Saturday, May 22, 2010

For the birds...Part three: My Other Husband

I admit, I was feeling a little full of myself for the fabulous anti-barn swallow measures I had taken. I decided to proceed to the front door that following morning to admire my handiwork. THAT is when I saw the shoddy workmanship of the person who replaced ONE piece of cardboard. The cardboard pretty much lined the ledge...providing a nice smooth nesting surface!

I spent a moment trying to find a logical explanation for what I was seeing. Maybe the cardboard was put up at an angle, but the birds used all of their might to stomp it back down to a ninety degree angle. THEN I noticed that 2x4, and how it is on top of the way the birds managed that on their own! The birds are clearly paying my husband rent on our porch, and he is doing his best to be a good landlord!

With steam pouring out of my ears, I demanded to know why the cardboard was replaced in this manner. I was told that it was temporary, and he had no idea they would start to rebuild so quickly. Temporary? Like the useless wire from three years ago? Or the birdie balance beams? Those birds would be disappointed to know that their rebuilding efforts were questioned like that!

On my way to work, I realized there was only one person who might understand my dismay. Let's call her my other husband...the one who understands. That is what so many of us women need...those friends who truly empathize with our plight and have the time/interest/energy to listen to/put up with/help us. I went to this friend's house last week to perform my husbandly duty of helping her to move a ginormous chair up the basement stairs. Now for a man and wife, the moment when we got the chair and ourselves lodged in a stairway with two bottom steps missing could've been the makings for a heated exchange and one really lousy evening. However, we laughed ourselves silly, knowing we'd figure out something, and then have a snack--hooray!

Anyway, back to the birds...this is what I came home to after work that day...

You guess which husband did it!

p.s. It's been four days, and there are no birds, and no poop....just a delightful sound of bugs "tinging" off the tinfoil at night, if I leave the porch light on.

Friday, May 21, 2010

For the birds...Part Two: Their Unlikely Ally

Well, the birds proved to be as insane over this situation as I was becoming. They did stay away from the recyclable plastic forest I was trying to create. However, they started doing a balance beam routine on the pieces of wood that once held them at bay. Here we see the swallow doing an inspection before flinging any more mud in that general direction...

And here you can see less than a full day's work...

I am sure you appreciate the fact that I am sparing you the visual of their bathroom renovations...ugh! I can see these charmers right from the chair I sit in when I am on the computer, and get the full picture every time I open the front door. I neglected to mention that they sleep up on that ledge (nest or not) at night...and do not fly away when we come and go. It's a little creepy to me because I can't see them when I am coming in until I am already on the porch...with them.

Now every now and then, I like to pretend that I am in charge of the inside of the house, and Mister Weedwacker's domain is anything outside. I might as well go all in and pretend I am a pretty princess in a posh castle with a moat to keep me safe, and legions of people catering to my every whim...not because they are in my employ...just because they love me so, and wish for my happiness. Well, these birds are outside (thank goodness), so I wanted them to not be my problem to solve. Mister did what he thought was his part, and took the nests down a few, okay, but that didn't solve the problem. His strategy each year seems to be, try one thing then stop (regardless of what kind of, if any, results are achieved).

I was starting to think he may LIKE the birds. We used to be avid cardinal, nut-hatch and chickadee fans and feeders at our previous home. I was wondering if his fondness for those days of feathered friends was making him latch onto the wrong crowd. How else to explain why he wasn't doing more? A friend tried to explain to me that it just wasn't his priority, like it was mine. OK, but I could not understand how ceasing to have a bird poop cluttered front porch was a "back burner" type of an item. Why weren't we forming our own team, drawing up blueprints, making a PLAN! I was chatting with neighbors about the birds and they were full of suggestions, offering to cut wood. I knew these folks were under no obligation whatsoever to invest any time, energy or manual labor in assisting me. And once again, this was the Weedwacker's domain, ergo his obligation.

