Thursday, December 9, 2010

If People, Like Cats, Had Nine Lives...

..I just saw someone torch four of them in less than twenty seconds.

The glare of the morning sun is quite vicious today.

I drop The Oracle off at the train station and make my left turn to head homeward. Just as I start accelerating, a puny Honda Prius makes a left turn directly into my path. I wasn't even coming out of the glare; I was heading into it. She should have seen me. I had to mash the brake into the floorboard to avoid slamming into her (Life #1). It's a miracle that I wasn't rear-ended.

Then the Prius runs its passenger-side wheels over the fog line and into the grass, narrowly missing a telephone pole (Life #2). She swerves to avoid the pole and misses a car parked at the nursing home by inches (Life #3).

Prius oversteers again when she swerves back onto the two-lane roadway directly into opposing traffic, forcing two cars off the road into the gravel and someone's driveway (Life #4).

So, in addition to four of her own lives, she also took one from at least three other drivers, myself included. I was just about to call her license plate in to the police when she hit the shade and miraculously straightened herself out. Until then I sincerely thought she was drunk.

Add in the road-rage factor, and she may have burned five.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Yup. I'm Here

My badly-neglected blog is probably going to run away from home and join the circus. All is well in PB and Bacon land. I've just been really busy and haven't had the time. Well, I did have the time a couple weeks ago, spending the better part of an hour on a Halloween post, but Blogger misbehaved and I lost half of the post. I signed off in a snit and haven't been back.

I'll try to get something together by Christmas, okay?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Memory from Court Reporting School

I spent seven l-o-n-g years in court-reporting school. I had classes three nights a week. To graduate, you have to reach speeds between 180 and 225 words per minute depending on the type of writing you're doing.

Now, I didn't want this to become a lesson in court-reporting how-tos, but to briefly break it down, a court reporter is tested for five minutes in three different aspects of writing. Testimony, or Q&A, has to reach 225 words per minute in order to graduate. Jury Charge (instructions to a jury by the judge) must reach 200 words per minute, and Literary, which is simply text from any source (speeches, essays, magazine articles) must reach 180. The killer is that you have to pass your tests with 95% accuracy. It's the only school in the world where a 94% is a failing grade. (If you know a court reporting student, don't DARE to ask when they're going to graduate, not unless you want a black eye.)

Once we were writing at roughly 100 words per minute, every speed class had an "opportunity" at the end. We weren't allowed to call them tests. They were called "opportunities" because it was an opportunity to move on to the next speed level if you passed. I guess some wanna-be psychologist at the school decided it would be less stressful on the students if you didn't call a test a test.

"A rose by any other name" can still make you sneeze.

One of the most unrealistic aspects of court-reporting school was the pin-drop quietness of it all. If there was any greater lie perpetuated by court reporting school (other than, "you'll graduate in a little over three years"), it was the insistence on absolute quiet during perfectly-metered, annunciated, and grammatically-correct dictation by our instructors. Noise of any kind during a test was frowned upon and cause for much whining and complaint by a student who felt they didn't pass a test because so-and-so's steno paper didn't fold properly and riffled out of the tray and onto the floor or somebody sneezed or there was laughter in the hallway.

Once a court reporter hits the real world, they learn a very different thing. Not only do some people speak so dreadfully it sounds like a foreign language, attorneys chew ice or crunch on biscotti during depositions. If words aren't misprounounce or misused, they're sometimes made up on the spot. Add to that the shuffling of papers, coughing, nose-blowing, clattering briefcase hasps, scribbling pencils, cell phones, squeaky chairs, and the birthday party in the room next door, and you'll discover that there's a world of distraction and noise to affect a court reporter's ability to focus on the task at hand.

Well, anyway, during one particular "opportunity," the instructors are reading the test, and the room is silent except for the dictation and the hum of flourescent lighting. As soon as the instructor stops speaking, I am jolted into the "real world" by the entire classroom of 15 women erupting into screams, including the instructors.

LJ and I look at one another. For a split second, she is as bewildered as I am until one of the shriekers yelps the phrase I manage to understand: "IT'S CRAWLING TOWARD HER STENO BAG!"

Well, now, I didn't know for sure what "IT" was, but on the seventh floor of a city building, that crawling thing was either a rat or a roach, and neither was going to hitchhike a ride home with me.

Chairs and steno machine tripods are scraping across the floor as some students scurry out of the room and some of the students take refuge by standing on chairs. LJ and I hop out of our chairs too, but we're the only two that don't lose our heads. I see a hefty-sized cockroach scuttling under a chair, and she and I go after it. One of us eventually crushed it, but I don't remember which one of us did it.

This is NOT normal behavior for me. If there's someone around that I know will kill it for me, I'm more than happy to be the one standing on the chair. The fact is, I didn't trust anyone in that room to do the killing, and if that bug wasn't positively DEAD before I went home, I wasn't going to sleep that night for fear of having it stow away in my bag or my purse. *gurk!*

(And I'm suddenly reminded of the time I dropped a fat rubber cockroach in my sister's purse a few years ago. Heh-heh-heh. I don't even know why I did it.)

I later learned that LJ and I were the only ones in the room who finished taking the test. One by one, all the other students saw that bug and lost their concentration, and not one of them made a peep during five minutes of testing. If I'd been the one that spotted the bug, I couldn't have remained so still or silent. Nope. No way. I suspect that even if I were in a deposition, I'd have to go off the record and kill it before I could resume writing.

Suddenly, I'm all itchy...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Twenty Gallons of Belly Up

This post on Daddy Scratches brought back vivid memories of our first fish tank.

After spending a few petless months in our newlywed apartment, I complained to The Oracle that I wanted a pet. He worked days and I worked 3-11, and I wanted some sort of company during the day while he wasn't home. I'd grown up with all sorts of pets, and being without was lonely. The problem was our lease wouldn't permit anything with fur or feathers.

With the intention of coming home with a Dorothy-in-a-bowl setup, we exited the aquarium store an hour or so later with a couple hundred bucks' worth of stuff including a twenty-gallon tank, filters, stone, plastic plants, aerators and I forget what else.

So we set all the stuff up and waited a couple days as instructed before returning to the store for the thing I really wanted - the fish.

The same clerk who sold us the stuff led us to the freshwater fish. After lots of looking and indecision, I decided on a pair of blue dwarf gouramis, two little orange fish with spiky black tails, and a pair of something that looked like goldfish but weren't. I don't remember what they were except one was a red and black and the other was pink.

Anyway, we brought our little fishies home and put them in the tank. In less than two days, the gouramis went belly up. I called the fish store and complained. That same clerk THEN informed me that gouramis are somewhat sensitive and need a well-established tank in which to surive. Ours was only two days old and didn't have enough of the bacteria and whatnot in the water. I was furious! That jerk of a clerk had no problem selling us everything under the sun two days before; the least he could have done was tell us what wouldn't survive in a new tank.

Shortly after the gouramis died, the red and white fish started fighting. I'm not kidding. They were chasing each other around the tank and attacking one another. Mostly the red one was attacking the pink. It was frenzied and hyper, and not at all what you'd want in a fish tank. (And no, I don't believe it was some sort of romantic ritual, because it NEVER stopped.) I felt sorry for the pink fish, and finally swapped them at Petco for a few fancy-tailed guppies.

The guppies did something I didn't expect. They multiplied. I came home from work one day to a bunch of teeny-tiny fish swimming about the tank, trying desperately to avoid being devoured by the bigger fish. Off to Petco I go, and I buy a cutesy little netted box to isolate the baby fish.

BIG mistake.

Because those little baby fish grew up and made more baby fish.

(Several months later...)

With a cycling population of guppies, The Oracle and I were moving into our house. We rented a U-Haul and stuffed our belongings inside. Due to a last-minute flurry of paperwork from the bank, our moving date wasn't set until shortly before settlement. I didn't have a whole lot of time to consider the logistics of moving a tankful of fish.

On moving day, the last item out of the apartment was the fish tank. I ended up catching as many fish as I could and stowing them in a mayonnaise jar. I siphoned as much water as possible out of the tank and into two clean buckets, leaving four inches of water or so in the tank so we could move the tank onto the truck.

I'd originally considered dumping the water, but I didn't have clean water waiting for me at the new place, and four inches of water isn't enough to run the filters until clean water was ready. Instead, I put the two buckets of water on the passenger-side floor of the truck at my feet.

The ride to our new house, thankfully, is a very short one. The Oracle gently pulls out of the apartment complex and pulls up to a traffic light. When he makes a left turn, a hefty amount of 84-degree water sloshes out of the buckets and slops all over my shoes. Ewwww. At every stop the same thing happens, and by the time we arrive at the house the U-Haul smells and my feet are squishing inside my shoes.

We set the tank up in the corner of the living room, gently replaced the water still in the buckets, and returned the guppies and two orange fish to the tank. The guppies maintained a steady population of a dozen or so fish in the tank. The orange fish eventually died.

And, eventually, I got sick of the tank. Cleaning it was a pain, filter-changing was a pain, and it always smelled no matter how clean it was. When the detectives I worked with decided to set up a tank in their shared office, I offered my guppies to the new tank, and they accepted. When the tank was ready and their new fish were moving in, I bagged up the guppies and brought them in too.

