Thursday, October 29, 2009

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 - she's six months pregnant." A young woman in the back of the car jutted her hand forward and stuck it out the passenger's side window, waving just slightly. She was wearing dark sunglasses. I could not tell if she was pregnant. An unshaven man sat behind the steering wheel. I glanced at the license, which looked like it had seen the inside of a washing machine a few times.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't live here and I really don't have any money."

I don't know why my place of residence had anything to do with the situation at hand. I felt like a goober for saying it. He nodded and went on to the next pump, approaching an older guy who was leaning against his Toyota as the tank filled.

I watched this young guy go from pump to pump. This was a large and busy gas station. Each person in turn shook his head, frowning as I had when I said no. As if to say, "I would if I could, man. Sorry."

The truth was, I only had about $17.00 in cash on me. I needed some money to get through the airports on the way home - lunch, tipping the skycap, bribing my kid with snacks, etc. As I stood there pumping gas into the car, though, I began to feel I had made a mistake. I looked at my car and took stock. Sure, it was an oldladymobile and a rental, but it was a 2010 oldladymobile. My daughter sat in the back of the car, watching "Peter Pan" on her portable DVD player. I glanced at my GPS, which was attached to the front window. My iPod sat on the seat, charging its battery via the cigarette lighter. P and I basically live paycheck to paycheck. I buy things I shouldn't. We are still paying on an adoption loan and our daughter is four and a half. And yet, life isn't half bad. We have jobs, cars, college degrees, 401K's, and a home that we own.

I grew up in the suburbs of DC. Seeing homeless people standing on the corner at a stoplight was a common occurrence. They usually carried a handwritten cardboard sign. You generally didn't give to any, because you couldn't possibly give to all. You left it to the tourists to do it. I can only recall one occasion where a homeless man was anything other than passive. My friend J and I had taken the Metro downtown and were walking near the National Mall. A man in tattered clothing ran up to us and kept shouting, "CAN I AX YOU A QUESTION?" at me.

I finished filling the tank and climbed back into the car. I opened my wallet and decided that I could, after all, spare a five (but at the same time realizing it wouldn't help all that much). I got back out and handed it to the man behind the wheel. The other guy was still making the rounds of all the pumps. "I'm sorry, I don't have much cash on me," I apologized.

His face brightened. "Oh, thank you so much!" he said, taking the money.

I don't know if I did the right thing or not. Maybe my five dollars went into someone's arm. Or maybe they drank my five dollars. Or maybe . . . they were stranded and just needed a part to get home.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Maybe you can go home again


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 sinking into the old but marvelously deep tub, whose faucet carried a seemingly endless supply of hot water. Outside the bathroom door, I could hear my mom and my daughter playing "Rhino's Rampage" and reading stories together. My mom dug out some old books that belonged to my youngest sister. Fraggle Rock (with those hard-working Dozers), the Care Bears, and The Diggingest Dog . . . all just as we'd left them years ago.

Eventually I realized that the new house in a different state isn't so foreign to me after all. Same stuff, different house. Memories intact. My mom showed A a photo of me at nine months and my daughter was both delighted and mystified. She still cannot believe her dad and I existed before she was born. I opened a kitchen cabinet to find a green mixing bowl that has been around since before I was a twinkle in anybody's eye. My mother made chili and fudge during our visit, both tasting precisely the same as they did three decades ago. Mom still watches goofy old musicals, but on a flat-screen TV now. It must be a matter of some disappointment to her that her three daughters have failed to find the magic in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."

I realize I am fortunate that I come from a family whose members get along. I chat with my mother and my sisters multiple times a week. I have no cause to shake my fist at perceived slights. I have long battled several medical issues that caused my childhood to be less than idyllic, but this was no fault of my parents. As a family we had at least our fair share of hardships both great and small. But still, we all get along. We fancy ourselves a clever lot, able to dish it out AND to take it.