This is where my fuzzy logic often comes into play. I obviously am the only one living here who operates under the impression that we all have job descriptions. I'm not sure who I believe conducts our performance reviews, but I'll be happy to tell you how everyone is doing! Fuzzy logic might be better than when logic completely escapes me and I decide that even if it is not Weedwacker's priority to deal with the poopsters, he should be doing it because of how much it upsets me (mmm-hmmm, back to my castle fantasy perhaps). For better, for worse, richer, or poor, her priorities are your priorities...oops, did I dream that?

Finally I decided that I would just feel better if I just dealt with the situation...made it go away. Maybe I'd even feel a sense of accomplishment. I didn't want to leave the house because the kids were out playing, so I had to do the MacGyver-what's in the garage that I could use? The birds appeared to be off on some mission, so the timing was great. First I gathered up a few more water bottles (with no sense of how wide our porch is). Then I hauled a five inch by eight foot plank up the ladder, and placed it on the ledge. I took it down when I realized our children's safety was important to me. Then I grabbed a cross-country ski (the look on my daughter's face told me I was losing my mind). I found a couple of 2x4s and some cardboard in the garage, and realized THIS was going to be the answer (at least for that day). I wedged the pieces up on the ledge at an angle, as the key is to take away their flat surfaces. Now all the while, I was on the phone with my dear friend (obviously a dear friend, because who else would stay on the line, calmly telling me to flap the cardboard, while I was screaming that the birds came back and were flying at me?). She stayed on the line with me until I had all of the available cardboard in place. (This was in exchange for the times I have stayed on the line with her to keep her company when she has to put away laundry or empty the dishwasher.)

One piece of the cardboard fell, and I did NOT have the energy to get the ladder back out, so I asked Mister Bird-friend to put it back up, and mentioned that it might need a tack. There were several of other pieces in place, so I thought it would've been insulting to give any further directions in how to replace it. My friend tells me all the time that we have to put the dots pretty close together for our husbands (do not be offended ALL men...I think she literally means our two husbands, for the most part). Well, for once I felt I really put the dots close together, so I didn't give the porch another glance that evening...phew!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

For the birds...Part One: Don't Mess With Crazy

This current event topic of my life has evolved at such a rapid pace, that I did not keep up with it here in blog-land. I think it is a tale worth telling...the story arc, the battle between good and evil, inner conflict, and of course...a hero. I don't anticipate anything else exciting happening in the next few days, so this will be a three part tale...

Have you ever met a barn swallow? They don't give a bad first impression, but don't let that fool you. About five years ago, we allowed a charming couple to build their fabulous mud nest on our porch...fascinating to watch...all mud (I'll continue to look for a photo, from way back when we were still enchanted enough to take photos for pleasure). After the babes flew we took the nest down-sayonara. That's the way the bird thing worked as far as we knew-at least that's what the robins had told us. Imagine our surprise when they rebuilt, and we took down, and they rebuilt, we took down, etc.

Subsequent seasons brought ruder relatives of theirs who must've been told about our palatial porch, complete with ledge for growing families. These birds are what I will call swoopers, in that they use a diving technique to show their feelings of bitterness towards anyone who intrudes on them. By intruding I mean things like, opening MY door to MY house, walking to my front door. They move up to the gutter along the roof of the porch and squawk about us until we take cover.

Another key feature of these birds is their damn near toxic poop. I had a scrub brush that was merely nicking the top layer off the concrete. I also used a power washer aimed right at the stuff from about two feet away...still a spot. So they live along the top inside ledge of the porch, and use the edge of the porch floor as their commode...the whole length of the porch.

This season, I decided to start early, and sprung into action at the first sight of the enemies. I looked up at the ledge where ghosts of failed efforts past stood...the wire that was too low and they built on top of it...the pieces of wood that did not quite span the entire length of the porch, leaving two corners with as good as a "for sale" sign on them...the memory of one of those inflatable creepy eye scare the birds away things (THAT was attractive...and useless!) It was time to get creative. I could see my husband in the window as I hauled out the ladder and climbed up with my inflatable ball and some empty water bottles, oh and masking tape (I know duct tape is really the answer, but I didn't have any!). A temporary fix as I needed to buy a little time (it's amazing how fast two birds can use their beaks to carry mud to build a foundation).