Within a half hour, my guppies vanished. I didn't see that coming. At least it was quick.

I cleaned the fish tank and its paraphernalia and relegated the whole mess to the basement. A few years later we sold our couple-hundred-dollar investment for twenty bucks at a yard sale.

When Mighty B. recently voiced his desires for a fish as a pet, it was all I could do not to bellow the word, "NO!" in response.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"D" is for "Drat!" "Darn!" and "Dagnabbit!"

A few weeks back, Her Nibs got her mitts on my computer and irreparably popped the letter X off my keyboard. Fortunately, X isn't all that commonly used (fourth from the bottom behind Z, J, and Q). It's annoying, but I can adapt.

Yesterday, the little cherub picked off the letter D. Depending on which list you use, the letter D is either the 10th or 12th most-commonly-used letter in English vocabulary. I am not a happy woman. First, it's annoying to have my finger striking the springy plastic normally hiding beneath the key. Second, my keystroke isn't always noticed by the computer, so I have to keep going back to fix errors.

I guess I should be happy that she only popped the keys off; she didn't eat them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Our 15-year-old oven has been malfunctioning for quite a few months now. When you start it up, the element doesn't always switch on. For a while, we could get it to reset and work for a while. Eventually, though, it turned into a situation where you have to bake fast because it might not cycle on again to maintain temperature.

Well, during the height of summer, not having an oven wasn't so bad. It was too hot for hours-long oven usage.

I finally broke down and called a repairman.

After arriving two hours later than his promised time slot, he gave me the bad news: $440.00 plus tax. Ouch. It's going to take several days for the part to arrive. Yep, I said "part." ONE PART for $440.

The first thing I'm baking when it's up and running is a batch of chocolate chip cookies. That might take the sting away.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hair - Left High and Dry

I called to set up a hair cut this morning and was greeted with the last bit of news I wanted to hear. My favorite hairdresser has retired.

I can't find the post, but I know I've written before about how Mae is the only person in this world who cuts my hair in a way that looks good despite my wash-and-wear hair attitude. My hair is thick and wavy. Someone who knows how to work hair would love to have hair like mine. I don't know how to work hair. I never have, so I've tussled with it all my life.

She owned her own shop for years, and when her hairdresser daughter entered another line of work, she sold the shop and went into retirement. I spent months wandering from shop to shop, limiting each haidresser to only trimming my bangs as a trial run before allowing their shears to touch the rest of my hair. In all those months, I couldn't find one person worthy of cutting beyond my bangs.

When Mae came out of retirement to work three days a week for a well-established shop, my follicles rejoiced, and I've been content with my hair for the last decade or so.

We know that all good things eventually come to an end. Mae has once again retired. My selfish heart hopes that it's a brief hiatus, but the information they gave me on the phone leads me to believe otherwise.

I'm very thankful that Mae was available for Her Nibs' first haircut last month. I've been meaning to post these pictures for quite a while.

No, she didn't have much to trim, but Mae says a baby's hair grows in better when it's evenly trimmed. None of my kids had much hair to start with, but the older two have really nice hair now.

Her Nibs was so good. She wasn't scared or the least bit fussy. She's such a good baby!

And this is the post-haircut lollipop. She is the first of my three kids to not chew through the stick before finishing the candy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hatin' on Verizon

I am forgetful. I think I may have mentioned that before..

Last month, I forgot to pay the Verizon bill. Yeah, I got letters and a phone call, and I put it off and forgot about it. They got nasty and restricted my services for the past-due payment.

With two kids living the tail end of summer vacation, I admit that I use the electronic baby-sitter a little too often when I hear whiny complaints of boredom. "Mom, I'm bored," was once effectively answered with, "Go clean your room," but they tired of that trick and so did I.

Aaaaaaaaanyway, I forgot to pay the bill, and on August 10, Verizon slapped me around for it by making sure I was trapped at home with whiny kids on a rainy day. In desperation, I paid the ransom.

Oh, hey... if you ever run into this situation, you need to pay the bill to the penny. There's no rounding of digits. If the bill is $179.48, rounding it up to $179.50 will make them put the money somewhere else and not restore your services. I still don't understand this flawed logic, but sometimes Verizon really sucks.

I rounded the pennies and got rewarded with an extra four hours of waiting for my services to come back.

And, now, the reason for this post.

I turn on the TV and nothing happens. The clock on the cable box isn't working, either. It turns out that I had another bill come due and they restricted me again. COME ON!! I just paid you boneheads a fat chunk of money two weeks ago! The woman on the phone gave me some highly-inaccurate song and dance about the bill spanning three months (bunch of snot, I tell you) and that I had to pay the full amount due.

Yeah, I paid them. But I'm really pissed about it. They're not my only utility!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Wake-Up Call

The last few days have been a little bit challenging. My FIL is going through some medical stuff that slammed home the issue of "what do we do with mom?" Fortunately, FIL's issues aren't life threatening, just very painful and require a fair amount of wait and see. It also meant spending a decent amount of time at my in-laws' house keeping grandma company.

Clearly, we need to have a backup plan when this kind of stuff comes about.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Yeah, I'm here.

I just haven't had much of a desire to blog. I haven't had much time, either.

I miss my dog.

The convenience-store job is good. It's hard work, though, and timing is everything. I've never been much good with time management and that makes things difficult for me. Certain things need to be done at certain times. I think I'm going along just fine, but when something goes awry I'm scrambling.

As the third-shift food-service person, I not only make sandwiches, slice cold cuts, and fill hot-food orders on request, I have to check every scrap of food in my section to make sure it's within its codes for timely consumption. If something hot is going to expire or run out, I need to anticipate the need and get more going so I don't run out. The hot food comes premade and frozen, so it needs an hour in the rethermalizer to come to temperature before I can put it out. I suck at anticipating what I'm going to need. Customers use touch screens to place their orders, and I have to keep those menus current as well.

I rotate out all the stale rolls and put up fresh ones, not only in the loose-roll cases for customers, but in all the sandwich stations. Ditto for the doughnut case. I also have the absurd task of prepacking cookies and pretzels for impulse sale at the register. (I never get this done quickly. I start as soon as it's delivered, but I keep getting pulled away from it to fill customer orders or do other things on schedule. I hate those things!)

Coffee has to be made and kept fresh 'round the clock. We don't have every pot running; we keep roughly half of them going through the night. It doesn't take long, but it's a time suck all the same.

From the minute I walk in the door, I'm making food. I never knew how many people ate late at night. The after-hours cleaning service closes shop at midnight, and all those guys come in hungry. The bars close at 2:00, and there's a stampede of hungry drunks for the next thirty to forty minutes. Spattered throughout is a steady flow of emergency-services folks grabbing what they can when time allows.

By 3:15 a.m., all of the hot food for the start of the morning rush has to be in the rethermalizers and put up on the steam table an hour later.

By 4:30 a.m., every coffee pot has to be filled and ready to go.

By 5:00 a.m., breakfast sandwiches have to be cooked and boxed and in the cases. I have to keep that stuff replenished until the person who mans that station comes in at 6:00 a.m.

From 6:00 to the time I leave, I must not only keep doing all the stuff I listed above, I still need to sweep the floor, wash all my dishes, and clean the deli slicer.

Oh, and then there's spoilage. Everything I discard during my shift has to be logged and entered into their computer system. You can't just chuck a panful of chili. You have to count each measure you discard. Every roll, bagel, and croissant is counted and tallied.

I haven't clocked out on time yet. The Oracle hasn't been on time for work since I started.

And I thought staying awake all night would be difficult. Ha! The difficult thing is finding a minute to use the restroom.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Farewell, Duchess.

My poor Shedder. My poor, poor Shedder.

You're getting the Reader's Digest version simply because I can't dwell on the subject for too long. It just hurts too much.

Despite the anti-inflammatory the vet gave her last week for the arthritis in her knees, the denervation to her legs was rapidly progressing. We figured we'd be lucky if she made it to autumn.

Well, anyway, on Friday night she seemed to be in a fair amount of distress. She hadn't eaten breakfast and her symptoms were similar to what she suffered when she ate stupid stuff like pine cones and Barbie clothes, so I wrongly assumed that she'd eaten something inedible and simply needed time for her stomach to work itself out by sunrise.

The thing is, her stomach distress was so bad she couldn't walk at all. She normally had difficulty moving during these episodes, but it was never this bad. I had to support her hind end to help her negotiate the yard to pee, an unsuccessful folly, but I tried. I called the vet's office before leaving for work and left a message requesting a first-thing appointment for Saturday morning.

The mind is a strange thing. I left work at 7:15 a.m., and as I turned onto our street and into the drive, I thought, "I'm coming home to a dead dog." When there was no "woof" as I put the key in the lock, I knew I wouldn't find her on the sofa where she shouldn't be. The house was too quiet. I found her in the kitchen instead.

When I talked with E. yesterday afternoon, she said it sounded like Bloat, and the symptoms she'd had a number of times over the last four or five years were probably the same thing, just not at a fatal level, perhaps a partial fold or turn of the stomach instead of a full twist. Aaagh. If it's possible to feel worse, I do. My brain is swirling with could've-should'ves.

God, this really hurts. I miss her big brown eyes and her soft fuzzy ears.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hooray for Independence Day!

