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Showing posts from 2009

Guilty Pleasures

Let's talk about guilty pleasures, shall we? You know, the stuff you love that you should be scoffing at instead.
Here are my confessions:
People Magazine. I have a degree in English. I even graduated with honors. I've read many of the classics, and have slogged my way through Faulkner with the best of them. As such, I should be embarrassed all to hell to read People. But, almost nothing makes me happier on a Friday night. If I can read it in a hot bath with a glass of Riesling (or a Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi) perched on the edge of the tub, so much the better.
Bad Pop Music. One of my favorite hobbies is scoping out new music. I actually spend a fair amount of my time listening to music-related podcasts and reading music blogs. Few things thrill me as much as finding an inventive new song and adding it to my music library. 2009 found me grooving to Metric, the XX, Animal Collective, and Thao. Why, then, do I have "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz on my iPod? And &…

The things a daddy does

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This is what all the fussing and cussing was about. To give you an idea of the size, it is 51 inches tall.

I always knew my husband would be a good dad. I never heard even a hint of "must have a son" from him (even though he does loves sports). Now that our daughter has gotten a little older, she is serving capably as a playmate for him. They play Lego Batman on the PS3, they talk about super heroes, and they rummage through the pantry (in search of baked goods) together. They conspire to keep things from me, such as a red light accidentally run and a hunk of toothpaste smeared on a freshly-laundered dress. Last night I was on the phone with my mom but could hear the two of them singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, replacing all of the verbs with the word "fart." They were both howling with laughter.

I took care of most of the Christmas preparations, but P took it upon himself to go out and get her four sets of super hero figurines. "Ugh," I thought. He …

You'd Better Not Pout, I'm Telling You Why

When I was little, we lived in an apartment in Maryland. I knew how Santa got into one's home and I was also well aware that we didn't have a chimney. I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that, even as a young child, I was every bit as high-strung and fretful as I am now. I all but had a coronary event over this how-does-Santa-get-into-our-house issue. Seriously, I lost sleep over it.
My mom, in her infinite wisdom, told me this: "Santa takes a pill and it makes him very, very small. He walks right under the door!" As implausible as this explanation may seem now, I totally bought it. I think I just needed something, some reassurance that Santa would not face any obstacles in bringing me my gifts. You do NOT want to make things difficult for St. Nick, through such means as not having a chimney. I did briefly wonder how this microscopic Santa would get my full-sized presents under the apartment's front door, but I quickly dismissed it. Fortunately for us,…

Fourth Time's The Charm

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Gretchen and I recently completed the Pre-Novice Obedience training class for the third time. Now, please understand that most duos do have to repeat the class at least once. You have to be able to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in the various exercises before passing into Novice Obedience, where the dogs are off-leash much of the time. Most do not make it through on the first try. So, I wasn't too surprised about having to repeat the class after we botched the first final evaluation. The second time we took the class and didn't pass, I was vaguely embarrassed but mostly took it in stride. By the third time, I felt like Gretchen had improved a lot. One of the hardest exercises is a "stand for exam." She has to remain standing while I move six feet away from her. The evaluator moves towards her and touches her head and then touches her back in a couple of places. The dog needs to remain planted and not move at all. We struggled mightily with this o…

My First School Concert

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I attended my first school concert (dubbed "Winter Wonderland") yesterday. Or at least, it was my first one as a parent. P's sister was in town so she went with us. A was very excited to have her parents and her aunt there. She dressed up for the occasion.
First off, some of you seasoned parent types could have warned me that getting there 15 minutes ahead of time would not be anywhere close to early enough. When we walked into the school gym, every parent and grandma in town was already there. A lady gestured to me that there were two seats open to the right of her, so my sister-in-law and I sat down. A coat was partially covering my chair but I didn't really think anything of it. It turned out that the lady to the right of me had been attempting to save two chairs, not just one. She started loudly saying things like "WELL, I GUESS IT'S GONE NOW" and "I GUESS THEY'LL HAVE TO SIT ON EACH OTHER'S LAPS." I turned to her and apologized fo…

Things That Suck (Issue #52): The Circus

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight. - Albert Schweitzer

I was elated to see this recent Washington Post article about the training of circus elephants. Don't worry - the article is not overly graphic. Don't be afraid to check it out. When a former elephant trainer acknowledges that there is rampant cruelty in training these animals for circus acts, it's hard to spin it any other way.

