Thursday, December 27, 2007

Guns don't kill people

People kill people. And, occasionally, tigers do too. "The San Francisco Zoo is a great zoo." It probably is. But I kind of think you have to say that. You are the freaking president of zoos. Have I ever mentioned that I do not like going to the zoo? And here is yet another reason why.

I also do not ever want to visit a chimp sanctuary for my birthday. Or for a chimp's birthday. Or for any other reason.

C'mon. You know I had to go there. I can't talk about a tiger maulling and not bring up St. James.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Y'all

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blogku

You visited me
through my silly blog and I
wish I had said more

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Christmas gift for my parents that keeps on giving

This is what you buy for a person who has everything (everything you can afford to buy, that is).

This little piggy...

Can't recall if I posted these pictures or not, but Ch@ndy and I laughed our butts off posing the piggies around my parent's house last summer. Yes, we found this nonsense in the garage. Apparently, it is a crocheted doorstop. A happy crocheted doorstop - note the smile.



Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Despair

Tired of unrealistic optimism? Check out despair.com - a dose of reality sure to demotivate the best of them. I highly recommend watching the videos under the "Spin" section.

I'd like to say that I hope I've brightened your day a bit by sharing, but we both know it will be the regular crap-fest regardless. At least browsing despair.com will give you something to do while you are killing time.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Well that just sucks

My vacuum finally died on Friday. Knowing that this day would come soon enough, I had been researching consumer opinions and already had an idea of what type of vacuum I would buy.

On Sunday afternoon, the oldest daughter and I went to the Best Electronic Crap for Sale store to make our purchase as I was fairly certain I would have the best chance there to wheel and deal with the sales associate. Just my luck, it happened to be a 20-something boy. So I flashed my award winning smile and lured him into the price matching web.

Of course I couldn't get straight down to business; instead, I engaged the salesboy with flirtatious vacuum chat. "Which vacuum gets great reviews?" I mused. Coyly, I pretended that I hadn't spent the last two days pouring over said reviews. Then he began to walk over to the luxury 500$ models. To which I stopped him dead in his tracks with a terse "Ah, no. I'm not buying one of those."

Yeah, I was prepared to waste some time to make the deal, but there was no way I would concede to purchase a vacuum that would die in five years - regardless if it is made with a titanium lined swirling vortex of suction or not. Due to the volume of hair, dirt, and miscellaneous garbage that it would be forced to suck up daily shed from a family of six, a dog, and a cat, any vacuum used in my house is doomed from day one.

So the vacuum boy and I chatted more about the features of various models, and he kept comparing them to the luxury vacuum. I asked him if he was working on commission. And since he wasn't, after a few more minutes of chit-chat, I eventually admited that I saw the few vacuums I was interested in buying online...with a slightly smaller price tag.

After we made a deal and he went to get a cart so that I could lug the vacuum in box to the register and my car, I noticed a few floor models sat off to the side that had drastically reduced price tags. Tempted, I looked over the dust encrusted machines, pulling out filters and such, and seriously thought about aborting the sale in order to snag one of these ridiculous deals.

In the mean time, my oldest returned from trying out video games, and I told her that I was waiting for the salesboy to get a cart so that we could take our vacuum to the front register and pay for it.

By the time he returned, three or four other sales boys were hanging out at the computer near where I was standing. My sales boy snagged the print out of the price-match, and then nonchalantly offered me a tissue. To wipe off the large smudge of dirt on my face. To which the other sales boys quietly snickered.

I was embarrassed, which was quite obvious due to the thirteen shades of red my face was turning. To which he replied, "You hang around with vacuums, you are bound to get a little dirty." Quietly, I rubbed the smudge off with the tissue.

There is no moment in my life this far that made me feel so middle aged. Geeze. It's not like I have big boobs and cleavage working for me either. Just a bunch of sagging skin. Soon enough the only way I'll be able to haggle a deal is if a poor sales boy has pity on me because I remind him of his mother.

I thanked him, and flashed a look at my daughter that said, "You could have told me I had dirt on my face!"

That's not the end of it. The kid walked me up to the register, I bought the thing, and of course I had to show the receipt to the security dude on the way out. That's two more people I had engaged in conversation at this point.

When I got into the car, I took a gander in the mirror. The smudge I rubbed off while in the store was gone, but the four other ashen finger prints all around my mouth were not. So much for being charming. My daughter swore that she couldn't see the smudges of dirt. She needs to have her eyes checked.

And! And! On top of all that, I realized that I lost an earring in the store. Lucky for me, my daughter agreed to go back in there and search for it. Lucky for her, she found it - which easily redeems her for letting me walk around with ick on my face.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

As always, a big finish

My parents went back to Oregon today; I took them to the airport at 4:45 this morning. And I am exhausted, but not from lack of sleep. We had a fantastic visit though uneventful. That is the best kind of visit! Mostly we shopped and talked and ate. We did a lot of eating. With celebrating two birthdays in one week (Poetroad's on Tuesday and my mom's on Saturday), I ate two month's worth of cake, ice cream, and miscellaneous junk food in this week alone.

The truly exhausting part of the week, however, was enduring the goodbyes from last night. I think I forgot how attached my children are to my parents - for which I am sincerely grateful, but that fact makes saying goodbye all the more difficult. The 6 year old was sobbing her eyes out. So was the 12 year old. And the 9 year old. And the three year old was just saying, "But I don't want you to go, Grandpa."

And then my dad lightened the mood by making fart sounds. Thank goodness for potty humor!

Still, the 12 year old left this note on the steering wheel of my car so I could read it as I took my parents back to the hotel that evening: "I hate Texas. We never get to spend any holidays with our grandparents any more and we don't get to see them every day." Rip my heart out!

Today, I miss my mom and dad very much and I am glad for that. I could have had really crappy parents; I got the opposite of crappy - and if you knew the odds they had to overcome in order to be kind, loving, and caring people, you would understand the miracle that, unfortunately, I often loose sight of in the daily grind of life.

Texas makes the heart grow fonder.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A little of my work, as promised

Finally, I had a chance to sneak over to the school and take pictures of the art projects I did for the door decorations at school. Her is a close-up of the face I watercolored (using watercolor pencils) for the kindergarten door - Mr. Minty:

And the dog (a representation of the principal's dog) that I sketched out in about a half an hour (also using the watercolor pencils, but I didn't blend the colors as I wasn't using the right kind of paper AND I only had a little bit of time to work on it) - Ivan:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Visitors

Yay! My mom and dad are visiting this week! The kids are elated to see their grandma and grandpa. From the time we picked my parents up from the airport until my daughters finally went to sleep around 10:00 PM, my girls chatted incessantly. I can tell that it will good medicine for my parents to spend time with their grandchildren this week - I don't think anyone adores their grandparents more than my kids do.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Look what kind of randomness I found in my garage...

Here is a toast to longevity, girls. You both look just as beautiful today as you did all those years ago.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Put on your shorts and tank tops, girls, 'cause were getting a Christmas tree

By the time we made it out of the house, though, we actually needed to put on our sweatshirts, as it was a chilly 62 degrees outside. Yes, Virginia, we really do live in Texas now. It's different, and different can be good. But when different messes with a long held tradition...well, it takes time to adjust.

Every Christmas ever since my girls can remember, come rain or come rain, we would drive a few minutes from our house to one of the many local tree farms, trudge through the muck, hunt and cut down the perfect Christmas tree. Depending on the quality of the trees, we would either choose a Douglas fir (the Oregon state tree) or a Grand fir (my favorite because it looks like a wild Noble fir, but it has a strong and sweet evergreen scent).

This year, we drove a few minutes to the Home D-place and trudged through the chain link gate in order to pick out the perfect tree. Of course, since we didn't want to spend a ton of money, we had to walk to the very back of the store where the 25$ trees were. And it was a little difficult to find the perfect tree since almost all of the trees were still bundled in twine - fresh off the truck. Lucky for us, the cheap trees were none other than Douglas firs. And, bonus - miracle of all miracles, we noticed that the very Home D-place way over here in Texas imported our perfect tree from this place:



Poetroad and I couldn't believe it! We can't be in Oregon for Christmas, but we can bring a piece of Oregon home with us. Trees: another one of the best parts of Oregon.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

passive-aggressive

ok, then; I see
how you are and am unmoved
except I wrote this

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Warning Signs

I suspected the eventuality of it all - I just didn't think it would be so soon. First, we get a little bit of attitude, and before we know it, there is outright rebellion. Should have saw it coming. Finding ways to cut corners, not quite stopping when asked - these were clear warning signs. Then a light clicked on - I realized it was time for a check up. Of course there was nothing inherently wrong, I was told. Typical age appropriate behavior.

But that was before the authorities got involved.

We were driving down the parkway going the flow of traffic, but our little red mini-van, thinking she knew better, just wouldn't listen to reason. She pushed the limit and got pulled over. I tried to talk to the officer, to no avail. She was going sixteen miles per hour over the speed limit! There will be a hefty fine for that ticket too; luckily, if *I* go to traffic school, we can get the fine reduced significantly.