We went to E's house yesterday for a maaaahhhvelous picnic. I worked midnight shift at the convenience store, stopped for Sunday mass, and arrived home at 8:30 a.m.

Before crawling into bed (leaving strict instructions for The Oracle to wake me no later than 11:00), I assembled the cole slaw I was taking along.

I vaguely remember The Oracle coming into the bedroom to wake me. I was sooooooo tired, because my planned nap before work was destroyed by my neighbor's premature fireworks display. Normally I don't mind fireworks. I'm not the poopy-headed neighbor who's going to call the cops when someone has a backyard display. What made last night's display annoying was that it was not only a day early, but the kids flat-out refused to go to bed. The Oracle and I spent the better part of an hour trying to get their butts to bed, and I lost an hour of precious sleep.

I lost the remainder of it because I was simply too aggravated to drift off. I hate that. I simply waited there with my eyes shut and my back to the clock until The Oracle told me it was time to get up. Drat.

So, anyway, I was sleepy. And, once again, with all of our running around to get ready for E's, we were -- once again -- over an hour late. And since we were an hour late, the food we were supposed to supply was also an hour late.

And as I voiced my regrets over going to mass and falling asleep, E simply said, "you took care of your spirit and took care of your body."

And that's why I'd never swap her friendship for anything in this world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Tricks for an Older Dog

Today was my first hands-on day at my new convenience-store job. I had a two-hour orientation last Thursday which amounted to a detailed tour of the facility.

Of the five hours I worked today, three were spent in front of the computer viewing several training videos. I was relieved to see that the videos were actually well made and not the torturous swill that I'd viewed in many training sessions with 9-1-1 or EMT class on a variety of subjects.

The room in which the computer was located was rather frigid. As one who is first to overheat and perspire, I'm okay with that. Today, however, after three hours and no feeling left in my butt, I was reduced to shivers and chattering teeth. I was grateful for hot soup on a 95-degree day.

Immediately after, I took my quiz on store safety. The only question I missed was the location of the designated employee smoking areas, something -- as a nonsmoker -- I admit I ignored during orientation.

Today's hands-on training surrounded the store's knife-handling and deli-slicer certifications. It's weird having to re-learn something after doing it your way for twenty years.

When it came to the slicer, I gained a whole new respect for those folks behind the counter at the supermarket. I had a horrid time trying to make my left hand keep pace with the stuff coming off the blade. My product didn't come out in neat little stacks as I thought it should. It was haphazard and crooked, and the manager quickly "prettied up" the customer's purchases before weighing, bagging, and tagging them.

All in all, it was a fun day despite feeling like I'll never remember it all.

When I go in Thursday, I'll be making coffee!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Clique-ish Little Girls...

...Meet Mama Bear" will be coming to theatres soon if I don't get my ire under control.

Poor Precious Daughter. There are two girls roughly her age all within a half block of our house. Well, actually, there's a bunch, but most of them are a bit older and, therefore, better than Precious Daughter and these two other girls.

Girl H. lives on our street. She's a really nice kid, and I get along well with her mom. H. is the youngest of the three. As a result, she's easily influenced by Girl B. (aka the Blonde-haired girl, Precious Daughter's one-time best friend.)

I say "one time" because Girl B. and Precious Daughter had a bit of a falling out over an incident which stemmed from a lovely afternoon where the two girls went for a walk. The deal was that they were to go around the block only, and they were to stick together. A short while after they leave, Precious Daughter comes home crying without Girl B. Long story short, Girl B. met up with one of the above-referenced older girls who coerced her into poking about for lost balls in the golf course bordering our neighborhood. Precious Daughter, knowing she wasn't permitted to go there, came home instead. When I grilled her as to the whereabouts of Girl B., she told me. I, Evil Mom, called Girl B.'s father and let him know where his daugher was and why Precious Daughter came home without her.

Ever since, Girl B. has been in a snit because she knew she wasn't permitted in the golf course but went there anyway. She blames Precious Daughter for the grounding she got for her misbehavior.

Today, Girls H. and B. get off the bus and head to H.'s house. Precious Daughter wants to catch up to them, and they ran away from her. Once again, Precious Daughter comes home crying.

Now, what I really want to do is loon on this snot-nosed Girl B., because I know she's the one that instigated the running away that hurt my baby's feelings. Precious Daughter and Girl H. get along just fine.

Instead, I'm trying to channel my mother. I know she'd have an excellent way to remedy the situation without alienating Girl H.

Mom? You there?


What the heck? How did it get to be so long since I last posted?

It's been goofy around here. My deposition dry spell finally brought us to the now-or-never breaking point, so I applied for and was hired by a local convenience-store chain to work their 11-7 shift. It's not what I want to do for a living, but putting Her Nibs in day care makes me nauseous. I'm sure a day-care center would take care of her and keep her safe, but the thought of someone else savoring all of those delicious baby moments -- instead of me -- makes me sad.

The store manager is at least ten years my junior, but she seems to be sensible. She only lost a few points when she brought that difference to the forefront by commenting, "You worked for Clover? My mom used to take me there!" I guess I should be thankful that she at least heard of them.

I seriously considered a return to my old job with 9-1-1, but I really don't know whether I'm emotionally prepared for that. First, their twelve-hour shifts would seriously hinder The Oracle's seasonal basketball schedule; second, I'll probably end up being fired for refusing to work their forced overtime.

The Oracle has also a couple of career-related speed bumps ahead. He is contracted through his employer to his current company, and after ten years of a happy relationship in his position, the company selected a different firm for its staffing. Whether the new firm will hire The Oracle and his peers remains to be seen. This has me extremely nervous, and it's another reason why I applied for the convenience-store job. I figure that, if nothing else, we'll obtain health insurance in 60 days.

How did it get to be almost Father's Day? In my infinite, impulsive, lack of wisdom, I decided to invite the family for dinner on Sunday. So, instead of crisis cleaning to prepare for guests, I'm sitting her posting on Blogger. I am clearly a woman of skewed priorities.

Knucklehead is still going along. She's very wobbly in her hindquarters, but she's showing no signs of pain or discomfort. It's like she doesn't even realize it's happening. As long as she's continent, I think she'll get along fine.

My kids' school year is almost at an end. Their last day is Thursday. We'll have a ten-day lag between the end of school and the beginning of summer camp and the new set of complaints that will surely come with it.

And now it's time to pick the kids up from school. I hope to write more soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm sorry. I haven't visited much in recent weeks. I'm not particularly busy, but I haven't had a lot of computer time, either. Get in, check email, check CrackBook, edit a little, get out.

Thankfully, I have had a few jobs over the last couple of weeks. Small jobs, but I'll take any work I can get.

Something in our house smells really bad. It smells like old balogna. I have a bad feeling that it actually is bologna, because I threw some stale stuff out a few days ago. Knucklehead may have filched it from the trash and buried it somewhere in the living room. It's not uncommon to find chunks of stale Italian bread stuffed down the sofa cushions or buried in the laundry. Goofy dog.

My poor goofy dog. There's definitely something in the works (or not working) with her hindquarters. She's showing definite signs of weakness in her stance and her gait. Thankfully, she's not showing signs of pain. Unfortunately, getting her to the vet isn't an option because, quite frankly, the money isn't there. It sucks. The vet's office used to work with customers a bit, allowing customers to pay bits at a time - especially for surgeries and other costly things - but they no longer do that. I guess he's been burned quite a bit and can't do that any more.

The school year's coming to a close. The kids' last full day is 6/10, and they have half days through 6/17. They'll have ten days off before starting a summer day camp on 6/28. (I wish I'd fully understood the depth of the dog's issues before signing them up for camp last March.)

Precious Daughter is mightily protesting the camp. "Camp sounds booooor-ing," she says. Boring? I think not. Tennis, basketball, swimming, and crafts are just the tip of the iceberg. She still balked. I told her I wasn't going to let her spend another summer parked in front of the TV whining about how bored she is.

Mighty B. has another baseball game tonight. I'm not looking forward to providing snacks, mainly because I never got anyone signed up for it. (For all the good it does, since last week's parent dropped the ball.) If I do this snack-organizing thing next year, I think I'm going to take up a collection from all the parents and just buy a season's worth of juice pouches and cookies and bring them myself each week.

B. also has a make-up game tomorrow night. He's going to be one tired and ornery bear on Friday morning.

I'm sorry for being such a pessimist today. Hopefully my next post, whenever it comes, will have a happier tone. I hope all of you are well!

Yeah, I know. I'm a slug. I have pictures on the camera and haven't uploaded anything to here or FB. I will. Eventually.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers' Day!

Yes, I know, there are only 16 minutes remaining, but it's been a busy day. This is my first opportunity to put my feet up and surf a little bit.

Saturday was a first for me. The Home & School Association held a Mothers' Day plant sale on Friday. My kids came home with a lovely selection of flowers that needed to be planted, and I decided that I wasn't going to put them in large pots as I had in years past. Thanks to the help of a local garden shop (the same, in fact, that supplied the flowers for the H&S sale), I actually dug out a spot at the base of our lamppost, and Mighty B. helped me plant everything Saturday morning. It looks really nice.

