Tuesday, December 30, 2014

These shoes are made for . . . loping along

I've never been much of a runner. Remember the physical fitness testing in school?  Do they still do that?  I remember having to do the flexed arm hang, shuttle run, 50-yard dash, and 600-yard dash. I can't remember what else. Sit-ups, maybe?  I remember doing okay on the 50-yard dash, and even the flexed arm hang. The 600-yard dash, though? There was no dashing involved. I would jog along for a bit and then walk around the track, usually with a couple other girls, while a gym teacher yelled, "C'mon, ladies!" I have just never been much of a distance runner.

So, naturally I'm planning to run a 5K in May. I even got new sneakers for Christmas. I've gone to the gym a couple of times since then. Normally, I go right for the elliptical and then do 40-45 minutes on that, shying away from running entirely. I think it all comes down to high impact vs. low impact. I spend a lot of time doing yoga and cardio and don't have any issues because it's all low-impact - as in, my feet stay on some sort of surface the whole time. Anyway, right now what I'm doing is to run on the treadmill (it's 8 degrees here today so that's why I'm not running outside). I run for a couple of minutes, then walk for a bunch of minutes, and then run for a couple more minutes, etc. My hope is that eventually I'll be running more than I'm walking.

I do have few challenges when it comes to running:
  • My left foot doesn't really like it. This is the foot on which I had surgery in May. You know how when you wreck your car and the insurance company fixes it but it's never quite the same again?  It's like that. My foot doesn't hurt like it did before the surgery, but it will never be "right" again.
  • I'm kind of, um, busty. I just strap 'em down and hope for the best.
  • My hips aren't huge fans of the running. I've been struggling with my bad hips since I was in my 20s. I never sleep very well. My poor husband has been so patient as I've tried out different types of bedding and mattress pads on our bed. Right now, I have a memory foam mattress topper and two mattress pads on the bed. If I ever find the magic combination that allows me to sleep without pain, it'll be the best day of my life. 
So, why persist with the running then?  I guess I just want to see if I can do it. I don't like not being able to do something. I also want to see if I can understand what it is that all of my runner friends are always raving about. Plus, I'm signing up my daughter for the 5K as well (we plan to run a 10K a month later). I figure it's something we can do together. Although my plan is that we'll do some training runs together in the spring, the reality is that she could roll out of bed tomorrow and run miles without stopping. Damn kids and their energy.

I'll keep you posted on my running progress (I'm sure you can't wait).  If you happen to belong to my gym and see me loping along on the treadmill . . . for the love of God, just avert your eyes. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014


I somehow failed to take many photos of our Christmas festivities this year.  Maybe we just aren't as cute as we used to be - I dunno.  On Christmas Eve, I had to work a half day. My husband and daughter were at home playing video games. On the way home, I stopped at the mall to buy my husband a new cell phone. My plan was to wrap it and wait until Christmas morning to give it to him. He uses his phone so seldom that I was pretty sure he wouldn't even notice that his old one was now dead.  I ended up giving him the new phone later that day, though. I mean to tell you, you have never seen anyone less enthusiastic about getting in iPhone. "Okay, thanks," he said, and set it on an end table. It's the iPhone 5C (and not the newest model) so it was cheap (the case I bought cost more than the phone).

The kid immediately piped up: "I'll take it if he doesn't want it!"

Later that evening, we went to church. I coordinated the service so I figured I'd better be there. I'm desperately under-qualified to lead a Christmas Eve service, but our church doesn't have a regular minister at this time. The service was pretty well attended and I got good feedback, so I hope I did okay. After church, we visited a house in town that has all kinds of crazy lights. We drive over there to check it out every year.

We didn't have a white Christmas this year, which was pretty unusual. Honestly, I'd rather have snow/ice/freezing temperatures than the mud in my backyard.

Christmas Day was pretty uneventful. We opened gifts and then headed to my sister-in-law's house for brunch. After brunch, we came back home and spent the afternoon playing games and finding spots for new stuff.  P got me a few things that were on my list: some new running/gym shoes, a watch, and a fancy Bluetooth speaker. The contents of my stocking lead me to think that I must be an alcoholic who likes to take baths.

As planned, we pulled the dollhouse out of the kid's room in order to make room for her sewing table and dress form. P has been hitting on the dress form and calling her his girlfriend. He's always dreamed of having a mate with no head, I think.

All in all, I'd say it was a good Christmas. Miss Thang had gift cards from  Jo-Ann Fabrics and Justice, so I drove her to both locations today. Her math skills sure are iffy. At Jo-Ann, she had a $20.00 gift card and spent $28.00.  At Justice, she had a $15 gift card and spent twice that. I'm adding the extra money to her tab.

That's a root beer next to her, for the record. My girls loves da root beer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Here you go, Rachel

Every year, I post a blog entry about my favorite songs from that year. Nobody reads it except Rachel, my music-loving friend of 33 years.

I didn't download a ton of new music this year. Plus, it's harder for me to tell what I purchased this year because I had to restore my entire music collection from back-up a few months ago. In October, I bought a new car and now have Sirius XM radio. So, instead of listening to new music, I now listen to inappropriate comedy (when my kid isn't in the car). When my daughter is in the car, I have to listen to Top 40. I have fantasies about very bad things happening to Ariana Grande.

Anywho, some of my favorite songs from 2014:

Happy with Me - HOLYCHILD (Good tune for the gym)
Hurry Up Sundown - Springsteen
Water Fountain - Tune-Yards
Diamonds - Johnnyswim
L8 CMMR - Lily Allen (guilty pleasure sort of thing)
The Orwells - Let it Burn
Madman - Sean Rowe
My Silver Lining - First Aid Kit (Stay Gold is a close second)
Too Cool to Dance - James Curd (Another gym song)
Bury Our Friends - Sleater-Kinney
Happy Idiot - TV on the Radio
Left Hand Free - Alt-J

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Labor of love and all that jazz

I sent my husband and daughter to a movie this evening so that I could finish painting, wrapping, and assembling. I've been hiding out (and painting) in Geeky McNerdikins comic book room, so ignore the junk in the background. Here is a photo of the sewing table (formerly red and white) and the dress form my daughter requested:

The table has a leaf on each side so it's been a challenge to paint the table without letting the hinge get stuck in one position (with each leaf up or down). I think it came out okay. It has a little drawer on one side.  If I had more time (and some, you know, skills), I'd add a design or something to the top.

As if to seal the Christmas deal, the kid handed me a card before dinner today. It has a hand-drawn snowman on the front and says this on the inside:

"Dear, Mom. I love you so much! You make me smile. I am giving this card to you because I love you. Remember the time when I said I love you most but then you overtook me with I love you mostest. Or when you and dad hugged and I acted sad so you gave me one to. I love you the most any other person can love you in the world. XOXOXO"

Man, is that kid good or what? 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merry, Merry

Well, it's all over but the shouting, I guess. Our gifts are shipped (to Oklahoma, Virginia, Maryland, and Minnesota), and I'm all shopped out. I took a half-day off work last Friday and knocked out a lot of the shopping then. I just need to wrap the gifts I bought for my kid and my husband. Of course, I need to kick them out of the house first, which is no small feat. A asked for a table she can use for sewing. My friend Sarah is moving and had an extra table. A win-win! I just need to paint that bad boy and I'll be all set. I would do it after the kid goes to sleep but half the time she stays up later than I do.  I did get her the dress form she wanted, too. Dress forms can get pretty pricey and the one I bought is fairly basic. I just hope it's not too rickety. The only way the table and dress form will fit in her bedroom is if we pull out the huge dollhouse and put it in storage. I might just shed a tear when that happens.

