Thursday, December 24, 2009

Turkey Tribulations and Other Obstacles, Part I

I just don't get it. Turkeys and I haven't been getting along lately.

Originally, I was going to roast my turkey yesterday, thereby freeing up today and tomorrow with a leftover love-fest. Things naturally got in the way, including a desperate attempt to get Kryptonite's (now known as "Her Nibs") picture with Santa for her first Christmas.

Let's visit that problem for a minute (or several). My older kids are/were pretty much afraid of Santa, so the only pictures I have with him are their very first Christmases. Oh, wait. Not true. When Mighty B. and Precious Daughter were one and three respectively, we did get a Santa picture. They wouldn't sit on his lap, choosing instead to sit on the bench in front of his chair.

Anyway, being the youngest of three kids, I acutely feel the lack of pictures documenting my babyhood. My eldest sister was photographed every thirty seconds or so. When my sister, V, arrived, our parents came to their senses and took photos every few days. By the time I came along, my parents had their hands full with three children under four, and I was lucky if they remembered to bring the camera for special occasions.

Well, Her Nibs is the youngest, and she's already suffering the pains of youngest-sibling syndrome. Her baby book has little more than her footprints (B also shares this particular neglect), and if it weren't for the extended family present at Her Nibs' baptism, I'd have no photographs at all.

Getting that first-Christmas photo with Santa is a downright need, damnit.

I went to the dreaded mall, where they have what may be the best-looking Santa on the east coast. Her Nibs and I arrived at roughly 10:30. Santa isn't scheduled to arrive until 11:00, and, dagnabbit, I have to pick up the kids from school at noon. Oh well. Precious Daughter needs something dressy for Christmas Eve mass anyway (she's singing with the choir), so I take care of that instead.

(Oh. I'm picking them up because the school district, in its infinite greed and stupidity, decided that they weren't going to give the parochial schools buses for more than four early dismissals. What kind of crap is that? This *[censored]* school collects thousands of tax dollars from us every year, and they can't give my kids a bus ride? I suspect my kids' ride to school doesn't cost them that much every year. What are they doing with the change?)

Five years ago, when I last endured this nonsense, they used to take your name and dish out those clunky pager things like they use at popular restaurants. It was terrific. You could wander the mall and shop, get a snack, whatever, until it was close to your turn. When your pager went off, you returned to Santa and joined the line for only a fifteen- to twenty-minute wait. Not bad, really. It was just enough time to clean the spots off the kids' clothes and faces, change diapers, and comb their hair.

I returned to the mall at 3:30, got in line, and learned that THIS year, there are no pagers. The mall decided that they weren't going to waste money on a new set of pagers for their patrons, so if you wanted to see Santa, you got in line and waited. And waited. And waited. Waiting instead of mall-crawling and spending money in their stores. (I wonder how much money they lost in sales revenue over a $2,500 batch of pagers? I hope it's ten times that.) Her Nibs was as good as gold. She'd been wearing her itchy Christmas clothes since 9:30 that morning, and she didn't complain a bit. She sat in that stroller for the better part of an hour before getting squirmy and cranky, and once I picked her up she was as happy as a clam. Being held and having her butt kissed is Her Nibs' favorite thing to do.
At 5:00, I surrender. I've moved maybe thirty feet in line, and according to the order-taking lady, I'm still an hour from Santa's lap. The Oracle's train, running ten minutes late, is scheduled to arrive at 5:30, and it's going to take at least that long to get to the car and out of the mall parking lot. I reluctantly leave the line. Her Nibs, once again strapped into the stroller, starts squawking.

The Oracle texts that he's now on a later train. Drat. I could've stayed in line and perhaps gotten the picture after all, but it's too late. I'm too far away to go back and reclaim my spot in line (my line neighbors may have allowed that). Instead, I remembered that my FIL asked me to pick up a pair of gloves for my MIL, and I handled that instead. I also took a quick peek around at the kids' clothes, because Precious Daughter decided she did not like what I picked for her to wear, and the only stuff I'm finding is gorgeous but horribly overpriced. At this stage of the Christmas season, I'm suffering a serious case of The Cheaps. The dress is gorgeous and even has a matching dress for her American Girl, but the bugger is on sale for $60, and I'm not spending that on a one- or two-time wear.

I pick up the Oracle and relieve my in-laws. While I was gone, my FIL did my dishes and straightened up my front and back porches. He saved me a buttload of work, and I'm thankful. It makes me feel guilty, too. Isn't it enough that he's here keeping my kids from killing one another, and he does housework too?

I whine about my day to The Oracle, and I half beg him to go to the local overpriced nursery to see their Santa. This Santa is free, too. You take your own picture. All of my pictures, despite the red-eye setting, come up with red-eye anyway, but it's better than nothing. I must get a Santa picture for Her Nibs' first Christmas.

We stuff our guts at Bob Evans (love that pot roast sandwich!) for dinner and head over to the nursery. The place is gorgeous. Every year their decorations are mind-blowingly (is that a word?) beautiful, and they also have a small nativity set up in their outdoor section with live animals. (This year, Mary and Joseph were conspicuously absent from theHer Nibs was enthralled. She loved all the twinkling lights and the fountains and shiny ornaments. (Ah, yes. Part of this trip's purpose was to find a Baby's First Christmas ornament as well as a stocking for Her Nibs.) The Oracle gets in line with Her Nibs and waits while the older two and I go poking about the store.

Our shopping efforts didn't yield much, but the Oracle called a short while later to let us know it was almost our turn for Santa. Over all it was quick and painless, and PD and B joined the picture.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Straight No Chaser - The Christmas Can-Can

Vee at Juggling Scarves posted this first, and I finally listened to it this morning. I loved it so much I had to be a copycat.

Thank you, Vee!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Annoying Myself

I have a lot to do today, and I have accomplished nearly nothing. A congested, boogery Kryptonite drifted into a nap over an hour ago, and I spent the bulk of my time wearing a fruitless path throughout our house.

With Kryptonite asleep and the kids at school, I have an opportunity to handle some Christmas paperwork in the basement. The problem is I can't find the Scotch tape. Precious Daughter had it Friday night when she sequestered herself in her bedroom to wrap and tag her Christmas Bazaar loot. I remember seeing the dispenser in the bag with the wrapping paper and bows, but it is no longer there.

So I wander about the house, looking for the tape. On my way, I check the tree (purchased last night in the pouring rain) to make sure it still has water, and I begin sifting through the clutter (hastily thrown on the dining room table) from the bookcase I moved to make room for the tree.

My eye flickers to my coffee cup on the kitchen table. Just what I need! I pick it up for a sip and it's empty. Ugh. I turn to the coffee pot for a refill, take a sip, and -- Blech -- my coffee is cold. (We brew it and turn off the burner because scorched coffee is nasty. I'd rather reheat it as I go.)

On my way to the microwave, my eyes make a guilty pass across the sink full of dishes. Oh, all right, I'd better get this out of the way. I put my coffee on the kitchen table and turn back toward the sink.

Hey. The basement door is open. The light is on, too. Why did I -- Oh, that's right. I need the Scotch tape...

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Should Be Sleeping

But a certain German Shedder isn't feeling well. Knucklehead has a chronic sinus issue which, quite frankly, we currently don't have the resources to pursue. Whatever it is, it doesn't respond to typical antihistamines or antibiotics. Her nose is an ever-flowing stream of thick, nasty snot. (Regretting your visit today?)

She's having a rough night with it tonight, pacing about the room and nudging me to be let outside. I guess the night air feels good, but it's well below freezing out there. Even with a fur coat, she can't be out there too long.

Kryptonite is also congested. She just woke up a few minutes ago because she can't breathe, so we're on the couch with her upper body elevated to ease her miseries. She's complaining about things with little whimpers and moans every time she exhales.


Tomorrow is the kids' Christmas bazaar at school. They're very excited. I can hardly wait to see what they'll pick this year. Las year, B. gave me a squishy clear plastic T-Rex with multicolored lights that flash wheb you squeeze its belly. Precious daughter blessed me with hot pink chenille gloves. It took a bit, but I got used to the near-blinding pink shade, and now when I wave to someone from the crowd, I'm easily spotted.


Look at what Kryptonite can do!

I've often said that my favorite fruit on earth is strawberries, with peaches holding second place by just a few points. My third favorite, then, must be these.

To say that The Oracle is a happy boy is an understatement. We ordered these lovely Texas Ruby grapefruit and oranges from Crockett Farms. The grapefruit season is short. Get 'em while you can!


Finally, many thanks to my sister and BIL for their visit on Sunday. I confess I wasn't all that enamored with the notion of a Sunday morning visit, but I'm oh-so glad that they came.

Kryptonite loves her monkey! (My very-photogenic sister dodged the camera because -- get this -- she wasn't wearing makeup. I strongly suspect that she'd STILL look terrific on camera. She probably hasn't taken a so-so photo since her teens. Brat.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey Trials

Wowie-wow-wow. December already?

