Friday, April 18, 2014

Behold the glory!

The dogs were so excited that they started shooting lasers out of their eyes!

What are you supposed to be admiring, you ask? Why, my new carpet, of course. I worked from home today so that I could be here when the installers came. My other half was not thrilled about getting new carpet because . . . well, new things are bad, I guess. I've never quite understood it. As far as I know, the old carpet was the same age as the house, so 25 years old or so. For now, I just had them do the living room, dining room, one hallway, and a closet. Once this job is paid off, I'll have the bedrooms done. I know, it's all very thrilling. And, I know what you may be thinking:

1. "Wow, Claudia, your new carpet is very exciting! I can't wait to hear about your next dental cleaning."  All in due time, mes amis. All in due time.

Or maybe:

2. "My God, it's about time. I'm pretty sure I caught a disease from your carpet last time I was at your house."

I have to say that while the installers were short on English, they were long on manners.  They did a very nice job.  When they first arrived, I told one of the men, "Hi, um, before you rip out the old stuff I just wanted to let you know that I've been fostering dogs for 14 years. I just want to warn you in advance that the padding under the carpet is probably horrifying."

He just nodded and smiled. For all I know, he thought I was telling him that I had peed on the carpet myself.

The kid hates the color. I chose a deep chocolate color because it matches our furniture and seems practical.

"Well," she said. "I just thought you'd ask me about the color or maybe you'd pick something like pink or cyan."  Cyan? WTH?  Who says that?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sewer, Not Sewer

I'm busy preparing for the biggest event of the year - Her Highness' birthday. Now, I must say that there aren't too many occasions on which I'm reminded that my daughter does not carry my DNA around. However, one of those occasions occurred the other day.  The topic of birthday cake came up.

"Hey Goober," I said. "What flavor cake should I order for your birthday?"  We're going out of town for her birthday but we're going to take the cake with us.

"Vanilla," she responded.  "Vanilla cake with white frosting."

"Oh okay. White and white.  No, um, chocolate?"  I glanced at my husband and we exchanged a look that should be translated as what kind of sicko wants a cake with no chocolate in it?  

She looked at me like I'd suggested that she eat a cat poop cake with vomit frosting. "Um, no, Mom. JUST VANILLA. That's what I want."

So, I dutifully stopped at the bakery yesterday and ordered a cake. I was also instructed very specifically to have blue flowers added, so I passed along that requirement as well.  At the bakery counter, they had some samples of chocolate cake so I consoled myself by eating a sliver of that.  She also wants me to bake cupcakes for her class. I have been instructed to bake a set of chocolate ones and a set of vanilla ones.  I just do what she says - path of least resistance and all.

See, if she had my DNA, there is no way she would ever request anything other than chocolate.  I mean, what kind of circus freak am I raising here???? She also prefers vanilla ice cream.  This is generally a good thing because then I am not tempted when we have it in our freezer. Vanilla. Ain't nobody got time for that.

The next birthday-related task is to decide upon a gift. I think my sisters are going in on an American Girl doll for the kid. Suckas! She will be thrilled, I'm sure.  My middle sister is even taking A to an American Girl restaurant when the kid visits her in July.  By the way, you have the watch the video of Conan at an American Girl store (below). I've watched it several times and I laugh until I cry every single time.

As for what her dad and I are going to buy for her . . . I think we may go for a sewing machine. I posted a query on Facebook as far as what kind to buy, and I got a ton of helpful advice. Apparently many of my friends are very artsy-craftsy and know about such things. The big challenge for me is that I don't know how to sew and have no interest in learning. I don't wanna be a sewer. I can sew a button on a shirt or fix a tear, but that's about it. I have a vague recollection of learning to use a sewing machine in home economics when I was in seventh grade (I think they actually called it "Teen Living" or something dumb like that) but I can't say that anything stuck with me. I made a turtle pillow. Done and done.

