Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday + Holiday week = EXTRA fun

Yesterday started like any other Monday with my complete lack of interest in getting out of bed at 6:00 only to start dragging other uninterested parties out of bed. Once I spotted my "to do" list on the kitchen counter though, I felt energized and up for the challenge (or at least that's what I kept telling myself). The Fozzie dog and I were second to arrive at the groomer at 8:30, where unfortunately he, rather than I, was to be treated to his spa delights including a blueberry facial. Knowing his majesty would not be completely adorable for several hours, I took a deep breath and got moving. I stopped off at a friend's house for some tea and toast paired with lively discussion as to the strategies involved for the progress we were both going to make during the day. By 10:00 we both hit the ground running.

I decided to finally return the "big" item I had purchased for my husband for Christmas. I did so because it was something he did not want, and this is not the time or place for me to try to rationalize why I purchased said item to begin with, knowing full well it was on the "no thank you" list. As I was about finished with this first stop on my full travel itinerary, the groomers called, presumably to tell me that the Foz missed me so much that I had to go have a facial with him afterall. Nope, he was done already. I made a series of frightened agitated noises that prompted the woman on the other end of the call to tell me he was fine and to come whenever I could (next week?).

I somewhat guiltily trudged on to Target for my fifth round of returns this season. The return for my husband there was an item he really did want, so much so in fact that he purchased it for himself two weeks ago. I was pretty pleased that I had to unwrap it to return it (let's face it, I was pretty pleased overall). As I came out of the store, after making sure to spend an amount at least equivalent to what I had returned, I realized that my keys were not in any obvious locations. I guess a small part of me was actually relieved to see them hanging from the ignition in the van. Sure, it would have been an even bigger relief if one of the doors had been unlocked, but at least I didn't have to retrace my wandering path through Target to find them.

I did not want to spare any precious time, so when the recording at AAA said there was high call volume, I started hoofing two parking lots over to Kohl's for my next adventure. The woman who eventually answered the phone said she could have the driver just pick me up at Kohl's and take me to my car, but this seemed to make my situation even more pathetic, and I had close to an hour to kill most likely.

My mission at Kohl's was to get a white shirt for my son's orchestra concert that evening. This was my attempt to ward off a third occasion of last minute panic as he was dressing for a concert. One year ago he had to wear a pair of my shoes, eight months ago he had to wear a pair of my pants, and I just didn't think I had a blouse or puffy shirt that was going to work out. There was nothing in his actual size in the young adult/old child department, so I had to enter the land of the folded up mens' dress shirts. I took some size advice from a woman with admittedly no decent knowledge of sizing, but in my frenzy I still saw her as more capable than I was. I called my husband for further consultation and he said there should've been a shorted sleeve length than what they had, but there WASN'T. As the cashier was trying to confirm how many bucks back my pile of receipts had truly earned me, my phone rang with a recording instructing me to proceed to my vehicle. I left hoping that my jogging and speed walking combination would get me to the car in five minutes.

I watched MacGuyver use some things he obviously had laying on the floor of his truck to get me into my van. I was fairly certain that I could've purchased similar items back in Target. I wonder why I didn't just go back in there to look for the shirt as well. I guess the twenty percent off coupon for Kohl's, as well as being so close to the next $10 cash back level, just made me delirious.

I arrived home feeling fairly happy with the progress I had made for the morning. Fozzie showed no interest in hearing my excuses for why he had to wait an extra two hours for me to rescue him from the salon, and I had no interest in his attitude, so we just waited for the kids to get home.

After explaining to my son the urgency involved with me knowing whether the new shirt fit, he tried to try it on. The sleeves were too long, as anticipated, but the neck was not big enough. Great. I grabbed the least wrinkled white dress shirt out of my husband's wardrobe and wrapped it around the man child. I justified the looseness of the garment by telling myself that it could hinder his viola bowing if the sleeves were too tight. I gathered the rest of his clothes for the evening for him to change into after dinner. With fifteen minutes to spare, he started getting dressed, and all of the extra bulk at the bottom of the shirt made his pants difficult to button. Luckily there was a belt available to help that situation.

My string thing complained to anyone who would listen about having to wear a bow tie. No mention was made of the tight pants or baggy shirt, and thank goodness his shoes still fit. (I can't imagine how big they were on him when I bought them almost a year ago.) The concert was wonderful!

Oh, my friend just called from Kohl's to tell me about the two size 18 shirts in the boys department...folded up in hanging packages...um, right where I was looking yesterday and could only find 5, 7 and 8...seriously? Well, I'm off to go there now to return the other shirt anyway!

Friday, December 3, 2010

No other explanation

I was continuing on my quest to decorate our home for the holidays today, when trouble tried to strike. I decided that I had enough festive china to give my hutch a merry makeover. We have a beautiful dining room set that belonged to my great-grandparents. When I was little I would go visit them at their house, and sometimes they would argue over which one of them loved me more (ok, irrelevant, but come on). Anyway, I decided I would just clear out most stuff and replace it with items from the festival of decor that had exploded all over the dining room table. As I reached back on the second shelf to grab a large platter, there was a slight wobble from the shelf. That was odd, but I had a platter to move. The next item I grabbed caused the entire shelf, and all of the crystal on it, to pitch forward far enough to send things sliding.

Crystal was hitting the ground at my feet and my brand new lead crystal anniversary gift vase (that was filled with about thirty small glass ornaments, of course) was headed for the edge. I quickly pushed the shelf back up, and realized the front right peg that was intended to keep that corner in place had gone by the wayside. I immediately realized what that little metal piece I had seen floating around months ago was. Physics alone had been keeping everything steady on that shelf for quite some time. I was trying to hold the shelf up while relocating the crystal that had not leapt to certain doom. Finally, I had an empty shelf that was resting peacefully on the three remaining brackets.

I started standing up crystal glasses on the lower shelf that had been hit, and was surprised that nothing was broken. Next, I crouched over to start picking up the mess I figured I would find on the ground. I picked up one champagne glass, one wine glass, one vase, and a box car from a small crystal train. There was no damage whatsoever. I had anticipated that I would have to rope off the area to spend days finding glass shards, but there was not a single chip to be seen.

After inspecting the hardware under the shelf, I vividly remembered seeing the piece in one drawer, in particular, resting in a bowl. I confidently strode over to that drawer, only to find that I had cleaned out the junk from there quite some time ago, and the bowl in question had new stuff in it. I sorted through eleven more drawers over the next hour with no luck. Finally, I broadened my search to include any piece of hardware that could possibly be used, MacGuyver style, to keep the shelf in place. When I found a decent candidate, I headed for the hutch, after stopping briefly to grab this really cool screwdriver that belonged to my late grandfather (at least I knew which of eleven drawers to find that in).

As I set to work securing the screw in place, my mind flashed to my late grandfather and his parents, and my visit just hours earlier to the cemetery to freshen up their plot. My immediate thought was "Hey! Are the three of them up there laughing over what's going here with their furniture and tools? Some thanks I get for going to visit!" Suddenly a new thought hit me as it became almost painfully obvious that they thanked me by making sure nothing broke by holding some things back from the slide and cushioning those that fell to the ground. This departure from conventional logic is new for me, but is the only explanation that makes sense...or at least is the only one that fills me with a warm fuzzy feeling so perfect for the holiday season. (Maybe whoever saved the vase loves me the most, in a very close race!)

Monday, November 29, 2010


I did it! 50,199 words in twenty-nine days.

No holiday decorations yet

We will have to stay with the Thanksgiving motif for another 48 hours! I am at 45,466 words!

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The moment passed

Well, I am over my elation at reaching the halfway point of November and my Nano. I went from "Yahoo, I can do it", to "Uh-ph, what if I don't finish?" I know the real answer is that it doesn't matter to the universe if I finish or not, but I would be disappointed....and it is all about me isn't it? Oh no wait, maybe it's just me!

Also, I have been battling some sort of sinus nasty for almost a week, and my spirits are sinking so low that my new bra can't even lift them. I actually ran out of good lounging pajamas today, as that has been most of my wardrobe. Then, to top it all off, I missed a day of writing, and in an attempt to jump back in today, found myself writing about my fear of froads (frogs and toads--as if I get close enough to really know the difference!) I suppose having each of my children take turns being home with me for the past two days did a lot for me creatively.

Calgon--take me away, but can you bring dinner? Oh, and a laptop for me to use!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meet me halfway!!!

