Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How Do They Stay in Business?

UPS = UnParallelled Stupidity

I hear my kid's bus rolling up the street and hurriedly go out to meet it. I open my storm door, step outside (descending one step) and roll my ankle on a lump beneath my doormat, nearly falling.

What the heck was that?

UPS, in their infinite wisdom, delivered a package and concealed it beneath my doormat. Hel-lo!! How am I supposed to see a package under the mat from inside the house? How f---ing stupid can someone be?

I'm just thankful that I'm the one that tripped and not some visiting neighbor or -- Heaven forbid -- a lawyer-turned-politician canvassing for last-minute votes.

I have no idea what's inside this box or whether I damaged anything with my descending size-eleven foot. Once I reach The Oracle, I'll check the contents. I don't want to open it without him in case it's something related to his work or volunteering.

Edited to add: I opened the box. It's a six-pound, unsolicited catalog. I nearl took a header for junk mail!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

How Timely!

Thank you, E!!!!

She sent me a very handy Blogger link which will immediately be placed in my Site Seeing list when I finish this post.

You've heard me whine and complain about the lack of non-China-manufactured toys (yeah, okay, I whine over just about everything else too). Take a look at this site!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Selective Hearing


What is it that makes my children repeatedly ignore me? Every day it's the same thing. Every day I nag and pester their tailfeathers out of bed, and the nagging begins. Nobody wants to get dressed, nobody wants to eat breakfast, nobody wants to be bothered with combing hair and brushing teeth. Nobody believes me that the bus is coming any minute and to get outside until the child appointed sentry duty that morning (stationed on the front porch) starts screaming "The bus is coming!" in disbelief.

When they get off the bus, nobody wants to change out of uniforms into playclothes.

I give Precious Daughter a half hour to forty-five mintues of downtime before the homework battle begins, and that battle is still being clawed out three-and-a-half hours later despite breaking for dinner, the better portion of which I spent asking Mighty B. to please not bang his sliverware against the dishes, to stop spinning his plate, and to use his fork to eat his mashed potatoes.

During the homework battles, Mighty B. has been told for the umpteenth time to not jump on Daddy's chair, to stop playing with the fan, and to leave his sister alone while she's whining and resisting her homework.

Finally, homework is done, and it's time for bathing. I ask, "Who will be first in the shower tonight?" Now they hear me loud and clear, and each is emphatically shouting the other's name repeatedly and claiming they went first the night before. Still, it's a battle to get anyone's butt moving in the general direction of the bathroom. After repeated requests for the now-naked kid to put his/her clothes in the hamper, I'm ready to start pulling my fingernails off with my teeth.

It's days like these that make me pray for bedtime, and that prayer makes me feel awful, like I'm wishing my children away from me.

The shower washes off the last of their resistance, and they're soapy-clean smelling and in PJs. If all that arguing didn't take us too far past bedtime, we'll read. When they're tucked in they're as sweet as sugar, and I wonder why they couldn't be so easygoing earlier.

My guess is their argumentative tanks are merely empty, because they're fully replenished by morning.

And, y'know, I'm not this horrid, militant mama. I don't jolt my kids out of bed with alarm clocks and shouts. I try to wake them gently, kissing their necks and talking softly and gently nudging them to wakefulness. It's when they blatantly resist getting out already that I start to hound them, usually by tickling them, turning on the light, or summoning the dog's wet nose.

I understand that they need a little freedom. I understand that Mighty B. has energy to burn and The Oracle's chair is bouncy. But, Lordy, why must I make the same request a dozen times, and why are they all shocked and sad when punished for not listening to me?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If Her Walls Could Talk

My friend, E, is moving out of her house to another not too far away. She's been packing furiously since the agreements of sale for their current and their new homes were signed a few short weeks ago. Everybody wanted to hurry up and settle, leaving E little time to do anything but stuff boxes.

