Monday, February 25, 2008

Trapped By Stupidity

By my own stupidity.

I drag the kids out of bed, nag breakfast into their stomachs, harass them into clothes and shoes, and finally its time to go.
Coats - check!
Backpacks - check!
Precious Daughter's lunch - check!
Mommy's coffee - check!
Car keys - ch--
Car keys?
Hello? Car keys?
Key basket - nope
flat surface surrounding key basket? - nope
Mommy's purse - nope!!
Jacket pocket - wrong set!
Kitchen table - Aw, come on!
Dump my purse on the floor - #*&%!!

For a moment, I'm in a tizzy, searching stupid places that make no sense, like yesterday's jeans, the table next to the door, around my computer, and I'm coming up with zip. Finally, I call the Oracle at work, remembering (with a sinking feeling) that the jacket I wore yesterday is in the back of the car he drove today. Much to my dismay, my keys are in that jacket's pocket.

I have a car and no keys, and The Oracle won't be home until after 10:00 p.m. Shazbot!

I briefly considered walking the kids to school. It isn't that far, maybe 20 minutes, but Precious Daugther started to cry at that notion and I felt like Momzilla. I also realized that I'd have to go back and get Mighty B at 11:30.

They're both gonna cry over frozen leftovers for dinner.

Edited at 11:20 to add: I just endured an all-irritating round of protest and whining because I made Precious Daughter eat the lunch I packed for her this morning. Now she wants to walk to the convenience store, the train station (to go downtown and get my keys from The Oracle), or the Burger King for anything other than PB&J. I told her all of those destinations are greater distances than the school, so she can stay the heck home. If walking to school was too difficult, I'm not going to put up with the whining over greater distances, especially when we have to walk home afterwards.

To put it bluntly, NFW.

Of course, I can't say that to my kids.

Edited again to add:

Shortly after lunch I turned off the TV. Why? Because Mighty B was blocking Precious Daughter's view, so she demanded he move. He yanked her hair and she scratched his neck. What is wrong with these kids today?

I have truckloads of work, but I hate that stupid TV. I hate the way they'll sit and stare at anything that comes across the screen regardless of whether it's age appropriate or informative. They'll stare at High School Musical, Teletubbies or Presidential debates with equal devotion, simply because they're watching people doing stuff instead of doing it themselves.

I hate that TV.

It's sunny out and not that cold. Why on earth won't my kids go out and play? Any other time they're clamoring for the door. Instead, they're picking at one another while doing their best to remain slugs for the day. The whining is incessant. (And I'm clearly the worst offender at the moment.)

God help me. I want to turn on the TV.

Hey, maybe I'll go outside!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Rusty-Dog 1993-2008


I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friends' companion, Rusty. Rusty was such a good boy, and he died from complications during yesterday's surgery to remove a huge benign tumor from his hip area. They knew the surgery was a risk, but the tumor tripled in size in a short while, and it interfered with his gait in a horrible way. He already had arthritis in his knees, and they knew the inactivity it caused would have brought the same result after prolonged pain and suffering.

Rusty joined his family as a puppy, shortly after The Oracle and I adoped our neurotic "firstborn," Strudel.
From the minute he came home, his parents could see that he was "too smart for his own good," possessing interesting skills like having enough sense to backtrack his path when he tangled his lead instead of just pulling willy-nilly. Rusty frequently found new ways to keep them on their toes. All puppies find ways to misbehave, but Rusty made misbehaving an art.
Almost every day, Rusty's mom would come to work and tell me Rusty's antics from the day before, and my accursed memory is refusing to cooperate and bring them forth.
Long before they had children, they needed baby locks on their cabinets to keep him out of the trash. He was a big-time chow-hound, and if he could eat it, he'd steal it. If it was inedible, he'd eat it anyway. He had a nasty habit of raiding the laundry hamper and leaving underwear laying around for company to see. In his younger days, he'd steal anything at hand so you'd chase him, or sometimes he'd just want something in his mouth. I remember many visits where Rusty would grab a sofa pillow and run around with it when I arrived.
The worst thing he ate was a light bulb. In an effort to save his bowels from the shredding they rightfully deserved, the vet recommended they feed him every couple of hours to keep his bowels full of something besides glass. The shard-laden results picked off the lawn must've been awful to pass. Another lovely weekend, Rusty's dad dismantled their lawnmower to fix something or another, and Rusty ate the owner's manual before he had a chance to put it back together.
There was a rainy occasion where Rusty was let out to do his business, and when mom went to the door to let him in, she couldn't see him. She called him and he popped his head up from a mud hole he'd either dug out or enlarged, wearing so much mud it was jammed into his ears.
When their kids were born, Rusty tolerated the ear pullings and crash landings like a pro, with nary a grr or a nip. As they grew, he was their playmate, protector, and face washer.
There were so many other Rusty stories, and my lousy memory just can't bring them forth at the moment. He was so well trained that, until they had kids, Rusty would lay in the family room while they had dinner in the kitchen. He would stop at the back door to have his feet wiped on rainy days.
He was such a cool dog, and I'm so sorry and sad that he's gone.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Unexpected Treasures

Ten days or so before Precious Daughter was born, my stepfather had bypass surgery. We actually crossed paths in the hospital. I stopped in to visit him right before having my daughter by cesarean section.