Happy November 15th!!!!! If you are here, I am going to assume you have some vague interest in my current writing plight...It is 11:42 am and I am at 25,052 words! I think I will go get dressed now and join the living. I'd say more, but I have a wicked cramp in my wrist, and I am ever so tired of fixing typos today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And so it goes...

Well, it is day ten of Nanowrimo. The main evidence of this fact is not that I now walk around with a pipe wearing a cardigan sweater, or anything fancy like that. The status of our home is the tell-tale sign. Yesterday, I couldn't decide if I should get the vacuum cleaner out, or just rake the floor. Dust has become fairly commonplace around here, and we are big fans of nature, but leaves underfoot and in the dog's mouth were a definite hint that things were on the brink of getting out of control.

I have had something I'd like to discuss, but am afraid to type words not directly contributing to my 50,000 word goal. I have slipped behind the past two days, and am at just under 15,00o words (when I should be at just over 16,000). My son is on the computer I need to do that project on, so I thought I'd take a breather here for a bit. Before I commence with last week's public service announcement, I would like to comment on my decision to not attempt to write a fiction novel. I cannot take myself seriously enough to call what I am writing a memoir, and have come to realize that I am perhaps even less fascinating than I anticipated!

Moving on...I found a bottle of prescription antibiotics, belonging to my husband, one morning last week. I went to ask him what they were for, as I was instantly concerned for his health, figuring it must be something bad if he couldn't mention it to me (yes, of course...why wouldn't I assume it was no big deal and that is why it was not dinner conversation?!) So he tells me it's for his finger.

"Did you cut it?"
"What happened then?"

He then shows me his finger that has doubled in size, with the tip looking like hammer toe.

"OK, so what happened?"
"Infected from chewing it."
"Are you sure?" (Could be bone cancer...I don't know why I automatically go there...but at least I wasn't thinking out loud.)
"Yes, I'm sure."

I knew immediately why this news had not reached me sooner, as any traces of sympathy or concern left my body and were replaced by general taunting urges. Urges I could not suppress.

"Are you kidding me? That looks outrageous! Make sure to show your children as a warning against them chewing their fingers. Let me take a picture, as I have to post this PSA on facebook!"

I don't know why he didn't walk around with his hands in his pocket for a week after hiding the prescription bottle. It didn't look much better the last time I checked, but he is a big boy who can look after this issue on his own. Um, considering he is such a big boy he chewed his finger until it got infected,I should probably check again when he gets home from work.

I just appreciate the opportunity to use this material if I am a couple hundred words short on November 30th!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jumping In

Historically, I typically feel the need to poll numerous friends and relations before I make a decision about anything. Other times, depending on the topic, I aim for one person who I think will REALLY know what's best for me. It has occurred to me, that I might be leaving a fairly significant person out of the equation, or at least discounting her opinion...ME. I might have wanted to try my hand at solving something simple, like what to have for dinner. Instead, I went and signed up for NaNoWriMo...National Novel Writing Month. Who doesn't register, on a whim, for a month long writing contest in which participants are striving to write a 50,000 word novel?

The contest is targeted for people writing fiction, but there is a group of rebels doing other "non-novel" writings. I am leaning towards a memoir-type of thing. I have thirty-five more hours to decide exactly what it is I'm going to do. One of the suggestions they give is that you tell everyone you know, so consider yourself told! The idea being that the more people aware of your plight, the less likely you will run and hide under your bed (now I'll have to look for a new hiding place!).

I read about this contest earlier this week on a blog of a blog I follow. The crucial coincidence was that I also started jogging this past week. OK, so it was fifteen minutes a day, and I am on day 5 (which is a day off in this program I am sponging info off a dear friend from...thank you!). I NEVER thought I could run/jog/shuffle for fifteen continuous minutes, but I did. As my aching quads and I were rounding out about six minutes on day 2, I started to wonder what other things I could accomplish. Somehow getting back to my house, on two legs, after fifteen minutes became comparable to writing a 50,000 word novel...in 30 days! Yikes!

The first person I told was a fellow blogger (www.dailybaxter.com), and she did not disappoint with her words of encouragement and promise to supply sugar. The support from those who live in this house has been, well, it's been what those of you who regularly follow this blog might expect. The husband had a blank look and didn't seem familiar with the contest that I had showed him on the computer three days earlier...silence. The son made a grumbling about not getting much computer time next month...touching. The husband pointed out to the son that his comment might have been selfish (I did not point out that his silence was not much better). The daughter at least had questions relevant to what I was telling her: How do you count the words? What do you win? (In case anybody is wondering, you "win" just for doing it. As, I explained to my daughter...more like a "finisher" than a "winner".)

I AM SO EXCITED! (yeah, yeah, yeah...and a little panic stricken too) I might've had it in my head that 5,000 words was 50,000 words. In more lucid times, (like right after I registered) I realized that was over 1,500 words a day! I also walked past the calendar and figured out what time of year we are dealing with here...holiday lunacy countdown! Oh well! Maybe if I get behind on my shopping, I can just give out copies of my novel for Christmas...ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha slkdjf[09qeut[io' vhejwl;KGV...oops, fell off my chair.

Have a wonderful day, and do something that fascinates you!

p.s. I was just doing some blog design housekeeping, and read the "About Me" part where I reference people's exercise routines getting me down. I just wanted to confirm that I jogged...for fifteen minutes...for four days...I don't even have fancy sneakers! I also hope you realize that my signing up for this contest might also indicate how not "together" I remain!

Monday, October 25, 2010

You might want to filter that

Coffee filters keep all of the nasty grounds out of a decent cup of joe, while light filtering shades can help to keep bright rays from bothering our eyes. I would guess that we all know of at least one human being who could stand to be equipped with some sort of filter to make him/her less harsh. It has occurred to me that my daughter and I might need to develop a filter of our own for the receiving end of some of the thirteen year old boy conversations we find ourselves participating in. I do not anticipate him developing a filter on his own, until there is a female, not wired to love him unconditionally, whom he may not want to offend.

I have been warned about the beast that a teenage boy can be: sight, sound and smell. I just can't let it all happen without adding my two cents though, for fear that he'll come out on the other side (whenever that is) no less of an animal. Today my daughter happily announced, to me, that she made it into the spelling bee. Almost before I could respond, came the "Yeah, I didn't even try when I took that test because I didn't want to do that." Then there was talk of intentionally spelling words wrong (that explains a little). I bit my tongue to keep from saying, "Um, shut up!" Luckily, he did not take the wind out of her sails as she finished her information on the topic and wandered off. I then discussed with the boy what an appropriate response might sound like. This apparently was amusing for him to have his baboon-like tendencies pointed out, and amidst his chuckling, he got out a "congratulations" when the girl came back in the room.

When he came home to announce he had made it into the geography bee last year, there was no more enthusiasm than he showed his sister. "I don't know how I did it, but I somehow got into the geography bee." His view of school seems to be that it is a task to complete. He just goes and does his thing (very well...I am a mom and must add). He doesn't really want to talk or think about it beyond those doors.

Of course, my daughter is far more resilient to his charms. I think this is in part due to the fact that he has always been her brother, and also because she spends every day in the company of a classroom half filled with a starter crop of man beasts. I hear the flip comments in this house and panic over their lasting impact most of the time, Other times, I see that my daughter is more concerned over whether there are homemade cookies available, than she is about what rolled off her brother's tongue. OK, no, I do not want her to run to food to soothe herself.....damn, where are those cookies?

Ugh! The media has me so torqued up about protecting the psyche of my 'tween girl, so I bought some books last week to guide me through. Then I felt like I was neglecting my son, so I grabbed some books about fostering his emotional development. I suppose I should have also looked for a self help book for when I have been buried under too much of this information and can no longer sleep at night! I will be unable to complete a sentence for fear that it will convey some message that eventually lands my children in therapy...talking about me! Yikes, I felt much better about buying those books than I do about actually reading them. I wonder how I'd feel about returning them, and getting myself some new sneakers?!