As to not actually be how I spent my weekend, I chose last Friday afternoon to borrow a power washer and get to work. I got the nest remnants down from the one corner, and got as much of their industrial strength poop off the porch. THEN, I showed these bird I meant business by crafting one corner out of water bottles. The other corner (well I forgot their was another corner, so that didn't get cleaned out as well) got my brink of insanity treatment as featured below...

I mean, come on, who's going to mess with a Mr. Crab sand sifter with two half-pint water bottles working back-up (the masking tape adds a certain pizazz as well). More importantly, who is going to mess with the person who thought this was a good idea. My hope was to let these barn swallows know that they were dealing with a touch of crazy lady. When I told my army neighbor my logic, he confirmed that the army knows that you just leave crazy alone--it's unpredictable. I then took bets with the children as to whether or not this plan would work. They were pessimistic, as you probably are, knowing there are two more parts coming to this story!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I need to get something off my chest!

A couple of years ago I decided that wearing an ill-fitting bra was no good. (Yes, I had to actually "decide" that...put real thought into it!) I dreaded the bra shopping experience as much, if not more, than the bathing suit shopping outing. Swimsuits do not involve a gray haired woman named Marge (or the like) laying hands on me with a tape measure. It must have been a very bad day that I truly could not find anything better to do than to attempt to rectify my "cup runneth over" situation.

I tried on over 24 bras in the course of two days...and bought none! The associate who helped on the first day showed some empathy and helped me keep my sense of humor. On day two when I asked if there might be something my size that didn't look so ugly and old-lady like, I did not make a new friend in that store's sales associate. Seriously though, some of those alleged full-figure bras are just a code name for "old lady bras". There was certainly enough spandex there to lift parts back up to the torso that may have drifted down to the waistline. Not what I had in mind to boost the ego of my already feeling unsexy self! I was told that my cup size was not in alignment with my going around the body, ok, so where exactly does that put me? I'll tell you where...right back home in my ill-fitting bra.
Then, I saw in Real Simple magazine that Target got a big shout out for their bras, so I went and got one. It did fit great, for a day, until the underwire became a sideways wire that threatened to do some harm. I also tried my luck in Victoria Secret since I had been told they'd expanded their line to accommodate ill-proportioned people. That bra fit great too, until I bent over...and fell out the top. I tried another one from Macy's, but after a day in a red sweater, I had to have my husband return the slightly pinkish item. Why him, instead of me? Who the heck was going to argue with a poor man trying to return a bra?

I went to visit family a couple of weeks later...still slightly traumatized by my events. They came to the rescue!!! We went to the bra emporium at Lord & Taylor (it did make our local L&T look like a roadside shack). I tried on several more (with the added bonus of an audience). Lo and behold, there was ONE (seriously) that the tune of over $50. Of course I started to debate in my head just HOW bad my current situation was. My step-mother, knowing what voices were in my head, whisked the bra off to the register and treated me!

So, I've made do for eighteen months with my one fabulous bra. I've dug in the drawer for backup a few times when I got a little crazy and tried to exercise. I thought I was having a hard time breathing because I had overdone it on the elliptical, but realized it was just the corset I was wearing that was restricting air intake. In addition to the physical issues, the sports bras do not necessarily provide optimum appearance value with their large square uniboob look. And as wonderful as the fit of my one good bra is for ordinary life, the day I went for a little jog with my daughter, was the day I learned that NOBODY over a c-cup should spontaneously burst into a jog...ouch!

I got my first bra at ten years old...I think that one fit! In assessing my daughter's physique, I realized that it was time to put something between her and the cute little cotton t-shirts she wears. We now have a fine assortment of camis, tanks, half camis, pseudo sports bras, and almost bras. She said the almost bra was too tight, but since I didn't witness the trying on, who really knows?! It occurred to me later that I neglected to tell her that they are not necessarily supposed to be comfortable!

