Saturday, May 30, 2009

Two Important Videos

And now for something completely different...

I've found myself getting into the gay marriage debate a lot, lately. Perhaps it seems odd, to you, that a straight, heterosexually married woman with two kids (whose sexual identities are yet to be discovered) feels strongly about gay marriage rights, but, well, I do.

To be honest, the whole gay marriage/gay rights thing is one of the biggest obstacles between me and faith. I may have mentioned that I'm kind of ... searching, when it comes to religion, right now. We chose not to join the church where MG attends preschool because of their stance on gay rights. There was a lot that was right about that church, for us, but I cannot and will not support a group with my time and money that propagates a message of hatred and inequality. Nope. Won't do it.

A lot of people I care about are gay. A lot of public figures I admire are gay. To be honest, a lot of the boys I dated long, long ago are gay. And if some neuron in my head was aligned differently, I might be gay, too. Or you might. And I think that people who are LBGT have just as much of a right to live their lives authentically and free of the judgment of other peoples' religions as I do.

Oh, shut up, Amy, the videos say it better:

Seriously, if we're going to take Leviticus so very seriously, let's not forget that tattoos are banned, and you can't eat shellfish or pork or leavened bread at certain times, you can't cut your hair and a whole bunch of other stupid stuff. Oh, but it's ok to own slaves and to kill your children for hitting you. In fact, those things are encouraged. Cherry-picking is one of the most annoying qualities of the "faithful," in my opinion.

Shockingly, I think I am done with the horrible accounting project. And now I'm going shopping.

An Epic Rant About Work

BJ finally got home last night. Unfortunately by the time he got here I'd already fallen asleep, so he didn't get the marching band and ticker tape parade reception that he should have. I think I sort of rolled over, said, "Oh, you're home!" and went back to sleep.

At work I have this yearly project called the ICE (Incurred Cost Explanation - fascinating sounding, right?) that I have to do for the Defense Contracting Auditing Agency. Basically they look at how much we spent on overhead expenses (rent, copy paper, etc.) versus how much we made and how much we spent on our contracts directly, and eventually they give us a percentage that we can charge the government on future contract work for overhead.

One would think that there would only be a little math involved. I mean, I could pull the total amount of overhead expenses for 2008 out of Quickbooks in about 10 seconds. I could compare that number to the total receipts, or the total direct expenses, or pi, or the speed of light, or whatever all day long. But no, this is the government, so there is a huge spreadsheet with multiple (27, actually) worksheets that have mathematical links to one another that I have to fill out and submit by the end of June.

I hate yearly projects, because I don't do them often enough to know what I'm doing.

And our childcare situation for the summer is complicated, because Allison is going to Spain. I checked with a couple local daycares, but none of them do part time for Claire's age group. I'm going to end up heavily utilizing the church's "mommy's time out" program (but that's limited to five 2-1/2 hour sessions per week, and a max of 2 sessions per day - essentially, I'll be able to work at the office 5 hours a day twice a week, with another 2-1/2 hour day once a week - but by the time I drop them off and get them settled, get to work and settle myself, check my e-mail, it'll be time to pick them up again). I tried to get Bumpa to commit to spending a day a week with the kids until late August, but he changed the subject...

So, the big project? Sometime in early May I started looking online for the current version of the spreadsheet thing and I read the following:

The ICE application is currently unavailable. The Version 2.0.0 (Released May 2008) is under review to correct a reported error in the calculation of the G&A rate/allocation when a Value Added base is used. Any user of version 2.0.0 that allocated G&A using a Value Added base should independently validate the resulting rate calculation and allocations.

Um... Ohhhh kay... I don't know how to independently validate anything.

I didn't really worry about it at the beginning of May. I had enough other stuff to catch up. A couple weeks ago, though, I got a little annoyed and wrote to my auditor and said, "Um... What?" and explained that I don't have much childcare available in June, and if they want this thing by June 30, they really ought to fix the formula and put it back up before, say, June 29.

Yesterday was Allison's last day of babysitting before she leaves. Guess when they e-mailed me the Excel file I needed? Yesterday.

I made pretty good progress. I think I got about half of it done yesterday, which is incredible. It was really hard the first year, because I had no clue what I was doing, and the way I'd been doing the accounting didn't match the way they had set up the spreadsheet... I had to do a lot of formulas just to get my own data to match the format they wanted for the form. Now I've refined my process throughout the year to match what they want me to do, and all the old data has (finally) fallen off. So, between the better processes and the 3 or 4 years of experience I've got doing this thing, it's going a lot faster.

One lady I know whose company is larger than ours, who has been doing this for at least 15 years, said that it takes her an entire month to do this report. I think mainly it's because she still has all her other work to do while she's working on it, but still... a whole month. If we get any bigger, I'm hiring someone else to do this stupid thing.

On Thursday, Jane who is 8 and who I've known since long before she was born, was shocked to find out that I work. "Where??" she asked. "For Uncle BJ, honey. I do all the bookkeeping, and I do the paperwork and the taxes every month that we need to do because we employ people, and I buy the supplies that BJ needs for the office and for his rockets. I also make sure that we pay for the stuff we buy on time. And if we do work for someone else, I have to send that company a bill for the work and make sure they pay it on time, and if they don't I follow up with them to find out what's wrong. I talk to our vendors and keep up a relationship with them. I work with the accountant every year to get our taxes done. I keep the licenses on our softwares current. I proofread the reports and proposals that BJ writes. I review the contracts that we get to make sure that there aren't any surprises later..."

"Wow," she said, "that's a lot of explanation."

I realized later that I've totally become what Lloyd in Say Anything said he didn't want to be...

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

I love that movie.

I hate it that people (not just kids, but, well, almost everyone I know, now that I think about it) think I sit around and blog and eat bon bons all day. I work, and I work really hard. Even BJ has, in a moment of anger, accused me of doing "everything half assed." I was not trained for this, and I've had to figure it out as I go along. I took Accounting 101 twice. I got a C the first time and a B the second, and even after the B I didn't understand half of what was going on. I figured, at that point, that I've learned all that I am capable of learning from Accounting 101.

