Saturday, December 31, 2011

You found me how?

Every so often, for my own amusement, I log in to my Google Analytics account and review the keywords/phrases that people used to find my humble blog. The results are, um, interesting.

A sampling of recent searches that led people to my blog:

can i superimpose a photo of my dad with the american flag and an eagle? - No, no you may not. I hope that settles it. But if you do, be sure to put a tear in the eagle's eye.

mom pee - EIGHT people used this keyword phrase to find my blog this year. EIGHT. I do not know what to say about that.

"my kid bit another kid" - We definitely went down that road a few times when A was a toddler. I'm not sure which is worse - when your kid is the biter or the bitee.

"plastic poop" - I'm starting to think my blog is a lot less sophisticated than I thought it was.

"you farted" "i did not" - And now I'm sure of it. I'm as low-brow as it gets.

booger back - Oh, for the love of . . .

childern and dogs - You keep them there younguns away from my dog.

don't want to be a girl scout cookie mom - I'm with you, sister. Right there with you.

I also saw every kind of spelling of alabaster that you can imagine (a lot of people are probably looking for the city of Alabaster but wind up at my blog instead). I found entries for alabster, alabastor, aalabaster, and so forth.  My blog also came up under various searches for eye dilation and nausea. I guess I'm not the only person who was treated to this fun little optometric adventure.

I hope you'll come back and visit my blog next year. I am planning to find new and different ways to talk about bodily functions in 2012. That's my pledge to you, fair reader. Happy new year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Au Revoir, 2011

Here it is, the obligatory year-end review.

Good stuff that happened this year:

  1. We visited DC in July and spent time with my middle sister, her kids, and some of my other relatives.
  2. My baby sister visited in August and brought her kids and husband along. I was thrilled that I got to see both of my sisters this summer.
  3. I won $10,000 for my favorite charity from Michael Moore. Although the money was awesome, an unexpected benefit was that I picked up a few more blog readers. My blog post about patriotism ended up on Michael Moore's Facebook page and Twitter feed. I was gratified to receive so many nice compliments from those who read it. It is hard to get noticed in the blogosphere (particularly with a blog as low-key as mine - maybe I should consider having myself vajazzled and then writing about it intricate detail or something), so it was definitely a boost. At least once a week someone asks me, "When are you going to write a book?" The answer is that I don't know. Part of me is pretty sure that I'll never be published (in as much as I never submit anything for consideration). This blog may be as ambitious as I get.
  4. I saw the Pixies in concert. This was definitely a highlight of my year. They played Doolittle in its entirety. I have had Doolittle memorized for over 20 years so it was a like a dream come true. They also played a bunch of other favorites as encores - Where is My Mind, Holiday Song, etc.
  5. I reconnected with my daughter's birthmom this year. I've sent her some photos and we've exchanged a few emails. She told me that she could not have chosen better parents for A, and that made me happier than I can adequately express in words.
  6. I added two nephews to my nephew collection (which now stands at six). One was born in Virginia and the other in Oklahoma. There are a lot of penises in my extended family. It's kind of funny because my mom always said she was glad she had girls because, and I quote, "I don't know how to clean poop off balls!"

  1. I didn't get a handle on my weight. I had good days and bad days. At this point I am not sure if I will continue with Weight Watchers or not. I also belong to Sparkpeople, which is free, so I may try to delve into that a bit more. Honestly, I am just tired of thinking about it all the time.
  2. I still can't do the wheel. The wheel is a yoga pose. It looks like this. I had hoped that by the end of the year I would be able to pull myself into a wheel on my own, but I can only do it if the instructor hauls me up by my ribcage. I think it comes down to my unremarkable upper body strength. Oh well, there's always next year.
  3. I now wear bi-focals. Pllllbbbbt on that.
I think my daughter had a more exciting year than I did. She lost her first tooth, got tubes in her ears, was elected to student council, and got her ears pierced. One challenge is that she just failed the hearing test at school, despite having tubes in her ears. I am not sure what to do about this, but I have an appointment scheduled with her pediatrician next week.

P and I thought about going out for New Year's Eve but then we remembered: our property taxes are due (so we're kinda broke), we have no babysitter, and we don't really stay up that late.  I know, we're craaaaazy up in here. Happy New Year!

A few of my favorite photos from 2011:

Cousins on vacation

Daddy-Daughter dance in February

Lakeside reverie

My favorite face in the whole wide world

July trip - competing for Granddaddy's attention

Cousins having ice cream. It was about 4,000 degrees in Washington that day.

Mother-Daughter weekend in September

Fairies and snakes, oh my

Sleepover = no sleep, but lots of fun

Vacation "up north"

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The post I insist on writing every year, even though it is of interest to no one but me

I get pretty excited about this time of year. Not because of half-price Christmas candy or because the new year is upon us, so full of possibilities and magic, but because music critics publish their "best of" lists. I love to read the lists, compare the music to what I already have, and download new stuff I missed.  I can't say that 2011 was a remarkable year for music, but there were some notable tunes.

My daughter got into some new music, too. The only trouble with her is that kids love repetition (any parent alive will swear to you that there are only seven episodes of The Backyardigans because they have seen every episode a hundred thousand times). So, when my daughter gets stuck on a song . . . the child gets stuck. on. a. song. That's why she forced me to turn on this little ditty every day for six months:

So yeah, I hate that song now. Here are some 2011 albums I liked (in no particular order):
  1. The Decemberists: The King is Dead. Favorite tracks: "Down by the Water," "June Hymn," "This is Why We Fight"
  2. Cut Copy: Zonoscope. "Take Me Over" has been on heavy rotation on my iPod.
  3. Grouplove: Never Trust a Happy Song. I was dismayed to learn that "Tongue Tied" was featured in a commercial but I still dig it.
  4. Beth Ditto: Beth Ditto- EP. I love Gossip and Beth Ditto.
  5. Fountains of Wayne: Sky Full of Holes. On the Amazon version, they included a cover of "The Story in Your Eyes." I love it so and listen to it at least once a week.
  6. Tune-Yards: Whokill
  7. Washed Out: Within and Without. More mellow than my usual fare, but maybe I am getting old? Don't answer that.
  8. Peter Murphy: Ninth. The dude's still got it; I don't care what anyone says. 
  9. Muppets: The Green Album. Alkaline Trio singing "Movin' Right Along"?  Yes, please. 
A few 2011 songs I've been digging (I don't have the full album for any of these so I can't vouch for anything beyond the songs I bought):
  1. Givers: Up Up Up
  2. Say Hi: Devils
  3. The Black Keys: Lonely Boy. I know it's only a matter of time until I'm sick to death of this one, but it still has some traction for me at the moment.
  4. The Civil Wars: Barton Hollow
  5. The Joy Formidable: Whirring
  6. Fanfarlo: Deconstruction
  7. Peter Bjorn and John: Eyes
Thanks for humoring me. As you were, soldier.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Recap

It's hard to believe this was my daughter's seventh Christmas, in as much as I could've sworn we were just slathering her tiny heinie with A&D Ointment and shoving far more diapers into the Diaper Genie than it was ever meant to hold. But, she is growing up and doesn't want to be slathered with anything. A lot of people have asked me how she liked the vanity I painted for her. She loved it. In fact, I think this was the first Christmas where she actually realized that I/we put a lot of effort into the things we do for her. She came to me yesterday afternoon and said, "Thank you for the vanity, Mom. And thank you for everything." Maybe all those "giving is more important than receiving" talks actually took hold in some small way.