After getting the ticket, I thought she would have learned her lesson, our little mini-van. Poetroad took her out not long after the ticket, and wouldn't you know it - she got another one! This time a parking violation. So I guess her lesson wasn't learned after all. Perhaps if she was the one who had to attend traffic school then our problem would be addressed.

And the light that went off before - it won't turn off. We will have to take her to the specialist at the dealership. Rough times ahead.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hammered in Oregon

No - this is not a commentary on a favored pastime of Oregonians (although there are some mighty fine spirits made - and consumed - in the Northwest).

Actually, a fairly significant storm hammered Oregon and Washington yesterday. I-5, the major (and only) interstate between Seattle and Portland is closed. Basically, anyone who wants to travel from Seattle to Portland will have to drive east to the Dalles, head up north past Yakima to Ellensburg, and then cut back west across the mountains on I-90. In the best of conditions, that drive would take an extra three hours to trek. Add snow - and traffic - to the mix, and were talking a seven or eight hour drive to get to Seattle from P-town. Holiday travelers, you'd better start driving.

To make matters worse, this latest storm that pummeled the Oregon coast - which was the strongest storm of three consecutive blasts that hit the area over the weekend and early this week - virtually cut off transportation between the valley and the coast. Only recently was highway 20 between Corvallis and Newport opened, which is the main route to the closest major hospital for area coastal residents.

My 80 year old grandma lives in Seal Rock (located about 10 miles south of Newport), and her power has been out since yesterday. Luckily, I have an aunt and uncle that live nearby there, and they were able to transport her to their house. Thankfully, my aunt and uncle have a wood stove and generator supplied electricity.

I haven't heard from the rest of my family - although I chatted with my dad for a bit yesterday afternoon. He said that in the morning the creek behind their house seemed to be at normal levels, but he wouldn't be surprised if the water was up over the road by the time he got home from work (yeah, did I mention that he is back to work already after having a hip replacement no less than two months ago?). Anyway, high water means flooding at my brother's house. I'm not really worried about my parent's home - even in the big flood of 1996, the water only came within a foot to the back door. But where my brother lives down the road - that house was under two feet of water in 1996.

Hopefully, all of the wind and water damage will not affect my parent's flight next Monday. They are coming to Texas next week! Yay!

This kind of sounds like a news report, eh? I need a byline perhaps? Okay, then. Reporting from Texas, this is J@na.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Art for School Sake

This past week, I volunteered to help with door decorations at JG and KJ's elementary school. For the past few years, the PTO has utilized the "Candy Land" theme, and every grade is responsible for door decorations that reflect the given theme. The school is decorated from top to bottom. Seriously. They go all out for this school wide project. It's like nothing I've experienced at any other school my children have attended.

I decided to volunteer to help JG's class with the "Mr. Minty" theme as there didn't seem to be many people jumping at the chance to work on the Kindergarten door. Two other moms from the class and I tackled the project together, and we had a blast. Mostly because all three of us were willing to go with the flow on this project, and that fact makes anything I create turn out better than expected.

I know you don't want to read all the boring details, but I'm including them anyway.



I ended up water coloring (using water color pencils) Mr. Minty's face, and we made the body out of paper and striped wrapping paper. We also put each child's face on the tummy of a die cut paper gingerbread man ("Misty's" cool idea) and placed those randomly on the door. "Kelsey" cut out candy canes for the "Candy Cane Forest" and worked on the "required" big gingerbread man that must be on every door. Because we didn't "focus on the gingerbread man" as instructed (guess which one us us encouraged non-conformity?), our door isn't quite mainstream, and that is why it turned out so great. I'll have to take a picture of the finished product and post it here.

We also were assigned another door: Art - which turned into a two door project, as there are two art rooms. Actually, another class was supposed to do the other door, but they liked what we did so much that they delegated the entire task to us, lol. It was a challenge. How does one creatively approach "Grandma Nut"? For this door, I threw out some ideas, and the other two ladies ran with it. The Grandma Nut project turned out even better than our first door! While I worked on the gingerbread interpretation of grandma (okay, I caved and incorporated the required gingerbread element more directly), the other two made nuts and vines.

While we were working on the nut project today, I somehow was volunteered or agreed to draw a resemblance of the principal's dog (a very cute Sir Charles Spaniel). That was a stretch for me. I'm kind of (freakishly) a perfectionist about what I draw/paint when the finished project is supposed to look like something. Someone provided a few photos of the dog, and I drew it with my watercolor pencils. More than anything, I was anxious about the fact that (a.) there was a time factor involved (I had the youngest with me, and she is very patient - but I could work on a drawing for hours and hours if left to my own devices), and (b.) I didn't have the right type of paper for the pencils I was using. Plus, the whole idea of using watercolor pencils is that one should actually use water to blend the colors, which I did not (refer to reason "b"). Then they wanted me to sign it and all, and I wouldn't because I didn't want everyone to know who did the drawing (particularly, I didn't want any *real* artists to know, lol).

Anyway, I've forgotten how much creating art energizes me. I am not a trained visual artist, by and stretch of the imagination, but I really like to draw and paint. More importantly, this whole experience helped me understand my mom a little bit better. She is one of the most talented artists I know, but she never did anything with art because she has not even an ounce of self confidence. Ugh. Today, I was my mother!!! Freakishly so. Perhaps creating visual art is one more talent that I restrain because I fear failure (just as I do with my writing). In my mind, I already know that I can't compete with the best, so I don't even want to try.

Interestingly enough, a few months ago, I had a "what do you want to be when you grow up" conversation with Poetroad. Out of nowhere, I replied, "A visual artist." He was a little caught off guard by that and said, "Really. Hmm, well I guess you had better start producing some art, and we will see how that works out. Maybe you can take some classes or something." He wasn't being unkind, but his surprised response was similar to one that I had when a 5 foot tall chubby boy who didn't play on a school or club team told me that his aspiration was to be a professional basketball player. I've got a plan, though. I'm going to start working on Artist Trading Cards. I figure it will give me a creative outlet and a chance to develop my skills.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More finger news

Great news - I talked with Saul today, and Tia did really well when they re-attached her finger. They will find out tomorrow when they visit a hand surgeon whether or not the reattached finger will survive. Luckily, she only lost the tip (right below the fingernail) of her middle finger (not sure if it was the right or left hand).

Saul (being a top chef for a prominent frozen food company; his dishes are delicious - not at all like the typical frozen food fare) confessed that he is used to finding random fingers in the workplace - ah, that's the food industry for you. But he said he was falling to pieces when he saw the finger chopped off of his cute little daughter's hand.

Get this - the culprit was none other than...a toy box. So scary! When they returned from the hospital last night, Tia told her dad, "Get rid of that toy box right now, Daddy! Smash it to pieces!" Which he promptly did with an ax in the back yard as she cheered him on. He is a great dad!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I am a terrible, terrible person.

As if my last little story had not already swayed you to that reality, this story will show you how truly terrible I am.

Rushing, rushing, rushing around. That is how every day begins in my house. And such was the case yesterday morning too - even though it was a Saturday. So after the eating of the breakfast and the taking of a jog and the showering and the dressing and the getting the two older children ready to go shopping, I headed out the door. Only to return two hours later in a rush because child two had to sing in a concert that afternoon. Poetroad rushed out the door with her, and I gathered together the stuff we needed for a project we were working on at the church later that day.

So I rushed out the door, hastily plopped the two younger kids in their car seats, buckled them in - all the while hearing sirens in the distance getting louder and louder as if they were nearing our street.

In the back of my mind, I knew instinctively (as any idiot would when she hears sirens drawing nigh) that something wasn't quite right. Then I saw my neighbor, "Saul", in his front yard sobbing and holding a telephone.

"Saul, what's wrong? Is everything okay?" I asked as I rushed over to him.

"It's Tia! It's Tia. [Saul and Gwen's four year old daughter, their only child] She cut her finger off."

She cut her finger off! Not "cut her finger." Cut it OFF!

I could tell that Saul was in shock. His face was panic stricken. I put my arm around his shoulder and asked, "Is it on ice?"

"Yes."

"It will be okay, Saul. They reattach fingers all the time. They'll take care of Tia."

I saw the officer cautiously pull onto our street as if he were looking for the correct house. I waved him down and introduced Saul to the officer. The officer took over my job with Saul. Then the fire truck drove up. It blocked my entire driveway.

Knowing that our daughter number two was now beginning her concert - and that Poetroad had asked me to bring some equipment to the concert which led me to believe that he needed it for the concert - I felt an urgency to get to my destination. I told the officer that I couldn't stay. He said that they would take it from there.

Then I looked at the fire engine blocking my driveway - and the three paramedic/firefighters piling out of the engine in a rush to help little Tia. I was thinking, "Did you have to block my driveway?" but I said, again, "I'm sorry, but I need to leave." The firefighters looked at me as if trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted, but they quickly ignored me and went on to do their job.

