Monday, March 29, 2010

Week one report

Down 3.5 pounds. Booyah!

Enjoy this upbeat little ditty. I dare you not to whistle. Mondays need more whistling, for sure.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend Timeline

Friday evening: I attended a pet expo with the kid. We collected a lot of junk. A lot of the booths had "spin the wheel" games and of course my daughter had to spin every one (usually a buck a spin). She won everything from a stencil to a throw pillow. Since I knew a lot of people there (friends from various rescues), I had to stop several times to run my mouth. Every time I turned around, the kid had something new in her hand or in her mouth (candy giveaways). She may or may not have stolen a plastic chick full of dog treats. I never did figure out where it came from.

Friday night, just before midnight: I got up to use the facilities, and slammed my foot into the step stool in the bathroom. The stool (which is actually a heavy, wooden, two-step affair) has been in that bathroom since last July, but I guess my foot forgot. When I got up the next morning, my toe hurt but did not appear to be broken. I decided to go to Weight Watchers and then to the gym, but figured I'd do a lighter work-out than usual. As I walked briskly on the treadmill, all I could hear in my head was a staccato "ow ow ow ow ow" with every step. My toe proceeded to turn various shades of red and purple as the day wore on. You have no idea how much you use and need all five toes until one of them goes out of commission, let me tell you.

Saturday morning: After completing my session at the gym, I headed to Target to do secret stuff in preparation for the Ectr Bune's arrival. I then hid the goods in the trunk of P's car. I'll almost be disappointed to see Easter come and go, because then I lose a bit of leverage with the kid. ("Do you want me to call him right now? Do you?") When I returned home, I quickly realized how big a mistake I'd made that morning when I'd told P, "When the kid gets up, you can just let her pick something to wear." (Normally I lay out an outfit for her.) What I came home to: Punky Brewster. Naturally, both P and A thought she looked just fine and could not comprehend what I was talking about. Skirt on sideways, top that didn't match the skirt, leggings, tennis shoes, and a headband that matched nothing. This was no fashion misdemeanor - it was a full-on felony.

Saturday afternoon: P took Nyquil (yes, the nighttime stuff. yes, in the middle of the day) and fell into a coma on the couch. I took the kid to see a local comedy troupe - I have friends who are in it. They were having a special event and raffle to benefit two local charities that serve families stricken by cancer. I go to this event every year, but have never won anything. The highlight of the event was when my daughter bent her Sprite-filled straw backward, and then let it go, so that Sprite was catapulted into the air and rained down on the man in front of us. He couldn't figure out where it came from, but I made her apologize to him anyway. He had Sprite all over the back of his shirt and his neck. For the next ten minutes, I was transfixed by a gigantic bead of Sprite that held its place firmly on the back of the man's closely-shorn scalp.

Saturday at around 4:40 p.m.: Used the facilities (without maiming my toe this time) and noted that I'd been wearing my drawers inside out all day.

Saturday evening: P and I went on a date. We dropped the kid off with a babysitter and then began the ever-popular "I dunno - where do YOU want to eat?" debate. We finally decided to try a Mexican place we hadn't been to before. The food was so-so, but the prices were very reasonable. After dinner, we went to see Hot Tub Time Machine. Yes, the humor was sophomoric and there were far too many penis/sperm jokes, but I thought it was funny nonetheless. John Cusack still makes me swoon (the combination of dark hair and dark eyes . . . me like). After the movie we stopped for a drink. We would have stayed for a second, but then we remembered that we are parents. The vaguely responsible kind.

Sunday morning: My toe was now well on its way to purple. I took the kid to church with me. We had a very interesting speaker who covered a weighty topic indeed: science and religion. Oh, and I got a text message from my friend Nancy informing me that I did indeed win something in the raffle! I won a basket full of dog treats and toys. That may be only the third prize I recall winning in my 40 years on the planet.

Sunday afternoon: I invited one of A's friends over for a play date. She'd been asking to have this friend over since September, so I finally decided to issue the invitation. Telling her "but you see that kid every day at school!" wasn't proving very effective anymore. All I heard for three hours was . . . actually, I have no idea what they were saying. I heard a lot of screaming. Once the play date entered its third hour, the girls were bursting into tears at random intervals. So, the party was over and the friend was escorted home.