One of my daughter's favorite Christmas gifts is called "Irritating Ethel."  She was a gift from my mother. Ethel burps, farts, laughs, and screams (when you poke her in the eye). She will also record your voice and play it back with a sort of munchkin effect applied to it. And here is the beauty of Irritating Ethel: she has no "off" switch. Thaaaaaaaanks, Meemaw. You do remember that I will have a hand in choosing your nursing home someday, right? As I write this, my daughter is dancing around the living room in her undies (it is 2 p.m. and she has not bothered to get dressed) singing made-up songs about our Christmas tree, which Ethel is recording and playing back to her.  It'll be such a shame when Ethel's batteries die. Such a shame indeed.

Other than all the burping and farting coming from Ethel, we had a good Christmas. We went to church on Christmas Eve.  We've also made it a little tradition to stop by a house whose owners take Christmas decorating to a whole new, wonderfully tacky level.  I'll include a photo below, although it is hard to do justice to it in a photograph. Bedtime on Christmas Eve went remarkably well this year. Earlier in the day, my friend Beth posted the link to the NORAD Santa Tracker website. I pulled up the site. Santa was in Japan! I brought my daughter into the room and we kept an eye on it throughout the day. As Santa drew closer and closer to the U.S., my daughter knew that she had to be asleep before he hit the Midwest.  So, she brushed her teeth and hopped right into bed. A Christmas miracle!

I did videotape my daughter's reaction to seeing the vanity and whatnot on Christmas morning. If I ever learn out to edit video, I'll post it. She actually had to open her gifts fairly quickly as we were due at my brother-in-law's house for brunch at 10:30ish. A opened the gifts from Santa, us, Meemaw, and her aunts. I knew she wanted one of those Monster High dolls so my youngest sister bought it for her. ("Hey, I mailed her that ugly doll she wanted.")  I sent my sister a text yesterday morning: "It's hideous!  She loves it!" The kid also received: art supplies, bath stuff, Barbies, earrings, games, and Polly Pockets. I think Polly Pocket is the root of all evil. I mean, her shoes can fit in my nostril (no, I haven't tried, it but I'm pretty sure). They are almost microscopic so I'm reasonably certain she will be barefoot for the rest of the winter if the vacuum cleaner has anything to say about it.

After going to brunch at my brother-in-law's house, we came home and resumed the battle to liberate plastic toys from their packaging. I also took the quiet afternoon as an opportunity to clean out my daughter's room and make space available for some of the new toys and games.  I tossed out some old stuff (such as "Hi-Ho Cherry-o!" - I know for a fact we can't play this one anymore because the dogs ate most of the cherries and shit them out in the back yard last summer) and found spots for new games like Sorry and Bananagrams.

As for me, I received some nice goodies for Christmas. My mom made me a robe (it's almost enough to make me forgive her for sending Ethel to my house . . . almost). She also sent me some jewelry, yoga pants and shirt, bath stuff, etc. P got me some of the items on the list I helpfully gave him, including a Belgian waffle maker. So, we decided to have "breakfast for dinner" and I made waffles.

Since I doubled my weight over the holidays, I headed straight to the gym this morning. It was nice to have an extra day off after Christmas to unwind and . . . yell at our daughter to get dressed. She is making progress. She is now wearing tights and underwear. I just feel like I should apologize to her future husband now. I hope he likes being perpetually late everywhere he goes.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ta da!

The secret project is done and, after some cussing and sweating from my other half, has been hauled into the living room.

Before photo
In-progress photo

See the chair? I picked it up at a consignment shop for $6 and then painted it. There's just one wee little problem. It doesn't actually fit under the vanity. Doh! So yeah, I'm hanging up my paintbrush for a while as I don't think I'm cut out for this sort of thing.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Home Stretch

I took a break from the holiday craziness and went to yoga Tuesday night. I was the only one there. I felt a little bit guilty about having the instructor (who also owns the studio) wasting her evening on a single student, but she didn't seem to mind too much. I was glad she was willing to go for it because I felt like I really needed the class. The holidays are taking their toll. My mental health has been suffering a bit lately and yoga always seems to help. It was a good class. And I don't mean to brag here, but my instructor complimented me on my chaturanga (which sort of sounds like something dirty, doesn't it?).

Speaking of mental health, my middle sister and I were comparing notes on boneheaded, absentminded stuff we've done lately. She bought her boyfriend a UVA beanie for Hanukkah.  Just one problem, though - he went to VA Tech, not UVA. She does have a newborn and two other kids to look after, so I suppose she deserves some slack. The reason I called her to begin with was to confess to her that I may or may not have shipped a tin of cookies to her home.  I mailed a box of gifts for my niece and nephews.  For the life of me, I cannot remember if I put a tin of homemade cookies in that box. Last week I was just shipping stuff and sending out cookies like mad. The problem is that I was not supposed to put cookies in the box headed to my middle sister's house.  The reason? Those cookies are full of nuts and my nephew is allergic. "Merry Christmas, sweetie! Here's a box of death for you."  Anyway, I called my sister to warn her. If I did send her cookies, she is either going to toss them out or let my niece smuggle them to school or something. This is worse than the time I gave a bottle of Christmas wine as a hostess gift . . . to a recovering alcoholic.

As we get closer to Christmas, my daughter has been making a last minute push to impress Santa with her good behavior. This morning she got out bed when her alarm went off.  Trust me when I say this is a major accomplishment. I immediately accused her of being a pod person who replaced my usual daughter. She also tells us she loves us about eighty times a day. Yesterday she picked her shoes up when I asked her to, which basically solidifies my pod person theory.  One of my aunts had a personalized Santa letter sent to our home a couple weeks ago.  The letter informed my daughter that she is "near the top of the nice list." I've told her repeatedly that I'm pretty sure this was a clerical error, but she remains committed to the idea. She believes that despite the fact that there are literally millions of children in the world, only three or four are ahead of her on the list.  She said she wished she knew the names of those kids. I had the distinct impression that she was thinking of bumping them off in order to rise to the top of the list. I'm pretty sure Santa would frown on that, for sure.

Yesterday morning I attended the holiday concert at my daughter's school.  She had been practicing for weeks on end, so I think I'd memorized the songs myself by Halloween. Many cultures! (clap) One world! Many countries big and small . . . I was particularly excited to attend this year because I knew she'd been selected to hold the microphone and announce the first song. Before I left for work that morning I told my daughter that I might just stand up at the concert, point at her, and yell "THAT'S MY BABY!" at the top of my lungs. I could tell from the look on her face that she was vaguely concerned that I might just do it. P was threatening to yell, "That's my daughter!  She used to poop in the tub!" I'm pretty sure our child is going to petition the courts for legal emancipation any minute now. Anyway, she did a great job with the announcement and the singing, too. One benefit of her being so short: she's always in the front row of the risers and I can see her easily.

If I may be indulged in one last little brag, my little genius brought home her first report card of the year yesterday. It contained the following note from her teacher:

A is a joy to have in class. She has wonderful insightful responses in our class discussions. Her helpful friendliness, as well as her positive attitude, helps make our classroom a happy place to be. Continue to work hard and be a shining Sharpie. I am proud of you. A is reading at Level K which is advanced at this time.

I'd love for Mrs. S to see the "positive attitude" we get every morning when we attempt to get the kid moving. I am very proud of my daughter, though. No doubt she gets her genius from me (and her inability to sing song lyrics correctly from her dad - you should have heard those two butchering Holly Jolly Christmas while they brushed their teeth this morning).

