When my kids were little, we played all sorts of made up games, most of which involved my singing.  We played one that the boys called, “I Know an Old Lady.”  If it sounds vaguely familiar it’s because everyone knows the folk song I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary (written and composed by Rose Bonne and Alan Mills).  Anyway, our game evolved out of my singing that song to Christian and Jared.  We’d get in the car to go somewhere and one or both of them would shout, “Let’s play I Know an Old Lady, mom!”  So I would start with the first verse.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a fly.  I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.  Perhaps she’ll die.”

Next, one of the boys would shout out something for the old lady to swallow.  For example, Christian might shout, “I know an old lady who swallowed a book!”  I’d echo his verse and add the rhyme.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a book.  She swallowed a book ’cause she was too tired to cook.  Perhaps she’ll die.”  Then, of course, both boys would erupt in laughter.

This back and forth could go on endlessly, with the boys trying to stump me by shouting out bizarre, hard-to-rhyme objects for the lady to swallow, followed by my attempts at composing a verse that both rhymed and made sense.  One of my all time favorites was, “I know an old lady who swallowed the TV remote.  She swallowed the remote and changed channels in her throat.  Perhaps she’ll die.”

Another game we played evolved from the children’s song. Old MacDonald Had a Farm. We sang our version like this.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a (name of family member).  E-I-E-I-O.  With a…” Here’s where the fun started.  Instead of an animal sound, like in the real song, we’d plug in something about the family member.  For example, for Pat, we’d shout out x-ray.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a DADDY!  E-I-E-I-O.  With an x-ray here, and an x-ray there, here an x-ray, there an x-ray, everywhere an x-ray, x-ray.  Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.”

By the way, for those of you wondering about all the x-rays, my husband is not accident prone.  He is a radiologist.  Get it now?  We might plug in something golf related, or  “GO REDSKINS,” for Pat also.  For the kids we’d plug in homework, baseball, Harry Potter, Legos, etc.  Everybody in the family including aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins dogs, EVERYBODY had a variety of things sung about them.  Everybody, that is, except for ME.  Without fail, whenever we played this game and it was my turn, Christian and Jared would sing the same thing about me.  ALWAYS.  I swear.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a MOMMY!  E-I-E-I-O.  With laundry here, and laundry there, here laundry, there laundry, everywhere laundry, laundry.  Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.”

So it came as no surprise to me when Christian showed up at home on Tuesday night before Thanksgiving with four trash bags and a laundry hamper stuffed full of dirty laundry.  Apparently he hadn’t done laundry for close to a month.  For those of you who are not parents of college students, be advised there is something putrid smelling about college student laundry that doesn’t happen when they are living at home.  I’m not sure how or why it happens, but HAVE NO FEAR, my college boy!   No one, I MEAN NO ONE can do laundry like your mama!

When I’m tackling one of those super sized, my-kid-just-came-home-from-college-with-more-dirty-clothes-than-I’ve-ever-seen-in-one-place-outside-of-a-commercial-laundromat jobs, I stick to a rigid protocol.  I’m very good at adhering to rigid protocol, especially if I think it will make my life easier down the road.  First comes what I like to call the primary sorting.  You know, separating everything into the five primary laundry loads:  towels, sheets, darks, lights, and whites.  Everyone does this right?  Next come the subsequent levels of sub-sorting which is the process of organizing the main loads into smaller loads by clothing type.   Let’s take Christian’s darks as an example.  I sub-sorted the main dark load into two smaller secondary loads classified as dark tops and dark bottoms.  These smaller loads were sub-sorted again into tertiary loads.  The dark tops were sub-sorted into the tertiary loads of dark t-shirts, dark collared shirts, dark sweaters, dark sweatshirts, and dark workout shirts.  The dark bottoms were sub-sorted into the tertiary loads of dark jeans, dark twill pants, dark athletic shorts, dark sweat pants, dark underwear, and dark socks.  The process of sub-sorting continues (quaternary, quinary, senary, septenary, etc.) until the loads are small enough to fit into the washing machine.  Once, sub-sorting is complete, stubborn stains are pre-treated and scrubbed and finally loads are sent through the washing machine and dryer, folded and stored (or packed in the case of college students) away.

Maybe you think it sounds like I’m a little compulsive, but I’ll tell you what.  I like order.  The principles that govern the way I do laundry are fundamentally the same as those principles that compel my behavior at the grocery store check out counter.  In the same way I like to place my groceries on the conveyor belt in the order in which I will eventually unpack them from the bags and put them away at home, I like to sort my laundry in such a way as to make folding and putting it away as easy as possible.  You know the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.   I can’t really explain it, but it sort of makes sense.  You know what I mean.