While I was at Target assessing options for her, I decided to let myself peruse what offerings they had for a gal like me. That would be...none. I even went to the full-figure section where you could choose your support preference. Really? Shouldn't everyone be choosing maximum support? Please tell me it isn't just me who has seen women I've wanted to go adjust bra straps for...bring the girls up where they belong! Not resting on someone's stomach with the threat of growing moss underneath. Anyway, there were three choices including moderate support and superior support. However, none were going to offer me ANY support, as my freak of nature size was NOT an option. I made sure to check every corner of the department, and then realized I might be better off in the duct tape and/or ace bandage aisle. Suffice to say, that the outing ended with me eating a blueberry scone to drown my sorrows...Afterall, if I gain two inches around, I'll be able to easily find a bra!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Game on!

Five years ago I convinced myself that I could be a youth soccer coach...for a recreational league (that part is key). According to the league philosophy, this was a place for kids to have fun and learn the game of soccer. I was confident that I could handle the crowd control aspect of things, and figured I could gather info on the finer points of the game. For the six and under crowd I was starting with, anything beyond: head away from your own goal and don't use your hands seemed irrelevant. At ten and under, we have now moved a bit past the swarm mentality with twelve legs all trying to kick one ball and/or each other.

I remember our first experience with the coach I'll call the intimidator. He had apparently exercised some mind control over his flock of five year olds. How else could one explain his ability to have them out there in some semblance of positions actually passing the ball. I had kids grabbing a drink from a parent while the ball was in that same kid's foot. I had other players just wandering off the field because they were ready for a break, or looking for snack. I remember jogging alongside a player trying to tie her hair up. Our priorities were so clear, BUT, they were having fun. Even those early years when a coach could be ON the field, unless I was going to take a shot on a five year old goalie, I was a bit unsure what to say to get the results the intimidator was getting.

There was one U6 game where every single one of their players had scored at least once (to our zero), except for one girl. It started to feel as if their fans were thinking we should just let that girl score. Much to the contrary, I started to feel that we were victorious if we held her off. By now I am sure you have some general idea of the intimidator's team's skill. I should mention that my team is not the only one to experience such poundings from them.

There are twelve games each season, and around fourteen teams in each age bracket. Somehow, I have always managed to play the intimidator at least once, and one season three times I believe. Of course it came as no surprise when I got this spring's schedule, and saw that our first game would be against THEM. I will admit right here how high I jumped and "woo-hoo'd" when my mighty Blizzards scored the first goal of the game. I was stunned when it was 1-1 after ten minutes. We had never held them off like that.

Then there were about thirty minutes of our goalies and defense getting stomped (and stumped). We coaches could see the strategy they were using, but couldn't quite explain to our team how to stop it! By some reports they scored eleven times, while others reported five (I love my team). I cannot deny that the intimidator has truly taught his team more than the rules of soccer. He has taught them the art of actually playing soccer. For this, I applaud him.

With about ten minutes left in the game, and with benches only about eight feet apart, he started to tell his players who were within earshot to "just pass the ball around now". Well, now part of the trouble I saw was that I had some players within earshot as well. About a minute later, when he must've thought his peeps didn't get the message, he stepped onto the field--DURING PLAY--and called a little pow-wow to dumb it down. Really? At that point he insulted not only our soccer skills, but our intelligence as well. The ref of course said nothing (as what fourteen year old is going to balk at the intimidator?). Then the pressure to score was really present in the face of a team that was just told something amounting to "play in the grass or pick your nose for a bit here".

My daughter scored, and her friends cheered for her as though it mattered. The reason being, that it DID matter...that is the point score a goal...and she did. It didn't matter that it was by no means a winning goal---just A goal...mission accomplished. A new boy to our team was on the bench next to me and said, "I don't know why people are so concerned with keeping score. This is a rec league and is supposed to be for fun. I'm having fun!" I felt like hugging him and telling him he came to the right place...and maybe I had too!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

For one glorious moment this morning, I thought I had hit some outrageous jackpot. I woke up to a clock that read 8:00 am, and thought my family must've found a new home for the dogs!!! Lo and behold, they started yapping at 8:30, so I just appreciated that they let me sleep in.