Yes, I could have used the biiiiig flower beds on the side of the house or in the front yard, the ones I've been working on, but it seemed silly to plant eleven little plants in such a huge space. And I've been wanting something by the lamppost for a while.

I just hope that they don't freeze tonight. And I hope Knucklehead doesn't trample them. She's already run through the bed twice, kicking up mulch. Oh. She buried one of my gardening gloves too. I can't find it anywhere. I just hope it's not under the flowers.

The second grade at the kids' school celebrated First Holy Communion yesterday. Today, all the kids were asked to return in their Communion clothes for the 9:00 a.m. mass, and we served goodies to the kids and their parents in the church hall afterward. Tradition has it that the first-grade parents help with the reception, since our kids will be making this sacrament next year.

My job was to pick up sticky buns, two big boxes each containing a 24 x 36 sheet of sticky buns. Lordy, they smelled divine. They were decorated with white, pink, and blue frosting (gurk!). Why, oh why, do you feed a bunch of eight-year-old children dressed in expensive all white clothing pink and blue frosting?

The frosting was a good thing for me, though, because it kept me from eating the sticky buns. (It did not, however, stop me from buying a butter cake while I was in the bakery. It's probably the best butter cake we've ever eaten.)

In the afternoon, we made dinner for my in-laws. Yeah, I know. People say I shouldn't have to cook on Mothers' Day. It wasn't actually planned as a Mothers' Day dinner. The Oracle and my FIL wanted to talk some stuff over, and I offered dinner as a way to make that happen. During the week it's too crazy and he doesn't get a chance to stop by their house. Anyway, I love to cook. I like it much better than housework. Much to my relief, The Oracle handled the bulk of the crisis cleaning while I was at the church. AND he peeled the potatoes. I hate peeling potatoes. If I could get away with mashing 'em with the skins on, I would. My in-laws brought lemon meringue and apple crumb pies for dessert. YUM!!!

In addition to the flowers from the plant sale, my kids treated me to the neatest stuff.

Mighty B. painted a heart-shaped wooden pin and decorated it with foam stickers. He also made a card and a little booklet outlining my (his?) favorite recipe and a booklet of coupons for things like setting the table and picking up without being asked. (Of course, if I present the coupon, doesn't that mean I'm asking him to do it?) He made all this cool stuff in school.

Precious Daughter also made a card ("Mom, U rock!"), and in her class she made a "snow globe." It's a 16 oz. plastic bottle of water heavily dosed with multicolored glitter. Inside is a laminated picture of Precious Daughter. It's really cool, but there's something weird about shaking my daughter upside-down to swirl the glitter around.

All in all, it was a fun day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Punctuation Vent

I've noticed that when I start going stir crazy, it's due in part to an astonishing lack of leisure reading. You'd think I'd get my share with all the books my kids read, because I make sure to read everything they do. Now that they're getting older, the selection is getting better. I just finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Anyway, I've started reading Dark of the Moon by John Sandford. Several years ago, E introduced me to John Sandford and the Prey novels and I really enjoyed them. I have, however, lost complete track of which ones I've read, and he's written a number of them since I fell out of the Sandford habit. I need to do some homework before signing out another, because nothing irks me more than tucking into what I think is a new (to me) book and discovering that I already know the ending.

So, anyway, Dark of the Moon isn't part of the Prey series, but it branched off Prey and became another series all its own. I didn't know that, either, but I'll get over it. I like to read a series in order because the later stories tend to reference the former, and I hate having a surprise spoiled.

I'm anal retentive with commas and punctuation. I have to be in my line of work. If you sent me a letter with misplaced commas and such, I really don't care. You're taking the time to write me, and I'm happy for it. I know I'm miles away from perfect on this blog, too. It's hard to catch mistakes when you're nose is in it from beginning to end, but I'm not paying for someone to proofread my blog, and I'm not making anyone pay to read it. I think it matters when people are paying for what you've written, whether it's a lawyer paying for my transcripts or an author charging for his novels.

Sandford, in my opinion, needs to slap his editor or his proofreader or whoever it is that allowed this book to reach the store shelves. If he insisted on publishing exactly what I'm reading, then HE needs to be slapped. I'm barely sixty pages into it, and my eyes hurt from all the comma oddities.

Let's have a grammar lesson, shall we?

Sentences involve two types of clauses, the dependent clause and the independent clause.

The independent clause is exactly that. It's independent. It is complete with a subject and a verb. "I went to the store." It can stand on its own as a sentence or be joined to another with a comma followed by a coordinating conjuction (, and) or by use of a semicolon (;).

A dependent clause is one that is not complete. It needs something to finish it off. It has to depend on something else to make it whole. "Before I went swimming." Please read that aloud. It feels unfinished, doesn't it? Before you went swimming...what? What did you do? The thought is incomplete.

(Bear with me. We're getting close to why I'm so annoyed and why I can't read another page of this novel until I get this out of my system.)

Using my sample phrases, you may or may not use a comma to join them together and make a complete sentence.

"I went to the store before I went swimming." No comma required.
"Before I went swimming, I went to the store." Comma required.

DO NOT write, "I went to the store, before I went swimming" unless you plan to add more information. "I went to the store, before I went swimming, and bought a bottle of waterproof sunscreen."

In this case, "before I went swimming" is bracketed by commas because it's information that's not essential to the sentence "I went to the store and bought a bottle of sunscreen." You can pluck out that clause between the commas and still have a grammatically-correct sentence.

So, why is John Sandford's book driving me crazy?

  1. I busted him for robbery, when I was a deputy. This one is simple. Dump the comma and it's fine.
  2. Her name is Margaret Laymon and she called me up, about five minutes ago. This one is really irksome. When two independent clauses are separated by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, no, so, yet), a comma is placed before the conjunction. The rule isn't hard and fast. If the clauses are short, you can drop the comma. Her name is Margaret Laymon and she called me up. That's fine until you reach "about five minutes ago." Now it's a long clause and needs a comma, and that comma belongs before "and." Her name is Margarget Laymon, and she called me up about five minutes ago.
  3. Yes, and he's got several parcels of good land down south of here, that'll be a nice chunk of cash. "That'll be a nice chunk of cash" has no business being tied to that sentence with only a comma and no conjunction. It either needs to stand on its own as a separate sentence or be joined with a semicolon. Yes, and he's got several parcels of good land down south of here; that'll be a nice chunk of cash.
  4. The creeks and ditches sometimes collected into larger streams, usually a snaky line of oxbows cut a few dozen feet deep in the soil; and sometimes into marshes or shallow lakes. This one is like skewers to my eyeballs. I understand that the effort is to describe the larger streams as "oxbows," and the clause running from "usually" to "soil" isn't critical to the sentence. The creeks and ditches sometimes collected into larger streams and sometimes into marshes or shallow lakes. I simply don't "get" what that semicolon is for. My senses tell me it should be a comma. If you're really worried about confusing your reader with all those commas, you can use dashes. The creeks and ditches sometimes collected into larger streams -- usually a snaky line of oxbows cut a few dozen feet deep in the soil -- and sometimes into marshes or shallow lakes.

Ahhhhhh, that's better. Thank you. Maybe I'll be able to enjoy the next sixty pages this book instead of getting constantly poked in the eye with crappy punctuation.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


This post by E triggered a few thoughts, and since I've neglected my blog so badly I thought they'd be worth sharing. (Shoot, anything that gets me here and writing is probably worth sharing.)

In the mid '90s, I worked at a business that sold freshly-made pasta. Their pasta was wonderfully light, and that lightness was due to the dozens of eggs that went into each batch of pasta. E mentions that double-yolked eggs are an unusual occurrence. I guess they are, but we got plenty of them at the pasta place. I guess they weigh in differently or something, and that's how they get boxed up for foodservice use.

Whenever I can, I prefer to buy organic eggs. One afternoon, I approach the dairy section and am dismayed to see a slightly disheveled-looking man poking about in several opened boxes of organic eggs. This really annoyed me, because I didn't want some stranger's hands in what could be my box of eggs. Yeah, I know, several people had already handled them before they wound up in their little cardboard box.

I asked him what he was doing. It seems he was perplexed by the many different shades of brown in the organic egg boxes, and he was trying to find a box with eggs that were all the same color.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just Me, Myself, and I

Every morning, The Oracle is the first to rise. He has his breakfast and nudges me awake just before he gets into the shower. On a good day, I stumble out to the kitchen and prepare lunches, periodically wearing a path from the kitchen to the kids' rooms to rouse them for school and check on their progress. It's a frustrating thing to spend ten minutes in the kitchen only to find them in exactly the same position ten minutes later. Once The Oracle finishes showering, he enters the nag fest. Every morning he winds up taking a train later than the one he's supposed to catch at 7:20.

On a not-so-good day, I fall back to sleep and end up with a justifiably-snappish Oracle when he gets out of the shower, because everybody's going to be late, not just him.

I gleefully stuff the kids onto the bus at 7:45 and thank Heaven all that nonsense is over; by 1:30 I miss them and want them to come home, and I spend the next ninety minutes watch the clock and listening for the bus. I fight the temptation to sign them out early.
I'm turning into my mother. We all knew that would happen, right? Last night was just another symptom in a long string of habits I've developed. I got the notion to bake a loaf of bread. I tried it the other day and it didn't rise (The yeast might've been too old despite the expiration date) and I was annoyed about that, so I had to try again. I took it out of the oven at 1:00 this morning. The house smelled wonderful.