If you squint at this photo, you can see my kid with the microphone. I tried to get a closer seat but the other parents are pretty hardcore and I was afraid of getting a knife in my ribs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Judean Shepherd #2

My daughter was in a Christmas play at church today. The kids in the fellowship presented "The Scottish Shepherd's Story." Essentially it takes a different spin on the Christmas story, focusing on shepherds instead of the Wise Men and such.  In years past, my kid had various walk-on roles in the annual production, playing angels and other random extras that didn't require any lines. Now that she is older and can read (and so fluently, too!), she landed a talking part. She played Judean Shepherd #2. Apparently there was an actor shortage, as she was also cast in the role of Judean Shepherd #3. She gets really pissy if you forget that she is both.

"Listen, Judean Shepherd #2, it's almost noon and you still haven't made your bed."

"Also #3, Mom! Judean Shepherd #3!"

"Well, the fact remains that you have not made your bed."

She brought home her script on Wednesday and we ran through her lines. I must say she read them with great gusto and much animation. She was disappointed in my portrayal of the other shepherds when I read their lines, though.

Lately it seems like my daughter's schedule is busier than mine. Last week I had to pick her up from a student council meeting on Monday, drive her to church for play practice on Wednesday, and drive her back for another practice on Saturday.  I kept thinking, "She's still just six, right?"

Speaking of being six . . . we picked up a friend of hers yesterday and took the girls to a local Christmas celebration. It was held at a historical park where they have reproductions of a blacksmith shop, one-room schoolhouse, etc. The volunteers wear costumes from days of yore (maybe from my own childhood, which my daughter refers to as "the olden days.")  For this event, they had popcorn stringing, a shadow play, horse-drawn wagon rides, and so forth. Towards the end of the day, my daughter and her friend were talking to each other while they munched popcorn.  Her friend asked, "Truth or dare?"

My daughter, without hesitating for half a second or even taking a breath said, "Dare!"  The fact that she automatically chose dare without even thinking about it makes me fear her teenage years terribly.  The good news is that the "dare" was "I dare you to kiss your mom."  And of course my daughter gave me a kiss because she does not yet think that kissing one's mom is uncool.  Also, when truth was chosen on the next round, I was relieved to find that the questions consisted of stuff like, "Did you see the new Muppet movie?"  Whew!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Boy

Five years ago this month, I adopted my Giddy. His story was a sad one. He was left in a crate on an access road that runs past a humane society. He weighed around 38 pounds (Boxers typically weigh at least 55 pounds) and had some fresh scratches on his face and nicks on his ears. My friend (and fellow rescue volunteer) Kim took a call from the shelter and retrieved this skinny fawn-colored boy. His age was estimated at around two. We'll never know for sure because most of his teeth had been knocked out, which made it difficult to determine how long he'd been around. A veterinarian surmised that the dog had probably been hit by a car at some point. His left foreleg had been broken but not repaired, leaving the radius and ulna bones permanently twisted. Most of his top teeth were broken off at the root, resulting in exposed nerves and lots of pain. It was too late to fix the foreleg, but we sent him in for surgery to remove the broken teeth. Today, he compensates for the broken leg by walking higher on his toes on that side. He only limps when he's been playing and running a lot.

Kim had named him Reed. I met him when I was at her house for some reason or other (I can't remember now why I was there). My Lucy Annabel had died recently and I had started thinking about adopting a new friend. I knew I needed one who was nothing like her, as any sort of resemblance would have been too painful. I started asking Kim lots of questions about Reed. He seemed like a gentle soul and I liked his face.  "You seem interested in him," she said. "Why don't you just foster him?" This dog was technically a stray and I had an eighteen-month-old daughter at home. We tend not to place strays in homes with small children, simply because we don't know the history of these found dogs. However, I like to think I have some instincts when it comes to dogs and I knew he would not harm my baby. I decided to take him home. 

My husband was not thrilled about having a new dog in the house. Lucy hadn't been gone long and I really think he only had eyes for her. To this day I am not sure he will ever fully accept any other dog. I, however, was immediately smitten with this new boy. Something about his face just sent me (and still does). And, his story made my heart hurt. I couldn't imagine how he must have suffered when his leg broke. I kept picturing him holding it up and hobbling around as the bones healed in their jumbled way. I wish his former owner had surrendered him right away, as we could have had his leg fixed immediately.  Based on his body weight, I'm sure finances were a concern.  About a year later, I took him to visit with an animal communicator and she seemed to confirm this theory. She also said that Giddy lived with a family where the lady loved him but the man did not.

It didn't take long before I began lobbying my husband to make the new dog a permanent member of our home. I don't think he was ever really a foster dog to me. In those early days I would lie next to him on the floor, run my hands over his protruding ribs, and try to imagine all that he had been through.  P put up a minor protest but knew I would never let the dog go.  My next step was to give my new boy a new name.  I didn't care for Reed (just to show you how oddly my brain operates: the name Reed made me think of Robert Reed. That, in turn, would cause me to think about the Brady Bunch and also how sad it was that Robert Reed had to hide his homosexuality all those years. Then I would start wondering why the Bradys had astroturf instead of real grass. And since they had astroturf, why was Mike always telling Greg to mow the lawn? It just didn't make sense. And so on it went.)  I made a list of new names and asked my friends to vote. Ultimately I decided on Gideon, which is frequently shortened to Giddy, Gids, Giddy-up, etc.  Gideon was an important figure in the Old Testament, but I have to confess that I wasn't really thinking of the bible when I named him. I simply liked the name.

We finalized the adoption on January 1, 2007. My rescue friends got together and paid the adoption fee in memory of Lucy.

So, that is the tale of how Giddy came to be my boy. Gretchen is my daughter's dog and Giddy is mine. I absolutely adore him. Sometimes, when he is sleeping, I call to him softy and say, "Are you my boy?" and without opening his eyes, he will wag his nub. Yes, I am your boy.

I took Gideon to obedience classes shortly after adopting him (and later helped him obtain his Canine Good Citizen certificate).  However, he is neither obedient nor a particularly good citizen. He jumps up on visitors, barks and drools in his crate, flings himself at the back door if I don't let him in fast enough, and carries on at mealtime by jumping high into the air as I scoop the food. I believe he suspects that if he doesn't complete the jumping routine, this will be the time I finally decide to stop feeding him. He is a complete goofball, albeit a harmless one. A running joke at our house is, "Watch out for Giddy. He might just bite you with his tooth." He has separation anxiety and has been kicked out of boarding (after breaking out of two crates - apparently he dismantled them completely). His farts are so potent they could "knock a buzzard off a shit wagon" (to borrow a colorful phrase from my stad). I have no explanation for my utter devotion to this silly dog.

Happy five-year anniversary to my sweet boy. I don't know how old you are (your expressive eyebrows are suddenly grey), but I hope you are immortal. I need you to stay with me. Good boy, Giddy. Good boy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I had a few topics in the early stages of development for this particular blog entry. I thought of writing about Michelle Duggar's miscarriage (I find it a wee bit appalling that people are applauding a death - sure, the lady has more kids than anyone needs, but geez). I thought of writing about my Boxer boy Gideon, who came to our home exactly five years ago (I would still like to write about him soon). And finally, I had a few loosely-formed but completely unrelated ideas about meditation, Weight Watchers, and mortality.

