Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Falalalala!

Christmas has come and gone, leaving boxes and cookies and tiny little bottles of alcohol* in its wake. I suspect that 2012 is the last year my daughter will believe in Santa, so I wanted to preserve the magic as much as possible. After we got home from church on Christmas Eve, she set out cookies and almond milk for the big guy and even opened the little fireplace doors, just to make sure Santa didn't get trapped in there or anything. Together we watched Santa's progress on the NORAD website. "He's almost in Puerto Rico," I told her. "You'd better go to bed right away!"  And so she did. Her father and I, for once, got a little quiet time together. Thank you, NORAD!

Although my daughter cannot be pried out of bed even with a crowbar on most mornings, she was up bright and early on Christmas Day. I was already awake, because the foster puppy apparently needed to get an early start on his evil-doing. He was up by 6:00 a.m. As any dog person will tell you, when a puppy wakes up and starts wandering around . . . you get up, too. You don't just let him wander around because you're "sure he'll be fine."  Nothing good can come of an unattended puppy.

We decided to gate off the living room while we opened gifts. The dogs (including the puppy) sat on the other side of the gate, looking very put out. A climbed the gate and then dove in.  Santa brought her a bean bag chair and she was thrilled. It's a fuzzy fuchsia affair with sequins on it. Santa also brought her several items from her list, including a stuffed horse, clothes, a DVD, a CD, and I can't remember what else. Her Meemaw and aunties hooked her up, too. My mom made her a beautiful robe. My middle sister got her a sleeping bag with A's name on it. My baby sister got her a shirt from Justice. Santa brought her an ugly rainbow blanket from Justice, so the kid was thrilled to get two things from that store.

I could see a definite shift in how Christmas went down this year. Now that the kid is a little older, there are slightly fewer toys. Sometimes P and I still have flashbacks to Christmas of past years, when we spent the entire day trying to liberate a Dora play set from its box. Just when you think you've just about freed the doll from the box, you find that her hair is actually stapled to the cardboard. Ai-yi-yi. Although some kids hate getting clothes for Christmas, my daughter actually had clothes on her list. I got her some red boots that I would love to wear myself and some cute outfits from Gymboree and Crazy 8. Both stores had kick-ass sales right before Christmas.

After the frenzy of unwrapping was done, we got dressed and headed to our niece and nephew's house for a potluck lunch. My family is far away but P has relatives in the area. We rotate with hosting responsibilities for Christmas Day. Next year it will be our turn. I brought along a casserole and a pastry. A was thrilled to have a chance to play with her cousins. The challenge that we always run into is that A is an only child, our nephew's daughter is an only child, and P's brother's daughter is an only child. So we had three young girls with iffy sharing skills trying to get along. It went well for a while and then eventually all three were mad at each other for various reasons. That's how we knew it was time to wrap things up and head home.

My daughter had a bunch of items on her Christmas list that included the word "maker." Slushie maker, cotton candy maker, ice cream maker, etc. I didn't fall for any of that, but our niece and nephew did. They got her a cotton candy maker. "Thaaaaaaaanks," I said when A opened the gift. I made a mental note to buy their kid a drum kit next year. So, of course, we hadn't even made it back to our house before she started asking about making cotton candy. P decided to humor her and the two of them sat down together to give it a try. He read the instructions while she impatiently waved a paper wand around, ready to catch the spun sugar as it flew out of the machine. Only . . . it didn't fly out. It turns out you can't just dump in the colored sugar. You have to sift it in slowly. P had to scoop it back out and then try again. Eventually, at long last, some wisps of cotton candy began to appear. By that time, the kid had gotten bored and went to her room to play with a new art set. So, I grabbed the paper wand and started twirling it inside the cotton candy machine.

I pulled it out and grabbed a pinch of cotton candy for tasting. "Oh, it's . . . ummmm, gritty," I said. "What flavor is it?"

"Pink."

I tried another pinch but could not place the flavor. I had no context for it, I guess. By then, the kid had re-emerged and swept more of the cotton candy onto the cone. She tried a pinch also. "Oh," she said.

We're going to try another flavor next time. We're also going to try following the directions more closely.








*I asked Santa not to put any chocolate in my stocking, so he tossed in a few mini bottles of booze instead. I'm either vaguely offended or secretly delighted. Or both.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Step into Christmas

After my last post, I felt like I was out of words for a few days there. Friday morning I received a pre-recorded message from the principal of my daughter's school. The school was scheduled to hold a lock-down drill yesterday and the message served as notification to the parents. Apparently, they've had a lock-down drill previously, because my daughter told me about it. I asked her what they told her to do if there is a lock-down. Apparently she is supposed to go to a specific area and curl into a ball. She knows she is supposed to stay away from the windows. She said the classroom door will be locked and the lights will be turned off.

She also made this comment, which has haunted me ever since: "I have to stay in a ball so the shooter can't see my legs."

I felt like crying, just knowing that my child has this kind of awareness now. Stupid reality. Leave my kid alone.

In happier news, my sister-in-law visited us from Kentucky this week. She was supposed to stay with her other brother for two days and then at our house for two days. However, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law contracted the flu and were at death's door. So, P's sister stayed with us for four days.  She is an easy guest to have around - she's low-maintenance and goes with the flow. She taught A how to play Mahjong on the Kindle. She may have regretted her decision to stay at our crazy house because the foster puppy is wreaking pure havoc. I mean, he is a pistol! This morning he got into my daughter's craft supplies and managed to rip open a bag of stick-on googly eyes. So, we had googly eyes strewn all the way across the dining room. It was almost funny. Almost.  When Augie isn't sleeping, he spends his time dragging around throw rugs, gnawing on human flesh (any part of you that you've stupidly left exposed), and emptying his bowels/bladder onto the carpet. We let him outside about a hundred times a day but at this point, anything that lands outside is more of a coincidence than proof of him catching on.

As of Tuesday, I got all gifts (for nephews, niece, parents, etc.) shipped out so now I'm just sort of coasting into Christmas. I did have one major goof-up. I mixed up gifts for one nephew and a friend of the family. Their names are actually pretty similar, but that doesn't forgive my stupidity. I guess it is kind of funny that I sent an inflatable hippity-hop bouncer to a teenaged boy. Anyway, I had to contact that kid's parents (good friends of ours) and ask them to forward my nephew's gift to the correct address.  And then of course I had to send out the correct gift. Ai-yi-yi.

We took the kid to see Santa Claus a few nights ago. Now, why is it that kids tell Santa that they desperately want the one thing you were not planning to buy for them? She sat on Santa's lap and blathered on and on about how she wants a stuffed horse (as in, plush horse - not a taxidermied palomino or something).  When we got home, I frantically started searching target.com, toysrus.com, and so forth. I finally found one at Build-a-Bear.  P went over there the next day to buy it. I pictured my guy standing in line to go through the stuffing process and whatnot. "Did they make you put the little heart in there and make a wish on it?" I asked.

He told me that the lady did obligate him to kiss the heart before she put it inside the horse.  Man, I would've paid money to see that.  What a good daddy he is.

So yes, now we are in the calm before the storm. Last night I went to solstice yoga at 9:00.  It was amazing - quiet yoga by candlelight. I almost fell asleep during savasana, which is pretty rare for me. I have a hard time relaxing. It would have been more like the usual me to lie there and wonder if I had purchased a sufficient number of stocking stuffers.

I'll sign off now as I need to take Short Stuff to the mall (:::shudder:::) to buy a gift for her dad. Oh, and I called this post "Step into Christmas" because that song was playing while I was typing away, and it always reminds me of my stad. One time he gave me an extended dissertation about the arrangement and production of that song. This will make sense to those of you who know my stad.  I saw "Step into Christmas" in a whole new light after that.

Welcome to my Christmas song 
I'd like to thank you for the year 
So I'm sending you this Christmas card 
To say it's nice to have you here

The kid and her aunt

The root of all evil


Monday, December 17, 2012

What to say

Like many parents, I could not decide what to tell my daughter about the shootings in Newtown. I didn't want to tell her at all. The tragedy at Sandy Hook also made me realize that I'd never really talked to her about security at school. I guess it just never occurred to me to say, "Hey, if a crazy person with a gun comes into your school and starts shooting everyone, this is what you should do." And even if I did, what sort of protocol would I recommend? Run? Fling yourself under your desk? These school shootings always seem very random as far as who gets gunned down. There doesn't seem to be much that a child can do to escape a bullet.  It's heartbreaking that we have to think about such things.