By the time I finished with Christian’s laundry, I had systematically sorted, stain treated, washed (in eco-friendly, phosphate-free, detergent, mind you), sent through the dryer, folded and helped Christian repack 13 loads of laundry.  It was poetry in motion.  I’m not ashamed to tell you that for the better part of two days there was laundry here and laundry there, here laundry, there laundry, everywhere laundry, laundry, but it was worth it.  Dirty laundry that I could barely bring myself to touch was once again clean and fresh.  Amazing. All I can say is  E-I-E-I-O.

TIll tomorrow…Good night.  Sleep tight.


I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing

I’m one of those clean n’ green tree huggers.  Back in the 70’s tree huggers were called granolas or earth mothers.  Come on.  You remember those unshaven men with greasy ponytails and their female counterparts clad in peasant skirts and no bra, standing around on hillsides in their sandals, holding hands, singing stuff like, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”  It’s good for me that being a clean n’ green tree hugger has become more mainstream since then.  That bohemian peasant skirt look is not a good one for me, plus, water conservation aside, I kind of have gotten into the habit of bathing daily.  Don’t even get me started on bra-less-ness.   At my age it’s down right dangerous not to strap the girls into a good supportive bra.

I am what you’d call your twenty first century garden variety clean n’ green tree hugger. Nothing special about me.  I use only 100% biodegradable-environmentally-friendly-plant-based soaps, detergents, cleaners, and personal hygeine products, just like a lot of people these days.  I buy organic food, just like a lot of people these days.  I’m as socially and environmentally conscious as the next guy, but my real motivation in all of this is health.  You’re probably wondering, where is she headed with all of this?  I’ll tell you:  turkey shopping.  Have you ever tried to find an organically raised, humanely treated turkey at the grocery store?  It’s not easy.  Pickin’s were slim again this year, but hey, I’ve got standards and I was determined not to compromise them.  I found my bird of choice in the organic meat section of my local grocery store, where the staff is well acquainted with me and my idiosyncratic shopping tendencies.  One of the butchers saw me coming.  I know he did.  We made eye contact,  and if you can believe it, he pretended not to see me anyway.  He turned on his heel and walked briskly toward the refuge of the swinging door in the corner of the meat department.  Are you kidding?  Motivated by the idea that Mr. Butcher took me for some sort of idiot, I chased him down.

“Excuse me.  Excuse me,” I called, waving and running after him.

He glanced over his shoulder and kept walking.

“Excuse me.  Can I get some help over here?”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t see you there.”  RIGHT.  “How can I help you?”

“Are these the only fresh, organic turkeys you have?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Oh.  Well these say ‘organic,’ but not ‘certified organic’ like the other organic meat.  Why is that?”

“Let’s see, ” he said adjusting his reading glasses and scrutinizing the label.  “Well, now, it looks like they are free-range farm raised without antibiotics or hormones.  So, hmmm, I’m not sure why they’re not certified, but they’re most certainly organic.”

“Is there someone else who might know?”   Gee whiz.  I hadn’t thought to read the label…don’t patronize me.  I mean really, if I’m going to cough up $2.89 versus $0.99 a pound, I want to be sure I’m taking home an organic bird.  Right?

“Let me see if someone can answer your question.  Wait here.”  He sounded rather vinegary and I halfway expected he just might leave me there tapping my foot until I got bored, gave up and went home.

“While you’re back there, would you please check to see if you’ve got any birds in the 18 to 20 pound range?”  I shouted in the sweetest sing-songy voice I could muster.  “All of these are around 15 pounds and I need something a little bigger.”

“Sure,” over his shoulder again, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t listening.  Surprise!  A few minutes later Mr. (Belligerent)  Butcher came back with the meat department manager.

“I’m so sorry, but I never even noticed that these aren’t certified organic, ma’am.  There’s not a huge market for fresh organic turkeys in our demographic here at this store and this is the only brand we were able to get this year.  They probably don’t meet one of the FDA criterion, but they definitely are hormone and antibiotic free.”

“I see.  Okay, thanks so much.”  To Mr. Butcher, “Were you able to find any bigger birds back there?”

“With these birds being hormone free you’re not going to find one much bigger than about 16 pounds.”

“Okay, that makes sense, but all the ones here in the case are 15 pounds or smaller.  Did you happen to find a 16-pounder back there?”

“One pound is not going to make much of a difference once it’s cooked,” was his acerbic retort.  The nerve of this guy.

“Thanks for the cooking tip.  I know how busy you must be.  I’m so sorry to interrupt you.  Perhaps I can make things easier for you.  Just lead the way and I’ll check for myself, or maybe I can ask that nice department manager to check for me.  How about that?”

“I’ll be right back.”

“Thank you.” Tap. Tap. Tap. Humming: la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la in perfect harmony…

“Here you go.  It’s the only 16-pound turkey back there.  It’s yours.”

Was that so bad?  “Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.”   Sheesh.  It would have been faster to hunt down a wild one and shoot it myself.  Maybe next year.  Maybe next year.  I’d like to teach the world to sing, do, do, do , do , do , do…

Till tomorrow…  Good night.  Sleep tight.