The snow today put a wrench in my plans to do something new and different, like go for a hike. I must say that the weather was almost a relief, as it was really too crummy to do anything...a perfect excuse to do nothing! A Mother's Day miracle---nobody looking at me in anticipation of what fabulous plans I had in store. I was completely excused from my job as Julie McCoy--cruise director.

My daughter and I went to visit my mother, while still in our jammies. Then we stopped at the store for a couple of dinner provisions. There is sauce in the crockpot which I didn't mind throwing together at noon. I think sometimes the problem with making dinner is the timing. By 5:30 pm, I have no interest in exerting the energy required to put dinner on the table...I'm not saying it takes a lot of energy...I'm saying I don't wish to exert it!

To all of you mothers out there, I wish you a moment to relax today..whether that means eating a meal sitting down, peeing with the door closed, or reading an uninterrupted chapter in a book...anything beyond that might be a stretch for many of us. (And if you did get sent away to a spa, keep that to yourself!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Good fight gone bad

So there it was...the dreaded to-do list...just sitting there lifeless on the counter. What a martyr! Maybe if it had more exciting things on it, I'd give it more prompt and eager attention. But alas, I decided yesterday that I would devote my day off today to the list--in other words, I hadn't had time to make lunch plans! I even got a jump start last night spending a ridiculous amount of time on things I later realized I'd never put ON the list...blah! I was curious just how long things really took to do when focus was involved.

At 9:00 I dropped the girl child off at school, and got straight to the first round of errands. By noon, I had six things checked off my list, including uploading some photos from the old computer (that item had been on previous lists for the past three months). When I realized I had returns at three stores, I decided that was enough to warrant a second trip out. Upon entering the mall, I got my sunglasses adjusted so they would stop falling off my face (um, they've been doing that for a year!) I was off to the races--useful accomplishments that didn't even make it to the list? What special vitamin was in today's breakfast cereal that was allowing me to function on all cylinders?

With such positive energy flowing, I decided to look for a new bedspread (ours is fifteen years old...I think I got my money's worth!) I have already returned two $200 comforter sets to Bed Bath and Beyond, because apparently I have no true idea of what color the walls are in my bedroom. I was dangerously unarmed of any paint swatches, as I perused Macy's. I found a set that was sure to work for $40. Yee-ha!

I finished up the return roundup at the craft store where I planned to peruse the paper offerings for bridal shower invites. I carried some around for long enough to finally realize that no envelopes were in the kit (how is that a kit, one might ask). Then I decided on some golden yellow paper that I was going to put brown ribbon with (since a voice in my head told me the wedding colors had something to do with brown). OK, well I will say right here that, while this color combo does not even sound might've been...maybe...

I drove home with some minutes to spare even. I was looking forward to crossing four more things off my list. I had fought the good fight today, only checked facebook a couple of times, didn't pick up the phone (well, it didn't ring, but I didn't make any calls either, and that IS something), AND I remembered to eat lunch. I sang along with Alannis Morrisette--"You Live, You Learn", if you're interested, and pulled into the driveway.

The email I caught right before I left at 12:34 told me where the bride-to-be was registered (but hadn't answered my color question). The one that came at 12:37 (that I missed) told me the colors were navy and fuschia. Apparently that was NOT my voice in my head telling me the color was brown...ok, add invite paper back to list.

Once again, I proved to myself just how many different shades of sage-like green there are in the world (and how unlikely it is that I will find the one on my walls in a bed covering). It also seems to be made of a material like that in public restroom paper towel dispensers. The sad thing is, since I only spent $40 (instead of $200), I might just convince myself it works to avoid having to put "return bedspread" on my list for a third time this week.

I was still not to be defeated and had three ounces of energy left, so I perused what was left on the list. "Find camera"....ugh! My daughter's camera has been missing for over a month. I MIGHT have been able to accept that it was lost. HOWEVER, I distinctly remember saying (about a month ago) "Hey! Here's your camera!" Where the hell was I? And more importantly, why did I not quickly usher it to safety? I don't have much ability to cope when something is lost in my own house--it makes me, well it makes me a little cuckoo and obsessed. Plus, now I have something I cannot cross off the list.