Here is the thing. Here is what makes me so terrible: I actually - for more than a split second - wanted one of the three firefighters to stop what he was doing, go back, and move the truck.

Thankfully, the officer, not sensing my selfishness, said in his gentle Texan drawl, "That's alright Miss. You go right along. We'll take it from here."

So I waved and got into my car. I felt like an idiot. Here this little girl could be dying for all I know. Loosing quarts of blood. I had no idea how bad the injury was, and all I could think about was where I needed to be and who was in my way.

God help me!

The irony is that this is the very "suburban" attitude we (Poetroad and I - and others) are fighting to change in our homes and churches and neighborhoods and in America and in the world. Self-centeredness rots. Change my attitude, Holy Spirit.

It was a great reminder that I cannot judge others. Just when I think I've got this Christ thing figured out, the ugly truth of my nature is revealed. I am still just a seeker.

I sat in my car wondering how I would exit graciously. Then I remembered that I drive a big rig and, in Texas, would have no problem driving across my lawn. So I did. It was a tight squeeze that I had to negotiate when driving between the firetruck and the neighbor's truck parked across the street, but I managed to skillfully squeeze through without leaving a scratch on any vehicle.

Still, I felt guilty the moment I left. If I had stayed, could I have made a difference? Gwen is a nurse, so I'm sure she had everything under control with Tia. I'm not sure that I could have done anything with my two little ones there either. Who knows what kind of god awful condition Tia was in, and she is a buddy of my two little ones. I couldn't have exposed them to that.

Today I'll go check on my neighbors. I'll do whatever I can to help them through the post-trauma. What I'm sure they'll need is encouragement and prayers (which is all I know to give in a situation like this one).

Kind of a Crappy Morning

Actually, the night before wasn't that great, and that is what ushered in yesterday's crappy morning. Sometime around 3:00 AM on Friday, JG - the 6 year old - crawled into bed.

Let me interject that as a mom of four, it is not unusual for a kid or two to wander into our bed in the middle of the night. Sure, my sleep is disrupted, but I sympathize because I remember having vivid nightmares as a kid that sent me running and screaming all the way to my mom and dad's room. Typically when one of our kids wants some cuddles, I move to the middle of the bed and lay there until daylight like a mummy entombed by people might.

So I lay there still and silent like any mummy would, and then the littlest daughter wandered into our room. Now there were four people in our bed. After about an hour of me rolling around the bed, repositioning the children, and trying to find a slice of space, I finally gave up and went to sleep on the couch.

Of course, Poetroad slept through the whole thing.

The alarming part of the story is what I discovered in our bed the next morning...

Something brown and squishy that leaves skid marks. Go ahead - take your best guess. The worse part about the discovery was that the skid marks and the deposit were in the very spot I was rolling around in during the wee hours of the morning.

Of course, I did what any parent would in this situation: I totally freaked out.

And I went on a mission to root out (and possibly clean up) the offender. I was certain that it came from our three year old as she is the only one potty training in our house. I checked her pants - nothing. Then I checked the other of the two little bed-mates - not even a hint of brownness.

I didn't even want to venture there with Poetroad; besides, he was still asleep. Instead I looked in the toilet - ah ha, a piece of brown-streaked toilet paper. Who used our toilet in the middle of the night? It wasn't me, so that left only one other possibility in my mind.

Still, I wondered if possibly a nugget could have fallen from our three year old's pants. Could her pull-up have pulled to the side in her sleep? Did she somehow miraculously mess her pants and clean up the evidence herself? No - couldn't be. So, again, that narrowed it down to Poetroad.

When he woke up - all the while I was frantically packing lunches, serving breakfast, and managing the normal morning chaos - I blurted out, "You pooped the bed."

"What?!" he sleepily questioned.

"There is poop in the bed. The girls didn't do it. I didn't do it. A dingle ball must have fell off when you were sleeping."

"No. No! What are you talking about?"

"I cleaned up poop from our bed this morning. None of us did it. It must have been you," I accused. "You must have went poop in the middle of the night and not wiped very well."

"Uh, no. I think I would know if I pooped in the middle of the night."

"Uh, apparently you would not know."

Quietly and obviously annoyed with me, he went back into the room. Only to come out moments later to declare, "That's not poop. That's chocolate. Who ate chocolate in the bed last night?"

"Oooops. We did. Sorry. You should have seen the log, though. Melted and squished peanut M&Ms really look like a nugget of poo. Nevermind then. Apologies all around."

And that was that.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nice turkey...

...shame about the legs. My dad got this crazy idea to deep-fry the turkey this year (as if there wouldn't be enough high calorie fare at the Thanksgiving feastravaganza already). He said that the turkey actually tasted delicious - after the crispy-blackened skin was removed, of course. My dad is notorious for burning food, so the crispy turkey is apropos. Gosh - seeing the burned turkey almost made me wish I could have been there to celebrate with them in Oregon. Don't worry; I enjoyed my Thanksgiving holidays regardless - although, decidedly, the holiday wasn't as lively and chaotic as what I am used to "enjoying." Poetroad helped me feel at home, though, by agreeing to yell at me and slam pots and pans around the kitchen. In turn, I agreed to call him an "ass" (a tribute to one of the few times known to mankind that my mom cursed at my dad).

Turns out I probably would have been bored to tears in Oregon anyway. Besides the turkey surprise ( and the fact that one nephew did manage to shatter the glass coffee table - I've been waiting ten years for that to happen), I heard that both of my sister-in-laws behaved this year - no fighting, cold sholdered conversations, or back-handed complements. Ah, well - there's always Christmas.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nothing a little wine can't fix

A few weeks ago, I made a list and asked for votes. Overwhelmingly, I was asked to blog about number two on the list, and I had one vote for number three on the list. But since this is my blog, I'm blogging about number three: "A day at the recycling center turns sour - as in sour grapes. Although it may very well have been fermented potatoes."

Considering the fact that this is such a "green" city, one would think that Austinites would be more eco-minded when it comes to trash. I think I've mentioned before that on trash pick up days our recycling bin and trash bin are nicely juxtaposed - one ridiculously small and the other ridiculously large - as they wait to be emptied. Don't forget that in addition to dumping the 5,000 gallon trash bin that, for no extra charge, the trash people will also take up to four extra bags of trash.

"Well, what ever can you place in a recycling bin so small," you ask? Hardly anything. Glass. Some plastics (actually, ONLY plastic BOTTLES - #1 and #2). Newspapers. Tin cans. Aluminum cans. Steel cans.

One item they take only sparingly is cardboard. It has to be cut into 2 x 2 squares, bundled, and secured with twine. I used to be able to throw it in a local paper recycling bin, but they don't take CARDBOARD any more. And because I had a whole car load full of cardboard to dispose of one day, this is what lead me to visit the local recycling center.

Let me first mention that this all transpired on Labor Day; I wasn't even sure if the recycling center would be open. When I arrived, the gate was open, so I took a chance and pulled into the large sheet metal barn. I saw two workers sitting at a small table and chatting. We made eye contact, but that was it. Neither made an effort to assist me - or even to stand up.

But I saw the ginormous stop sign, so I stopped. I saw a solitary guy sitting a ways away from the barn - he was sipping coffee at a round plastic patio table under the shade of a huge oak tree. He didn't make a move in my direction either. And because no one seemed to stir in the booth beside me (although it was hard to tell with the mirrored windows - you know, the kind of windows you can't see into, but they can see out of from the other side), I decided to pull around.

When I got to the other side of the building, the guy that was sitting under the shade came over and asked if I had been helped. That's when I realized that he wasn't drinking coffee over there under that shade tree. I was getting a buzz by just having a conversation with the guy. It's a wonder he could stand up straight. I wondered if they knew this guy was "lit" on the job. But seeing that this was the only guy engaging me in conversation, I figured that he was one of those functional drunks. Which was fine with me as long as he could function my cardboard out of my car and into the recycling pit.

So I backed into the barn, opened up my trunk, and began lugging my cardboard out of my car as the three employees stood by and watched. What the heck they were being paid to do, I'll never know.

Finally, a large dude wobbled out of the mirrored booth and yelled at me, "Hey, whatcha doing there!?"

"Uh, recycling my cardboard."

"Didja stop at the stop sign and get a ticket?"

"Well, I stopped, but no one gave me a ticket."

"Oh. That's because I was sleeping in there."

"Ah. Okay then." I didn't know what he wanted me to say to that. Eventually, the three employees reluctantly began helping me toss my cardboard into the appropriate bin.

Then the guy yells over to me gruffly, "Haven'tja ever been here bafore?"

"No. This is my first time."

"Well it costs two dollars. See the sign?"

Sure enough. I finally saw the sign. And while the employees finished unloading my rig, I dug through my purse for the appropriate change. In the mean time, another guy pulled up to the stop sign. Of course now that the guy in charge was wide awake, he scurried over to collect two bucks from him. I, on the other hand, was going about this all wrong, and I found myself in the little booth attempting to pay my fee and being chastised simultaneously.