I'm sorry for not posting a blip in over two weeks. Wanna hear a story?

Way too long ago I took a deposition, probably one of my longest ever, involving liability issues surrounding a piece of decades-old industrial equipment that had the audacity to mangle somebody's limb. The actual subject matter was kind of dry, but the lawsuit surrounding the incident intrigues me. Who's to blame? The buyer, the seller, the used-equipment broker, or the employee for sticking an extremity where it doesn't belong?

I digress. This case came with the lovely sound of "cha-CHING!" because it was a nice job for this freelance court-reporter, an hours-long deposition with several bickering attorneys present and ordering. (Wheeeee!!!)

(Why, yes, I DO hate bickering attorneys, but bickering attorneys are generally not inclined to help each other by engaging in the unethical practice of sharing transcripts among themselves. This puts the copy sale where it belongs - in my kids' bellies.)

Of course, bickering means the job was awful to scope, and it took me much longer than it should have. Have you ever noticed that when a deadline looms, it seems like everything suddenly needs your attention? The kids brought home some horrible germ which infected me and Kryptonite. And Thanksgiving was coming, of course.

I had to get the job turned in, however, if I wanted to get paid. I was determined to get the thing done before Thanksgiving so I could stuff myself silly without unfinished business hanging over my head. After three sleepless nights, I finished that job and two other small transcripts by the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Phew!

Now I could handle Thanksgiving preparations without guilt. Our plans this year shifted from cooking for my in-laws to dinner with E. and her family, a shift that left me feeling rather guilty. I'd asked my FIL if he'd like to have dinner with us, and he accepted. It was the first time in ten years that we'd have Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws. My in-laws have made it an annual tradition of dining at their favorite restaurant with a group of friends, so I was pretty excited when they decided to join us instead.

Last year, we had dinner with E., and we had a terrific time. She invited us again this year. I told her that I'd already offered to cook for my in-laws, and she generously offered to serve them as well at her house. I told her my FIL probably wouldn't go for it, but I promised I'd ask.
I asked and got a bit of a shock in return. Not only did my FIL decline E's offer, he bowed out of my initial offer as well. I was stunned. I fully expected and anticipated cooking a turkey dinner for my in-laws. I was actually pretty excited about it despite the work involved, so I was floored. I feel rather guilty too. I finally got my in-laws to come to Thanksgiving dinner, and I sent them running the other way because I extended an invitation that I didn't expect them to accept. Aaagh.

Hmmm... That previous bit makes it sound like my in-laws and I don't get along or something. That's not the case at all. As in-laws go, I got a set that I not only love but genuinely like and get along with, and if they don't feel the same way they've done a wonderful job of keeping it to themselves for 20 years.

Getting back to my Turkey-Day "tail," we may have been traveling to E's for dinner, but that doesn't mean I get to rest on my laurels. Every person afflicted with Thanksgiving nostalgia has certain things that, if done without, will invalidate the most lovely dinner laid on a table. For The Oracle, these dishes include my mother's turkey stuffing and the sweet-potato casserole we discovered in Cooks Illustrated magazine in 2005.

(If you haven't heard of it, I highly recommend the Cooks Illustrated website. CI offers a two-week online-membership trial. They take a credit card number up front, though, so make sure you cancel if you don't want it or you're automatically charged the annual fee when the trial period is up. The message board is always free. I'm a huge CI junkie for their recipes as well as product reviews that are truly unbiased. CI magazine contains NO advertising except for their own publications.)

In addition to The Oracle's favorites, he wanted what we call "corn thing," which is a baked casserole made from dried corn. We were also bringing rice pudding and a cake for dessert.

I assembled the basic ingredients for stuffing and started preparing the bird. The Oracle suggested, because of sleep deprivation, that I wait until morning to roast the turkey (the only way to get good stuffing is to cook it in the bird), but I felt we were going to need the oven in the morning, so getting the turkey out of the way would be a better idea. I also knew that letting the turkey cool completely would help it retain more moisture than carving it warm.

The turkey went into the oven at 10:30 p.m., and I cursed myself for not remembering to buy a cheese cloth or boy's tee shirt to cover the bird the way my mom did. Drat. Instead, I loosely draped a sheet of foil over the breast to keep it from getting too brown. The turkey is roasting, an I'm puttering about with one thing or another, occasionally basting the turkey between tasks.

By 2:30, my feet and calves are sore from all the standing, so I park in The Oracle's chair to channel surf a bit. With my cell phone alarm as backup, I'm up and down every half hour or so to baste the turkey. At 4:30, the house smells divine, and I figure the turkey will be done in a half hour or so. I remove the foil to let the pallid turkey skin brown up a bit, and I return to channel surfing.

At 6:30 I'm jolted from dreams of turkey to wakefulness. I'm not even sure what woke me up. It certainly wasn't my cell phone. I rush to check the turkey, but the light coming in the windows tells me I'm already too late. My once-pallid turkey skin is two shades away from black, the exposed stuffing is burnt to a crisp, and my pan juices are a solid mass of blackened gunk cemented to the bottom of the pan. Damn.

Once again, I should've listened to The Oracle. I don't openly admit this to him, of course, because as soon as he woke up and smelled the now-Cajun turkey, he was compelled to remind me that he told me to wait. Grrrr. Does he not think I know that?

As the turkey cools, the meat pulls away from the breastbone. I can see that the browned breast meat beneath the skin, and I'm reminded of the Griswold turkey in Christmas Vacation. This turkey is inedible. I don't mourn the loss of the turkey meat, really, because I could take or leave turkey. I'm crushed that I'll have no gravy. I love home-made turkey gravy, which is what makes the turkey worthwhile and elevates the stuffing to a whole new level.

The stuffing, once I picked off the burned surface, is heavenly, thank God. I don't think my sleep-deprived, gravy-deprived psyche could have handled the resulting hailstorm of "I told you so" if The Oracle had no stuffing with his turkey dinner. It would've ended badly for one of us. I was suddenly glad that I wasn't feeding my in-laws, because this was my worst turkey ever.

By the time we finish getting our stuff together (including an overpriced convenience-store run for butter), we're an hour late for E's, and once we arrive it takes me almost another hour to shake off the morning's disappointment and aggravation. Here is where E's easygoing nature is a blessing.

E is having her own hassles. Her turkey is running an hour behind schedule. If I look at it sideways, this means we're sort of on time after all.

(Yes, it's flawed logic, but it's the only logic I have.)

E's cooking away: green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, crescent rolls, asparagus, turkey stuffing, pineapple stuffing (yep), gravy, cranberry-fruit mold, and extra turkey legs. I think I'm missing something. All I know is that every square inch of her dining room table was occupied.

E's husband usually handles mashed-potato duty, and he and The Oracle were in a bit of a dither because E decided to try the dreaded something new. On Thanksgiving of all days. Said something was Pioneer Woman's "creamy mashed potatoes" which involve much of the same ingredients as regular mashies with the addition of cream cheese. They were quite good. You would have thought, however, that we were asking our men to eat sauteed grasshoppers when introduced to the idea. Change can be so difficult.

Our kids had a blast playing with one another. Kryptonite was cuddled and coddled as usual, and when dinner was served I THEN reazlied that I forgot the portable high chair, so she had to sit in my lap during dinner. She didn't mind one bit.

By the time we finished dinner, coffee, and desserts (lots of dessert. E made pumpkin and pecan pies on top of all the dishes complementing her turkey), I basked in some much-needed conversation with E. We weren't on our way home until midnight. The kids were all asleep in the car within minutes, and traffic was light. We sailed home in under 50 minutes.

Best of all, when we got home I could sleep. I hadn't really slept in days, and it felt marvelous. I woke a smidge before 9:00 on Friday morning and remembered that we were supposed to meet Aunt J. at the bowling alley at 10:00. Ha. We were an hour late for that too, but the kids had a great time. I'm sorry that The Oracle had to work. It would've been fun to have him along.

And, wow, this post has gone on long enough. I should've broken it up over a few days.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Turkey 101

Pay close attention, Vee!

Quickly Vanishing Cash

My mother would have loved QVC. A self-made hermit, she rarely left the house unless it was absolutely necessary. If it weren't for mail-order catalogs, her holiday shopping lists would have fallen to my sisters and me. Several trees' worth of catalogs cascaded upon Laurel Lane every autumn, and my mother browsed her favorites and selected all sorts of goodies for the people on her list.

My stepmother, Hon, introduced me to the addiction that is QVC (aptly dubbed Quickly Vanishing Cash by my dad). I watched her order a ring for Precious Daugther and was astounded at how quickly her transaction was handled. She didn't even speak to anyone! Call the 800 number, hit a button or two, and her credit card number on file was billed. She was off the phone in under twenty seconds . Good gravy. I could easily see how this could become a problem.

QVC sells just about everything (no men's or children's clothing). Their prices are usually pretty good, and they pride themselves on good customer service. If you don't like an item, send it back with no questions asked. My only gripe is that they don't carry enough American-made items.