So, I'm also looking into local classes so that a real live grown-up can teach her. Then maybe the kid can make some clothes for her ugly new doll, too (to my sisters: just kidding!)  If my mom lived closer, I know she would help. I do worry a bit about my daughter's patience (or lack thereof). Sometimes she gets mad at her iPad and punches it.  Then we tell her she owes us $300 and take it away from her for the rest of the day. 

I think the sewing machine will be a good gift, though. They're not super expensive and it seems like a good skill to learn. She likes fashion so who knows, maybe she'll start making her own ugly clothes vs. buying the eyesores at Justice.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Documentary Junkie

A confession: I love documentaries. Although I happily read (and watch) fiction regularly, it seems that the older I get, the more appeal a true story seems to hold for me. My husband and I share a Netflix account. He fills our queue with low-budget horror movies while my selections are usually a) movies that critics didn't hate and b) documentaries. It's funny to see the look on his face when he opens an envelope from Netflix. He's hoping for "The People Under the Stairs" and instead finds out that it's "March of the Penguins" or something like that. "Oh, it's one of yours," he says and tosses it onto the table as if it has offended him in some way.

Last year we finally started subscribing to HBO . . . mostly because we got it free when we upgraded our cable.  Before too long, I had worked my way through all of the documentaries available through HBO on Demand. I wrote about "American Winter" on my blog a while back.

In addition to watching documentaries, I also listen to stories via podcast. My favorites are "This American Life" and "Story Corps."  Here is a recent story from Story Corps.  A man was moved to help a member of his church, a young man who became a quadriplegic after a car accident. The older gentleman went to college with the kid and helped him do everything, every day. A dude like that needs to be celebrated - his story needs to be told. 

I recently stumbled onto a new way to feed my addiction.  I installed HBO Go on my Kindle. It seems to give me access to more stuff than I was finding on HBO on Demand on the TV. A whole A to Z listing of documentaries. Woo hoo!  That's right, I am living on the edge, I tell you.  I watch stuff on my Kindle when I'm in my bathroom getting ready for work.

There's a weird side effect to all of my documentary-watching, though. I now get pissed off about stuff . . . stuff about which I had forgotten I was angry. For example, the other day I watched "The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib."  Now I am newly furious about Donald Rumsfeld and the whole chain of command.  It is no wonder the Iraqi people hate our American guts. It's sad to look back on those early post-911 days, when our collective knee-jerk reaction was to round up anyone and everyone who "looked Muslim." I'm surprised we didn't build internment camps and store all brown people there.

I've also learned a lot from all of my documentary-watching.  I watched one about the little girls who were murdered in the church bombing in Birmingham (Spike Lee's "4 Little Girls"). I watched a documentary about people in comas and learned a bit about traumatic brain injury.  One documentary that really stuck with me was called "There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane." You may remember this story. A woman named Diane Schuler drove the wrong way down the Taconic State Parkway, colliding head on with another car. The three people in the other car were killed.  Diane was killed and four of the five children in her van were killed. The autopsy of Diane's body showed that she had a blood alcohol that was twice the legal limit (they said it was the equivalent of around 10 drinks) and that she had THC (wacky-tobacky) in her body as well. A bottle of vodka was found in the van at the accident scene. The filmaker attempted to make some sense of it all, but mostly failed. It was a good documentary but it didn't uncover the "why." What was striking to me was how her husband and sister-in-law refused to believe that Diane drank and smoked pot that morning. They had the samples re-tested and the results were the same. One theory they presented was that Diane had some dental issues.  They thought maybe somehow Diane got confused and mistook the bottle of vodka for water.  Okay, let's say that she did.  You don't accidentally smoke pot, though. ("Whoops! I'm baked!") It's still an intriguing story as she seems to have been a competent person who, on that fateful day, made the worst mistake ever.