Although I don't consider myself an animal rights extremist, I do hold firm the belief that animals should not be used for entertainment purposes. What is done to elephants and other non-human circus performers in the name of good family fun is truly unconscionable. There is nothing natural or fun about wrapping ropes around a young elephant calf (who has probably been forcibly removed from his mother) and forcing him to the ground. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I hope other parents will consider rejecting the circus as a form of famil…

That's Hobo with a B

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Giddy thought the stuff from Goodwill smelled mighty suspicious.

My daughter became a hobo today. She didn't know what a hobo was, so I explained to her that's it's someone who has no home (although I guess there's also a connotation that a hobo is sort of a purposeful vagabond, a lovable character even . . . but I didn't go there). She was playing the part of the train-hopping hobo in a Christmas play at church. The children were performing "An Orange for Frankie," based on a book by Patricia Polacco.

Let me tell you, it was a hard sell. I spun it as a "won't it be fun to wear a costume" sort of adventure, but she saw it a bit differently. A lot differently, in fact. She has worn only dresses for almost two years now. I went to Goodwill and picked up some overalls, a red shirt, a red bandanna, and some gloves (I cut off the tips of the fingers - very clever, ne c'est pas?). I bought these items in the boys' section. If my daughter…

Updates on Stuff

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A few random updates:

I had no idea that the mystery of the doll with the green thing on her head would keep people up at night. A few friends and aquaintances have posted various theories on my Facebook page. "Do you think maybe she meant Tinkerbell?" Or, "I saw this doll at Target - maybe this is the one?"

The good news is that A has mentioned fifty other toys since she first asked for the doll with the green thing on her head. My mom is getting her the Tiana doll from Princess and The Frog. Then, if that's not the doll the kid was talking about, we'll just say, "That's what we thought you meant." Case closed.

This "I want I want I want" business is precisely why I'm on a mission to have her buy a gift for the Toys for Tots program. Maybe it will hold some meaning for her if she can hand a doll or a game directly to a handsome, uniformed, too-young-for-Mama smiling Marine. I once read that kids aren't really capable of thinkin…

#400

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My 400th post! Please, hold your applause!

Seriously, though, I'd like to thank those who read my random little blog and those who link to it from their own. And the 26 souls who follow it on Google Friend Connect. I have to blow a kiss to my longtime friend J, who wrote "Obsessed with every detail of this fascinating and alluring woman's life" on his Google profile. Ladies, if you don't have a supportive gay male friend, I suggest you seek one out immediately. While I still have not met my goal of submitting my writing to various sources for possible publication, every day I inch just a little closer. The dream, it remains. Thank you for reading!

In other news, my friend Kari Beth came over yesterday to take some photos of my daughter. I still have not decided if I am sending out Christmas cards this year. I'm under a lot of stress at work right now and I'm really trying to enjoy the holidays without adding any additional angst. In any case, I've go…

Me So Smug

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My daughter asked for a Fur Real Lulu Cat for Christmas. Our cat hates her so of course she is obsessed with all things feline. She often pretends to be a cat and makes me rub her belly. When it is time for A to get out of the bath tub, she tells me I have to say, "Please get out of the tub, kitty."

So, when she saw the commercial for the Lulu cat, she said she wanted to add it to her list for Santa. And then began talking about it ad nauseum soon thereafter. I started doing a little digging online and found a message board entirely devoted to shopping at Target (seriously). One of the members indicated that Target had a coupon book offering great deals on toys, and that said coupon book included $10 off on the Lulu cat. Target didn't just leave this little goldmine laying around at its stores, however. You had to ask for it at the service desk (the coupons expired before Thanksgiving, so don't get any ideas). So a few weeks ago, after taking Gretchen to obedie…

Confession #47

Here goes: I have an intense dislike for "The Christmas Shoes," to the extent that hearing just a few notes of it when flipping through radio stations elicits a fairly violent response from me. Yes, "The Christmas Shoes," one of the most beloved songs of all time. To many people, this is akin to saying you don't like oxygen.
Here is a sample of the lyrics:

It was almost Christmas time
There I stood in another line
Trying to buy that last gift or two
Not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me
Was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing around like little boys do
And in his hands he held
A pair of shoes

And his clothes were worn and old
He was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Now, I love holiday songs as much as the next girl. I can Feliz Navidad with the best of them. I even have over 100 Christmas tunes on my iPod. But this cloying song with its treacly lyrics . . . I just can't hack it…

What, oh what, will she buy?