QVC offers one service that I greatly appreciate: Easy Pay. I don't have to shuck out a bazillion dollars all at once, I can spread the pain across a given number of payments, and that is the reason for this post.

This year, Santa is bringing our children a Wii system for Christmas. (Sshhhhh!! Don't tell!) It's something we've been dangling in front of Mighty B.'s nose for a while in hopes of eliciting some more mature behavior on his part, and he's been doing very well. Cutting to the chase, I bumped the remote to QVC and happened upon a sales pitch for a Wii system with a bunch of extra doodads. Whaddaya know! I look at the price and notice the Easy Pay option, and I can't hold back. I was going to be a good girl and call The Oracle first, but this was Easy Pay, of all things, and I took the plunge.

Today I check into the online banking and I notice that our account was hit this morning for the full purchase price of the Wii. WTF?!?! I can't let that happen!! I have checks outstanding!! I know we jokingly call it Quickly Vanishing Cash, but this is a little too quick!

Once again I call QVC, and I am blessed with "Martina," a very friendly representative. She explains and apologizes for what happened and agrees to conference call with my bank to remove the charge. Really?

I call Bank of America, and Martina and I sit on hold for the better part of ten minutes before a BOA representative picks up the line. Sheesh. This is one thing I hate about BOA. Once the rep is on the line, my account is corrected in moments and I can breathe again.

I don't buy much from them, but when I do, I love QVC.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bill Cosby - Natural Child Birth Pt. 2

This is for Cort and Brian! Pop on over to Cort's blog (in my following list) and wish them a huge CONGRATULATIONS on the birth of their beautiful baby girl!

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Survived Another Halloween!

Why do I get myself into this stuff? Why can't I leave well enough alone?

Halloween Rule 1: Kids are not allowed to discuss Halloween costumes until school starts in September. Why? Because they'll change their minds a dozen times and drive me insane with it. (If you care, I have a similar rule regarding the enjoyment of Christmas music, books, and movies.)

Halloween Rule 2: Once I buy a prefab costume and/or supplies to make one, there's no turning back.

Halloween Rule 3: Do not poopooh The Oracle's predictions that Precious Daughter's costume will not be completed until moments before heading out to mooch candy, and it will require a monumental amount of swearing and aggravation on my part.

Mighty B. wanted to be a soldier. He originally wanted to be a skeleton until I casually mentioned seeing a soldier costume in the store. He wanted it. I went back and took a closer look, and it was cheesy. I wasn't going to spend all that money on a cheapy costume. I thought I'd try making one instead, but I couldn't find military-styled camouflage fabric, just the kind crosshatched with printed trees and twigs for the outdoor sportsmen. I procrastinated and didn't buy the cosume until 10/30 (the day of his school party, source of the below picture) and was rewarded with 50% off.

Forgive me for gushing about how handsome my son is. He says he wants to be a soldier when he grows up. We'll see. I think what interests him right now is the weaponry.

Precious Daughter first decided that she'd like to be Eglentine Price (name that movie!), but I told her very few would remember the character without a lengthy explanation even if they remembered the name of the movie. She then said she'd be either Sharpay Evans (High School Musical) or simply "a Diva." My head resounded with cries of "BOR-ING!" especially when she dressed as Hannah Montana last year, and she'd pretty much look the same this time around.

(Give up on that movie name? It'll be at the end.)

Poking around online, I spotted a simple-looking pattern for a magician's cape and hat. Hmmm... I suggested it to Precious Daughter, and she liked the idea. We picked black satin for the exterior and a pretty black fabric with irridescent stars on it for the lining.

Star fabric was hideous to work with. My sewing machine hated it. The needle made an awful thock-thock-thock sound with every puncture. It even got jammed in the feed dogs (those metal treads that move the fabric along) and down inside the machine where the needle dips to pick up the bobbin. Horrid stuff. The costume was supposed to include a cummerbund, but working with the star fabric sans the satin was even worse, so I ended up (Heaven forgive me) using red duct tape to hold the cummerbund together and tying at the waist.

The felt hat came out really soggy looking despite my efforts to stiffen it up. At least it fit. Oh. See that wand? That stupid wand cost eight bucks. The packaging promised a dozen magic tricks. I thought the thing would open into a cutesy little bouquet or conceal a scarf. Nope. it includes instructions for a dozen tricks, the creeps. The wrapper doesn't say "instructions" anywhere.
But the stars on it glow in the dark.
I didn't have a costume for Kryptonite. I simply ran out of time. I feel a little guilty, but it's tempered by the fact that she spent our entire trip in the stroller beneath a gigantic black umbrella. Nobody would have seen it anyway.

Trick-or-treat time was solid rain. It drizzled as we left, and it drizzled for 90% of our walk around the block. As we turned the corner onto our street, it started raining buckets, so we decided to skip the side street we would have otherwise visited. Even so, we still had over six pounds of candy.
I am glad we didn't canvas the side street. There's enough here to last us until next Easter.

Movie title: skcitsmoorB dna sbonkdeB (read it backward).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

74th Birthday - Random Memories of Mom

Weird, how your mind still counts the birthdays of someone who isn't here any more.

My mom would have been 74 today. I'll need to see if I have a nice picture handy to scan.

She was extremely intelligent, possessing a genius intellect and a fabulous imagination. She, like my grandmother (her mother), could make anything fun, from filling dozens of balloons for an impromptu water-balloon fight to decorating our neighbor's front yard for their 50th wedding anniversary. She could sew Halloween costumes and prom gowns, arrange flowers, and make baskets and wreaths out of pine cones. She loved to sing

When my eldest sister was in her teens, our next-door neighbor installed a basketball hoop on his yard facing the street. It seemed like half of the neighborhood turned out to play, and sometimes Mom would spring for a bunch of pizza and soda from a local shop to feed the crowd.

One year, a good chunk of this same group came to our house for a candlelit "seance," complete with Ouija board. I was too young to participate, so I was banished to the living room with another friend's little brother to watch TV. I don't know who they were trying to conjure, but I remember screams coming from the other side of the closed door. I'm sure my mother had something to do with it.

She was a mama bear when it came to her kids, but was also tender hearted to the plight of others. One of Jennifer's classmates was somehow orphaned or in foster care. She spent several weeks living with us, and my mom and dad worked hard to adopt her, but it didn't pan out. She often supported the underdog when she believed in his cause.

During my parents' separation and eventual divorce, times were very difficult for her. I no longer care to know his reasons, but my father wasn't dilligent with visiting or with child support. My mom was left scrabbling to keep things together for herself and three young girls. I was completely oblivious to this at the time, which is either testament to my cluelessness or to Mom's ability to cover her anxiety. She was very private in all matters, but when it came to the breakup from my dad, she insisted we not tell a soul. I was ordered, if asked where he was, to tell people that my dad was "on a business trip."

A multi-year business trip. I'm sure they were convinced. Yeah...

Mom was an exceptional cook. I guess most people say that about their moms. Mom, unlike me, wasn't afraid to try cooking something different. A should-have-been caterer, she joyfully cooked for any occasion, including all the food for my stepbrother's wedding, and V. and I dutifully marched from kitchen to guests while my date remained in the kitchen helping mom assemble trays. Even simple bring-a-dish occasions resulted in much more than was asked of her. Cooking was my mother's way of showing affection. If she fed you, she liked you, and all she wanted to hear in return was a moan of delight with the first bite.

Her second love was candymaking. When we were young, she made things like peanut brittle, molasses taffy, fudge, and sponge candy. Her talents evolved to creations that rivaled the professionals. Buttercreams, truffles, toffee... the list was endless and always evolving. She'd make lovely fillings and hand-dip them in chocolate. Her chocolates were a labor of love much like the rest of her cooking. Nothing made her angrier (yet my stepfather did this often) than someone who took one of her lovely chocolates and gobbled it whole. She labored to make the center as pretty as the chocolate exterior, and she expected the taster to bite through the chocolate and admire the inside before devouring the other half. Once you went through this little ritual, you were free to eat its brothers and sisters two and three at a time.

For a long time, my mom drove "hither, thither, and yon," as she'd say, but by the time she met my stepfather, she was more than happy to relinquish the keys to him. By the time I reached high school, she rarely drove anywhere but to work or the Acme. By the time I graduated, she left the food shopping to my stepfather, my sister, and eventually me. (I did all the food shopping for my "surprise" wedding shower.) She hated driving, and I suspect if her employer was located more than a quarter mile away, she would have ditched the car and mooched rides from her coworkers. Over time, this aversion to driving morphed into refusing to get into a car, much less drive one. She told me that she didn't like my stepfather's driving. I'm sure the emphysema played a role too.

Whatever it was, Mom made herself almost a recluse. Her house was her domain, and she ruled from her favorite seat at the kitchen counter.

(I hope I can describe this well. Her seat at the counter faced what used to be the garage. Back in the late '60s or early '70s, my dad and his friends converted the garage into a sort-of family room/dining room, with an all-brick floor as well as an all-brick wall with a fireplace on the far wall and paneled walls on the other three sides with a large bow window in the front where the garage door used to be and another large window in the back. The wall between the kitchen and this room was open, with three flagstone steps leading down to the new room. As such, Mom was sort of Queen of All She Surveyed from her seat at the counter, looking down upon the brick room.)