Two weeks after Precious Daughter was born, my stepfather, having been released shortly before, decided he was putting the family home on the market and moving in with one of his sons. I remember my friend M calling me to tell me there was a Dumpster in front of the house and my step-buttheads were loading the thing with everything they could grab.

Ironically, this was the first day I would have been permitted to drive after delivery. I got in the car and the blasted thing wouldn't start. M came to my rescue and drove me over there with Precious Daughter in her car seat carrier thingy. That damned Dumpster was already a third full, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was still under weight restrictions, and my belly felt too raw to go Dumpster diving anyway. I hurriedly salvaged some things I could carry and took them home. Over the next few days, I had The Oracle's help, and eventually my sister, V, who was living out of state, got over there as well. By then it was pretty much too late. A good chunk of our childhood goodies were long gone.

I was digging in the basement a couple weeks ago, looking for the furnishings to my sister J's old doll house. I've been slowly trying to make the basement a kid-friendly play area in hopes of getting their perpetual clutter out from underfoot in the living room, and the empty doll house was a big enticement to play down there awhile. I found the furniture in a box and started pulling out the items that seemed sturdy enough to witshtand B's brute strength.

Anyway, in the bottom of the furniture box, I found a kinda-crusty brown wallet that must've belonged to my mother. I nearly pitched it aside, but as a last-minute afterthought I opened for a quick peek at the billfold. Hey, you never know, right? What jumped out at me had me squeal in delight and brought my kids running.
This was the wallet I carried in 1983, when I was a junior in high school. Before any of you can complain about me posting our "Almost a Swan" photos, I found this underneath the wallet in the same box and scanned it just for you. Take a look at this frightmare!!!

Dear Lord, I am almost ashamed to admit that this is me with too much fuzzy hair and those horsey hard yellow teeth. No amount of bleaching has made them any whiter.

The only redeeming thing about this photo is the Gunne Sax blouse. I was a junkie for Gunne Sax, and I had at least three of these things. I even had a "vintage" Gunne Sax formal gown that belonged to an aunt or some such thing, and I always dreamed of wearing it to my prom. Instead, I wore it in the school's musical production of Barnum, because it perfectly fit the timeline in the story. When I ripped out the hem and stained it with stage makeup, that was the end of my prom gown.

And I can see that the Blogger spacing is going to go all weird, and I'm not going to fuss with it. This is going to be a long post, and I'm not going to fiddle with formatting.

See that guy on the left? I carried a huge crush on him until he graduated. He was my first-ever kiss (on the cheek, waiting for the "late bus" after school), and I rode that bus home in the clouds. He, unfortunately, had this weird timeline in his head that every girlfriend carried a 90-day warranty, and he ditched me without much cause to move on to the girl in the nxt group of photos. She happened to become a good friend of mine. Oh, I envied her! But then, 90 days later, he dropped her too. In my mind, I then called him Fickle F, the F standing in for his last name and not the four-letter word.

The guy on the right? He was, at the time, close friends with the guy on the left, and if memory serves me well (it rarely does, but it tries), he was the second guy to ever kiss me. And while FF never bothered to write any sentiment on the back of his photo, the guy on the right did. "Hi. I love mountain climbing." R. I guess I need to mention here that I was a rather well-endowed teen. I'll leave the math to you.

This is my friend, V. The bummer here is that, much like the chicken and the egg, I can't tell which photo came first. V has this fabulous soprano voice, one that I truly didn't appreciate until a summer stock production. I think it was Hans Christian Andersen story, but I'm not really sure of that at all. I just remember that in a scene involving a chorus of vendors in a marketplace, she sang out, "Buy my fresh fish, my fresh fish" over and over. Such a simple line, but, wow, when I heard it coming off the stage like that (instead of next to me during choir practice) I was floored.

V. was also my house mate during our choir trip to Germany, and I have bunches of stories from that experience for other posts.

On the left-hand photo it is written: "Wie geht's? I just realized I wrote this upside-down. Oh well. I'm different. Mee-may-mah-moe-moooooo. You are one of my 3 best friends. the other two are Suzanne & my cat. Neither of them tell my secrets, either. Time 2 go! Your friend," V

The photo on the right is much more short & sweet: "Well, here's the picture you wanted. Now you cant' say you feel left out. I'll CU next year!" V.

So, V, which came first?

I don't know why these two friends aren't smiling in their pics, because they were (and still are) rather happy people.

On the left is my friend A. I met A during band camp. A knew how to be funky and cool long before Molly Ringwald made it popular. She twirled a silk in the band front and I played instruments despite the fact that I couldn't read a note of music. I played sousaphone in my freshman year and moved on to glockenspiel after that. I hid my dirty little can't-read-music secret well, playing by ear until I got a unique bit of sheet music for the 1812 Overture. My piece was for the glockenspiel, but the other "dingalings" had music for bells, xylophone, and marimba. The band director wanted it that way, and I finally had to confess my sins. He was shocked but impressed, and I spent my study-hall periods for the next week or so sitting in his office while he gave me the starting note and hummed the damned music. Gimme a glockenspiel today and I could probably still play it.

