Friday, October 28, 2011

Who Invited the English Major?

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I attended a Pure Romance party a couple months ago. It is common at such gatherings for the sales representative to lead the partygoers in a game of some sort. An icebreaker, if you will. At this particular party, the Pure Romance lady issued an invitation to the attendees: "Use the first letter of your middle name and then come up with a list of adjectives to describe your sex life." There weren't a lot of people there, so my turn came up pretty quickly.

My middle name is Marie. The first adjective to jump into my brain was maudlin. No, no, that won't work. Mediocre? No. Musty? Crap!  Seeing that I was stymied, the hostess rattled off a list of M words that would make Dr. Ruth blush. "Moan, masturbate," and so on she went. I can't remember the rest but there were quite a few. An alarming number, really.

"But, but . . . " I responded. "Those aren't adjectives."  Everyone turned to look at me as if to say, "Who invited her?"

A few days ago, I had a follow-up appointment with my allergy and asthma doctor. I was in his office a couple of times in late September because I was at death's door with an asthma flare-up. I tell you, I don't know when I've been so sick. I coughed and coughed to the point of exhaustion. He wanted me to come back when I was well so that we could discuss an action plan for the future. When I arrived at my doctor's office, the receptionist handed me an asthma quiz. The quiz asked me to rate my symptoms on a scale of 1 to 5. I was unable to get past the first question: "Are there activities you would of done if not for your asthma symptoms?"  (I can't remember the exact wording, but that should be pretty close.)  The error may as well have had a disco ball attached to it - I could not look away.

When Dr. W called me into the exam room, he asked me if I had taken the quiz. I decided I would share my horror with him. "There's an error in the first question, you know." I laughed and suggested to him that really, heads should roll for this sort of thing. He hopped up from his spinny stool and grabbed the clipboard that still had the asthma quiz attached.

"Where is it? Wait, let me see if I can find it." He scanned the laminated sheet and spotted the error immediately. He seemed rather excited about it. Maybe it gets boring, talking to people about their lungs all day.

"Now you can go home and tell your wife about the obnoxious patient who came in this morning," I said. He laughed.  Oddly enough, though, I think he actually got a kick out of the fact that I had the chutzpah to point out the error. Later in the visit, he wanted to run some breathing tests and I hesitated because my insurance is fully depleted for the year (thanks to A's ear tubes). Everything I do at this point is out-of-pocket. I told him it might be better if I wait until January. Dr. W said he would make an adjustment to my bill in exchange for my invaluable assistance with the flawed form.

Ha! And you thought my BA in English was worthless!

In general, I don't claim to have stellar grammar. My blog is full of errors, I'm sure. I tend to forget when to use 'who' and when to use 'that.' (As in, dogs who sleep or dogs that sleep?) I use commas rather haphazardly at times. I think I successfully avoid glaring mistakes like confusing 'loose' and 'lose.'  (Try visiting a Weight Watchers message board sometime - you'll loose your mind, I swear.)  The ol' your/you're choice continues to confuse Facebook users worldwide. I don't expect my friends and acquaintances to use perfect grammar in emails or in speech. I promise you I'm not like that. However, I do feel the need to stand up for the language from time to time. I love words and language and yes, I believe text speak marks the end of civilization. Yes, I know language changes and grows. Even grammar rules change (ending a sentence with a preposition has been downgraded from felony to misdemeanor status these days). However, it seems to me like some of the basics should remain. If a noun is not possessive, please don't add an apostrophe. I'm begging you! There is a billboard not far from my home that reads: "We Rent Harley's."  It's all I can do not to weep when I pass it. The world's going to hell in a hand basket and if this email I received from a client isn't proof of that, I don't know what is:

the secound one is wrong just deleat it Thanks (That was the entire message, I promise you.)

If you are also the type to weep when you spot misplaced apostrophes and such, and you know the difference between its and it's, here are a few websites you might enjoy:

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks
Apostrophe Abuse
A Way with Words

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The secret language of families

I'd imagine that most families have sayings and references that mean nothing to the rest of the world. I know my family had plenty of them when I was growing up. When I was a junior in high school I wore black a lot (you know, a reflection of how horrible my comfortable suburban life was and how tortured I was by it). My stad would always ask me, "Who do you think you are? Johnny Cash?" To this day, whenever I wear black, I can hear his voice asking me if I'm about to belt out "Folsom Prison Blues" or something.