Anyway, my mother used to do this stuff all the time. She was a chronic insomniac; she also smoked. (And a long string of stuff leads me to believe she probably had Fibromyalgia, but that'll take too long here.) When she couldn't sleep, she'd sit at her countertop "throne" and watch a late-late-late movie. If she woke up for a cigarette, she never gave in to the temptation to have a smoke in bed and wandered out to the kitchen for her dose of nicotine. Either way, when she found herself in the kitchen, her fingers itched for something to do, and that something logically surrounded cooking. She loved to cook, and I often woke to wonderful smells in the house. Once she woke me up with a plate of warm cookies under my nose.
Her Nibs was up rather late last night. She didn't go to bed until 11:00, and she only went because I put her in her crib and shut the door. Even she knew she was pooped, I think, because she only chatted with her stuffed monkey for a minute before collapsing in exhaustion. She barely moved from where I found when I went to bed last night. She hadn't even kicked the covers off her legs. She's all peaceful and mushy-looking, and I want to hug her, but I don't want to disturb her, either.
Last week, I started taking daily morning walks with two other mommies in my neighborhood. One does most of the talking and I really don't mind since I don't know her that well. She b---hes about her husband sometimes and that makes me appreciate mine. Today, however, I'm missing my morning walk because her Nibs is still asleep. The mommies take four laps by my house, so I'm hoping she'll wake up and I can jump in for at least a partial walk. Is that selfish?
Really, mornings like this are rare. It's just me and the Knucklehead (who is very wet from rolling in God knows what - ick) and my coffee. I actually get to enjoy my coffee semi hot for once.
A friend of mine is having some tests done over the next couple weeks; please please please say a few prayers or send some good karma or positive thoughts for clean, benign results. Thank you.
I miss my friends. I haven't seen E in ages. It's been even longer since I've seen M or S, and I'm starting to feel a little stir crazy. I think this is one reason why I spend so much time on CrackBook. It gives me a sense of connection with my friends when I don't have a physical one. Still, nothing beats face-to-face conversation, and for that I'm downright starved. If it weren't for The Oracle and my morning walks with my neighbors, I'd be locked up somewhere for talking to myself too much.
I haven't had a deposition in nearly three weeks. The last deposition prior to that was in February. This ain't no way to supplement the household income. As a result, I've been looking for some third-shift work close to home. It's surprising to see how little of that there is.

Why third shift? Because I won't need baby-sitters, and if I actually DO have a deposition I can still take the work. Court reporting is where I want to be, and my family has sacrificed a lot for me to have it.

I have my eye on a prolific convenience-store chain (way to aim high!), and I'm hoping they come through. I've applied for some other stuff, too. Wish me luck.
Oooooh! Her Nibs is awake!! I love it best when my kids are fresh out of bed.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have so much to do and so little ambition.

The houses in my neighborhood were built with two traditional areas for flower beds. One is along the side of the garage, and the other occupies a large amount of square footage in front of the house. Our property is on a hill, so there's even a stone retaining wall that wraps around the flower bed to the side of the house.

My flower beds are weed beds. When it comes to the great outdoors, I have no gardening knowledge or skill. It shows, too. My flower beds don't contain flowers. They contain weeds. Lots and lots of weeds in varying sizes, colors, and unpleasantness.

Two weeks ago, I ordered 3.5 cubic yards of mulch. I tackled the "easy" weed bed which had been professionally cleared five or six years ago and covered with weed barrier and mulch. In our typical fashion, we never bought more mulch and the weeds took hold and took over. I cleared it out, laid more barrier, and shucked several loads of mulch to the bed with the wheelbarrow.

The weed-bed by the garage all but cries out for attention. A number of years back -- prior to the professionals doing the other -- we put down a layer of weed barrier and I-can't-remember-how-many pounds of stone. It wasn't quite enough to do the job, but one thing led to another and we never looked back. The weeds -- shockingly enough -- returned.

Our grand idea is to take out the stone and use it around the air conditioner instead. It's a smaller area and can be generously covered with the stone we have, and covered deeply enough to keep the stupid weeds at bay.

So I started trying to remove the stone. What a joke. They're a bit too small to scrape out with a rake, and the rake snags on the weed barrier. We don't have a hoe. My only other tool is a shovel with a short handle. I can't dig down or the shovel snags on the weed barrier which is still in surprsingly good condition. It's years of dirt that blew into the stones that hosted all the weeds. Oh, and they grew up between where the sheets of barrier overlapped but I ran out of the spikes intended to hold it down.

Aaaaanyway, I can't stand up straight to shovel, so I have to hunch over and scrape the stones off with the shovel nearly parallell to the ground. The blade of the shovel is narrow and doesn't hold much. The work takes forever. My back and shoulders and hamstrings hurt from hunching over. Waaaah.

When I mulched the easy weed bed, I got the brilliant idea to use some of the stones to edge an area of mulch that has no wall. The problem is that the stones are full of dirt and weeds, and I don't want to go polluting my freshly-mulched bed with weeds from the garage.

I know! I'll just rinse the dirt off the stones!

Easier said than done, but through lots of trial and error and lots more water, I managed to get the worst of the garbage out of the stones. I quit for the day and go inside.

I haven't been back out to work on it since, and it's been nearly two weeks. Weeds are growing out of the rocks piled on the pathway that leads to the backyard, and water is puddling in the tarp beneath the mulch. I need to get it out of there before it starts breeding mosquitoes.

But, ugh, I have no motivation.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Belated Easter!

There really isn't much to report in PB and Bacon Land. My kids were shorted a day and a half from their Easter break because the school district used too many unnecessary snow days. Normally the kids enjoy a half day Wednesday, they're off Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and then they're off Easter Monday as well.

This year, the Wednesday was a full day and school resumed Monday. Judging by the population on the school bus we missed Monday morning, a lot of parents didn't know this or a lot of kids -- not just mine -- overslept.

One notable tidbit is that I escaped the tedium of dyeing eggs this year. I mean, I like to dye eggs and so do the kids, but I hate what happens after.

You see, my kids not only must color at least six eggs each (gotta have one of every color), they stake a claim on their artistic labors. Nobody in this house eats hard-cooked eggs except me, but I am not allowed to eat their dyed eggs. If I do, they scream like I'm devouring a beloved family pet.

Last Easter, I smuggled a few of the eggs out the door to my FIL, who also likes a little egg salad once in a while, and I was given the Third Degree when the eggs' absence was discovered the next day. I had the nerve to eat one for lunch and was harrassed so badly that I let the others rot in the fridge until they were forgotten (Independence Day) and discarded them.

This year, my kids wanted to dye eggs, but guess what!!?? The Oracle had the car, and I had no dye!! (cue: evil laughter) We'll skip over the part where I probably could have adapted my paste colors for frosting to dyeing eggs, but they didn't ask, and I didn't offer.

What's even more remarkable is that nobody noticed. On Sunday night, Precious Daughter casually mentioned, "Hey, we didn't dye any eggs this year." Mighty B. didn't even flinch.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

An old friend of mine blogged this article. I simply had to share even though I'm pretty sure that on this blog I'm "preaching to the choir."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Alarming Commercial

I think most of us have seen the recent flurry of home-security commercials from a nationwide alarm company.

The scenario is the same: The opening scene shows a woman either entering an empty house or is already home alone. She actaully remembers to set the alarm system upon entering the house as soon as she gets inside. It's a good thing, too, because all along she's been stalked by a hoodie-wearing marauder who kicks in the front door (sometimes in broad daylight) before she has a chance to put down her stuff.

The countless sterotypes are hilariously outlined in this Youtube link by Current TV, but my question surrounds something else. In nearly every one of these commercials, the home-alone victim beats feet upstairs to the second floor.

Why? Isn't the math obvious? Running upstairs = cornered.

Maybe she's hoping she can get enough info to the Security Company Guy before the brazen, door-kicking sociopath strangles her with the telephone cord, or she's running for that double-barrelled shotgun stashed in the hall closet.

(If the sociopath is brazen enough to kick in your door in broad daylight, is a noisemaker going to stop him? Statistics might be on his side when you consider the number of times your neighbor's alarm sounded off and you dismissed it as an annoyance. )

In most horror stories -- unlike these happy-ending commercials -- the victim trips on the stairs, finds the closet door locked, the phone doesn't work, and she's forced to scurry to the bathroom and lock herself inside.

We all know how effective that is!

Maybe if you actually live in an area where an alarm is not a nuisance and your police arrives within moments, staying home is wise. If you're at the mercy of the sheriff's deputy who has a fifteen-minute drive to your house, I don't think sticking around is such a good idea.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rise and Shine!

When they were babies, each of my kids had their own way of letting me know they were awake in the morning and ready to escape the confines of their cribs.

Precious Daughter used to slam her heels into the mattress.

Mighty B. would stand up, hold the side rail, and bounce on the mattress for all he was worth. I sincerely feared he'd flip himself over the rail onto the floor.

Her Nibs stands up, holds the side rail, and shimmies her butt back and forth to thump the side of the crib against the wall.