How do you pack up, what, fourteen years of your life? They've been there at least that long, if not longer. It's not something I could do. The Oracle and I have lived here over sixteen years, and as much as our fifty-plus-year-old house misbehaves, I can't imagine ever packing up and leaving, and only partly because there's too much stuff to go through. My familiar, colored-on walls are comforting in their familiarity. I know where all of our floorboards creak, which pipes clatter in the basement, and the layout of our electrical breakers. I know which neighbor's dog is barking and whether that bark is nonsense or for cause.

I also generally don't like change. I'm happy to have found a spot in which to stay put. When The Oracle and I first married, he often talked of places he'd like to live (Maryland, California, Vermont), but inside I always stiffened at the thought. I suppose if circumstances were such that moving was the only option (work, for instance), I'd have to go. Part of me always felt a bit sad for kids whose families moved all the time. Never mind that they grew up experiencing this country from A to Z with crops of friends in all four corners. (Oh, no! Nnnn has to move! It seemed like a fate worse than death.)

Precious Daughter is much like me. She likes her house. It is her favorite place to be, and I suspect the only way she'd willingly move anywhere else (like her seven-year-old butt has a choice) is if the new place had a pool.

Anyway, back to E.

E and her husband, R, first lived in a mobile home park, working hard and saving their pennies to buy their dream home, which they discovered to be brand-new construction in a wide-open and growing area. I was so excited for them when they moved in, especially after they spent a number of weeks in limbo after settlement on the mobile home sale, first living with R's parents until they sold their home and retired to Florida. E & R and their overstressed cats (one cat or two, then? Maybe just one?) would have likely been homeless, but a friend let them live in their basement until settlement day.

Meia was R's adopted child, being E's kitty while she still lived with her parents. This was Meia's third move in something like a month and a half, and the poor old lady was probably ready to crack. Whether they had their second kitty at this time I don't recall.

My memory sucks, but I do remember a good portion of their move-in day. I was thrilled for them, and I was awestruck (and a little envious I admit) by the loveliness of their shiny-new home. They packed a number of their belongings in the voluminous spaces of our traitorous '76 Cadi The rest of their stuff, packed into in her mom's basement and garage, was hauled into her brother's large truck, I believe, and driven to their new digs.

I am probably the world's laziest person, but when it comes to moving other people's stuff, I'll happily work my butt off. Why is that? Is it because their stuff is more interesting, or is it the packratter's dream to take a clean, empty place and fill it up? Lord knows my house is nearly packed to the rafters, so much so that I can't move without stepping over or around things.

I know there were other helpers there, including E's mom and brother, their friends TK (those shorts!!) and EC. I think there were a few other faces that are now blurry. E's mom almost immediately made herself at home in the kitchen, keeping our bodies hydrated and our bellies full. I remember tacos, really yummy tacos.

Once they were settled, of course, the history of the house began.

Lightning struck, literally, not very long after they moved in, I think less than a year. E had the (good/mis-) fortune of being the first on scene, beating the local police chief by a couple minutes and the fire department by a few more. An experienced firefighter, she knew she had a little time to work, and she set to work trying to find her cats. When the police chief arrived, he wasn't going to let E go back in. When he saw her determination, he'd gone in with her just so she wouldn't be in there by herself. He was the one that found the other cat. He then gave her two minutes to go back in and grab her photographs.

The fire took out much of her attic and the ceilings of at least two bedrooms. I remember the heavy smoky smell and the water, so much water, still dribbling from the gaping hole in the ceiling onto either a piece of siding or metal baseboard positioned to track it out a broken window.

I remember them holing up in a motel and needing to forage K-Mart for toothbrushes and underwear and changes of clothes. I remember the notebook that was given to E with the order to write everything in it and to never be without it. That book never left E's side until they were able to move back in and beyond. It was her record of items damaged and lost and endless phone conversations with insurance companies, the municpality, and the restoration company. (E, did you save that, or was the memory too icky?)