You had to have a sharp wit to grow up in my family. We made fun of each other endlessly and mercilessly, even at one point having a game called "Who Am I?" where one of us would mimic another family member and you had to guess which one it was. If you pretended to sleep on the couch with your mouth open, you were my middle sister. If you pretended to fly into an apoplectic rage over nothing, you were my baby sister (she's got the redhead temper going on and all). Don't worry, I got my fair share of ribbing, too. I grew up in Springfield, Virginia. A lot of my friends lived in a sub-division called Saratoga, which was fairly distant from our house (too far to walk). One time I needed a ride and when my mom asked where I needed to go exactly, I responded, "Saratoga."  However, apparently I infused some degree of teenaged exasperation into my voice and it came out more like "Saratooohhhhga."  To this day, my mother will still answer the question of "Where does so-and-so live?" with "Saratooohhhhga! God!"

If you lived in my house as a teenager and had anything resembling a boyfriend, and if you dared utter the words "I'm not hungry," (something you might say if, well, you weren't hungry), you would get this in return from my mother: "Oh, let me guess - you're livin' on looooooove." I still have flashbacks to the time I came home the night before Easter with a hickey on my neck. My mother followed me around all day on Easter Sunday asking, "Are you SURE I can't get you some concealer?"  Nothing was sacred in our house and nobody got away with anything. Once my middle sister wore the same pair of pants a couple days in a row and we made up a rap about them. (I still know all the words to "Party Pants" - ask me sometime!)

One time our family was in Myrtle Beach, browsing inside the Gay Dolphin $.99 gift cove. It was set apart from the main Gay Dolphin store (I think it was across the street) and, as you can imagine, was full of complete and utter crap. There was no one inside the shop at that moment except our family of five and a lone cashier. My youngest sister, who was around three at the time, apparently couldn't handle looking at spray-painted shells glued together in fanciful arrangements for another second. "CAN'T WE JUST GET OUT OF THIS DIRTY OLD PLACE?" she said loudly. Ever since that fateful day, any time we're leaving a store, a party, or just about anywhere at all, it's perfectly acceptable to say that it's time to part from that "dirty old place." We don't really attempt it with anyone outside our immediate family, though. The joke doesn't translate well.

When my original set of parents were still married, my dad would hold down me or my middle sister and not let us up until we said, "Captain Crook!" My sister and I thought every family did this. Later, she held down a friend of hers and tried to force a "Captain Crook!" out of her. Having never heard of such a thing, the friend knew right then that my sister was a lunatic.

Growing up, we also drew a lot of inspiration from Dr. Suess.  We even had a cat named Fud Fuddnuddler, a character in "Oh Say Can You Say."

There are so many things
That you really should know.

And that’s why I’m bothering
Telling you so.

Somehow we got stuck on a particular poem in "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish." We came to associate it with complaints. If you had one complaint about something, fine. But if you tried to tack on a second, you heard in reply:

My shoe is off
My foot is cold
I have a bird
I like to hold
My hat is old
My teeth are gold
And now my story is all told

So now, in honor of my mother, I present to you, a reading of said poem. This one's for you, Poosha Kasha!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Things I don't understand