"It's this guy's first time too," the fat boss sneered. "He knew to stop. See, he's doing it right, so you'll just have to wait there 'til I'm done with him."

"Yeah, I guess he wins the recycling prize," I quipped. Really, I didn't know what else to say. I just wanted to pay my money and get the heck out of there. Luckily, the drunk one pushed his way in there and took care of business for me. Apparently I made a friend that day; actually, the alcoholic probably felt sorry for me, so that's why he was helping me out.

On my way out, I managed not to run over anyone. I noticed that the employees were back to their business of sitting, too.

I can't wait to go back to the recycling center.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ads are like a box of chocolates...

I was looking over the job ads on craigslist the other day - yes, I reek of desperation - and, low and behold, I saw this advertisement in the "Education" classifieds:

"Nit picker part time $30/hr OBO"


Battling the buggers is a horrible experience I won't soon forget (and I've become quite an expert at nit picking); still, I wasn't about to respond to the ad. I did feel a camaraderie with this anonymous poor soul, however. How desperate does one have to be in order to post an ad for nit pickers on cragslist?

So today I responded to the ad. Not to offer my services, but to offer my expertise. I wrote, "I'm not looking to fill the position...I battled lice with my kids a few weeks ago, so I know exactly what you are going through! Honestly, I wouldn't have been able to get rid of the lice had my friend not recommended [name of product]." I also offered to share tips that I learned from my friend whose daughter battled a stubborn case of the nits over the summer.

Surprisingly, I got a reply. "Thanks for the tip. I’m glad it worked for you. I used [the product] and it indeed does a good job compared to the other products out there. It won’t remove the nits, which is a problem with daycares with zero nits policy…"

Ouch. Well, what did I expect? That I would save the population from lice infestations one nit at a time? Via e-mail??

I wrote back, "Yes, so true. What a headache, eh?...Wish I could have been more help. Anyway, good luck!"

To which I received this reply: "Thanks! All is good now. I did find someone to handpick the nits. I couldn’t see most of them myself and when I do they kept eluding me when trying to remove… Dads have to know their limits…"

Indeed they do. Indeed they do. That is one brilliant father.

Moms need to know their limits too.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Not Clowning Around

Poetroad and I are finally taking the next step to getting out of debt. Last year, we sold our house, packed up, and Poetroad took a job in Texas. With the money we made from the sale of our house, we paid off most of our debt. That meant for the first time since we started our family, I did not have to work once we moved to Texas. Not that raising four kids isn't work - every mom knows that raising kids is the most demanding 24/7 job there is. But last year was the first period in our lives that I didn't have to have a job (or two) outside of the home. Not unless that nude photo shoot counts...


Come on people! Didn't you read the line about "raising four kids"?! After popping out four kids, I have the body to show for it. No one is paying me to be in a nude photo shoot! Unless there is some magazine out there that caters to people who like to look at stretch marks, that is...

Anyway, back to the point.

I am back in the job market after that brief hiatus. Oh, we can live on Poetroad's income, but we are not saving any money and we are not paying off the rest of our debt any time soon. And we feel as if that is a financially irresponsible way to live.

Sometimes being responsible sucks.

So we are taking this class - "Financial Peace" - at our church. Because neither Poetroad nor I are nerds (as defined by Dave Ramsey, that is - a person who loves to make spreadsheets, make a budget, pay the bills, and generally keep track of the finances), we learned that we are basically screwed. I'm not lying when I say this process of getting our finances in order has been painful. Really painful.

And there is this looming pressure for me to find a job. Which I have, but the work will be sparse, so I'm looking for another job.

On a positive note, my oldest daughter had a nightmare about clowns last night.

Friday, October 12, 2007



washer, pocket, floor;
there I find evidence of
your six stringed affair

Not that you wanted to know...

Well, then. That was a bit of an unexpected side-track. We had to use a combination of various treatments to get rid of the buggers, though.

First, I used the mayonnaise treatment (I used a mayo-olive oil concoction; slathered head, wrapped in plastic and a towel for 1+ hours before rinsing). I followed that with one of the over-the-counter shampoos. (BTW, the mayonnaise did more for me than the otc shampoo did!) Eventually, the lice were gone after day four. But only because I used this product - on advice from a friend who battled lice for a MONTH before she used the miracle solution. Let me tell you, that product is worth every lice-pickin' cent!

The rest of my time has been spent disinfecting the house, and that process included washing just about EVERYTHING in hot water - everything that would fit into the washing machine, that is. For non-washable items (stuffed animals, dress-ups, hats, some hair goods), I bagged those items up for two weeks. Also, I used this little concoction:

(Disclaimer: in no way am I suggesting that, should you find yourself in the situation I was in, you should use this remedy. I am not a medical person, scientist, etymologist, or pesticide expert. Use at your own risk.)

15 drops of Neem Oil

5 drops of Tea Tree Oil

5 drops of Rosemary Oil

1/4 cup of water

I mixed the solution and put it in a small spray bottle. After first vacuuming everything that a head or hair might possibly touch, I sprayed the solution on the mattresses, couches, carpets, car upholstery, etc. It works on leather too. Of course there are numerous natural remedy concoctions out there; it's easy enough to find one that works for you.

What you must know is that over-the-counter remedies DID NOT work for me. The little lice comb didn't really help me either! I found it sufficient to help me look for nits and comb out the big bugs, but there is no way on God's green earth that this comb would take the nits out of thin or non-course hair. Basically, ALL nits had to be removed by hand (in my experience). This is where the LiceIce came into play - it is a product that prevents the eggs from hatching and loosens the nits from the hair shaft for easy removal. The eggs are SO tiny that I never would have been able to remove every nit otherwise had I not used that product. And it only takes ONE nit to keep a colony going.

Anyway, going on week two, and I haven't seen a sign of nit or louse since. Although my head still itches every time I think about lice.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Really, I'm not avoiding or forgetting

I really am working on a post (or two), but I'm slightly preoccupied with some recent uninvited guests. SO RUDE! Get a clue, people.

Actually, these guests are not people. Come to think of it, they aren't guests. And I'm not talking about the occasional indoor gecko visitor. I'm talking about...LICE. That's right - lice. Two of my little munchkins have it, and I'm positively freaking out. This is the first time I've ever had to deal with buggy heads, and, honestly, it's almost more disgusting pulling critters off of heads than pulling maggots out of a kitten.

Let me know if you need a great remedy to get rid of head lice because using the otc shampoo alone will not kill the buggers.

Laundry calls. Good thing I have a huge washing machine. Clothing and bedding await the obligatory sanitization.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Goodbye Summer, Hello Again

Once again, I'm still here. You know how it is - add stressor situation to my life = no writing. Oh, I look at my blog page from time to time and think about writing, but sometimes it's just too difficult to put what I feel into words. Add to that an overly self-conscious desire to not gripe and moan - I hate that things bug me...I mean bug me bug me - the result is also "no writing." I've had plenty of blog-worthy experiences over the past two months too. It seems weird to go back and write about everything, just as it would to go back and fill in the blank pages of a diary. So, here is a short list of notable thoughts or happenings over the past two months. Vote for your favorite (all two of you who might still be reading my blog after all of this time), and I'll tell all about that particular situation:

1. Travelling back from Oregon: how we made it to Texas without killing ourselves in the process.

2. Hair cut troubles: why you shouldn't make your Chinese hairdresser miffed.

3. Surreal visit to the recycling center: so "Texas."

4. Epiphany of the week: I will always have troubles.

5. Major decision: why my 6 year old is repeating kindergarten and how she fared in the first five weeks of school.

6. That whole "time-space" continuum thing: how I know my oldest is doomed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ode to William Carlos Williams

I ate your leftover steak today.
It tasted good with ketchup and the potatoes.

Friday, July 27, 2007

[fiction friday]



This Week’s Challenge: Use the word afoot in dialogue.


And here is my effort...


"Afoot..." she whispered.

"Huh? What's that, Julie? Did you say, 'on foot?'"

"Games."

"What? What are you talking about? What games?"

"Unhappy woman."

"Are you unhappy? Are you trying to tell me something, Julie?"

"Meet Henry."

"Who is this Henry guy? Julie. Julie! Who is this Henry guy?!"

"No, all my time...in Canada."

"Is Henry in Canada? Are you going to Canada?"

"Lost...boots."

"Boots?"

"Mmmm...man...full, black beard. Where is he?"

"Does this Henry guy have a black beard? I thought you didn't like facial hair."

"Bounds hounds. Hehehehe"

"Why are you laughing? Julie, does Henry have a dog? Why are you thinking about Henry? Tell me more about him. Do you like him?"

"But this is nothing...nothing."

"So you do! Have you been with this guy?"

"Down in the foul slime."

"So you have!"

"In our sitting room in Baker street."

"What? Where is Baker Street? You have a place with this guy?"

"South America"

"South America? I thought you said Canada. When were you in South America? Did you and Henry live there? Julie. Julie?! Wake up!"

"Huh?"

"Who is Henry?"

"What? Why are you asking me about the lawn boy? Go back to bed."