It's a wonder that crib hasn't collapsed from the abuse.

Friday, March 19, 2010

These Boots Were Made for Walkin'

It's one of those baby milestones. I took Her Nibs to the local shoe store and had her fitted for a pair of the classic leather baby shoes. Like her big sister, she waited 13 months before giving two-legged travel a try.

Yeah, they're kind of old-fashioned, but I've always loved the look of them. I still have Precious Daughter's and Mighty B.'s, but I doubt I'll have them bronzed. I'm just not that "together."

Nibs isn't quite walking yet. She's braved a step and a half between the Oracle and Me, but she hasn't tried going anywhere else without holding on. She let go of Precious Daughter's hands for minute, and big sister backed out of the picture.

Wait! You'll scuff the leather!

Please note: Her Nibs still has rubber-band wrists.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Well, I'm Glad THAT'S Over (Part III)

What was in the car besides five people? Enough bedding, blankets, and comforters for the five of us; one load of laundry; one suitcase with changes of clothes; a DVD player and four movies; Her Nibs' pack-n-play, diapers, wipes, and changing pad; The Oracle's backpack; the kids' backpacks and lunch boxes; Leapsters, Polly Pockets, monster trucks, and other assorted toys they HAD to have for a one-night stay; our favorite coffee; the Nutella; and one two-pound package of meatball mix that was still mostly frozen. It was the only perishable food item that didn't perish. The Turtle was absolutely stuffed.

It takes us forever to unload the car. The kids are beside themselves with excitement. We're staying in my in-laws' basement rec-room with a pull-out sofa, a studio couch, and a Franklin stove. My FIL builds a small inferno and The Oracle fusses with the stovepipe which is slightly dented and leaking a fine, thin ribbon of smoke into the room. Within minutes, the room is sweltering and I'm sweating.

I make the pull-out for the kids, and through lots of nonsense we stuff them into the shower and pajamas. By now it's nearly 9:30, and it's going to be hard getting them up at 6:30 for school. While we needed the fireplace to warm up the basement, it's probably a huge mistake. The kids are too excited to sleep with the crackling fire and the big ticking clock. Mighty B. won't leave his sister alone and keeps bumping and poking at her. They're fighting over blankets and Precious daughter is drawing an imaginary do-not-cross-this line between the pillows with little effect. The Oracle and I are providing plenty of entertainment with getting the studio couch in order and keeping Her Nibs away from the stove. We ended up abandoning our preparations to hang out upstairs and hope their exhaustion takes over.

It's 11:30 before they're asleep, and now The Oracle and I are sneaking about in the dim firelight to make our bed, brush our teeth, and coax Her Nibs to sleep.

The Oracle crawls into bed while Her Nibs is wide awake. She wants no part of her pack-n-play. She wants the stove, and I'm sitting on a loveseat and letting her watch the blaze. Somewhere along the line, we both fell asleep, and I awaken at 1:30 a.m. with a stiff neck and my arm numb to the shoulder.

I deposit Her Nibs into her temporary bed, and I consider crawling in myself. Instead, I start thinking about the Shedder. We last saw the Shedder at 8:00 p.m., and I know full well that I won't return home until after 8:00 a.m. I wonder whether she can hold herself twelve hours even though I already know the answer. I know she'd try, but I don't think she can. From the way she's been dragging her hind legs these last few weeks, I suspect she's got some denervation going on.

I don my shoes, sneak out of the house, and drive home. The power is still out. Duchess is so excited to see me, and I feel like a heel for not staying. I admit I was tempted, but I knew Her Nibs wouldn't tolerate the hard play pen for long, and I didn't want her waking her siblings. I give Duchess clean water, a little belly-rub time, and I remember to grab The Oracle's uniform shirt for that evening's game before I drive back and crawl into bed at 2:30.

I can't sleep. My FIL has this large, antique time clock (like this one but a lot less brass) hanging on the rec-room wall. It really is an awesome piece, and I confess that I secretly lust for it as my own possession. (Guess that's not a secret any more.) When the house is quiet, you can hear it ticking upstairs. Now the house is quiet, but I'm less than five feet away from it, and the ticking resounds in my ears like the cadence from a snare drum. Thank God the thing doesn't chime, or I would have been able to mark my insomnia in quarter-hour increments.

Eventually, I do fall asleep, and I am predictably brought to wakefulness at 5:00 or so by the complaints of Her Nibs who is in an unfamiliar place on top of being chilly since the fire went out. We resume our arm-numbing position on the love seat and doze until the alarm goes off at 6:30.

Now the fun begins! Her Nibs is wide awake, and we start trying to rattle the older kids out of bed, doing everything but propping their eyeballs open with toothpicks. To their credit, they rise, eat breakfast, and get dressed for school without disturbing their grandparents. Her Nibs and I leave to take them to school.

The kids are ten minutes late, but they're there and that's all I care about. I stop at the house to make their lunches (PB&J) and take care of Duchess. The power is still out. On my way to the school, I'm thinking of Precious Daughter and how much she hates PB&J, and I feel guilty. Nibs and I stop at a nearby convenience store and add a Reese's egg to each lunch bag.

I get in and start the car and - WHAM! - somebody rear ended me. (so glad I was already in and not merely halfway!) The impact felt like a lot, but it didn't disturb a sleeping Nibs in her car seat, and there's no visible damage. The ditzy driver and I exchange information with my promise to contact her if any backup sensors or my exhaust system were damaged.

I drop off the lunches and realize I forgot my purse. I had promised The Oracle that I'd pick up a weekly train pass on the way and I couldn't. I'm three-quarters of the way back when he tells me he needs his work pass to get in the building as well as his ID for the game that evening. Once he's ready for work, we drive back to our house (the power is still out), get his passes, and I drop him off at the train station.

I was so sick of the car I could cry, but I wasn't finished yet. I still had a job interview twenty miles away at 2:00 p.m. By the time I drop The Oracle at the station, it's roughly 11:00 a.m. I return to my in-laws' to shower, feed Her Nibs, and get out the door by 12:45.

I never had time for lunch, so I grab a burger on the way, being careful not to dribble on my interview clothes. Why didn't I just get chicken pieces instead?

I arrive, and I'm happy to find a parking meter right by my destination. I'd worked for this employer before, so I knew how horrible the parking situation was. I ditch my sneakers to change into my pumps and get out of the car to feed the meter.

What's this?

My gait is all wonky because I'm wearing two different shoes. See, when I was poking around in the dark for a pair of black pumps, I grabbed one of each pair. Fortunately, they're nearly identical, spiky-heeled and pointy-toed and even the same brand, but one was two inches shorter than the other.

Having only fifteen minutes to spare and no time to go shoe shopping, I called The Oracle and had a good laugh instead. I did my best to walk evenly on my toes and keep one mismatched shoe out of sight at all times. I also suppressed the urge to brag about my stupidity - something I'm prone to do when embarrassed - but when converation turned to our bout of lousy weather, I casually mentioned our power being out and left it at that.

My FIL met the kids' school bus at 3:00 and spotted a power truck from a city over 300 miles away working on a transformer. He spoke with the driver who estimated the return of our power by 7:30 p.m.

We ate dinner with my in-laws. When I called home at 7:05 p.m., I was overjoyed to hear our answering machine. After dinner my FIL and I started loading the car. We had to pick The Oracle up from the basketball game first, though, so we didn't get home until after 10:00 p.m.

I had to pitch the entire contents of my fridge and freezers except a few condiments. It's a bit of a blessing, I guess, since I really need to scour one and defrost the other. I later learned that the electric company will reimburse for my lost groceries, but they pass the bill on to the neighbor who owned the downed tree. I think that's kind of crappy. The tree is one in a long line of trees running the length of the city line, and they're all in pretty sorry shape. Where the treeline passes along our yard, the property on the city side is watershed land owned by the water department. (In an interesting note, the water department is in charge of the creek, but the parks department handles the trees.) I called them today to have them inspect the trees because they're ancient and very unstable. One is clearly infested with carpenter ants, so the others probably are too.

It's three days later, and the kids are still "hung over" from not getting enough sleep. The Shedder is still clingy and insecure from being "abandoned" by her pack. I can't wait for the weekend!

Now, aren't you glad it's over?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm Glad THAT'S Over - Part II

We park in the garage beneath the arena, and The Oracle goes inside to see if he can get tickets for us. We see other statisticians and their families waltzing about with passes around their necks, so we're thinking it won't be a problem. The kids and I are playing Red Light/Green Light as we wait. The Oracle returns with four tickets and we're good to go.

We have about forty minutes to kill before the game starts at 1:00, and the kids want to look around a bit before we eventually go inside. Precious Daughter and Mighty B. are starting to ask for lunch, so our plan is to get something to eat before taking our seats.

They scan our tickets -- No Re-entry! -- and we go upstairs. Our timing is good, with about five minutes to go before the National Anthem. After browbeating two overexcited kids to use the bathroom, we head for the concessions. Our choices are limited to pizza, hot dogs, and fried seafood. My weird kids don't eat pizza and are afraid of tasting fried seafood, so they settle on hot dogs. There's a big sign on the cash register announcing "cash only" for sales. The vendor tells me all of the vendors are cash only. He also said it wasn't their decision; the higher-ups decided it would go this way. He directs me to an ATM near where we entered the second floor.