At first I was pretty determined not to tell her. A lot of my friends were having similar debates on Facebook. Talk or don't talk? Most opted to bring up the topic in as much as they were concerned that their child(ren) would hear about it elsewhere.  On Saturday afternoon, my daughter and I baked and listened to Christmas carols. When we weren't baking, she was watching the Disney Channel. Everything is sunshine and lollipops on the Disney Channel, so I knew we were safe from bad news - at least for the moment.

On Sunday, my daughter and I spent the day together.  We skipped church and went out to brunch instead, just the two of us. We did some Christmas shopping and had a wonderful time. As we drove around, I looked at all the flags flying at half-staff and decided I should probably say something. I was afraid she would hear some buzz at school on Monday. I was somewhat vague in the retelling of Friday's events. I basically just told her that a man went into a school and hurt some children but that she shouldn't worry about her school.  She asked me a couple of questions and we talked about the flags. "The flags have been lowered for the children," I told her.

I didn't explicitly tell her that 20 children died. I didn't mention that they were her age (a fact that made the news all the more searing for me).  If she asks for more details, I will do my best, but I didn't want to paint too frightening a picture. I didn't want to tell her that I am scared to let her out of my sight. I cannot begin to imagine the horror that the Newtown parents felt on Friday . . . that feeling of not wanting it to be any child but most of all not wanting it to be your own. "Please please please," I know they were chanting in their heads as they ran towards that school.

I didn't cry about the shootings until Saturday night, when Saturday Night Live opened with a choir of children singing Silent Night. It was a simple but poignant way to honor the fallen.

If this tragedy makes it necessary to address the issue of gun control, I suppose I should mention it also. You see, I was raised by a pacifist. My mom didn't even want us forming our hands into the shape of a gun.  I have zero interest in owning a gun or learning to shoot a gun. My husband and I differ on this. He believes in gun ownership.  I'm not completely opposed to people owning handguns or even standard hunting rifles. I am opposed to people owning anything more powerful than that. Nobody needs an assault rifle. It bugs me that the pro-gun people refuse to acknowledge the killing power that is very specific to guns. They say, "What else will you outlaw? Knives?" Well, look at it this way. Let's say that the shooter in Newtown had stormed the elementary school with a knife. Could he have killed 26 people before killing himself with that knife?  It's an impossibility, in my view.

I don't have any answers, though. I have to believe that the shooter was mentally ill. The linked issues of gun control and mental illness . . . well, it's all a little too heady for my little blog.

After our brunch yesterday, I took my daughter to a gingerbread house party. She and eight other little girls slathered gingerbread houses with copious amounts of frosting and then affixed candy to the houses. As I watched my daughter carefully poke M&M's into the frosting, I couldn't help but revel in that small moment of innocence and wish that nothing else would ever seep in.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

You kinda suspected I was crazy

And now you have solid proof. I am currently fostering this eight-week-old puppy for an all-breed rescue. Augie (we call him Augie Doggie, naturally) is part hound (the rescue has his mom) and part "handsome stranger."

Yeah, I didn't think Christmas was hectic enough all on its own. I decided that what we REALLY needed, when it came right down to it, was a small guest who might be inclined to swing from the branches of our Christmas tree by his teeth. And I should add that our guest has very poor bladder/bowel control. And razor-sharp teeth. Fortunately, just as nature intended, the cuteness prevails.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beauty

This amazing blog post by Amanda King went viral recently. I've read it a couple of times.  She's a great writer.

I've been thinking about Amanda King's words a lot in recent weeks. She writes of her struggle to find beauty in herself and to set a self-confident example for her children. This is my struggle, too. My daughter is the most beautiful creature I have ever known. Her green eyes turn me into goo. I'm enamored with her wild curls, her contagious laugh, and her perfect skin. When my daughter leaves the house to go to school every morning, she doesn't worry about how she looks. She is always cute as a button in her fashion boots, stylish dress, and sequined beret. No matter where we are, she walks confidently (often with one hand on her hip). It's more of a sashay, really.

What does she see when she looks at me?  I'm not entirely sure, but I do know that she hugs me regularly and calls me "beautiful mama." She draws pictures of me in which I am always depicted as a glamorous lady, complete with ballgown, high heels, and fancy jewelry.  She is fascinated with my belongings such as perfume, make-up, and jewelry. Little hands are forever re-arranging my things. She always wants her nails painted just like mine. The poor thing even believes I can sing.

What do I see when I look at myself? Not what she sees, I am sure of that. Growing up with various auto-immune conditions (and with children and adults alike making sure I knew that I was DIFFERENT and NOT NORMAL), I'm sure I had virtually no chance of developing a healthy sense of self-esteem. I can't look in a mirror and think, "Well, aren't you looking downright cute today?" It just won't ever happen. I see a chipped tooth, hair that is far too thin and uncooperative, a face that is growing older . . .

And don't even get me started on my weight.

I am careful not to say anything about my weight or my appearance in front of my daughter, though. The last thing I want to do is project my stuff onto her. However, I wonder if I could take it one step further like the blogger I mentioned. An excerpt:

"I don't want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too.  They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that's what women do.  That's what mommy did.  I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty.  Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don't know what to make of ourselves." 

"Look at me, girls!"  I say to them.  "Look at how beautiful I am.  I feel really beautiful, today."

I owe it to my daughter to think I'm at least half as beautiful as she thinks I am. I need to get this right, this parenting business. This business of being a mama to a little girl. My hope is that I'm raising an amazing kid who will  someday become a spectacular adult. Nothing would make me happier than to know that 60 years from now, when I am long gone, she will still walk her sassy walk . . . hand on hip, beret on head. And that she will never have doubted her beauty.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Music

Here it is, the annual post that no one likes but which I insist on writing anyway. I get really excited about new music. I particularly like the Pitchfork app on Spotify, which really helps me weed through the gazillion albums that are released each month.  I also subscribe to several music podcasts.  At this point I've let all of my magazine subscriptions lapse - except Rolling Stone. I finally came to the realization that I wasn't that interested in fashion or make-up tips. Just music.

My favorite songs released in 2012 (according to the play count on my iPod):
  1. Teenage Icon - The Vaccines
  2. Default - Django Django
  3. Fading Listening - Shiny Toy Guns
  4. Hot Knife - Fiona Apple (Every Single Night is up there, too)
  5. All of Me - Tanlines
  6. Doused - DIIV
  7. Would That Not Be Nice - Divine Fits
  8. Move in the Right Direction - Gossip
  9. Motion Sickness - Hot Chip
  10. Lonesome Dreams - Lord Huron
  11. Elephant - Tame Impala
  12. Babel - Mumford & Sons
  13. Guggenheim - The Ting Tings
  14. Electric Guest - This Head I Hold
Favorite guilty pleasure: I Love It by Icona Pop. It is hard not to be downright gleeful as you sing along. "I THREW YOUR SHIT INTO A BAG AND PUSHED IT DOWN THE STAIRS!" 

I only bought a few albums in their entirety this year. I did purchase Django Django's complete album and have listened to it over and over. I also purchased the Divine Fits album, which has also been in heavy rotation.

Thanks for humoring me. As you were, soldiers.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A little bit crazy, a little bit wonderful

'Tis the season! We've got holiday-related events coming at us left and right. Two weeks ago we went to our local festival of lights. Last Sunday my daughter and I attended a Christmas production together. Although it was technically an amateur show, I have to say it was very well done. Flawless, really. It was two hours of singing and dancing and all kinds of Christmas-y stuff. I won the tickets in an auction and I'm glad I bid on them. The show was well worth the longish drive to the theater. 

A few days later, we attended the holiday program at my daughter's school. One benefit to having a short child: she is always in the front row. Easy to spot and photograph. The second grade sang one song about pinatas and a Hawaiian song about Christmas. Mele Kalikimaka!  I heard that song for weeks before the concert. Oh, and she gets really pissy if you try to sing it and you call it mele kalikicaca. Or mele kalikiclickety-clackety. Some people do not have a good sense of humor. And some of those people live in my house.