During our visit, the kid and I also got to spend a lot of time with my sister (A's "Aunt Craggy"), her two sons, and her husband. We visited their hobby farm, affectionately known as "Dammit Farms" (so named because something always seems to be going wrong). My one-year-old nephew bid me adieu with an open-mouthed kiss, as only a baby can. I slept until nearly 9 a.m. most mornings. Normally I am already on my mid-morning snack at work by 9 a.m.

The relaxation came to an abrupt halt at O'Hare, when my little cherub threw herself on the floor in front of the massive panel of arrival/departure monitors. If there's anything that will snap you out of your vacation-induced reverie, it's a four-year-old shrieking, "I DON'T WANNA WALK ANYMORE YOU HAVE TO BUY A CART CARRY ME I WANT ICE CREAM YOU ARE MEAN!"

This is why, when I turned her over to her dad a few hours later, I made my usual post-girl-trip declaration: "Congratulations, Mr. M! It's a girl!"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

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 hear it.

If you're looking to add some new tunes to your iPod, some of the 2009 albums I think are worth checking out:
  • M. Ward: Hold Time
  • Neko Case: Middle Cyclone (give "People Got a Lotta Nerve a listen - you'd have to be some kind of ass not to dig it)
  • Gossip: Music for Men
  • Bat for Lashes: Two Suns
  • Camera Obscura: French Navy
  • Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (I never tire of "My Girls" no matter how many times it pops up in shuffle mode on my iPod)

I liked Lily Allen's "It's Not Me, It's You," but I find her to be so insufferable that I have a hard time giving her much of an endorsement.

That's all I can think of for now. I'm on vacation and am using as little of my cerebral capacity as possible. Speaking of which, I've got to stay on schedule if I'm going to finish this bottle of vodka before my flight leaves on Monday. Ciao!

Friday, October 23, 2009

I don't like you anymore!


She doesn't like me anymore, apparently

My 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 the tricky part: Wilfred and Earl are identical. Both are smoky grey. The only difference between them (besides temperament) is that Earl's tail is slightly fluffier. A is mostly interested in Heinz the kitten, though, and cannot resist the temptation to pick him up and carry him around.

The other day, the kid poked Earl in the head even after my mom and I explicitly identified the curled-up cat as he-who-shall-not-be-touched. When she did it again, I put her in time-out. A folded her arms, stuck her lower lip out, and shouted through tears, "I don't like you anymore!"

I am not sure what the intended effect was supposed to be. I imagine I was expected to say, "Well in that case, punishment rescinded! You're free to poke the cats." I mean, anything to avoid the alienation of affection, right? But alas, I'm made of sterner stuff and tacked a minute onto her sentence. If there's one advantage to not having become a mom until the age of 35, it's that I have, in fact, been around the block a few times.

I've been hearing this "I don't like you anymore!" exclamation more and more lately, usually when she's in time-out. I don't particularly love time-out as a discipline method, but I've been unable to come up with anything more effective. Her dad and I don't spank her. We give umpteen warnings for each infraction. We take away privileges, toys, whatever. She gets time-out once or twice a month, usually under circumstances where we feel we can't let her call our bluff one more time.

One time, she did something naughty while IN time-out and then I was truly baffled as to what to do. It was like the day Twitter was down and everyone wanted to tweet about Twitter being down. She had smuggled a marker into the time-out corner and then colored on the door. She denied it, but she still had the marker in her hand so it was an open and shut case. I opted to put her to bed early.

So, fellow 'rents out there . . . what sort of discipline would you impose when your little buttercup does something you've specifically asked said buttercup not to do? The time-out bit is only marginally effective. Stockades are illegal, right? Okay, just checking.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Well, this is irritating

A magazine called "Parenting" started showing up in my mailbox about a year ago. I have no idea why, in as much as I did not order it. I usually just flip through it while I'm eating dinner. It's actually a pretty decent little publication; I've just drifted away from parenting magazines because I've already kept my kid alive for 4 1/2 years and most such mags address infant-related issues such as "when to start solid foods." This little gem in the October edition caught my eye, though:

MOM DEBATE
Is it cruel to make your preschooler follow a vegetarian diet?