  • Double-lane roundabouts.  My neck of the woods has gone ga-ga over roundabouts. They are everywhere. From a practical perspective, I understand the benefits. You're not sitting at a light for 30 seconds, so less idling = less emissions and whatnot. However, the double-lane ones give me an ulcer. I feel like no matter how I try to navigate through it, I will manage to screw it up in some colossal way. Sometimes I miss my exit out of the roundabout and just keep going 'round. "Look, kids! Parliament, Big Ben!"
  • Ke$ha
  • Spam. Here is a sample subject line from an email sitting in my spam folder: Enlarge you Penis Naturally Gain Up To 4 Inches In Length And Up To 25% Girth Increase. If I need to enlarge me penis, first I should go about obtaining one. Then I can also purchase the "vigara" that is also offered rampantly to my email account. I wonder what the conversion rate is for these spammers. They must get a sale here and there or they wouldn't keep sending them. I guess eventually some misguided soul will read one and think, "'Enlarge you penis?!' Sign me up!"
  • The word "Shooties"
  • Why people give up their dog when they have a baby. Dogs and children are not mutually exclusive! My daughter has been knocked over lots of times. I say it builds character.
  • Why razor blade refills (for shavers) are so fucking expensive. Are they handmade or something???
  • Why my dogs can't coordinate going outside (and coming back in) all at once. Instead, they insist on coming in/going out at intervals so that I am forced to open the door a hundred thousand times an hour. 
  • The appeal of these shows: Sex and the City, Real Housewives of Whatever, and The Big Bang Theory.
  • Why my husband still does not understand where we keep the bowls. We've been together nearly 20 years. The bowls are not hiding, buckaroo. They're in the same cabinet they've been in since Clinton was in office. 
  • Why the people who say, "What do you mean? I have black friends!" always seem to be the most racist ones of all. 
  • The need to put the letter Z in everything. I saw Butterfinger Snackerz at the grocery store (Halloween candy aisle) last night. I refused to buy them just on principle.
  • Why that nutjob in Ohio was permitted to have lions and tigers and bears living on his property, even though every person interviewed since that story broke seems to have been aware that it was a huge problem. And yet the authorities did nothing. However, it is illegal to own a pit bull in several cities in Ohio and there was also a proposal to ban them statewide. But a lion on a farm is A-OK.
  • Why my daughter's school invited me to sign up to receive the school's newsletter electronically, but now sends me an email (w/the newsletter attached) that says, "Here is the newsletter your child will be bringing home this afternoon." Awesome, because I was hoping to read it twice and seriously, trees are overrated.
If I'm not a prime candidate to take over Andy Rooney's spot on 60 Minutes, I just don't know who is.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Michael & Me

    I've been part of an interesting turn of events over the past few days. I am elated, humbled, and in some ways mystified by all that has happened. Allow me to start from the beginning . . .

    I don't have HBO but regularly listen to "Real Time with Bill Maher" on podcast. Michael Moore was a recent guest. I am a fan of both gents. It occurred to me that I didn't have Michael Moore in my Facebook news feed, so I logged in, found his page, and clicked the "like" button. Not long thereafter, he posted that he was having a little contest on Twitter. His goal was to reach 900,000 Twitter followers and, once that milestone was reached, he would choose a random follower and donate $10,000 to the charity of that person's choice.  Now, I have to confess that I am not the most prolific Twitter user. And, generally speaking, my tweets are far from witty and/or insightful. My most recent tweet was an offer to give away my foster puppy to the first taker (way to change the world and raise awareness of important social issues, Claudia!). However, I didn't find it too arduous to log in, find Michael Moore's Twitter page, and click the "follow" button. Voila! Recently Dr. Oz launched a contest in conjunction with Weight Watchers. The winner will receive one million dollars. I glanced briefly at the rules (you must refer a friend, visit a doctor, etc.) and deemed the contest to be "way too much work." So, if I'm not willing to do half a dozen things in order to win a million dollars, it's pretty clear that my motivation has its limits. But, clicking a button? That I could do.

    Fast forward to Monday evening. I was out and about, running some errands. I did a home visit as a favor to a friend with St. Bernard rescue and then headed to a hardware store to buy some paint stripper for my secret project. As I milled about looking for gloves (so as not to have my flesh stripped off along with the paint), I felt/heard my phone buzzing in my purse. I looked at the screen and saw several messages sent to me via Twitter. The first one said, "Michael Moore is now following you on Twitter." Seriously? Maybe he wants my puppy. Then I had a direct message from Michael Moore (or maybe someone who works with him - I'll just pretend it was the famed filmmaker and muckraker himself) asking me to call his office. The phone number was provided.