On Saturday, we got our tree. I'm actually a little surprised at how easily the three of us selected a tree without too much bickering. We got a saw, marched into the tree farm, and ten minutes later we had a tree. I could swear we just got a Christmas tree. It's so true what people say - the days are long but the years are short. I hung a "baby's first Christmas" ornament as we decorated the tree and I couldn't help but wonder where the years had gone. This is baby's 8th Christmas.

Next up was our church's Christmas program. My kid got a pretty big speaking role this year. We don't do the traditional Christmas story. Unitarian Universalists like to put a little spin on the usual stuff.  The kids performed a play about Hoshmakatu, a camel who traveled to Bethlehem carrying gifts for the baby Jesus. My daughter played his trusty sidekick, Humbug. Humbug is a lamb, so she had to dress all in white. Putting my child all in white was a bit frightening for me, as you can imagine.

And finally, A and I attended the Nutcracker Ballet. She'd never been to the ballet before and I knew she'd love it.  I won the tickets at the Pride festival a few months ago (well, technically I won a gift card and this was how I chose to use it).  I hadn't seen the Nutcracker in years so I really enjoyed it. Getting stuck in the parking garage and then driving home in a snowstorm?  Less enjoyable. But I have some mulled Christmas wine, so I'm good.








Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Empathy


When my daughter was a toddler, we went through the typical episodes with biting and hitting and whatnot. We got a couple of calls and notes from daycare about it. When you're just a tot and your playmates piss you off, I guess biting them seems like a pretty good solution at the time. Then when she was around four, a boy at Kindercare was bullying her pretty heavily (he was a lot bigger than she was). Eventually he disappeared, so I assume that his parents had to pull him out. I think he had some more serious issues than what can be handled in a traditional daycare environment. In any case, I remember thinking that I wasn't sure which would be harder - having a bullied child or having a bully.

Last Thursday I picked up my daughter from Kindercare as usual. She wasn't in the room where I usually find her. A staff person told me that she was in the back area. When I found her, she looked very sad.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

She looked down. "I called someone a name."  She said it so softly that I almost couldn't hear her.

A staff person came over to fill me in. She explained that a little girl in the four-year-old classroom has an auto-immune condition and is on a heavy dose of steroids. As such, she is significantly overweight. Although she and Adrienne aren't in the same classroom at the daycare, apparently they were seated together at some point. My daughter looked at the other girl and said, "You look pregnant."

Needless to say, the comment hurt the little girl's feelings and the word got back to her parents (I'm sure they weren't thrilled either).  I told the staff member that I would have a talk with my daughter, who had started to cry by that time. I took her out to the car and strapped her in.

"Listen, you made a mistake," I told her. "I'm not mad at you. It happens to all of us. Sometimes we say something stupid and hurt someone's feelings, and then we have to apologize. You will need to tell her that you're sorry."  She nodded. And then wailed all the way home.

My daughter is not a bad kid. She is a sweet girl and is very loving.  I don't know why she said what she did.  My heart was really torn, though. I have three different auto-immune disorders myself. Thanks to the vitiligo, I was stared at and verbally abused by other kids when I was young. I want my daughter to be the kid who befriends the classmate who is different.  I know she has it in her heart to be that kind of person.

When we got home, we talked a bit more. I reminded her that it is never appropriate to comment on someone else's appearance, unless it is to pay them a compliment. I happened to have a blank card (with hand-stenciled hearts on the front) that I picked up at the county fair a few months ago. I suggested that she write an apology to the girl she offended and handed her the card. She nodded and said she would feel more comfortable doing that instead of a verbal apology. I hoped she would do both.

I didn't say anything more about the incident, because I think by then she had already punished herself over her mistake. She was very quiet all evening and cried a few times. The next day, there was no school so she would be at Kindercare the whole day. She had the card with her when her dad dropped her off Friday morning.

When I picked her up after work that day, I asked her how the day had gone.  "Did you apologize to her?" I asked.

She beamed at me. "She's my best friend!* We sat together at lunch!"

I could tell that she felt a lot better about the situation. And, I'm betting that she'll be more careful about what she says to others in the future. I hope I handled the situation in the most beneficial way. I tell you, this parenting business is not easy.

Now that the ordeal is in the past, it occurs to me that I should pass along one other piece of advice to my daughter. No only does the "if you can't say anything nice" rule ALWAYS apply, you should never, ever, under any circumstances suggest that a woman of any age is pregnant. I mean, unless the baby's head is actually crowning (and maybe not even then) . . . don't say a word. 

*My daughter has a few dozen best friends. The more the merrier, I guess!

Friday, November 30, 2012

All she wants for Christmas is . . .

Compared to the loss of the other front tooth on Thanksgiving (flying face first into a moving treadmill), this one was much less dramatic. We stopped at Target after work to get a Christmas gift for my niece. A blew part of her allowance on a rice krispie treat and an Icee. She bit into her snack and then suddenly the tooth was hanging by a thread, quite literally. I convinced her to let me yank it out lest we find ourselves in the predicament of searching on hands and knees for a tooth hopelessly lost on the white floor in the toy aisle. All it took was a tiny tug and it was out.

So, s's are a bit challenging now (I made her say theven, therendipity, and thuthpicious just for my own amusement) and also . . . the tooth fairy is going broke. Two more teeth are also loose. I mean looth.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No, not embarrassing at all.

Yesterday, I received this email from my daughter's teacher:

Just wondering if A showed you her homework slip for reading last night? She said that she didn’t get it finished because she had chores to do all night and there wasn’t any time when the chores got finished. I had written on her slip that she needed to read chapter 3 and 4 (which she was supposed to do in class and write a summary). This was given to her group and they had 45 minutes to work on it. She chose to only read chapter 3 and then read other stuff. I told her that she needed to complete for group later on in the day. So when she came to group she didn’t have it finished and she was given as homework chapter 5.

I'll just come right out and say it: my daughter's time management skills leave much to be desired. Sometimes I wonder why we are bothering to save for her college education, when the odds of her making it to her classes seem so very small. I worry about her future career and can only pray that it is one that does not require her to show up for work at any specific time. You know I love my child with all my heart and soul, and I am surely her biggest fan, but she does have this one teensy little flaw. 

On weekdays, her alarm clock goes off at 6:00 a.m. After her dad and I nag her for the next 15 minutes, she throws us a bone and finally takes off her pajamas. 9 times out of 10, she is still naked at 6:30.  And her breakfast is cold. We've tried rewarding her, punishing her, taking her shit away - you name it! Before she was born, we showed up at places on time. Now, we go skidding into work, movies, birthday parties, church, etc. about a minute after we are supposed to be there. And it's all because we cannot take a naked child with us. We have to require clothing and in our home, at least for one member of our household, getting dressed is an ordeal of epic proportions.

So, I feel her teacher's pain as I'm sure that A's time management skills don't magically improve once she gets to school. When I read that email from her teacher, embarrassment was the first emotion to register in my brain. I assume you caught the line about CHORES ALL NIGHT?! Fortunately, I know teachers are wise people who do not believe every word a child says. It is true that my daughter has a short list of chores:
  1. Dust once a week
  2. Pick up dog poop twice a week (we have suspended this one for the winter)
  3. Take a bath every other day, as independently as possible. 
  4. Make bed daily.
It is also true that Tuesday was the night she was expected to dust. If she focused on that task, I believe it would take her a maximum of 10 minutes. However, she starts a task but then finds ways to prolong it. She dances and sings. She rifles through the candy jar, kisses her dog Gretchen on the lips, and watches shows on the Disney Channel featuring preternaturally cheerful teens. She may even stop to do some impromptu coloring.

I was at yoga on the night in question but I can assure you that she had ample time to do her homework and the one chore she was asked to do. In theory, she should even have had lots of time left over to play video games with her dad and whatever else she wanted to do. But that's not how she rolls.