"Lawn boy? When did we get a lawn boy?"

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can opener, anyone?

I've been cleaning - or decluttering, rather - my mom and dad's home. This is what I found in the "miscellaneous utensils and knives" drawer:



I threw away one before I thought to take a picture - an effigy to the ridiculousness of it all. So there were eight of this version (all in that drawer), plus (on the counter above that drawer) one electric version. That adds up to NINE can openers, folks.

Why? Because you can never have too many can openers...

Of course, my dad reminded me that one of those eight can openers was supposed to be in the RV. Then why isn't it in the RV, Dad?


Can openers aside, today, I spent about six hours cleaning out the laundry room. No, it isn't a huge laundry room. The space is enough for a washer, dryer, a sink, and a small counter. Cupboards are above the appliances and beside and above the sink. Because I spent so much time on this one room, one would think that I either scrubbed the room floor to ceiling with a toothbrush or that the room was a trash pit. Actually, the room looked fairly clean when I began. It was the emptying, sorting and organizing junk from the cupboards that took so much time.

As I began emptying each cupboard, the stuff just kept coming and coming and coming and coming out of there. It's like my parents secretly went to clown college to learn how to cram all of that crap into those tiny cupboards.

Cleaning. This is one of my projects while I am here visiting. Really, I am not a "neat freak." I have four children - I couldn't be a neat freak if I wanted to be one. Anyway, while my parents are at work, I sort through their junk and throw and give stuff away. I know I won't be able to completely declutter their house because too many things hold sentimental value for my mom. But I want my parents to be able to open up their cupboards and drawers or go into their garages (yes, they have two sets of garages - and a storage room - and a garden shed - and a shed for the larger gardening tools such as the mower) and be able to find the stuff that they need more easily. Having less stuff will help.


What do they have stored in all of those spaces, you might ask? It's hard to say. Wouldn't it be cool if there were tons of well cared for antiques? No such luck. So what kind of stuff do they have?

I asked Ch@ndy this same question regarding her mom and dad's four car garage that is supposed to house the RV (which of course doesn't because the RV won't fit into the garage because there is a bunch of other stuff that is taking up garage space). She came up with this descriptor: haphazard randomness. Oh, such as the large crouched pig and piglets with googly eyes that is in my mom and dad's garage? Exactly.

Ch@ndy and I now have a pact to help each other clean out those garages when our parents die. I told my parents that I was going to have to get rid of stuff for them now because sooner or later (you know, when they die) I would have to do it anyway. I want to get a head start on the project.

Ch@ndy thinks that's a great idea. She plans to ask her folks to get rid of 10% of their stuff every year for the next 10 years. If only she could convince them to not buy any more stuff to replace the stuff they toss...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hydrangea Interloper

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Meme Cheater Here

I like the premise of this week's Ten on Tuesday (and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Peter's "10 Nice Things" over at Corner Kick). But, as usual, I'm late to the game (you know, 10 PM - 1 AM seems to be my ideal writing time, and everyone else is sleeping). So even though I'm not an official player, I'll post my 10 here for all of you to read anyway.

10 Nice Things People Have Done For Me Lately...

1. My friend Ch@ndy arranged for a totally cool girls weekend when I went to visit her a few weeks ago. I've mentioned the complementary professional waxing, but what I didn't mention is that she did some special grocery shopping for my picky eater JG, and that way we didn't have to hear JG complaining about food all weekend long. That was a blessing!

2. & 3. When I moved last December, my dear friends Molly and Jeff Nemechek arranged and provided the man power on the day that we had to load the truck. Poetroad, if you remember, was already in Texas, so Molly called around and assembled a work crew, and Jeff helped take charge on moving day. Our other dear friends, Rocky and Christy Wing, stayed after everyone left and helped me stack the truck to the ceiling. Rocky had to bust out some pretty fancy climbing moves, but he helped me make sure that every possible inch of space in the truck was utilized.

4. After the move, a family that is close to our hearts drove over six hours from Louisiana to visit us over Easter weekend - Jon and Sandy Knoedler (with their three daughters and their dog in tow). A visit might not seem like a "nice thing," but fellowship really is the nicest thing a person can offer when you've moved to a new place where you don't know anyone.

5. Back in April, Poetroad and I took a quick jaunt over to the post office in Lakeway in order to mail off our tax payment. I went inside for a few minutes (so I could send it certified mail), and when I came out, the battery on the van was dead. We asked 5-7 people to jump our car (we had the hood up and the cables ready to go), but everyone said "no." It was disheartening! And it was raining! Then a guy from a local bait and tackle shop pulled into the spot next to us, and he was more than happy to help. Literally, it only took two seconds to "git 'er done." The guy didn't even have to turn on his truck! After being stranded for over a half an hour (and hearing the lamest excuses in the world as to why they couldn't help us - such as the lady who said that her BMW "can't do that"), the good 'ol boy was our savior.

6. Two of my new friends, Stefani and Kathryn, took me out to lunch for my birthday. The lunch was nice, but the fellowship was priceless. Particularly when this girl is used to spending every holiday and birthday with extended family.

7. I got lost on the way home to Austin once. Really lost. Out in the middle of nowhere lost. I was so turned around, I would have ended up in Dallas had I continued on the path I thought I should be taking. When I finally saw a gas station, I pulled over and asked the first person I saw for directions back to Austin. Not only did this guy give me great directions, but he said that he was headed that way and that if he saw me make a wrong turn that he would make sure I got back to the correct road - the kindness of a stranger!

8. Two of our other new friends, Jen and Marc, took us to Austin City Limits last month. Although that might not seem like much of a sacrifice since the show is free, understand that in order to get tickets to a show, a person has to spend two days waiting in line to get those tickets (well, a few hours on one day to get a ticket, and a few hours in line the next day to get a number). Marc and Jen knew how much we wanted to go to ACL, and they gladly made the sacrifice. They even spent time with us before and after the show - also nice because they could have been hanging out with their other twenty-something friends rather than hanging out with us.

9.This isn't a recent one, but back before my oldest brother was married, he took Poetroad and I to see Prairie Home Companion - the actual show - at the Schnitzer in Portland. At the time, I hardly ever listened to NPR before that day; I became a lifelong fan after that experience. Spending time with my brother that day - I'll cherish that memory for a long time.

10. A checker at Target gave made my day a few months ago. It was late, the price for a box of diapers wasn't ringing up the same as what was posted, and he didn't want to bother with a price check. So not only did he adjust that item to his "special sale price" (lower than what was posted even), but he adjusted the prices on a few other items as well.

There you have it, my 10 for Tuesday. Like most, I could have gone on and on (I didn't even mention how Anthony fixed something on my blog last month or that he sent me one of his favorite books a few years ago). Nevertheless, this list will do.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mercy

It's easy enough to point the finger and be horrified at someone else's addiction. The truth is that nothing is more horrifying than being the enabler of said addiction.

So in thinking about recent family events, I had to wonder not what draws people to their addictions, but what draws people to addicts? Because that's what we do in our family. We love and attract addicts. And we are - to some extent - addicts ourselves.



A few weeks ago, I watched an episode of Big Medicine. The premise of this reality show is that a father and son doctor team have dedicated their practice to helping morbidly obese people win the battle against the fat that threatens to literally crush the life out of the patient. Basically, the treatment involves some kind of drastic surgery, counseling of some sort, and sometimes cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin after the patient loses a few hundred pounds.

In the episode I caught mid-way through the show, one featured patient was a guy who was so large that he had to be hooked up to a machine so that he could breathe. Apparently, lungs don't work very well under several hundred pounds of fat and skin.

The patient weighed nearly 500 lbs. In the scene I saw, he was attempting to stand up for the first time in five years. Yes - he had been reclining in bed for a whole five freekin' years. That's right - all eating, all showers, all urinating, all bowel movements took place right there in that bed.

Even with his doctor and life coach cheering him on, Big Boy wasn't able to stand up unassisted that day. And I could see why. After spending five years in bed, something probably happens to that muscle tone. Plus, five hundred pounds is a lot of weight to lift. I can barely pick up my oldest girl, and she only weighs 70 lbs or so. I wondered, based on the doctor's reaction, whether or not Big Boy would have to wait to have the surgery, although it was beyond me what Big Boy would have to do in order to show his worthiness for the surgery. The guy clearly needed help.

Then I heard the doctor say that Big Boy already had the surgery. He used to weigh 500 lbs more. Holy cannolies! The dude weighed almost 1000 lbs! So the fact that Big Boy already lost 500 lbs was pretty amazing.

Even more amazing than that - or what dumbfounded me, anyway - is how the people who loved this man could allow his weight to get so out of control in the first place. I mean, someone had to be feeding Big Boy massive quantities of food. And for five years, Mom and Dad had to be changing some pretty full diapers. Was there ever an "If you want another pizza, get off your arse and get it yourself" spoken?