Another one that really made me think was "The Cheshire Murders."  You may remember that one, too. Two thugs targeted a wealthy family and killed everyone but the dad, who crawled out of the burning house and miraculously survived.  His wife and daughters were raped and murdered. Police quickly caught the guys as they drove away from the burning home.  This documentary gave me pause because I'm very much opposed to the death penalty.  However, I don't really know how to reconcile that conviction with my thoughts on what should be done with very-bad-people-who-do-very-bad-things.  The honest answer is that I don't know.  It's no secret that our judicial system has more than a few problems.

I've watched others, but those are the ones that stick out in my memory. It's kind of funny that I am so fascinated with documentaries and such, because when I was a kid, hearing the "tick tick tick" of the clock on "60 Minutes" was the worst sound ever. Watching a news show seemed like just about the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. Now I go out of my way for this kind of stuff. I guess am getting old.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

There is something wrong with me

I seem to be missing some important social skills. I don't know how or why I failed to acquire them, but it seems that I did. I guess I'll just blame my mom - everything is always the mother's fault anyway, right?  I do remember being taught lots of things.  How to act in a nice restaurant, for example. "Respect your elders."  I still think that's an important one to teach kids.  I remember hearing tongue-in-cheek comments about children being seen and not heard. I was always a goody-two-shoes, though.  My parents seldom had to reprimand me for anything, which left them ill-prepared to handle my sassy middle sister when she came along.  But, that's a whole other story.

What I seem to be lacking is some sort of skill that involves being "nice" under all circumstances. I do remember my mother telling me one time that when I'm bored, I should probably try a little harder not to let it show on my face.  I do try to keep that in mind when I'm in meetings sometimes. I have a short attention span and get bored easily.

Years ago, I was invited to a Pampered Chef party.  I had never been to one and am not opposed to kitchen gadgets, so I went.  I did not fit in. AT ALL.  The other women there (and this was before I was a mom) seemed so much more . . . I don't know, wholesome than I am, I guess?  I looked around the room and could have sworn that no one in that room did basic human stuff like, you know, pooping. Or eating Dorito's or cussing or occasionally blowing their nose with toilet paper instead of Kleenex. I don't think those beautifully accessorized ladies did any of these things.  I was seated next to a woman who was thumbing through the catalog. I'd overheard her telling another attendee that she is a teacher.

"What grade do you teach?" I asked her.

"Seventh," she responded.

I said something like, "Oh wow, that must be a challenge. All I did at that age was slam doors."

She looked at me with a slightly puzzled expression and said, "No, they're wonderful. All of my students are such a blessing to me."

Well, alrighty then.  From that point on, I've only ordered Pampered Chef stuff from catalogs. By the way, if you cook with garlic at all, this peely/slicy thing will change your life. That's a tip from me to you. I didn't suffer through that party for nothing, mes amis!

I've learned that I seem to be too snarky and too cynical to sit in a room full of nice ladies and try to buy stuff.  I have a friend who used to sell Arbonne and I have to say that I did enjoy that party because my friend is kind of a smart ass as well.

I did find one exception to the "I'm too low-brow to hang out with nice people" rule.  Smut parties.  A neighbor invited me to a Pure Romance party and it wasn't stuffy at all.  This may have something to do with the volume of alcohol that was served. Awkward, yes. Stuffy, no.

So, knowing what I know about my questionable social skills, it was with some sense of trepidation that I accepted an invitation to a friend's Premier Designs jewelry party last weekend.  But, I had nothing going on that night and really wanted to see my friend, who is easily one of my favorite people. I hadn't seen her in a while. Her driveway was flooded, so she held the party at the home of a friend.  I thought the party would consist of just looking at jewelry and then deciding if you wanted to buy something, but it was a bit more formal than that.  The jewelry lady had us all sit down and gave each of us a name tag.  After introductions, she then launched into a fashion show.  I have to give the lady credit - she was very chipper and very energetic. It's not her fault that I'm so bad at these things. When you saw a jewelry item that you liked, you were supposed to shout "Love it!" The person with the most items on her wish list would later win a prize (the prize turned out to be a purse-sized packet of Kleenex.).