Restoration took forever and ever and ev-er, the final big delay having something to do with finding the right-sized roof trusses. It took a lot longer to restore their trust in the house that sort of betrayed them.

In the years following, they filled their house with babies that walked on two legs and four. In fact, it was on her back patio where she entrusted me with holding her son, probably only a couple weeks old at most. Don't ask me how I avoided handling her first two except for a panicky three (eternal) minutes with Baby #1 where I was assigned the job of Do Not Let the Baby Roll Off the Changing Table while she ran upstairs, and a later episode with a 9-month-old #2 where I was tasked with keeping her entertained as E took Toddler #1 to the public restroom. Nervous breakdown, anyone?

At any rate, I successfully dodged handling her first two newborns for four years, and I probably would have dodged #3 too, but a practical need to learn loomed on the horizon. I'd never held an infant in my life and my first was due in less that three months. Tell me, what kind of trust does your friend possess to let a total baby illiterate fumble around with her newborn over a concrete patio?

My kids' favorite place was her dining room, which had been joyfully converted to an awesome playroom with different bold colors on each wall (ceiling fan blades to match), decals/posters from a teacher's supply store, and shelves and bins for all manner of toys (and that room was stuffed). When I brought my kids to E's, they beelined for that room and wouldn't venture out until they were dragged kicking and screaming (unless a birthday cake were at stake).

Really, there's so much ground to cover, and I could take all day.

When they put the house on the market, they turned that room back into a dining room, and I was sad to see it go, even though the finished product was gorgeous and looked like it belonged on a magazine cover.

Three kids, four dogs, three (four?) cats, and one guinea pig later, they're starting a new adventure in a new house. Is it hard to leave all of that time behind, or doesn't it matter much since the memory makers are going with you? I know the people are what make the home, and I've often told my kids that as long as they and their daddy are with me, I have everything I need.

I guess I just answered my own question.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How It's Been

Yes, I've been whining a lot lately, and I just can't help it. I even tried sparing you the agony of it all by calling my stepmother for a good old-fashioned b--chfest instead, and she's on her annual October getaway with her girlfriends. I could call her cell, but I don't want to taint what is usually an excellent week for her. She has her own stuff going on and this respite is much needed. My dad has no tolerance for complaining of any kind. I can't say I blame him, and I wish I were more like him in that regard. (and what I would give for a fraction of his discipline and self control!)

In short, and without too much venom:

Somehow -- and nobody is fessing up -- a glass of water (left where it shouldn't be) got dumped all over Precious Daughter's schoolbooks (the ones I painstakingly covered in Con-Tact), drenching their newsprint-type pages. If it weren't for the blinkin' adhesive-backed plastic, I probably could have put them in a very low oven to dry, but instead I had to let Mother Nature handle the job, and she did it poorly. The pages are all wavy and rippled. I might have to replace one of them. We'll see. If I'm feeling particularly patient (Ha!!), maybe I'll try a low iron to smooth that one out a bit.

Chessie, that wretched beast, peed in the laundry. We thought we'd found a solution to this, but I guess not. Fortunately, a hefty dose of Oxy-Clean and very hot water are quite effective at removing the odor if you get to it quickly, and hopefully dark items won't fade.

Precious Daughter missed two days of school with an unexplained fever, which briefly reappeared Saturday and today. Last night The Oracle discovered the cause, a bright red bulls-eye rash on her ribcage. Guess who's getting bloods drawn for a Lyme test tomorrow?

My children's socks are vanishing. Out of four tubs of laundry, I have maybe ten kids' socks. Out of those ten I can form only two pair, and naturally they're of the type (low-rise footie) that are not permitted with the school uniform. I have six odd white socks. What happened to their mates? What about all the similar pairs that came in the multi-pair package?