Last week I received a letter from my daughter's school (not the "your child failed the hearing test" letter - this was a different one). The parent organization is setting up a holiday gift shoppe so that the kids can buy "winter holiday presents" for family members. Each student is allowed to purchase up to eight gifts, at a cost of $1.25 each. They sent home a printed sheet of blank gift tags and I'm supposed to fill in the eight names. My first inclination was to put my own name on all the tags. Then I decided that maybe that isn't the best way to make a good impression on the school, particularly since I plan to send my child there for the next seven years.
I remember shopping at a holiday store at my school when I was in the second grade. Guess what I bought my father? An ashtray. It was the kind that consisted of a beanbag on the bottom (plaid, no less) and had the metal part with the cigarette holder attached to the top. Can you imagine i…

Mission Accomplished

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Indeed, I did get up at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday. Some of my friends who are Black Friday veterans advised me in advance not to take it too seriously, so that was the attitude I took. I was armed with shopping lists for my two nieces and three nephews. I scanned the ads on Thursday and plotted my strategy. I actually ordered some stuff online on Thursday, when some stores started their price drops. I knew Best Buy would be a nightmare on Friday so I ordered online from there (and got free shipping to boot). I also ordered a dollhouse for the kid from another retailer. The next day, she started blathering on about some very specific dollhouse that is NOT the one Santa ordered. Someone needs to tell her that once you submit a wish list to Santa, there are no edits. Santa accepts the first edition and that's all there is to it.

When my alarm clock went off at 4 on Friday, I very nearly turned it off and ended the lunacy right there. But, the dogs had also heard the alarm and…

Oh, hand-print turkey, how long I have waited for thee . . .

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The kid has come home with turkey art every day for the past week or so. Construction paper turkeys, coloring book turkeys, etc. At church she made a hand-print turkey, which is the pinnacle of turkey-related art if you ask me. During my long, long journey to become a mom, I often filled my head with daydreams of macaroni art and hand-print turkeys. And now the day has come!

The emphasis on turkeys is always a little bit of a mystery to me, though. Why not a cornucopia or something?

Every year at least one person asks what on earth I will eat for Thanksgiving since I'm a vegetarian. I've been adhering to a meatless diet for over 20 years now so it's not as if I'll suddenly be baffled by this particular holiday. And for those of you who have seen me - do I look like I am missing any meals? Call me what you want, but don't call me late for dinner! Ha ha! I'm here all week, folks! Tip your waitresses! Anyway, the answer to the question is that I will eat ever…

The one where I get all old and prudish

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I've been trying to decide if the Adam Lambert kiss is worth all the attention it's getting. I know you base your own world view around my take on current events, so here goes: I think it was over the top. Too much. However, not because he kissed another dude, but because it appeared as though he plumbed the depths of the guy's esophagus with his tongue. Seeing the same kiss between a man and a woman wouldn't have made it any less cringe-worthy in my book. Or even two chicks (my husband might disagree with that assertion).

More and more, I form my opinions around this basic barometer: is this something I'd want to explain to my four-year-old? And in this case, the answer was no. It would be one thing if the show had aired in the wee hours, but it didn't. It was prime time (albeit fairly late in the evening). My daughter didn't see the performance, but she is a night owl in the making and it's only a matter of time. I feel stupid enough because I was lett…

Can you hear me now?

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We received a letter from the health department today. RE: "your child." It turns out she failed the hearing exam at school. Twice. The letter says that "your child may have a hearing loss that is medically and educationally significant." We're supposed to take our daughter for a more formal auditory evaluation.

This notification from the health department, while slightly alarming, is at least marginally better than the one my sister received: "your child may have head lice." My niece did, indeed, have lice. At this point I can't even call my sister's house without itching and scratching all the while. I may have to unfriend her on Facebook just to be on the safe side. Those little nits are pretty tenacious, you know.

So, it looks like I'll be making the kid an appointment with the pediatrician on Monday. Then I guess we'll see where we go from there. Her pediatrician (well, an assistant) did attempt to carry out a hearing test a…

How to explain . . .

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My daughter's birthfather is behind bars. He was sentenced to three and a half years in state prison when A was just a few months old. The charge? Second-Degree Sexual Assault of a Child (in other words, sex with a minor). It's unsavory any way you look at it, but I do think it's only fair to differentiate between the 21-year-old dumbass who has sex with an older teenager and the pedophile who molests a small child. It is my understanding that he is the former.