Again, if my faulty memory has any accurracy at all, FF up there dropped V after 90 days and moved on to A. Then he graduated and stopped messing with my friends. :)

A's sentiment: "Maybe someday I'll think of words to write on this picture. Fer sure!"

Okay, A, now's your chance!

Next to A is S (I'm sorry if this alphabet soup is confusing, but I don't want to go splattering names all over cyberspace). S was also in choir in the alto section. Again, I have no idea why she's not smiling. She's always bubbly and extroverted, even on a bad day. At a high-school dance, I danced with a guy I don't remember, but I do remember that he smelled really good. I told S she had to dance with him just for his scent. She walked right up to him and did.

S writes: "I think you're a deer (BA-HA-HA). I hate this picture, so I might as well give it to you, okay? You call me. it's XXX-XXXX. I can't wait to sing Rudolph when we go caroling. Love ya," S.

These girls are still two of my closest friends. On the left is SD. She was the "new kid" during sophomore year, and at the beginning I was thoroughly irritated by the fact that she was the only one scoring higher grades in Biology than me. She was irritated by me because I was so...irritating. Really, I am a flaky airhead. We rode the bus to school together and wound up becoming best friends, and we still see each other on occasion.

She looks exactly the same. Not a wrinkle or an extra pound in sight, even after two kids. She might color her hair, but I'm not even sure about that.

The skinny girl on the right is M. M and I lived a few houses away from each other and have been friends since we were puny kids. 32 years. It staggers me when I think of it. M's parents are like a second set of parents to me. Her baby sister is like my baby sister. If anyone can blackmail me off the planet, it's M. But, heck, I could blackmail her too. That's why she put nothing in writing on the back of her photo.

My wallet confession would no be complete without this:

First, I am not the person who did this. I know my memory is lousy, but I know that much for sure. My memory must've blocked out the guilty party, because I can't remember how or why it left my wallet in the first place and came back full of holes. I do remember it being returned to me in this condition. B rode the bus with me until I met SD. B was (and I assume still is) a sweet-hearted girl who had fewer social skills than I did. She got herself into more messes than I care to think about. She also fixed me up with the worst blind date of my life, which is fodder for yet another post.

In summary, she really tried to be a good friend, and she really drove me out of my mind with her ways. Sometimes I was a good friend in return, others not so much. that's probably the best way to put it. But I know for sure that I did not put the holes in that photo. Does anyone out there know who did?

Ah, yes. R the Motorhead. I dated R for two years. He was a year ahead of me and lived a good hour's drive away. He drove a '66 Chrysler 300, an awesomely huge car that first opened my eyes to what a classic car was. His stepfather had a whole fleet of antique and classic Chryslers and Packards, and in fact drove us to the above prom in a classic limo.

This is the pic from his senior prom. My mom made my gown. See what I told you about my endowments? I remember sitting at the table looking at pasta with tomato sauce and wondering what brain trust came up with that menu for a roomful of high-school kids in fancy dress. I took that top ruffle and jammed it down into the front of the dress to keep from dripping on it. Then, like a heathen, I tucked my napkin into my cleavage to save my gown.

Two months before my senior prom, R dumped me. Why? First, he said it was because I wouldn't "put out." That mountain climbing comment up there may make you think otherwise, but I really was a nervous nellie when it came to boys, and I didn't let my hair down until long after graduation. Just ask FF's ribcage.

R's other reason for dumping me was because my friends were "too weird." This coming from a guy who's idea of a date was loitering in the mall parking lot with his friends. Really. All the guys would park their cars in a circle. The guys stood around talking and smoking while the girls sat on the cars like hood ornaments. It was clearly the weirdest thing I'd ever done. Way weirder than any of my antics during The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

In his next breath, R then had the nerve to ask me for another girl's phone number. I gleefully refused. When I told her about it, she later confessed to me that R made a pass at her during someone's party, but she was afraid to tell me because she thought I'd be angry with her.

This last bit is hard to see, but I found some other interesting treasures that my fellow grads might remember. A hall pass, my "club" cards for J-Hall, a never-redeemed "kiss coupon," and, most regrettably, my membership card to the Kiwanis Key Club. (More blog fodder.)

Oh, no, Key Club. I can't talk about it. I can't. Not yet. Let's just say that during my year as president, they needed to change their slogan to: "Confont Direction, Discover Confusion."

I'm going to work on a transcript now.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

That '80s Music

KellyJean had a fun entry on her blog yesterday and asked her loyal readers to do something similar. Well, heck, rather than work like I should, I'd much rather do this.

My favorite song from the '80s? Lordy, I have hundreds. There were so many fun and different groups at the time. Culture Club, Huey Lewis and the News, Fleetwood Mac, Yes, The Who, my tastes really ran the spectrum of what was available.

These days, however, I find that when I hear Hall & Oates on the radio, I exclaim, "wow!" and I start singing along.

Hey, does anyone else remember that hour-long radio program,"For Headphones Only"?

For some reason, I can't get YouTube to post here today (clearly I'm messing it up), so here's my favorite '80s song for today.

Say it Isn't So

This song always makes me think of my senior year in high school. What I find even funnier is that at the height of their popularity, Hall & Oates were in their late 30's. How awesome for them.