Then I was met with the aftermath. You know the pink aisle at the toy store where they stick all the Barbies and other girlie stuff? It looked like that aisle threw up in my daughter's bedroom. I gave her multiple chances to clean up the room, threatened to call the Easter bunny, and finally cleaned up most of it myself. There were a few small trinkets left over, so I gave her one last chance to clean them up and when she didn't, I tossed them in the wastebasket. A threw her body over the wastebasket, broke into sobs, and started yelling, "Why? Why?" over and over - just like that scene from Mommie Dearest where Joan Crawford screams at Christina for having a wire hanger in her closet and Christina sobs those same words to herself. Much drama.

Oh, Ectr Bune, is it bedtime yet?

Friday, March 26, 2010

I know a young woman

I know a young woman with beautiful brown eyes and a head full of music and auburn curls. She has birthed two little red-haired boys, and loves them fiercely. She is a wonderful mother, always striking that balance between letting the boys incur a few scraped knees while still keeping them out of harm's way.

She is a free spirit, unattached to material things for the most part. You might call her a hippy chick. She's happy grooving to music (made by offbeat indie bands) on satellite radio and has even been known to beat a tribal drum (literally).

Edicts like "a place for every thing, and every thing in its place" hold little meaning for her. If something explodes in the microwave, she will probably just leave it there. I visited her in her dorm room once when she was in college. "Oh, don't step over there," she instructed me, pointing at a tile on the floor. "Ramen noodle spill."

As a child, she was day-dreamy and thoughtful. On family car trips to Myrtle Beach, we always had to check and make sure she'd made it back into the car after a rest stop. She'd get lost in her own world and not say much for long stretches at a time. We'd tease her about some of her eccentricities, such as the time she cut off her eyelashes. Or, when she'd take the plastic bags in which the Washington Post was delivered to our home, fill them with water, tie them off, and hide them in her dresser drawers. To this day she will not say why.

She is tender-hearted, sensitive. A long-time vegetarian, she cares deeply about animals and is always the first to offer to take in a needy dog, chicken, or goat.

In college, she earned a degree in English, and her offbeat sense of humor comes through in her writing. She writes about her mud-loving sons, her goats, and the music she digs.

A few years ago, she married a man who seemed to love her but then started to bury her bit by bit. He first moved her far away, and then systematically isolated her from everyone who loves her. He canceled their joint bank account and then opened a new one, in his name only. Then he started to chisel away at her self-esteem with a running critique on everyday tasks. Over time she started to forget how smart she is, how creative, how beautiful. She turned her angst inward and wondered what, exactly, had happened.

My baby sister, she worries me so.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dance Dance Revolution (+ Six-Week Plan)

So, you're probably wondering about the conclusion of my critical "dance or no dance" debate. I received feedback via my blog, Facebook, and in person (almost all were in favor, though every respondent admittedly fell into the "I'm not the one who has to buy the tap shoes" category). I also asked my daughter if she'd like to take dance classes or swim classes, and she had a go at convincing me to let her take both in the same session. Not happening.

After conferring with my other half (who, quite honestly, would not care if I enrolled our child in Ultimate Fighting classes), I decided to sign the kid up for a seven-week dance session at the YMCA. This way, if we run into issues with her not listening, we won't be on the hook for a ton of money. I'm also bidding on some tap shoes on eBay and hope to have those by the time the class starts (unless some whore-mom outbids me, which is what usually happens). If this short session at the Y works out, I will look into enrolling her in one of the local dance studios. I will also continue to enroll her in swim classes periodically. The way I figure it, knowing how to swim may just save her life someday, whereas knowing the third position in ballet, in all likelihood, will not.

In other news, I've come up with a challenge to myself. I'm calling it "Claudia's Be Less Fat Six-Week Challenge." My daughter's birthday is exactly six weeks from today. I've set a fairly aggressive goal of losing three pounds per week for the full six weeks. We are going to an indoor water park for her birthday so that is part of my motivation. (It is really hard to enforce my "You need to have known me for five years before you can see me in a swimsuit" rule in public settings.) The other factor is that my summer wardrobe is not going to fit my (substantial) ass if I keep going at the rate I have been. I can no longer use the "my job situation is too stressful" excuse, because I've been at my job nearly three months now. Plus, I don't really believe in making excuses. It's really just a matter of commitment. "Do or do not. There is no try."*

I'll post a thumbs up or thumbs down every Monday to let you know if I am on track. Maybe that'll keep me honest and accountable. I'll warn you, though - I can be very cagey. Wily, even. I haven't figured out what to do about the Girl Scout Thin Mints in my kitchen. People always say, "Well, you can freeze them." The sad reality is that I have no qualms about eating a frozen cookie or ten. I'll break a tooth before I'll be denied.

*If you know where that quote came from, you should never admit it in public.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Danser? Ou non?