However, based on the pile of unwrapped gifts in my basement, the urgent need to color my roots, and an unwatched episode of Hoarders on my DVR, I decided to go with a weighty (ha!) topic indeed: baked goods.  My daughter and I spent the entire day baking. Well, not technically the entire day.  After church we went to the hospital to visit an elderly member of our fellowship who just had a minor stroke. Later, A told me, "It was so nice of us to go and visit Miss Lois."  I must remember to cover modesty with that child. Also, phone etiquette (I didn't really think about that one until I heard her on the phone with her friend: "I know you called me, Claire. What did you want to say?")

After the hospital visit, we baked five different types of cookies. We then packaged them up to send to various family members along with the other gifts we are shipping to them. During our baking session I learned that it's not wise to hand a sifter full of powdered sugar to a six-year-old and say, "Sift this lightly over the cookies."  Does. Not. Compute.  Between the volume of powdered sugar and the eight different types of decorations, our relatives may not live to see New Year's Day. Nothing says Christmas like the heartfelt gift of Type 2 diabetes for your loved ones.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

They call him . . .

We took our daughter to see Santa last night. I feel compelled to show you the photo and require you to admire it, because we paid $25.00 for it. Seriously, I don't know how the little elf girl kept a straight face when she told me that a photo (technically, one 5 x 7 and four wallet-size) would run $24.99 plus tax. Pure crazy.

I am sure it is only a matter of time before our daughter announces that she is too old or too cool to sit on Santa's lap, so we didn't mind taking her. You never know when it is the last time. She was so excited about getting dressed up in her fancy red and black ensemble, including shoes that have the tiniest hint of a heel. We drove to the mall in separate cars because I was headed to yoga class after we were done. When we got to the mall, I watched my daughter grab her dad's hand and I walked behind them in the parking lot. Her little heels clicked on the pavement and her curls bounced behind her. At the risk of being a little sappy, that kid takes my breath away sometimes. I may be biased, but she is beautiful.

We waited in line for Santa while the kid danced around, talked to strangers, etc. When it was finally time for our daughter to visit with the man in red, her dad and I waited for her by the exit. I tried to listen to what she was telling Santa but couldn't quite hear. Later, she told me she had asked him for Polly Pockets.  Now, why is it that kids always tell Santa they want something that they had not mentioned in any way prior to that very moment? I am pretty sure that Santa had not been planning to buy Polly Pockets but now I guess he'd better consider it, eh? After visiting Santa, we dropped off the gifts we bought for Bianca (through the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program).

The annual trip to visit Santa was just part of our December festivities, of course. A and I are having a baking extravaganza on Sunday (she loves to bake but doesn't like baked goods, a fact that boggles my mind beyond all belief because I would kill a man for a particularly good brownie). We're getting our tree this Saturday. The kid is also participating in a Christmas play at church. All kinds of good stuff going on. 

After I picked her up from Kindercare yesterday, I asked my usual questions: "What did you learn today? Did you eat your lunch? Did you get in yellow?"

"Mrs. S read a book about Jesus today," she told me.

"Yeah?" I responded. "What did you learn about Jesus?" (I am happy for my child to learn about Jesus but wondered how it was presented to her. She goes to public school, after all, so I was just sort of curious. I'm hopeful that she is learning about a lot of different traditions - we have a Hanukkah book at home, for example.)

"Well, we learned about when he was a baby. And they named him Jesus. With a J."  (I'm certainly glad we're not confusing Jesus with his n'er-do-well brother, Gesus.)

I nodded. "Sure, and did you learn about Mary and Joseph?" 

She responded, "Yes, Mary was pregnant."  She didn't seem to remember a lot about the book beyond that.

"Jesus grew up to be an important person," I said. "He was a great teacher and wanted people to be kind to each other and to help those who are less fortunate." 

My daughter got kind of excited at the mention of Jesus as a teacher. But of course in her head, a teacher has a single definition: someone who stands in a room full of first-graders and covers addition and subtraction. "Mom!" she exclaimed. "When Jesus was a teacher, do you think they called him Mr. J?!" 

I started to explain that he wasn't that kind of teacher but decided that it was easier to let it go, at least for now. "No, probably not," I said.

And then, thankfully, we started talking about whether or not she could have a Gogurt when we got home.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So, I had this idea, see . . .

He who won't go to bed on time
It was November of 2010. My wee baby sister was trying to wrestle her two toddlers into bed. My sister is a redhead, as are her sons. The boys are sixteen months apart and the younger one is particularly feisty - and resistant to this crazy concept known as "bedtime."  (By the way, there is a third ginger boy on the way in a matter of days, so things are about to get worse.) Anyway, as I watched this scene play itself out, I jokingly declared, "The redder the head, the earlier to bed!"

My sister thought it was funny and sent me home with an empty wine bottle with the newly-devised slogan scrawled on it in Sharpie. A couple months ago, I had my friend Kate embroider a totebag with the slogan. I added some baby lotions and such to the tote and sent it to my sister so that she can use it as a diaper bag of sorts when the new kid arrives.

At some point I started thinking, "Hey, maybe I could foist this idea off on other people. Complete strangers even!" So, I opened a Cafe Press store. My friend Dave helped me with the artwork (I think I may have loosely implied that I will hook him up with a huge commission once my store takes off). My mom has suggested that she is also due for a payoff in as much as she made my redheaded sister. In reality, I will probably only make enough money to buy an ICEE and popcorn at Target. And everybody knows I don't share food.

However (and here comes the shameless plug), if you know any parents of redheaded children, I would be delighted if you would send them the link:

Update on the "labor of love" project

My daughter's Christmas gift is coming together nicely. Better than expected, really. Again, just don't look at anything too closely (not that taking photos of it in a dimly lit storage room in the basement is doing it any favors either).  I have a few tasks to finish before Christmas. I need to do some touch-up painting around the mirror. I also want to buy a jewelry box and a few other things to make it look as girlie as possible (for my pretty, prissy, fabulous kid). I picked up the dresser scarf at an antique shop. I still need to find a stool or chair of some sort.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I love you, four-day weekend

I'm sure you are chomping at the bit to hear about my Thanksgiving. Wanna hear it? Here it go. I started the weekend by taking my daughter to see the new Muppet movie on Wednesday afternoon. Yes, I saw it the first day it opened, because I am cool like that. Earlier in the day one of my co-workers said, "Oh, I bet your daughter is really excited to see that movie." I didn't have the heart to tell her that the outing was almost entirely for my benefit. The kid just came along for the M&Ms.

On Thursday morning, I went to yoga. It was a free session (entry was a canned good for a local food pantry) and was extremely crowded, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Two of my friends from church were there (we didn't plan it that way) so that was a bonus. I hoped that making a good decision at the start of the day would prevent bad decisions later in the day.

My baby girl on Thanksgiving
Later that day, we had the big dinner at a friend's house. This particular friend always fries the turkey and for whatever reason, my husband feels that this task cannot proceed without his involvement. So, he headed over there at 11 a.m. to watch football and make some intricate calculations involving oil and minutes and velocity and turkey poundage. I'm so glad I'm a vegetarian. I sent our daughter along with him so that I could have the house to myself and work on the project. I figured she may as well play with the other kids instead of me yelling at her all day. I did get a lot of work done on the vanity. I will post a new photo soon. My painting skills definitely leave a lot to be desired. If you ever visit our house and have occasion to view the vanity, please squint at it from at least ten feet away, do not look in the drawers and for the love of God do not look at the back of the thing. Right now I'm trying to figure out what to do about the drawer pulls (I may get crazy and hand paint them with polka dots or something). I'm also on the hunt for a vanity stool.