I've had to start from nearly zero knowledge of accounting, and learn the hardest type of accounting there is (government contract accounting). And the stakes are high. If I screw it up I could end up in jail, or BJ could, or they could shut down our company or stop awarding us contracts or any number of really freaking horrible scenarios. Talk about stress! (But my FB quiz, "How stressed are you," came back at 3%. Ha. To hell with FB).

I am almost entirely self-taught. Aside from my accountant, who has been a TON of help over the last six and a half years (but she can't sit and hold my hand every day), and the woman at the larger company I mentioned earlier, who helped me through the ICE the first time, I've learned this all on my own.

I'm a total big picture thinker, and I don't usually care about details, and I suck at math and Excel. Accountants (successful ones, anyway) are detail oriented thinkers who are good at math and Excel. I'm completely ill-suited for the job I'm doing, but I do it because BJ doesn't have time, and we can't hire someone that he'd trust the way he trusts me. I have complete control over all the money going in and out of the company. BJ looks at it once a year when we do the taxes. He couldn't trust anyone else in this job.

And yet, I'm still blown sh*t, even by the other owners of the company, for being involved. We had a meeting, once, at one of the owners' houses, and after dinner when the four owners went downstairs to talk, and I went too, one of them said with a sneer, "Are all the other wives going to be included too?"

I'm still pissed, and it was years ago. I should have said, "Yeah, when all the other wives who've never even seen the office put in 40 hours a week, they can sit in, too, you dick." But I didn't. I didn't because I love my husband (although he heard it when we got home, and got an earfull for not defending me) and we need our business partners. The irony is when we set up the company, they wanted to make me the "on paper" owner - because women-owned businesses get perks - but I said no because it's dishonest to say I'm the owner when I'm not.

You know what integrity gets you? It gets you screwed, that's what.

So, it's a beautiful Saturday and when BJ gets up I am going to go to the office to finish this thing. Because I have to. And people are going to read this, and in about 20 minutes will return to thinking that I sit around and blog and eat bon bons all day. And no one's going to think about the fact that in addition to all of the above, I have a home to run, too, with laundry and dishes and shopping and doctor's appointments and every other detail that goes along with that. And that I have a workaholic husband who travels frequently.

I can't relax when I'm at home, because I'm thinking about the 10000 things I really should be doing at work. I can't relax when I'm at work, because I'm thinking about the 10000 things that need to be done at home. When most stay-at-home moms are getting a break, when they have a sitter or a mommy's time out program or whatever, I'm working. When most working-outside-the-home moms are getting a break, I'm playing catch-up at home. It's the worst of both worlds, in a lot of ways. I always feel like I'm behind.

Rachel said, on Facebook, "We both have the same problem - we think, 'I can do it all by myself,' and at the same time think, 'Why isn't anyone helping me?'" I think in my next life I'm going to be one of those "wilting flower" types - the "delicate" girls who can't do anything by themselves. The ones that men seem to fall all over themselves trying to be the big, strong hero for. To hell with being Scarlet O'Hara, I want to be Melanie.

BJ's up. I gotta go. *sigh*

This post has been brought to you by PMS, which I have somehow completely forgotten how to deal with in the past 4 years.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

ProMom Tips for Indoor Playgrounds

An indoor playground (the chain is Monkey Joe's) recently opened here. It is chock full o' inflatable playthings for kids aged 0 - 12. We made our first trip today, and I'd like to share what we learned.

1) Take older kids.

Beg, borrow, or steal 'em. Unless you have a burning desire to personally experience the bouncy things (and probably get sea sick) yourself, a couple of trusted older kids will safely shepherd your little ones through the inflatable jungle, so that you can sit back and relax. Befriend someone whose kids are 5 years older than your own, and you can have a MomDate while your kids play together.

2) Timing is everything.

Our local indoor playground is open from 10 am - 6 pm. Lunch and nap fall right in the middle of that time period. We arrived around 10:45 and had planned to eat at the pizza joint in the same building (all you can eat buffet) for lunch, but our plan was thwarted when we realized (after we paid, of course) that they don't allow you to leave and return. Bummer! So we ordered a pizza from the concession stand (expensive!). Fortunately, they forgot to order our pizza, so we were able to negotiate with the manager to eat across the hall at Cici's and then return. You may not be so lucky, though. Plan to either go early and eat there (expensive!), or eat a late (huge) breakfast to see them through. Or, have early lunch and nap, and go from, say, 1 pm to 6 pm if possible to get your money's worth.

3) Don't forget your credit card.

The admission was $8 for kids 3 and up, and $5 for kids 2 and younger. Ouch! You can see why we didn't want to eat at the expensive concession stand ($2.50 for a hot dog! I can buy an entire package of 8 hot dogs and buns for $2 with coupons). They have drinking fountains. Make the kids use 'em. I was able to get an empty cup for water ("My kid can't use a drinking fountain yet...") and keep it at our table for drinks.

4) Don't forget, the park is free.

Monkey Joe's and places like that are nice for rainy or snowy weather, but I would never spend the kind of money we spent today on a sunny day, when I could take the aforementioned hot dogs and buns to the park and let the kids play for free. On the other hand, the park is crowded on nice days, and MJ's will probably be deserted. If you want the place all to yourself, go on a nice day. If you want to save money, hit the park on a nice day and save MJ's for wintertime.

5) Amenities

Our Monkey Joe's has a Nursing Room (I'm not sure how I feel about nursing rooms - on the one hand, it's nice that it's available, but on the other I think we need to normalize nursing in public to the extent that specific rooms won't be necessary...) You can't see out from the nursing room - it could really use a one-way window or two-way mirror or whatever those things are called - so if you have kids of a variety of ages, you're going to have to just trust them not to kill themselves or nurse in the open (go for it - I've nursed all over the world for four years and only been hassled once).

There is a smallish area for toddlers with a few toys.