Dance: by the people, for the people

Some of A's classmates are taking dance lessons and now she wants to take dance classes as well. She spins in the kitchen and does ballet (and I use the term loosely) moves that she learned from her friend Carly at school. She assures me these steps are totally legit. A spreads her feet wide apart and then brings them together, spins in a circle, and says, "Bar-shay! Far-shay!" Yeah, Carly's mom is getting her money's worth, too.

As you may recall, we tried this dance class business once before and it didn't go terribly well. The instructor said my daughter didn't listen and as far as I can recall, the kid retained nothing from the session. After paying for classes and buying tap shoes, ballet shoes, leotards, tights, and so forth, I was not too happy about the outcome. It seemed she just wanted to look like a dancer, not be a dancer. Since then, we've stuck with swim classes at the Y because she enjoys them, is doing well with her swimming, and as an added bonus: all I have to buy is a swimsuit.

She is two years older now, so maybe we'd have a better shot at her listening to the instructor. I have to admit I am tempted. There is just something about a little girl in a leotard and tap shoes.

What say ye, fair reader? Try dance classes again or stick with swimming? Danser ou non? Je suis une sucker or non?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Piggy Bank Discipline

In keeping with my new motto (Claudia Marie: ruining one kid's life since 2005), I tried a new disciplinary tactic yesterday.

To take you back to the beginning, we are having some trouble with hair-related implements around here. If my daughter does not approve of how I fix her hair in the morning, she somehow gets a teacher-type person to re-do it at some point in the day. Other times, she simply rips out the ponytail holder, barrette, whatever, and shoves it in her backpack. Her goal is to look like a homeless street urchin by the time I arrive on the blacktop at 3:33 p.m. She is successful more days than not. My daughter has curly hair that does, in my book, require some taming. And believe me, I try my best, but she is pretty determined. A future hippie, perhaps.

On Monday night, we went to Target and I bought her some new headbands and ponytail holders. She clutched them to her chest and grinned as though I'd made all of her dreams come true. We talked about how she would try harder to take care of these items, as they always seem to have a tendency to snap and jump off her head - completely of their own volition. "It broked all by itself!"

Fast forward to Tuesday after school. I arrived at the blacktop at the appointed time. Who came running towards me, you ask? Homeless street urchin. I frowned.

"Where is your new headband?"

She looked down at her shoes. "Um, in my bag. I broke it."

I sighed. Like most parents, I have grown a wee bit weary of buying things that are on the curb in a garbage bag within 24 hours of leaving the store. So, this is where I introduced the questionable parenting tactic.

"Okay," I said. "I'm taking one dollar out of your piggy bank to pay for the headband you broke."

Much wailing ensued. "Not my money! Not my mooooooooooooney, Mama!"

Then I pulled out the time-tested response that my mother used. "Why are you crying? I'm the one who should be crying!"

When we got home, I headed straight to her room and up-ended her piggy bank (which is actually a doggie bank if you want to be technical about it). I counted out ten dimes. It occurred to me briefly that I should actually take $1.30, because that would buy me two Diet Pepsi's from the machine at work. But, the deal was for one dollar. A perched on a plastic IKEA stool and watched, whimpering all the while.

Honestly, I have no idea if this tactic will make a difference or not. She is planning to blow the money in her bank on a trip to Toys R Us after her birthday passes in May, so I think she is at least aware that a dollar's a dollar. Or, maybe not. She saw me buying a 100-calorie pack at the grocery store and kept exclaiming, "THOSE COOKIES COST ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS!?"

In any case, she can work it all out in therapy when she's older . . . or, maybe she will be too busy following what's left of the Grateful Dead around, with her unfettered curls bouncing behind her as she dances around a fire in a skirt that reeks of patchouli . . .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring, spring, it's a marvelous thing

I saw a red-winged blackbird today, generally a sure sign that spring has arrived. At this time of year I always find myself scanning the tall grass along the side of the highway, hoping to see that flash of black and reddish-orange. And today I spotted it (also, numerous flattened raccoons). The snow has mostly melted and I must tell you: I wore some very cute floral flats today.

The reason for my journey today was to take Montana to his new home (about two hours away). We are really going to miss him, as he is a very sweet dog. I've mostly suppressed the memories of the humpfest that kicked off his stay in our home. A penned a good-bye song in Montana's honor and played it for him on her princess guitar. It went something like, "My friend, my friend, I'll miss you, Montana." Basically, just repeat that line a few dozen times and you've got the song. I hope in time she'll have a better understanding of why dogs stay with us and then leave.