    I stared at the phone for several minutes. At first I wondered if the message was somehow related to the Occupy movement - perhaps some sort of campaign to encourage smaller cities to get involved. But then I allowed myself to form the thought .  .  . what if I won? I bought my stripping supplies and headed to my van, where I promptly called the number I had been given. I talked to a very nice gentleman named Jon who informed me that I had indeed won the contest. The last thing I won was a stamp collecting book in the sixth grade, so I needed a little time to absorb the news. I WON TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A CHARITY OF MY CHOICE. Then I did what every 41-year-old woman does when she has big news to share. I called my mama. And then I called just about every person who has the misfortune of having a phone number stored in my Blackberry.

    The only stipulation for accepting the offer was that I had to agree to allow my name to be released publicly. Done. As far as choosing a charity, well, I didn't have to think too hard. I volunteer for a non-profit, a rescue organization for Boxers. As a matter of fact, I am its treasurer so I know all too well how quickly our bank account gets depleted. Right now we have a dog in rescue with a shattered femur and a broken jaw. She underwent a four-hour surgery on Monday and we are expecting to incur at least $2,000 in expenses for her. We also have a dog in rescue with Diabetes Insipidus. The treatment for his condition is, oddly enough, an eye drop called Desmopressin. Because of the high dose he is on, we spend a couple hundred a month just to cover the cost of his prescription. I could go on and on. The bottom line is that this unexpected gift is very much needed and very much appreciated. The dogs in our care, no matter how we cajole and beg, refuse to seek gainful employment. So, we have to hold fundraisers and such to cover the cost of their care. I think you'll agree that having someone give you $10,000 beats selling candy bars any day.

    The formal announcement was made at noon EST on Tuesday. Michael Moore posted it on Twitter and on Facebook. It was an odd feeling, seeing my name posted in a public forum. I'm usually more of a behind-the-scenes sort of person. There were several tweets related to the contest, to me, and to the charity. Then, much to my surprise, he posted a link to my blog. More specifically, he posted a link to an entry I'd written about patriotism. I have to admit I was proud of that particular blog post. I was a little giddy just knowing that Michael Moore had read my writing. Again, I am assuming it was him personally and not someone who works with him because he and I are :::like this:::, you know.

    Then came the backlash. I don't think of myself as naive, but I did not have any inkling such a thing would happen. On Twitter and Facebook, people with (apparently) too much time on their hands started posting vitriolic statements about Michael Moore, me, and my charity. I suppose he's used to it. I suspect he even welcomes differing viewpoints because it's better than the alternative, which is rampant apathy. The main beef, after the contest announcement was made, seemed to be related to the fact that I chose a charity that benefits animals. What I couldn't understand was why people were taking him to task over it when I'm the one who got to choose the recipient organization. The comments on Twitter were the worst - perhaps because you can retain some degree of anonymity there. The ones on Facebook were mostly positive.

    To respond to a few of the not-so-positive comments:

    Animals over people  I'm not sure what sort of logic leads someone to make this leap: She cares about animals; therefore, she does not care about people. I don't even know how to respond to that, in all honesty. My guess is that no matter what charity I chose, someone would have a problem with it. But let me say this: when someone comes to us because their home is in foreclosure and they can't keep their dog, I'd submit that we are helping that person and their dog. My fellow volunteers and I are not trying to be heroic. We are not thumping our chests and talking about our sheer awesomeness. We are just volunteering for a cause that means something to us.

    They don't even take in that many dogs  Our rescue organization takes in around 60-70 dogs a year (nearly 800 to date). We'd take in more except that we can't find enough foster homes to care for the dogs. We spend over $25,000 annually in veterinary expenses. Our focus is on quality, not quantity. We have a veterinary protocol that is completed for each dog. We have a formal temperament test process. We care for the dogs in our homes and feed them out of our own pockets. We are, quite simply, doing the best we can.

    They only care about purebred dogs  For every breed that exists, there are people who adore that breed specifically. I happen to like Boxers (I like other breeds, too, but am particularly fond of the energetic and goofy nature of the Boxer). That is not to say we don't care about mixes. I am fostering a Boxer mix puppy right now. It's just that we know Boxers best and that is our focus. There are rescues out there for every breed, as well as many all-breed rescues. Together, we lessen the burden of overcrowded shelters.