There are video games. Why anyone would pump quarters into machines after paying the outrageous admission is beyond my comprehension, but I guess some people really like video games and don't mind paying for them through the nose. If you really want to do video games, Chuck E. Cheese doesn't charge admission.

There are three or four party rooms that are separate from the main area.

There are nice comfy chairs (reclining glider things) with ottomans for the parents, as well as several tables scattered around. Before lunch we sat at a table, but after lunch we went for the comfy chairs. There were a couple of computers that appeared to be public, also. And a big screen TV tuned to ABC Family Channel with closed captioning. Nice.

They do parties. I did not check the prices. They also offer a "frequent jumper" card. You pay in advance for 9 admissions and get 3 free. I bought one, since I had four kids with me, and plan to use it up this winter.

They really need an on-site Starbucks.

5) Coupons are your friend.

Did I mention that it cost a fortune to get in? Yeah. See if you can't Google yourself a couple of coupons before you go.

6) BYOSocks

You can buy socks there if you didn't plan ahead, but they cost $3.50 a pair!! Bring socks. And be careful because the floor near the bathroom is slick linoleum, and I saw more than one kid wipe out.

What's really ironic about our new Monkey Joe's is that my friend Karen and I were just talking over the past couple of weeks about opening something similar on this side of town. She sent me an e-mail this morning to tell me we were beaten to the punch. Nuts! Oh well, I don't have half a mil to invest, anyway. Although, with the crowd I saw there today, we totally would've made it back within the first year.

Do you have an indoor playground where you live? What are your ProMom tips? Also, if you're local to me and want more specific information, e-mail me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Found Photos

While doing a project for BJ at work, I found a bunch of old photos on my computer that I'd totally forgotten about.

At home with good friends:

Who is this little pixie?

Was she really this little? I hardly remember. I honestly looked at these pictures of my own child and thought, "Who is that?"

How can such a terrible mother make such pretty babies? These were taking in December of 2006, when I was pregnant with Claire. I guess we'll call it a bad case of Placenta Head.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Museum

Saturday night, after BJ got home from the race, we were laying in bed waiting for the kids to fall asleep.

"What do you want to do tomorrow?" BJ asked. I kicked around the idea of painting the living room, staining the chairs we've had since MG was tiny, and a host of other projects that need attention at home. He was, understandably, unenthused. I realized that we spend way too much time working on the house, and not enough time doing fun stuff, so I suggested that we drive to Chicago and visit the Museum of Science and Industry with the kids. BJ agreed, and so we did.

We took 94 in and got off at Stony Island to go to Al's Italian Beef for lunch. My grandfather used to ride along with a fire department across the street from the original Al's, and so it became a family tradition to eat there. Whenever any of my relatives would fly into Midway, whoever picked them up would grab a bunch of sandwiches and bring them home to Grammaland, and we'd feast. Eating at Al's took me right back to being a kid, sitting around my Grandma's table with my aunts and uncles. The guy who was working the counter asked us, as we were leaving, how everything was. "Just like I remember," I said, trying not to cry over a sandwich. (At the original Al's, the owner wears a huge gun on his hip. It's very Chicago.)

I love the way they've changed the parking at the museum, even though it costs a fortune. Everyone parks underneath the museum, so in the winter you wouldn't need to worry about coats and stuff.

In an express train from the 1930s.

Pirates! Argh!!

MG's plumber butt, for added authenticity in the "how plumbing works" exhibit.
I swear I did not stage this - she's just outgrowing all her pants.

It's a Moooseum!

Playing gears with Daddy.

In front of the German U-505 submarine. They've improved this exhibit 1000% in the 15 years since BJ and I saw it last. It used to just sit outside in the parking lot, basically. Now it has its own exhibit hall, and you can walk all the way around it (but going inside costs extra).

They've changed a lot, actually, in 15 years. I can't say that I love the "improvements" to the Coal Mine exhibit. The train ride used to be MUCH longer. I swear, when I was a kid I thought it took us all the way back to Indiana. Does anyone know if they had to shorten it to add the underground parking? And they don't do the demonstration with the methane detector anymore. Our guide showed us a couple different kinds, but she didn't "pop" the old kind.

You just can't go home again. *sigh*

Daddy's girlies love rockets!

This was their favorite exhibit:

The crazy little chicks would run around and around in circles, and MG said, "Look at 'em go!" and jumped around like she could hardly stand it. I think we may get a couple of eggs with chicks inside, raise them until they get too big, and then take them to Nancy's farm in a year or two (when the kids are old enough not to squeeze them to bits). Wouldn't that be fun??

After the museum, we located the nearest Giordano's on the GPS (hooray for mobile Google Maps!!) and arrived to find this:

I guess Google Maps doesn't know everything. No worries - we found the next nearest one downtown and went there. By the time we arrived, the kids were pretty strung out. We had to wait, which added to the chaos. But aside from the behavior at dinner time, it was an awesome day.

So, does anyone want to come wrangle girlies while I paint the living room? BJ has a business trip this week. Or, you could come teach me how to stain chairs!!

I hope everyone's Memorial Day was as much fun as ours!

Happy Anniversary, BJ! I can't believe you've put up with me for 8 years!!! I love this family, and all the memories that we've created together.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Flying what?

Our routine in the morning has always been that the kids watch TV on the set in our room while I get showered and dressed. Except for occasional bed jumping, this works fairly well.

Yesterday I'd just gotten out of the shower, and was bending over to get a pair of underwear out of the drawer that's under the TV when Mary Grace took it upon herself to jump off of the bed toward me, hands outstretched, while yelling, "FLYING BUTT SPANK!" and laughing like a lunatic.

Seriously. What more can I say?

Today we're headed to the Windy City - expect pictures tomorrow!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tummy Hurt

For a little over a week, now, Claire has been complaining, once in a while, that her tummy hurts. Her appetite is normal (she doesn't eat much on her best day), and she's "regular" if you know what I mean. It doesn't affect her activity level. It seems to be right around her belly button. If I touch and say, "Does it hurt here?" she'll consistently say yes right around her belly button. She has no fever. She doesn't seem bothered by it otherwise, except that two or three times a day she has to stop what she's doing and say, "I hurt Mommy."