I should point out that this arena is old, and it's purpose when constructed several decades ago had nothing to do with basketball. The basics have been retrofitted and remodeled for modern-day use and all-purpose function, but not in the realm of customer conveniences. The ATM in question was a temporary model, and it was sucked dry of cash probably as early as Friday's four-game marathon. A note taped to the screen directed users to the hotel next door.

The first thought to flash in my head was, "No Re-entry!" Now what are we supposed to do? The security guards are courteous and helpful despite helping countless others in the same plight, and through the rigmarole of stamping my hand and signing my tickets, I'm permitted to leave the arena without fear of "No Re-entry!"

Our little parade makes its way next door to discover that the only ATM I'm permitted to access in the hotel is out of order. It'll gleefully take my card and let me hit buttons, but the screen remains dark and I can only guess at what I'm doing.

Back out the door into the cold and damp, and we're walking to a mall that's another block or so away. Their ATM is offline.

Well, now, by this time, the kids are really hungry. My stomach is rather rumbly too. Hunger is the average suburban kid's greatest discomfort, so my kids believe that their misery is so acute they can't possibly walk another step. I remind them that they both had nice breakfasts -- nicer than usual thanks to our power outtage -- and can't resist telling them that there are plenty of kids in the world who didn't have breakfast at all. They responded by whining. I suggest that they'd have a lot more energy if they didn't waste it on complaining and Mommy wouldn't be such a grouch either.

Across the way I see another possibility, but it's not a kid-friendly establishment, and I'm told I am not permitted to bring my children inside.

I didn't mean to do it, but I whined. The man led us to the ATM.

Sixty dollars in hand (and a five dollar ATM fee!), we return to the arena. Precious and Mighty are practically staggering like refugees from the Sahara. Her Nibs' babblings have taken on a whiny tone, but I think her misery was due to being strapped down (first the car seat then the stroller) for nearly four hours. Past security, up the elevator, and we're facing the glory of food.

Our first stop is the candy counter. I normally wouldn't do things this way, but despite being whiny, they were well-behaved in the face of my snappish nagging to stay together, keep up, and keep moving. The candy is a mix-and-match plethora of sugary goodness at an astonishing $4 per quarter pound. Precious Daughter gets Reese's Pieces and red Swedish fish. Mighty B. chooses gummy worms and the larger Swedish fish in assorted colors. At the last minute I went with black licorice bites. Yeah, it spikes your blood pressure, and I'm sure the day's aggravation already gave it a boost, but I felt entitled.

Precious Daughter wants a bag of roasted peanuts, too.

Finally, we're in line for lunch. Hot dogs and chips for the kids, fried shrimp for me. With beverages it comes to a whopping $27. I'd already blown $15 on peanuts and candy. Sheesh! I was under the delusion that my $60 might include a little souvenir for the kids.

By the time we get to our seats, it's halftime, which means we spent an hour wandering about in search of money, and I'm amazed that I didn't bite off anyone's head the whole time. Security is once again very helpful, staying with Her Nibs in the stroller while I shuttle kids, food, beverages, and eventually Her Nibs back and forth. By the time I take my seat, halftime is half over.

The chips that came with the hot dog are "crab flavored." The kids are horrified and won't touch them. Precious daughter does not like her hot dog, but being a meanie-grouch mom, I refuse to buy anything else. I offer her some of my fried shrimp, and she refuses. She feasts on peanuts, candy, and root beer. Mighty B. downs his hot dog and his sister's. My stomach is roiling at their culinary indulgences, but they were good through the ATM ordeal and I say nothing. Her Nibs wants to try shrimp, but she hasn't tasted any shellfish yet, and I'm not willing to experiment in a crowded arena with the luck we're having this weekend. She eats the goodies I had stashed in my purse and she's happy.

My fried shrimp were excellent, by the way. The vendor is a well-known seafood restaurant in the region or I never would have ordered them in the first place. Even then, I half expected rubbery, overcooked, greasy shrimp simply because it's a temporary fast-food setup. But, I was hungry, didn't want a hot dog, and didn't want to wait (or make the kids wait) in another line to get pizza. For once, my impatience paid off. They were plentiful perfectly-fried shrimp. Precious Daughter missed out on a good thing.

The second half of the game was really good. The kids even got into it. Nobody whined about being bored and wanting to take a walk, and the team we were rooting for won the conference title. After the Oracle finished adding up the scorebook, we headed for home.

Our power was still out. Drat. I'd called my FIL that morning to arrange lodging for the night in the face of that possibility, but I was still disappointed. The Shedder eagerly greeted us and became increasingly antsy as we fumbled about our darkening house and stuffed the car with bedding, toiletries, stuff to do, a load of laundry (school uniforms), and changes of clothes. Chessie huddled in Mighty B's blankets and didn't come out. We ate dinner at a local diner and returned to the house to let the Shedder pee one more time and check the water bowls before heading to the in-laws' house fifteen minutes away.

We knew it was going to be a long night, but we had no idea how crazy it would be.

(To be continued.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Well, I'm glad THAT'S Over! (Part I)

I was originally going to title this, Hell Weekend, but it not only sounded like a cheesy slasher movie, it wasn't completely awful.

What a weekend!

I think I mentioned before that The Oracle is a statistician for college and professional basketball. After he helped me get the kids on the bus, he took our car Friday morning to work a conference tournament on the other side of the river. The first day of the tournament was a four-game stretch with the semi-finals scheduled for Saturday and the final on Sunday.

The four-game day is a brutal one with games scheduled in rapid succession, something like noon, 2:00, 6:00, and 8:00 p.m. Each men's game lasts a bit over two and a quarter hours. Four basketball games in one day is a lot and requires an overnight stay. Fortunately, his friend/boss has a home in the area and invited The Oracle to stay the night. Rather than be away from the kids for two nights, he decided to return after the two games on Saturday and drive back Sunday morning for the final.

This area of the country endured a horrid nor'easter weekend of nonstop rain and high winds that brought a fair amount of flooding and shredded several trees. It's been damp, cold, and miserable for three days.

Anticipating the Oracle's return Saturday night, I was making a vat of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I'm dropping the meatballs into the gravy at 4:30 when -pop!- our electricity went out. I waited a minute or two hoping the transformer would reset itself and power would return. No dice. I turn off the stove and order from a restaurant that delivers.

The skies are overcast and darkening. Most power outtages in my area last a few seconds to an hour or so, but when the lights don't come back on, I start enlisting the older kids' help to pick up the toys from the floor so we're not tripping on them in the dark later. I'm busily gathering candles and lamps to light the way when night really falls.

Dinner arrives and we eat by candlelight, and we have a good time. We feast on fat helpings of ice cream for dessert since I suspect the ice cream isn't long for this world.

I'm impressed with my kids' sudden ability to find things to do that don't require a television or computer, something of which they seemed incapable until Saturday night. Any "normal" weekday, Mighty B. is hounding me incessantly for permission to play with the Wii or his Webkins, and when his time ration is burned, he mopes about with "nothing to do" and getting into trouble. Precious Daughter has a roomful of toys, but once she tires of reading she'll stare at the never-ending repeats of Phineas and Ferb until her eyes fall out if I let her.

At our Christmas-in-February gathering (long story), my parents gave each of the older kids these awesome night-vision goggles. While I wasn't crazy about another hunk of Chinese-made plastic, I have to admit that the sheer coolness of the goggles trumped their country of origin, and I highly recommend them. They work surprisingly well, and I found myself borrowing them for numerous trips to the basement to find our propane lantern and my grandmother's oil lamp. When it got really dark, the kids were playing hide-and-seek with them in the back of the house where I lit no candles. Chessie hangs out back there, and she thinks candle flames are interesting toys.

(My stepmom found them on QVC which is where the link above leads, and QVC is selling them for ten bucks cheaper than Toys R Us. If you read the QVC reviews, you'll see that some customers reported goggles with defects. QVC's return/exchange policy is awesome, which is another reason to buy them there if you do.)

We're on the end of our electricity grid. We later discovered that we are one of fourteen houses on our street without power. The neighbor to my right has lights and heat, and the houses across the street do too. The cause of our outage is a downed tree behind one of the fourteen.

The Oracle returns home despite my recommendation not to and feasts on cereal for dinner. The kids are up rattling around until 10:3o or so. We eventually extinguish our candles for the night save one in the bathroom, and tuck the kids in with their flashlights nearby.

By morning, we're still without power and the house is getting chilly. The Oracle has to drive to Sunday's game which means we'd be stuck in a cold house all day with no food and no car, and at this point we know we're without power for the long haul, so we quickly shower (turning off the water between soap and rinse), feed the critters, and tag along with the Oracle to the basketball game.

We're not even sure if we can get tickets, but there's enough around the arena to keep us occupied for two-and-a-half hours.

A solid hour of that time was spent just trying to get lunch.

(To be continued...)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Comments on Facebook

Note to Vee: I'm not trying to change your opinion that FB is a huge, time-sucking frivolity. I understand not wanting to get entangled with it.

That being said, I just had to share a recent discovery that has steered my Facebook time toward what I wanted it to do -- connect with friends -- instead of getting sucked into Facebook's cyber clutter.