Dinner itself was nice. The usual stuff was available for consumption. We were asked to bring two pies, so that is what we did (I bought them - sorry). I am not big on pie so I was not tempted by dessert. Had there been some chocolate on the table, it would have been a whole other story. My middle sister was telling me that someone brought a homemade flan to their Thanksgiving celebration. Oy.

After dinner, I went home and finished my Black Friday game plan. Now, I have to say that I find it truly irritating that Black Friday now starts on Thursday. To me, stores that open at 10 or 12 on Thanksgiving are essentially saying, "Hey, we don't give a fuck about our employees." Seriously, I did my time in retail and I think it's horrible to make someone work on Thanksgiving. Black Friday is for early birds, not night owls. Everyone knows that the early bird gets the worm - not the night owl. YOU ARE REWARDING THE WRONG BIRD, PEOPLE! Anyway, I made plans to get up at 4 and go shopping in hopes of grabbing a few bargains. One thing we really wanted was a 42" television that Best Buy had as a "door buster."  P decided to drive over there at midnight to determine what his odds were. He saw the line that wrapped around the outside of the building and promptly drove back home. We did end up buying a TV at Best Buy the next day. It was on sale for Black Friday but isn't as large as the big one that was long gone. Funny side note: when he pulled our old TV off the stand, there were about a dozen CDs underneath it. When A was a toddler she was always shoving CDs in weird places.  We knew we were missing some but eventually we just convinced ourselves that we were losing our minds. And now that we don't need CDs anymore, we can use them as coasters or something.

I did manage to get some good stuff on sale on Black Friday. Lots of games and whatnot. I was home by late morning and was exhausted by mid-afternoon. However, my daughter was bored so I ended up taking her to a water park. I had a buy-one-get-one pass. We had a nice time. Since I had gotten up so early, I hadn't bothered to put on much make-up - just a little eyeliner and mascara. When we were at the water park, the kid said, "Mom, you have a little bit of black right here."  She pointed to the corner of her eye. I grabbed a towel and wiped my eye. "Better?" I asked.  She nodded.  Well, an hour later we were in the ladies' room and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had black mascara smeared from my eyebrows to my cheekbones. My daughter saw me peering into the mirror. She looked at me with a slight frown, a look that was probably meant to convey sympathy or empathy but instead came across as, my mother is a half-wit.  "Mommy, I just didn't want to tell you."  Thanks, kid.

On Saturday morning, I went to Weight Watchers and learned that, despite working out and eating carefully all week, I'd managed to gain half a pound. Honestly, why do I bother? After that, the kid and I headed out of town to take Willa the puppy to her new home. Willa's new digs are about 2 1/2 hours away, so I got a cheap room on Priceline and figured we'd make a weekend of it. On our way to the new home, we stopped to visit our former foster dog, Fritz. Now, Fritz is much more my speed than a puppy is. He's almost 12 now. I was happy to see that he is doing well. His mom, who has come to be a good friend, made us lunch and had some nice little gifts for us. She made a necklace for my daughter - I'd try to describe it but I'd never do it justice. My friend also gave me a set of mala beads. I was touched to learn that the set includes a bead that once belonged to her mother.

A was sad to leave Willa at her new home and hugged her profusely until I was finally able to pull her out the door. I've been fostering for nearly 12 years, so I don't get too emotional anymore. The only time I get weepy is when the dog required a lot of rehabilitation and was in rough shape when the journey began. Young, healthy dogs are pretty easy to let go of. Anyway, Willa's new family is happy to have her and I'm happy that I won't have a puppy swinging by her teeth from the branches of our Christmas tree. Falalalalala.

Our hotel room turned out to be pretty nice. It was one of those Residence Inn joints. The room had a full kitchen and all that jazz. The kid insisted on sleeping on the fold-out couch by herself. I didn't argue with the notion of having a king size bed just for moi. We spent most of the evening watching "Punkin Chunkin" on TV and reading. We drove back home the next day after a stop at Trader Joe's (we don't have one anywhere near our home). After spending three solid days with Miss Chatty, I handed her over to her father as soon as we got home. "Congratulations, Mr. M, it's a girl!"

All in all, it was a good weekend. I'm sure you were expecting something more titillating or newsworthy, seeing as how it took me a solid week to write this blog entry. I'm planning to get an oil change this weekend, so watch for a post on that next.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

A rant for the season

|begin rant|

It happens every year. The rumblings spread across Facebook, clever church marquees, and various forms of advertising. "Keep Christ in Christmas!" Everyone seems so worried that outsiders are trying to put the kibosh on their holiday that they issue a pre-emptive strike. They warn that utterings of "happy holidays" will be dealt with swiftly and mercilessly.

For all the times I have heard "Keep Christ in Christmas," I have never heard a non-Christian say, "Take Christ out of Christmas!" Not once. Sure, some of the atheist organizations put up the occasional billboard to get people riled up, but even many atheists celebrate Christmas. I've spotted a few "XMAS Trees" signs at tree lots, but I think that's more about laziness (and perhaps the limitations of a spray-painted hunk of plywood) than sacrilege. I think the war on Christmas has been greatly exaggerated.

Keep in mind that only around one-third of the earth's population is Christian. I'm not good at math, but I believe that statistic also indicates that two-thirds of the planet is not Christian. Many non-Christians, particularly in the U.S., are practically forced to acknowledge Christmas whether they want to or not. Can they go grocery shopping on December 25th? Probably not. Even if Christmas is not a holy day for a given individual, they've probably got the day off work and have been doused in Christmas carols and cookies for weeks on end. So, I just don't see how someone can simultaneously say, "CELEBRATE MY HOLIDAY, DAMMIT!" and "DON'T YOU DARE CELEBRATE MY HOLIDAY IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE EXACTLY WHAT I BELIEVE!"

When you check out at Target and an employee offers a cheerful, "Happy Holidays!" this is not tantamount to saying, "Take Christ out of Christmas." A quick glance at a calendar reveals that there are, in fact, multiple holidays occurring this time of year, starting with Thanksgiving and stretching through to New Year's Day. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the winter solstice also fall in that time span. And, of course, Christmas. (See, it's a whole bunch; that's why we call this period "the holidays.") The lady at Target can't tell just by looking at me whether I am Christian or Jewish or Muslim. I'm not offended by "Happy Holidays" any more than I'd be offended by "Happy Hanukkah." If you want to blame someone for turning Christmas into a commercial holiday, blame the retailers. But then, we'd also have to blame ourselves for succumbing to it (I was at Black Friday like a jackass, too, so I am not pointing any fingers here).

A wise friend pointed out to me that we're all on the same planet and that we should focus more on inclusion than divisiveness. She happens to be Buddhist (and is not in any way offended when people wish her a Merry Christmas). I'm a Unitarian Universalist, but I happen to be a big fan of Jesus, too (and yes, I celebrate his birth). Christians are supposed to be loving and tolerant, so who cares if others celebrate the holiday as they wish?

|end of rant|

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Our foster pup has an adoption pending. A sucker very nice couple came to meet Willa last weekend and decided to adopt her. It's a good thing I had every intention of being honest about Willa's naughty behavior, because my daughter sang like a canary before the visitors even had a chance to sit down in our living room. "Willa pees and poops on the floor, and she stole my underwear," the kid announced loudly.

"Ha ha!" I laughed nervously. "I was, um, just about to tell you about that."