Every Thanksgiving -- pretty much every meal, really -- Mom would cook her heart out, and once the meal was on the table, she'd retreat to her chair at the counter and watch everyone devour her labors of love. She rarely ate what she cooked until much later, preferring a nap before sitting down to eat. My stepfather would get all bent out of shape over this. Frankly, the woman was exhausted and sick of smelling all that cooking. Been there myself.

Red cups: My mother, for odd reasons, didn't drink out of a glass. She preferred those red plastic 20 oz disposable cups. With a straw. She always had a red cup at her elbow.

One thing Mom ruled from her "throne" at the counter was the television. If mom didn't approve of it, it wasn't viewed. If she didn't like what was on TV, she put in a video. The rest of us had little or no say in matters, and that TV was on all day, every day. If you visited, the TV was on. In fact, the TV rarely went off simply because she had guests. She'd sit at the counter, chopping away or chocolate dipping or whatever, ordering my stepfather to turn on Channel X so she could watch Y. (She rarely did her own flipping. She didn't want to get the remote full of food, and she had a hard time with the little buttons. I also think she liked telling my stepfather what to do.)

Mom loved games. Cribbage, Canasta, Parcheesi, Backgammon, and Scrabble were probably the top five. Mom was killer at all of them. I'd occasionally go over and play with her for a while and drink Snapple over ice in a red cup. I knew things were going downhill when I actually won against her in a game of Scrabble.

I play Scrabble online over Facebook with The Oracle (lazy, yes, but so much easier than keeping tiles aligned on a board), and I can't bring myself to put a great letter on a gray space. I can't permit myself to use an S without making the crossing word plural with it. It's pathetic.

I wish I had her around for another game. I wish my kids could meet her.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Kryptonite doesn't sleep willingly.

Part of the problem is she's teething, so getting to sleep is a challenge. She's been as clingy as English ivy.

Kryptonite eventually falls asleep in my lap. I carefully lay her in her crib and slowly begin to extricate my arms from beneath her body. "NGNGNGNGNGNGNGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

(Edited to add: The "ngngng!" of her scream sounds something like a revving ninja bike.)

How does she do that? How does she know? Her bedsheet is fleecy, so it isn't cold bedding against her skin shocking her to wakefulness. It's like she can smell my pending departure.

I pick her up and the crying immediately stops. (Phew! The Oracle has to get up at 5:30.) Within seconds, she's asleep in my arms. I rock her until her breathing slows and try laying her in the crib again. This time, however, I try to be sneaky and lay her on her side instead.

(I used to lay her on her side all the time, but I moved away from the practice because Kryptonite can roll onto her belly, but she can't yet roll from belly to back. She doesn't quite crawl yet, either, so she winds up scooching backward on hands and knees and getting her legs trapped in the crib bars or entangled in the afghan Aunt F. made for her. Laying on her side exponentially increases her odds of rolling to her belly in her sleep and getting stuck.)

I quietly drop the side rail, count slowly to ten, and begin lowering her into the crib.


Aw, come on!!!! What is it??!! We are still six inches away from touching the mattress. Is the air that much thicker when we decrease altitude by one foot? How. Does. She. Know?

Up we go again, and I sway from side to side to help her along, because this time it takes her a couple minutes to go back to sleep. She drifts off, however, and I stop rocking. I stand still, waiting for her deep breathing to come. My back is getting sore and my arms are going numb, but I'm not putting her down until I'm sure I can walk away.

Finally, my back and shoulders are screaming for relief. I make another attempt to lay her down. I put her on her side and she stirs, so I stay there with my arm sort of under her knees and my "free" hand stroking her hair. My cheek is against hers, and I sort of croon/talk her back to sleep. My lower back has joined the protest, and now I have to pee. I slowly slide away, praying that she stays asleep. I tiptoe out of the room.

I make my way to the bathroom with a sigh of relief. About midstream I hear "NGNGNGNGNGNGAAAAAAAAAAAAH," but there's nothing I can immediately do. By the time I wash my hands, The Oracle is awake. Kryptonite is wide awake. There's no cheating her back to sleep now. I take her out to the living room. (Why her crib is still in our bedroom should be explained, but this is long enough already.)

I park on the couch in the dark with Kryptonite on my lap. She stretches and flails and complains, "NGNGNGNGAAAAAAA!" She's mightily pissed, so she started coughing too. The coughing is an odd trait, I agree. Now it sounds something like, "NGNGNGNAAAAA! KA! KA!" She's stretching like she wants to lay down, but she won't lay down in her crib. She won't lay in my lap, on the floor, in the playpen. She doesn't want to be on my shoulder. She won't sit and play, either. What she wants, to put it delicately, is to nurse, but she's drained me just about dry already. At this point, all she'll do is swallow air and get belly gas. It's a giant wrestling match until we both drop off to sleep on the sofa.

I wake up an hour and a half later. My butt is numb from sitting on the sofa for so long, and my arms are asleep from holding her in my lap. All I want is my bed. Kryptonite is in a nice, deep sleep, so I sneak into the bedroom to put her in the crib.

"NGNGNGAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Kryptonite is having none of it. The cycle starts anew.

I'm utterly exhausted and ready to cry. All I want to do is stuff her in her crib and let her scream herself to sleep, but I can't do that with a houseful of people who have early starts in the morning. I plead and cajole and remind her that this sort of nonsense is why babies get shaken, but she won't listen to reason.

Finally, my body and my brain can't take any more. I surrender. I lay Kryptonite between The Oracle and me. He senses our arrival and moves over, but our queen-sized bed isn't enough space for three, even if the third person is an 8-month-old punk. She falls asleep within minutes. It takes me a little longer because my butt is hanging off the edge of the bed and my back is protesting the position, but my tail hurts worse from sitting on the couch. I really only doze, but it's better than nothing.

Yes, I've created a monster.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If you do nothing else today... must must must pay a visit to this site. It's the funniest thing I've seen in weeks. Oh, it's not always politically correct or kid friendly. Viewer discretion advised.

(It also scares me a little. These people are out there breeding. And voting.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Still Breathin'

I'm just crazy-busy. I'll post something soon.

Thanks for waiting.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Should I Be This Annoyed?

Precious Daughter adores her American Girl doll. She received it as a gift from Uncle R. and Aunt V., and she plays with her nearly every day. If it weren't for her aunt and uncle, Precious Daughter probably wouldn't have one at all, because they're prohibitively expensive. when Precious Daughter first voiced her desire for one, I started poking around on eBay in hopes of finding one in good condition at a reasonable price.

American Girl has come up with an interesting hypocrisy, namely, "Gwen Thompson." Gwen Thompson is the friend of Chrissa, whose story surrounds negotiating the tricky waters of being the new kid in school and dealing with bullies. She is teased for finding a good friend in Gwen Thompson. Gwen and her mother have fallen on hard times. Abandoned by her father, Gwen and her mother are living in their car.

Part of what makes American Girl so popular today is the newer dolls' relevance to the lives of the girls possessing them. "Oh, hey, this doll is ______ like me!" At $95 a pop (for just the doll and the book, never mind accessories!), it was unlikely Precious Daughter would have had her own AG doll if my sister and brother-in-law hadn't stepped in.

What are the chances of homeless girls out there owning Gwen or any other in the AG collection? It strikes me as kind of mean. "Here's a doll whose story might parallell your own, but YOU CAN'T AFFORD HER!! HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!"

Am I wrong? Am I missing something here? Chrissa and Gwen certainly teach a nice lesson about friendship, but I wonder how much of it will be learned by the child given the pair ($175 for the pair, a ten-dollar savings!!!) other than "two is better than one."

I hope Mattel has other more noble plans in mind, like donating an AG doll to Toys for Tots for every Gwen purchased or perhaps donating a percentage of sales proceeds to help homeless families.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let the Whining Begin!

It's official. The school year is in full swing. My kids started their second full week of school yesterday, and the whining and stalling picked up right where it left off last June.

My morning begins tamely enough. The Oracle gets up and has breakfast, and he usually nudges me awake as he's about to get into the shower. It's roughly 6:30. Today I woke up a little early thanks to the odd scrabblings of Chessie who, it seems, had "something"stuck to her butt and was trying to bury it where it finally fell off. This is one thing I hate about cats. They sleep anywhere and everywhere. There is no limit. This morning, she was sleeping on a tote bag on a shelf, and the offending offal landed on the tote bag. I probably could have saved the tote bag, but I was skeeved and angry and sleepy. Throwing it out seemed easier.

So, all right, I'm up. I make The Oracle's lunch and I start nudging kids. I love/hate this part of the morning. I love to kiss and cuddle my warm, sleepy children. I hate when they're just awake enough to start arguing with me.