Facebook has this feature called a "news feed." It's supposed to let you read updates of what your friends are doing or thinking, and it's a nifty little feature. The bad part about the news feed is that everything you do gets posted there if you're not careful.

For a time I got sucked into Fish World, a cutesy little time killer that starts you out with a fish tank and a few fish. Sell the fish for cyber money to buy more fish, tank decorations, and eventually more fish tanks. Feed your fish, clean the tank, give your fish cyber love (by clicking the "love my fish" button), and eventually you become a tycoon of sorts.

Really, though, you're trapped a s a Fish World slave. If you don't feed the fish, they go belly up, and you wind up flushing all that cyber money down the cyber drain. Your friends can revive your dead fish for you, but when you're housing hundreds of fish in a tank, it's a pretty hefty undertaking. Go a weekend without feeding the dumb cyber fish, and they're dead by Monday. It annoyed me so much that I actually created a fake FB user that I befriended and put onto Fish World for the sole purpose of reviving my dead fish. (In a tacky bit of humor, her password is "Lazarus.")

Back to the news feed. Fish World is a prime example of news feed clutter. Everything you do -- buy new fish, feed a friend's fish, clean your tanks, sell fish -- gets a pop-up request to publish to your friends' FB pages. Now, you can click one button one time to clutter your friends' feeds ad infinitum, but you have to refuse publication every single time. There is no one-button fix to reject this nonsense. I got so annoyed with it that I sold the last of my fish and abandoned my empty tanks to the cyber algae.

Facebook has a lot of clutter, and it took me a while to learn to ignore the cyber guilt that comes with not reciprocating with the game tokens, cyber flowers/smiles/hugs/hearts, pillow-fight and water-gun attacks. I do not care if "a lonely cow" has wandered from its farm and needs a home. I'm not interested in someone's latest high score in Bejeweled Blitz or Farkle or Word Twist.

What some FB users may not know is this: On every bit of cyber clutter in your news feed, hover to the right of the unwanted entry, and FB will reveal the word, "Hide." Click and it gives you the choice of hiding the game or hiding that person's news.

I've hidden countless applications (fish, farming, horoscopes, daily luck (whatever that is), restaurants, knights and dragons, you name it) and my news feed is becoming what I want it to be. I can check FB, respond to my friends' posts, and get out of Dodge in under a half an hour unless I start a chat session with somebody who happens to be online.

And now that I've figured it out, Facebook will probably undergo another major overhaul and I'll have to start from scratch.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Another Food Addiction

I've always loved the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate. In fact, I'll never forget the first time I tasted them together. My friend, S., spent our graduation summer in Germany and gifted me with a boxful finely-chopped hazelnuts moulded in milk chocolate upon her return. They were divine, and I did my best to savor that box of candy for as long as I could stretch it.

In recent years, my hazelnut-chocolate craving has been fed with these:

And these (the dark chocolate is equally divine).

How is it that I spent my entire grocery-shopping existence walking by and never really noticing this?

I've seen it on the shelf, sure. I remember passively thinking, "I wonder what that's like," and quickly dismissing a purchase because of the hideous price attached to it. I didn't want to make that kind of investment on something that might be too gross to finish.

This week, my stupormarket had the small-sized jar of it on sale, so I impulsively dropped one into the cart.

Overnight, I've become a full-blown Nutella junkie. I enter the kitchen and immeditely fight the urge to snitch a baby-spoonful-sized nip from the jar. My mind is whirling with culinary possibilities. The top of my wanna-try list is a schmear on a slice of toasted home-made pound cake.

I went back yesterday and bought two more jars.

And, no, I never noticed the "Ferrero" logo on the jar, or I would have been hooked much sooner.

Do you enjoy Nutella? How?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Poor Knucklehead

Duh-chess, our German Shedder, has had a rough time lately. She's been with us for six years, and for much of that time, she's had a chronic snot issue. Multiple trips to the vet clear it for a day or two, but it rapidly returns. On occasions where we've boarded her at the kennel, the snot clears until she returns home. Because of that, I've chalked it up to an allergy of some sort. (I admit that I have no medical basis for this assumption other than when it comes and goes and how she behaves.)

Duh-chess also tends to eat things that don't agree with her, as discussed in this post. Over the last few months, we figured she was getting into something but couldn't find the source. She'd spend half the night with her tail dropped, her belly tense, and panting in our faces. Whatever it was, it always cleared by morning. Yes, I could have taken her to the vet anyway, but somehow spending seventy bucks to explain a no-longer-existing symptom for the doc to not clearly diagnose didn't seem fiscally sound.

Last week she spend two days in turmoil, so I took her to the vet on Friday. She hadn't touched her breakfast until late into the evening on Wednesday, and Thursday's breakfast was still in the bowl on Friday morning. Added to her symptoms was a phlegmy cough that I didn't like. She's had the cough before, too, but it always cleared by morning. I figured it was related to the chronic snot. (Her shots are current, so things like distemper or kennel cough didn't seem likely.)

What really prompted the vet visit was a general weakness in her hind legs. In 2007, she'd tested positive for Lyme disease, and I feared a flare-up. Shepherds are prone to hip and lower-back nerve problems anyway, and I didn't want Lyme bringing on an early demise to our goofy companion.

Long story short, we spent $234 for a chest x-ray, a rather thorough physical exam, a Lyme test (negative!), a shot of antibiotics, and a ten-day supply of same. It seems Duh-chess has a rather deep respiratory infection. The doc showed where some fluid had gathered deep in her lungs.

Now I feel like a shitheel for blaming the poor dog's miseries on kitty-litter snacks.

The good news is that she ate some wet food on Sunday. It took me that long to conclude she might be ignoring the dry food because her throat was sore and irritated from coughing. I know I wouldn't reach for the hard sourdough pretzels if I had a sore throat. Poor pup.

She's still a little shaky on her legs, but she was barking at the school buses this morning. I'm hoping she'll be back to her goofy self soon.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

More Snow!

We had a little more snow Thursday. On Wednesday evening, the weather forecasters were predicting the winter equivalent of the apocalypse, so the kids' school district, in its infinite paranoia, wimped out and decreed a snow day for Thursday.

Funny that the first snowflake didn't fall until 4:00 or 5:00 a.m., and funnier still that the roads weren't even snow covered by 3:00 p.m. They could have had a full day of school, and I could have enjoyed a full day of working on my transcripts.

The snow was still swirling about on Thursday night, Precious Daughter's dance classes were canceled, and another snow day granted for Friday. Again, a waste of time. The sun was shining by noon. I cleared the driveway of its light coating of snow while Her Nibs took a nap.

Afterward, the kids and I had a little fun.

Her Nibs is cold. Her brother put the snow on her head. Her Nibs is not happy. Immediately afterward she was whisked inside, stripped of her damp clothing, and given a snack.

I woke up this morning feeling like an old fart with aches in my calves and behind my knees. I'm whining to myself that I didn't hurt this much after shoveling two feet of snow from the last snowstorm until I realzied it wasn't my snow-shoveling muscles that hurt. It was my snowman-making muscles.

Well, shoot, that's okay. At least I had fun earning those muscle aches.

By the way. The spammers have annoyed me to the point of adding word verification to my blog. I'm sorry if this is a pain for you. Even if the comments are not published, they're still allowed to contact me and waste my time. It makes me feel like they're still "winning."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another Nail in the Coffin...

...of our old friend, Common Sense.

Doctors Urging for a Safer, Choke-Free Hot Dog

It almost leaves me speechless. I, for one, didn't give my kids a hot dog that wasn't cut up until they were nearly five. Maybe making them wait so long is a little paranoid, but I knew (as I suspected most parents did before I read the above article) that hot dogs were a choking risk, ranking right up there with bananas, apples, and anything else kids love enough to try swallowing whole simply because in their minds a bigger mouthful of something yummy tastes better than a smaller one. Even Her Nibs, when faced with a trayful of itty-bitty pieces of something she loves, will try cramming as much as she can into her mouth.

Many choking incidents happen under the watchful eyes of parents, which is why parents should make it a priority to learn -- and obtain certification in -- CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and first aid well beyond Bactine and a Band-Aid. This article doesn't state whether the family who tragically lost their child possessed any of these skills, but the child's chances of survival may have improved dramatically if they had. Even if I hadn't spent several years in emergency services, learning these skills would have been a pre-parenthood priority. It would be more effective than strongarming companies to spend countless resources (passed on to the consumers) to reinvent the food equivalent of the wheel. I guess we'll have to redesign the hot-dog bun as well.

The other side of this argument might be "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Okay. If that's the case, I think it's safe to assume that what's inside the average chemical-laden hot dog is probably more harmful than the silly thing's shape. Still, if doctors insist that the hot dog get a facelift, why not make your expert recommendations to the end user instead of the manufacturer? Why assume that the average American is incapable of handling the matter? I guess we're too stupid to effectively wield a knife and fork despite claims that we are an obese nation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


My goodness! Where has the last year gone?

I must've blinked. In that short little span of time, Her Nibs has gained 19 pounds, 1 ounce, grown ten inches, and sprouted nine teeth. She babbles and crawls and is just starting to walk.
Wow, that was quick!

Happy Birthday, baby!