In my son's defense, or at least the one he most typically offers up, he's just being honest. So, when we tell our young children not to lie, apparently the hope would be for them to tell the truth. It is my opinion that lying is always bad. However, honesty is not always nice...especially without a filter.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


One could assume that I haven't blogged in so long because I've been working on a topic of epic proportions...a veritable tome. In part, the truth is more along the lines of not being amused, or intrigued even, by any one topic in particular, to the extent that I could write a few sentences. Then, there was some question (to myself) as to whether the post even needed to be funny or incredibly insightful. There was the paralyzed by guilt phase...caught up in the delusion that fives of people were unable to function in their daily lives without knowing how I was occupying my time. There was also the full scale rant that carried the potential to offend people if put in writing (and while I was mighty steamed, I wasn't sure that the fire needed gasoline). The last hurdle was how to just jump back in, so...cowabungaaaaaaaa.....(splash) I was at WalMart...this is not an ordinary scene because...I...hate...WalMart. This was no supercenter either, just one of the final stores to go unsuperfied, left in a land time forgot. I know the products I saw there can be found in any of the finer upscale store (um, like Target), but somehow seeing these things on big W's shelves cracked me up more. Check out this carpet cleaner that will "permanently remove" spots! This is good news indeed, as I can treat the whole room and not anticipate ever needing to clean again. How foolish the people who bought any of the surrounding cleaning supplies must feel. Their spots are destined to come right back. I know I'd rather clean a rug and have it stay as such, as opposed to being revisited by the same scummy spots a week or two later. "Boo hiss" to the producers of the "momentarily removes" spots potion! In an unrelated matter, two aisles over, I passed a display of these fashionable nuggets. A case of these and three packages of the tiniest wife-beater t-shirts on the market, and my son would've been one hot ticket baby! I didn't see any khakis for fancier occasions. When the time arises for a parent to want their little one to go pants- (or I guess shorts-) less, is the absence of a cool design really going to hold them back? I didn't check to see what sizes these glamour don'ts came in. Perhaps I should have, considering all of the money I could save by not buying shorts. I hope my husband doesn't think that if he finds boxers that look like denim, he can go without bottoms...even around the house. Had to tear myself away from the cases of these, apparently non-seasonal items (to the sounds of my friend insisting that I would've bought at least one package of these to try when my kids were babies...I LIKE to think not!). Moving on to the land of tiny cheesy plastics molded and painted into the most desirable pieces of crap that every girl from ages three and up has ever laid eyes on. From the great big eyes of the Littlest Pets and Polly Pocket's seemingly uncomfortable rubber clothing to My Little Pony's wild flowing mane...we've loved them all! This year's inductees to the wall of delights include a fabulous array of choking hazards in the likes of: tiny little clear plastic balls that hold tinier plastic wonders to be worn as bracelets or fabulous rings, and little mixed up figures that combine items (like a pretzel and a butterfly) because who doesn't need that creative spark? OK, so we own some of those too, I'm not proud.

Now I love Strawberry Shortcake and all of her delightful baked good friends, BUT...what the hell is this?
Stinkberry Alien? (Can you see the claw on the left closing in on them?) The purple one looks like it spent too much time with Violet in Wonka's factory. Also notice the clip, so that the ugliness of these characters can proudly be displayed on one's coat or backpack!

Well, if this post has accomplished nothing else, it has hopefully gotten me back in a groove, and has kept me from stuffing my face for the past however long. Plus, due to the upright nature of my typing position, I have spent a little more time awake on a very dreary and nap-worthy day...wait, I am not certain that is a good thing...the couch is calling me (it was hard to hear over the muffled conversations of various snack cupboard items!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Misery loves M & Ms

I typically like to purchase my feminine hygiene products at the grocery store (um, actually, I don't like purchasing them at all), buried deep under the rest of the items on my list. I know that we all pretend to be adults, but who really wants to converse over an armful of Kotex? "Maybe I should let you go carry on with whatever situation you have going on?"

It doesn't always work out that Mother Hubbard has stocked the cupboard, and a quick drug store recon mission is necessary. This evening was one of those times. I had no interest in spending money on things I didn't need just to camouflage my order. I felt like a thirteen year old carrying my items as quickly as possible to the checkout. It wasn't my own pride at stake, I realized when I heard some young girls an aisle over. It occurred to me that I was not interested in running into any of my son's actual thirteen year old friends. I scooted thru the card section and got to the registers...where there were no cashiers.

Teen dude quickly came over to ring up my merchandise. I noticed the assorted box of m & m packages on the counter, and the sign that said they were free if I wasn't asked about purchasing some. The coconut package winked at me, but I looked away. Dude asked me if those things were all I had...yes, and I'm thrilled about it! I was not asked specifically about the delightful melt in your mouth candies! I considered giving this handsome young man a little advice regarding the fact that he should ALWAYS offer a female with feminine products some candy. When my transaction was complete, I mentioned his oversight, then immediately felt like an idiot, so I covered with "thank goodness you didn't ask because I really don't need them". (I know, GREAT cover...ha!) He did not hand me my free yum yums! I considered giving him a second piece of advice...just hand over the chocolate to the woman with the Kotex...no further questions asked...and you might want to slide the package with a stick as to not risk touching her.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


For many years our children were too young, in my opinion, to try to provide them with much detail regarding the events of September eleventh. Then there was the question of what to share, as we adults certainly couldn't make complete (or any) sense of what happened. They weren't old enough to have ever had the thrill of seeing those massive towers as part of the skyline, so even saying that they had fallen didn't give them a frame of reference. I admit that, over the years, it was becoming easier for me to not be so terrified when reflecting on that day. It became part of history, something to remember, to reflect upon with awe and honor.

Today, my son and I were reading some facebook posts together that were written by family members who were right in the midst of chaos that day. The first was our cousin's husband who was working in building two. He was talking about the fire ball, his long walk down the stairs, and the falling debris. I realized the picture being painted was one that "thirteen" was old enough to grasp. There was also a picture, from better days, taken from the sixty-ninth floor of building two. That gave even more perspective than I could've possibly provided. He almost reluctantly tried to connect the dots of what stairs who had been walking down.

My aunt also had a post to honor and remember a friend and four of my uncle's probes...he has since retired as an FDNY Captain. I realized that even if my boy remembered being told that our uncle was there, he hadn't been given much other information to incorporate that into. I went and got the old New York Times Magazine that had an article in it featuring a firefighter who our uncle helped rescue. I suggested that my son read the story if he wanted to know more about that day. I realized that there was still nothing else in my own catalog of stored knowledge to share.

I also noticed that I was feeling slightly shaky with tears in my eyes, as if this was the first time I was hearing the tale. I remember my father being so collected and calm on the phone that day, as he updated me on the whereabouts of our family members in the city. Each person had found safety. The relief I felt was so quickly invaded by anguish at the thought of the thousands not receiving good news...or unable to get any news at all.

Last year, another one of our cousins went to Iraq as a Marine. We read his posts about helping children, villages, stopping smugglers, and rescuing a donkey from a hole. That pretty much was the extent of war stories in our home. I realize that there was additional talk at school, on the bus or out in public in general. However, we stayed away from letting the media educate them.

I am not terribly interested in trying to characterize the "enemy" for our children. I don't want to taint their view of an entire people at the same kitchen table we try to teach tolerance. I want them to grow to focus more on this day to remember the heroes, and all of the different ways we can define them, and to know that so many people overcame fear to help each other.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Even if it is just me...

During each of our lives, I am sure there have been many times the predominant thought has been "OK, enough is enough!" I give credit to those who are quick to A) Recognize when the moment arises and B) Put a stop to whatever it is that there has been enough of. I am a creature of the thought pattern that goes something like this: I don't like it...Maybe it's just me...I really don't like that...I should do something...But what if it's just me?...pout, vent, stew...repeat. Perhaps this sounds familiar and I have some soul sisters/brothers out there? (Or it just sounds familiar because you know me?)

I get the concept that we can't change another person's behavior--just our own. However, most efforts at self-preservation really seem to have the potential to make someone come across as a broom-rider. It seems really obvious now, but I just realized that while there may be explanations offered for a person's behavior, I am not obligated to accept the excuse. There was a woman I knew who, quite seriously, attempted to excuse an entire six months of unfriendliness due to being pregnant. Let's face it, some actions are just inexcusable. I fully accept responsibility (or at least recognize that I should) for things I have done to elicit less than pleasant responses from others involved.

Of course there is always the adult version of the typical playground scenario-"who gave the dirty look first", or "who used their nasty voice first". I know that I tend to lean towards replying in whatever tone I heard coming my way. Yet, I am the same person who tells actual children that their cold and prickly voices are not necessary. The dirty look business gives even greater impact to the complete negative vibe package. I am always amused when I hear the comment "Oh, that's just how so-and-so always looks"...Yikes! How unfortunate! Another alleged misconception I've heard about involves the silent treatment...I have an expectation that when coming across someone, there will be an overlapping of salutations. It is a little bizarre, in my opinion, to have a situation where nobody says hello...even more bizarre still to lay blame with one another for saying nothing...absolutely bonkers if someone says "hello", and gets no response.