He was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2009 so, out of curiosity, I pulled him up on the circuit court website last week. There was a notation in the records that his parole was revoked. I was a little confused about some of the details of the case so I asked my friend Kim to take a look. She spent many years working for the police department as a dispatcher (I wish she still did because I miss hearing all of the morons-who-call-911 stories, such as the people who ring 911 on the 4th of July to ask where fi…

Eye Eye, Captain

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I accompanied the kid to her first official eye exam yesterday. I took her to my optometrist. He told her, "You can call me John." What the bleep? I don't get to call him John!

I didn't have any particular concerns about A's eyes (her ears are a whole other matter - she gives the impression of being stone deaf most of the time). However, I wanted to take her in now to get a baseline for future eye exams. She had a lot of trepidation about the exam, so I plied her with a slice of cake beforehand. I truly did not want her to be nervous about it, though I have to confess that my pre-exam angst over the puff-of-air-in-the-eye test is enough to cause me to need therapy myself.

My daughter knows her letters quite well, but for younger kids they do the visual exam using pictures on the eye chart. She had no problem recognizing the tiny images, however minute. Until . . . Dr. K (AKA "John") shone the light on a tiny little image of a telephone. It was a t…

What eez it, man?

[Bonus points for those who recognized that as a Ren & Stimpy quote.]

A couple of people have asked me about the doll with the green thing on her head. Believe me, it is bugging me, too. You have no idea. The more A talks about it, the more I think she is truly expecting this doll under the tree on Christmas morn.
I have quizzed her repeatedly about the mystery figurine. The level of detail she provides makes me think that she did, indeed, spot the doll somewhere. The description I get from her: "she has brown hair and a green crown on her head and a green dress on her body. And she's in a box." I have tried asking for the doll's name. "Um, Alexa?" she usually replies. I can tell she doesn't know. There is an Alexa doll in existence, which is from that blasted "Princess and the Diamond Castle" movie. Alexa does not wear green; her dress is purple and blue.

I have tried Googling "doll with green crown" and "green dress doll&quo…

Dear Santa

November 10, 2009

Santa Claus
The North Pole

Dear Santa,

It's been a few decades since I've written to you. I hope you are doing well. I assume I've managed to maintain my spot on the good list all these years. As you know, I'm a bit of a goodie-two-shoes. Well, mostly. You don't include the college years in your calculations, right? I also assume there's some sort of statute of limitations on childhood offenses, such as the time I put my middle sister in the dryer and turned it on. Of course, you know full well I only let her go around a couple of times and that she grew up just fine.

Anyway, enough about me. My daughter is going to be writing you a letter shortly. Well, I should say she'll be dictating a letter - she only knows how to write her name and a couple other words. She is going to be asking you for "the doll with the green thing on her head." I have no earthly idea what she's talking about, so I sure hope you know. Additionally, she'…

Will everyone think I look silly?

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My daughter, almost since birth, has generally sported a devil-may-care attitude about her conduct, her appearance, etc. That's how most kids are and that's how it should be. Slowly but surely, though, I'm noticing a new self-awareness sneaking in.

My artsy-craftsy friend Nancy gave her a handmade Halloween pin a couple months ago. The pin is a foam candy corn. It's cute and age-appropriate. When we were visiting my mom last month, I put it on A one day. She looked down at it, frowned a bit and asked, "Is everyone going to think I look silly?"

"No, of course not," I replied, puzzled. For starters, we were in a town over 1,000 miles from where we live. This little hamlet (Corn, Oklahoma - no lie) is so tiny that it has no streetlights and only a handful of stop signs. The odds of someone she knows spotting her and guffawing over her candy corn pin were pretty small. Infinitesimal, even. Second, we had no plans to leave the house that day. My mo…

Dead Things

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I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her. - Ellen Degeneres

Thanksgiving is going to be odd for me this year. Normally, I go to DC to spend the holiday with family. Or last year, I went to Oklahoma to spend it with my mom (as you'll recall, my parents are in the process of moving from the DC 'burbs to windy Oklahoma). This year, I took the trip early, spending part of October in OK with my daughter. This means I'll actually be home for Thanksgiving this time around. I think we've managed to score an invitation to eat the big meal with friends. If you are thinking, "Wait, isn't she a vegetarian?" - I am, but it's not as if there is some shortage of food on Thanksgiving. I can manage to eat myself into a stupor just like everyone else.
While I'm happy to be spending Thanksgiving with my husband this year (for …

Let's Pretend I'm a Grown-Up

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It's hard to fight crime when you're wearing three layers

After trick-or-treating last night, I helped the kid take a shower. We needed to wash red hairspray out of her hair and chocolate off her hands. I grabbed the hand-held shower head and aimed it at her thick curls, while she danced and spun and did everything she could think of that might lead to what they call a "household injury" at the ER.