YES 63% NO 37%

This has to be the most skewed survey I have ever seen. The majority of the population eats meat so gee, do ya think the majority of respondents are also carnivores?

The yesses said things like, "I think it is ridiculous to do this to a child."

So, let me get this straight. I am supposed to prepare meat for my child even though I don't eat meat myself? Not only would the smell make me gag, I don't even know HOW to prepare meat (and have no intention of learning). I think the people who voted yes in the survey probably assume that we vegetarians are serving our hapless toddlers a bowl of lentils every night. I don't actually know what lentils are but I'm assuming they are pretty grody. My daughter gets her protein from sources like black beans (which she loves), soy products such as chik'n nuggets (made by Morningstar Farms), eggs, and peanut butter. Like any four-year-old, she isn't too fond of green things. The rule in our home is that you can't leave the dining table until you at least try what's on your plate. So, she may gag her way through a green bean and then wash it down with copious amounts of apple juice (followed by the obligatory shudder), but I think this is typical of many/most kids her age. Her pediatrician has never had even the vaguest concern about my daughter's diet.

Having said all of that, though, I'm trying to raise a free thinker here. I won't be serving meat in my home, but she will always know that she is free to choose her own diet once she's on her own. Likewise, she is free to choose her religion, life partner, etc. Obviously, my hope is that she will remain a vegetarian and continue to find a home in the Unitarian Universalist tradition (and marry a handsome veterinarian who will give me free vet care), but my main goal is to support her in being the kind of person she wants to be as she grows into adulthood. I will weep openly if she joins the Republican party, but I will do my best to accept ALL of her choices.

A has started to notice that what she eats is different from what her friends consume. I just try to keep the explanations in line with her age and reasoning abilities. Ultimately, I want her to understand the importance of walking gently on our weary little planet. We are visiting my mom in Oklahoma and just yesterday my daughter was petting Carol, one of my Mom's chickens. The kid understands that Carol is our friend (a quirky little friend who regularly gets her ass kicked by the other chickens, but a friend nonetheless). We don't eat our friends.

To have some goober tell me that I'm doing something TO my child instead of FOR her is truly irritating. I don't care what other people feed their kids - I really don't. It ain't my bidness. I may not understand the desire to eat meat, but anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm not the type to say, "I can't believe you're eating THAT." Sure, I may secretly wish they'd Google "factory farming" and do some reading, but I would never tell another parent how to care for their child. Well, except for the moms who let their prepubescent daughters out of the house in shorts with the word "Juicy" on the ass. They've got a screw loose, for sure.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Is it still a vacation if you brought a 4-year-old along?

Day three of the vacation! The flights out to Oklahoma were mostly uneventful. The most challenging part was hauling two suitcases, a car seat, and a carry-on, a feat which is not possible in one trip. Several times I had to abandon one suitcase momentarily - I feared the Homeland Security or TSA people would haul me off in handcuffs at any moment. We needed to catch the shuttle from the long-term parking to the terminal, and I thought maybe the shuttle bus driver would help me with the luggage. She was on the phone (and showed no signs of getting off), so a fellow traveler took pity on me. The kid's Spongebob carry-on is a duffel bag on wheels, so she gamely pulled it across parking lots and airports.

I only yelled at her twice. She had the window seat and could not stop pulling the shade up and then slamming it down. I threatened her with time-out, though I really don't think an airplane has any time-out corners to speak of. I think she knew that as well.

When we got to Oklahoma City, I rented a luggage cart and headed to the rental car counter. By then, I had decided to see about an upgrade. I had reserved a compact car, but I realized there was no way my sister and I could fit three car seats in the back of a compact car if we wanted to go somewhere. The guy was very friendly and called out to the lot to see what was available. I heard him say something about a "Grand Marquis" and my heart sank a little. Then the lot reported that "the red one is dirty." "Whew, dodged that bullet!" I thought to myself. Then the agent turned back to me, "Okay, we have a white Mercury Grand Marquis for you." I smiled wanly and thanked him. Great, an old lady car.