Sometimes for the sanctity (and sanity) of the group, we might try to sort of wipe the slate clean before each gathering. There are absolutely some occasions where it just feels easier to put on some big girl panties and get over it. Where do you go from there if you still get the feeling there's a "kick me" sign on your back, and you're pretty sure you know who put it there? Is that when enough is really enough? Can you dig deep down within yourself and decide whether you are strong enough to withstand some unpopularity, but still know you are an ok person? Does it feel any better to be superficially popular, but have a stress headache the size of Texas to show for the performance?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not even fit for basic cable (part 2)!

I traded in my salsa shirt for an even crummier one today to ready myself for Pickle Day! Apparently, I'm just bottling up all of my sadness over the summer vacation drawing to a close. We filled the house with kids (my favorite sound), and with everyone happily busy, I got to work! The bread and butter pickle recipe I use has a couple of different weapons up its sleeve.

The first obstacle I faced was a small bag of onions, and they were truly diabolical! Perhaps it is the different cutting technique that is used for the pickles (thin rings) that makes the task so much more difficult, and tear jerking, than the chopping motion used for the salsa. Part of the problem, I am sure, resides in the fact that I am a terribly unskilled knife user...nope, practice is doing nothing to improve my situation. The mere fact that I am exposed to the onions longer as I try to make thin slices that do not involve any of my fingers makes the onions power over my eyes unbearable! I have never seen any footage of the cooking divas on TV showing them with both eyes, and nostrils weeping. My eyes hurt for the rest of the day, as if I'd gone on some major crying jag--which I guess I did. I took a glance in the mirror to see if I should have one of the children capture my visage...oops, no, not if I wanted anyone to eat what was in the jar...very unappetizing!

The other battle I had to face was with a spicy little chap named Turmeric (and perhaps his buddy mustard seed). His evil power is his similarity to permanent ink, as far as stain removal is concerned! When black utensils have a strange yellow glow about them...those are some badass spices! (Um, why is this post starting to read as though I am sniffing permanent markers? I need to get out more!) I am happy to report that I didn't ruin anything new this year...or at least nothing I've seen through my bloodshot puffy eyes!

Once again, I was armed with a time honored recipe. A recipe that I have chosen to not make any helpful notations on. It calls for four quarts of cucumbers thinly sliced. Every year I buy an eight quart basket and then ponder if I am doubling the recipe, or if that refers to an amount of sliced cucumbers. I don't know what I decide each year, I just know sometimes I have enough liquid leftover to bottle on its own. I was really glad that there were no other adults present today as my system was neither terribly efficient, nor pretty, but somehow there are nineteen sealed jars of pickles on my counter!

This should conclude this year's installment of "Watch out the stove is hot!" as I do not expect any incidents when it's applesauce time. (I already learned that it is not a good idea to peel apples outside on a nice day...when there are bees around!) I also learned a few lessons making blackberry jam, that should make raspberry jam day rather dull. (It will be truly uneventful if I miss out on picking the berries!)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'd like to Billieve it!

As my relationship with the Buffalo Bills enters its seventeenth season, it is clear that this story arc is on a rather downward slope. Or course you remember the fabulous Bills of 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993? Well, I met my husband (let's call him Uberfan today) in 1994. I am not saying that I would've wanted to occupy a couch with him as they lost any of those four Super Bowl games, but the excitement during each of those seasons might have been worth something (like at least the cost of the season tickets). I would have also been more compassionate right from the start as we watched the downfall of Jim Kelly, as I would've immediately recognized all that he had been.

In order to feign any kind of interest in the Bills, as our relationship started out, I had to first muster up some interest in the game of football...which meant I had to understand something about this sport. My questions (and there were lots of them) were always received well and answered succinctly. The Uberfan has been a Pop Warner football ref for over twenty years, so I got explanations that a ten year old could understand, and that did not insult me at all. Once I had some general pigskin knowledge under my belt, and had made several trips to the Uberfan's hometown of Buffalo, I began to gain some appreciation of this team he loved so much. I was also extremely grateful for the fact that my Uberfan was still a reasonable man on Sunday afternoons and evenings, regardless of the team's performance. A loss did not spoil the rest of our day after away games, and he had always regained his composure somewhere between Batavia and our driveway after home games.

In an effort to show my support, I typically tried to watch any televised games he went to. I would note anything spectacular or quizzical. I just assumed it was proper to display an interest in what I figured was an actual hobby. The Doug Flutie years provided some moments of excitement, and our son liked him for some reason (the four-year-old boy demographic can be unpredictable). I was still holding firm as someone with moderate interest in both football and the Bills. With two small children, I had not yet entered the world of flopping down on the couch for a few hours in the middle of a Sunday. I tried to encourage them to have some general interest. (What else would we talk to Daddy about on Sundays?)

Once our kids got older, and I got lazier, I began to watch more football. As the Bills were getting worse and worse, I was being exposed to teams who were playing really well, against each other. I probably spoke more than was necessary about how easy other teams seemed to make the game look to play, and asked what was wrong with the Bills on more occasions than appropriate. However, my actions paled in comparison to when our son, on an apparent whim, jumped on the Patriots bandwagon right before they won Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. He was almost five then, but he sure had good taste! He respects the Bills, but I really can't begrudge him for jumping ship to shout some "hurrahs" for a slightly more winning team. I got to the point where I was rooting for coaches (Tony Dungee), players (Brett Favre), or random underdogs. Eventually, I lost sight of actual teams and even in the sport itself (no thanks to Brett Favre and Bill Belichick). I was intolerant of poor behavior, both on and off the field.

In honor of the annual Family Day Bills game yesterday, and the Uberfan's desire to attend...with his family...we hit the Thruway. So, I went to my first Bills game in two years, and while I was not kicking and screaming, I will admit to pouting and grumbling. The Bills actually beat the Bengals, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean a whole heaping lot in preseason play. The Uberfan would agree, but that was not clearly evident, as his shouting began in minute two of game play. (I should mention that my husband is by no means a boisterous man...except during football games.) I guess nearly seven months is a long time to keep your outside voice dormant, and he had some preseason yelps of his own to work out.

I was focused on a variety of topics during the game, with apparel being the biggest. I scanned the crowd and found many decked out fans who I did not believe would even be able to answer how many downs for how many yards it takes to keep things going. I was amused by the variety of jerseys people wore. One woman actually had on a Losman jersey, now even I know enough to realize that was not a good purchase. I was alarmed at the Simpson jersey two rows in front of me until I realized it was not OJ Simpson's number (I know he was a great player, but yikes!). I decided that true sports fans should not have any glitter on their team threads. I am still baffled by the people who show up for a game wearing a jersey that is for a team not playing on the field. "What? The Colts aren't here today? Well that's who I really root for, and now I'm unsure what to do!" I felt a little badly that I was the only one of the four of us with no Bills flair on, but I could not be accused of being a poser...that's for sure. I had on a "half-full" Life is Good t-shirt, and hoped it looked like I was trying to display some optimism. They are claiming this is the "Season to Billieve"!

Another big distraction for me was the Jills cheerleaders. I am all for scholastic cheerleaders, as I do find those girls to be hard working athletes who do play a role in firing up the crowd. I just throw up a little in my throat when the hoochie outfitted ladies come out flinging their hair and pom poms around. I realize I am not their target audience, but aren't the men already paying attention to the game? As a special treat, the Junior Jills were on hand for the Family Game. As you can imagine, the Big Jills did not dumb down their routine for the youngsters; but, rather the youth took on their shake-what-they-don't-have-yet moves...yikes!

Luckily, I was not jonesing for a beer badly enough to pay $8.50 for one. I could've gone for a water, but at $4.00 a bottle, I refrained. The most troubling part of the water actually wasn't the price. The water servers took the caps off before handing them over. I was rather dismayed to think that we've gotten to the point in time when the risk of fans having full water bottles is too risky. You can be sure that if I actually paid the $4.00 for the water, the last thing you'd see would be me hurling it at another fan. If I did choose to throw the capless bottle, I guess I'd only really hurt the first person it hit, and everyone else would just get wet. I saw some people making paper airplanes out of the paper in the programs, and I was concerned that just one papercut to the face might cause them to eliminate weekly programs!