I didn't send Christmas cards or do any baking this year. I actually enjoy doing both but just didn't seem to have the time to take on any big projects this Christmas. I did show up at a vegan bake sale last weekend, which was awesome (got my fill of baked goods without baking, in other words). I have been dragging the kid around to our usual festivities.  We saw a Christmas musical last weekend and have attended a few other events as well. She wants me to take her to a kids-only shop (at a local museum) on Saturday.  I pointed out to her that she doesn't have any money because she never bothers to do any chores. She's trying to convince me that she wants to buy gifts for me and her dad but I think she actually wants to buy them for the boy.

Speaking of the boy, he called yesterday and invited her over after school.  So, I talked to his mom and agreed to a playdate.  I am just not ready for this! My baby still can't turn the shower on by herself and now she's walking home from school with a boy.  I cannot deal, mes amis. Can. Not. Deal.  He does seem like a nice kid, so it's not that. It's just that . . . my baby!

One bit of good news - our foster dog (Botas) got adopted last weekend. His new family is very nice and I know they were excited to get him. People always say, "Oh, I could never foster. I could never give up a dog like that." Well, let's see. Young Botas pooped on my floor, dug in the trash, and counter surfed. He's also very sweet, super cuddly, and extremely adorable.  So, that's why I didn't kill him.  My job was to fix him up as best as I could (we did make a LOT of progress with the housebreaking during his weeks with us) and then pass him along to someone who apparently doesn't mind a little puppy poop on the floor. So, that's what I did. It's all good.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Six months ago today . . .

. . . I went vegan. I haven't lost an ounce (which would have been a nice little side effect) but my conscience is immeasurably lighter.

Originally, I was just going to try it for a week but once I did that, it just seemed to make sense to keep going. I should probably say "plant-based diet" instead of vegan because I know I'm not great at this vegan stuff. I'm sure I've accidentally eaten things that were not 100% vegan. Every Wednesday, I go to a local grocery store (that has a kick-ass salad bar) and get a salad for lunch. They have this balsamic vinaigrette dressing that I love, but it does have trace amounts of honey in it (and I had eaten it several times before I noticed that). I probably shouldn't eat it, but I tell myself that I get bonus points for the salad itself.  At work there is a candy bowl full of Lifesavers. One day I Googled Lifesavers and it turns out that not only are they not vegan, they really aren't even vegetarian. They contain stearic acid, which is sometimes animal-derived. Trying to eat vegan is a bit of a minefield.

My friend Jennifer (who has been vegan for quite a few years) told me that all vegans have to draw the line somewhere. So, I try to keep that in mind. I won't eat, say, a piece of cheese or drink a glass of dairy milk (I had actually switched to almond milk years ago anyway), but if something I eat has some random sub-ingredient that isn't vegan . . . well, I guess I won't lose too much sleep over that. I'm doing my best, and that's all I can do.

I have learned to cook some new stuff, which is good. I'm not much of a cook, but I try. Last weekend I made an awesome black bean soup. I'm going to try another new soup recipe next week. Today I'm taking my foster dog Botas to his new home and I'm stopping at a vegan bake sale on the way home. (I thought going vegan might also help to rein in my sweet tooth but . . . nope!)

The two main challenges I've encountered since I went vegan:

1. Restaurants.  They are tricky. Jennifer gave me a list of stuff of local restaurants and which meals are vegan (or can be made to be vegan), so that was helpful. Being out of town and eating out can be tricky.

2. Company lunches. Our administrative person is just as nice as can be and wants me to be able to eat at company lunches (held regularly on Fridays), but it's just causing us both too much anxiety. I can't eat pizza or most of the other stuff that gets ordered. I've tried to reassure her that I am more than fine with just bringing my own lunch. No trouble at all.

The main benefit I've encountered since I went vegan:

Peace of mind. I became a vegetarian at 19 as a direct protest of factory farming. I didn't want to be a part of something like that. I did my research and I was done.  Adopting a vegan diet means opting out of support of the dairy and egg industries as well.  They are really no better than the factory farms. And I'll spare you the details of what you probably already know.

I know that most people want to leave a big mark on the world before they die, but I'm trying to leave as small a footprint as I can.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Kid's Christmas List (Subtitle: Surely You Jest)

My daughter handed me her Christmas list a few weeks ago. I offered to give her my Christmas list and she just gave me a "does not compute" look in reply.

The other day she handed me an addendum. "That's not how this works," I told her. "You only get one list."

Then, a day later she asked to have it back so that she could edit it. Seriously, kid, give it a rest.

A few of the items on her list are pretty straightforward and yes, she's getting them. She wants a dress form for sewing and a table for laying out patterns and whatnot. Some of her gift "suggestions" are dumb but I'm buying them anyway, such as this bird in a cage.

What's on the addendum, you ask? A Netflix subscription, Darn Yarn (I thought it said Damn Yarn but I'll take her word for it), and a bunch of sports stuff: a new helmet, a soccer ball, a basketball, and a volleyball. What's weird about these items is that my kid has almost zero interest in sports. We took her to a hockey game last weekend and I seriously don't think she glanced at the ice even once.

Here's the stuff she's definitely not getting:
  • A "gineau" pig.  Ha ha ha ha!  I actually thought about it for half a second and then remembered who would be taking care of the "gineau" pig. My to-do list is plenty long already, thankyouverymuch.
  • Orbeez foot spa. Ha ha ha ha!  If you're not sure why this one is a problem, I would encourage you to look carefully at the picture. 
  • Karaoke machine with microphone. I don't want to buy a cheap one and I don't want to invest in an expensive one, so there you go.
I was unsure about a few of the other items so in those instances I passed them along to her aunts and a cousin. She asked for the High School Musical 1, 2, and 3 DVDs. I'm sure I'll live to regret it if some sucker does buy them for her. She has watched Camp Rock about 87 times and has memorized the songs. I would REALLY like to thank my middle sister for sending the Camp Rock CD a couple months ago. In exchange, I've threatened to buy this for her three-year-old. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

This is serious, mes amis

My daughter has an admirer, a beau, a suitor. What do kids call it these days? A boo? And she's his shorty?  Is that how this works?

Being a good NPR-listening, Democratic-voting, liberal Unitarian Universalist, I've been very careful to tell my daughter things like, "When you grow up, you might marry a boy or a girl. Or maybe you won't want to get married at all." Well, I needn't have bothered. My kid is firmly interested in the opposite sex and I think I can already picture some seriously dramatic teen interactions coming up in a few years. I'm just imagining some lovelorn fool from her algebra class standing on our front lawn and begging her for just one more chance.

For now, though, we are just in the beginning stages of the gooey stuff. A boy in her class has it bad for my kid. When I went in for parent-teacher conferences a few weeks ago, I took the opportunity to look through my daughter's desk. It was like Hiroshima in desk form. Very bad, very messy things happening under that lid. It looked like what her room would look like if I left her to her own devices. I did find a note from the boy in her desk, though. He asked her if she wanted to go to the movies with him. (And if she says yes, how does this work, exactly? Does his mom drive? Do I drive? And where do we sit? Between the two lovebirds is what I'm thinking.)

When I asked Mrs. K (during the conference) if she knew who the object of my daughter's affection is, she said, "Do I ever."  Apparently she's been through this sort of thing before and said that it normally just fizzles out at some point. Fourth grade romance is a tenuous thing, I guess.

My daughter tells me that she and the boy sit together on the carpet during reading time. They also sit together at lunch. She said that at first the other boys made fun of him but now they don't. Fourth grade romance knows no barriers, people!

Today, when I picked her up from daycare, she was wearing a new scarf. It was an early Christmas gift from her wooer (I am running out of synonyms for boyfriend).  His mom made it. Is that not the cutest thing?  He put it in her locker this morning. I won't tell him that she spilled queso dip on it at dinner. Shhhh.  