My first stop is Mighty B. Mighty B. was out of bed by 7:00 a.m. almost every morning throughout the summer. Yesterday and today I needed a crowbar to get him out of bed, and I eventually tempted him into the living room by turning on and cranking up the volume of Monster Jam. Then I turned the TV off until he got dressed.

How about Precious Daughter? At least she's consistent. She loves her bed and hates leaving it until either her empty belly or her full bladder forces the issue. She sits up in bed and chats with me, and when I think we're "good to go," I tell her to get dressed and leave her to check B.'s progress.

B is staring at Monster Jam. He is dressed, so I give him his shoes and ask him to put them on. I go back to Precious Daughter's room, and she is nowhere to be seen -- Oh, wait!! That lump on the bed means she went back under the covers. Aaaagh.

I sharply order Precious Daughter to get up and get dressed. She apologizes and picks up her shirt.

Amid this circus, Kryptonite is dragging her purple elephant back and forth across the bars of the crib, the plastic ring linked to its back plinking along much like a prisoner's tin cup against his cell. The Oracle is trying to get ready to go to work, so I need to get his lunch together. Oh, and he needs socks.

Tell me, does anyone else live in a state of perpetual laundry turmoil? I haven't been "caught up" laundry-wise since B's arrival in 2003. There is always stuff to wash, and there's always stuff to put away. Quite often we're burrowing through baskets of clean laundry in search of whatever it is we need. Sometimes an entire basket of clean stuff gets picked apart and worn without ever seeing the inside of a drawer. This is one of those times. I dig about in a basket, come up with socks, and stuff the clean (and wrinkly) clothes back in the basket.

I check on Precious Daughter's progress, and I nearly scream at her to get her tailfeathers out of bed before I drag her out by the feet. I give B. his cereal, and I have to keep reminding him to eat if he wants Monster Jam to stay on.

Precious Daughter stumbles out of bed toward the bathroom.

I finish packing The Oracle's lunch (sandwich, yogurt, Diet Crack with Splenda, crackers, carrots, and a lovely-looking apple) and dump his coffee into the Thermos.

The Oracle is running late, so I drive him to the train station which is a mile away at the most, screeching at Precious Daughter to get her clothes on and nagging Mighty B into another bite of cereal on my way out the door.

Less than five minutes later, I'm back. Mighty B. still isn't eating, but at least Daughter is dressed. I slap a bowl of cereal in front of her and start nagging the spoon to her mouth. The bus comes in less than ten minutes, and their lunches aren't ready. Hooray for Spaghetti O's!

Nag, nag, nag. They have to brush teeth and Precious Daughter still has to comb her hair. I stack their backpacks and lunch bags on the porch and usher them outside. To Precious Daugther's dismay, I brush her hair in under fifteen seconds because I hear the bus rolling up the street.

Once I shove them on the bus, I go back inside to feed Knucklehead and Kryptonite.

What I really want is a nap.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Such Bravery!

Roughly two years ago, Mighty B.'s chronic ear infections led to the insertion of tubes in his ears. Those tubes were supposed to fall out on their own, but they were as stubborn as Mighty B. himself. At this horrible, overbooked office visit, the doc decided they should be surgically removed.

Well, I dragged my feet, hoping to find they'd fall out on their own, but I couldn't risk the kid's hearing, could I? It's bad enough that he refuses to listen to me; I don't want to let him shore up his selective perception with medical limitations.

Last week was preadmission testing. Thankfully they drew no blood samples. I really wasn't sure how I'd get past that one if they had. B. is afraid of needles (who isn't?) and I wanted this whole experience to be a good one. If I had to sit on him for a needle, he'd be scarred for life.

(His trip to the dentist last week for his first filling was as smooth as buttercream. The dentist asked that I not tell him about needing a filling, and I didn't. The dentist filled the tooth -- Novocaine and all -- and B. was as cool as a cucumber. He wasn't happy about the numb cheek, but he handled that visit to the destist better than I ever could.)

Back to the subject. During preadmission testing, I'd mentioned to the nurse practitioner that I didn't want them using Versed. They used it when the tubes went in, and the poor kid was crying and combative for two hours in recovery. She made a note but no promises.

Anyway, yesterday we arrived at the hospital -- the whole parade of us -- at 7:00 a.m. In typical hurry-up-and-wait fashion, B. and I went back and got him dressed in hospital garb, answered a few questions, sat through some vital signs, and waited. The Oracle, Precious Daughter, and Kryptonite joined us and together we waited over an hour, with little visits here and there from the anesthesiologist and a couple of surgical assistants. We were -- surprise!! -- waiting for the doctor to arrive. She not only keeps her patients waiting at her office, she keeps the hospital staff waiting as well.

At 8:20, they led Mighty B. down the hall to surgery. My taller-than-average son suddenly looked very small as he walked away, his green hospital johnny flashing glimpses of his Scooby Doo underwear. I wanted to cry.

Twenty minutes later, I joined him in the recovery room as he was devouring a green freeze pop which gave us the pleasure of an encore visit ten minutes later. His ear hurt despite an injection of Toradol, so they gave him a dose of Tylenol on top of it. He cuddled with The Oracle for a bit, and we were on our way home at roughly 10:00 with instructions for B. to take it easy for the rest of the day (no climbing, bike riding, or anything where balance is critical) and to keep his ear dry for two days.

He wasn't out of bed twenty minutes this morning before hopping on his pogo stick for a bounce around the driveway.

I wish I had some of that ambition.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Thanks to the observant eyes of a caring stranger, I was spared the agony of replacing my wallet and its contents.

My kids have been on a recent McDonalds kick, thanks to the Lego and American Girl prizes in their happy meals. (Today one child was rather disappointed over receiving an unexpected Batmobile. I think the McBinge is over.)

Thanks to the sudden rationing of condiments, I got to stand in two lines for lunch instead of one. I splurged today and enjoyed a grilled chicken club, and as I devoured the last bite I flipped over the tray liner and observed that my yummy sandwich contained a whopping 470 calories. OUCH! (Maybe I should say, "oink!")

Mighty B. is picking at his fries, and I'm proclaiming a low-fat, low-cal dinner. I hear a man behind me say, "You're gonna put that back, right?" A chair scuffs, and I see a woman in a white shirt walking away. The man then tells me she tried to steal the wallet from my purse. My purse was beneath Kryptonite in the stroller basket

I thought he was joking. People often come up to Kryptonite and fuss over her, and I seriously thought that the woman was with this man and he was pulling a joke until I realized that this white-shirted woman was no longer in restaurant. I quickly went to the door she exited and looked around, hoping I'd see her getting into a car or on the sidewalk, but she was nowhere in sight. The observant patrion tells me that she was definitely caught on camera. My belly started to quiver a little bit.

I sought out the manager, and the manager called the police. A very nice officer responded, and Mr. Patron tells his story. Simply put, the lady sat down next to Kryptonite, reached right into my purse and grabbed my wallet. Mr. Patron then says, "You're gonna put that back, right?" The woman surprisingly put it back and walked out.

I'm a very lucky person today. I'm lucky that I didn't lose my wallet, and I'm lucky for the eye-opener that McPickpocket could just as easily been after something much more important, like Kryptonite herself.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

1961 Flintstones Winston Cigarettes

We forget that shows like The Flintstones weren't geared toward a kiddie audience.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Precious Daughter!

Precious Daughter turns 8 today!

Yesterday, she had her birthday party at a local swim club. I don't plan parties like this. I'm not good at it. What I thought would be an easy-peasy four-hour kid party turned out to be a lot of work, and I'm amazed that thousands of parents find the stamina to do this every year.

When I was a kid, my mother didn't host birthday parties. Well, she did once in a while. Each of my sisters had a big party. By the time I came along, she decided she'd had enough. She baked cakes for us and we sang around the table, but the invite-the-neighborhood kind of a party sank into the tar pits. In fact, my first-ever party of that nature didn't happen until I turned 40.

Precious Daughter's pool party consisted of roughly 15 kids and 13 adults. I think everyone had a wonderful time. At least I hope they did. I just wish that I were more organized. I was a frizzy-headed sweatball, and I never made it into the water even though I desperately wanted to get there.

What made it more stressful is grandparents and godparents were coming to the house after the kid party. The Oracle skipped the pool and stayed home to baby-sit the food and straighten up. I naively assumed that if the pool party ended at 3:00, I'd be home by 3:30.

All together now! "HAR-DE-HAR-HAR!"

The Oracle called me several times from 3:00 onward. His initial calls politely asked when I was leaving, but eventually they escalated to, "Where the #&*% are you!? Your parents just got here!"

Well, shoot. This was my first semi-successful kid party. In 2007, the kids' party was scheduled for a fun place, but only a handful of guests showed up. Only one classmate showed up, so we had an entire arcade to ourselves for our block of time. "We" consisted of nine family members (including ourselves), E's family, and the classmate with his mom and brother.