    A couple of parting thoughts . . .

    To the people who are now following me on Twitter as a result of this contest, please accept my apology in advance. My tweets, infrequent as they are, are generally pretty mundane and are only a stone's throw from being downright insipid.

    To those who read my blog entry about patriotism, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the nice feedback. It was very gratifying to read comments like "this is just how I feel" and "agree wholeheartedly!" I was a little verklempt at the end of the day.

    To the naysayers, please allow me to say . . . I won and you didn't. Neener neener neener. Just kidding! (sort of)

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and see if I can piss off some more people who hate dogs.

    Our 'spensive surgery case

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Terrifying things come in small packages

    On Saturday night, P and I sat down to watch the movie "127 Hours" together. The flick is the story of Aron Ralston, the hiker who amputated his arm in order to free himself from a boulder that had fallen on him. In case you are wondering, no, I did not watch the amputation scene. I turned away and read a magazine until it was over. Watching my husband (a former Marine) freaking out over it was all the proof I needed to know I made the right decision.

    Shortly thereafter, I got a call from Kim, my friend and fellow rescue volunteer.  I took the phone into the office/spare bedroom to chat with her.

    "Whatcha doing?" she asked.

    "Not much," I replied. "Watching a movie, having a little wine, that sort of thing."

    "Do you want to foster a puppy?" She sent a photo of the ten-week-old pup to my cell phone. Kim had pulled the dog from the stray facility so as to save her life. Everyone knows I do not like puppies (I've been fostering Boxers for over 11 years and puppies wore out their welcome in our home at least 10 years ago), but I had to admit she was kind of cute. Plus, there was the issue of the wine I'd consumed. My judgement was clouded.

    "Let me check," I said. I turned and yelled to my husband: "Hey! Can we foster a puppy?"

    With zero hesitation he yelled back, "No!"

    "What? I didn't hear you exactly," I responded.

    "Hell no!" he hollered.

    I turned back to the phone. "Sure, we'll take her."

    Well, Kim does not mess around because she had that puppy delivered to me within 24 hours (I met her husband about a half-hour from my house - he, too, was anxious to send the pup packing). Kim has had some fairly serious issues with her eyes and does not see well, so I know it is tough for her to have a puppy in her house. They are too small and move too quickly. So, I wanted to help her, but seriously - have I lost my mind?  The ride home was pretty much a nightmare. First, the pup crapped in the back of my van. I, not realizing she had also walked straight through the poop, pulled her up into my lap. So now I had poopy pawprints all over my pants. Then, she climbed onto my shoulder like some sort of demented parrot and started chewing my hair. When I pulled her down from there, she got busy gnawing on my hands with her needle teeth. For her encore, she hopped down and peed on the floor of the van. Gah!

    Although P and I weren't too thrilled, our kid was over the moon.  She named the pup Willa. I have a feeling we will also be calling the little pooch by several other names. My goal is to get her adopted by Christmas. If there's a God . . .

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Seven Halloweens

    We took the kid to the first of five Halloween-related events yesterday. It was the trial run for her fairy costume. Every year, she announces the following year's costume on November 1st. She never changes her mind either. Once she's made her announcement, she sticks with it. I pieced together this year's costume from various sources (I was trying to avoid buying a really cheap fairy costume that would never last through multiple wearings). I got the skirt and wand at Children's Place, the Danskin leotard on eBay, the tights and shoes at Target, the wings at a craft fair, and the leggings, purple hairspray, and face glitter at Goodwill (all were new). I can't remember where the crown came from. Sassy attitude was provided by my daughter.

    The biggest challenge with Halloween costumes is warmth. Many times, it's downright cold on Halloween. I liked it when she was little and I could wrestle her into a warm fuzzy costume. Now she prefers to sacrifice warmth for glitter.

    It occurred to me yesterday that this is her seventh Halloween so I thought it would be fun to dig out photos from all of them. Fun for me, anyway. Just humor me.