I am not sure what happens next.  Do I need to rough him up or anything? Ask him about his employment prospects? And, most importantly, how soon does he feel that he can take over the monthly payments we are making to the orthodontist?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Are you happy, Aunt Claudia?"

I spent the evening with my three-year-old nephew yesterday. It was my brother-in-law's birthday and he and my sister had dinner reservations. So, I decided to take my nephew out while they were dining.

At first, he wasn't too keen on leaving the house with me. I knew he'd be fine once we got on the road, though.

"Are you doing okay back there?" I asked him once we were a mile from home.

"It's not," he replied and gave me a little scowl.

"How about some Christmas music?"

"Yeah, Christmas music!"

And from then on he was fine. Yesterday morning, I told him, "Say 'happy birthday' to your daddy."

Instead of wishing his father a happy birthday, he said, "I want my Christmas."  So sentimental, that kid! Anyway, I know he's really getting into Christmas so that's why I figured some festive holiday music would be met with some enthusiasm.  We drove to Tysons Corner.  I wanted to stop at Lush for some bath bombs and also needed to pick up a birthday gift for my niece (who is returning home from Australia this evening). Sweet 16! I can't believe she's practically an adult. It seems like just yesterday she was playing with Polly Pockets and watching Blue's Clues.

As you might guess, I was not the only person headed to Tysons on a Saturday. Parking was insane. I finally found a spot, loaded my nephew into his stroller, and headed off in search of an elevator. Unbelievably, the four-story parking garage did not have one. Grrrr. I was not about to move the car, so I bumped the poor kid down a flight of stairs. I have to say he was a good sport about it. He talks constantly. "You can't find an elerator, Aunt Claudia? Did you see that car? It was orange. That's cool."  Everything is "That's coooool."

First we stopped at a candy store. I am determined to be the cool/fun aunt, so I bought him a plastic Santa full of candy.  Then I took him to the Disney Store. To say that my nephew is nuts about cars would be a drastic understatement. I tucked two Matchbox cars into my suitcase and gave them to him when I first arrived. He added them to his collection of hundreds. When we got into the Disney Store, he spotted a collection of three cars from the Cars movie. I took a picture of it and sent it to my brother-in-law to ask if these cars were already floating around the house somewhere. Good news - I was free to buy them. I was on track to be the best auntie ever.

We then headed to Lush and then to American Eagle to buy a gift card for my niece. I always feel like I'm about 100 years old when I visit American Eagle (which I do just once a year, to buy that gift card). The loud music, the hipper-than-thou cashiers, the clothes made for people with no hips . . .

There were other places I wanted to visit in the mall, but I decided it was best to give up at that point. The place was extremely crowded and most of the stores seemed impossible to navigate with a stroller. My nephew was behaving very well. I mean, he had cars and candy, so he was all set. I wanted to go to the food court on the third floor but it seemed like it would take an act of congress to get the stroller up there. So, we headed out.

When we got back to the parking garage, a car followed me to our space. I thought, surely they are not going to sit and wait for us. It seemed clear that it would take a while before we would be ready to pull out. First I had to extract my nephew from the stroller and load him into the car. He didn't want to let go of the cars, which made it a challenge to get him strapped into his carseat. Then I grabbed our stuff from the stroller and put it in the car.  And then came the final challenge . . . collapsing the stroller. I could not make this happen for love nor money. I'm sure the hardcore shopper in the car was wondering how on earth I didn't know how to collapse the stroller. It definitely didn't work the same way my daughter's stroller worked when she was little. I tried pushing and pulling the bar, looking for a handle of some kind, etc. Finally I just shoved that mofo into the back of my sister's Expedition as is. At long last, we were ready to go.

Next up, we drove to my grandma's house in Arlington. She and I chatted while my nephew zoomed around the house with his cars and caused minor mayhem. She has a priceless collection of Hummels and I did get a little nervous when I saw him peering into the glass case where they live. So, I would talk to my grandma for a few minutes, then get up and make sure the three-year-old wasn't drinking Windex or anything. At one point I got up to check on him and smelled an aroma of lemony freshness. He had found a bottle of Pledge and sprayed it all over the guest room (including the bed pillows). Ooooops.  Eventually, I decided we'd better head home. It was getting late and I knew my sister would be home shortly. I was hoping to get a photo of my nephew and my grandma, but the kid was not willing. He was done. "Bye, Gammaw!" he shouted, blowing kisses from the front walk. As I was opening the car door, he ran across the street, causing me to call him by his full name, loudly.

"Sorry, Aunt Claudia!" he said as he climbed into his car seat.  I have to say that he does have darned good manners for a three-year-old. As we were headed back home, he said, "I love you, Aunt Claudia. Thank you for the cool cars." Then I heard him say that he is a "yucky" (lucky) boy.

As we listened to more Christmas carols, he said, "Are you happy, Aunt Claudia?"  In 44 years, I don't think anyone has ever asked me if I'm happy. I'm guessing he didn't mean, "Are you content with your life choices?" but rather, "Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Yes, I'm very happy, " I said. "I'm happy when I'm with you."

"Happy when you're with me? That's cooooool."

Saturday, November 29, 2014


I'm having a fabulous time in Virginia. I'm staying with my middle sister and her family.  I'm staying in my niece's bedroom since she's in Australia with her dad. Her bed is super comfortable and I like all the girlie colors in her room. Basically, what I'm saying, is that I'm staying. You cannot overestimate the importance of a good night's sleep. My sister was teasing me yesterday because I was still wearing my pajamas as of 11:30 a.m. In my defense, I was online doing some shopping. Normally, I like to get up at the crack of dawn after Thanksgiving and fling myself into the Black Friday zaniness. However, thanks to the over-packing skills I learned from my mother, I can barely fit my toothbrush into my suitcase. Shopping is pretty much out of the question. I did get some good deals online, though.

My flight out here was not as uneventful as I might have liked. I got to the airport on time, only to find that my flight was delayed. I was disappointed but not overly traumatized. I didn't have a connecting flight or anything, so the only real inconvenience was that my sister was going to have to pick me up much later than anticipated. After I got through security, I headed to Chili's for a beverage and a snack. Because of all the delayed flights and the heavy Thanksgiving traffic, there was a line just to get into Chili's. I wanted food and drink badly enough to stand in it, though. I just kept thinking, "Wow, I am standing in line for a CHILI'S."

Eventually, the plane arrived but the crew had timed out. So, we had to fly to Chicago to pick up a new pilot. Part of me felt vaguely inconvenienced but the more rational part of me understood that it's better to have a pilot who hasn't been in the air for three days or something. Anyway, we flew to DC (with our new pilot) and my sister picked me up at around 12:45 a.m. She was a good sport about the delay.

I am having a great time but am missing my husband and daughter, of course. I've been chatting with them regularly. I have had to explain my solo trip quite a few times to quite a few people. I just want to say for the record that my child has two parents and that it's okay if she spends time with just one of them for a little while. Everyone will live. Plus, I left him with a helpful list.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go take a shower so that I can get out of my pajamas before noon today. I am meeting a friend for lunch this afternoon. My sister and I went out with another friend last night and had a lot of fun. My dad and his fiancee came over for a visit yesterday. I've been getting some visits in but not over-scheduling myself (as I've been known to do).  Later today I'm taking my nephew to visit my grandma. I'm feeling brave, what can I say.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Three cheers for headgear!

The day has finally arrived. Headgear day! I feel a bit sorry for my daughter's orthodontist. I have a feeling that most kids hate him until they see the end result of all the re-arranging and appliances  - in theory, straight teeth. We pass Dr. M's office building pretty regularly and my daughter shakes her fist at it every time. She was basically a pill during today's visit. He had to make an adjustment to her palate expander and she was not what you'd call a good sport about it. I don't think Dr. M loses a lot of sleep over the fact that my daughter dislikes him, though.