There was a lot of "isn't this darling, girls?" and "how cute is this?" The jewelry lady certainly knew her stuff.  She would whip out a necklace and then re-arrange it in five seconds flat. All of a sudden the back would become the front and off you go. I felt like she could probably show me eight different things I could make out of a bobby pin.

There were a couple of jewelry items that I might consider wearing, but I was unable to muster a "love it!" As you know, I am very fair-skinned and large or chunky jewelry easily overwhelms me. I tend to choose simple jewelry like hoops or a necklace with a smallish pendant on it (where the back does not, at any time, become the front).  Oh, and here's the other thing about Premier Designs. It's a Christian company (the brochure notes that the company was founded on Biblical principles) and therefore no alcohol is served at the parties.  That's all fine and well, but if you want me to spend $39 on a simple pair of hoop earrings, copious amounts of alcohol is just about the only way that such a thing is going to happen.

"I don't think I fit in with your church friends," I whispered to my friend.

"Oh, they aren't that churchy," she assured me. And indeed.  They all seemed very nice. I'm guessing this is the last time she I get invited to a jewelry party, though!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Party of One

Picture this scenario. If you're a mom, it probably won't be too hard to visualize. Let's say that you spent your Friday night at the grocery store (after a long, challenging week at work). You'd found a recipe online and decided to prepare it for your family. While at the store, you made sure you picked up all of the needed ingredients.  Then, before church on Sunday, you prepared said recipe - a vegetarian casserole - and got it ready for baking. After church, you raced home and got the casserole into the oven. When it was done baking, you called out to your family that lunch was ready.  Your daughter showed up with her iPad and acted offended by the meal.  She proceeded to watch funny cat videos on YouTube. Every few seconds you asked her, "Why aren't you eating?" and she ignored you.

This was my afternoon. Irritated that my daughter was being disrespectful, I hopped into the van and drove off.  This weekend brought with it the first decent temperatures we've seen in many months. So, I wanted to be outside.  I headed to a wildlife sanctuary on the other side of town.  I guess everyone else had the same idea - parking was a bear. I finally found a spot and then walked around for a while, looking at birds and otters and other creatures. As expected, my phone rang a few minutes after I arrived. "Mama, why did you leave?"  When she found out where I was, she began to wail and asked me to come back for her. I suggested that perhaps she should be more respectful next time. She called me back several times in a ten-minute span. Finally, she gave up.

As for me, I enjoyed the quiet afternoon. It was kind of nice to be able to walk where I wanted to walk and see what I wanted to see without having to consult with anyone else. The water throughout the sanctuary was mostly still frozen. I wondered if the ducks and geese were second guessing their decision to come back to the area quite so soon. I imagined the geese couples arguing, "See Stacy? I told you we should wait two more weeks. But nooooo, someone said 'it's never too soon to migrate.'"  Inside the nature center, they have telescopes set up so that you can peer into the distant woods and see what you can find  They have a little paper log and a pen stationed nearby so that you can jot down what you spotted through the lens. I looked at the list.  Some people saw red-winged black birds. Another spotted a fat squirrel and a robin. And yet another saw, naturally, "Your mom."

If my sidekick gets her act together, maybe she can join me next time.




Friday, April 4, 2014

There must be some sort of miscalculation

The other day I received an email from a site called "Circle of Moms."  I have no recollection of signing up for these emails, but I receive at least a hundred emails a day so it's not a big deal. The more the merrier, I guess. Anyway, here is the message I received:

Happy 9th birthday to A!
Congrats mama! Your little has officially entered the "tween" stage.


What the?  She's a tween now?  She still can't even turn on the shower by herself. Twice this week she put on her jacket upside down. She pronounces the word "trolley" like "troe-lee."  She can't be a tween!