The truth is, however, that Big Boy was responsible for his own behavior all along. Just as all addicts are. Whatever the addiction - eating, shopping, cleaning, drinking, working, gambling, shooting up - the addict is essentially in control, ironically. Just as ironic is the fact that the behavior is the easiest piece of the addiction to control. The hard part is figuring out the "why" and filling the void in a less destructive way.

It's hard to be the person who loves the addict too. Let's be honest. We only want to see people fail on American Idol. But with the people we love, it's difficult to watch that person careen into the abyss. What if they kill themselves? What if they never hit rock bottom? What if? What if? What if?

And so the enabling is fueled. I know how it works. I've been down that road a million times with various loved ones. It's an effort to somehow protect the person from him or herself. It's a compulsion to maintain some semblance of control - or at least to not feel so out of control.

So what do you do when you're face to face with an addict?

You love them. You love them enough to let them reap the consequences. And then you move to Texas.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Waxing, fighting, and having fun

Ch@ndy sure knows how to show a girl a good time! We had an excellent visit last weekend, and so far that has been the highlight of my time in Oregon. (The lowlight of course being that it is raining here and that my kids are sick - of the barfing kind.)

The best parts of the visit were:

  • I have an awesome Brazilian wax job - completed by a professional waxer (thanx Lisa!)
  • Great eats - barbecue a la Ch@ndy and friends Saturday night
  • I got to stay up late chatting with Ch@ndy and Bat Girl each night
  • Ch@ndy's crazy neighbors regaled us with a domestic dispute; we stayed up very late (or woke up very early, rather) calling the police, waiting for the police, and then watching the scene unfold...
  • Bat Girl's girls and my girls had a blast playing together

So there you have it - my weekend in Bend; it was more than a girl could have hoped for in a visit!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Post-menstrual

I've decided I'd like to coin a new term: "post-menstrual." It's the period after the period in which a women continues functioning in a crazed dementia which has previously been a characteristic of many women preceding and during the period. In short, its another excuse for bitchiness.

Last week, I was pre-menstrual. Which means I was impossible to please or be around. For example, a characteristic response to the statement, "It's Tuesday," might be, "Okay. So what's your point? What are you, a freekin' calendar genius?!"

Basically, during the pre-period, anyone and anything is a target. The venom is indiscriminate, and it is released randomly on the public.

Some women experience relief once the period starts. I seem to become more agitated. And that feeling doesn't subside until a few days after the period stops. So for those few days after the period, until my mind and emotions return to the state that rational beings enjoy, I would now like to be labeled "post-menstrual."

Yesterday, my mother wanted to put the television and DVD player in the room where my kids are sleeping during our stay here. I came unglued. "Mom, what are you doing?! Stop! Stop!! I appreciate the fact that you are trying to be the wonderful grandmother that you are, but I don't allow my children to watch TV in their room! Just put it down!" Post-menstrual tirade.

Today, daughter two was looking for the remnants of the piñata that was destroyed last week for daughter three's birthday party. [Aside: can anyone believe that I would endure a piñata bashing while I was pre-menstrual? Miraculously, I held my outbursts in check.] "It's in the trash," I replied calmly. Then daughter two went into a diatribe regarding why she needed the tissue paper from the piñata, "No, see we need it because..." I stopped her with, "No, see, you don't understand. It's in the trash. The TRASH! What do you want me to do about that? What don't you understand here? It's gone. No reasoning you can give me about why you need it is going to bring the pieces of the piñata back from the county incinerator."

With wide eyes, she stood and stared at me for a while wondering what just happened.

It was a totally unnecessary rant. Post-menstrual.

So there you have it. Once again, American women have another excuse to not accept responsibility for bad behavior. "It's not my fault. My period made me do it. Oh, not the pre-period. Not the period. It's the post-period that's to blame."

Drug companies will be all over this idea. And now I only have one week out of the month left to try to account for my crankiness.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Here I am!

On July 1, we began the trek to Oregon. Yes, we actually drove. And I am still here. Six people, one dog, one vehicle, one borrowed pop-up tent trailer.

Now I have to figure out a way to keep posting using a dial-up connection while I am visiting my family in Oregon for a month. Who in the world still uses dial up?!!! Apparently, people who live far enough away from the city do. That would be my parents.

And they don't have a word processing program on their computer either. This visit might be more of a challenge than I thought it would be.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Austin City Limits

Poetroad and I finally got a chance to go to an Austin City Limits taping (his dream come true) - and it was awesome! We saw Explosions in the Sky. More about the fun concert experience later...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

[Fiction Friday]



This Week’s Theme: Pick a mythical person or creature (e.g., Santa, Thor, Easter Bunny), and explain through dialogue, essay, or anything else, why they are unhappy with their job or position in life.

And now for something completely different - here's my post for this week. I'll be on the road next week, so I won't have a chance to post then. Looking forward to FF when I return!

It’s not that I don’ like me job
But a lass gets tired o’ screamin
Seems the banshee’s keen, it ne’er stops
Cause the peoples alway a-dyin.’

Is wailin’ a work for a pretty lass
When she’s spoonin’ wi' a lad?
Can an ill O’Leary get off his arse
When there’s lovin’ ta be had!



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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rain, rain, go away...

Wouldn’t you know it. The year we decide to up and move from Oregon to state that was in the midst of severe drought…it rains. And it rains. And it rains. In Austin, we are breaking a 70 year record for rainfall for the month of June.

But here in Austin, we are the lucky ones. Last night, it rained 18 inches in one night. Yes – that’s 18. What is this, frigging Hawaii? Marble Falls is a beautiful town, but make no mistake about it, the nearest Ocean beach is a good five or six hour drive from Marble Falls.

Ahh, the irony. Perhaps God was just trying to ease the transition for us? Nah, Poetroad may work for a church, but we don’t got that kind of holy cred.

The Meeting

By May, I avoided attending morning assembly. Mostly because it seemed as if every time I went, JGs teacher would pull me aside to “update” me on how JG was doing in class. But I got caught off guard one morning as I was escorting my girls to school, and hence the “meeting” was set. The teacher assured me that she only wanted to get together in order to discuss what we should do with JG next year. In all of her umpteen years of teaching, she had never had a child that was so “on the bubble.”

What to do, of course, meant to ultimately decide whether or not to “promote her to first grade or give her another year of kindergarten.”

Which I have to say up front that I was never – and still am not – opposed to the idea of retaining JG. She will be six in July, and was younger than almost everyone in her class. Plus, she hasn’t conformed really well to the American approach to education (the sit down and shut up approach, I mean – although I know that not every school or teacher takes this approach in America, but by in large they do).

On the day of the meeting, I was expecting to meet with the teacher, counselor, and reading specialist all together. Poetroad made sure he could be there too. Thank God.

Side note: Before the meeting, Poetroad and I, under the distinct impression that we would truly “discuss” the situation, made a list of different we thought should be considered. And true to form, I played the devil’s advocate by positing the “what ifs.” What if they say “this” or “this” – what will we say? Ultimately, Poetroad wisely put my mounting anxiety at ease by suggesting, “Look, let’s not make any decision today. Let’s reiterate that we are meeting to discuss the issue and not to decide one way or the other.”

No surprise to anyone but me (and perhaps the counselor…), the meeting began with something akin to “there is no way your daughter could handle first grade, everyone thinks so (with an eye roll), and this is why…”

I was broadsided – although I should have seen it coming. And I resolutely dug my heels into the carpet at that point. No matter how much they tried to “persuade,” I acted as if this was a “discussion.” Poetroad was calm, cool and collected, as always. We went from person to person and grilled them. “What is JG like in your classroom?” “How is JG performing academically for you?” “What is your experience with children that are retained a grade?” “If she repeats kindergarten, will she have the same teacher?”

Oh, I wish you all could have been there to see the response when Poetroad asked that last one. I thought the teacher was going to fall out of her chair; she was struggling for words, and was practically rendered speechless. Not in her wildest dreams would she want to spend another year with my child was what she said with her body, and with her mouth she said, “Well, I don’t know about that.” That was okay with me; I don’t feel any animosity for this woman, but I wouldn’t want JG to spend another year with this teacher either. As I mentioned in my previous post, the teacher really knew how to help my child excel academically and socially – she was a fantastic teacher in that sense. However, the teacher could not overcome the fact that my child (unknowingly) got on her nerves.

Much more was said at the meeting, and the reading specialist – who at first “needed to teach her class in 10 minutes” – ended staying through the duration of the almost one hour meeting. Although it clearly exasperated the teacher, I let everyone know, in no uncertain terms, that the decision was not going to be made that day, the next day, or even two weeks from that day. Poetroad and I needed to thoughtfully consider everything we heard that day, do some research of our own, and then come to a consensus.

The truth of the matter is that Poetroad and I both know that another year of kindergarten wouldn’t hurt our daughter at all. She is petite, young compared to the other students in her grade at this school, and can have a difficult time sitting still. And although she meets the criteria for grade promotion for Texas (as the reading specialist reluctantly admitted, and added, “And if I didn’t know your daughter, I would say that she could handle first grade”), this school district has standards in place that go above and beyond what the Texas Board of Education requires. JG is only an emergent reader. She can count to 100, but gets mixed up in the “teens.” [Side note: my oldest daughter thought that “eleventeen” was a number until she was in the second grade.]