Anywho . . . the kid was fitted with her new headgear and we were sent home with instructions and about a hundred million tiny rubber bands. The instructions are that she needs to wear it at least 10 hours a day, if not more like 12. We can't even get Her Highness to flush a toilet - making her wear headgear feels like a Herculean task right out of the gate. But, we shall see.

Be glad you don't have to sleep with this bugger attached to your face.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How do you say, "Keep your affections to yourself" in Spanish?

We got a new foster dog yesterday. His name is Botas and he came from a Spanish-speaking family. He has four white feet so I'm assuming that's how they came up with his name. Apparently Botas = Boots. I took umpteen years of French so I'm not much help in this situation. My wee baby sister suggested that I watch some Dora in order to get up to speed, but I'm pretty sure that telling my foster dog how to evade Swiper or how to make the best use of my magical backpack wouldn't be all that helpful. (I had the backpack song stuck in my head for about 18 solid months when A was a toddler . . . loaded up with things and knickknacks, too!)

Botas is around one year of age and as far as I know, he has never seen a vet. The surrender form was pretty sparsely filled out. The former owners originally contacted us and said that he has behavioral issues. The only "bad" behavior I've seen so far is marking in the house. I am going to have him neutered in a New York minute so that should be the end of that. They said he jumps on people. Well, every Boxer does that. Gideon is older than Methuselah and still delights in jumping high enough to get his tongue in a (standing) visitor's mouth.  

Anyway, we might have a couple of rough days as he settles in and until we can get him neutered. If someone who speaks Spanish could come over and give him this message, that would be great:

"It's okay that you like boys. We understand that you were born that way. However, Gideon is a bit old-fashioned and wants you to keep all of your parts to yourself. That's why he keeps telling you to go fuck yourself. He sincerely wants you to do that. Also, we're not sure what sort of magical food you're expecting to see in your food bowl, but the dogs around here eat dog food. You can keep refusing it, but I guarantee that we can hold out longer than you can. Finally, when I'm lying in my bed and it's pitch dark in my bedroom, this means that I am sleeping. Sighing loudly at my bedside and occasionally delivering a right hook to my backside . . . well, it all makes me a little cranky. We can see that you're cute and that you have potential. If you could learn the rules sooner than later (and Gretchen will be happy to explain them to you AGAIN if you have forgotten), that would be greaaaat."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Everyone will live . . . right?

Two weeks from today, I'm headed to Virginia to spend Thanksgiving with my middle sister and her family. I can't wait! My sister's older kids are headed to Australia with their father, so I won't really get to see them (I think they get back late Sunday night and I fly back out on Monday). I'm bummed about that, but I still get to spends lots of time with this guy:

One of the younger models in my nephew collection
He hasn't seen me in a year so I picked up a couple of Hot Wheels cars to tuck into my suitcase. I figured that might help to win his favor.  As you can see, he's suffering from a severe shortage of wheeled vehicles:

It's tempting to squeeze all kinds of stuff into the five full days that I'll have at my disposal, but mostly I'm planning to relax and just spend lots of time with people who mean a lot to me. I am hoping to sneak in a visit to Tyson's Corner so that I can go to Lush (shhhhh), but I don't really have any other firm plans. My sister and I haven't figured out Thanksgiving dinner yet. I've been adding some recipes to my Pinterest board just in case I am called upon to make something or other. I haven't decided if I will attempt any Black Friday shopping this year. I'm obviously limited by what I can fit in my suitcase (or ship stuff back to myself, I guess).  I may do some online shopping. Christmas stresses me out, but I'm trying really hard to suppress my angst. 

I'm a bit concerned about how my husband and daughter will fare while I'm gone, though. As I was leaving the gym last night, I got a text from my daughter. "Dad has a headache. Please come home." It's true that my other half was a bit surly yesterday. He went to bed at 8 p.m., which was fine because no one wanted to deal with his cranky ass.

He was off work today because he works for a bank and it's Veteran's Day. Anyway, since he didn't have to work, we didn't need to take the kid to daycare before school. "You'll need to call and let daycare know she won't be there today." I knew what was coming next.

"What's the number?"

"You'll need to Google it, " I said. "Takes two seconds."

"I have to Google it?!"  He was incredulous. "Why isn't it written down?"

I gave up and Googled it for him. Like I said, two seconds. I read the number to him.

"Well, I'm going to write it down," he said. He said it like he was the first person to come up with such a concept.

I could have done all of this for him, but I was trying to push him to be just a wee bit more self-reliant. I mean, my husband is a smart man. I feel like he can handle this stuff. What if I get hit by a bus or something?

Before I left for work, I gave him a couple more reminders. "You'll need to sign her reading sheet and put her stuff in her backpack. Don't forget her lunch."  (I had made the lunch ahead of time because I think it would have put him over the edge if he had to do it.)

"I have to do ALL THAT?"

So, I don't know what's going to happen when I'm gone in a couple of weeks. He'll need to:
  • Make sure his child is dressed appropriately for the weather each day.
  • Check her backpack daily. The other day I found a wadded piece of paper that turned out to be a permission slip for her to participate in a parade next week. It was VERY URGENT according to my daughter, but not so urgent that she thought it was worth mentioning, even though it was due the next day. 
  • Check the lunch menu at school. If the meal is meatless, she can eat the school lunch. If not, he'll need to make her lunch (or supervise her verrrrry carefully while she makes it).
  • Fill out and sign the daily reading sheet. 
  • Feed himself and his child. 
  • Pay the daycare. 
  • Find a babysitter for the night he has to work. 
  • Make sure his kid bathes regularly. She does not do this sort of thing voluntarily.
We'll see how it goes. If there's one good thing about being a mom it's that you've got total job security. No one wants to come along and do any of the shit you do every day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Well, that was a good use of your time

While I was at yoga tonight, my kid and her dog snagged my camera and took selfies. Or would it be ussies? I guess I'm just glad it's no longer necessary to pay for film and photo development.

I should add that she was supposed to do her homework and her nightly reading while I was gone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

You kids, with your bad songs and your fine print

I went to the gym last night. We try to go together as a family on Monday nights, but my husband decided to stay home and eat fun size candy bars from his daughter's Halloween stash instead. Don't tell him that I told you that.

As usual, I got to the gym and then climbed onto an elliptical machine (I say "as usual" because I only know how to use three machines and the elliptical is one of them). I recently added a couple of new songs to my workout playlist so I was eager to get started.  Here's the confession part. I recently bought new earbuds. I know for a fact that one little bud has an L on it and the other has an R on it. The microscopic L and R are black, the same color as the ear buds. I have no idea which is which. I just shove those bad boys in my ear holes and hope for the best. I'm pretty sure my left ear is hearing music meant for my right and vice versa. This getting old stuff is for the birds!

I typically bring my lunch to work. I often eat vegan pockets of various kinds - like this one, for example. Every single time, I find myself looking at the tiny print on the back of the wrapper for clues on how long to cook the thing in the microwave. It either says 1 1/2 minutes or 112 minutes - it's hard to say which.

I regularly find myself studying garment tags when washing new clothing. Wash in cold water or piping hot water?  I usually just decide I'll take my chances and throw it into the washer with a "what the hell" shrug.  I know I need to give up my contact lenses and go for bi-focal glasses instead, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Vanity, thy name is Claudia.

I have other clues about my age (other than my traitorous eyeballs, I mean). My daughter is obsessed with Top 40 music. She loves listening to the weekly countdown. Last week she told me, "Mom, Meghan Trainor didn't win. She came in second!"  She frowned at me in a way that gave me the impression that I should be pretty bummed out about this tragic turn of events as well. Now, if you don't know who Meghan Trainor is, you are probably even older than I am. I'll wait here while you Google her.