I probably need to take her to the doctor for her allergies, anyway. I'm reasonably certain, given the number of times a day I wipe her nose, that she has seasonal allergies just like I do. But I don't even know how to describe it to Dr. MWMH... "She seems to complain of a tummy ache more often than I'd expect her to, considering that I'm a decent cook?"

Any ideas what it could be? And please don't Google and come back with something scary, because it's a holiday weekend and the soonest I'm going to get her to the doc is Tuesday, and that's a long time to maintain a panic.

In other news, the internet's really quiet this weekend. It's annoying me. BJ's at the race today, which means he left at 6 and won't be home until... 10? 11? Who knows? I think the girls and I are going to get dressed and go shopping. We need another dresser for their bedroom. And cat food.

We know how to party. What are you doing this Memorial Day weekend? Can I come too?

(that sounds pathetic - I meant it to sound funny and ironic - so go back and re-read it funny and ironic, instead of sad)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tone of Voice

Mary Grace is about |-| this close to being kept home today because of her bad attitude. She's whining and bitching and crying and being an absolute snot to her sister. She had a third degree hissy fit over which outfit she was going to wear (she wanted to wear winter dresses, I said no because she'd roast).

We're headed to an outdoor art festival, then to Brandon's house this evening. It would be a serious punishment if I said, "Nope, sorry, you blew it," and kept her here. She's been warned. Twice.

But then I listen to Mary Grace speak to Claire, and I realize that she uses the same angry tone of voice when she speaks to Claire that I often use when I speak to Mary Grace.

I really need to work on this. I need to work on the yelling. I need to work on the anger. But OH! it's hard. They don't effing listen to me half the time. Claire will be doing something, and I'll say, "Stop," and she'll just look right at me and keep doing it. They Never. Stop. Talking. Ever. The constant babbling and chatter and noise just grates on my nerves, and is starting to drive me insane. Mary Grace is in a big Baby Talking phase, and she calls me "Mama" (which drives me INSANE, and she knows it) and baby talks. Short of washing her mouth out with soap when she baby talks, what do we do?

And how do I stop yelling? Because maybe if I stop, Mary Grace will, too.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Calling all Geeks! Cool New Toy...

I just found out about WolframAlpha, and I'm wishing that I had all day to sit here and play with it.

Alas, I don't, but I can share it with you. First, watch this tutorial. Then play. It looks like a very, very powerful tool for all sorts of disciplines. It's simply amazing that there are people who can take the sum of human knowledge and make it searchable. Wow.

They're going to need a catchier name if they're going to out-Google Google, but they're off to a great start! Amazing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Little Girls with Grown Up Cancers

As I went through my RSS reader today, I found two disturbing articles. One was about an 8 year old with ovarian cancer. The second was about a 10 year old with breast cancer.

The 8 year old is expected to be ok, and even to go on to have children, someday, with her other "good" ovary's eggs. The 10 year old has had a mastectomy. Can you imagine doing middle-school P.E. with mastectomy scars?? God, it was bad enough for me, and I didn't have a scar on my body. These poor girls!

We made the decision to feed our kids only organic milk and beef because we'd read reports that female children are entering puberty ever earlier, in some cases as young as 5!!! I can't imagine finally getting my kids potty trained, only to have to worry about Kotex a year or two later. Organic milk is about three times the cost of plain milk, but we feel that it's worth it.

See, in regular dairy cows, farmers (or factory farms, to be more precise) use hormones to cause the cows to produce more milk. They also use prophylactic antibiotics - in other words, they treat the entire herd with antibiotics as a preventative, rather than only treating cows that are sick for diseases they have. We did a little reading, and it wasn't long before we concluded that we didn't want this crap in our kids' bodies.

From this website:
There have been no long term studies of the effects of this in our bodies or in our children; like HFCS, we are walking experiments. ... We know that the milk has very high levels of a natural growth factor (IGF-1) which is quite similar to the natural growth factor in us humans. It is an insulin-like growth factor and the IGF0-1 of rBGH treated cows is more bioactive than natural (and this is increased with pasteurization) so the effects on our biology is unclear but there is sound reason to believe that it does something to our bodies, especially to growing children. When we drink milk contaminated with rBGH, it is absorbed into our bloodstream where it can effect other hormones. Excess amounts have been suspected in cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate.
With the sheer volume of milk that kids consume, along with their small size, we decided that it was worth the extra cost to buy organic milk and to avoid these cancers as much as possible in our children. One of BJ's uncles is a dairy farmer about 45 minutes south of here, and we get 1/4 of a beef from him every winter. If we wanted to, we could go down to the farm and meet next year's steaks right now. We know that they're grass fed for the better part of the year, that they live in a pasture instead of in a steel building, and that they're only given medications that they need. Plus, the quality and taste of the meat is better than anything you can buy in a grocery store, and it's cheaper, too. I think we pay about $1 a pound.

On a scale of one to crunchy granola parents, I'd say we're about a 4. Our kids still eat sugar and have the occasional soda. We got them vaccinated, but we refused a lot of the stupid stuff they do to babies in the hospital at birth (vitamin K shots, eye drops, etc.). We wore our kids in slings when they were babies, but we also have (and use) strollers. We co-sleep, but only because I'm lazy and not because of some political agenda. We strive for balance - moderation in all things.

I'll tell you what, though, after reading these two articles this morning, the $3.50 a half gallon we pay for organic milk is going to sting a lot less. Our kids may be the last in their middle school classes to grow breasts, but they also have a good chance of being the only women at their 20 year reunion who haven't had breast cancer!

This stuff wasn't in the milk supply when we were growing up, folks. They started using the synthetic hormones they use now around 1994 - that's the year I graduated high school. In other words, the world has changed, and I hope that you will consider using organic milk and meat in your own homes, my darling readers. Our kids' bodies and reproductive futures are just too precious to waste.