As you're poking around on YouTube, take a look at "Method of Modern Love," also by Hall & Oates. This one really cracks me up over his dancing, big hair, and the like. We'll just forget the fact that I tried to dance that way myself, also wore big hair, (although my friend M wins the prize for that), popped my collars, and wore noisy color combinations.

My very first job out of high school was working as a file clerk for a cemetery (hmmm... this could be a post all its own). I'd have stacks and stacks of file folders, letters, and 3x5 cards of different varieties to stuff into drawers, and I'd throw myself into my work with the radio playing along, dancing from drawer to drawer during my task. What a great way to pass part of my eight-hour day. It sure beat sitting at my desk and answering the phone.

Monday, February 18, 2008

For the Love of Driving

Our ’96 Bonneville is on its last legs. Having replaced its “sister,” our ’91 Caprice, with a used ’05 Explorer nearly two years ago, I am reluctant to be buying another car so soon, but “Bonne’s” condition can no longer be ignored. In mileage standards, this car only crossed into the 180K range, not nearly enough for as much as we drive. (Our Caprice almost reached 220K before we gave up the ghost and donated it to charity.) We drive a lot. Putting 20K on a car annually is an easy task for us. I drive all over God's little acre to wherever my agency sends me, and The Oracle can chew up a heavy chunk of mileage on days when he can't take the train to work.

For two years, Bonne has been faithfully running while needing a new catalytic converter. We haven’t replaced it because doing so would be horribly expensive. It has something to do with rarity of the part due to a design change early in production. At this stage, it would cost more than the car is worth. In addition to the converter, “Bonne” needs a transmission since she’s developed sluggish behavior in her lower gears. There’s also the pesky bad sensor for the anti-lock brakes (if the light goes on, the anti-locks don't work and you have to "pump" 'em the old-fashioned way). The power locks fizzled out many months ago (more than a fuse), the armrest has disintegrated, and the doors have taken on an annoying squeal that cannot be cured with a shot of lubricant. I just have to resign myself to needing another car.

Y’see, in our marriage, we sort of “took turns” picking cars (kinda like our Christmas trees). There are certain non-negotiable requirements regarding head and leg room when your spouse is 6’6”, but there’s still a lot out there to choose from. When the time came to replace our mileage-addled Caprice, it was George's turn, and he picked the Explorer. Now it's my turn.

Here is my problem: I am afraid of choosing another car. You may think that's stupid, but every car I have ever truly enjoyed driving has met an untimely demise. I like driving the Explorer. Despite her flaws, I like driving Bonne.

But, oh, I loved my '94 Dodge Intrepid. I loved that car. It was gold, with a leather interior and all the bells & whistles, it had the bigger engine, and it had a moon roof. That car cornered like a cat and never made me wonder about it's ability to accelerate and merge in a hurry if I needed it to. But, alas, immediately following Precious Daughter's baptism, some butthead totaled my Intrepid by making a left turn across our path. The car took the impact on the passengers-side front, and all the crumpling intrusion is right where my feet would have been. If I hadn't been in the back seat fussing with Precious Daughter on the way to her post-baptism luncheon, my lower legs would have been crushed. Seated as we were, the only injury was a heavy bruise to the Oracle's forearm from the air bag.

The only car I loved more than the Intrepid was our '88 Firebird.

The Firebird, or FireChicken as we often called it, was a gorgeous metallic medium blue with a gray interior and T-tops. The Oracle bought the car off my mother after my eldest sister passed away. Really, he didn't fit all too well in there, but he knew the car was important to me so he bought it for the price of the loan balance. He looked like a big praying mantis folding/unfolding his 6'6" frame to get in and out of there.

That car was pure pleasure for me. I loved taking the roof off and driving it on lovely spring days and summer nights. If I didn't burn so easily I probably would have driven it that way all through summer. I'm also a baby about 90-degree heat. At night, though, it didn't matter if it was 90 degrees outside. At that time I worked 3-11 shift, and when I got off work at night I'd take off the roof and take the long way home. It was a 35-minute drive, and I lollygagged and stretched it out even longer. Sometimes coworkers and I would go out on "Thirsty Thursdays" and I'd happily designate myself to drive others home.

Shortly after we married, the FireChicken was stolen from outside our first apartment on a bitterly-cold January night, and I was elated when it was recovered a couple months later (thanks to a slow-leaking tire) on a street not three miles away. It seems some creep didn't want to walk to wherever, so he stole our car instead and ditched it on a side street near a train station. The lady that lived there finally called the police because this car with a flat tire finally got on her nerves. What amazes me more is that the hundreds of people who walk to that train station never noticed the ripped-out steering column or the hole where the radio used to be.

A few months later we moved into our house. On the first truly warm day of spring, I had the roof off as I was driving to work. I was listening to Yes on the radio and driving past my mom's neighborhood when WHAP, the next thing I know my car is swerving up an embankment and whacking a telephone pole. Nobody knows why. The guess is something broke in the front end. Anyway, having the roof off clearly kept it from shattering on me. My only injury was where I tensed my arms and where the rear-view mirror popped off the windshield and whacked me in the shoulder. My mechanic came and towed my car, and my poor baby was a total loss. It was with her insurance settlement that we bought the Caprice.