It is true that Willa is a thief. She is the only member of our household who can fit under the bed in the guest room/office. So, that is where she keeps her cache of stolen items. Our house is generally kept pretty neat, but there are two primary opportunities for theft: 1. My daughter can't remember to keep her bedroom door shut and 2. Laundry being folded is fair game. Every other day or so, I pull the guest room bed out from the wall so that I can clear out the stash.  I have found the following:
  • My pajama pants
  • My husband's t-shirt
  • Mutilated Barbies (I think at least four have been maimed at this point - the pooch has been pooping Barbie hands and feet for weeks).
  • My new pen
  • Dish towels
  • Receipts
  • Shoes
I took Willa to the vet yesterday for her final visit before the adoption.  She weighed 11 pounds when we got her and now clocks in at 22. She has actually made some strides in her housebreaking.  She still pees inside about once a day just to keep us from getting complacent, though.

As much as I complain about the evil little imp, she is very sweet. She sleeps with me at night and is very cuddly and affectionate. She has been pretty good about not chewing computer wires, dining room chairs, and the like. It helps that I have other dogs because she wrestles with Gretchen constantly (which sort of keeps them both out of trouble). Willa is funny and keeps us entertained. At first it seems amusing when she runs through the living room, ears flying behind her and a wild look in her eye, but then we realize, "Hey, did she have my underwear in her mouth?"

Her new home is a couple hours away, so I think the kid and I are going to make a weekend of it and get a hotel room on Priceline. I'm also planning a visit with Fritz, my former foster dog. He lives in the same area where Willa will be residing. Plus, I adore the nice lady who adopted him and she is planning to feed us.

So, the puppy saga will be over soon. The next time I receive a phone call during which I hear the words, "Hey, would you mind fostering a puppy?" I'll be smart enough to respond with the right answer. Or at least to pretend to have a bad connection and hang up toute de suite.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Oh, to be so confident

She made me take this photo of her flushing a toilet. We were in an antique shop and she was fascinated by the "olden" potty.

My daughter was selected for the student council at school last week. I received a letter from her teacher requesting me to approve A's participation on the council. She told me that she thinks my daughter's personality and good ideas will be of value to the other members. A lot of thoughts went through my head:
  • First graders are involved in student government? Do they know she still doesn't pour her own juice? 
  • Does she have to take notes? And if so, can they limit the discussions to words that have appeared on her spelling tests this year? 
  • She has to report back to her class what happens in the meeting. I have received 15-minute responses to the question "What did you play at recess today?" so I can only imagine what sort of report her class will receive.
Mostly, though, I'm just darned proud that my daughter was selected. I wonder if this will be the beginning of a long and storied career in politics. She and I attended a tree lighting ceremony downtown last Wednesday. Our city's mayor was there. I turned away for a moment to throw away the cup from our hot chocolate and the next thing I knew, my daughter was chatting with the mayor like they were BFFs from way back. She saw him two days later at a different holiday event and was beside herself, waving and calling out to him. He waved back and said, "Hi there!" Maybe he remembered her and maybe he didn't - I'm not sure. To top things off she spotted him again on Saturday at our local holiday parade and waved to him again. I am fairly certain that she is convinced that the mayor specifically and purposely plans his schedule around where my daughter might be on any given day.

She is confident, that's for sure. I stayed home from work on Friday to work on the secret project. I did get up to help the kid get dressed and to fix her hair. She was headed to the bathroom to brush her teeth when she turned and looked at herself in the full-length mirror in the hallway. "I look so pretty," she said to herself. I hugged her and told her she sure was right.  I have never, in 41 years, looked in a mirror and thought, "Hubba hubba!" I have no idea what it's like to have my daughter's confidence, but I'm definitely envious.

This morning at church she was chomping at the bit to make an announcement during our "candles of community" tradition. She wanted me to walk up to the chalice with her but did not want me to say anything. She took the microphone, said her name (everyone knows her but I suggested she say her name in case there were any new people in attendance) and then announced that she had been selected for student council. Her voice rang out clear as a bell. She set the microphone down as the congregation applauded for her.  Later, after the service was over, she announced her news to each member individually, just in case they'd somehow failed to hear it with the aid of a microphone and speakers.

I'll be anxious to hear how tomorrow's meeting goes when I pick her up. Apparently the first order of business will be elections. A matter-of-factly told me that it is her intention to be president of her school this year. I suggested that it is more likely a fifth grader will be chosen, and she scowled at me as if she couldn't believe this outrage.

So, who knows. Maybe she will choose a career in politics. Do politicians have to get up early? That might be a problem.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bianca would never do that

I've come to the sad realization that playing the Santa card ("Ohhh, you know how Santa feels about dirty teeth - better get to brushing!") is not as effective as it once was.  I think my daughter figured out that despite all the threats, she still gets plenty o'presents on Christmas morn. So, although I will continue to advise my daughter that the big guy in red gets furious over uneaten vegetables and jackets left on the floor instead of hanging them up because the hook is RIGHT THERE FOR GOD'S SAKE, I knew I needed a new tactic. Enter: Bianca.

Like many parents, I worry that my child is not learning to think of others. I once read that children are pretty much genetically programmed to think only of themselves until the age of eight or so. However, my daughter does have a good heart and I think she just needs some encouragement to understand concepts like gratitude and giving. So, I took her to the mall yesterday to select an angel ornament from the Salvation Army's Angel Tree. I explained to her that each ornament represents a child from a low-income family and that these kids won't get much for Christmas. I immediately realized that I'd left a loophole - I feared she'd ask why Santa doesn't bring these kids as many gifts as they bring her. However, she didn't ask.

We looked at all of the ornaments until we found one for a girl who is close to my daughter's age. I thought maybe the whole concept would come together a little better if the recipient is the same age/sex. We chose Bianca. She is seven. She wears a size 8-10 clothing, size 2 1/2 shoes, and really needs pajamas (according to the note included on the paper ornament). "We'll shop for Bianca together," I told my daughter. She nodded, but I'm not sure she really gets it. She didn't ask me any questions, which is unusual. We aren't wealthy, of course. Our checking account takes a beating every month (and we don't have any savings to speak of except for 401ks). But, we have a house, jobs, cars, and college educations. We have food to eat. We're okay. We can hook up a little girl we'll never meet with some pjs and shoes.

Now, please don't tell Bianca but I am using her - just a little. I didn't set out with that intention at all, but I am a parent whose toolbox is mostly empty. Time-outs are ineffective at this age, we don't spank, and positive reinforcement is only marginally effective. So, that leaves the induction of guilt. Within mere hours of having chosen Bianca, I found myself saying things like, "I'm pretty sure Bianca puts her pajamas on the first time she is asked" and "I really doubt that Bianca would leave that much food on her plate." Poor Bianca. I have no shame. Seriously.

Anyway, here's hoping that by the time the holidays are over, my daughter will think of Bianca and remember that not everyone has everything they need and want - even basic necessities. And maybe she will remember that giving is more important than receiving. Perhaps she'll even be more grateful for what she has. And, most importantly, I hope she'll remember that Bianca always, always eats her vegetables.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The mysery I cannot solve

I walked into church yesterday to find that the speaker was  . . . my yoga teacher (apparently I don't check the schedule ahead of time or read the newsletter very carefully).  I adore her so I was excited to see her at the fellowship and to hear her her speak. Our Unitarian Universalist church does not have a regular pastor. Instead, we invite different speakers each week, each one delivering a topic that serves to help each of us further our own spiritual journey. Although there is certainly something to be said for having a permanent pastor to deliver a cohesive series of sermons, I sure learn a heck of a lot from all the different speakers. I really look forward to going to church, which is more than I can say for the first 36 years of my life. Anyhow, Kathy spoke about Ayurveda, an ancient philosophy of healing. She talked a lot about food and the five elements (air, ether, water, fire, earth), but don't ask me for any details beyond that. It was interesting, though (or at least the parts I could grasp).