In any case, I did respond to her teacher with assurances that we'd work harder at making sure our daughter completes all assignments. I also let her know that we did not require the little fibber to do chores ALL NIGHT. When I called my mom and told her about her granddaughter's latest escapade, she laughed until she was out of breath.  "Well, she sure threw you under the bus!" she exclaimed.

I have a feeling I'm going to be spending a lot of time under that bus.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Customer Service

There is a little bath shop that I love. The store carries gigantic bath fizzy balls, soaps, fancy lotions, rubber duckies, and countless other products related to bath and body. For me, there is nothing better than a hot bath on a cold winter's day. And, if I smell halfway decent when I climb out . . . so much the better.  I'm a sucker for bath-related products. This particular store is located in a college town a couple hours from me. I stop in whenever I'm in that neck of the woods. My mom has accompanied me on one of her visits as well.  I've been in the soap store at least a dozen times, if not more. Guess how many times an employee has asked me, "Can I help you?"  Zero. My mom experienced the same thing when she was with me one time.

Now, I don't know if maybe I just look like I haven't got any money. Or maybe I'm not hip enough for this upscale shop in a college town. I have no idea. I have noticed that behind the counter at this store they have all sorts of oils and, as I understand it, you can customize the scents. I'm not really sure since no one has ever offered to tell me about them. Sure, I could ask for help but I always feel a little sheepish about doing that. I mean, I'm not even sure I want the custom-scented oils - I guess I just want to know how it all works. I always buy a few things - some bath fizzies, some lotion, etc. One time I bought my stad a toothbrush there and he said it was the best toothbrush of his life. If one of the hipsters behind the counter took the time to approach me, ask me what kinds of scents I like, etc. . . . I can't help but think they'd stand a chance at increasing their sales significantly.

Anyway, it's become sort of a running joke with me and my mom. I'll tell her, "Hey, I went to that soap store and the record remains unbroken!" She suggested that I contact the store after I told her about my most recent visit there in November.  So, I sent a little email through their website.  I basically said, "Hey, I love your store and am a big fan but for what it's worth . . ."

I got a response from the owner of the store thanking me for my feedback.  However, then he added this:

Some times too when people are shopping together I hate to interrupt their conversation with "may I help you?"  That is the same when people are on cell phones or playing with their hand held devices. 

So, let me get this straight - I didn't get squat for customer service and . . . it is probably my own fault? For the record, during my last visit I was in the store with my daughter. She was in an aisle by herself, picking out some bath beads shaped like dolphins and whatnot. I was in another aisle, also by myself and definitely not on my phone. Believe me, I worked retail for several years and I am not the yahoo who talks on the phone at the check-out. I am also not a big text-er. Thanks to my non-bending thumb, it is just too tedious for me to do it with any regularity. But sure, maybe it was my fault somehow.

Lest I leave you with the impression that I am a chronic complainer, I want to share a quick story about good customer service. For my wee baby sister's birthday, I ordered a custom 'mother's necklace' for her from an etsy shop. The necklace features a disk on which my three nephews' names are engraved. Their birthstones are also attached.  When I got the necklace in the mail, it wasn't exactly as I had envisioned. I agonized over whether or not I should contact the seller. Finally, I mustered up the nerve to contact her and she responded right away with an offer to make the changes I was requesting.  I sent the necklace back and a few days later I had a replacement that looked just like I wanted it to. Therefore, I can happily recommend that if you are looking for unique and/or custom jewelry, check out Rips Designs.

In my job as a project manager in web development, I also provide technical support to clients. More often than not, when a client calls with an issue, it is probably a 'user error' sort of situation. However, I can't say, "This is your fault. You clicked the wrong thing." It would be rude, for starters. My goal is to help them with their problem and to have them hang up feeling like they've received assistance without condescension. If I get it right, they stick around as happy clients and I get to keep my job. It's a win-win. It's really not that hard to be nice to people and treat them decently.  So sayeth I.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving

Since I'm sure you were wondering . . . 

Yes, the manhole cover turned out to be fully edible. And yes, I made my mom's dressing recipe without incident. My dressing did taste slightly sweeter than hers - I probably screwed up the bread cubes to cornbread ratio somehow. I also used less pepper than she does because, to quote my mother: "Claudia thinks a mashed potato sandwich is too spicy." She has also been known to call me a "candy ass" because I'm not big on spicy foods. And keep in mind that I am her favorite!

The made-from-scratch cloverleaf rolls did cause me some angst in the afternoon when I began to fear that the yeast was not doing its job. The dough did not appear to be rising. However, eventually it thought better of becoming a failure and did what it was supposed to do. Homemade rolls are labor-intensive but oh so good. Carb heaven! The vegan gravy was pretty good. I can live without it but it wasn't bad.

My daughter helped with the mashed potatoes. And by "helping," of course I mean "caused the process to take ten times longer than it normally would." All in all, though, it was a very nice Thanksgiving at home, with just our little clan.




Friday, November 23, 2012

You shoulda seen da other guy

My daughter is scared to death to pull a tooth out of her head. When she lost two bottom teeth last year, there was a lot of drama and trauma involved.  So, she decided not to tell me when her two front teeth started to become loose earlier this year. She didn't want me nagging her ass, I guess. I figured it out eventually, however.  I've been asking her about the teeth periodically for the past few months.

"How about we pull them out today?"

"No."

"Tomorrow?"

"Mo-om!"

I just worry that the new teeth are desperate to grow and, if not given a proper opportunity to claim their rightful spot in my daughter's mouth, will revolt and grow in at a 90-degree angle just for spite. I've tried my best not to nag her too much, though.  Fast forward to Wednesday night. The three of us kicked off the four-day weekend by going to a hockey game. The kid insisted on sitting in her dad's lap for the entire game (might get a little awkward when she's in her twenties, but seems okay for now). Between plays, she was showing us how she could push out her loosest tooth with her tongue. The tooth was barely hanging on.

When we got home, she brushed her teeth and the gum tissue around the loose tooth started to bleed. I almost had her talked into letting me pull it, but she got spooked and I didn't want to force the issue. I just told her that the tooth would come out eventually, one way or another.

On Thanksgiving Day, we ate dinner and then headed to my friend Sarah's house for dessert. My daughter was playing with her sons.  The boys are roughly the same age as A and they get along pretty well. Anyway, my husband and I were sitting outside when I got word that my kid was bleeding. I'm not one to panic but I hurried inside to find out the scoop. I found my daughter in the bathroom, crying and clutching a Kleenex up to her mouth. I knew right away that the tooth had made its escape at last.

Apparently, the boys had been showing A their parents' new treadmill.  My daughter climbed aboard willingly. I'm not sure what the speed setting was, but what I do know is that my child is not super coordinated.  She plunged face first onto the belt, knocking her tooth out in spectacular fashion.  The tread marks from the rubber were imprinted in her nose and lip. So, there it was - our Thanksgiving excitement.  I sat with her in the bathroom, attempting to console her. "I won't get any moneys because I don't know where the tooth is!" she wailed.

"The boys will find it," I assured her. Sure enough, the boys rounded the corner right at that moment, tooth in hand.

"Hey, can I see the blood? asked the younger one.

I imagine we won't soon forget this Thanksgiving!  It doesn't really show up in the photo below, but she still has the treadmill marks on her nose and lip. And now she's snaggle-toothed, but still cute as all get out. Oh, and she's four dollars richer.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm a grown-up; I can do this

I'm preparing to make Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. I ordered a turkey breast for my husband from Heavenly Ham. Yes, that's right. They sell turkey at the ham place. For me I bought . . . a Tofurky Roast. I have sandwiches made from Tofurky deli slices all the time, so I suppose I already have an idea of how it will taste. I am guessing that Short Stuff will decide to pass. Different or unknown = baaaaaad.  The Tofurky is stuffed with dressing and comes with a container full of vegan gravy. I'm pretty curious about how the gravy will taste in as much as I haven't eaten gravy since I was a kid.

In addition to the main dishes, I am also making:
  • Stuffing/dressing
  • Cloverleaf rolls (from scratch, yo!)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole 
  • A brownie torte 
After dinner, we are heading to a friend's house to enjoy some dessert (and, if a girl can dream, some wine). I am taking my brownie torte along. I brought it to my parents' house one year for Thanksgiving. My stad spotted it on the kitchen counter and asked, "What's that? A manhole cover?"  The name has stuck ever since. Let me just say that my manhole cover is delicious, dammit! 