When the Intrepid got wrecked, I had an opportunity to buy another Firebird, same body type if not the same year. I was within a hair's breadth of buying it too. I sat in those familiar seats a long, long time, basking in nostalgia and considering my purchase in such comfortable, familiar surroundings. I eventually realized that buying a 12-year-old sports car to tote around our three-month-old wasn't such a bright idea.

Whatever we buy this time around, I've come to the conclusion that if I love driving it, I have a pretty good reason to believe that it's going to get totaled. Also, "three's the charm" here. I got lucky during the crashes of the FireChicken and the Intrepid, but I just might get maimed or killed if there's a third time.

The Oracle is drooling all over some F-250-thing he wants, and I just might let him have one if he can find one "pre owned" and still under warranty.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Quick Chuckle for Today

The Oracle's uncle always tells the best jokes. I really liked the one he shared today.

Q. Why do mermaids wear seashells?

A. Because the B shells are too small and the D shells are too big.

My kids (like most others, I suspect) are off from school today. I'm going to need all the humor I can get.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why Kids Drive You Crazy

For several weeks now, the big excitement around here was the father-daughter dance at my kids' school. My daughter couldn't wait for me to buy tickets when the flier arrived, couldn't wait for the tickets to come home in her backpack, was thrilled at the dress and stockings we chose, and I ran around like a fool trying (unsuccessfully) to find a pair of red shoes to go with it.

Tonight is the big night, and she decides she doesn't want to go. Why, I ask? She responds with a bunch of lame-o excuses that The Oracle and I know aren't the whole truth:
  • Kaitlin is going and she doesn't like Precious Daughter. I said, So? you don't have to have anything to do with her if you don't want.
  • She's afraid she won't like the food. I said, Okay, you can eat at home first.
  • She doesn't like large crowds. Since when, I ask, and I list several isntances where she had no problem.

Finally, I announce that I'm running to the supermarket, and she's practically scrambling into her shoes to come with me. What's this? I was going to make her stay home until I realized that I had an opportunity to talk with her.

So I start talking with her in the car, and it finally comes out in the wash.

She doesn't want to go to the party without me. Huh? We were very clear on this at the get-go. Daddy and daughter, and that's it, and she was fine with it. Now, she decides at the 11th hour it's not okay. Really, my tush is rather burned about this, and I am utterly tempted to make her go anyway. The Oracle talks me back into my senses. Okay. She can stay home.

But the next ticket that costs me twenty-five bucks is getting used. I don't care if she's got the Martian Death Flu.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

#*@& Dog!!!

That bleeping dog stole and ate an entire bag of my kids' valentine giveaways. 11oz of chocolate will not seriously harm an 84-pound dog, but I am vexed just the same.

Said chocolate were those mini bags of m&ms. Acme had 'em on sale, two for $5, and I considered myself lucky to grab two of the last three bags. Needing 33 bags, I knew I'd only have a few to spare once everything was assembled for V-Day distribution.

Then this bleeping dog eats an entire bag. Well, not the entire bag. She left two puny packs of candy behind. Drooled upon, of course. Out of the 17 mini bags she consumed, I can only find seven of the wrappers. I imagine I'll be scooping those off the lawn in the coming days.

Who am I kidding? I probably won't scoop them until April.

All this evening she's been trying to snitch and steal food. I keep catching her daintily picking at things with her front teeth: The trash can liner, the lid to her dog food box, wuzzles on the floor, even the corner of the cake pan I used for the crumb cake I just baked and can't wait until it cools so I can eat a piece because it's utterly divine. Yep. She boldly nibbled the corner of that pan, and I was sitting right there shaping crumb-cake crumbs. Normally she's a big sneak, waiting until we leave the room. She doesn't even slink onto the sofa until we're in bed.

I wonder if my dog has a tapeworm. Or Pica.

Whatever it is, part of me secretly hopes those wrappers hurt coming out. Not that she'd make a connection or anything.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Knuckleheaded German Shedder

This is Duh-chess.

In 12/2002, after ending Strudel's miseries, The Oracle made me promise that we wouldn't get another dog for two years. I readily agreed. Precious Daughter was a little over a year old and I was pregnant with Mighty B. I knew that the rigors of training a puppy would be well beyond my abilities for quite a while.

I was still employed part-time in purgatory, and one of my office mates -- no, both of them -- were frequently browsing the critters on Petfinder. Every once in a while, I'd succumb to temptation and browse the German Shedders, and I'd close out with a pang in my heart.

Eventually Mighty B arrived, and I had many, many late-night feedings with him. Having a two-year-old and a newborn is not easy, and I was so tired I practically dozed off wherever I was sitting, even the bathroom. I was petrified that I'd drop or squash Mighty B if I fell asleep, so during those late-night feedings I'd browse the internet or stare at QVC.

On a side note, my father, whose wallet has fallen victim to my stepmother putting QVC on speed dial, says QVC stands for Quickly Vanishing Cash. In F's defense, QVC makes it way too easy.

In February '04, following a late-night summons from B who was six months old and adamantly refusing to sleep through the night, I took him out of his crib (I know, Bad Mommy!) and parked my butt in front of the computer hoping to bore his butt back to sleep. I really wasn't in the mood for more of the same junk I surfed, and I bumbled over to Petfinder. Without thinking, I visited the Shedders, and I saw Knucklehead. "What a pretty dog," I thought, "and she seems to be good with kids and cats, too." I wistfully closed out and went back to bed when B finally passed out again.