    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Secret Project

    I have no idea if/how I can pull this off, but I'm gonna try. Last week I bought a wooden vanity on Craiglist as a Christmas gift. My daughter has mostly outgrown the plastic kitchen set that lives in her bedroom, so I'd like to replace it with a vanity. The loss of the kitchen will be bittersweet. Bitter, because it means she is growing up; sweet, because we no longer have to pretend to eat plastic broccoli. I had been watching Craiglist ads for a while (while also pricing new vanities) and saw one a few weeks ago that seemed promising. The owner sent me a photo via text. And then I chickened out. It needed a lot of work and I wasn't sure I could smuggle it into the house and then work on it in secret over the next 2 1/2 months. I filed the text message and forgot about it. However, on Thursday the vanity owner sent me a text and asked if I still wanted it. I'm guessing that he must have had other leads that didn't pan out. I know from experience that a lot of the people trying to buy stuff on Craiglist are . . . barking mad. I looked at the photo again, called P to get his input, and then told the guy I'd take it. Aaaaaah!  What was I thinking?

    After work on Friday I picked up the vanity. The seller was kind enough to load it into my mom-mobile. Later, I waited until the kid was in the bathtub and then P and I hauled it down to the basement. We carried it into a room that is used mostly for storage (the room has a door but not a lock). The kid follows me down to the basement constantly but not to that room specifically (she just feels the need to supervise me while I do laundry and clean out the litter boxes). There's a lot of junk in the storage room: boxes of comics, a dead computer, a filing cabinet full of old bills, a futon that's seen better days, etc. Oh, and my father-in-law's ashes are in there as well. It's not the sort of place anyone would hang out on purpose. So, I'm hoping she won't venture in. If only we had never taught her how door knobs work!

    I think I've definitely got my work cut out for me. First I need to strip the existing paint. After that I'll tackle the sanding and painting. The ultimate goal is to turn it into something pink and girlie (maybe even attempt some stenciling?). I'll need to find a stool for it as well. I think it'll be pretty if I can pull it off. The drawers are nice and sturdy so I'm hopeful she'll be able to use the vanity for many years. I may have to get her dad to take her to lots of movies between now and Christmas. Wish me luck. If anyone has any tips with regard to stripping, sanding, or painting, I'm all ears!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Expanding my nephew collection

    I added a fifth nephew to my collection yesterday (I've got two from each sister plus one from my husband's brother). My middle sister gave birth yesterday to a 9 pound 6 ounce boy. She had declared that she wanted him "on the other side of her" by noon but he held out until 1:12 p.m. My sister had been up all night and was ready to be . . . not pregnant. During the early stages of labor I kept in touch with her boyfriend via text message. My sister's childhood nickname is Cheech (I can't say that she's that fond of it).  I double-dog-dared her boyfriend to yell "You can do it, Cheech!" during the pushing phase of labor, but he declined to take the dare. What a pussy, right? Prior to the birth, I had been awarded the auspicious title of "head of the phone tree."  So, once the baby was born, I quickly fulfilled my duties and called the rest of the family.  I am several states away but I got to meet the new guy via Skype last night. He didn't bother to wake up for the call - I hope he realizes that he's going to have to do better than that if he wants a spot on my Christmas gift list.

    He's adorable, as I'm sure you'll agree. When I look at his picture I feel my fingers twitching. Must. Pinch. Cheeks.

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Rite of Passage

    My baby got her ears pierced this morning. We had discussed it a few times over the past year or so. I didn't have it done when she was a baby because I figured, well, it's her body and she should be the one to decide if she wants holes in her head or not. I'm not planning to leave other decisions to her at this age, mind you. I think we'll mostly limit it to "what do you want to wear to school tomorrow?" and "do you want pancakes or waffles?" In any case, she decided she was ready for earrings so I took her to Claire's this morning (motto: ear piercing is free when you buy our outrageously expensive starter kit!). The main thing we had talked about in advance was that once one ear was pierced, she had to have the other one done. I had heard horror stories about kids freaking out after the first shot from the piercing gun and then refusing to endure another. She assured me that she was ready for the whole shebang. She picked out the Hello Kitty set.