I flopped down at the computer in hopes of finding an email or something to amuse me. The only email was the one with the address for the upcoming Girl Scout encampment. Hooray, now I can Mapquest find out that it is OVER two hours away...(slight whimper). I do not feel very Girl Scouty right now, and plan to stay in denial regarding the potential for me to be sleeping in a tent with ten year olds, a mere two weeks from now. I am also trying to ignore the low-pile carpet of dust that is forming in our computer space. It didn't bother me this morning when I was getting "computer oriented" things done on my it is just making me think I need to add "dust" to my list!

P.S. I was amused, as always, by Baxter's blog. He tells great tales of his life as a dog! Check him out some time...

Sunday, May 2, 2010


There has been a complete disregard of the house candy rules. While I was working on my, admittedly lackluster, last blog entry, Mr. Sweet Tooth committed crimes against the newly renovated snack shack. He finished MY sponge candy that was given to ME on Easter. It was a very large bag, of which I had eaten three pieces. Now I did realize all along that the candy was disappearing, but I also knew that there were 4 pieces left this morning when I revamped my organization system in the pantry closet. I felt safe in my decision to not eat a piece of that heavenly candy at 10:00 am. Fool! He ate all four pieces this evening while I was one room away typing. I need a better sniffer...or better agents, as the children were sitting on the couch while he prowled!

2+2 before

I try not to get myself in a bunch about curriculum content at the kids' schools. There are plenty of other things that I get myself in knots over, and I like to think that the Board of Education has some knowledge of what they're doing. I do think the whole "teaching to the test" is taking up room that used to be reserved for fun and useful information. It a shame that those tests start in third grade now...didn't they used to just be happy if we'd stopped eating paste by then? Perhaps tied our own shoes?

Four years ago a new math program was trotted out, promising more practical experience mathematical adventures. There were five year olds following maps around the school--hurray! I knew plenty of adults who could not follow a map, so starting this young should be fabulous. I was less enthused as time went on, and the kids were learning NEW ways to do old make it easier. Easier to have kids ask their parents for help only to be met with "duh...I can get you the answer, but I have no idea how to help with your 'forgiving method' of division"! How about reserving that method for those who actually have trouble with regular old division!

Where I'm really headed with all of this (and eventhough I can read a map, I guess I started to get lost), is when do kids get to forget how to add? Clearly it is not a skill they need once in high school. I guess, in my day, our version of roughing it did not involve walking to school uphill; but rather, had to do with jobs involving money but no calculator. I worked at an ice cream stand where you had to come back to the window with cones made, as well as a grand total for the items prepared. Then you made change. Now that ice cream stand has registers that tally as you go, and when you punch in how much money's collected, it tells you how much change to give. The register is not a safety net-it is vital to keep an eighteen year old's head from exploding.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with an honor roll student who further demonstrated that whatever tests are being taught to , do not include being able to function in a money handling society without some electronic intervention. "What's $7.60 plus $1.70?" I gave the answer (as another woman was punching the numbers into a calculator). Then "What's the change for that from a $20?" Come on...try! To use my son's expression from earlier this evening "Dig Deep!"

Have you ever seen how befuddled you can make a clerk by giving them the coins for your total, but a different dollar amount....or more coins than your total AND more dollars? I am not a rocket scientist; but yes, I am good at math...whatever the hell that means. I really don't think it is strictly the logical portion of my brain that helps me figure out a sale price. I think it has more to do with using that basic skill of addition for over thirty years.

They will continue to teach to the tests. They may begin to stifle the creativity of some teachers by occupying more and more of their time with pressure to have good standardized test performances. The school report cards of how they function as a district will give people numbers to look at that may or may not make sense in the real world. As the schools prepare children for the next year ahead, and their student lives...I guess it's parents who might have to step in to provide them with life skills?