The next day I revisted Petfinder and took a closer look. Hmmm... young dog. Her shelter isn't far from here. I really liked the look of her, and her story seemed pretty typical for a Shedder who spent most of her day cooped up in an apartment instead of being properly trained. She was big, unruly, and destructive, and now her owners' landlord demanded they "get rid of that dog."

I took the plunge. I emailed The Oracle (too chicken to face him in person) with Knucklehead's picture and one sentence:

"Sigh... Her name is Duchess." (He has never let me live it down.)

The Oracle grouched that I should "do what I want," and I think he hoped this displeased approach would deter me. He wasn't thoroughly against adopting her, but he wasn't pleased that I'd gone looking well in advance of the two-year mark.

I drove with DEB and the kids to the shelter for a "meet & greet," and I played with her for a bit. And I fell in love with her soft fuzzy ears and her big goofy feet. I filled out the adoption application. A few days later, I paid the adoption fee and brought her home...

...on Valentines Day.

Happy "Birthday" Knucklehead!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Is This Common?

Pardon my scungy fridge for a minute and take a look at this arrow. I don't know if you can see them, but those little squares are individual magnets with Disney princesses on them. They came in a big sheet as part of a sticker book I gave to Precious Daughter as entertainment during a long ride. She separated the magnets and stuck 'em all over the fridge.

Mighty B is four and a half. He made this arrow pattern on our fridge about three weeks ago. Is this a common thing for a kid his age to do? Is it a sign of intelligence? Is he talking to aliens?

In his pre-K class, Mighty B is the youngest child, having made the birthday cutoff by a mere two weeks. He is the one that can't sit still; he is the one that hums while he works. His grades are excellent despite his behaviors. In truth, he is humming to tune out his teacher (and I know this because he does it to me). Mighty B has no patience for multiple repetitions of anything. After once or twice he's had enough instruction and he's ready to run.

Mighty B is frightfully good with his hands, assembling 100-piece puzzles and building towers out of anything he can find. He's good with sporting equipment. Once he gets his brute strength under control, I suspect he'll have a marvelous time tinkering with anything he can take apart.

He loves touching things. He has played with my hair ever since his infant hands could grab. he loves squashing the soap between his fingers, and loves making lots of foam with his bath scrubby. He loves different fabrics and our pets' fur. He does not like clothing tags. He hated having his hair cut today, but not because he fears the barber. No. He hates the itchy clippings on his skin.

Today, after a few minutes watching the workmen at the house next door as they collected wheelbarrowsful of wet concrete from the truck and roll it to the back yard, he retreated to our sandbox, pouring sand down the sliding board until it formed a pile at the bottom. He carefully smoothed the pile with the back of his shovel like the workmen did. I told him to put the sand back in the box when he finished. He might.

I am 41 years old, and I am no match with this child who is one-tenth my age.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fasnacht Fiasco

I've been very whiny lately, and I apologize. In fact, I'm so sorry that I'm going to whine some more. Yesterday's post by my friend, V, reminded me of something else I needed to vent.

My kids had a "sweets day" at school. The flier requested individually wrapped goodies, suggesting brownies, Rice Krispie treats, and cookies as favorite student-body purchases. ("No cupcakes, please.")The kids could buy goodies for a quarter each. The quarters would benefit the Home and School Association. Well, hey, H&S sells used uniforms at $2 apiece, so I'm more than happy to donate my baked goods to a worthy cause.

Since I couldn't bake until late Monday night (too many reasons to waste your time), I was up until 3:30 a.m. baking chocolate chip cookies for Precious Daughter's contribution and brownies for Mighty B's donation (and waiting for them to cool), because that's what they each asked to bring, and I'm a sucker for their big blue eyes.

Since the goodies had to be wrapped for individual sale (time-consuming purgatory), I nearly depleted my supply of sandwich-sized Ziplocs to wrap 'em up. Because they were home made, I also Scotch taped a list of ingredients on the outside of each Ziploc.

Bleary-eyed, I drop my kids at school on Tuesday morning with six quarters each to buy whatever goodies they wanted. They arrive home and proudly show me their purchases: puny lollipops, mangled Laffy Taffies, and mini-sized candy bars that all looked like Halloween leftovers.

What happened to the suggested "brownies, cookies, and Rice Krispie treats"? Am I the only parent that bothered to bake? I feel like I've been ripped off, and I'm a bit insulted that my own children wouldn't buy the stuff I labored to prepare. Humph!

Too Easy To Lose Touch

Yesterday I received an urgent call from the firm I work for needing a transcript now. To my horror, I'd barely started editing the job, and I had to have it finished by 3:00. Thanks to The Oracle, who happened to take the day off, I was able to get my job finished right before he left to work a sporting event in the evening (his seasonal job).

I was thoroughly frazzled and (naturally!) had nothing in the fridge. My in-laws were at the house to meet with the architect designing their in-law suite (if they ever sell their house). After the architect and The Oracle left, they took pity upon my starving, whining children and treated us to dinner at a nearby diner.