(Please note that I am not blaming the parents of these children for the cancer their children are suffering - there are plenty of other cancer-causing agents in this world that may have caused the childrens' conditions, or it may be genetically based. I only hope to use their stories as a platform to encourage you to carefully consider what you're feeding your kids).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It was that kind of day...

I woke up in a puddle of MG's pee. Again. She's very stealthy about sneaking into our room at night, and I don't realize that she's there until she pees. Delightful.

Claire had a poopy diaper. Only she wasn't wearing a diaper, she was wearing a Pull Up. Pull Ups have decidedly less tightness around the waist. I didn't realize what she'd done until I was changing her, and I realized all her fingers were the wrong color.

I stepped in cat puke. The cat puke was on the only decent carpet in the house.

I did 6, maybe 7 loads of laundry.

I was going to take the kids to the park, but Claire had such a screaming hysterical fit (in front of two dozen people) at Walgreen's that I couldn't do it, even though I wanted to go. I had to take her outside and sit her in a corner, then go back in. It was gorgeous outside - the perfect day to go to the park. But I can't reward that sort of behavior.

BJ's sick. He has some sort of head cold thing, and feels tired and miserable.

However, I made a great dinner (pork chops, steamed broccoli, risotto, apple sauce), and I snuck out for an hour or so to buy a few cards (Shannyn and Ken had their baby!! Another boy!) and have a coffee in peace. And the kids went to bed really easily, so, I guess I can't complain about life from about 7 pm onward.

I hope your day was less filled with bodily fluids than mine.

Swine Flu - Over? (and a rant about "news")

I think I may have just killed someone with the power of my own mind.

I was just getting ready to post a really smug blog about how the swine flu thing is so last week, and it's over, and no one got it, and 30 million people didn't die, and aren't I smart for realizing early on that it was no big thing... and then BJ turns on CNN and someone died in New York.

I would like to apologize to that person's friends and family. It's all my fault. I will refrain from being smug. It's the only safe alternative.

In other CNNews, people are worried that the images generated by the new TSA machines are "going to show up on the internet." Um... Hello? They're about as sexy as an x-ray. There's real porn on the internet. Why would anyone look at spooky black and white security photos, when they could look at Chesty Bubbles in all her airbrushed glory?


Other national news: Someone rescued a bunch of ducklings from a sewer.

The tagline under the shot of the Shuttle and the Hubble? "Lift and separate."

Are they kidding me? This is the news? Good grief. I think I learn more watching Little Einsteins.

I quit watching the news after September 11, 2001. Well, that's not accurate. I quit watching the news as a result of September 11, 2001. The eleven-trillionth image of the towers falling flipped my lid, and I decided that I didn't want to keep filling my mind with the "news." "Here's why you should be terrified! This is gonna kill you!! This is gonna kill your kids!!! The sky is falling! The SKY is FALLING!!!!" It alternates between shrillness and banality. There's no real information that is going to have any impact on my life. It's just EvERYbodY PanIC all the time.

I watch CNN and I find myself saying, aloud, "Oh shut up."

This is why I shouldn't get up before 8:30. I was up at 6 this morning because someone had an accident. Of course, that person had already snuck into my bed, so... Yeah. I couldn't go back to bed after that. The laundry's going (at this rate it'll be done by noon), the kitchen is clean. I feel like I should do something fun with the kids, since I'm home today, but I know I'm going to run out of steam and need a nap by lunchtime. What are you up to today?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Now Available On Kindle!! has opened up the playing fields so regular, obscure bloggers like myself can make our content available to you on your Kindle!!

Who is going to be the first to sign up?

Kathryn maybe?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Neighborhood Kids

(note: This is NOT about Chelsea's or Chelle's kids - I love J, D, M, G, and S... You will recognize the kids I'm talking about when you read it, but I wanted to be very clear...)

I've always wanted to be the Kool-Aid Mom. You know the one whose house is always open and where the kids are always running in and out and around. Now that Mary Grace is 3.5, and starting to play with instead of near other kids, this is starting to happen. However, there are a couple of kids in the neighborhood who run around loose all day, from what I can tell, and I need the advice of more experienced moms on how to handle the situation. I feel like, with summer upon us, if I don't lay some ground rules now, it's going to be a very long summer.

"Sally" lives across the street from me, with her Mom and Dad, no siblings. Mom seems young, and a bit on the shy side. Sally is 5 and can often be found wandering the neighborhood in a rather aimless manner. Certainly, she is less supervised than I think a 5 year old should be. She'll come over and I won't even realize that she's here (she's quiet) until her parents come looking for her. It takes her parents a long time to come looking for her, sometimes. I only met her mom this weekend, although I've seen her dad several times.

"Katherine" lives two blocks away and is 8. I met her mother last summer when they had puppies. She was here this weekend, and after she'd been here a while and appeared to be staying indoors with the other kids who were here, I said, "Hey, you need to call your mom and let her know where you are and what my phone number is so she can find you." She called, and no one at home answered. Are 8 year olds left home alone? What am I supposed to do in this situation? Am I babysitting her? I have no idea. Also, she played a lot of "insies and outsies" which annoyed me, she was like a cat on the wrong side of the door all day, and liked to hover around Jen and I rather than playing with the kids. I finally got annoyed (she made me feel a little bit like a bug in a microscope!) and I said, "Honey, you need to either go play with the kids or go back outside," because it was freaking me out!

Bearing in mind that my kids are 2 and 3, and that they play differently than the big kids (but OH do they love to be around the big kids - and it's nice for me when the big kids are here because I don't have to entertain my kids!!) what are your house rules for neighborhood kids? I'm thinking of implementing the following:

1) You will call your parents when you arrive in my yard or house and let them know where you are and what my phone number is.

2) I will have your parents names and numbers (in case you fall off the swingset and are unconscious, I need to know who to call after I call the ambulance!).

3) If I offer a snack, that's one thing, but don't ask for treats. If you're thirsty there's water, or your house is just over there... (I'd be annoyed if I found out that my kids were going door to door eating the neighbors cookies and candies right before dinner! And with allergies being the Very Big Deal they are now, I really don't feel safe feeding kids whose parents I don't know!)