On a side note, there was a middle-aged couple pitching a small fit at the rental car counter. They wanted to pay for their rental car in cash. I don't know if they didn't have a credit card or just didn't want to use one for some reason, but I was baffled either way. I couldn't believe they expected Enterprise to hand over a car without guaranteeing it with a credit card. Enterprise couldn't believe it either, which is why they politely said, "Try Avis." After they left (carless), I asked the rental agent if that happens a lot and he said, "Sometimes. You wouldn't think people would carry on in an airport, but they do. They cry, they stomp their feet, you name it."

I hauled the luggage cart out to the lot to pick up the oldladymobile. It is a brand new car with only 2,000 miles. It is the equivalent of driving an aircraft carrier. Now, you may be thinking, "What is she getting all hoity-toity about? She drives a mini-van." Well, a mini-van actually handles better, believe it or not. And the fact that it's white just adds insult to injury. When I got on the highway, my car was perceived just as I knew it would be. When other drivers spot this white behemoth, they will pass it even it the Grand Marquis is doing Warp 3. The assumption is that the driver is a member of the AARP and she must be passed. Oy, my pride.

The kid and I arrived at my mom's house about an hour later. A proceeded to chase my mom's multitude of cats around the house. My mom also has four chickens, Clark, Carol, Renee, and Vincent. The ladies lay eggs about the size of a large walnut. I'm not sure if they will get bigger over time or if my mom will always need 17 of them in order to make herself an omelet.

The three of us went shopping for groceries and other supplies, whereupon the kid quickly conned her Meemaw into purchasing a Strawberry Shortcake playset. I'll tell ya, that woman was not so putty-like thirty years ago. I had to throw tantrums the old-fashioned way just to get a bag of M&M's at the check-out.

On Sunday we drove to a hotel to attend my nephew's first birthday party. A had fun playing with her cousins. She is less jealous of them than she was last year. The very first time she met her two-year-old cousin, she threw all of his toys down the stairs. Ah, cousinly love. Today, we are headed to my sister's house, AKA "Dammit Farms."


My nephew, doing unspeakable things to baked goods.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh, Oklahoma

The kid and I are headed to Oklahoma (motto: "it's just like where you live, but flatter") tomorrow. As usual, I am looking forward to the time off but dreading the actual travel because my curly-haired traveling companion doesn't listen worth a shit. I just don't know any nicer way to say that. She likes to run backwards through security checkpoints we've already cleared. Fling herself at donut stands and snack vending machines. Skip into the men's restroom. Fun stuff like that.

Once I get through through three airports and the rental car adventure, not to mention the joy of hauling two suitcases, a car seat, and a Spongebob Squarepants carry-on, I'll be in serious need of a drink. But good luck finding one in Oklahoma. I guess they've got the whole "bible belt" thing going on there. I'm not a beer drinker myself but I pity those who are because in many outlets (grocery stores, convenience stores, etc.) the much-maligned "three-two beer" (beer with just 3.2% alcohol) is sold. As my brother-in-law says, "It basically just makes you have to pee."

Last year while I was visiting the Sooner State, I did find one lone liquor store (in the town neighboring the eensy-teensy town where my mom lives) but quickly learned that what would be a $10 bottle of wine in any other state was $15 there. Apparently there are all sorts of archaic liquor laws on the books in Oklahoma. Liquor stores can sell beer with the higher alcohol content, but they cannot refrigerate it. Because, you know, no one would ever dream of drinking it at room temperature. Way to separate the alcoholics from the casual drinkers who own refrigerators! The whole thing is just sort of curious, I guess. It's not like I wanted to get plowed but a nice glass of wine while on vacation seems apropos. My mom said she will take out a loan and buy me a bottle.

Anywho . . . I'll continue to update my blog periodically while I'm on vacation. I'm looking forward to attending my nephew's first birthday party on Sunday. I can't fit anything else in my suitcase so I'll need to shop for him as soon as I get off the plane. So far, the party is the only thing on my schedule for the next nine days, and that's the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Parent-Teacher Conference

Apparently those are whiskers and not a big, hideous spider

I participated in my first parent-teacher conference Tuesday afternoon. As I sat on the wee molded plastic chair outside the classroom and waited for the 4K teacher, I looked at all the painted apple projects on the wall and noticed that my child's was downright unremarkable. Just a sea of red paint arranged in a vaguely circular shape. "Underachiever," I muttered under my breath.