I am making the dressing from my mother's written recipe, passed to me a long time ago. The recipe has no ingredients list and no quantities are mentioned. Also, the word "moist" is used more times than seems necessary. The recipe is peppered with statements like "I don't really have a recipe for this" and "just cook it 'til it's done," so I can't say that I have complete confidence in my ability to complete the mission.  Another gem from my mom: "Yeast is a very tricky thing."  This little tidbit will come in handy when I make the cloverleaf rolls.

In case you are wondering, my mother is well-stocked with one liners for her children. Another example: "I don't care if you kill each other - just do it in your room" (I'm bummed that I never get to use that one, since A is our only child).  The other day, my mom and I were reminiscing about another old nugget: "WHO THREW UP ON THE WASHINGTON POST?"  I keep thinking I should have that one printed on a tee shirt. My middle sister and I had taken our wee baby sister out for drinks on her 21st birthday. There were a lot of shots involved, so I guess she expelled those shots onto the Washington Post when we got home.  Ah, the memories.

In any case, I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving meal. I hope everything turns out to be, you know, edible. I'm going to start the day off with a yoga class in case that helps me to focus and not overindulge for the rest of the day.

I'm also planning to do some Black Friday shopping . . . on Friday. I know I wasted a lot of energy ranting about this last year, but I still say it's ridiculous to open a store on Thanksgiving. So, I will go on Friday and hang out with all the other crazy people. I have coupons and a strategy and umpteen nephews to buy for. My youngest nephew was born on December 26th, so we're not sure how to handle that (celebrate on the 26th? a few days later?)  Poor kid. And just wait until I tell him that his mother once THREW UP ON THE WASHINGTON POST!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Charity Schmarity

With the holidays upon us, I find myself wondering, once again, if I am doing enough to encourage acts of charity from my child. I am uncomfortable with the focus on charity reaching a fever pitch around the holidays and then lying dormant the rest of the year. Or at least that is how it seems to go for most families. For our family, we are heavily involved in a charity (Boxer Rescue) so for us it is a year-round affair (feeding and caring for dogs that don't belong to us, attending rescue events, etc.) However, we are still faced with the specter of our daughter's lengthy Christmas wish list each year. I feel the need to counter the "I wants" with at least one concrete, tangible "I give."

Last year, we adopted an angel tree recipient named Bianca. I purposely chose a girl who was close to my daughter's age in case it might help A to identify with Bianca in some way. Well, I am embarrassed to admit it, but my kid did not lose any sleep over Bianca's plight. There was no real empathy, no mi casa, su casa action.

So, I think I should try a new tactic this year. I think maybe I should let her choose a charitable endeavor on her own. I sat down with her this afternoon and suggested that she should think about donating part of her allowance to a charity. She gave me an odd look.

"A charity?"

"Yes," I said. "You know . . . do something nice for, or give a little donation to, someone you don't know. A stranger."

She looked even more confused now. "A stranger?  Well, we don't know the people in that one house down the street. I guess I could give them some money." 

"Oh, I didn't mean to pick a random . . . hey, let's talk about this later, okay?

I don't know. I don't feel like a charitable act should be something that's forced. Charity shouldn't be limited to the holidays either, of course. What's a mom to do?

At the holiday parade with her pop

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Don't forward stupid crap (please)

Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who
created the universe, and the vast majority believe you.
Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.
- George Carlin

I got this email yesterday:

Distribution has begun...Refuse new coins!       

True Americans will refuse these

It has begun..

REFUSE NEW COINS

This simple action will make a strong statement.
Please help do this. Refuse to accept these when they are
handed to you.

I received one from the Post Office as change and I asked for a dollar bill instead. The lady just smiled and said 'way to go' , so she had read this e -mail.  Please help out..our world is in enough trouble without this too!!!!!

U.S. Government to Release New Dollar Coins
You guessed it

'IN GOD WE TRUST'  IS GONE from the front and back!!!
If ever there was a reason to boycott something, THIS IS IT!!!!
DO NOT ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COINS AS CHANGE
Together we can force them out of circulation..

Please send to all on your mailing list!!

The font of the original email was much, much bigger. Because, you know, your crazy talk will somehow make sense to me if each letter is the size of a grapefruit. The email was sent to me by a woman who runs a local health and wellness center.  The center itself is an asset to our community. Its focus is on natural approaches to one's well-being. For example, they bring in massage therapists, reiki practitioners, yoga instructors, etc. They also have a lot of seminars. At some point I must have gotten myself on the mailing list for the center. The emails have always bugged me because every other words is a different size/color font and reading them always makes me feel a little stabby. But, I thought the intent was good so I subdued my anal-retentive need for consistency and balance and readability.

Anyway, I unsubscribed from the mailing list once I received the email about the coins. If one more person tries to tell me how to be a better American, I might just lose my shit. Seriously.

Oh, and does no one do any fact checking, for crying out loud?  I don't have any dollar coins, but according to Snopes, "in God we trust" is on the dollar coin - it is just on the edge instead of the traditional location. Read the whole thing if you wish (and here is another article as well). From what I've been reading, the dollar coins aren't even being produced at this point. I think most of us hate them anyway. I don't know how many versions of the dollar coin there have been, but some of the ones I've seen in my lifetime have been far too close in size to the quarter (the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin comes to mind). Try handing one to a sixteen-year-old cashier if you want to see why it's a problem. But, I digress.

Another point that people seem to forget:  "in God we trust" was not added to paper currency until the late 1950s. It was added as a knee-jerk reaction to the whole "Red Scare" business. Apparently we thought that if we put something about God on our money, it would scare away those wicked commies. Maybe we thought a reference to God was their Kryptonite or something.

I get so tired of misinformation. My wee baby sister and I were talking about this the other day. People say that Obama is trying to take away their guns. False. He has periodically made statements about assault weapons (you know, machine guns and whatnot), but in general, he supports the Second Amendment. He seems to avoid the issue as much as he can. President Obama is also regularly accused of being soft on immigration (he does say that he favors immigration reform . . . whatever that means), but record numbers of people have been deported since he took office in 2009.

I just wish people wouldn't blindly forward every stupid email they receive.

Let me just say this:

- Whether or not it says "in God we trust" on our money
- Whether or not same-sex couples are allowed to marry
- Whether or not people smoke wacky-tobacky in the privacy of their homes
- Whether or not my friends/neighbors/co-workers/elected officials believe in God

 . . . it does not affect my life in any way.

I wish people would just focus on being decent human beings instead of worrying so much about whether everyone else meets their definition of a proper American.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Life and loss and unspoken things

See this handsome guy (with très adorable bébé)?

His name was Andrew. He went to my church.  He died suddenly a couple weeks ago (apparently from a bacterial infection of some sort).

Andrew and I were friends - not close friends, but friends nonetheless. I used to (jokingly) threaten to unfriend him on Facebook because he was always posting about bacon. So one time he posted an infographic about vegetables and tagged me, saying that he had only posted it so that I wouldn't unfriend him. Earlier this year Andrew became a dad and was thrilled beyond words. The posts about bacon became less numerous, and photos of baby Jaxon took their place. Andrew and Jaxon's mother were not together, but I know Andrew spent a lot of time with his son. It breaks my heart that Jaxon will not know his father, at least not in the direct, physical sense.

I have a tiny confession, which is that even though I'm a happily married old lady, I had a small crush on Andrew. I liked his dark eyes and his ever-present smile. I admired his spirituality and the way he seemed to approach life in a non-traditional way. I remember one time he talked of going camping in the winter. To me, camping in the summer is borderline crazy. Camping in the winter . . . I don't even know.

Losing a friend who's in your age group is always hard to process.  I'm still having trouble accepting that my friend Kevin died, and he's been gone a few years now. I still miss him so. Andrew was a couple years younger than I am. Jaxon needs his dad. The world needs Andrew. It's hard to comprehend this sort of loss.