"Sweetie, Meghan Trainor is making money hand over fist so it doesn't really matter if her song is number one or number two. You don't need to worry about her, trust me."

Anyway, my kid has memorized every lyric to every Top 40 song and belts them out at the top of her lungs. And, good gracious, are the lyrics stupid.  They make me cringe.

Here is a sample:

Is it weird that I hear
Violins whenever you’re gone
Whenever you’re gone
Is it weird that your ass
Remind me of a Kanye West song?
Kanye West song

Now, most of the songs she likes are chock full of inappropriate lyrics. At least the worst words are bleeped on the radio. I find that it's impossible to keep these songs off her radar, though. I mean, I can physically turn them off but she still finds a way. She is always begging me to turn on a local station that she likes. Sometimes I give in, sometimes I don't. I'm not all about that bass (no treble), I guess.

The fact that I am shaking my fist about dumb song lyrics is just another sign that I'm older than dirt. It's how I knew my mom was old when she criticized the lyrics of songs that I liked when I was a kid. In the midnight hour, she cried more more more. With a rebel yell, she cried more more more.  "More what?" my mother would ask.

With my new car, I have a three-month trial of Sirius XM radio. I made the mistake of telling the kid that there is a Top 40 station on there, so now we have to listen to that when she's in the car. Bad music always finds a way, I guess.

Another little tidbit about my trip to the gym . . . as I was zipping along (but going nowhere) on the elliptical, a cute guy walked over and then settled on the stretching mat to my right. I glanced over and noticed that he was doing push-ups. And then I noticed . . . that he was so young that he could easily be my son. So now, on top of going blind and not understanding popular music, apparently I'm also some kind of pervert.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Orthodontia Update

First off, my kid does her daily reading in this position:

I'm not sure what it all means. Second, her front teeth currently look like this:

I guess the palate expander is doing its job, because her front teeth are getting farther apart by the day. It's like they're on separate coasts, one in Los Angeles and the other in NYC. In fact, they've started warring rap groups. It's a little alarming, but I know it's all part of the grand plan. We have to turn the key for a couple more weeks. Then the expander stays in place for several months so that the bone can fill in where her hard palate has been forced apart. I feel like I could drive a Smartcar through those front teeth, but the kid doesn't seem alarmed. 

In other news, she and I spent the weekend together so that we could volunteer at a pet expo out of town. We ate dinner at a fabulous vegetarian/vegan place and then went back to our hotel to go swimming. Lots of mother-daughter quality time. I even got her to tell me which boy at school she likes. When I took her to a school dance last week, I saw about half a dozen boys chasing her so I couldn't be sure which one was the object of her affections. Anyway, I have the scoop now but I've been sworn to secrecy. We also talked about a book my sister sent her, called "The Care and Keeping of You." It's an American Girl book that used to belong to my niece. I asked the kid about it and she said she read the whole book. "Well, do you have any questions about menstruation?" I asked her.

"Oh, I didn't read the page about ministration," she responded.  

"Do you want to?"

"Not really." 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lookie what I got!

The first payment is due on December 14th so if you were expecting a Christmas gift from me this year . . . um, I hope you like it?

It's a 2012 Chevy Equinox LS. No crumbs embedded in the back seat, no dog hair (yet) . . . ah, it's glorious. 

Still wasting time . . . just finding other ways to do it

As you may recall, last week I decided to unplug for a bit. This endeavor mostly consisted of me trying my level best to stay off Facebook. I also fought the compulsion to answer every email that hit my in-box. And let me tell you, it was hard. This is going to sound weird but sometimes I think I've made the mistake of being too competent. If someone has a question and you jump to answer it, you'll be the go-to resource henceforth. By trying to be that person for so many people, I'm bringing more stress into my life than is necessary. My friend Jane says that she has to remind herself that she is a human being, not a human doing. Do you ever try to ponder your own mortality? When I think of what it will be like to . . . not be here anymore, the first thing I always think is, "Well, at least the worrying will stop." I really need to find better ways to manage the goings-on in my own brain.

Staying offline (for the most part, anyway) gave me some extra time, which I used thusly:
  • Finally fixed my iPod. When I got a new computer back in March, it didn't seem to be too fond of my iPod. It would agree to synch my iPod with iTunes, but only just barely. It would not agree to put the right cover art with the right songs. So, I might be listening to Lily Allen but the accompanying album cover was AC/DC.  My brain found that confusing. I knew I needed to back up all of my music, restore the iPod completely, and then re-load the music. I was chicken shit, though, because I was convinced I'd botch the whole operation (and permanently lose over 3,000 songs and podcasts). Anyway, I managed to pull it off and now my iPod and computer have agreed to play nicely together. 
  • Researched new cars. My van has developed quite a few quirks and we're looking at potential replacement vehicles  And when I say "we" I mean that *I* have been doing research while Mr. Cup-is-Half-Empty finds reasons why all of my ideas are bad. 
  • Chose a new ring tone for my phone. For at least six months, every time someone would call me, I would think, "Gotta change that."  What is my new ring tone, you ask? This one.
  • Test drove some cars. When I told my daughter that I test drove a couple of vehicles, she gave me a dubious look and asked, "Well, did you pass?  Did you do it right?" With each passing day (since she's getting smarter and apparently I'm getting progressively dumber), she seems to be increasingly concerned about my ability just to navigate my way through everyday life. (Yo mama's so stupid she can't even pass a test drive!)
  • Made split pea soup from scratch. The week before that, I made black bean soup. People who know me well would say that I am not a big fan of soup. It's true - historically, I'm not a soup groupie. Vegetarians/vegans know not to order soup in most restaurants because most contain beef or chicken stock. However, I've learned that soup is probably one of the most vegan-friendly meals out there - at least when you make it yourself.  So, my crock pot is finally seeing some action.
  • Started reading a book. It's shameful just how little reading I do in a year. I downloaded The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League onto my Kindle and have started reading it. 
  • Got a haircut.
  • Baked a bunch of treats for church (I only have three vegan baked goods in my repertoire but I can bake those three items like nobody's business!) I also facilitated the service at church last Sunday.
  • Took my daughter to a haunted house.  It's a standard issue haunted house but during the day they turn on the lights and open it for kids. It was a lot of fun. They did have people jumping out at us so I definitely screamed a couple of times. At the end, one of the zombies handed my daughter a bag of candy. The poor kid couldn't eat a single piece of it. Because of her expander, she can't eat any chewy/hard candy. So no gum, Starburst, jawbreakers, etc. I'm hoping she gets a lot of chocolate during trick-or-treating. 
  • Cleaned out a closet. Okay, part of a closet. Since winter lasts about 11 months where I live, I've accumulated an obscene number of slippers over the years. I decided to cull some of my collection . . . to, um, make room for more. 
  • Passed several levels of Candy Crush. The addiction still has a grip. Sometimes I actually see the candies when I close my eyes for meditation at church. I'm pretty proud of that, as you can imagine.
 Until next time, mes amis . . .

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Here it is. My 1000th blog entry. Woot! :::pumping fist in the air as if I am the only person on the planet with a blog:::

I have definitely considered abandoning the blog more than once. "Why bother?" I think to myself. But, I keep writing and I'm pretty sure I do it mostly for myself. Writing is often therapeutic for me. I remember when my friend Kevin died. I couldn't sleep so I got up in the middle of the night and wrote about him. It turned out to be the turning point in the grief process. I also remember another sleepless night when I rolled out of bed and wrote about a friend who had hurt my feelings. To this day, I still wonder if it was her or me or if the friendship had simply run its course.  I still miss her. Catharsis doesn't always mean closure, I suspect, but writing really does help.