A few minutes later, it was my turn. I felt oddly nervous, as this was the first time I've ever received feedback about my child from a (mostly) objective source. A's been at Kindercare since she was three but I pay them to take care of her so it's not quite the same. First, Mrs. M showed me a self-portrait my daughter had created in class. The marker drawing was of a purple and red stick figure with four appendages coming straight out of her head. No torso. This signifies a bit of a regression, because she had actually begun adding more body parts to her drawings earlier this year. The teacher informed me that the class is currently doing a learning unit on what all the body parts do (well, good God, not ALL of them I hope) so that the children will have a greater awareness about their bodies and how they are assembled. And a spine is predicted to follow in the drawings, I guess.

Mrs. M then showed me a project where the kids had to color three apples (each in a different color: red, yellow, and green). Then they had to glue a series of same-colored construction paper apples next to the colored apple. The first row had red apples all the way across the page. Splendid! She did okay until she got to the third row, where the apples were green green green green red. "She got a little carried away," A's teacher told me with a reassuring smile. She said something about these items "going in your daughter's portfolio." Portfolio? Is that sort of like, "This will go down . . . ON YOUR PERMANENT RECORD"? I was imagining some college admissions officer in 14 years pulling out the portfolio and saying, "Now about this apple incident . . . "

During the conference I didn't hear the "g" word once, though I'm convinced the teacher may just be contractually prohibited from telling me how superior my child is. I did hear a few other phrases like "very social" and "likes to do her own thing on her own schedule." I nodded along. All true, all true. Then she said something like, "she knows a lot about a lot of things" which either translates to "your child is a genius" or "your child won't stop talking." Either would actually be accurate.

Overall, I'd say the conference went well. I did mention to A's teacher that my daughter was adopted, only because the kid likes to bust out with "I was in J's tummy!" in odd settings from time to time and I didn't want her teacher to be caught off guard. I am also acutely aware of the danger of spoiling my daughter, thereby making it more difficult for teachers and other adults to deal with her. When you try for seven years to become a mom and it finally happens, it is very tempting indeed to give your little dream-come-true anything she wants. We do discipline her, but there is virtually no consequence she isn't willing to take in order to carry out her own agenda. What can I say, she's feisty.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And the wiener is . . .


Drumroll please . . .

Okay, this was tough, mes amis. At first, I was a wee bit discouraged because I thought my blog visitors would be all, "Hey, a free thing! I pledge my undying allegiance to the Alabaster Mom blog!" and express some unbridled enthusiasm over the prospect of enjoying some garlicky Italian goodness. Instead, there were a lot of crickets chirping and shoulders shrugging and, "Meh. No thanks." Plus, it seems the many Buca di Beppo locations do not necessarily align with where people actually reside.

Nonetheless, it was tres amusante having lots of people stop by and leave me witty comments.

The top contenders were:

Elizabeth, because she came so very close to bringing a tear to my eye. I miss my Pop.

Lisa H, because she was so darned enthusiastic.

Lisa Y, because she succeeded in leaving me with a random fact that caused me to tilt my head like a dog. It also made me think of the way my husband pronounces ca-shew with the accent on the second syllable ("Ca-shew! Gesundheit!") I don't know what's wrong with him. He also gets in the shower and THEN turns on the water. Let's just say that the odds of me outliving him are very, very good.

Honorable mention goes to Carrie, because I can't believe she remembers a video I posted three years ago. And to Gary, for calling me names and insulting my family all in one fell swoop.

I decided to toss the three names into a hat. Wait, I'm lying. I tossed them into a dusty coffee cup that's been in my cubicle at work since Clinton was in office. I asked my trustworthy co-worker, Tiffany, to (randomly) choose a name out of the cup. Tiffany is too new on the job to do anything devious or underhanded. She even looked away as she pulled the name.