Anyway, the arcade party took excellent care of itself, because didn't have to worry about other people's kids. This one was quite a wake-up call. i didn't have time to bake a cake, so I had to succumb to a supermarket cake, which was quite good. I was late for the party and didn't have time to pick it up, so I asked another mom to hold down the fort while I ran this errand, adn then I forgot to tell her when I was leaving. . DUH. One guest arrived late and her mom had no idea where to put her.

The kids had a great time, and I nearly forgot to cut the stupid cake. Pool Lady reminded me. next thing I know, it's 3:00. Parents are arriving, and I have to find their dripping-wet kids and send them home. Then we had to load the car before going home. Things probably would have gone much more smoothly if The Oracle had been there, but he was busy at home.

If it weren't for Uncle R., I wouldnt' have a single picture to mark the event. And, wow, he's great with a camera!

Precious Daughter taking the plunge!

Mighty B. and the Blonde-haired girl. I broke my rule on posting other people's kids because you can't see her face.

Aunt V. and Kryptonite.

I came home to a sparkly house and guests waiting for our arrival. I felt like a big loser. Thank you, everyone, for coming to my aid and helping me get the food on the table before hunger got the better of you!

I'm hoping my sister has pictures from the family party on her camera, because I never got the chance to snap one picture.

Monday, August 17, 2009

No Treats From Obama

This sent me into gigglefits.

For some reason, I can't view YouTube posts on Blogger. I think it's a setting in my computer. If you can't see what I posted, please let me know, and I'll send the link if you'd like. If you're one of those tech-savvy folks that know what setting I need to change on my machine, I'd love to hear from you!

(I'm still alive, folks, just rather busy getting some work done and planning Precious Daughter's birthday party. I'll post soon!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Birthday Party!

Last Saturday, despite his horrid behavior, we celebrated Mighty B's 6th Birthday. For many months he begged and pestered to have his party take place at the tourist railroad where The Oracle volunteers, so The Oracle set it up.

Our guest list was simple. Uncle B. and Aunt J., two of The Oracle's friends and their kids, and E. with her family. My sister ended up having to cancel at the last minute. I know Mighty B. would have liked some of his friends there, but who, other than close friends/family, is going to drive an hour and a half for a kid's party?

But B. has been a bit difficult lately (understatement). It got so rough that we told him we were canceling his party. It escalated to the point that The Oracle and I seriously discussed canning it for real. In the end, knowing that the root of some of his problems surround his feeling left out and envy over the attention given to Kryptonite, we decided that he really needed to be "king for a day," but we didn't tell B. that.

Friday night, I stayed up all night baking this:

I'm quite proud of the way it turned out, considering that I have little skill with cake decorating, and it's nothing I'd ever attempt if my mother's cake-decorating stuff hadn't landed in my lap.

Bragging: The top layer is yellow, the bottom layer is chocolate. Each layer contains what would be one-and-a-half regular layer cakes, if that makes sense. By the time the cakes were cooled, I discovered that I didn't have enough butter to frost cake. Uh-oh. It was nearly 4:00 a.m., and my only supermarket option involved an overpriced convenience store. I was too tired to drive a greater distance to the 24-hour supermarket. Then I remembered "cream cheese!"

The frosting between the layers is chocolate cream cheese. The frosting on the outside is back-of-the-box Royal icing, and I had to stretch it mighty thin to cover the cake. I barely had enough.

After we arrived at the railroad, I realized that I'd left the candles at home. The nearest shop to get some was at least fifteen minutes away. We didn't have time.

When the kids sang "Happy Birthday," Mighty B. "fainted" because he was so happy. Goofball.

Then our outspoken son left his parents mortified when he opened a present from Uncle B. and Aunt J. and announced, "I don't want Operation!"

The Oracle was too flabbergasted to speak. Aunt J. calmly took the gift back and that was that. She had other stuff in the bag that B. never saw. That's what B. gets for being so outspoken.

Precious Daughter spent that evening and the next two days getting on our last nerve with her jealousy over B's presents. HER party is in three weeks, but you'd think she wasn't having one at all. I guess this is why my mother didn't bother with birthday parties.

Fat baby picture. I love dresses with dots. She was very good at the party.

Many, many thanks to Aunt J. and E. for rounding out our menu with veggies, fruit, and salad. The Oracle and I worried over how we were going to transport enough food over the distance, so we ended up running a tab at the railroad's snack bar instead. It isn't ideal, really, but with three kids taking up the cargo space, we didn't have room in the Pacifica, and we tried our best to keep the party a surprise for Mighty B. Uncle B. and Aunt J. also transported B's presents so he wouldn't see them in the back of the car. The only thing I had to hide was the cake, and I managed that.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Day in the Twilight Zone

The last three days have been chaotic. The Oracle is a contractor, and he's currently working in a government office. He spent the last three days working in an office quite a distance away, which meant being out the door at 5:50 a.m. to catch a train at a different station than his usual. Blech.

We're running one car which means I had to drive The Oracle to a train station twenty minutes away for his commute instead of the one four blocks away.

I confesss I'm a bad mama. When I drive The Oracle to the local station, I leave our children asleep in their beds because I am out and back in under seven minutes. (After this episode, I suspect The Oracle will need to walk to the station or take an earlier train once school starts in September.) The station he needed earlier this week is twenty minutes away, and that meant stuffing sleepy kids into the car for the ride. They were wide awake by the time we got home and were demanding breakfast.

Tuesday we dropped our car off for service and thankfully provided a rental for the day. The rental was a Grand Marquis and too small for a family of five. After lots of squabbling and elbow wrestling, we joyfully returned the rental and picked up our car yesterday after breakfast.

Swimming lessons were immediately afterward. Then it was time for lunch, and my in-laws picked up Precious Daughter and Mighty B. just before 1:00 because I had a to write a doctor's deposition at 2:00. I scurried off with Kryptonite to the sitter's house.

At the sitter's house, I knock on the door. No answer. I knock on the door again, and no response. I call her number, thinking she might be upstairs and not hearing me, and no answer.

Now what?

My brain is spinning. Normally, the sitter picks up her son at 12:30, but she's home by now. Something must've held her up, but I can't wait any more. Hoping she was okay, I load Kryptonite back into the car, and I start heading to the job which is only a ten-minute drive away. I called my firm but got no answer, instead leaving her a message with my dilemma.

I tried calling the attorney's office and got a non-answer from their staff. I really had no choice anyway, because the job was due to start in twenty minutes.

I arrive at the doc's office with Kryptonite and meet opposing counsel in the parking lot. I explained my problem and asked her opinion on having a five-month-old baby present during the deposition. She was very open to it (thank Heaven) and began sharing some of her experiences with last-minute Take Your Kid to Work days.

When plaintiff's counsel arrived, he marveled over Kryptonite and compared her to his older baby. When he learned she was mine and present for the day's work, he took it in stride.

The third Seven to pop up on the slot machine was the doc himself. His is a family practice, he loves pediatrics, and offered to hold Kryptonite while I worked. Jackpot!

Opposing Counsel realizes she doesn't have half of her documents for the day's dep, and steps out to arrange a fax from her secretary to the doctor's office.

Kryptonite awakens, and the doc reaches out to take her. As I lift her out of the carrier I notice a familiar unpleasant odor. You have GOT to be kidding! Ah well. At least someone else is tied up with a fax machine, and I'm not the sole reason for delay. I take her out to the car for a quick change. Naturally, her diaper was a thoroughly nasty blowout. The kid had poop under her arms, for crying out loud! At least I had a change of clothes for her.

As I'm locking the car, I spy the baby sling I'd just purchased through eBay on the seat. I had it at the pool with me that morning. I stuffed the sling in my purse and returned to the doc's offfice.

Returning to my seat, I stuffed Kryptonite into the sling. She seemed pretty content and we began the deposition. About fifteen minutes into it, she started to crab. Ter-ri-fic. I start twisting back and forth on the seat of my office chair, but she isn't buying it. When the attorneys went off the record for another matter, I passed Kryptonite off to an office worker who eagerly offered her services earlier. I initially worried that the doc would be annoyed with his staffer taking the next hour off to fart around with the court reporter's kid, but it was better than having her squawking every thirty seconds and interrupting things.

An hour later, I can hear Kryptonite screaming. She is pissed. She wants her mama, but what can I do? I'm in the middle of a job. A short while later, the staffer comes in and asks if I have a bottle.

Yeah, I have a bottle and I have formula in the car, but I know full well that Kryptonite won't take it. She doesn't like the formula. She likes her milk, um, directly from the source. She'll take a bottle containing stuff from mom's dairy bar, but she doesn't like formula. I didn't have anything freshl bottled with me. I wasn't anticipating this job to take that long, and Kryptonite ate at 12:30.

Whatever. Kryptonite wasn't going to need to eat until 4:30 or so, but I made the bottle anyway. I figured it would give the staffer something to try. Kryptonite wanted her mama. The End.

We resume the deposition, and it takes for-ev-er. I can hear Kryptonite crabbing off and on, and we're perpetually interrupted with off-the-record discussions having nothing to do with my baby. At one point, a thunderstorm cracked open right over our heads, nearly shaking us all out of our chairs. The 41-year-old doc jokes that he thought he might have a second heart attack. NOT FUNNY!!!!