I got ambitious (rare for me) and made an old favorite simply described as "ring of coconut fudge cake." It's a chocolate bundt cake with a cream cheese, coconut, and chocolate chip filling and topped with a chocolate glaze. It's been at least ten years since I've made it, and it was always a favorite for The Oracle and me.

I joked with The Oracle tonight that I should rename it the Fart in Church cake, because it went over about that well with our kids. They won't eat it. Precious Daughter picks off the glaze and leaves the rest. Mighty B. eats the glaze and the cake but leaves the filling. I can accept a kid not liking that Mounds-y middle, but for our chocoholic Precious Daughter to not eat even the cake part stuns me. On the bright side, The Oracle an I pretty much have all that cake to ourselves.

On a better note, The Oracle's job is secure for the next few months. I can't get into the details of it here, but some of you know the details just from talking with me. In short, he and his peers have had to deal with a hefty amount of bureaucratic flip-flopping. Things have recently been placed in the hands of (we hope) a sensible authority, and now The Oracle can sleep for the next month or so without too much worry.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Strangeness on a Train

This is a long one. I have lots of complaining to do.

Today I was scheduled for a 10:00 a.m. deposition. This is a delicious time frame for me, because I can get my kids on the bus and get ready to leave without scurrying. My train isn't scheduled to depart until 9:12. I get to the station and the lot is full, so I park a block away and hike back to the station. (It’s a good thing I left early!)

I take the only empty seat left in the car, and I am a little dismayed to see that the window is all smeary-greasy from some sleepy person’s head resting against the window, so I don’t have a clear view of what’s outside without craning my neck forward. The smears are oddly distracting, too. I catch it with the corner of my vision and feel like I need to blink, like it’s something in my eye. Yeah, I’m strange.

We pull out, and the guy behind me starts nibbling on something really hard and crunchy, like bagel chips or those extra-hard beer pretzels. They’re hard enough that he either can’t bite them with his front teeth, or he’s too lazy to do so, choosing instead to cram the entire unit in his mouth. He can’t close his mouth around the food item to chew, and the cracking and crunching of the thing is amplified and projected across the car by his partly-open mouth. Greeeat. (I immediately think of V's post on the subject.)

It seems, too, that he’s got a helluva upper-respiratory infection going on, because, amid chomps of whatever’s in the crackly bag he's got, he’s horking back all manner of mucus. I can hear it rattling in his sinuses and down in his chest. I am wishing I could find a legitimate reason to share seats with someone else (instead of this one all to myself) before he coughs or sneezes and showers the back of my head with snot and chewed food.

The guy next to him starts snorking and rattling too. Niiiiice.

Then I notice all around me there are passengers sniffling and snuffling. The snuffling increases with each group of passengers boarding the train. I can fully understand why people don't carry handkerchiefs any more (oh, yeah, let's tote that grossness in my pocket all day), but nobody seems to bother with Kleenex either. Did I miss that FW: FW: FW: on the Kimberly-Clark boycott? Nobody in this car has a tissue!! I did see one or two ambitious twenty-somethings smearing their noses on their sleeves.

This ride is taking for-ev-er, and I can’t wait to get off the train.

Finally, we’re three stops away from my destination, and I finally get a neighbor in the seat next to me. I could just tell he was going to be my neighbor, too, not only because mine was the only three-seat bench with just one occupant, but also because he was sufficiently suspect-looking with his dark-colored clothing and sweatshirt hood pulled up over his head to just above his eyebrows. I drag my steno case closer to give him a little more leg room (he's got a bag too), jamming my ankles against the wall in the process. Ouch.

Guess what!!?? He’s phlegmy!! I am surrounded by a cacophony of congestion (a symphony of snot, perhaps?), and I’m starting to wonder how long it will be before I’m afflicted with it too. I want to draw my head under my jacket collar and hide from whatever evil bacteria is swirling about me.

The next stop is the college, and thankfully a horde of snifflers get off, taking their books and their boogers with them. The train is almost peaceful with the exception of my immediate neighbors.