As I sat there listening to Kathy talk about the mind-body connection, I kept thinking, "Why can't I make that connection? What is wrong with me?"  I go to Yoga, I go to the gym (I can last an hour on the adaptive motion trainer these days), and I try to take care of myself. It always comes down to my eating. Why do I try to pretend that I can somehow trick my body into not acknowledging buttered popcorn and the like? I eat a ton of fruits and vegetables. However, I also eat junk. On Saturday, for example, I went to Weight Watchers and then went to a craft fair at a local high school. There was a bake sale there as well. There, on a cafeteria table at the back of the gymnasium, I spotted them. Chocolate chip cookies.  Only a buck for six of them - plus, it was for the debate team so I had to help the kids, right? I started eating the cookies as soon as I got in the car. I mean, it didn't feel self-destructive at the time. I just really like baked goods.

On Saturday night, the three of us went to a hockey game (we have a local USHL team). The kid had never been to a hockey game and I wasn't sure how she'd fare. I almost told her to bring her DS because I figured she'd get bored. However, she was totally into it. She sat in her dad's lap so she could see better. Also, she farted in his lap at least half a dozen times. I just think it's nice that he has something to share with the guys at work when they ask, "What did you do this weekend?" Anyway, back to the game. There were four guys sitting in the row in front of us. I don't know what their relationship was, but we guessed they were all related. All were huge. The kind of huge that spilled over the back of the chairs and caused my 6'3" husband to have one knee in the aisle and the other in a neighboring county. I was in a similar predicament, but of course I am much shorter. I watched the four gents eat nachos and hot dogs with the works. True, their intake is none of my business. But I just kept thinking, "Am I really any different? Do I treat my body any better?" Also, "I'm pretty sure one of these guys is always in the seat next to mine when I fly."

Last week I watched an episode of "I Used to be Fat," an MTV program that follows recent high school graduates as they try to lose weight before going off to college. In this particular episode, the trainer kept telling the trainee, "You have to figure out why you gained weight. There has to be a reason. Otherwise, you'll just gain it back." I have often struggled with this concept. I am not aware of any major psychological wounds that should cause me to overeat. It's true that I have never had a lot of love for my physical self; I have generally felt betrayed by my body. I have a host of medical issues (autoimmune stuff). I miscarried four times. So yeah, it's hard to be in my own fan club. But, I don't like to look for excuses for why I can't lose weight and keep it off. I talked to my OB/GYN when I had my annual physical recently, and he helpfully suggested that I "eat smaller portions." Well, thank you, I never would've thought of that! As an aside, he also told me that with my bone structure, I'll never be model-thin. I always thought "big-boned" was a euphemism for "fat," but there it is.

At the end of the day, I still don't know why I indulge in self-sabotage. However, I'm going to try harder to remember that I do have control over this. I decided to start working on the control  issue yesterday. I took A and her friend to a children's museum for the afternoon. I took them to Dairy Queen for ice cream on our way back home. I didn't order anything for myself. For whatever reason, I am incapable of ordering some small low-fat frozen yogurt and finding a way to be happy with that. I'd really rather have a brownie sundae with hot fudge. There are no in-betweens with me, mister.

I'm so tired of failing. I feel like Oprah. I'm fat, then less fat, then fat again. My mom called and diplomatically asked me what size sweater she should buy me for Christmas this year. Poor P is my Stedman, trying to decide whether or not to offer me a Kit-kat from the Halloween candy bag. I get tired of fighting this thing, but if I don't . . . before I know it I'll be at a hockey game, spilling over the back of my chair, telling my neighbor that I sure hope the team scores six goals so that I can get a free taco.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I hate this time of year

I hate November. Not because it gets dark at noon. Not because I have to come down off the sugar rush brought on by Halloween (we still have Reese's peanut butter cups but don't think about touching them - I will knife you as sure as I'm sitting here). It's not even because of the really bad art that was posted all over Facebook today in honor of Veteran's Day (seriously, though, the people who create those eagle-superimposed-on-an-American Flag images should have to surrender their Photoshop software or face criminal charges). Nor is it the fact that November signals the start of the frenzied holiday season.

I don't like November because it involves so much death.  I realize I am very much in the minority here, but stay with me for a moment. I promise my next blog entry will tackle some heady topic, like: why does my daughter walk right past her dad in order to ask me to do something for her? Has he simply convinced her that he is incompetent and that her best bet is to head straight for the parent who has a uterus?

I love Thanksgiving. Even though I am a vegetarian, there is always plenty to eat. I just skip the turkey, the dressing, the gravy, and anything else that looks like it might have dead animal flesh in it. Usually, that still leaves a ton of stuff I can eat, including dessert. Since I don't make a turkey myself, of course, I never host Thanksgiving. So, really, it's a stress-free holiday for me. I usually visit my family in Virginia or Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, but this year I didn't have the vacation time or the money, so I'm sticking around. A friend has invited us over for the big meal (the friend is my daughter's Godfather's brother - got all that?)  They have a huge family and know how to organize a meal. So, Abel will call us with a very specific item to bring and all we have to do is bring it. The day will involve a lot of eating, socializing, and - in all probability - some wine. I just can't get too crazy because I have to get up early the next morning and risk my life for a $5 Barbie.

My only real complaint about Thanksgiving is the emphasis on the turkey. I'm pretty sure my daughter will be required to make a turkey-related craft over the next week or two. Stores will advertise sales using a gleeful cartoon turkey whose jovial demeanor (look! he's wearing a little pilgrim hat!) basically tells us: "I can't wait to be eaten!" In reality, the life of a turkey is more dismal than one can really imagine. They are pumped full of hormones so that they can grow unnaturally large in an abnormally short period of time. In fact, I've read that some turkeys are so large that many times they cannot even support their own weight on their skinny bird legs. They live in horribly cramped conditions and then they meet their end, appearing in a freezer near you shortly thereafter. I know nobody wants to think about that. As Linda McCartney once said, "if slaughterhouses had glass walls the whole world would be vegetarian."  I guess part of my beef is with the sugarcoating. If you're interested in this phenomenon at all, check out a site called Suicide Food, which highlights advertisements that feed into the idea that cows and chickens and pigs are absolutely ecstatic at having the opportunity to be someone's dinner. A prime example is the ever-popular barbecue sign showing a beaming pig holding a cleaver.  Ew.

I dunno. I guess I'm a little off-kilter (you know, cuckoo) but when it comes to Thanksgiving, I prefer to focus on family and gratitude and giving. I prefer my holidays to be cruelty-free, I guess.

I'm not done with my rant, though. Today I saw my first (of the season) deer carcass shoved onto the back of a pickup truck. I dread this every year. I have friends who are hunters (I'm pretty sure some of them just go along for the beer) so I don't want to paint all hunters with the same brush. However, I just don't get it. It makes my heart hurt every November, to see deer after deer lashed to trucks, blood crusted here and there, their dignity gone. And don't try telling me that hunter is feeding his hungry poverty-stricken family. That hunter has a tricked-out, extended cab, dualie truck that cost almost as much as my house. And don't try telling me that the hunters are concerned about wildlife management, either. That argument just doesn't hold water. At the end of the day, I just can't separate wild animals from the ones who live in my house. All animals are the same to me. I was incredibly sad to learn, earlier this week, that the western black rhino has officially been declared extinct. Talk about "wildlife management."  Wildlife fared a lot better before humankind stepped in to "manage" it. But, I digress.