Maybe it’s just me. I clearly have to get over my expectations – not of my daughter’s ability, but, rather, of what public school should do for my child. I do not believe that my daughter is a failure, nor do I think that Poetroad and I have somehow failed her. As a teacher, though, I know that children each learn various concepts at different rates and by different means. I understand that a child ultimately has to conform to school practices (sit and listen, work on worksheets) in order to be successful in the public school system as it is. But I also know my daughter, and she may never conform to status quo.

Neither did Einstein.

I went away from that meeting stunned. It’s taken me over a month to even discuss it with anyone. Of course, all of our friends and family are supportive. The teacher, too, told me on the last day of school that she would support whatever decision we made. Little by little, as I’ve broached the subject with a few mothers from this neighborhood, the response was what I expected, however: oh, poor you and your sub-par daughter. I’m not sure what I think about that.

I have to remind myself that, in the scheme of things, this stuff is petty. We aren't starving, we have a roof over our heads, and clothes on our backs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thanks Tony!

While the queen is away, the mice will play. Not that I think that my friend Tony is a rodent or anything, but he is sneaky. Hence the new blog title. I'm changing my blog name so much that I can't even keep up with myself, lol!

Thank you, Tony, for fixing stuff for me here. You are a treasure!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bad May, Part Dux: First, The Background

Daughter number three (JG) is a spit-fire. She is graciously particular - most of the time (at age two, for example, she would say, "That's not my favorite" when any mushy or otherwise non-pretty looking food was placed on her plate, and then would refused to eat.) She has a stubborn streak and is more tenacious than anyone I know or have ever met. For example, when she turned four, I once sent her to bed without supper because she would not eat what was served her. By lunchtime the next day, she was content to just keep on not eating because nothing I served for breakfast or lunch was "her favorite." She could have kept right on fasting through dinner and breakfast the next day, too, but by dinnertime and no eating - none - for 24 hours, I figured out what was her favorite and served that. And one of her more endearing qualities is that she is a dawdler and a silly-heart (yes, you Uncle Buck fans - I borrowed that phrasing). JG is an extroverted, hands-on kind of girl that enjoys making people laugh. Clearly (except for being and extrovert), this apple of my eye didn't fall far from the tree.

So I wasn't surprised that when we moved from Oregon to Austin last December that this major move might be met with some resistance. Not only would JG's new school require that she would have to wake up, eat, and be out the door by 7:35 (thank God we live right behind the school), but she would also have to attend school all day long rather than the half day required at her previous school. Don't misunderstand - JG is not the kind of kid needs to take a nap half way through the day. On the contrary, I had to stop making her take a nap at age 3 so that we could all get to sleep before midnight/1 AM. No joke. The problem was that more "sitting" would be required of her than ever before.

And, a sitting all day in a chair kind of girl JG is not.

It was no surprise to me that JG complained of hating school every day for the first month. Where she played all day and would easily, charmingly, and wordlessly command attention at her other school, she was now being forced to sit and take daily quizzes on letter sound recognition (teacher says a sound, and students write the upper and lower case letter; teacher says a letter, and students say all of the possible sounds that letter makes). Also, she now had to do homework - worksheets and flashcards that took us probably 20-30 minutes to complete.

By week two, the teacher was calling us in for a meeting. I knew it couldn't be a good sign when the teacher asked me, more than once in this 30 minute conversation, whether or not JG was in pre-school or kindergarten at her last school. By the end of the conversation, the teacher pretty much spelled out to us that she would do her darnedest to bring JG up to speed (all of her students were reading by this time, and JG was a whole semester behind), but the reality of the matter was that enough progress may not be made by the end of the year.

As the semester progressed, so did JG. Although resistant at times because she had to skip so much free choice time in order to be hard line tutored in her ABCs, JG seemed to be getting the hang of things. In fact, because she was labeled by the school as "at risk," she had to meet with the reading specialist four days a week - all because she was not a fluent reader as a kindergartner. Also, we met with the teacher periodically in order to be kept up to speed. But by spring break, I began to notice that JG had had enough; every day, she complained that school was boring. Sure, she liked PE and lunch, but the rest of it was "boring teaching stuff."

I began to notice, too, that the teacher was growing less and less patient with my little girl's quirky behavior. At first, JG confessed that she had a time out here and there. Then it was daily. Then the notes started coming home, followed by phone calls from the teacher. The biggest offense? JG was talking. Talking in line, talking in the hallway, talking during circle time. The girl likes to talk, what can I say? (And if you noticed the length of any of my entries lately, you can clearly see where she gets this trait.)

Side note: she is in kindergarten. Kin-der-garten! Is it really necessary to chain a kid to her desk and slap the proverbial duct tape on her mouth before she is promoted to one of the grades that are numbered?! (Of course I am speaking metaphorically here.) Although there was that one little time that JG kissed a boy (see what I'm dealing with here!). I took a hard line on that one: "no kissing until you are 25!" JG just giggled at me, but agreed to never do that again at school.

In any event, I dropped by the school more and more (visited JG at lunch, went to special events such as "Water Day," etc.) in order to witness the teacher's interaction with JG for myself. Frankly, what I saw was a fantastic teacher that just didn't have any patience with my daughter. If JG had a question, she was answered with slight annoyance. If my daughter tapped on her teacher to get her attention, she was simply ignored. I even had the opportunity to witness a scolding, and the teacher reponded with exhasperation to my daughter (nevertheless, I did not intervene). Trust me - I live with this daughter 24/7, so I sympathize with this exasperation. Still, I was begining to wonder if some of the behavior issues in class stemmed from a personality conflict with the teacher rather than actual behavioral problems.

Then came "The Meeting." And you'll just have to read more about that later.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bad May, Part I

Warning: What you are about to read is a ridiculously wordy version of just one of the obstacles I faced in May. It is, at moments, kind of a disgusting tale. You've been warned: proceed at your own risk.

It was 2:50 on the Wednesday before school let out last month. I’m not sure what compelled me to walk to the end of the driveway that day to watch my three older girls walk the last block from school. We live directly behind the school, for goodness sakes – if I climbed on top of my house, I could easily watch them walk out the back door of the school right to the front door of our house.

While I was waiting there at the end of our driveway, I thought I heard a shout or someone yelling. It was like the internal nagging voice that I sometimes hear way back in my subconscious, so of course I ignored it the way I try to ignore the annoyance of a buzzing fly. But the voice persisted.

Then I turned and noticed a guy on the other side of the fence that separates our cul-de-sac from a five lane thoroughfare. He was motioning for me to come over. At first, I flashed back to the time when my buddy Molly had a brush with indecent exposure in our B’ville days – it was the same suspicious “Pssst – hey you” beckoning that we heard that day. But since this guy’s clothes seemed to be covering his body, it dawned on me that his car might have broken down and he needed help. Maybe even medical help.

I jogged over to where he was yelling, “You need some help? Is everything okay?” When I reached the fence, however, I noticed he was holding, with arm stretched out in my direction, a little black furry thing. “It’s a puppy,” he said. “You take it?”

“Uh, I think it’s a kitten.”

“No puppy? Kitty? Here, you take it. I think it hurt”

With that, he showed me the back side of the tiny animal. It looked as if the tail was practically severed. The gash was gross indeed; it wouldn’t survive if I left it there. Mr. Landscape Maintenance was in earnest, too, and he lifted the kitten over the fence and put it into my hands. It was a new-born; its eyes hadn’t even opened yet.

At that moment, my kids reached the driveway. I hadn’t really had a chance to inspect the kitten and wasn’t thrilled to show it to them knowing that the kitten may not survive. Of course they “Ooooo-ed” and “Awww-ed” over it – and wanted to hold it, but I told them that it was hurt (and it had some type of worms on it) and that we needed to let the vet take a look at the kitten right away.

Luckily, there was a vet clinic right around the corner. We didn’t have any trouble getting an appointment, thank goodness. There, the vet examined “Kitty,” and said that she had seen worse. This kitty, although covered in maggots and only a week old, would most likely survive the vet assured us. So I paid my 82 dollars to have the kitten de-maggoted and treated with antibiotics. After being instructed on how to care for a newborn invalid kitten (feed every two to three hours 24/7, hand stimulate urination and bowel movements, remove any remaining live maggots, care for wound, etc.), I was on my way home to tackle being a sleep deprived mom once again.

The first night went okay. The kids were excitedly chatting about what we might name our new kitten and how we would care for it etc., etc. I even let them attempt to feed Kitty its special formula with the tiny dropper. Through the night, I kept Kitty warm and comfortable in my bedroom in a makeshift cardboard box bed filled with an old fleece blanket, a heating pad, and a few beanie baby kitties (donated by my two older daughters for the cause of “helping Kitty not feel lonely”). Kitty ate well, and seemed pretty feisty. A couple times I even thought this little bugger might climb right out of the box!