The Uberfan is not optimistic about the Bills chances to advance this season, due to the solid teams they will have to face in their division. However, he still bought his season's tickets, and will make that drive to cheer on his team. He has taught me a lot about the game of football, but has also shown me what it means to be a fan. The best I can do is make sure there is some dinner left when he gets back from home games, and try to plan mealtime appropriately for the games he watches here at home. Um, I suppose I could also try to keep SOME of my comments to myself.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Not fit for Food Network

I had a big day planned! It was going to require special (meaning already stained) clothes, a fancy hairdo (involving a hot pink clip I should never wear in public), and all of the math and organization skills I could bring to the kitchen counter...yes, it was Salsa Day! Am I a good cook? No. In my opinion a good cook is someone who can take an assortment of ingredients and create something delightful. I am an avid reader, with attention to detail, and the ability to follow directions. In other words, I can follow a recipe. About twelve years ago, my dear friend's mother was kind enough to share her salsa recipe with me (she was so not one of those "family secret recipe" types...and she treated everyone like family!). The card I wrote it on is spattered with my inevitable messes from each year since, and of course that's part of what makes it so special to me.

One might think that after so many years, I would have my system for this day down to a science...nope! All I know is that I buy a big box of tomatoes and a big bag of onions (no weight on either item is available for comment), and that is enough of those items for a few batches. Every year it is a game of catch up as I run out of certain things, while having a surplus of others. It involves many trips to the store and market. Some of the other typical queries are: What kind of hot peppers do I use? How many green peppers should I buy? Is it really OK to not process the jars in a canner?

Since I was running low on time and energy this week, I asked my produce company friend if she could just grab the items I needed, and I would pick them up from her house. I gave her my specifics on types and quantities of each item...that sounded like this "Yeah, a box of tomatoes...25 pounds? Um, is that the size you usually sell me? OK, and enough peppers for five cups chopped. Hot peppers? You have three kinds? Mix them up, and I need what will be two cups chopped." Would you believe that this information led to the best proportion of ingredients that's ever been on my counter for salsa-rama? Can you believe the size of these tomatoes in my 6 quart pot?

I do have a bit of a system as the whole event gets under way--it starts with notifying the children that I am not really available. (It is not as critical as the warning that goes out when I am making hard candy with 300 degree syrup, but any interruptions had better be important!) This is not to say that my system would appear terribly efficient to the outside observer, but it works for me. I do not use a food processor for the onions and peppers, and I don't really know why not. It is not as if I truly enjoy the tears streaming down my face, and trying to manage my nose with my shirt shoulder. I guess I find some peace and sanity in the chopping, oh, and I think it puts more love in the final product...and I'm pretty sure you can taste that...AND, my recipe doesn't mention a food processor. I have upgraded to using the assistance of an electric appliance for the hot peppers because the oil from those could kill (or burn) me. Although I caught some jalapeno vapor today that may have damaged my nasal passages. I use lunch bags for gloves when I am feeling particularly vulnerable to the heat beasts (this just adds another level to the beauty of my get-up).

This years planning snafoo came in the form of having purchased wide mouth lids, only to go to the basement to find pint jars with only tapered mouths. That resulted in an unscheduled trip to the grocery store for an exchange, but I was still chopping tomatoes by 9:00 a.m.

Did you ever notice how sometimes everything changes when you have even just one other person watching? A friend stopped by today with some lunch (thank goodness), and was visiting with me somewhere during batches one and two. Suddenly I realized that it may very well look like I had no idea what I was doing! Let's recap my scene at that point...kitchen a disaster with produce and dirty utensils strewn about and me a disaster with onion eyes, spattered clothing, hot pepper sinuses, and general mutterings about jar and lid sizes. I think there should be just one show on Food Network, once a week, that has a complete kitchen fool bumbling around, but turning out ok product in the end. Maybe it would be more inspiring to show that success can even come out of a mess.

My friend directed me back to whatever task at hand I had wandered off from a few times. Sure, I'd have found my way back on my own, but it saved some time. She now knows that I am afraid of my garbage disposal (and hot peppers). She learned that I like to clean everything up, but leave all of the newly jarred items on the counter as a visual of my accomplishment (also in hopes of warding off the dreaded "So what did you do today?" comment).

After everything was cleaned up (except for those items contaminated with hot pepper oil), she convinced me/we decided to just make a third batch and use up the rest of the potentially soon to perish ingredients. I let her use the big knives that I am afraid of, and let her turn the light on over the counter (see, my little knife in the bad lighting suddenly seemed ineffective). When I went to grab more jars, I remembered that I had returned those extra lids, and now had only six remaining for all of the salsa we were setting our sights on making. We solved our problems by using quart size jars--that's a bit of salsa for an evening, but I can pretend to have lots of friends.

When we were finished, she was able to depart looking like someone who could confidently be out in public. I, on the other hand...

By 4:30, there were twenty-nine jars of salsa on my counter. I could write down how many/much of each produce item I started with...I could, but I probably wont. I just hope Santa was listening when I told him I needed new jar lids and bands for Christmas...there was eye contact made, with a hint of information registering...I think.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nothing in Common

We are vacationing in Orleans, Cape Cod--spending some quality time with family at Nauset Beach. Our trips to the beach must be planned (according to the kids) according to the tide chart. Years of practice have made this a near perfect science for us. In the five days we have been here, I have already learned some new lessons to be filed away for future reference.

As an avid user of sunscreen, hence my ivory (versus bronze) glow, I thought I had mastered this task. However, I had more to discover. First of all, it is important, when wearing a swim skirt and applying sunscreen, to consider the height that skirt will rise to if one sits in a chair. I got some fabulous high-thigh burn on day one. I had protected myself to right above the knee. I also realized that on windy days, one should take into account that using a barrette to keep hair out of one's face also keeps it off of her uppermost forehead. As a result, the sunscreen applied in typical fashion to my face, left about a half inch line of burn at my hairline. (Luckily these two areas are well hidden in everyday life.) Believe it or not, I was still considered qualified to apply spray sunscreen to my brother's back when he decided to grab a quick snooze at the beach. I really thought I was doing an adequate job...really, I did. It wasn't until later in the afternoon that we noticed the white scallop pattern down one side of his back, where I had artfully sprayed...then there was a pink middle section, and a more even whiteness on the other side. he did not appear to be in any discomfort, so I saw no need to alert him to the situation.

I am pleased to report that, according to me, it is easier to "sight-see" at the beach through the zoom lens of a camera than binoculars. I was expressing my fascination with the hairline of a man frolicking out in the waves, when it was suggested that "it" was a tattoo. Hmmmm, interesting choice of style...true t-shirt borders--including short sleeves. There didn't seem to be a way for us to get to the bottom of things, short of me freezing my feet off in the ocean. Then I realized, with the kids nearby, I could snap some unsuspecting photos (binoculars would've seemed out of place, as there was nothing fascinating going on that far off shore...except this guy). We were still uncertain, until I magnified the photo...then I was just in awe of what he'd grown.

I also found myself googling "beach etiquette" yesterday to find out "Is it just me?" or were other people concerned with issues beyond seeing more skin than necessary. The general rule is that common courtesy rules apply. This is always a sticky situation as it assumes all of those involved also have common sense.

When we arrived at the beach early yesterday, we found a crater that had been dug out (and clearly washed away a bit by high tide at 4:00am...in other words, not freshly done), so we dropped our things an appropriate distance from the two lawn chairs to the left and the couple of scattered towels behind. After we got all of our stuff spread out, a gentleman from the chairs came over, into the crater of our goods, kicked at a shovel in the sand, and walked away...OK, whatever. Then, he just sort of paced a bit. The six of us in our group headed down to the water, about 50 feet away. Chair-man was then joined by a small child, who started digging right next to the crater. Their subtleties led me to believe that we had inadvertently taken part of their spot (CLEARLY claimed by a stray shovel). I knew I was not going to be able to comfortably return to our blankets and chairs knowing I had spoiled anyone's fun, so my husband (with the reigning title of Ocean Treasure Collector...seriously he does it like it's his job) and I moved all of our stuff downhill, a little to the right, a little closer to the water. I told the boy we were sorry if we accidentally planted our stuff in his digging spot, and we'd move it out. The Chair-woman then rose to say "Sorry, we aren't usually so spread out, but we have nine more people coming." Well, they shouldn't have been left in charge of staking out real estate if they were just going to pout and not say anything BEFORE we put our stuff down. Two chairs and two blankets are not ample items to "reserve" beach space for thirteen people. This was not a movie theater--it's a beach!!! The Chair-man paced around for the next three hours like he was hosting guests in his yard. I am pretty sure it was a different family who smushed their five chairs right in front of the crater.