We pull into a fairly major station stop, and more passengers detrain. The congested newcomer is sitting at the aisle and asks if this is my stop. I say no, my stop is next, thank you for asking. He sits there for several more seconds and gets off the train. Isn't that odd? Why ask me if I need to get by if you’re getting off the train anyway?

Whatever. My station is next, thank God. I’m a little itchy because I can see that my train is running three minutes late, and I like to arrive fifteen minutes before my scheduled time. I currently have sixteen minutes until my job is scheduled to start, which means I'll arrive ten minutes before start time. Tight, but respectable. I am fortunate that my destination is directly above my station stop, so all I need to do is get above ground, get into the building, and up an elevator. I couldn’t have a shorter walk unless the deposition were taking place in the station.

We start moving, but we stop in the darkness of the tunnel. Drat. This happens sometimes, and I was wishing it weren’t today. But since we’re a bit late, we have to wait for another train.

We move again, and we stop again. The conductor pops his head into the car and informs us that wiring problems on another line created a backlog of trains into the station, so we’re all racked and stacked and waiting our turn at the platform. There’s no cell signal in the tunnel, so I can’t even call anyone and tell them they’re not being “stood up.”

Nearly twenty minutes later, we finally get to the platform. I hustle aboveground and arrive at the office 5 minutes late. ($#&%!!) The secretary immediately leads me to an empty conference room where I begin scrambling to set up. I'm about one-third finished when the ordering attorney walks in. I humbly apologize for and explain my lateness.

He starts apologizing to me. Opposing counsel had a conflict, he said, and he won’t be needing my services after all.

Grrrrr!!!! Back to the train station I go… At least my return trip ran on time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Please, Somebody Gag Them (a rant)

I don't know what it is with these two. I'm sitting here working quietly, wearing my noise-cancelling headphones while making sure my transcript exactly matches the audio backup. The only reason the TV is on is for updates on the financial mess. When their voices pop up on the TV, it is worse than any irritating sound you can think of, like nails on a blackboard (Mommy, what's a blackboard?), a kid's first violin or clarinet lesson, or perhaps the sound of a cat puking.

The first one is Cathy Mitchell, the grandmotherly-looking lady selling those things that seem like a good idea at the time but wind up on your yard-sale table next spring.

The first time I became aware of her was when she sold some funky half-whisk/half tongs thingie to grab eggs out of boiling water or flip omelettes, and I thought back then that you had to be pretty inept if you couldn't lift a boiled egg out of the water with a slotted spoon. I agree that omelette flipping is tricky, but I don't need a special gadget to do it.

Later, I remember her selling some weird gem-studding gadgetry. I suppose I could find the name of it on Youtube or Wikipedia, but I don't want to.

Her current pitch, Pasta 'n More, is downright silly, opening with a flustered-looking lady hauling all of her pasta stuff at once to the counter -- crash! (Really, now, unless your kitchen is a block long, who does that?) and later burning her fingers to "test" the pasta. Any person with a modicum of intelligence knows how to get around a pasta test without second-degree burns. (By the way, has anyone noticed the person cutting the veggies actually stabs him/herself with that blue knife?)

So, okay, Cathy Mitchell's commercials irritate me more over what she's selling, not the personality herself, but her perky voice is forever associated with them and therefore disliked.

Can you guess who the other one is? Oxy-Clean, the Ground Auger, Orange-Glo, Kaboom!, and the Ding King. That guy. Billy Mays. His voice shoves itself into my consciousness even when I've got my computer audio cranked to top volume. Other than the Oxy-Clean, I won't buy anything he's selling out of sheer principle. As soon as I hear his voice on the TV I'm flipping somewhere -- anywhere! -- else. At night, when the TV is turned low, you can still hear Billy Mays in the back of the house when his commercials air.

What amazes me most is this guy has made a million-dollar living by screaming at people. It just isn't right.