In the morning, I was confident that Kitty would pull through. The assistants at the vet clinic called to check on Kitty too – which I really appreciated. “Call back if you have any questions at all,” they said.

But Kitty’s appetite seemed to wane. It was fussier as the day went on. By mid-day, Kitty took a turn for the worse. I noticed that the umbilical area was protruding a bit. I called the vet and was assured, once again, that all was fine. They had noticed this at the clinic, and this was typical of newborn kittens. Okay, then.

Then I noticed the second batch of maggots. Lots of them tucked up in the umbilical area. Loads of them. I tried to take them out with tweezers. I pulled out about twenty of the little wormy buggers. It was surreal because this type of maggoty picking behavior is NOTHING like something I would do. I cringe at blood, vomit, and the like. Maggots? Totally disgusting. Still, I was almost obsessed with cleaning this kitty. No matter how many I removed, however, there were more stuffed in there. I couldn’t get them all out. Again, I called the vet at around 4:30 PM.

Around 8:00 PM, I finally got a call back from the vet. “Ugh,” she said, “I looked in the umbilical area, but I didn’t see and maggots there.

“I don’t think Kitty will make it through the night,” I responded. “It isn’t thriving. It isn’t eating as much as it was.”

“Well, bring Kitty in tomorrow morning first thing, and we take a look at it. We will even flush out any remaining maggots.”

“Great. I’ll be there as soon as the clinic is open,” I replied.

Even then, it was already too late, though. I knew it. The vet knew it. I just wish that I knew for sure what would happen so that I could prepare my own children for the inevitability of what would happen. Literally, I prayed, “God, if this Kitty is going to die soon, then help me to know that for sure.”

By 8:30 my prayer was answered, for better or worse. I noticed that Kitty’s bed was bloody. And when I went to pick Kitty up, I saw that its intestines were no longer neatly stuffed in its belly. The situation was terminal. There was nothing I could do at 8:30 that evening except to make Kitty as comfortable as I could until it breathed its last breath. So that’s what I did.

But first, I let my own children say goodbye to Kitty. As tactfully as I could, I explained that Kitty wouldn’t make it through the night, so they needed to say goodbye before they went to bed. The scene was heartbreaking. My 9 year old still held out hope that Kitty would be alive in the morning. Tearfully, each daughter said goodbye to Kitty.

For the next few hours, I held Kitty and caressed it. I told it that it was okay to relax. I prayed over Kitty and asked God to relive its pain. And eventually – exhausted as I was from lack of sleep and from enduring the stress – I carefully tucked Kitty into bed next to one of the beanie babies. Within a few hours, Kitty was gone.

You might think that after this whole Kitty saga I might be a little ticked at the vet for not euthanizing the kitty right off. I was. I would have done it myself, but didn’t have a humane way to do that at my disposal. And I shelled out 87 bucks when all was said and done. Or, perhaps you thought that I should have refused the kitty from Mr. Lawn Maintenance man right up front. That would have saved me a lot of pain (and money), for sure.

Still, I wouldn’t have done anything different. If I am committed to what I say I believe – to care for the earth and all creation; to be generous even when it costs time and money and tears – then I made the right decision. Foolish? Maybe. Nevertheless, I would do it again.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fiction Friday

Here’s this week’s challenge:

Write the first thing that comes to mind when you read this line: Bad news cures all things.

Nightly, the fog seemed to shroud the forlorn vineyards in the late springs and early summers near Soledad. That night from her second story bedroom window, Selma mindlessly brushed and braided her long, thick chestnut hair as she watched the fog ooze across the foothills. She noted how the fog pervaded every crevice – row after row, acre after acre – of the monotonous lines of vines. Sometimes she imagined that the fog could penetrate her bedroom window and envelop her too. It never did.

So instead, Selma crawled into bed and pulled the covers up around her neck and stared at the stars and the darkness. If she could pull the darkness up over her head – to encase her entire body so that no air could seep in – she surely would. Then it would be over. She wouldn’t have to endure the arduous task of living any more. But who would love her children, then? Tim was a great daddy; the reality is, however, that enduring his wife’s death wouldn’t eliminate the fact that he would have to work every day sun up to sun down. Farm life is demanding – that’s the reality. Tim’s family live ten hours away. Her family lived half-way across the country. They were alone in raising their kids. A six, four, and an almost two year old couldn’t take care of themselves, nor did she desire that for them. Although Selma hated living, for sure, she loved her children more.

And why did she feel so sad? She had a wonderful (though sometimes absent and preoccupied) husband, three beautiful daughters, and wonderful friends. Nevertheless, she felt alone. She lived in a real house– nothing like the trailer her parents still call home, and that counted for something. The plumber – I forgot to call her. I have to remember to call her tomorrow, Selma thought. Money was tight after they decided to expand the vineyard last year, but they were making it. Why was she sad? She didn’t have a good answer for that nagging question. The sadness just seemed to be.

After a while, Selma felt the mattress sink heavily next to her, and could hear almost instantly the sleep sounds of her husband – deep breathing, a few snores. How can he do that!? I can’t ever fall asleep that quickly, she thought. No, she always lay awake for a half to sometimes a full hour before her mind would succumb to dreams. If I just lay here and think of nothing, sleep will come. Empty your brain, Selma. Stop thinking everything to death, she thought. Tomorrow, then. Selma would put off seeking answers tonight.

Early the next morning, Selma awoke to the stench of sewer – so strong that she could taste it. “Oh, shit!” she cursed frantically as she ran to the bathroom to survey the damage. The sewer must have backed up all the way up here, she thought. To her surprise, the bathtub and toilet sit there quietly and cleanly as always. Then she heard Tim holler from downstairs, “Selma – you awake? Don’t come down here without your boots on!”

Hurriedly, Selma threw on an old sweatshirt, jeans, and her old ropers and ran downstairs. As she crossed from the stairwell into the open kitchen, a wall of odor almost knocked her to her knees. With mop in hand and dressed in raingear, heavy-duty fireman gloves that she picked up at a garage sale last year, waist high neoprene waders, and a bandana to cover his face so that his brown eyes were his only recognizable feature, Tim looked as if he was ready to clean up a minor nuclear spill. “I was gonna fix you breakfast, honey, but I thought I would clean up a little first,” he joked. “Oooo wee – this is stanky stank! What have you been feeding our kids?”

“I’m so sorry, Tim! What happened?” Selma asked as she pulled her sweatshirt up over her mouth and nose, knowing instinctively that she was to blame for this disaster.

“Shit, happened, honey!” And he continued to mop the raw sewer out the back door.

“Oh, god, Tim! I forgot to call the plumber yesterday! I didn’t know it was this bad! I am sooooo sorry!!”

“You can’t always know, Selma. It was gonna happen whether you called or not. It’s been a wet spring; the septic probably just couldn’t handle all that rain.”

“Well, chances are that Joanie will come out right away now. That’s good, right?” Selma said half-heartedly.

“Yeah, it looks like you’re finally gonna get that new kitchen floor that you’ve wanted too. Tell Joanie she’s gonna have to drain the septic tank. And just be thankful that we have a bathroom downstairs, honey, otherwise we might be mopping the ceilings upstairs.” Then he went back to his mopping.

How did he do that? Selma wondered. Tim always knew how to make a major disaster seem less horrible. Where she could feel – really feel - unrestrained hopelessness, he could define a space and wall it in on all four sides. She needed Tim. She really needed him.

Selma left her ropers at the base of the stairwell and went back upstairs to gather up the kids. Hopefully Gloria could take her girls for the day. The girls loved to hang out with Gloria’s kids anyway; they didn’t get to do that enough. It’s not that Gloria never offered to take the kids. Selma just didn’t want to impose. Three kids are a lot to handle – combined with Gloria’s four - yikes. But Selma needed to acquiesce for the sake of her own children. They needed to play with other kids and sometimes venture off of the farm. Mental note: set up more play dates for the kids, Selma thought.

Later that morning after Selma got her family squared away, Joanie arrived to survey the damage. Bad news: part of the sewer line collapsed. The good news was that Joanie could repair it in the span of about two or three day’s time. Sometimes it’s good to live in a small town, Selma thought. Soledad wasn’t a terrible place to live.

Gloria practically begged to keep the kids for a few nights – she wouldn’t dream of allowing the girls to be around an open trench. Just last week after it had been raining for several days straight, a local toddler fell into a swollen, normally dry, creek. Searchers didn’t find the body until the next morning. Selma remembered seeing the parents on the local news; through controlled sobs, the mother said that she was thankful to be able to have her child for even two years. Selma knew that Gloria was right; she wouldn’t be able to bear the loss of one of her children.

The loss of a child – with that aching realization, something clicked in Selma. Life really was good to her. Her children were okay. Her husband was okay. Sure, only that morning her kitchen floor was covered in sewer, but things could be worse; it took a stranger’s pain to penetrate that shroud of darkness. Her despair was not limitless. With help, she could define it. Was it loneliness? Was it a chemical imbalance? She would find out. She would get help. Her family deserved that. She deserved that.