A couple of hours later, we had returned to our blanket and chairs to hydrate and enjoy the view of the ocean. With the rising tide, we were now about twenty feet from the water's edge, when a group of fifteen people decided to congregate about fifteen feet in front of us...standing...in a side-by-side line. It was so weird! They didn't even have their feet in the water. Their positioning was not only completely inconsiderate of us, but to anyone else who wanted to walk along the shore. "Down in front!" After awhile, there were just three obstacles left, and they did sit down. As a rogue wave came in, and got them wet, they did notice us when they went to move their chairs back, and sought higher ground. Thank you Mother Nature!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

When popcorn attacks!

Yesterday evening, the neighbor invited our kids over to watch a movie at night in their backyard, so I figured the least I could do was make some kettle corn. I was already in the kitchen making cookies, so I figured I'd dirty a few more pans. After much trial and error trying to come close to the quality of my dear friend's kettle corn, I have settled on some measurements that yield a decent enough product (I know she has the golden kernel touch and can just magically get things to work out without measuring spoons). I insist on looking at my three ingredient recipe every time, but I also need to follow the stove top recipe on the bag of popcorn, even if I am not adding the secret kettle corn ingredients. I have been a little bit cocky lately thanks to several successful batches. I guess one of last night's lessons was that I need to pay attention to what I am doing, as opposed to just periodically gazing longingly at my scribble notes, pretending to follow a recipe.

Part of my process for making kettle corn is to completely expect that I will burn one batch somewhere along the line...make three batches--throw out one is my usual (and yes, that counts as success). It isn't even always the first batch that burns...I can't explain. Through the past few years, I must've unknowingly developed "popcorn ear". The trick is that it only works if I am listening. My cooking space had been infiltrated by someone taller than me, for a change (yikes, my son is actually in that category now, but it wasn't him). I felt compelled to engage the intruder in friendly conversation. Suddenly, I realized I didn't know how far apart the popping sounds had gotten...critical error #1. So, I opened the lid very slightly to check on things...critical error #2. I should've let that baby burn, because that popcorn wanted OUT--I got hit in the neck, on the hand, and there were some zingers around the immediate kitchen area. Clearly not done popping. I had completely lost my rhythmic popping momentum, and a minute later, had to check the status AGAIN! Another shot to the neck, one to the finger, and more stray fire. Usually by the time I lift the lid, there is one kernel left to pop, and it leaps out of the pan joyfully, unlike the hostile enemy fire I was experiencing this time.

It is important to add that kettle corn has not only hot oil in its arsenal, but also, molten sugar! A tidbit of scalding sugar stuck itself to one of my fingers--ouch! Not only was my skin suffering from the schrapnel , but my impatient quality control instincts kicked in, so I was also burning my mouth conducting taste tests (I am both thankful and slightly disappointed that I do not have video of this to share with you). The only being in the house interested in helping was the dog, but I didn't need him involved in my situation. I was finally able to coerce someone into getting me a bowl to pour the well-done product into, as not to taint the salvaged portion. A few more kernels flew before I let the pan rest. Burn, rinse, repeat. I did make two more batches, so I suppose this was the norm in some ways.

This is what was not the norm...

Now I realize that these wounds are nothing to whine over (well actually they were, as they did sting for a few hours). However, there shouldn't be any first aid at all needed for popcorn making. I am considering having a popcorn dickie knitted so that I can confidently pop my corn on summer days when turtle necks are too warm. I should probably opt for some sort of safety goggles next time as well. I should also get out more than one bowl. Most of all though, I should double check what night the movie invite is for BEFORE making the snacks...oops, the outdoor cinematic adventure is tonight...and I can be rest assured that the children will tell the tale. I might be better off eating that treat myself and just sending them with candy...in hopes they forgot!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Every time I see a pregnancy test commercial on television, my first thought is "who is asleep at the controls that I am being forced to watch something other than my show?" My next thoughts involve aggravation and slight offense. Why, why, WHY is so much money and technology being spent to make pregnancy tests "easier for a woman to read"? Fourteen years ago you had to look for pink lines, and I do not recall myself, or any of my friends, being so baffled by the findings on the stick that they had to call for backup. Even if you weren't clearly convinced that the color in the window was pink ("oooh, is that more reddish-orange"), there either were lines, or were NOT. The ads don't claim to be making the tests "more reliable"...just easier to read. Then, I am forced to ponder whether the insinuation is just that a female would have trouble reading the results--either due to some emotional component, or intellectual deficiency. That makes me feel even better that the other gender, stereotypically thought to be unable to read road maps, might be able to follow any other colored lines. I just don't want to meet the folks who have tried deciphering the magic wand pregnancy test, and threw their arms up in defeat. How far away are we from a voice chip proclaiming the news?

Last night as I was getting dinner ready, I saw some information on my bag of raviolis that further suggested that consumers are viewed as total idiots.

"Keep frozen"--ok, good to know. "Ready to cook"--well, I'm not sure what else I'd do to them, but ok. "Sauce not included"??????? It is a clear plastic bag. The photo does not even show sauce (blasphemy to suggest I might enjoy them without). Where is the disclaimer that I will have to provide my own plate?

Monday, August 2, 2010

I thought I was the ruler?

I just don't seem to be commanding the kind of respect I desire around the palace here. Oh sure, I am probably getting the respect I deserve, but that is besides the point. The latest round of cackling among the minions was this very blog. Needless to say, the children are not followers. I am not sure my husband has read more than the two requisite posts, after being informed that not knowing the blog address was NOT a substantial enough reason to not check it out. Perhaps his apparent lack of interest has something to do with the live technicolor version of my musings that he is subject to during my waking hours.

My latest business idea was being discussed (by me) at the dinner table, and the kids asked if I'd have as many customers as blog followers...(snicker, snicker). The son felt compelled to remind me that my goal was twenty followers (very lofty, I know)...the daughter, in turn, felt obligated to announce that there were currently only fifteen followers. Sure, they don't read it, but do make sure to take note of how many little boxes exist under the heading "followers" as they pass by.

I was not aware that my ego had become so inflated that I needed this kind of taking down. If you have any interest in helping me regain some clout around here (or in this blog in general), and one of those boxes over there on the left does not belong to you, please consider becoming a follower. Does membership have its privileges? Of course! I'm just not exactly sure what they are...yet. Monthly drawings for homemade chocolate chip cookie shipments?

So how do we measure success? Is it best defined by those who set actual personal goals, and reach them? Is my hope of getting out of bed in the morning, having had at least seven hours of sleep, setting the bar too low?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lawn No-er

It seems this tale needs to be told. I have been waiting for it to be amusing...to me. However, I am ready to claim defeat, and this story will remain as one of those things that really highlights the crux of the matter--the reoccurring communication breakdown--the "why the what"?

It all started early this past spring with our annual conversation about whether to just have the lawnmower serviced, or "treat" ourselves to a new one. That is when we pretend my husband is Lord of the Lawn, and he gets supreme power in related decision making. Once he decided we would get a new lawnmower, he put his faith in Consumer Reports. The magazine's snazzy charts and symbols helped him narrow his choices to two lawn mowers. I felt compelled to weigh in on some bells and buzzers I'd like to see in a new mower (trade in the pull cord for a slight turn of key)...In other words, I felt it was time to remind him that I cut the grass seventy-five percent of the time, and our son had made some mumblings about how he could make some money around here.

The first mower (oops-spoiler alert!) came home looking so fine and shiny. When my aunt mentioned that her lawnmower wasn't working, of course I offered her our old one because we had a candy apple red beauty in our garage. (I should mention here that legend has it that she has the strength of ten men, and had in fact pulled the pull cord right out of her mower.) The new beauty really did turn on easily (once I actually read a little of the manual). I wasn't winded before even starting the job. It was self-propelled, but apparently at a factory of the slowest walkers to roam the land! There was no override to the self-propelled mode, and the machine itself was so heavy and clunky, I might've ended up going even slower operating on my own power. I was willing to work out the kinks of slow and steady winning the race, but it was also very difficult to maneuver. I could've blazed a very nice, straight path, but you see how impractical that would be considering the more square'ish shape of our yard. I reported this information back to the Lord of the Lawn, and his eyes only looked slightly glazed over, so I thought the message was conveyed. I tried the lawnmower again, with similar results, and again promptly reported my findings. The third outing for that mower was conducted by Lawn Chief himself, and his findings were apparently so significant that it was agreed that a return must be made.