    She started out feeling pretty brave but once the store manager started assembling the gun and pulling out all of the supplies (while I was signing a waiver promising not to sue if my kid's ears fell off after we left the premises), her anxiety increased.  She clutched a teddy bear that they keep on hand to soothe nervous piercees. I held her hand while the Claire's lady marked A's ears and then lined up the needle. In the blink of an eye, the right ear was pierced. The left ear was done a second later. The kid seemed torn about whether or not to cry. She sat there stunned for a moment, and then decided to proceed with the tears. I hugged her and wiped her tears and attempted to quiet the voice in my head advising me that I am a terrible mother to have allowed this.

    Moments later, the tears were gone and I'd somehow agreed to buy her some lip gloss conveniently located at her eye level, right next to the cash register. She couldn't wait to go home and show her dad. "I bet he won't even recognize you!" I told her.

    She has informed me that she is practically grown-up now because she has pierced ears, can tie her shoes, and, most importantly, can snap her fingers. "I still can't whistle, though," she said with a frown. So near and yet so far.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Mickey Stresses Me Out

    A year and a half ago, we visited some friends out of state for a weekend. We had a few drinks and then cooked up the idea for all of us to go to Disney World together in the summer of 2012. At that time, it seemed really far away. I guess because it was. Now the trip is seven months out and is looking more and more official. We're starting to panic a wee bit, for lots of reasons. My husband and I first got a little nervous after talking to a friend of mine who happens to be a flight attendant. He sometimes flies the Orlando route and said something about parents who "hemorrhage cash the whole time they're down there" and then fly back home with their souls sucked right out of them.  Since then, we've had this troubling visual of currency flowing steadily out of every orifice.

    In July our out-of-state friends visited us and we sat down with my laptop and looked at some of the Disney-related options. When I learned how much it costs just to set foot inside a Disney park, I had heart palpitations. The reality check was a good thing, though, because P started selling some of his nerdy crap on eBay and socking away the profits. He's hoping to have quite a bit saved by the time May rolls around (although I have a sneaking suspicion that no amount is actually enough when it comes to Disney). I'm happy he's being so pro-active. Maybe we'll even be able to eat periodically while we're down there!  The other bit of good news: my friend Sherri (with whom we will be traveling) is very frugal. You'll find her at Target on December 26th buying Christmas stuff at 75% off. I bow to her greatness. Anyway, I'm confident she'll help me navigate the maze that is Disney (they've been down there several times). Also, they have a timeshare where we can all stay.

    I visited the Disney website yesterday to sign us up for a free vacation planning DVD. I put it in my daughter's name because I figure she'll get a kick out of getting it in the mail. She has also been telling everyone in the free world that she is going to Florida for her birthday.  The other day I stopped at Bath & Body Works to pick up some lotion and as I was checking out at the back of the store, I could hear her talking to a sales person at the front of the store. I heard the sales person say, "Oh wow, your birthday is on May 3rd? And you're going to Florida?" I put an end to the conversation before the kid had an opportunity to give out her social security number.

    I'm still in the early planning stages, but I have to confess that the Disney website overwhelms me. Truly. I feel like I might have a seizure every time I visit the site. There is so much to know and so many decisions to make. Character meal or no? If so, which character? And did you know you have to make the reservations six months in advance, on the dot? Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or no? Which parks do you want to visit? Epcot? Magic Kingdom? Do you want to buy Park Hopper passes? How about the water parks? Do you have a Disney Rewards Visa? Do you want one? How about a meal plan? Would you like to be raped on the way out of the park or just on the way in?  Okay, I'm kidding about that last one but I do feel a little violated just thinking about how much control Disney seems to have over my life.

    Despite my grousing, I am actually excited about the trip. I've never been to Disney World (or even Florida for that matter). I'm excited because my daughter is excited. Also, I'm glad she'll be old enough to remember it. We took her to Texas when she was two and all she could remember about that trip (at the end of it) was that she'd had eggs for breakfast one day. So at that time we vowed not to attempt Disney until she was older. And now she is.

    Well, I'd better get back to my research. Does anyone know offhand if our friends at:

    serve . . . 


    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    First parent-teacher conference of the year

    My daughter has 23 school days under her belt for this school year. She has stayed "on green" for exactly 7 of those days. Not even a third of the time, if you're keeping track. She has been on red twice and on yellow the rest of the days. I never dreamed that an elementary school warning system modeled after a traffic light would occupy so much of my time and energy.