While there, a lovely woman approaches me, puts her hand lightly on my shoulder and says hello. I am ashamed to admit that I drew a total blank on who she was until she gave me one of her fabulous smiles. Oh, my heavens! The lovely woman is my friend, T. I hadn't seen her in quite a while, at least a year or more. Well, okay, part of why I hadn't recognized her is because she lost 93 pounds. She looks utterly fabulous, and I am very, very proud for her.

I met T in 1995 when I started working for a neighboring township. She also worked there, and we "clicked" from my first hours on the job. During the remainder of her employment with the township, she helped me tremendously through some rough emotional times, and I like to think I was able to return the favor.

What's so awful is that we lost touch shortly after she moved to a house one mile away from mine. Her telephone number is burned into my mental Rolodex despite the fact that I only used it a dozen or so times since she moved in, and yet we rarely see each other unless it's by accident. You'd think that getting together for a Rita's Water Ice (mango, please) should've been easy being so close, but it never happened. Why, exactly? We still exchange the occasional email, we talk about getting together, but no meeting ever materializes.

I feel terrible over this. In the last ten years, I only need one pathetic hand to count the number of times we saw one another. Our lives have undergone a good number of changes since then, so that's probably how this came to be. Still, T has clearly undertaken a number of things to improve her life and health, and I was nowhere in sight to lend a hand or an encouraging word. Simply put, I suck as a friend.

Back in middle school, I remember a teacher expounding on the notion that we have many acquaintances in our lives, but we should consider ourselves lucky if we can claim to have one or two true friends in this life. On a rough count, I can claim four without hesitation. How did I get so lucky? I clearly can't claim much effort toward cultivating and caring for my friendship flowerbed. On occasion, I'll send an email or pick up the phone, and sometimes we're successful in getting together for a bit. I know that these people would drop everything and be here for me in a heartbeat if I needed them. I'd be there for them too, without question.

When I think about my thoroughly-neglected friendships, like mine with T, I am amazed that there's still something really good growing there. I guess all the bull[censored] that precipitated so many discussions in her living room made for some mighty rich soil.

Hey T, are you in the mood for a little gardening?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Reduced-Fat Skippy - A Culinary Abomination

My local supermarket had a sale on peanut butter. At a buck a jar, my eyes boggled and I blindly grabbed one and dropped it into the cart. Later, after I paid for my purchases and returned home, I realized to my dismay that I accidentally grabbed the reduced-fat variety. Uh-oh.

My mother was a high-fat, high-sodium cook. Very few of her recipes did not contain her essentials of butter, salt, or sour cream. Simply put, fat tastes good. Scientists spend countless hours trying to reduce fat and preserve the taste. As I opened the jar, I reminded myself that not all reduced-fat foods are disasters. A prime example of this is the reduced-fat version of Hellman's mayo. You really can't taste the difference.

I open the Skippy and take a sniff, and I am not impressed. I sample a smidgen and I am grossed out. Damn. I wasted a dollar. At least I didn't pay full price for this jarful of peanut-flavored paste.

Normally I don't buy Skippy or Jif (except for my favorite sandwich), because the hydrogenated oils are well-known evils to the arteries. Shortly before I became pregnant with Precious Daughter, The Oracle and I made a concerted effort to improve our eating habits. I've stopped buying many of the quick and easy, chemical-laden prepared foods to which we were so addicted. (I sorely miss those cheapie envelopes of quickie noodle side dishes with assorted powdery sauces. And Pop-Tarts)

One of the first "bad" items to go was hydrogenated peanut butter. Now we buy Smuckers or organic peanut butter. We buy organic foods whenever possible and affordable (the meats are pricey!). And I try to keep veggies and fruits domestically grown (except bananas, since there are no US-grown bananas). Bacon and hot dogs are varieties containing no nitrates. If I could afford to shop at Whole Foods every week, I'd do it in a heartbeat despite the drive. The stuff really does taste better.

*sigh* Back to the Skippy.

Regular Skippy contains remarkably few ingredients, healthy or not. "Roasted peanuts, sugar, hydrogentated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean, and rapeseed) to prevent separation, and salt." Two tablespoons contains 190 calories, 16 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, and 150 mg sodium.

The reduced-fat version contains: "Roasted peanuts, corn syrup solids, sugar, soy protein, salt, hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean, rapeseed) to prevent separation, mono and diglycerides, minerals (magnesium oxide, zinc oxide [diaper rash ointment!!], copper sulfate), vitamins (niacinamide, pyidoxine hydrochloride)." Two tablespoons of this one contains 180 calories, 12 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, and 170 mg of sodium.

Summary: Lousy taste, funky chemicals, higher sodium, and not much of a reduced-fat reward.

I sound like a food critic.

Seriously, though, many reduced-fat or non-fat substitutes for the "real" thing share this common problem. Who hasn't heard that America is an obese nation? It makes me ill to see that we're getting sucked into buying lousy products loaded with crappy and sometimes questionable ingredients, and what do we gain? A mere 4 grams reduction in fat, a piddling 10 fewer calories, and scary multi-purpose chemicals. And I'm not even getting into the chemicals and additives plaguing the "regular fat" versions of convenience foods. That's a whole separate nightmare.

