MicroCosmos is rated G, but be aware there are some real life “ahem” bonding moments that occur between some of the bug friends. They get really natural so you may have some explaining to do with older children. We like to call it “the bugs dancing” in our house.  Overall, though it was a wonderful viewing experience and V kept excitedly pointing out things to us, “Wow!”  “Daddy, LOOK at that guy!”  “What IS that guy?”

I found it helpful to have our bug books on hand so we could look up some of the species as we watched, so it might be useful to have some kind of field guide handy to help answer the questions of curious minded kiddos (for those of us parents who aren’t entomologists)!

Finally, I invite you to do what we do:  go on a nature walk and look at all the bugs you can find.  Talk about them, point out features and share your knowledge.  Most of my bug knowledge was acquired informally, through hearing adults share what they knew about bugs.  Sing “The Ants Go Marching” or “The Eensy Weensy Spider” on your walk.  Check out Pinterest bug activities (we like making bugs out of colored cotton balls, google eyes and pipe cleaners and putting them in glass pickle jars).  There is no end to the fun you can have with bugs.

On a more challenging note; we may have become known as a too friendly to bugs household this week.  We have begun facing off an ant invasion (they were coming in under our front door and running their tiny bodies ALL along the molding from the front to back of our house…).  I’m convinced we’ll win the battle with our liquid ant traps in and outside the house, but for a pesticide-phobic person like me, I really prefer when the bugs keep to their habitat and us to ours!  Keep your fingers crossed that V’s cries of “Get him!  Smash him!” regarding the ants don’t infringe on the awe and respect we are currently forming for our bug friends!  I’m hoping that my explanations of “Bugs are fine outside the house but not inside,” will suffice, but after she’s watched my smash and stomp routine this week, I feel like there’s some mixed messages going on in our home about the presence of wildlife.  She did enjoy watching the ants marching in line from our front door to the ant trap and kept asking me to “Come on Mommy!  Let’s go watch the ants!”  I felt a little guilty knowing that they were in reality marching to their doom…

Anyway, get out there, get itchy and squirmy and check out the species in your front yard!  What are some of the bug friends that your children love?

The Fall of Fort Thunderbird

The Next Generation…

I missed a call from my Dad this weekend.  I was putting my daughter down for her nap at the time and came out to hear a message from him.

“Hi Pam.  It’s Dad; I’m up North and doing something you’re not going to like.  I have to tear down the fort.  It’s getting old and I’m worried kids will climb on it and get hurt.”

It was sweet of him to leave me the message and he was right that I am sad about the demise of “Fort Thunderbird,” the scene of so many wonderful childhood memories.  But I know he’s right:  it’s time.

Certainly any parent can’t argue with the logic of removing warped and rotting boards that might beckon children to a bad fall from a tall, previously wonderful tower where you can gaze through the dense woods with binoculars, looking for deer, birds, or a rogue pirate sneaking up to ambush.

And every adult could understand that an empty theatre, with a stage visited only by ghosts of children performing plays about sailors, pirates, and wounded souls in need of laser surgery, is no longer operational.

But I know why he really left the message.  He’s seeing his children charge him a quarter for those performances, running around in the pirate hats, with swords he handcrafted from paint sticks, and secret treasure maps he drew in his own hand.  He’s hearing small feet come thundering down the path from the fort screaming about snakes.  He’s emptying buckets of rocks collected by small hands and left in the tower for safekeeping.  He’s remembering those precious days of freedom we all found together, away from work and the duties and obligations of home.  Summer vacations at the cabin where we all spent time in nature and in the company of each other were the best memories of my young life and I know they were some of his as well.

My Dad has gently reminded me that time is changing and we cannot hold onto the things of our past forever. We have to evolve and grow and open ourselves to new and equally wonderful journeys. My daughter, V, my little niece, A, and any subsequent additions to our family will not experience the joys my sisters and I got from the tower fort with real bark walls that my parents erected some 20+ years ago.  But they will still have a family who believes in the power of imagination and fantasy.  I know we’ll find new ways to pass on our dreams and experiences to the newest generation in our family. Though their feet will never climb the tower of Fort Thunderbird, nor grace the performance stage, and they will never set an old rope spool for tea while seated on driftwood seats inside it, together we will make our own magical childhood summer memories.

Thanks to my parents for gifting us with “Fort Thunderbird” (alternately known as “Thunderbird Theatre”) and for inspiring us to use our creativity through play in nature.

Hot Novels in the Summertime

(photo by PML)

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson:

The first novel in the Inspector Ann Lindell series, The Princess of Burundi explores the death of a reformed criminal turned family man who was found murdered. I am enjoying this Swedish series as a small window into modern Swedish culture and life and also because the main character, Ann Lindell is a new, working mom, trying to figure out herself as a mother.  She doesn’t strike a conventional balance, and I find that her character’s struggle to pave her own way is very believable.  Eriksson is becoming one of my go-to mystery authors; someone I can count on to provide an interesting and enjoyable tale.

The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran:

This well-researched historical novel explores the romantic relationship of poet John Donne and Ann More. I found it a very enjoyable read.  I think Haran did a great job showing the options and struggles of women in that time period, and how difficult, if not entirely impossible, it was to marry for love.  The strong Ann More is a character you can’t help but love, as John Donne discovered for himself!  And this story makes me want to go read Donne’s work with a fresh perspective.

The Midwife’s Tale by Gretchen Moran Laskas:

This story of three generations of West Virginian midwives, of love in its many forms, and of loss and healing was so wonderfully crafted.  The sense of place, the smooth, graceful prose, and the carefully crafted main character, Elizabeth demonstrate why Gretchen Laskas was selected as this year’s recipient of the Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Award.  While this story contains “romantic” elements, I found I was more moved by the mother-daughter relationships. The connection between the generations of women in The Midwife’s Tale is so well-written and poignant.  As the mother of a daughter, I felt Laskas really captured the complex love that exists in that relationship.  She writes about how we differentiate ourselves from our mothers with our choices, about the ways we find our mothers in ourselves through growing and understanding their experiences as we move through life, and about how the love between mothers and daughters can change and heal. I can’t wait to hear Laskas speak in the fall during the Appalachian Heritage Writer-In-Residence program.    

How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed:

A cute read; this romance is a light, modern, summer-appropriate tale about an antiques dealer who has been unlucky in love. Any fans of the chick-lit genre will enjoy!

Got any recommends for fun summer reading?  Feel free to share in the comment section below or on TheRippleEffect2009 Facebook page!

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