And the winner is . . . Lisa H, in all her glory.

Please post your email address in the comments so that I can retrieve it and then delete the comment (or email me directly if you have my email address). I will then contact you for your snail mail address.

Thanks, everyone, for playing! And thank you for all the nice compliments, even if I did solicit them. I'm all verklempt.

As you were, soldiers.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Buca di Beppo Gift Card Giveaway!


I've been gaining some new readers lately, which is very gratifying. I've done some reading on the topic of optimizing one's blog, and one oft-used suggestion is to have a giveaway of some type. "No," I always think to myself with a self-satisfied shake of my head. "I will not cheapen my blog like that. I want people to come on by because they like my writing." Or because they find me incredibly witty and unmistakably modest. Or they think I have the cutest kid they've ever seen, bar none. Or they are stalking me and need to gather just a bit more personal information before showing up at my workplace with a machete.

I've also noticed that some of the blogs that receive heavy traffic are also very confessional (TMI) in nature. I think harboring a few secrets is healthy, so I'll continue to keep some things to myself, thankyouveddymuch. I'm also keenly aware that I don't really have a reliable shtick on which to hang my blogger hat. I don't have six kids. I don't even have six dogs.

Anywho . . . I'd like to thank my readers who do keep coming back voluntarily and for those who have passed the link to others (and to my sister for posting it on Facebook in the middle of the night, when she may or may not have had a few adult beverages). I'd also like to announce that, because I have no shame, I am having a giveaway! You'll recall that I devoted one blog entry to kvetching about the fact that Buca di Beppo served me dead animal flesh even after I explicitly told the server that I am a vegetarian. Buca rewarded my whining with a $25.00 gift card. I was looking at the card the other day, fantasizing about garlic mashed potatoes, when I noticed that the gift card expires on 12/31/09. The nearest Buca is two hours away from me and there is no chance I'll make it there before the end of the year. Other than that one unfortunate incident, I've always enjoyed going to Buca's and leaving with garlic oozing out of my pores. I also have fond memories of various Buca outings, such as the time my husband hit the Chianti too hard and then did the "I love you, man" routine with all of my friends.

So, I'm offering up the gift card (which is totally transferable, good at any location) to one lucky reader.* All you have to do is leave me a comment. I'm not going to choose the winner in any sort of fair or democratic way. I'm not going to use one of those random integer generator things to choose a comment. Nay, I shall select the one I dig the most.

Suggestions for comments:
  • A suggestion for a song you think I'd like. **
  • Something funny.
  • Something incendiary or vaguely offensive.
  • A compliment using lots of superlatives.
  • A random fact. Bonus points if I learn something from it.
I will choose a comment at noonish on Wednesday. Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.

Updated to add: extending this until Wednesday because I won't be online most of the day on Tuesday. Also, I'm automatically disqualifying anyone who was too fucking lazy busy to simply click on the link and peruse the many franchise locations of Buca di Beppo. Hey, it's my contest - I can do what I want.

*Void where prohibited. What does that mean anyway? What state is prohibiting fun?
**If it's a country song or something from the Top 40, then you owe me a gift card. Seriously.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Daughters (With and Without Fur)


So, Gretchen failed obedience class (Pre-Novice) again. You'll remember the debacle from last time. An over-achiever she ain't.

I guess I shouldn't say she failed the class. She simply didn't get a high enough score on the final evaluation to pass into the next class (Novice). I mean, sure, she's a loser any way you slice it, but she did show some improvement. This time around Gretchen forgot what the word "stay" means even though we've been working on it for six months. She did do an almost picture-perfect finish after the recall, though. I'll give her props for that.

Anyway, yes, we are going to take the class for the third time. I have not given up on my goal of putting some titles on that dog whether she wants them or not. I try to remind myself that I just adopted her in March and that we haven't been working on this stuff since puppyhood. But still . . . forgetting to stay, Gretchie? How could ya?

As for my furless daughter, I will be attending my first parent-teacher conference on Tuesday. I'm actually a bit nervous about it. I assume I'll be hearing this: "Mrs. M, your daughter is a genius the likes of which this school has never seen. Also, she is beautiful and charming. And exceedingly well dressed."