4) All kids will help clean up the mess before returning home. And if I have trouble enforcing this one, it'll be, "We clean up every 45 minutes for 15 minutes, and if you're here you do too," and I'll set the timer.

5) No playing in our yard without one of us present. Mainly so that a) the dog doesn't get let out accidentally and b) no one gets hurt. Our backyard is sort of L shaped, with a high privacy fence around the area where the swingset is. The swingset is completely invisible from the sidewalk. If parents were looking for kids (or if I didn't know they were there!) they could stay there for days without being discovered.

6) No knocking on the door between 12 and 3 pm (lunch and nap).

7) If you can't get along with my kids, you go home. Even if you're right. Their punishment for being a creep to you is that you go home. If you're the creep, your punishment is that you go home. No arguing. I am not going to have WWF wrestling in my house, and this is a firm "no strikes and you're out" kind of policy.

What do you think? Am I overthinking this? Can I just make arbitrary rules for the neighborhood gang at my whim? What sort of rules and regulations do you have for the neighbor kids, and does your relationship with their parents (hi again, Chelle and Chelsea!) influence the way you handle their kids' friendships with your kids?

I don't remember any of the rules for the neighborhood when I was a kid. Mom??

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Uncle Chuck!!

Last year I wrote a post listing the 29 things we love about Uncle Chuck. He said it was the nicest thing I've ever done. He's turning 30 today.

30 is a lot of things.

This year, instead, I thought I'd interview the kids about why they love Uncle Chuck.

"Mary Grace, why do you love Uncle Chuck?"

"Because he has Ratatouille and he does things I like the way he does and, uh, he likes me so much that's because he needs a birthday party to celebrate because what kind of birthday party does he want? I'm not sure which one. But, uh, he's like the mostest."

"Is there anything else you want to say about Uncle Chuck?"

"He loves me so much and he likes me best and he puts me upside down. And, uh... He likes all the things he loves, and he likes his dog. He loves us so much."

"Claire? Why do you love Uncle Chuck?"

"I WANT CHUCK!!!" she yells, running to the window to look for him.

Ok, maybe that wasn't the best idea to ask Claire.

Happy Birthday Chuck, you're like the mostest.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Blogs You Should Read

Cate grew up two blocks from me in Grammaland. We've known each other forever. I think we became friends in the sixth or seventh grade.

Our hometown was, and remains, the epitome of a Midwestern town. There's a small university, a nearby "real" city, everyone knows everyone... Often I'd do something stupid and be in trouble before I even got home, because Mom heard about it from a friend of hers, or worse, one of my uncles!

Cate marched to the beat of her own drummer, which is something I've always loved about her. Over the years, between graduation and when the magic of Facebook put us back in touch with one another, I imagined a lot of futures for her - perhaps working in the Peace Corps digging latrines in Africa, or in South America saving the rain forests. I was never creative enough to predict her actual future - married to a Yup'ik Eskimo and living in Hooper Bay, Alaska, but that's exactly what happened. (I can't resist the joke - Cate, can you see Russia from your house?)

Her blog is here, and you really should read it. Her baby just got baptized in seal blubber, which is apparently a tribal ritual. If that's not damn fascinating, and a far cry from Small Town, Indiana, U.S.A., well, I don't know what is.

She eats seal intestine soup, you guys. Cate is hard core, and incredibly interesting. Plus, she's smart and funny and has a heart as big as, well, as Alaska.

I've said many times, that BJ and I are blessed with the most interesting, diverse group of friends ever assembled. I wish they all had blogs, but unfortunately most of them don't. However, Cate does, and you should totally read it. And as my other fascinating friends adopt modern technology, I promise to point you in their directions, too.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm Not In The New York Times Article

Here is the article for which I was interviewed (look at me, not ending sentences with a preposition!). As you can see, I didn't make the cut. The journalist interviewed a ton of people, and had a limited amount of space.

Oh well, I'm reasonably sure that the cold meds I was on made me sound like a complete idiot. It was an honor just to be interviewed.

Category 5

My house is a Category 5 disaster area. Oh. My. God.

A lot of factors have contributed to this disaster, the primary one being a profound lack of storage. Our house is a Cape Cod style, so we have three tiny attics that BJ is reluctant to put much into, and no basement. Our garage is full of stuff (not cars). We need to clean it out for the spring, but haven't had time. I really want to get the patio cleaned up (get out the pressure washer, put the new cushions out, put away all the junk that has accumulated through various projects) but it's not the kind of thing I can do with the kids around. Pressure washers + toddlers = bad.

I looked into PODS, but they don't serve this area (even though they're made locally - that makes a ton of sense). I think we may have to suck it up this year and get a storage unit. Right now, cleaning our house is like playing that game where you have 24 squares and one blank, and you slide the squares around to make a picture. We can't clean one area without destroying another.

Last weekend I bought 10 25 gallon totes (on sale at Menards) to sort the baby clothes into. I have one tote for each size, and they're almost full. We're going to have one hell of a garage sale, eventually... But right now, when we're not sure if we're going to have another one, it seems wasteful to sell or donate everything, only to have to buy it all again. You know that the surest way for me to get pregnant is to sell all the baby stuff, right? So, we have cribs and changing tables and clothes and toys everywhere right now. We're not using them, but I can't get rid of them, yet, either.

This house felt enormous when BJ and I moved in. Four bedrooms! Two bathrooms! What are we going to do with all this SPACE? Now, I feel like the walls are closing in on me.

How do you manage all your stuff? Particularly those of you who aren't done having children?

In other news, I owe the kids a Big Treat because they went to bed on their own last night with a minimum of fussing. I'll probably take them over to the zoo and get them lunch at Frozen Custard. I should probably get dressed, first. Don't want to scare the monkeys...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Been there, done that... Now get the t-shirt

I really liked the image I designed for my post about Fiona, so I made it into t-shirts at Cafe Press. There are lots of different designs. Get yours here!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things I Actually Said, Vol 53

So today I was awakened from napping with the kids by a potty emergency. MG must have dreamed that she was already in the bathroom, if you know what I mean. I took a shower, showered off the kid, brought down all the laundry, and was in the midst of sorting it (and in a pretty cantankerous mood, considering I'd just woken up in a puddle of pee), when someone knocked at the door.