We'll have a new foster dog in a few days - a young male Boxer named Tucker. He has some gastric issues (colitis is somewhat common in Boxers), but I'm willing to bet the problem may be closely linked to the food his former owners have been feeding him. If you want to shorten your dog's life, by all means feed your pooch Beneful (and then let him eat the bag itself, because it's got roughly the same nutritional value as the food inside). It drives me crazy that something so horrible is even on the market - and that the manufacturer pours so much money into advertising. Just because something in the bag is orange does not mean it is a carrot - it means it's been dyed orange. Same with the "peas" inside.

Well, enough about that. I've gotta run. Figuratively, of course. You wouldn't want to see me break into an actual run.

I'll leave you with this catchy little ditty to celebrate spring. Any band that rhymes "elevator" and "congratulate her" gets a gold star from me. The Freelance Whales are playing at SXSW this year. I'd really like to get to that festival of these days (before I'm deemed hopelessly old and unhip). Also, I have a vaguely-constructed plan that involves running away and working at Dogtown for a time.

Disclaimer: sometimes I think I've found a good song and then I learn that it's been played on Gossip Girl or some such crap. So if this tune turns up there, I withdraw all endorsement of it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wow, the economy is worse off than I thought

I saw this sign at Hollywood Video.

And to think we spent all that money on adoption fees!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Listen here, punk

As anyone who is well acquainted with me will tell you, music is important to me (and that my iPod ranks just below my daughter and just above my husband on my unofficial list of "things I dig"). I listen to lots of different types of music (except jazz because, really, why?) and when I'm not listening to music I'm often listening to a podcast about music. Therefore, it has been a source of some distress to me that I could only listen to my iPod in my coolmobile via one of those tape deck adapters. The sound was mediocre at best, but I lived with it for 2 1/2 years. It became apparently me in recent weeks, though, that I'd worn out the tape deck. I'm in my car a lot. Between driving to work, daycare, kindergarten, pet expos, and driving dogs around the state for the rescue, I'm on the road quite a bit. And my tolerance for top 40 radio is pretty low.

P and I did have a talk about how to use our tax refund. He needs a crown in his mouth, so part of our refund is earmarked for the co-pay on that (around $450). Also, he needs brakes in his car (safety schmafety, I say) so a chunk will go to that as well. Beyond those two necessities, there are roughly a bajillion things we need, such as new carpeting, a new dishwasher, new interior doors, etc. Not to mention some pretty hefty credit card debt we should be paying down. We seldom seem to have enough cash to tackle the really big projects, so we end up working on the little ones instead. What I am basically telling you is that when P and I had our "what do to with our tax refund" talk, I somehow managed to justify a new car stereo by employing some circular logic and taking advantage of some loopholes in the marital contract.

The next day, I headed to Best Buy to select a radio. Normally I find Best Buy employees to be fairly attentive, but I had a heck of a time finding someone to help me. I even let A push every button she could find in the car audio department, thinking that alone might be enough to summon someone. Finally, I flagged down a guy in a blue shirt. "Oh, I thought you were with that other guy!" he exclaimed. The "other guy" looked like a cross between a meth addict and Grizzly Adams, so I'm not sure what that says about my personal appearance that he thought we were a twosome.

In any case, I told the Best Buy employee that I wanted a decent receiver that was also compatible with my iPod. I stressed to him that my main goal in life was to be able to listen to my iPod in my car. He sold me a Pioneer receiver that had the label "made for iPod" on the box (and came with a cable that makes this happen). "Perfect!" I thought. He took me into the installation area, where a different Best Buy guy started pulling out various wires and brackets that would be needed in order to install the unit in my van. The radio itself was $120. The cost of the installation and accompanying crap? Roughly the same. I made an appointment to come back on Sunday for the installation.

Things started out badly when the installation guy called on Sunday morning and told me that the car before mine was taking longer than expected (apparently it takes an act of Congress to install a new stereo in an aged Chevy Caprice). He asked me to come in at 2 instead of 1. No biggie. My plan was to drop the car off and then walk across the street to the mall. I brought the kid along. I dropped the car off and left the key. The lad in the stocking cap told me that my installation would take 45 minutes, so I took that to mean I could pick up the car anytime after 2:45.

The kid and I went to the mall and did some shopping - I picked up some spring/summer stuff for her. I even let her get her ya-ya's out in the play area that I usually avoid like the plague. We walked back over to Best Buy at 4 p.m. Mr. Stocking Cap looked at me and looked at the clock as though the passing of time was a foreign concept. "Ooooooh. Thirty minutes - tops," he said.