When I pick the kid up after school, I always ask her what she learned that day. "Everything," she invariably responds. If "everything" includes the ability to "circle the owl that's different" then I guess she's all set.

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Here's the song I've been grooving on this week. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to dig it as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Back on the wagon

I've been attending Weight Watchers meetings for over four years now and guess what? I'm not cured. There is no panacea, it seems. It's the original definition of "uphill battle."

I held my goal weight from December 2008 through September 2009. Last time I weighed in, on September 5th, I squeaked by with .2 pounds to spare. I can be two pounds over my goal weight and still be considered at goal, but technically I was already 1.8 pounds over when I stood on the scale last month. In other words, I was already tumbling down the mountain.

Four days after that date, all hell broke loose at work and our team was sliced in half. I gained four pounds that week. Then I got sick. What's that saying: feed a cold, starve a fever? Or is it the other way around? I eat either way, just to be on the safe side. I've continued to go to aerobics and make a half-assed attempt to count my points, but I also succumbed to a "homemade cookie" day at work. I believe I would sell my soul for a perfect, pulled-from-the-oven-at-precisely-the-right-time chocolate chip cookie. And it would be so worth it. I don't believe in hell so there's no real harm.

This week I am atop the wagon yet again and giving it my best shot. I'm hoping to get back to my goal weight (I'm at least five pounds over right now). I have a vacation coming up, and it's hard to say how well I'll maintain my focus. A and I are visiting my mom in Oklahoma and she usually makes fudge. I will not touch any other fudge in the world except the chocolatey goodness my mom creates. She makes it using a recipe from a tattered cookbook she has owned for some forty years. It's magical stuff. And if you know me, you know I don't share, so asking will get you nowhere.

:::snapping out of fudge-induced, Homer Simpson-like reverie:::

I'm going to weigh in on Saturday and face the proverbial music. I know I can get a handle on this thing, but sometimes I don't want to. I want to eat full-fat potato chips and never skip dessert. But then I remember why I walked into that first meeting in 2005. I'm planning to do a lot of things to embarrass my daughter as she grows up, and I didn't want my weight to be one of them. So if I can't do it for myself, at least I should be able to do it for the sake of her once and future social life.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Lowdown

  1. I have the plague, so I'll keep this brief and spare you the deets. Okay, it could just be a run-of-the-mill cold, but I've been a snot factory for a solid week now. I feel pretty. I also had another allergic reaction today, albeit a mild one. The culprit was a tortilla (for those of you keeping score at home).
  2. I picked up a temporary foster dog named Coach. I'm holding him for a few days because Coach's foster dad is in the USMC Reserves and had to do jarhead stuff this weekend. This pooch is only nine months old but is causing a fair amount of tension in our home. He has a thing for me. He's all over me like a cheap suit. It goes without saying that I am a pretty hot ticket, but he is just taking it to an extreme. When one of my own dogs approaches me, Coach tries to keep said dog away. I, in turn, ignore him. Unrequited love doesn't deter him at all - he just tries that much harder.
  3. I gave the sermon at church today, and I actually think it was moderately successful. I'm sure no one knew quite what the Crazy Dog Lady would say.
  4. A decided that she doesn't want to wait two weeks to take a flight to Meemaw's house. She has decided to walk. She wants me to tell her which direction she should head. Every time she is ready to get started, though, a new episode of Dinosaur Train comes on. And you know one can't miss that.
  5. I made the mistake of playing Chutes & Ladders with the kid Saturday night. She got mad when she was about to win and then landed on a chute. She took one look at the square she was on, then folded her arms and jutted out her chin in defiance. "Take the chute, goober," I told her. She shook her head. I don't know if this makes me a bad mom or not, but I'm not down with letting a kid win every game, every time. She gets so feisty, though! I had a flashback to playing Chutes & Ladders with another little kid, many moons ago. My wee baby sister also refused to take the chutes. The only difference between the two is the hair color.

The original bad sport.


Her successor.