I wish I had started the blog before my daughter was born.  There was a lot of anxiety before and after her birth and writing about it might have helped. However, I am glad I started the blog when I did because now it's fun to go back and look at what I wrote when she was two and three and so forth. It's easy to forget the little things about days spent with a toddler, so it's nice to have those preserved somewhere. For example, I recently revisited a blog entry about potty training that still makes me laugh. There was the time she was thirsty and demanded a piece of water. Or the horrifying trips to the grocery store.

I have used my blog to chronicle my daughter's life, to work through some of my own baggage, to weigh in on current events, and to kvetch about whatever is stuck in my craw at any given moment.

In 1,000 entries, I:
  • Lost and gained about a gazillion pounds
  • Visited at least a dozen states, including family trips to Texas and DisneyWorld.
  • Lost my sweet, gentle Karl Lee
  • Adopted Fat Gretchen (bam-a-lam)
  • Told our daughter that she was adopted
  • Lost one job and got another one
  • Discovered yoga
  • Went vegan
  • Bought a minivan (I hope to ditch that bad boy soooon)
  • Fostered a gazillion dogs
  • Got to be a bridesmaid for the first time
  • Won $10,000 (for a charity of my choice) from filmmaker/activist Michael Moore. Needless to say, I chose the rescue as my charity.
  • Gained four new nephews and a few other relatives
  • Got more involved in my church
  • Had surgery to re-arrange the bones in my left foot
  • Got my first tattoo
  • Aged 7.5 years
  • Kept one unruly kid alive
The entries that were the most popular with my hundreds dozens three readers:

For some, I think the reason they got a lot of readers is a result of naughty (or sometimes completely innocuous) language I may have used. I wrote two entries about my husband and daughter attending an annual Daddy-Daughter dance, and I'm pretty sure they got so many hits was because someone Googled those terms in hopes of finding something thoroughly disgusting. Sick fucks, I tell ya. For others, I'm assuming that they were cross-posted somewhere. My blog entry about my sister's wedding got a ton of hits and I'm not really sure why. Same goes for the entry about my optometrist. I'm assuming that my blog comes up when people Google terms related to nausea+optometrist.

My early blog entries didn't get a lot of traction because they weren't being posted automatically to Facebook like they are now. I like to tell myself that the early entries are still awesome, though. I mean, it's not really possible to talk about potty training TOO much, is it?

An entry that was meaningful to me was this one:  http://alabastermom.blogspot.com/2007/07/miscarriages-frog-wish-granted.html. I think it was the first time I really let myself work through the feelings of loss and joy I was experiencing. I still love that little frog, too.

So there you have it. A little retrospective of my life, as told in 1,000 small chunks. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


This is my 999th blog post. I'll have to think of something fantabulous to write for the next one. For now, I think I'm going to do my best to unplug for a few days. I'm in a funk and I don't really know why. I'm irritable towards people who don't deserve my irritability. I'm frustrated by a personal situation that I can't talk about. I'm battling a medical issue and my doctor is operating under a theory that, it seems to me, is incorrect. The sameness of my days . . . ah, it seems endless. Go to work, come home, make dinner, do the laundry, yell about homework, go to the gym or to yoga, then go to bed. Thanksgiving can't come soon enough. No work, no homework yelling.  I know I'm being whiny but maybe I just need a wee bit of a break. I'm going to see if I can stay away from Facebook/email/texts for a few days. It seems silly that this prospect is so challenging to me.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is this how Calvin Klein's mother felt?

I admit it: I am pretty tightly wound. Although I think I've mellowed a tiny bit as I've aged, my disdain for clutter has not. Now, I need to add a little disclaimer here. Because I'm not a fan of clutter, people think I might get all judge-y when I go to their house. Not in the least. I truly do not care what anyone else does with their home (and the stuff inside it), and I always feel terrible when I go to someone's house and they say things like, "Don't look in the spare bedroom. It's a wreck."  When I go to a friend's house, I actually feel like I'm off the hook. It's not my stuff so I don't have to worry about it.

It's kind of funny how some things bother me and some things do not. For example, I am totally fine with having clean dishes in the dish drainer rack. For items we use frequently, they just stay there indefinitely. I know that sort of thing drives some people around the bend. Occasionally, I put some of the stuff away but the rack is never completely empty. Does not bother me at all.  However, shoes in the middle of the living room floor?  I cannot deal. The junk drawer in our kitchen is full of old tubes of Super Glue, lint rollers, batteries, dog supplies, and a gazillion other odds and ends. It's a wreck and I have no intention of cleaning it out anytime soon. But if you leave an empty milk carton on the counter, I might lose my shit.

If you have a person in your life who sews or quilts, you know that these people are hoarders. And I say that in the nicest possible way.  My mom sews. She buys yard after yard of fabric because "you just never know."  There are buttons of all shapes and sizes, enough thread to loop around the planet eight times, and patterns galore. I'm pretty sure all sew-ers and quilters have at least one closet full of this stuff (and maybe another stash that they think no one knows about). And now my daughter is turning into one! Woe is me. I'm trying to nurture her creativity without freaking out about the sewing-related clutter.

She has now set up a sewing station in her bedroom. She has requested that I buy her a dress form. I placed an ad on Craigslist in hopes of finding a used one at a reasonable price (the adjustable ones are pretty pricey). Meanwhile, she has piles of fabric and sewing implements sitting around. She's been doing some hand sewing, which means there are surely needles in the carpet now. It's only a time until my bare foot connects with one of them.

For weeks she was bugging me to give her an old dress of mine. Finally, I dug out an old green one that I hadn't worn in about a decade.  She cut off the sleeves and then cut off the front hem so that it would have a bit of a train in the back. Then she sewed the armholes to reduce their circumference. And then she wore it.  I mean, just around the house but still - the girl's got a vision, I guess. I really want to encourage her creativity.  I am mildly concerned that she'll never have the patience to follow an actual pattern, though. I've tried to explain to her that it takes her Meemaw days to make a dress. It's takes care and precision. Even the people on Project Runway sew for two days straight without stopping. My kid doesn't even take the time to brush her teeth properly so . . . who knows.

When she makes it to Project Runway, she can turn to the camera and lament the fact that her mother wouldn't let her dye her bedsheets and sew blindfolds for the dogs.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Two new things I learned to do this week

1. Bake using coconut oil. When I went vegan four months ago, I assumed my days of eating chocolate chip cookies were over. Granted, it's a good thing that so many things are off the table (literally and figuratively) for me now. Although my diet is mostly a reflection of my beliefs about the dairy/factory farming industries (I'm not doing it specifically for health reasons, in other words), I do try to eat stuff that's actually good for me.

Anywho, I found this recipe and thought I'd give it a try. I was interested in it because it contains
ingredients I've heard of.  A lot of vegan recipes require ingredients that are obscure/exotic at best. Or maybe everyone keeps agave nectar sitting around?  I have no idea. An ingredient that seems to be somewhat more commonly available is coconut oil. I was a-skeered because I hate coconut. There aren't words to describe adequately how much I dislike coconut. However, I was hoping it didn't actually bring that sort of flavor to all the baked goods that seem to require it as an ingredient. So, I bought some. It's kind of weird to call it an oil because it's actually sold as a solid (and then becomes an oil if you heat it, I suppose).

I made the recipe and I must say it turned out great. My husband is about to make himself sick from eating so many of these cookies.  So, that was one accomplishment this week (not the "making my husband sick" part but rather the "learning to use coconut oil" part).