Now, I know that when someone dies, everyone says, "Every day is a gift," and so forth. It may seem sort of schmaltzy, but in Andrew's memory, I'm endeavoring to make sure my friends know that I appreciate them. I don't know how I got so fortunate to have so many amazing friends. I am blessed indeed.  So, I have been contacting my amigos, mostly just as their names pop into my head, and letting them know, "Hey, I appreciate your friendship."

If you are a friend of mine and you haven't heard from me yet, there are a couple of possible explanations:

1. I just haven't gotten to you yet, but I will.
2. There is a very real possibility that my brain is thoroughly convinced that I've already contacted you and told you of your awesomeness. Like I said, I am an old lady.

I am not including my family because we are a demonstrative lot and do not hesitate to lob the L word at each other with abandon. So, they already know.

One of Andrew's friends posted this on Andrew's Facebook page the other day.

I always assumed you knew how important you were to me, but I never told you outright. Maybe I did, but not in so many words. I wish i had. Even though we weren't together often, my heart is very heavy. 

I am sure that Andrew knew.  However, for those of us who still have a chance to say it, it's worth saying.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Oh, the shame

I was rearranging some stuff in our home office slash guest bedroom this morning and came across my college diploma. I opened the green holder and took a gander. My Bachelor of Arts - English degree was conferred upon me by George Mason University. The diploma also includes lettering embossed in gold: "with distinction" - added because of my high GPA. (Me so smart!)

I need to mail it back. I do not deserve to keep it any longer. I have a confession to make: I'm reading "Fifty Shades of Grey."  Each time I'm part of a gathering of women, the book eventually comes up in conversation and, without fail, I'm the only one who has not read it. I guess I wanted to see what all the buzz is about. Now, normally when the whole planet is into something, I dismiss it. I know that sounds snooty, but I offer you the song "Macarena" as proof. Something can be universally adored and still suck ass.  However, I also got curious about the buzz on "Downton Abbey" and, as it turns out, the series is amazing. I watched three episodes in a row last weekend and was in heaven. 

Now, with "Fifty Shades of Grey," I wasn't completely in the dark. I knew that critics mostly hated the book. I'd heard that the prose is pretty awful.  I was curious, but didn't want it sitting on my bookshelf for the next decade. I also didn't want to check it out from the library. Then I remembered: P has a Kindle Fire. I bought it for him for his birthday. He does not use it to read books. He uses it to play online poker with strangers (and cuss loudly at them because, when he loses, it is only because "those motherfuckers got lucky").

I downloaded the book and have read about half of it. I had to make a solemn vow to delete it when I'm done. 

Yes, the writing is . . . not good.  The main character says things like, "Double crap!" Some of the dialogue is downright painful to read (and not because the topic relates to BDSM). Anyway, I'll finish it but I doubt I'll read the whole trilogy. I don't think my pride could take it.

I feel like I should dig out some Faulkner . . . re-read "Light in August" or something. Maybe tackle some Dickens and Steinbeck. 

I'm sorry for letting everyone down like this, reading low-brow fiction and all. :::sigh:::

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Well, thank goodness

With apologies to my conservative friends, I'm doing a little jig right now over the election results. Be glad you can't see it (my jig, not the election results - you are free to look at those).

While I acknowledge that President Obama perhaps has not done enough for the economy (and has not succeeded in reducing unemployment as much as one would like), I think it's important to remember that he's one man and that he's accomplished quite a bit despite the erection of sizable roadblocks from the GOP.  (See, it is possible to use the word erection in a sentence and not have it mean something dirty!) Our memories are short, though. I had to do some Googling myself in order to be reminded of the President's many accomplishments.

Although Mitt Romney may have a certain amount of business acumen, I'm not sure it makes up for all he lacks. During the campaign, he made his disdain for women, same-sex couples, and low-income families pretty clear. Had he become president, I was also extremely concerned that he would strip away environmental protections. At times he has stated that he accepts the concept of climate change, and at other times he has rejected the concept. The dude makes me nervous. I think it makes me a little bit apprehensive any time someone rejects science. And don't even get me started on axing PBS (.00014% of the federal budget) and Planned Parenthood (check out this graph if you haven't seen it - one of their primary activities is doling out birth control and the more they dole out, the lower the abortion rate will be . . . or at least that theory seems viable in my mind). I will say that as frightened as I am of Mitt Romney, I was even more frightened of Rick Santorum. :::shudder:::

My daughter accompanied me to the polls on Tuesday. She fully understands that her dad and I belong to different political parties. We also practice different religions and have lots of other differences, too (music, books, movies, etc.) So, if nothing else, she'll grow up understanding that she has lots of choices. I'm trying to raise a free thinker here! She accompanied me into the voting booth, and I showed her my ballot and how it all works. I'm hoping that she'll remember the importance of voting and of paying attention to what elected officials are up to (good or bad).

I did a little math and my daughter will vote in her first presidential election in 2024, when she will be 19 years old.  I will be 54 . . . assuming she hasn't driven me into an early grave. She seems to be making that her full-time job lately (lots of eye-rolling, smart ass comments, etc.), so we'll see . . .

See the hand on the hip? Sassy 'tude.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The one where I throw out my back and then whine incessantly

I'm home from work today, so I thought I'd bore you with some details from my weekend. My daughter and I left town Saturday morning and didn't get back until Sunday evening. I gave my husband two jobs while I was gone: 1. Turn the clocks back and 2. Clear off the deck. "I'd better write this down," he told me when I passed along my requests.  I can see how two items on a list might be pretty overwhelming.

As far as why I'm home today . . . it seems that my on-and-off back problems have come to a head.  Before we left town on Saturday, the kid and I went to a craft show. As I was getting into the car, I heard my lower back say something along the lines of, "ZOINKS!" I was in pain for the next couple of hours on the long car ride. When we stopped for lunch at a deli, I sort of rolled out of the car and then muttered under my breath until my spine adjusted to the standing position. Once I'm upright, I'm fine. My back has established the following spectrum:

Lying down = mild discomfort but nothing major
Standing up = Minimal pain
Sitting = Holy fuck that hurts

Anyway, I didn't want to ruin the weekend, so I soldiered on. After lunch, I took my daughter to a children's museum. She had a blast. I wanted to run around with her but mostly hung out in a corner, crumpled up like a newspaper. From there, we stopped at Trader Joe's to grab some odds and ends for dinner and then checked into our hotel room. We were volunteering at a dog fair the next day, so that was the reason for our little getaway. Needless to say, she immediately started a campaign to convince me to head straight to the pool. I poured some wine into a plastic cup and escorted her down to the pool. I knew better than to postpone the inevitable. We swam for a while, which my back didn't seem to mind at all. Gravity is the real enemy. The hotel was pretty crowded because of a wedding and some sort of Army event. Get this - while we were swimming, someone took our towels and my cup of wine. Who does that (and no, a cleaning person did not come through)?

Eventually I climbed out of the pool and left A to play with some other kids. I had one of those "ack, my heart hurts" mama moments. I watched her in the pool with the other kids and noticed that they were stronger swimmers than she is. Also, they were taller.  I could tell that she was too embarrassed to use the pool noodle I'd brought along for her. She was only tall enough (to reach the bottom) in the 3" area of the pool, which was basically one small corner.  I saw the look on her face and wished I could fix everything for her. I was done swimming, but got back in the pool to play with her anyway.

The next morning, my back was no better but we got up and headed to the pet expo anyway. As long as I remained standing, the pain was pretty minimal. The kid spent all of my money on spin-the-wheel games at some of the other booths.  We worked at the Boxer Rescue booth for a few hours and then headed out.  We stopped for lunch and then did a little outlet shopping on the way home. A worked on her Christmas list in the back seat. It contains the following items: slushie maker, ice cream maker, cotton candy maker, and Blizzard maker. I laughed out loud when I saw it. She must think Santa's on crack if she believes he is going to bring any of those things.

Anywho . . . it was an eventful weekend and I don't think my back had a chance to do much (any) healing. So, I figured it was best if I stayed home today and tried to rest. Lying on the couch is actually pretty challenging for me. I have things to DO, ya'll. However, a girl could get used to this not wearing a bra thing. I'm wearing flannel pajamas, a fleece robe (made for me by my mama), and a pair of slippers that doesn't match either one. Honestly, I'm not even sure how my husband will keep his hands off me when he gets home.