We didn't finish until 4:45.

The race was on! I had to get The Oracle from the train station, the kids from my in-laws, Precious Daughter to her summer stock practice by 6:00, and NONE of that was going to happen on time. It was pouring buckets and I could barely see. I made a batch of phone calls, the results of which were that nothing was going to be completed on time, but we eventually got everyone home safe and sound, and things were back to semi-normal.

I'm glad that's over!

Oh. The sitter? She just never got the message I left. I'm annoyed, but I'm glad she's okay.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Up and Down

I am being driven to distraction as I write this. It's nearly 11:00 p.m., and Precious Daughter is still awake.

The kid just will not go to sleep. She says she's not tired. She says she can't sleep. She says she's hot, and her hair is sticking to her neck. She's thirsty. She can't get comfortable. Excuses, excuses.

If she'd stay in bed for longer than fifteen minutes, her body might have a chance to fall asleep already!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Downside

After living two houses away from each other all their lives, Precious Daughter and the Blonde-Haired Girl have become pretty good friends. Whether this is simply a product of being separated from school-year friends or the beginnings of a really good thing remains to be seen. She seems like a nice kid, and I certainly hope they remain good friends for a long time.

The downside: Mighty B. We don't have a boy his age two houses away any more. For a while, our neighbors had their daughter and grandson living with them while their son-in-law was in basic training, and it was wonderful. They played constantly.

Mighty B. is feeling left out, and I'm feeling like an ogre. On one hand, I can't stand his being excluded by his sister and her new friend. On the other, I understand the girls' need to be by themselves without a pesky little brother tagging along.


It also reminds me of my own childhood. I didn't have many friends either. When my older sisters would go out, they were often saddled with, "Take your little sister!" I can't imagine what my mother thought the result would be. Would forcing me into their company make them want me along? Ummm... no. I was probably sent along as more of a deterrent to bad behavior, because (as much as I hate to admit it now), I didn't really learn that I could keep secrets from my mother until I was fifteen or so.

(Edited to add: I suddenly recall my very first screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My sister, V, was going with her friends, and my mom whacked her from behind with "Take your sister!" I spent the movie in a state of perplexity. I didn't "get" the audience participation end of it, and I was thoroughly annoyed at my inability to follow the plot of the movie from all the shouting. Oh, and I was utterly agog with V's and everyone else's ability to fluently drop obscenities on cue. A year and a half later, my friends were going and I was probably more enthusiastic than V was.)

Whatever Mom's goal, the end result was my sisters' resentment at their lack of freedom in my presence and my feeling awkward at being forced into a situation where I wasn't always welcomed.

Fortunately, Mighty B. is still too young for that swirl of emotion. At the ripe age of almost six, he still believes that the world adores him and that it is his oyster for the taking, even if that oyster is full of Barbie dolls, Polly Pocket, and cheerleading pompoms.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Four Years Ago

I wanted to post these yesterday, but I forgot. They were taken on 7/9/05, and I thought it would have been fun. But, I forgot a lot of things yesterday, like sunscreen when we went to the pool and Precious Daughter's summer stock practice.

Kryptonite is teething. Her two bottom incisors cut through a couple days ago, but they're still giving her a lot of grief. Either that or she's following in Mighty B.'s footsteps. Mighty B. was like a shark with all of his teeth coming in at once, and it was a hellish time for him with all those teeth coming in without a break in between.

Anyway, Kryptonite didn't sleep well for two nights. She was uncomfortable and crabby and only slept while I held her. It was rough.

Back to the pictures. My chicks were approaching their fourth and second birthdays.

I found this workbench on eBay. It was one of my earlier and most favorite purchases, and well worth the drive to go pick it up. We still have the bench, but the kids have lost and/or destroyed most of the tools. It'll need new tools and a good powerwashing when Kryptonite is old enough for it. They played with it more than the kitchen set which, sadly, was curbed for trash collection a couple years ago.
In this next one, Precious Daughter chose the train table for a catnap. (Wow... look at my blinds! They were still smooth and unchewed from the Knucklehead's anxiety attack or something when we were out.)

I'm glad we still have the train table. It's probably my all-time favorite of their toys. That white blanket on her head has quite a history. I'll have to write about it sometime.
Ah, well. I guess it's time to return to the reality of glazed eyes staring at the TV and complaints of nothing to do on a gorgeous, sunny day.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Sixth Photo in My Sixth Folder

So I got the idea from Coffee Bean. Hers is way funnier than mine.

My folders are arranged by date created rather than by name. This photo was taken in June of 2005 during a neighborhood child's birthday party. The birthday had a bug theme, which should explain the very funny headgear my children are wearing.

At the ripe age of Almost four, that Dora the Explorer dress was one of Precious Daughter's favorites. It was the first thing out of the drawer or the basket whenever I did laundry.

Mighty B. was at least three months away from his first haircut. His shirt was one of my favorites, too. He's wearing it in a lot of pictures during that summer.

This puny post took over an hour and a half to complete.

Why? Because the moment I peeked into this folder from 2005, I had to peek in all the others. I didn't realize how much my kids changed in such a short time. I mean, I knew they changed, of course, but so many little things pop out of the memory banks when you look at pictures. I forgot how much fun their baby-ish selves were. They're still a lot of fun, of course. I wouldn't trade their current selves for their baby days.

Seeing these old pics reminds me of how quickly time is zooming by. My mom always said that my sisters' and my young years (baby to school age) were the best of her life. I have to agree. I love watching their bodies, minds, and personalities grow and change.

When they hit puberty, I'll probably change my mind on that.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tap 'n Hip Hop

Last weekend was Precious Daugther's dance recital. I suspect that recital time is almost the highlight of her year with Christmas as the only rival. Or maybe Hallowe'en. The girl loves dressing up and looking fancy.

In this photo, taken at the dress rehearsal, Precious Daughter is third from the left. Flash photography wasn't permitted, so I was trying to work without a flash. Her music for this routine was "Please Mr. Postman."

In this picture, she is second from left. This costume was a hip-hop routine to "Come on and Ride It." When Precious daughter took her first hip-hop class last September, she was all gangly arms and legs. I'm sorry to confess that I wasn't sure how well she'd do.

I am tickled to report...

...that she kicked butt in both dances.

Her no-talent mama had little to do with the curls, by the way. We bought 'em at a wig store at the direction of the dance studio. It's just a big pouf of synthetic curls stretched over her own hair (in a bun) and pinned at every possible angle.

After Sunday's performance (when the two prior photos were taken) she didn't want to take off the hip-hop costume. She wore it the rest of the day. I think she would have worn it to bed if the elastic hadn't started pinching by then. She's been wearing the wrist bands every other day.

For some reason, this made its way into the recital folder. I can't resist a fat baby eating her fingers, can you?

Here. Have seconds!

Monday, June 22, 2009

No More "Pagan Baby"!

Kryptonite, along with four other babies, was Baptized on Sunday, June 7. I would have posted this sooner, but I was knocked for a bit of a loop over finding poor old Peake that Monday. (Edited to add: Then I got distracted, and this post was left in limbo until now.)

Two days prior to this first sacrament, The Oracle and I were in the throes of last-minute preparations for Kryptonite's big day. Those close to me know how frantic that can be. You know I'm disorganized and flaky, but the depths of those traits can't easily be explained without actually being witnessed. If you haven't seen it for yourself, be thankful.

It's bad. Really bad.

I spent most of Saturday doing my favorite work in the kitchen. Our menu was simple: Florentine layers (pasta dish), hot roast beef, and chicken salad. Sides included cole slaw, cucumber salad (a first for me), fresh fruit, chips, pretzels, and onion dip. Pineapple upside-down cake and a chocolate cake for dessert.

The downside to all of this is the non-stop use of the oven. The "secret" to the chicken salad is roasting the skin-on chicken breasts rather than boiling them, plus I had to roast the two eye roasts and bake two cakes. The kitchen was as hot as hell and I was quite crabby because of it. I hate perspiring. I am a priss. My dislike for it is a post all its own. BUT I was cooking, and that's something I love to do. You can't cook without heat.

On the brighter side, the roasting meats, bubbling gravy, and the sweet smells of dessert made the house smell divine.

The Oracle got stuck with the icky work, like clearing the dining room table of its mountain of clutter and dusting all the stuff that hadn't been dusted since the last time company came to visit. Have I ever mentioned that he scrubs the bathroom and the floors? I clearly got lucky in the man department.

Saturday night was an all-nighter. It was tough. The kids' corner in the living room was an unmitigated disaster, and I was inches away from tossing it all instead of sorting it out. For instance, they have a bookcase for their books, but the books are rarely on it. On any given day, at least 50% of them are scattered about the house. I don't understand it. When I tipped up the loveseat (yes, you read that. Tipping it forward is easier than dragging it about) to clean beneath it, I found no fewer than two dozen books crammed beneath it. Now, I don't believe they were shoved there intentionally, but the careless way my children treat the books they claim to love is downright criminal. Oh, they don't write on the pages or intentionally tear them up, but they rarely put the things in a safe place, never mind returning them to the shelf. It is so frustrating.