I have reacquainted myself with my cookbooks. If I can't make it with identifiable ingredients, I don't make it. I am proud that I haven't made a recipe involving Campbell's soup in years, not even the Thanksgiving favorite, green bean casserole. Instead, I found a recipe that uses cream and fresh mushrooms instead. I only make it once or twice a year, so I don't sweat over the fat content as I would with other things.

Thank you, God, for giving me children. Aside from the daily joys and frustrations of having school-aged kids, our desires to feed them healthy food has moved us toward healthier eating as well. I am one of America's overweight, and I am slowly trying to change that without the use of chemically-generated substitutes for the things I love.

Well, okay. Every rule has an exception, and mine is Cherry Coke Zero.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The S- Word

What on earth is going on around here? It's February-stinkin' 1st, for crying out loud. I've only been S'ed upon twice since Thanksgiving, and neither instance was anything worthwhile.

You know, that fluffy white stuff. Snow.

There. I said it. Hate me if you will, but I want snow, dadgummit. I neeeeeeed snow. I love snow. Sure, driving in it can be a pain. For me, snow is the thing that makes winter bearable. That lovely white blanket covers up the mud and the dead grass and the dog poo I haven't scooped since Christmas. The whole world looks brighter.

(Why haven't I scooped since Christmas? Because it's been too blinkin' warm and wet. Scooping rainy, wet poo makes a nasty job even more disgusting. If it would freeze out there already, I'd be scooping poopsicles with little effort. We had a brief freeze the other week, and I forgot, so here I am with another weeks' worth of poo getting rained upon.)

This is gross. Let's move on.

A good snowfall will give my children something different and fun to do. They're just about sick of playing pirates on the swing set, coloring the driveway with chalk, chasing each other, and riding bikes. The sand box sand is damp and cold. It's all I can do to get their butts away from Gassy Gus and outside for ten minutes of fresh air. If it ever snows, for Pete's sake, I won't be able to get their butts inside. I can't wait.

Maybe it's a rose-colored memory, but I remember getting real honest-to-God snowfalls around here as a kid. I dimly remember snow up to our dog's chest and well above my knees. My mother would send my sisters and me out into the yard, and we'd play until we were stiff with cold. We were inside just long enough for our gloves and hats to come out of the dryer before going back out.

When I was smaller, we had several inches of snow followed by an ice storm. I remember working with my sisters to scoop the snow from beneath the crust of ice on the hood of my parents' car so they could lift it off and use it as a roof for their snow fort.

A few years later I made a monstrous snowball and a friend's house, and I was so proud of it that I rolled that thing all the way home. It was huge, easily coming up to my hips, and it took every bit of energy and muscle I had to roll it home along the snow-packed streets to our front lawn. The following Monday, to my juvenile horror, the high-school kids shoved it back into the middle of the road in an effort to block the school bus. I thought my snowball was a goner.

And sledding!! Sledding rocks!!! Except for the time rode my sled head first (literally) into the bumper of our neighbor, Mr. W's, truck, our street was great for sledding: smooth, sloped, and little traffic. Even better was sledding at my friend's house. Her parents' house sat atop a steep hill, and their driveway met the road directly across from an intersecting street. So, in short, they sat on a hill at the top of a T intersection. We were absolutely forbidden to use their driveway to accelerate our descent down the road due to the risk of getting squashed by cross traffic, but (Sorry, Mr. & Mrs. N.) I did it anyway when they weren't home. Hey, it was okay. Clearly, I didn't get squashed. I had a great view of the road and could easily check for oncoming traffic in both directions before leaping onto my sled and rocketing across the road. (I recently remembered this after a neighborhood kid skateboarded down his hilly driveway and whooshed across the path of my oncoming my car. I was a good distance back, but it gave my heart a good jolt.)

In high school, they'd plow the parking lots and make monstrous snow piles around the school with the cleared snow. These piles were seriously huge. You had to scale it at least halfway before you could see over the top. The best part was being the first in the after-school snowball fight to do this and bombing Karl F. with a huge snow boulder as he stood on the other side. The worst part was sinking into the pile up to my thighs and nearly losing my shoes as I yanked my feet out. It was then that I first learned that snow does not stick to nylons, and if you don't wallow in it they stay fairly dry.

I want to hurtle my kids down a snowy hill already! There's a perfect spot not far from here for it, and we haven't had enough snow for sledding since Precious Daughter was two. What gives?

I look out my window, and I see rain. Lots and lots and lots of stinkin' rain. If this were snow, we'd be inches deep by now. It'd be an awesome blizzard from the look of it. Mighty B. would be catching snowflakes on his tongue. I'd be busy throwing snowballs for Knucklehead to fetch, and Precious Daughter would enjoy an early dismissal. There would be no bread, eggs, or milk left at the supermarket, because the panicky people (and there are lots of 'em) can't seem to get it into their heads that we haven't been truly snowed under in decades. With our community as it is, we'd need one big-butted blizzard to keep us housebound and off the roadways for more than two days. I'd welcome such an event!

But noooOOOOooo, as Steve Martin would say. It's raining with not a snowflake in sight because the temps are expected to climb into the upper 40s. I can guess when it will finally snow. It will snow in April when I'm sick to death of cold and rain and aching for the smell of spring and the sight of green grass and flowers. I usually start feeling that way in the beginning of March.

Can you imagine what my scooping situation would be like by then?