"My appointment was for 1:00," I said. He gave me the story about the Caprice and how it had vexed him so. He did seem like a nice kid so I opted to just sit there and wait. A asked to use my phone and said she needed to talk with her Aunt Craggy urgently. So I dialed the number and let her chit-chat with my sister for a while. (I could tell that her need to talk with her aunt was indeed urgent when I heard my daughter saying things like, "So, Aunt Craggy, do you have any pets? Three dogs? What else?")

My van was finally ready at about 4:20. I asked about the cable for the iPod and was told "it's in the box." So, A and I piled into the van and started to head home. I stopped on the far side of the parking lot to see if I could go ahead and hook up the iPod. The cable made no sense to me. One end was clearly meant to hook into the iPod but the other end? I had no clue. I drove back to the installation area. Mr. Stocking Cap came out to see what I wanted.

"How does this attach?" I asked.

"Oh, that goes in the back end of the radio," he said matter-of-factly.

THE BACK END? As in, the end that's buried in the dashboard of my car?

"It's an additional $25 to install that," he added.

Now, I am not the "let me see your manager" type normally, but I was getting there fast. "Listen," I said, "You seem like a nice guy and all, but my only reason for buying this thing was so that I can listen to my iPod. This isn't right."

I think Mr. Stocking Cap could tell I was thinking of losing it, so he offered to install it for free. It's hard to think of it as "free" in as much as I'd already invested $240 in this little venture. Anyway, ten minutes later I was the vaguely irritated proud owner of a radio with an iPod cable.

If there's a moral to this story, I haven't yet figured out what that might be. Maybe you'd like to choose one:

a. Waste not, want not.
b. A penny saved is a penny earned.
c. Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.
d. Best Buy kinda sucks sometimes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Get my what out of my what?

When I picked up my adorable little cherub from school on Thursday, she was very anxious to share some information with me. So anxious, in fact, that she felt the need to impart this information immediately, in the school's parking lot.

She shed her backpack and then stood on the asphalt, with her feet spread fairly far apart. "Mama," she started, "When your underwear gets stuck in your gyna, you should do this!"

She then proceeded to jump up and down, moving her legs in and out in a modified jumping jack (no involvement from the arms was needed, apparently).

I looked around to see how many parents were still on the premises. "Okay, thanks, I'll keep that in mind," I murmured to my daughter, and then hoisted her into the open van.

So there you have it. In turn, I am passing this tidbit to you, just in case you ever find yourself with your drawers hopelessly entangled in your nether region. No, no need to thank me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I've Reached Maximum Winter

Winter has worn out its welcome. Truly.

Each weekday I pick up a small, curly-headed child from her elementary school. Said child runs across the blacktop towards me wearing boots, snow pants (she tucks her dress into her snow pants, ya'll), mittens, a coat, a hat, and usually a scarf. As soon as she gets home, her winter gear is cast off into six different locations around the house. Then the dogs help out by dragging around some of the items with their teeth. I round everything up again, muttering under my breath as I go.

Now that it is March, the crisp freshly-fallen snow has given way to . . . snirt. Giant, dingy piles of snirt everywhere. And snirt is somehow exactly as appealing to a small child as snow is. All the kids at school scale the snirt piles on the playground and roll back down them. Therefore, my child is usually dirty when I pick her up - or at least her snow pants are. I've washed those bleeping pants at least a hundred thousand times this winter. Yesterday, she fell in a mud puddle and came home with sodden earth stuck to her right leg. You could have planted a modest crop right on my child's calf. The label in her snow boots gave no indication that they are machine washable, so of course I tossed them into the washer. I figured things can't get much worse.

So that is my first beef with winter: dirty snow gear. My second beef is with my own back yard and . . . the poop swamp. The poop swamp is a section of our back yard that receives very little sunlight for some reason. It's also the area in which the dogs most enjoy pooping. The poop swamp is located just outside the window of our guest room/office. My mother always exclaims over how awesome it is that she gets a swamp-front room when she stays at our house. "I don't even have to crane my neck to get a view of the poop swamp! It's right there!"

Now that the snow is melting, we'll have to start our annual expeditions into the swamp to clean up the poo. P and I usually take turns, leaving behind a "send out a search team if I don't come back!" note just in case. After the fecal logs have been freezing and thawing all winter long, sinking deeper into the muck with each passing day, you can imagine what a delightful job it is. Every spring, we actually give some consideration to not feeding the dogs for a couple of weeks until we can get caught up. And we're only half kidding when we say that.

"Dear God, please send spring soon. Mostly so I can wear my cute new spring jacket. Amen."

Poop swamp's in full effect, yo.