I won't describe how much dog hair was under that couch, but I will say it rivaled the volume of the books. That's why I call her a German Shedder.

On the Big Day, after a brief two-hour nap, the only remaining work was assembling the Florentine, slicing roast beef, bathing, and ironing Kryptonite's gown.

I've made Florentine enough that I pretty much have it down to a science, and the beef was quickly sliced thanks to this little gem. Mine is a much older model my mother purchased around 1995 or so, and it's still one of my favorite specialty appliances.

It's a good thing I had that slicer, because ironing the christening gown was a horrid affair. Had I known how awful it would be, I would have done it much sooner. It's 100% cotton. Washing it was super easy, just a gentle-cycle wash, shake it out, and hang dry. "Iron while slightly damp." Huh? Okay. I set to work with a spray bottle of water and my iron, and I swear it seemed like the iron was sticking to the fabric. That dress contains what seems like eyards and yards of fabric. Just when I thought I figured out a technique, I pressed in yet another unwanted crease. Ironing it took almost forty minutes.
I hate ironing. My sister, Jennifer, loved to iron. She found it relaxing. In my opinion, the notion of ironing clothes came from the devil himself.

The only bummer was my cousin not showing up. Granted, it was kind of a last-minute invitation, but they sounded positive on coming. I hadn't seen them in ages, and having them there would have been really nice. Aside from that, if they'd told me they weren't coming, I would have had room to invite E and her family. I really need to see E. It's been weeks and weeks. I haven't seen M or S lately either. I suspect this may be why I feel like I'm losing my mind.

My brother-in-law, AKA Kryptonite's godfather, supplied me with these pics, since we ran late and forgot the camera when we left for the church.
From left to right: Godparents Uncle R. and Aunt J., Fr. Rob, Kryptonite, me, and The Oracle.
I'm so happy my older two love their baby sister. They really are very good with her.

And, man, look at the size of this baby, will you? I was worried that the gown wouldn't fit (it did). At her checkup this Friday she tipped the scales at 17.5 pounds and stretched to nearly 25 inches in length.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Name That Character

Anyone remember this?

100 points if you can name the show, 500 if you can name the critter itself!
I wish I had a real prize to offer, but I just happen to know of an excellent place for real prizes!!!
Consider Taking a Chance on Life!! Hallie, from Wonderful World of Wieners, is organizing an awesome fundraising raffle to support the non-profit United Network for Organ Sharing, an organization whose vital function found a new heart for her father six years ago.
Even if you're not the gambling type, consider becoming an organ donor yourself to better the odds for someone else.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Good-Bye, "Baby Boy"

I found him dead on the floor Monday afternoon.

I didn't say a word to the kids. I called my father-in-law who, bless his heart, came over to get my kids out of the house so I could get him out of the tight corner he was in and into a more presentable position (box) to say their farewells. I feared moving him while they looked over my shoulder, since I wasn't sure what would happen when I picked him up.
I don't know when this happened. The Oracle says he last saw him Saturday. I don't know. I do know that, other than filled food and water dishes, I hadn't thought about critters at all on Saturday or Sunday because we were swamped with getting ready for Kryptonite's baptism and the handful of people visiting house afterward.

Peake arrived with his sister, Chessie, in early autumn of 1995. The Oracle's friend and coworker were plagued by a stray floozy feline that considered their porch her private maternity ward. Rather than being overrun with feral cats, Bob and his wife kit-napped the babies to hand tame, bottle feed, and adopt out. Bob brought the box of tiny kittens with him to work. The Oracle took a liking to the little calico Bob had dubbed "Sausalito."

The Oracle, being much more considerate than I, talked with me about adopting a kitten (I simply would have brought her home). We were still feeling the loss of Missy, an elderly long-legged coal-black stray that showed up on our doorstep Thanksgiving week of 1993, and who died a bit over a year later. We were ready for another cat.
When the kittens were old enough to adopt, I visited Bob's house to pick up the calico. I vividly recall (for once!) standing in their kitchen waiting to meet our new kitten. They had only two kittens left from their latest litter. As his wife brought them out, she introduced the orange tabby as "Reginald" and tucked him into my arms with Sausalito, knowing I wouldn't be able to resist. I don't remember whether I called The Oracle first, but I went there for one kitten and brought two home. I'd read somewhere (possibly Life's Little Instruction Book or similar) that if you were going to adopt a kitten, you might as well go for two, since you're getting double the fun for little extra effort.
I remember bringing them home and introducing them to Strudel, our first shedder. The kittens took one look at this large, sniffing dog and instantly transformed into hissing demons with every hair standing on end. They ran up my bare arms and buried themselves under my hair and against my neck. "Ouch" was an understatement.
The names Sausalito and Reginald sound aristocratic, but they're a mouthful. We realized that they would have quickly been reduced to Saucy and Reggie, and we weren't crazy about those nicknames.
The Oracle, as those close to him know, is an enthusiast for railroading history. He enjoys industrial history in general, but railroading is something he's loved since he was small.
Back in the '30s, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad ran an advertising campaign for their long-distance service, "Sleep like a Kitten," surrounding a stray cat they named "Chessie." Chessie's husband was "Peake." A little of the story can be found here. The names were fun, the story was interesting, and Sausalito and Reginald were renamed Chessie and Peake.
In nearly 14 years, they've been separated only three times, and those occasions were for surgery to Peake's left foot. He had an extremely-rare cancer of the nerve sheath, and the surgeries were intended to debulk the tumor and keep him comfortable. In recent months I'd been torn over having to take him back for more surgery, because it had become so involved in the foot I figured I'd be bringing home a three-legged cat.
Peake was The Oracle's cat. Peake claimed him from the get-go, choosing to lay on the footrest of the recliner alongside The Oracle's legs. We called him "Baby Boy" in addition to "Peake," and although I'd taken to calling him "Old Man" in the last few years, he was always Baby Boy to The Oracle.
In recent years, Peake wouldn't go to bed unless The Oracle came too. Around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m., he'd start yowling in the hallway, and he wouldn't stop until The Oracle started brushing his teeth.
He was also a major-league moocher. He could be sound asleep on the foot of the bed, but when I cracked open a can of tuna to make The Oracle's lunch, Peake would be winding around my feet meowing pitifully for morsels of tuna. He mooched at the dinner table, too, and The Oracle shared little tidbits of whatever was on the menu. I've even caught him raiding Knucklehead's dish if she left anything behind.
One thing he enjoyed was American cheese. It's something he'd loved since he was a kitten at Bob's house. Knowing it was unhealthy, I rarely gave it to him. Sometimes I couldn't resist.
The picture above doesn't show it, but Peake had marvelous whiskers. I loved his whiskers. They were long and full and perfectly fanned, especially when he smelled something interesting.
And, God, I'm going to miss his pretty orange eyes.

It Struck My Funnny Bone

A blonde calls her boyfriend and says, "Please come over here and help me. I have a killer jigsaw puzzle, and I can't figure out how to get started." Her boyfriend asks, "What is it supposed to be when it's finished?" The blonde says, "According to the picture on the box, it's a rooster."

Her boyfriend decides to go over and help with the puzzle. She lets him in and shows him where she has the puzzle spread all over the table.

He studies the pieces for a moment, then looks at the box, then turns to her and says, 'First of all, no matter what we do, we're not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a rooster.' He takes her hand and says, "Second, I want you to relax. Let's have a nice cup of tea."

"Then," he said with a deep sigh, "we'll put all the Corn Flakes back in the box."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm Still Here

It's been a while, I know. I've been trying (and failing miserably) to get a number of things done, so blogging has fallen by the wayside.

I've had a couple jobs so far, the hurry-up-and-wait ordeal as well as what turned out to be a semi-interesting expulsion hearing. I admit that for a moment I didn't know what that was even though the word was right in front of my eyes. It's a hearing held at a school before expelling a student.

I can't get into details, obviously, but I will say I was quite concerned because the family of the child involved chose to proceed without hiring an attorney. Clients who represent themselves are generally nightmares to report, and I was suspecting my transcript to look like alphabet soup as a result. I was pleasantly surprised. Once the three adults accompanying the child decided on who'd be spokesperson, they did a fantastic job. They asked solid, coherent questions and pleaded the child's case well.

This week then took a turn for the worse. My uncle passed away on Thursday morning. His viewing is tonight and funeral is tomorrow.

Uncle B's health has been declining for some time, but his loss is still shocking. He was an extremely smart and funny man and one of those people you blindly assumed would live forever despite increasing frailty. My cousins and their children are heartbroken, and I wish there were more I could do for them.

I doubt I'll have much to add over the next week, so bear with me. Kryptonite's baptism is next Sunday, and I have a mountain of work to do. Take care of yourselves until then.