Wednesday, October 31, 2012

8th Halloween


It's my baby's 8th Halloween. Ack! Sometimes she seems so grown-up and other times, she seems downright helpless. This morning she asked me to help her get her tights on. "When you're off at college, will you still need me to do this?" I asked, gathering up each leg of the tights and sliding them over each foot in turn. "I'll have to show up at your dorm. 'Oh, hi! I'm here to help my daughter with her tights.'"  She shrugged.  I actually don't think it would bother her at all.

I asked her if she wants to walk for trick-or-treating this year. "No, you can pull me in my wagon," she responded. "I might walk when I'm 13." I don't mind, though. I have some coffee herbal tea mulled wine which I will heat up and pour into a thermos.  It will keep me warm as I pull my child through the streets of our 'hood. Or at least I may not notice the chilly temperatures quite as much. 

On the way home from work yesterday I was driving behind a van that had a set of those stick figure decals. I'm sure you've seen them - they depict the family that owns the vehicle. Sometimes even the family pets are included via stick figure. Anyway, this particular vehicle seemed to have an awful lot of stickers on the back window. There was a mom and dad, as expected. It took me a few moments to count the children, though. SEVEN.  SEVEN CHILDREN (plus three cats).  I just cannot even begin to imagine. We can barely handle the one tiny taskmaster who lives in our house.  When you have that many children, do you just let the little things go? I'm assuming that all of the stuff we hound our daughter about ("Turn off the light when you leave the bathroom. Don't leave the empty wrapper on the table - what do you think the garbage can is for? Did you brush your teeth? Why are you naked?") . . . just sort of flies out the window. With that many kids, I imagine that one would just focus on keeping them all alive each day and not worrying so much about whether they've made their beds.  I'm going to try not to think about it too much.  I have issues with clutter and I think that's why the universe knew I could handle only one child.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make my daughter work the streets until she gets me a Peppermint Patty.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Buttering Up

(click image to open larger version)


I think someone is planning to ask for a pony for Christmas.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Do you ever wish . . . ?

Last week I watched a new episode of Pit Bulls & Parolees. As a rescue volunteer myself, I fully appreciate what Villalobos Rescue does for animals. The rescue is run by a woman named Tia, her adult children, and a slew of other dog lovers - including several parolees, of course. What struck me as I was watching last week was something akin to a feeling of jealousy. Tia and her daughters sport tattoos, piercings, and rainbow hair. The daughters seem to have piercings in places that one wouldn't normally think of as far as piercing options go (I'm reasonably certain that the youngest daughter has her hips pierced in the back - right at the top of the sacrum).

Now, I do not have a desire to tattoo my neck or anything like that. However, I do imagine that it must be very liberating to be able to roll out of bed and go to work looking however you want to look.  Since no one will pay me to pet doggies all day long, I have to work a legit, office-y kind of job. On days when I don't have meetings with clients, I can wear jeans.  But I can't wear, say, a mohawk. Or vinyl hot pants. Or whatever.  Even if I could, I don't have that kind of "this is who I am so you can just kiss my vinyl-covered ass" confidence and bravado it would take to pull it off.

You may recall a concert that I attended a few weeks ago. I meant to write about it right after the show. I had a head cold, I drove very far, I got a speeding ticket, I was awake for almost 24 hours - it's all coming back to me now! Anywho, the concert was headlined by a band called Gossip. I am a huge fan of Gossip and, more specifically, Beth Ditto. Simply put, she kicks ass.  She really does.  Her voice is one of a kind and she's just . . . I don't know . . . larger than life but not pretentious. During the show, she mentioned that she was suffering from a cold and as she wiped her face with a towel, she made a comment that she wasn't sure if she was mopping up snot or sweat. But, as she happily noted, "they both come from my body."  She put on a great show and her confidence is inspiring. I don't think Beth Ditto ever has to put a dress back on the rack while thinking, "Well now, I could never wear that." I always, always put the dress back.

It was an interesting crowd, that's for sure. I think I was one of about a dozen straight people there. What can I say? I tell my gay friends, "I love the music of your people!" Well, except Lady Gaga. I'm not a huge fan, which probably prevents me from gaining full membership in the club. Well, that and not actually being gay.

Anyway, it was an amazing show and was worth the stupid speeding ticket, the lost hours of sleep, etc.

I'll leave you with a couple of Gossip songs I dig.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to make your marriage better

On the news program "Sunday Morning," they had an interview this week with a divorce attorney who's been married to his wife for several decades. When asked what factors seem to point to the eventuality of a divorce, he mentioned that spending too much time together is a prime culprit. Each spouse should have their own interests and activities. I've been saying that for years. You don't have to spend every waking minute with your spouse to enhance the validity of your marriage.

So, after hearing that, I felt a wee bit better for abandoning my husband for much of the weekend. On Friday night I met a friend for happy hour. We then went out to dinner at an Indian restaurant. It was really good but I did not feel well at all by the time I got home later that evening. I didn't even finish the glass of wine I'd ordered with dinner - which is not like me at all. I don't know if it was just too many spices my stomach had never met before or what. I went straight to bed. It was 9:30 (yeah, that's right - it's crazy up in here).

On Friday afternoon, I learned that a friend of mine had flown in on a whim.  He's a flight attendant, so I guess he can do that sort of thing. Anyway, I re-arranged my weekend plans a bit so that I could meet up with my friend (he was actually staying a couple hours away). On Saturday morning (since I was so well rested and all), I went to yoga and then to Weight Watchers (I lost half a pound). Then I took my daughter out to lunch at Noodles and then to a Halloween event. It was a lot of fun. We watched a hypnotist perform (my daughter was desperate to be on the stage, but the hypnotizer guy would only take kids 10 and over). She made some crafts as well . . . because we definitely needed more glued-together construction paper in our house.

Once I had fulfilled my motherly duties for the day, I packed a bag and hit the highway. I was going to drive back the same day but decided to get a room on Priceline instead. Ever since the "ticket incident" I've been feeling pretty paranoid about driving around late at night. I didn't really have the spare cash to be staying in hotels willy-nilly, but a speeding ticket costs more than a hotel room. I can vouch for that with certainty.  Anyway, I met up with my friend and another friend from high school, as well as that friend's boyfriend.  We proceeded to walk all over town (it should be noted that I didn't bring walking shoes), to have drinks here and there, and then to stop for a late dinner. It was a lot of fun. I'm glad I re-arranged my schedule for the weekend. I was supposed to take my daughter to a second Halloween event in the evening.  However, her dad took her instead and gave away my ticket. I am not good at last minute changes, so I was pretty proud of myself for not having a panic attack or anything.

When I got to my hotel room Saturday night, I was pretty excited about sleeping in a room all by myself. But then I morphed into my mother and could not sleep.  The room was too hot.  Had I actually been my mother, I would have called the front desk to have a maintenance person override the system and cool it the fuck down in there. Instead, I just slept fitfully and cursed the nice folks at the Wyndham.

On Sunday morning, I drove back home, made lunch for my little family, and then took the kid to a haunted house. I met a friend and her son there.  The haunted house is usually not appropriate for children, but there were doing a special dealio where they leave the lights on and give the bloodied undead the day off.  A thought she was pretty badass and didn't expect to be scared.  However, she did get a wee bit frightened. The four of us wound our way through the different rooms and kids wearing zombie make-up popped out and yelled.  After a few minutes, she started requiring me to walk through first. A woman who appeared to work there then walked ahead of us and asked the ghouls and ghosts to take it down a notch for our group. Of course, as soon as we made it out of the haunted house, my daughter quickly announced that she will do it again next year. After the haunted house, we stopped for frozen yogurt. Then, finally, I took the kid on a pumpkin-finding excursion.

I'd say I made the most of the weekend. And ensured that P and I will be married forever.

Pardon the hair - I had it cut today, I swear.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shield your retinas, mes amis

It is true, I purposely and willingly checked the "green background" checkbox on the order form for school pictures. However, I must have missed the word "neon" in the fine print somewhere. I guess I was envisioning some placid shade of evergreen. This scan doesn't really do it justice. Let me just say that it is BRIGHT.