She stopped mid-spin and turned to me. I was kneeling outside the tub and we were eye to eye. "Mama! Let's pretend I'm a grown-up, okay?"

"Gotcha," I said. "You're a grown-up." All I could think of was how the "grown-up" had been repeatedly yelling, "I FA-ARTED!" just hours before.

I finished rinsing the shampoo out of her hair and grabbed a towel. "Since you're a grown-up, exactly how old are you?" I asked. For the record, she is four and a half.

She raised her chin and smiled. "I'm five.…

There but for the grace . . .

The morning I left Oklahoma, I stopped at a gas station near Oklahoma City. I had to fill the rental car because otherwise I think they make you hand over a kidney when you attempt to turn it in half-empty.

As I got out of the car, I saw a guy approaching me from my left. He got out of a car that was parked on the other side of the gas pump. He looked to be in his mid-20s and was wearing black pants and a grey jacket.
"Hi," he started. "We're trying to get home to Texas and we just need some money for a pump for the car." He told me what kind of pump he needed but I can't recall. A water pump? Fuel pump?

I looked over at the car. I'm not into cars but I think it was a 1980-something Mustang. It seemed plausible that it could, indeed, need all sorts of parts. The guy held up a driver's license and pointed back at the car. "This is my wife's Texas driver's license, just so you know this isn't a scam or anything. That's my wife - …

Maybe you can go home again

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My vacation has drawn to a close. "The Girl Trip," as my daughter called it. Ten days of mother-daughter togetherness which were, believe it or not, downright relaxing. And Oklahoma, it's definitely growing on me . . . if only they'd do something about the wind, for crap's sake.

It took me a while to adjust to the idea of my parents living somewhere other than Northern Virginia. I'm like a cat - don't even move the couch an inch or I'll have a panic attack. You'll recall that I whipped up a fair amount of angst over their decision to leave the old house and move to Oklahoma. I still have the old house key on my keyring. I cannot bring myself to remove it.
Slowly but surely, though, I've adjusted to the change. This vacation was generally very relaxing. I found time to write. I finished one book (Izzy and Lenore by Jon Katz) and tucked into another (The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion). I took a lot of long baths, closing my eyes and sin…

Hey ya

I know you have been thinking to yourself, "Self, I wonder what Claudia has been listening to lately?" I love fall because that's when a lot of artists release new stuff. When critics start cranking out their "best of the year" lists in December, they are more likely to remember music they just heard in September or October.

My wee baby sister (Red Earth Redhead) and I are thinking of starting our own music blog. We might call it Red Alabaster. Or Alabaster Red. Or, "We'd rather eat glass than listen to Lady Gaga." It's catchy, no?

One album I was really excited to hear this month was the newly released "Know Better Learn Faster" by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. I loved their last album, "We Brave Bee Stings and All."

I can't find a video, but here is a cut called "When We Swam."

I'm also excited about the new stuff coming out from Vampire Weekend. This song, "Horchata," grows on me more each time…

I don't like you anymore!

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She doesn't like me anymore, apparentlyMy mom (whom we are visiting) has five cats: Earl, Perry, Sally, Wilfred, and Heinz. (I know, I know - the woman is spending my inheritance on Fancy Feast and scratching posts.) Heinz, the newest addition, is a blondish-orangish kitten born on my sister's hobby farm. Although I keep telling my daughter that we are dog people, she is fascinated by and enamored with kitties. We do have a cat at our house as well, but Ella Fitzkitty has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to children.

Of the five cats, two are pettable. Sally will bite and Earl will scratch. Earl will let you pet him, but only on certain areas of his body (I learned that the hard way when we visited last year, though the scar on my hand did eventually fade). I've instructed the kid not to touch him at all. Perry has an advanced degree in hiding, so we don't see him much. That leaves Heinz and Wilfred. Wilfred is very sweet and welcomes the attention. But here's …