2. Expand an expander.  Once a day, I have to shove this thing into my daughter's mouth:

The orthodontist's office tied it onto the toothbrush. I'm guessing that they got tired of parents losing the key. Anyway, my husband will not have anything to do with the key-turning situation. I've done it three times now and I think I've got the hang of it. We do it at night, before she goes to bed. I do have to take out my contacts because they are bi-focal contacts and my close-up vision is not the best.  Then I make her stretch across the kitchen counter (where the lighting is the best). She opens her mouth and tilts her head back. Then I have to shove the end of the key into a tiiiiiiiiny little hole inside the expander.  I have to make sure I don't shove it in too far because then I could jab the roof of her mouth (or stab her in the brain or whatever).  Finally, I have to push the key back towards the back of her throat. There is a major obstacle, which is her tongue. If I could detach it for a few minutes each time, that would be ideal.

Three turns down, 39 to go.

See how learned I am?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The poodle skirt to end all poodle skirts

Originally, my daughter wanted to be an Irish dancer for Halloween. However, it turns out that the only way to get your hands on a pattern for one of those dresses is to fork over your kidney and your life savings. So, the kid and I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and she flipped through the pattern books. She decided she wanted to be a "50s Girl." She called her personal designer (AKA Meemaw) and placed an order for a poodle skirt.  She was very specific about the color of the skirt, too.  It had to be a teal green/blue.

Today, we received the skirt. My mom also made a crinoline for A to wear under the skirt. I bought a basic white shirt and some saddle shoes. Now we just need a scarf and she'll be all set. As always, she plans to attend several Halloween events, so the skirt will get lots of wear.  The poodle itself is a sight to behold - it has a gold leash, a collar, and even a tiny little ID tag.  Fancy-schmancy!

Thanks, Meemaw!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hardware installation (Subtitle: "Just yogurt for me, thanks")

Our daughter had her big trip to the orthodontist this afternoon.  P picked her up from school and then I met them at the orthodontist's office. I got there first. I could tell as soon as the kid walked in that she was really nervous. So, I held her in the waiting room until it was time for her to go in. When her name was called, her dad and I went back with her.

At first, A was determined not to talk to the person who was fitting her with the palate expander. I must apologize because I'm not sure what that person's job title is, but she was very nice. She was a pro at getting a scared fourth grader to chat with her, too. My daughter went from "I don't want to be here" to an in-depth discussion of her favorite types of cupcakes, where she goes to school, and what her dog's name is.

Getting the expander fitted was quite the process. The technician lady worked on it and then the orthodontist came over and finished the installation. A started to cry. I don't think she was in pain; I think it was more a matter of having so much stuff in her mouth. The expander had to be cemented to her teeth. In order to protect her mouth from all the goings-on, there were shields stuck inside both cheeks. And then, to top if off, there was at least one instrument and one set of fingers in her mouth at any given time.  I think she was just overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Eventually, the job was done.

While her dad and I waited, we looked at the shelves that held the molds for at least a hundred other patients. As bad as our kid's teeth are, we found it oddly comforting to see that other people's kids were worse off. I mean, we are talking about some jacked up toofers here. Every few seconds my husband would whisper, "Holy cow! Look at that one!"

The last step was for the technician to show us how to turn the key. As it turns out, my friend's daughter's palate expander looks completely different from what my kid has. I guess they must do the job equally well, though. A's is an acrylic job that is molded to the roof of her mouth. There are two halves, joined by three metal "bars" in the middle. Each day, we have to shove a key in there and turn it.  This forces the two halves of the expander apart. This process will continue for six weeks until, in theory, the top jaw is wider than it was before. The expander actually stays in her mouth for six months because it takes a while for the bone to fill in (into the gap created from pulling the top jaw apart). Then we get into head gear and braces and stuff.

By the time we left, the kid was almost smiling. She was rewarded with a "good job!" from the orthodontist. Her dad and I, in turn, were rewarded with a coupon book for the payments, which they handed to us on our way out. Yay!

I went back to work and P promptly took the kid to Taco Bell.  He took the afternoon off so that he could keep her at home - we weren't sure how she would feel after her appointment so we made arrangements for her not to go back to school. Anyway, he bought her a cheesy roll-up and within seconds, cheese was stuck all over the new apparatus. Yes, I know what you're thinking and I wondered about his decision-making skills as well. I stopped at the grocery store after work and picked up some yogurt, pudding, and ice cream.

So, all is well for the moment. We aren't looking forward to the key and the turning and all the saltwater rinses (you have to shoot water up under the expander so it doesn't get all nasty up in there). I was worried that the kid's speech would be so bad that we wouldn't be able to understand her. She's actually doing pretty well in that department. God knows that for for this kid, not being able to talk to people is just about the worst thing that could happen to her.

Friday, October 3, 2014

This one's NOT for you, Dad

I had my first mammogram yesterday. It was only mildly traumatic. I was supposed to have my first one several years ago and I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't bite the bullet and just make that appointment before now. I'm fortunate that I don't have a family history of breast cancer but still, I should have gone sooner.

My appointment was for 8:00 a.m. I arrived at the hospital and a volunteer (a nice retired gentleman) walked me downstairs to the booby squishing department. "You look familiar to me," he said. Then he recognized me. We go to the same gym. "I've seen you working out," he told me.

"I'm sorry you've had to see that," I responded. How come no one ever recognizes you from some moment in your life when you looked awesome? Like, "Hey, I saw you collecting daisies in a field on a perfect summer day. You were in soft focus and you looked spectacular!"

I checked in, got my wrist band, and then took my seat in the waiting room. A few minutes later, a technician retrieved me and took me to a small room. Despite not knowing the difference between the words "pitcher" and "picture," she seemed nice.

"Get undressed from the waist up, wipe off your deodorant, put this gown on, and I'll come back for you."

Moments later, I was in the actual squishing room. "Okay, I'm going to take four pitchers," she said. "Two on each side."

She then guided me to the big machine. Basically, you set your knocker on a shelf and then another shelf comes down and does the squishing. The part that comes down is the size of the griddle on which I make pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches for my family. I have to admit it was just slightly strange to have someone picking up my boobs and shoving them all around. I am not sure if this whole procedure is harder on busty girls or on small-chested chicks. What I do know is that my rack has a fan club that consists of exactly one member. He's usually the only one to take quite such an interest in them.

So, anyway, each breast was squished in two directions. First the top/bottom dealio. Then she flipped the machine sideways and squeezed them from the other direction . . . kind of like if you opened a dictionary and then, you know, accidentally slammed it on your boob. The pain was not terrible. If I've learned nothing else from four years of yoga, it's how to breathe. So, I tried just to breathe through it and focus on that.

After the ordeal, I was sent to sit in the little room again. It had a TV, which was nice. I watched "The Daily Show." I do love me some Jon Stewart. The technician then came back in.

"Sorry, we have to take two more pitchers." 

What I thought: "Fuuuuuuuuck."

What I said: "Okay."

Before proceeding, she showed me the first four images on the screen. There was a problem with my left headlight. I've always suspected that the left one had its own agenda so I guess I wasn't that surprised.  She showed me the white spot on the image.

She led me back to the machine and manhandled me some more. This time the "paddle" was not the size of a griddle but more like the bottom of a coffee cup. It's job was to smooosh a very specific spot. Ow. "Since we've now taken more than the normal number of pitchers, a nurse will have to give you the results," she said. I nodded. She led me back to my room.

A few minutes later, she came back and told me she had to take me to ultrasound to get a closer look at the white spot that was showing up on the images.  Apparently, the doctor had made this decision on my behalf. I never saw a doctor but I assumed that he/she existed somewhere in the building. The technician handed me a pink nail file. "We have a gift for you for coming in during Breast Cancer Awareness month." Then she deposited me in a different waiting room in the ultrasound area. This time I couldn't control the TV so I had to watch one of those boring morning shows. I felt a little self-conscious about having my shirt and bra in my lap. I wondered if I should shove my bra in my purse or something. I mean, what IS the protocol for this? When I go to my gynecologist, I'm never sure if I'm supposed to hide my undergarments or not. Yeah, that's right. My bra and underwear are not even CLOSE to matching!