Consumer Reports had that alternate suggestion for us, but I had to give up my turn key ignition...fine. Our son got the glory of the maiden voyage with lawn mower number two...and I got the glory of running outside at least six times to PULL THE DEVILISH CORD when the machine kept stalling. (Let me add here that my cousin--clearly inheriting his mother's strength--pulled the start cord out of our mower, so they had both in the shop. OK, this part of the storyline is amusing.) Now I looked outside and did not see cows grazing in our yard, nor was our short dog getting lost in the tall grass. I determined that the lawn was not of a height significant enough to warrant such gagging and choking by the mower. I more
grumbled my findings, than simply reported them this time. When I had the pleasure of doing the lawn myself the following week, I more yelled my findings...to anyone in the vicinity who might've been outside or had their windows open, and only slightly more calmly reported them to the Lord of the Lawn.

I am sure I mentioned the issue a few more times as the grass was approaching its next cutting. Now that two out of three of us had been ruled out as worthy opponents of "the staller", the man of the house headed out. I thought I detected a swagger that said "The grass will bow down to the Lord of the Lawn. The mower will rev its battle cry, and all will be right in our yard!" The only thing I liked about that machine was that, as it claimed its defeat, I'm pretty sure I heard it say "You should've listed to your wife! I suck...and am not a vacuum cleaner!" I sprinkled a few inquiries here and there about what would happen next in Mowergate 2010.

I don't imagine my husband felt much joy at having to come home to tell me that Home Depot has a 30-day return policy...and his visit was on day 34. I also don't imagine that you think I was terribly exuberant at this notification. While he seemed annoyed with the store, I can assure you I was directing my lasers of dissatisfaction right at his forehead while announcing that I had sent up red flags at day 7!! He followed Home Depot's directions and took the mower to a licensed repair place for that brand. They service them there, but don't sell them anymore because of their performance...thank you Consumer Reports!

We finally got the mower back after they replaced the mulching portion of its program, and it worked...no better! An email was sent to the company (but not by me) explaining the situation, and the one in return ended with "we must respectfully decline your request for refund or replacement." I pondered whether I should unleash myself on the unsuspecting customer service reps there, but figured it was not my battle to fight...yet. They said he needed to bring the mower to a licensed service place (as in the same one we'd already told them we brought it to) and we'd be instructed how to proceed, once they talked to the people there (and probably told them not to talk trashy about their product--wah wah wah!) So now we've been without a mower again for a week, and have heard nothing.

(Note: Aunt's mower is now not working again, but our rejected one is getting the job done just fine. No, I don't want her to bring it to us!)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hanging by a thread

I would like to be able to tell you that I have much to report after my blogging absence...things like how well my quasi-exercise program is going, and the results it's achieved...or my success in the quest for better posture...the secret to grocery shopping for meals that might actually get cooked AND be appealing, but no. Sure, I experienced some things that made me go "hmmmmm", but I felt more like I would have been channeling Andy Rooney's curmudgeon spirit, than actually looking for the humor in anything. Then it happened! The blog gods shined back down upon me and threw something so divine in our path, that I had to return to the keyboard.

My daughter and I were walking thru the mall on a bustling Friday afternoon, not in an attempt to stay cool like most of the other people, we actually had things to DO!!! For starters, there was a fabulous wedding to prepare for, and once again I was faced with the reality of my son having no dress pants that fit! The reason he had not concerned himself with such things was that he was under the impression he'd be wearing a tux..."Um, that's what I wore to the last wedding I went to"..."Yes, that was 5 years ago, and you were in that wedding"...(mumbled under breath) "well I thought I was wearing a tux". I have a sneaking suspicion, based on the sighs over trying on a pair of pants, that there'd have been moaning if he'd been dragged to the measurement man to get fitted for a tux. OK, back to what we saw at the mall...

It wasn't even so much what we SAW, as it was what we nearly tripped over. There was a woman getting her face threaded...right there...in the walking part of the mall...as in, NOT a store front--or preferably a store back! Now I admit that I was eerily drawn to gawk at the scene, as I have heard of the process, but have never witnessed it. However, since mall traffic was swimming upstream, I'd have been hard pressed to leap out of my spot for further inspection. I also would have had to practically stand next to the "threader" (or sit on the lap of the "threadee". I should also mention that the customer's daughter, who looked about 3, was in the mix as well, just kind of hanging around the chair...where her mother sat...reclined...with her eyes closed! As reported previously, I have my own issues with appropriate eyebrow maintenance techniques. My brief glimpse in to this fascinating world of threading was pretty much as I had imagined-tying thread around a hair and yanking it out-but I still can't fathom the dexterity it must involve. I also imagine it must still hurt, as the end result of a hair being yanked out of one's face still applies. I did not hear any yelps of pain, but I know she was crying on the inside.

The woman swimming behind us had to have the situation explained to her by her twenty-something daughter, as I was explaining it to my ten-year-old daughter. The part neither of us could explain was why...why this was going on in the middle of the mall. "Do I want coffee from Dunkin Donuts in those chairs...or to admit my facial upkeep needs to the general public in that chair over there?" I don't even make eye contact with the people who want to rub lotion on my hands, or the old school perfume sprayers. How did that sales pitch go? "Excuse me, would you like me to get my sewing kit and pull that unwanted hair off your face?" or "You didn't really mean to come out in public with your eyebrows so unshapely, let's fix that!"

Seriously, I was in need of some facial tlc, but I preferred to operate under the assumption that I was the only one who knew it. Yeah, I know, I wear my face right out there well, on my face, but I like to pretend that nobody gets closer than ten feet to me. I am not sure why it is that I cannot understand that my bathroom mirror is not from a funhouse...objects are not farther than they appear. That is what I look like even when I walk out of that space! I would have burst into flames just from the red hot embarrassment of some stranger suggesting I take a few moments in her magic threading salon chair at the mall!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cabin Fever!

It is in the 90's here today for the second day in a row. The forecast for the rest of the week is not showing any relief. The meteorologists got my hopes up last Friday when they showed it would be 76 degrees this Saturday. I rarely believe them, or even consider their long-term forecasts, but in the face of 90 degree weather I clung to whatever hope there was.

I see the people across the street milling about and getting in their car. I am concerned that they will burst into flames if they don't get their situation moving, but also worry that they will erupt if they do speed up. They didn't even have the car started with the A/C on the "frost" setting while they were pacing the driveway. Wow--my heroes.

I am sitting inside like most Central New Yorkers do every winter when there is a wind-chill advisory in effect. Today there is a heat advisory and an air quality advisory, and I might be the only fool who cares. I will admit right now that my fear of melting FAR exceeds my fear of frostbite. When I did leave the house earlier, there were people actually outside...moving and doing things! We past a house where a woman was pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt to where her husband was doing yard work. She was clearly there to trick me into thinking it was a 65 degree day, as not one hair was out of place, nor did her clothing appear to be drenched with an appropriate amount of sweat (or any sweat for that matter), and I think she was smiling. Meanwhile, I was flushed from my walk to the car, and the two minute wait for the vents to start sending cool air.

I am starting to feel a little cooped up. The fact that I can't remember how long it's been since I didn't hear the central air churning is causing me some anxiety. It's as if I am afraid that I will use up the system's power. I think I'll raise the thermostat one degree, just so it will stop running. I am gaining some sympathy for those people who claim they have cabin fever in the winter. I'm usually just thinking (to myself...or, ok, out loud sometimes), "THEN GO OUTSIDE!" Now that I am being held hostage in my home by my surface of Mars yard, I finally understand their pain (kind of).

I maintain that it's better to be cold than hot. First of all, sub-zero temperatures do not cause me to fear that I might pass out...Oh my gosh-a guy just rode by on a bicycle!!! Anyway, the deep freeze also kills the outdoor cooties/allergens that also make my head ready to implode. I am not sure why I am trying to convince you that ice beats fire. Maybe I am just venting for all of the times I've listened to the snow complaints (or the misery of anyone who visits our 64 degree house in the winter...bring a sweater--or two).

"Bring on the blizzard and let me grab another layer of cotton or wool!", I say. I am not socially confident enough to follow any kind of "least amount of clothing necessary" rule. I don't want to be sitting around half-naked and STILL sweating, leading me to feel uncomfortable AND unattractive. Eww! I am going to resist the urge to insert several comments here about certain stores, their customers, and their choices of summer clothing (and what percentge of one's body should be covered outside of a swimming pool).