I hadn't brushed my hair yet, it was dripping wet, and I was wearing an old, holey t-shirt. I looked like a joke. A bad joke.

"Hello, ma'am, my name is Brad. Now I'm not here to sell you anything..." his partner was laughing at me. Laughing. At. Me. In his defense, I looked like something out of a commercial - I was the harried, pre-Calgon mom, to a tee. However, you don't stand at my door and effing laugh at me.

Max, of course, through all of this, was losing her mind barking. So Brad is shouting at me over the barking of my dog. I peer at his shirt. Something Security.

"...I'm here to talk to you today about home security..."

"I already have a security system," I yelled over the barking.

"Oh really?"

"Yeah, her name's Max," I said, glancing down at the dog, who was foaming at the mouth.

"Well ma'am..."

"She's very effective."

"I understand but..."

"Want me to open the door and demonstrate?" I said, eyebrows raised, as I moved my hand toward the knob.

"Um, that's ok," he said, taking a step backward.

"Then we're good. Have a nice day." I said, and walked away.

Good dog, Max. That's why you have your own chair:

Backhanded Gifts

A friend of mine, let's call her Fiona, and I were chatting yesterday. She's a first-time mother of a 12 week old. For Mother's Day her husband, we'll call him Shrek, gave her a weekend away in a nearby state (we're in the midwest, so it would be about a 4 hour drive from home).

Shrek's motivation? "I need to have you all to myself."

Poor Fiona said, "Whenever I think of leaving her for two nights, I feel like I'm going to vomit."

Shrek, along with other folks inside this situation, is making Fiona feel crazy for not wanting to leave her 12 week old baby for two nights. Other pertinent information - Fiona is breastfeeding, and Fiona works nearly full time and has to be away from her baby all week. She and Shrek can't afford for her to stay home, even though she wants to.

My reaction to all of the above was unprintable, because this is a family blog, but let's just say that there's also a finger to express the feelings I have toward Shrek right now.

Oh, how I remember those early days of motherhood. It is such a huge adjustment. And you don't want to be crazy. You don't want to be, already at 12 weeks in, that overprotective hovering mom. It's so easy to make a first-time mom question her choices, to make her feel like if she doesn't leave her baby with loving grandparents for two nights she's somehow doomed to be that "helicopter mom" at the playground who practically drowns her kid in Purell and makes him wear a helmet to go down the slide.

New moms are so vulnerable. They are under intense internal and external pressure to do everything right, even though they're doing something that they've never done before (raising a kid) and that they could never have imagined accurately pre-kids. It starts at birth - did you have a "natural" birth without drugs, an epidural, a c-section? Did you really need that c-section or are you "too posh to push"?

Hell, it starts before birth - are you eating 100% organic ice cream from happy cows raised in Vermont when you crave ice cream, or are you getting the cheap store brand? Vlassic pickles? Why not? Don't you want to give your baby the best???

Think I'm kidding? Read the diet section of the (extremely evil) book "What to Expect When You're Expecting." I'd quote it, but I burned my copy in effigy. It said something like, "You only get 9 short months to give your baby the best nutrition possible! So you must agonize over every bite of food that goes into your mouth. Are you SURE that what you're eating is the best?" Screw them, I just wanted watermelon, guacamole, and ice cream... Mary Grace had so much Mexican food in utero that I was concerned she'd be born saying, "Hola Mama! Como est ca?" or "S-O-C-K-S." Mmmmm... fajitas!

It never ends. My siblings and I are extremely close, and yet my brother has questioned some of my parenting choices. I gave my kids a bit of Diet Pepsi once when we were at my mom's (my sister and I were going to run to the store to get the organic, sugar free, juice made from apples hand picked by Oompa Loompas - we were on our way out the door, actually, but the kids were thirsty and Diet Pepsi was what was available. I figured a couple ounces wasn't likely to kill them or give them cancer). He asked me, if I recall correctly, if I was crazy. I told him that when he had kids he was free to let them drink Diet Pepsi, or not, as he saw fit.

We talked about it later (I wasn't mad, I've been doing this for 4-1/2 years if you include my pregnancy with MG, I'm used to it), and he said he was just surprised. I said, "It's not like I give them Diet Pepsi every day, or even every week, but they have pop occasionally for a treat." Moderation in all things, right? He assured me that he wasn't trying to be critical at the time, he was just genuinely surprised.

Now it's on the record, I give my kids diet soda sometimes. They also watch more than an hour of TV a day. And they eat fast food, too. And I don't always get the apples, sometimes I get them fries. BAD MOMMY!

Anyway, the trouble with being a first time mom is that you don't have any data to support your decisions. If I give Claire Diet Pepsi, and someone looks at me askance, I can point to Mary Grace and say, "Hey, I haven't killed her, yet, I must be doing something right!" But when you only have one, and your one is so little, and you're still questioning yourself at every turn, you are so vulnerable to criticism... It's really cruel of anyone, even the baby's father, especially the baby's father, to make the new mother feel nuts for anything - - unless she truly is nuts, like I was, and then you need to do whatever it takes to get her help. Of course, that didn't happen until MG was older...

Here is my point - if you're a new mommy and someone is trying to make you do something that you don't want to do, particularly if that thing causes a visceral reaction, as Fiona's thinking of leaving made her want to vomit:

Don't do it!

Have the self-confidence to put your foot down. You love your baby. You are doing what you feel is best. You are the only person who is going to have to live with the choices you make as a mother, so make sure that you're making you're own choices - not the choices dictated to you by others. Who wants to live with somebody else's choices?