People will continue to hunt. Millions will continue to eat turkey and won't worry too much about where it came from. I guess I'll just be the lone crazy person who doesn't really understand.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lunch at the first grade table

I decided to surprise my daughter and have lunch with her today. Instead of taking her out to dine (I've done that, too), I packed a Tofurkey sandwich and ate lunch in the cafeteria with her. She's been known to get "in the yellow" for her behavior during lunch so I wanted to see for myself what goes down. She told me she's gotten in trouble for talking too loudly during lunch. I couldn't help but wonder, "How loud do you have to be in order to be 'too loud for the lunch room?'" She tried to convince me that the kids are only allowed to whisper, which seemed a little odd to me.

I signed in as a guest and waited outside the office, lunch box in hand. Moments later, the first graders flooded the hallway. A was surprised and excited to see me. For the record: she is still willing to hug and kiss me in public (I'm sure those days are numbered). We stood in line with the rest of her class and then filed into the cafeteria. One of A's best friends came up to me and informed me that she and my daughter have been banned from sitting together in the lunch room. So, we sat next to a different friend. A and I sat down at the table, opened our lunch boxes, and started munching. If I had not been there, I'm about 99% sure she would have eaten her Oreo Cakesters first. However, since I was in attendance, she dutifully chewed on her PB&J. She snuggled up close to me, seeming to be proud and happy that I was there. Meanwhile, a couple of boys at a table across the aisle started whispering to each other and pointing at me. I'm pretty sure that the wee detectives deduced that I was not, in fact, a first grader.

I made a few observations about the crew at my table.

1. I was the only one there with a full set of teeth. Seriously, first graders have it rough. The two girls sitting across the table from me had about a dozen teeth between them.
2. The cafeteria is not quiet and the kids don't have to whisper. So, I'm back to wondering how someone could possibly be "too loud for the lunch room."  But, apparently, my kid finds a way.
3. Kids don't eat green beans. They just don't.

During lunch, the students are obligated to raise their hand if they need something. There are two cafeteria monitors who wander around the room opening milk containers and picking up garbage. It didn't take the kids at my table long to realize that they had an official grown-up in their midst. Before I knew it, I was opening ketchup and salad dressing packets left and right (I got mad skillz, yo). One girl seemed to need three packets of barbecue sauce for her sandwich. I didn't question it. The friend on the other side of A kept asking me random questions and at first I wasn't going to say anything but eventually I did point out to her that she was sporting a huge marker stain (shaped roughly like the state of Florida) that started at the corner of her mouth and made it nearly to her right ear. As usual, A put me on the spot and asked, "Can so-and-so come over to my house?"  I tried my best to be non-committal. I'm happy to let her have friends over but it's kind of challenging with the dogs (who have trouble accepting that visitors are not there specifically to see them and that not everyone enjoys a Boxer tongue down their throat). Also, my daughter's room gets trashed during every play date and then I'm the one who ends up on on her hands and knees fishing Barbie shoes out from under the bed and whatnot.

Before I knew it, the twenty-minute lunch period had passed and the kids were lining up to go back to their classrooms. The kids need permission to get up and throw their garbage away, but I stood up and threw mine away without permission. Yeah, you heard that right. A was the last to leave. The other kids filed past us. She-of-many-barbecue packets patted me on the back as she walked by.  My daughter got in line with her classmates. I zipped up her purple dog-shaped lunch box and gathered my purse and jacket.  I started to head for the other door so that I could sign out in the office. I turned and looked at my baby girl, the shortest one in her class, waving madly at me. "Bye, Mama! I love you!"

I'm glad I get to be awesome for at least a little while longer.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm all discombobulated

I'm sick, but still managed to pack a dozen errands and events into the weekend. Resting is for pussies. I'm mostly just ignoring my cold, even though my lungs are leaden and my head is too heavy for my neck. I did give in and buy some Nyquil for tonight. I'm expecting to be unconscious before 9 p.m. Well, unless I decide to stay up and watch "Sister Wives." I think I've watched every episode and am not any closer to understanding polygamy but I try to keep an open mind. Similarly, I was watching "Umpteen Kids & Counting" a few mornings ago and don't fully understand that scenario either. I have to admit that I can't really bring myself to make (negative) comments about the Duggars because they just seem so darned nice. I did laugh out loud when Jim Bob Duggar explained why they are opposed to dancing, though. He said something about dancing creating sensual desires that cannot righteously be fulfilled. Yet, we have some pretty strong evidence that he and Michelle get it on CONSTANTLY. What's the difference?  You're either horizontal or vertical, but that's about it, right? I was perplexed for the rest of the day.

I do try to be open-minded and accepting, though. In our area we've had a recent influx of Somali refugees. I was delighted to see diversity on the rise - I really want my daughter to learn about lots of different types of people. The newcomers are largely (maybe all?) Muslim and the women wear the traditional hijab. I see them at the grocery store and find myself wanting to strike up a conversation, to ask how they like it here and if they were warned about our winters ahead of time. The opportunity has not really arisen, though. I saw a Somali woman at the grocery store on Friday. She was wearing a burka and only her eyes were visible. Instead of thinking, "Wow, that must get so hot in the summer," I thought, "Wow, I could hide fifty pounds under there and no one would have any idea."

In other news, I've started Christmas shopping. I'm determined to spread out the expenses a little more effectively this year. I hit two craft fairs and the mall yesterday. At the first craft fair, I bought a couple of Barbie dresses for the kid. I then stopped at a booth that sold candles. I spent a few minutes sniffing the different scents. It was kind of pointless, in as much as my right nostril has not worked in a week and my left one is only pretending to be functional. Anyway, I bought a candle and as I was checking out, I got in a panic because I couldn't find the bag with the doll dresses in it.  I spun in a circle and looked all over on the floor. "I know I had a bag," I told the candle man as I wrote my check.

"Um, ma'am?" he said. "It's under your arm."

"Oh, ha ha!" I replied. "I guess I'm just wearing so many layers."  And what I meant by "I'm wearing so many layers" was "I'm basically losing my mind."

I did manage to pick up a few gifts this weekend. I had some coupons I was able to use at the mall. I'm also planning to do the Black Friday thing again this year. It appeals to my sense of adventure and my need to be thrifty, I guess. I think Black Friday is one of those things that people either love or hate. Last time I saw my sister-in-law, she solemnly rolled up her sleeve and pointed at her elbow.  "See this scar? Black Friday."

P says we should just buy gift card for everyone and call it a day. Well, we really only buy gifts for the kids in our family and I don't think gift cards will work. I'm just picturing me handing a gift card to my one-month-old nephew: "Here. Get yourself somethin' nice." Plus, I like buying gifts. I'm just trying to be sensible about it.

Anyway, that was my weekend. The puppy just pooped on the kitchen floor, so I have to sign off now. I'm pretty sure I picked up a pile the other day that had Ariel's hands in it. Sleeping Beauty also lost a foot. They are planning to compete in the paralympics this year. They prefer to think of themselves not as handicapped but handicapable, you know. The puppy has a visit with a potential adopter next weekend. Willa is cute and all, but I'm pretty determined to get her placed before Christmas. I have an idea of what she might do to a Christmas tree and would prefer she do it to someone else's. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.