The kid's birthday is coming up in four weeks. She's been talking about her 9th birthday since her 8th birthday so it's almost anti-climactic when the big day actually arrives.  We only do parties every other year, so this is a non-party year. Why? I don't know. I just don't think kids need to have some big elaborate shindig every year. (I've been informed, however, that "all my friends get a party every year!") On the non-party years, we take a family trip instead. This year, we are going to a resort for the weekend (her choice).  My dad and his girlfriend are driving in from Maryland and will join us as well. I'm letting A bring a friend. A few kids were in the running but I suggested that she invite her cousin. I figured that if the girls start to act up, I can get away with yelling at the cousin (since she's family).  Yelling at a friend from school might be more problematic.

We'll still do cake and presents and all that fun stuff.  The resort has a pool so I'm sure there will be lots of swimming.  I'm hoping that the weather will be nice enough that we can get out and about, as the resort is in a beautiful area with a lake nearby.  I don't know what we're getting her for her birthday. She asked for an American Girl doll, but I put the kibosh on that.  If she wants one badly enough, she can do some chores and save up for it.  She has never really played with dolls much and I think this is just another I-need-one-because-my-friend-has-one dealio.  Plus, if the state of her Barbies is any indication of how she would treat a $110.00 doll . . . no dice.  Her Barbies are all naked and unkempt and spend their days all jumbled up in a big nudie pile.  [insert inappropriate orgy-related joke here]

So yes, my baby is growing up. I thought I just brought her home from the hospital yesterday?!  I don't know about this "tween" business, though. I don't think I'm ready for that.




Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicks' Weekend

I abandoned my family this weekend and went out of town with a couple of friends.  There were no arrests, so that's a plus. It was fun to get away for a night and I didn't even have to yell at anyone to get dressed and brush their teeth.

On Friday night (before I headed out of town), I took the kid to an improv comedy show.  The comedy troupe was holding a fundraiser for a couple of local organizations that provide support to cancer patients. So, I wanted to enjoy some funny stuff and buy some raffle tickets.  Since I won a basket in a raffle the week before, I felt like my winning ways just might continue. Sure enough, I found out yesterday that I won a free night in a hotel room! The hotel is only about 15 minutes away from my house, but what the heck, right?  Of course, once I board the dogs and make babysitting arrangements for my child, the "free" night might run me a hundred bucks.  Anyway, the show was a lot of fun. A friend of mine is one of the performers so it's always fun to see him in his element. I wish I could think on my feet like those talented people do. If someone were to say something funny to me on stage, I might be able to come up with an amusing retort by the following Wednesday. Definitely not five seconds later.

The kid was dying to get up on stage but as luck would have it, they didn't play any audience volunteer games that night. She did yell out some suggestions when the crowd was asked for them (when asked for "an occupation that starts with a c" she yelled "chiropractor!" - what a smartie, eh?)  By the way, if you ever go to an improv show and the audience is asked for suggestions, my friend Gary told me never to suggest any of the following:
  • Britney Spears
  • Jello
  • Bungee Jumping
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Michael Jackson
She also got to choose a name from a hat and a couple other things. At the end of the show, when the referee left the stage, she ran up to him and hugged him. I guess they were besties by that point.  I have to say that the kid is at a fun age now. Instead of shredding her napkin and complaining about how bored she was (something she would have done just a couple years ago), she really got into it.

On Saturday morning, I went to Weight Watchers (lost a little bit of weight - woot!) and then headed to my friend's house.  The three of us then headed out of town.  I felt a little bit bad about leaving the kid behind, because she was stuck going to a comic book convention with her dad. I was hoping there'd be wifi at the hotel and then she could just play Minecraft while her father spent her college fund on comic books.

Saturday was a lot of fun. We stopped at a distillery and sampled some brandy and whatnot. Then we stopped for lunch at a pizza place. One member of our group is vegan and this particular joint has vegan toppings (for an exorbitant upcharge, but still).  After that, we stopped at a candy store and a few other places. We stopped at a little boutique that had a shop dog. Who doesn't love a shop dog?

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening drinking, eating, and swimming.  Then we watched Saturday Night Live and wondered why it's never as funny as one wants it to be.

We headed back home Sunday afternoon. Then I spent the rest of the day catching up on stuff and taking selfies of me and my dog. Don't judge.