By now I was very late for work so I just sort of resigned myself to that fact and stopped worrying about it. Another technician fetched me from the waiting room and took me to a darkened room for the ultrasound. She worked on my left boob for what seemed like an eternity, pushing the wand thingie all around. Then she left and told me that someone would be in to talk to me in about 15 minutes. I got dressed and waited. I checked out the selection of magazines, which sucked. I mean to tell you that that hospital has an outrageous number of  Good Housekeeping issues laying around. My phone was dead. There was no TV.  So, I curled up on the bed and just rested. I don't get that much time to myself, so it was kind of nice.

Eventually, a nurse came in and handed me a slip of paper. "Everything is fine," she said. "You just have a benign cyst."

I hadn't been too worried, to be honest. I had a feeling everything was fine. However, I know that a lot of women do not get good news at these types of appointments and so, my mood was a bit somber as I thought about all the others who weren't so lucky.

Anyway, if you're 40ish and haven't had the squishing done, please do so. It's not a fun time by any stretch, but it's important. Figure out a game plan for your bra ahead of time (that's a tip from me to you). And if you're lucky, you'll leave with a pretty new weapon, too.

"Wow! Thanks!"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This one's for you, Dad

For reasons known only to him, my father finds the concept of picking apples to be very comical. Every fall, my husband and daughter and I head to a local orchard to pick apples. I am pretty sure we are not the only ones to do this. It seems to me like a common autumn-type excursion. Last year, my daughter took a photo of me and her dad next to an apple tree, and I posted it on Facebook. My dad has been calling us "the apple pickers" since then.  Over the summer, he shared our orchard photo on Facebook right before we drove out to Maryland to visit him. "The apple pickers are on their way," he wrote.

I knew we were going to pick apples last Saturday so I gave him a heads-up ahead of time. "Those apples won't pick themselves," he told me.  And then added: "be sure to wear your official apple picking outfits."  There were so many people at the orchard that they had a team of six people who had the sole function of parking cars. Apple pickers as far as the eye could see!

So here they are, our orchard photos.  We picked several varieties of apples this year - it seemed to be a good year for the crop.  I buy apples just to eat but my husband prefers to have them baked into something much sweeter and more fattening.  So, I will be making an apple crisp for him shortly. As for the kid, we have an understanding of sorts. I put an an apple in her lunch as a healthy snack. She throws it away and says she ate it. It's a win-win.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This one's pretty exciting, you guys

I haven't been writing much, because there hasn't been much going on. The rescue had its big fundraiser on September 20th and I needed about a week just to recover from that. As far as what I've been doing  with my free time . . . I know I'm late to this party but I've been plowing through all five seasons of "Six Feet Under."  I truly think it's one of the best shows I've ever seen. I'm not one to sit around and watch TV for large stretches of time, but having HBO GO on my Kindle means I can watch the show when I'm getting ready and whatnot. I watched "Big Love" over the summer. P and I also just finished "Breaking Bad" (we accomplished that one via DVDs from Netflix).  We were late to that party, too.

The only other bit of recent news is that I bought myself a plane ticket to visit my middle sister and her family in Northern Virginia for Thanksgiving. I can't wait!  I saw my sister for about five minutes in a parking lot in Maryland back in July. I passed my child off to her before continuing our drive home. So, I felt like a longer visit might be nice. I feel a wee bit guilty about leaving my daughter behind but I am doing so for a couple of reasons: 1. I don't want to buy an extra plane ticket so close to Christmas. 2. She just spent ten days with my sister in July. 3. I could use a little just-for-me trip.  I'm sure that my husband and daughter will receive lots of invitations for Thanksgiving dinner, so I'm not too worried about that.

Um, let's see . . .what else?  Oh, I scheduled my first mammogram. I know, I'm late on that, too. The first one should have taken place several years ago. However, I was always so traumatized after leaving my OB/GYN's office that I immediately blocked it all out. It's true that Dr. Meanie gave me a number and told me to call it to schedule a boob squish, but I never did. My new doctor made sure I had an appointment before I left, so that was helpful (I guess?) My appointment is on Thursday. I may just have to write about it in excruciating detail after I'm done.

If you need further proof of how my week is going . . . I ran to Costco at lunchtime today to pick up some dog food. In order to get in the front door, you have to show your membership card. So, I flashed my card and started to walk into the store. "Um, ma'am? That's your gym membership card."  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Orthodontia Countdown

My daughter is getting her palate expander on October 8th. I attended a consultation with her orthodontist a couple weeks ago. Interestingly, the kid herself didn't even need to be at this appointment. The only thing I needed to bring, apparently, was my checkbook. I had to make a down payment and then the rest will be billed monthly over the next year. Insurance is paying for some of the cost. However, I noted that the amount they are paying is a lifetime limit. I know the kid is likely to need a second set of braces once she has her adult teeth, but apparently she will need to wait for her next lifetime now.

I have to say that the visit was at once harrowing and informative. The orthodontist showed me a plaster cast of my daughter's mouth.  I wish I had taken a photo of it. All I could think of was that old joke about "summer teeth."  Summer here, summer there. Dr. M told me that although he previously thought braces were a possibility, he could confirm that they are now a definite.

The next eighteen months sound super fun:
  • Six months with the expander in her mouth (we have to adjust it daily for the first six weeks or something like that)
  • Head gear for 12 hours a day
  • About a year with the braces
It's all very high tech.  He showed me all kinds of diagrams of my daughter's head and then showed me the data on the projected changes.  I have to admit I felt pretty confident that he can deliver what he's promised. It's still a little daunting, though.

A few days after my meeting with the orthodontist, I saw my friend Sharon at an event. Her daughter has a palate expander currently. She (the daughter) was such a good sport about letting me have a look-see inside her mouth (not that she's thrilled about the hardware - she made a vague "he's not going to get away with this" threat towards her orthodontist). If you took the metal spiral out of a spiral notebook and bent it into an arc (and then shoved it into someone's mouth and cemented it to their teeth) . . . it sort of looks like that.  It goes a lot farther back in the mouth than I would have expected (I think it sits just about where the hard palate meets the soft palate). I'm worried that A will gag on it.  I know that my friend and her daughter had a few rough days in the beginning. Only soft foods, lots of Ibuprofen, etc. I can't say that I'm looking forward to it too much.  What I'm dreading the most is the whole "wear the head gear 12 hours a day" requirement. I can't even get my daughter to finish a math worksheet or pick up her shoes. The odds of her voluntarily wearing a hunk of metal on her face seem pretty slim.

The headgear will look something like this:

The basic plan, as I understand it, is that the expander will essentially re-arrange her top jaw.  Then the headgear will seek to correct the underbite by pulling everything forward.  Then finally the braces will straighten anything that's still crooked. Then I guess we'll see where we are.  One thing that was a little creepy was seeing an x-ray of my daughter's head, showing all the adult teeth that are waiting in the wings.  They're just hanging out in her skull, on top of the baby teeth. She's like a shark or something.

The orthodontist pointed out how one of the adult teeth is pointing in completely the wrong direction.  He called it "the path of eruption" which might be the grossest thing I have ever heard in my life.  He also said that he thinks she might be missing an adult tooth. She has a dental appointment later this year and our regular dentist will take some of those super-fun bitewing x-rays at that time to confirm.

The expander goes in October 8th so look for a suicide note from me about a day or two after that.