I did consider attempting to mow the lawn. I know, that prospect does not fall in line with my gripe of the day. However, I thought the 2 pounds of water weight that I would lose might be worth the effort. Then I decided that the sunburn I would get if I were to be passed out in the lawn for any extended period of time was certainly not worth the risk.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Who am I to say...it like that?!

I was checking emails, hoping as usual for that mystical message that will transport me (and my messy house) to some sort of alternate universe. Really, what correspondence am I waiting for...or better yet, who will it be from...that will make me say "Well thank goodness I stopped at the computer. I can't imagine if I hadn't read that message for another four hours!" Even worse are the times when there is some message that entertains me, as then I feel compelled to wait around for at least ten more minutes-just in case something equally as promising comes through.

So, there were two messages from actual people, as opposed to being from stores like Lands End (who is starting to feel like a stalker...I KNOW how to reach you if I want to place an order!). I decided that I did not care for the tone of either email. I stewed for a little bit, as I am likely to do. I tried to think of responses that would respectfully voice my displeasure. I shared them with the Great Communicator...he just gave me that look. Then, I decided that perhaps I should not check for messages if I was going to assign cause and purpose to them, beyond what the words in type said.

I am not a fan of the overuse of "lol"; however, at least then I know just how amused I should be when I read a message. "Oh, apparently I should be laughing out loud here! Phew, I was oblivious to the sarcasm before seeing that!" My mother left out the "lol" in an email telling me that yes, in fact, whatever I was going on about was
just me. That took two more emails for me to find out she was joking! That was five rough minutes for me.

Maybe it would be helpful, if on occasion, there was a a character assigned to an email. If a message started with "Read this email as if I am Jack Nicholson telling you that you can't handle the truth"...well I would know to get all of my defenses ready. Or, "Pretend Brian Williams is delivering this" would tell me that I was about to just be provided with information. If I tell you that an email is channeling Tina Fey, then any hints of sarcasm are intended as just that.

How is it that I can so quickly assign a tone to an email I didn't even craft? I sometimes agonize over outgoing messages as well. I usually call in the Communicator (because when I need another adult's opinion, I like to pretend that he is some sort of Lord of the written word) to review my prose and certify its objectivity. There are times when I just pick up the phone because I am convinced that anything I write on a subject will be misconstrued. Just to clarify, those are times when I am not angry and do not want the receiver of my tidings to think I am...if I really am angry, why would I care what the person thinks!?

Even good old handwriting gives better insight into additional meaning to a message. It's hard to be angry in flowery cursive, but find a post-it note with jagged dark print...uh-oh!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Little Engine who wasn't so sure...

My role today was that of cake decorating supply coordinator. I had to keep playing this over in my head to keep me out of the hair of the two lovely ten-year-old girls who were filling the roles of cake decorators...extraordinaire! The cakes were baked and the cooled cupcakes sat waiting as I colored the frosting and filled the bags. I was instructed which tips to fit each of the bags with. (Note to self: if you get 13 tips dirty--there will be 13 tips to be cleaned). I did a quick demo of what each tip could achieve, and stopped quickly, realizing this was not the time or place to display my cake decorating prowess (or lack thereof). They quickly got started, and as part of me cringed noticing that their base coats were a little uneven, the more sane part of my brain took over to say "THEY are perfectly pleased with what they have going on! Walk away!"

When adults refer to someone as lacking good judgment, it carries a negative vibe. I will dare to say that these two girls were using no judgment, and it was absolutely beautiful! They didn't have the vision of Martha Stewart's scowling face hanging over their heads. I did not hear "I can't do it" uttered one single time. They set out to decorate baked yum-yums, and they succeeded...end of story!

After cleaning up the kitchen, I was summoned outside to take my rope twirling post for what would be SEVERAL attempts at double-dutch jump-roping. For those of you who have not tried, let me just say that the twirling portion of the program is no easy feat (and I do not just say that because I must've looked like my arms were being manned by two separate and uncooperative brains). There were many attempts that yielded no success in jumping over either rope. When one rope was eventually cleared, I was ready to give congratulations and be done...not these girls. Once again "I can't do it" was not proclaimed. We studied the ropes as they turned with no "jumper", we analyzed where attempts went wrong, we strategized...and then, they each lasted over a solid 5-count! I was so excited that I started to get distracted from my twirling! I admit that I was also surprised, but I don't think either of them were. Once again--success...end of story!

I remember when I was finishing up sixth grade, and my violin teacher asked me if I'd be playing the following year. I told her "Probably not". Her response was "Yeah, well you're not very good". Suffice to say, that instrument was returned that June, after four years of playing. Part of me harbors ill wishes for what became of her--wishes involving years of hearing screeching, out of tune strings at night. Part of me is relieved that, as a parent, I know that some flip comment made to an eleven year old, can stick in their mind until they are forty.

I also remember not making the cut for fourth grade chorus, but thought the music teacher just hadn't heard me correctly. I carried that belief into college, until a friend interrupted my belting out some Indigo Girls song to ask me if I was tone deaf. I was shocked...and he wasn't kidding! (I was in chorus in later, but now my lack of being offered solo performances makes more sense.) Since he was in a band, I deferred to his judgment (as poor as I thought it was), and just didn't sing...around him...quite as loudly anymore. Perhaps there is something also to be said for why my children played Rock Band several evenings with no singer...claiming they thought I was busy.

I realized just how much I stood to learn from being on the outskirts of the play of growing children. Sure, my kids probably thought they could do anything when they were five, but really, how credible was I going to believe a five-year-old and a two-year-old to be...especially with the lunacy the two of them created when they combined forces?! Unfortunately, some of my skepticism probably filtered down to them, as I was still a force to be considered in most of their decisions back then. Fortunately, we've all done some growing. I was probably the last to realize that you can DO something, enjoy it, but not necessarily be good at it...and that's just fine! It has also been drawn to my attention that, just because I may not be impressed by whatever I've done, somebody else might be...MIGHT!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bittersweet (and the chips are semi-sweet)

So my first baby is finishing his run at the middle school, and will be headed for the junior high (aka sesspool of adolescence). My other baby is closing out her time in elementary school, and is headed for the middle school in the fall. I guess what this means is that I really don't have any babies! There's one box of tissues...sad. The good news is that the people they are both becoming are pretty fabulous, and they've surrounded themselves with some incredible friends. Another box of tissues...happy.

In an effort to keep busy, the oven is on once again. I am currently waiting for the timer to go off on what is part of batch number six of chocolate chip cookies, since last Thursday. There were a variety of causes that led to the homage to Nestle and its fabulous Tollhouse recipe. Three batches were for a coworker's daughter's graduation party and one batch was for the people running the corporate challenge at my aunt's office. The other two batches were the easiest/most cost effective way to say "thanks and farewell" to the myriad of teachers my children felt compelled to acknowledge (yeah, yeah, yeah...I felt it too). The baked goods covered all of our bases at the middle school, once my son reluctantly accepted that they were a fine alternative to gift cards. Since our daughter will be going to that school next year, his departure lacked any sense of finality for me (there could be some fuzzy logic or denial mixed in there, but keep that to yourself, and do not feel compelled to point it out to me).

The waters got a little murkier for the elementary school farewell. Melty morsels sufficed for some. However, it was not only the girl's good-bye, she can draw a swell card with her own message, but rather this mom's good riddance as well. How do I say "good-bye", and perhaps more importantly "Thank you", while keeping in mind that this isn't about me? (Cue another box of tissues!) With the help of my ten year old, we were successful in finding ways that we felt would let people know we were thinking of them. Those people extended back to her first grade, up through her fourth grade teacher. Nobody can shake us that easily...we just keep coming back! Sure there appeared to be some sort of hierarchy to the gifts, but nobody else needs to know that. There were some cards that I had to add my own two cents, but most others are tear-jerkers on their own. It's so funny to me how she is at the kitchen table right now drafting away at things, that sent me running out of the room before she saw the waterworks coming, with a big grin on her face. She clearly has a better hold on "Don't cry because it's over....smile because it happened" than I do. I am working on it...really, I am. It is worse to imagine us having spent the past six years someplace we were more than eager to leave.

Lately my musings over what to be when the kids grow up have become tangled with a growing sense of wondering where I belong (that is a whole other blog on its own I think). In moments of panic, I found that I could belong in the halls of the elementary school...room parent, literacy volunteer, spectator. That era ends tomorrow morning when I will "belong" there for the last time (tissue, please). Oh dear, I don't look terribly forward to belonging in front of my washing machine or behind my vacuum cleaner!