    Anyway, it was with that grim knowledge that I gamely strode down the locker-lined hallway to my daughter's classroom last night. I was expecting to hear words like "very social" and "talkative." In fact, I told P that I thought it would be fun to take a flask and then do a shot every time I heard one of those words. Well, let's just say it's a good thing I don't actually own a flask, as I would've been plowed before I left the building. Although, looking on the bright side . . . I would have been unlikely to injure myself in as much as I was perched on a chair with a molded plastic seat just a few inches off the ground. The teacher also handed me a handwritten index card containing the following notes about my daughter:

    Sweet, affectionate, smart, energetic, social. :-)
    Needs to work on too much socializing
    *Special spot has helped very much.
    Can focus - does a great job completing literacy assignments thoroughly and well.
    Can verbalize math concepts nicely (MathTalk).
    * Keep reading w/book discussions @ home.

    Now, about this special spot. I was aware that my daughter's desk had been moved a couple of times since school started. Apparently the teacher was looking for that magical set of coordinates that would cause my daughter to stop talking. So, guess where A's desk is now? DIRECTLY NEXT TO THE TEACHER'S. It explains a lot, really.

    All in all, it was a good meeting and there was nothing unexpected. The script seemed to be roughly the same as what I heard from her 4K and Kindergarten teachers. "Very sweet . . . talks a lot . . . very bright." I'm proud of my little chatterbox. 

    As I was waiting for her teacher to finish with the family that came in before me, I checked out some artwork that was outside the classroom. Each student has a locker (the lockers have doors but no locks) and on each locker was a picture of Johnny Appleseed and an accompanying story about a recent trip to an orchard. The picture was one of those deals where you start with an outline and can fill in the face however you'd like. I couldn't help but notice that my daughter's version of Johnny Appleseed was a bit different from the others.  He was wearing earrings. Also, he had exceedingly full, red lips. And, where most of the other kids had drawn a dot or small circle for each eye, my kid had given him big blue eyes (with distinct pupils) and eyelashes, too. Let's just say that Johnny was very secure in his manhood. The things you learn in school, eh?

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Toad in a Hole

    When my middle sister was a kid, our parents bought the Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook for her. I think she made several recipes from the book, but the most memorable one was something called Muffin Surprise (or Surprise Muffins - something along those lines). As I recall, they had a bit of jelly in the middle - hence, the "surprise." Pop called them "concussion rolls" because they were, well, quite dense. If one were hurled at your noggin, we imagined you'd be struck unconscious on the spot. My sister didn't think that was funny at all.

    I've ordered the same book (new cover - not sure what else has changed) for my daughter for Christmas.  Last week she came home from the school library with a kids' cookbook. It's not the classic Better Homes & Gardens one, but it has some cute recipes. We tried one this morning.  Now, historically my daughter is not all that self-sufficient so I was a little apprehensive. She doesn't seem to have an interest in doing much for herself. I mean, why bother when you have two capable servants who will either a) dress you or b) be late for work every day? I was reading the blog of a fellow May 2005 mom (I met her through years ago) and came to this realization: I've been had. She wrote in a recent blog entry that her six-year-old often makes herself breakfast. I read that sentence about eight times. Makes herself breakfast. Mine doesn't even pour her own juice . . .

    I suspect that one reason my daughter doesn't do more for herself is that there is no younger sibling around. So it's not as if she needs to prove that she's more grown-up than this non-existent resident of our home. And because this other young person doesn't exist, I don't have to devote part of my parenting resources to him/her. So, I get that. We probably do more for her than we should. Maybe we need to start pushing her a little.

    So, I was happy to encourage Short Stuff to make a recipe from her library book this morning. She chose a culinary delight called "Toad in a Hole," which is essentially a piece of toast with an egg in the middle. She made it and she ate it. Had I made the same thing for her, she would not have eaten it (she is not fond of eggs).

    This afternoon we are headed to an orchard to pick apples. Maybe we'll go crazy and try the Apple Crisp recipe.