Fortunately, my child is excessively cute and can overcome even the most obnoxious background.  Word. (Remind me to choose a different color next year.)


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Well, I think that's it for that

As you may recall, selling stuff on eBay is not going that well for me. First I had to learn the hard way about shipping calculations. Then yesterday I got an email from a buyer. She had checked the "item not as described" option on the email. She told me that there are three stains on the dress I sold her.  Now, I did check all of the clothing carefully before listing any of the items for sale. I noted in the description for each one that "wash wear" was evident. I did not see any stains, however. Otherwise, I would've mentioned it (or, more likely, not attempted to sell the dress at all). I responded immediately and offered a partial refund. I ended up having to give her $3.00. Since I am a new seller (despite a 13-year (!) history with eBay and a 100% rating), eBay is holding the money I've made so far (pending satisfactory completion of all sales). So, I didn't have $3.00 in my PayPal account to give this buyer. I had to transfer it from my bank account and send it to her. So now I've sold ten items (all that eBay will allow me to sell in one month because I am a new seller) but have zero dollars to show for it. In fact, I'm down three bucks.

eBay's business model heavily favors buyers. Sellers have virtually no recourse, no matter what happens. For all I know, this buyer lied about the stains (I mean, what could I do? Force her to send me a photo to prove they existed?). I think this is a significant loophole. She probably wasn't lying, but I can see how others might. They know that as a seller, you have to do whatever is necessary to get that positive feedback rating.

Here's the thing. I buy clothing on eBay all the time - mostly Gymboree dresses for my daughter. A fair number of them show up with a stain or two. Many times, Oxyclean does the trick. But you know what? I never even mention the stains to the seller. I mean, each dress costs me about the same as (or less than) a half-gallon of almond milk. Expectations should not be overly high. I give them positive feedback and everyone goes on their merry way. I am just not one to return things. In fact, my daughter did not even find out until recently that is it possible to return an item. She overheard someone talking about a store's return policy. She looked at me, incredulous. "Mom! You can RETURN something to a store?"

I mean, unless you've poured a bucket of fresh vomit on the dress before mailing it to me, we're all good. However, I worked retail in high school and college and I know how people are. I've seen people drive halfway across the state to return a ten-dollar shirt because it had a loose thread. Just keep it! Or give it away!

So, I just don't know if I have the patience and stamina to sell more stuff on eBay just to get a few extra bucks for vacation next year. I almost feel like prostitution would take less out of me. I called my stad for advice because he sells a lot of stuff on eBay. He told me a couple of horror stories about irate moms he's encountered over the years. He also mentioned that eBay takes a higher percentage on clothing than on other items, so it's hard to maintain even a small profit margin on clothes.  I can't sell anything else until November so I will just wait until then and see if I am still irritated.

In other news, the three of us went to a Fall event at A's school yesterday. Families were invited to run a half mile and then come inside the building for some trail mix and water. P and I had been threatening to gallop or run like the Hunchback of Notre Dame (bearing goofy expressions, of course) and then to proclaim loudly, "WE ARE A'S PARENTS!" Threatening to embarrass your child is almost more fun than actually doing it. Luckily for her, her dad and I just ran it and then sat in the cafeteria like dutiful parents. I have to confess that I am not much of a runner. I jogged the 1/2 mile. I sometimes wish I were a runner, as my runner friends can pretty much eat whatever they want. However, I'm kind of, um, busty. Not really built for speed, as it were. So, I think I'm better off sticking with yoga classes and the elliptical machines at the gym. I may try to start adding a quick run on the treadmill from time to time. Okay, probably not. But you never know!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oh Saturday, you done me wrong

I had such high hopes for Saturday. But, I awoke to ceaseless rain and a long to-do list. And sure enough, the day pretty much went to hell in a handbasket.  I went to yoga, which went pretty well despite my continued struggles with pain in my lower back. After class, I headed to Weight Watchers. Despite careful tracking and lots of exercise during the week, I lost only one pound. I guess it's better than gaining a pound, but still.  I then headed home to pick up my daughter, because her dad was anxious to get to a local Nerdfest (comic book convention). She and I stopped at Best Buy to pick up some DVDs - birthday gifts for one of my many nephews. Then we went to the post office. This is when things started to suck.

I've been selling some of my daughter's memories old clothes on eBay. The goal is to set aside some money for a trip to Chicago in the spring and a beach trip with my sisters next summer. I guess I also need money for my, um, speeding ticket, too. Anywho, I am new to this ebay seller stuff and I guess I must learn everything the hard way. I was selling a classic Land's End holiday dress (it's a velvet affair with a tulle underskirt and all that jazz). Much to my disappointment, the dress sold for just $.99. I had estimated the shipping at $5.00.  So, imagine my delight, when I got to the post office, in learning that the dress would actually ship for $8.75.  So yes, I paid the buyer to take this dress off my hands. Obviously I am going to make a killing off my eBay venture - upgrade me to the penthouse suite for that Chicago trip, please!

So, that was the first thing that put me in a foul mood.  Plus, getting in and out of the car in a driving rain (with child in tow) was not helping matters much. I then drove across town to buy tickets to a Halloween event for next weekend (held at a state historical park). I had emailed the place last week to ask about buying tickets, because the line is always very long (and very slow-moving) if you buy them at the door on the day of the event. I received a friendly reply that yes, they were selling tickets ahead of time. I checked the website. They are open 10-4:30 on Saturday. Great!

The kid and I entered the main building and saw a note at the front desk indicating that visitors should ring the bell if no one was at the desk. Let me just say that I HATE ringing a desk bell. It's like saying, "Hey! Look at me, everybody! I'm an asshole who couldn't wait ten seconds for someone to help me!"  I meekly rang the bell. Ding! No one came. A and I then took turns ringing it every couple of minutes, building to a DING DING DING crescendo. Finally, a man came to the desk.

"Hi," I said. "I'd like to buy tickets for the Halloween event."

"Oh, we're not open." He smiled at me like this should make sense to me.

"Um, the website clearly states that you're open, but can I just buy the tickets?"

"I can't. I don't have a cash drawer."  He opened the drawer to show me that it was empty.

I was getting irritated. "Well, can I just write a check?"

He shook his head no and repeated his schpiel about the cash drawer. My thinking was that he could just take the check and, you know, put it in the magical drawer and then deal with it later, seeing as how none of this was my problem. Eventually, I gave up and left. By now I was soaked and grumpy. "How about we go to Pizza Ranch?" I proposed. My daughter had been lobbying for Noodles & Company but was okay with the change of plan. We had never been to Pizza Ranch but wanted to give it a shot because my wee baby sister went to one in Iowa and said it would change my life.

Pizza Ranch is a buffet joint. When we paid at the front counter, I asked the cashier if there would be cheese pizza on the buffet. I mentioned that we are vegetarian. She said there usually is, but said she would put in a special order for us just to make sure. The kid and I started with a salad. Her definition of salad = iceberg lettuce swimming in a sea of ranch dressing. After that, we headed to the pizza buffet. Each type of pizza is marked with a little placard. I spotted one that said, "Guest Request."  "This must be for us," I told the kid. We each grabbed a slice of the cheese pizza. Back at the table, I took a bite of the pizza. It smelled funny. I lifted up the cheese and found . . . pepperoni. "Son of a . . . !"  At this point I assumed that when I left the restaurant, I'd find four flat tires on my car. Or that I'd run over a kitten on my way home or something.

The kid loved Pizza Ranch and made me promise to take her back again. I gave a vague response so as not to flat-out lie to her. Maybe my sister should take her. The two of them can bond over their shared love of mediocre pizza.

So yeah, Saturday essentially sucked.  Later in the day, we took the kid to a Halloween event at the zoo. It was drizzling the whole time. However, looking on the bright side, we almost had the place to ourselves. Normally this event is crowded beyond all belief. She looked super-cute in her costume. She got a lot of compliments on it from some of the volunteers who were working at the trick-or-treat stations. I think most women can recognize (and appreciate the awesomeness of) a costume handmade by a loving Meemaw vs. the off-the-shelf variety.

Anyway, that was my Saturday. I am going to give Saturday another chance next week but if it's anything like yesterday, we are going to have words.