You can't please everyone. If you breastfeed, someone is going to give you a dirty look for doing it in public. If you don't nurse in public, and instead you pump, the La Leche League is going to get all up in your grill about nipple confusion, if you feed formula, instead, all the boob nazis are going to come at you - even if you have the best of reasons for choosing formula (I've had friends who have been on life-saving medication and have had to feed formula because it was either take the medicine that would make the baby sick if she nursed while taking it, or die, and they still get given the business about nursing, and they still feel guilty deep down inside - that's just sick). Your every choice will be questioned and scrutinized, and someone will think you're making the wrong choice, no matter what. So don't listen to them - make your own (informed, rational, reasonable) choices.

Here's another little truism I decided to live by when Mary Grace was really little - only take advice from people whose children you would choose to live with. Think about it. If Sally Sunshine is telling you to do A, B, and C, but Sally's kids are hellions who make your blood pressure go up just thinking about them, why would you take Sally's advice? So your kids can turn out like hers? I don't think so! And the same goes for me - if you wouldn't want to live with my delightful, charming, beautiful, perfect children, don't listen to me, either.

So how do you deal with unwanted advice? How do you deal when your own family is questioning your parental choices? They should just hand out laminated cards in the hospital that look like this:
Just print that one out and put it in your wallet and use it, as needed.

That would make an awesome t-shirt. Hmmmm....

As for you, Shrek, you've had Fiona "all to yourself" for 10 years, and you'll have her "all to yourself" for the next 50. But this first year of your daughter's life is different, and fleeting, and you don't get her all to yourself for the next, oh, 280 days or so, ok? You're just going to have to be a grown up and cope.

Because I said so.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all you mommies! New mommies, "experienced" mommies, and every mommy in between - I hope you get breakfast in bed, fists full of flowers, and lots of hugs and kisses.

On Mother's Day (and Father's Day) each year, I can't help but think of the people out there who are struggling with infertility, the people who are estranged from their mothers or their children, the people whose children have died, and people whose parents have died. It's such a hard holiday to bear for so many people, and I hope that if you're one of them that this small recognition of the fact that today is really hard for you, and I'm sorry brings you a little bit of comfort.

Image borrowed from

Friday, May 8, 2009

Slow Schooling

Read this.

If I could give an article a standing ovation...

Here's the most important sentence:

"...a flotilla of research shows homework confers no benefit — enhancing neither retention nor study habits — until middle school."

Unfortunately, the folks who brought us "No Child Left Behind" (of course not, record numbers of them are in jail instead!!) weren't all that into the science and the research.

The idea that MG is going to have homework in just a year and a half kills me. What happened to childhood? On the one hand, we bemoan the fact that kids are getting themselves into adult trouble (sex, drinking, drugs, etc.) too early, but with the other hand we're pushing them into adolescent roles at age 5, and adult roles at age 10. DUH. What do we expect? This parenthetical remark made me laugh:

"Since adults are staying younger older — 50 is the new 30! — our children may soon surpass us in age."'s funny because it's true.

I'm very seriously considering a local charter school for our kids (assuming we can lottery into it). I wonder what their homework policy is. That will definitely be a question at the top of my list.

I don't honestly think we could survive homeschooling in our family, but I sometimes wish that we could return to the days when a (wealthy*) family would hire their own tutor to live with them and educate the children. That seems to make a lot of sense, and was probably a lot more "results based" than the current educational system! Because if I didn't like what the teacher was doing, I could fire him without having to move house and uproot my family! With the current public school system, it's not as easy to fire your kid's teacher, and you'd better have a really good reason, lest you become that parent.

Moms of school aged kids, teachers - talk to me about homework. What's going on in the schools right now, particularly in the middle of the country where things make infinitely more sense than they do on the coasts, from whence the article came.

* Has anyone else ever noticed that people who want to return to the good old days never want to be anything but wealthy? It's easy to forget that the vast majority of people "back then" - whenever "then" may have been - were living hand to mouth, barely getting by, and didn't have any money for private tutors. Still, this is my fantasy land so in it I am wealthy enough to privately educate my kids at home.


"You can handle three babies, right Mom?" she just said, as we're watching Monsters, Inc. and waiting for Claire to wake up from nap. "I want three babies. You know, like Karen's baby? I want to name it Kate." (That's really going to tick Mimi off, as she has 'dibs' on the name Kate).

"I want four babies..." she says.

"Tell me more about the babies," I say, as I open up a new post...

"Because they love to get better when they are in your tummy. Because I love to look at the magazines in the bathroom, and I will say, 'Could you read the baby a book,' and the baby wants to read a book because four babies want to read a book because they like books."

"Don't you think that four babies would cost a lot of money?"


"Where are we going to get that money?"

"From the grocery store, to buy some babies."

Do you think she's channeling Angelina Jolie?

"When the baby is two, because it will be two and then three, the babies will be two."

"So you think Mommy should have twins?"

"Yep. A lot of Kates. And then it will be four then five then six then seven then eight then nine then eight then nine then two then one..."

Maybe she thinks I'm the Octomom.

"I'm done talkin about the babies."

Well, ok.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Preschool Program

Mary Grace had a great turn out for her preschool program tonight. Two grandpas and two grandmas were in attendance. She was SO excited, and so proud of her little self. One of the girls from the other preschool class fell off of the risers during their program, but otherwise the show was a great success. Afterwards, we skipped out on the cookies and punch to go out for dinner with my mom and dad and BJ's mom and dad, and thank goodness we did. The restaurant took forever. We didn't get home until quarter of ten, and the kids were beat. MG fell asleep right away, but Claire really dawdled. Finally I got fed up with her picking her nose, kicking the wall, drumming her fingers, etc. and came in my room. After I left, she fell asleep rather quickly. Maybe it was my fault she couldn't rest.

I'll post pictures (possibly video, depending on how long it takes BJ to get it transferred) as soon as I can. Right now, though, it's after midnight and I'm still sick so I need to go to bed.

Really, the only reason I'm posting at all tonight is because Facebook is down for maintenance and I can't play Mafia Wars. I think I know who is getting my next nasty letter! Stupid Facebook. How dare they get me addicted to their game and then have to do maintenance!? And seriously, someone I haven't seen in 15 years may have posted an interesting status update. What am I supposed to do without FB for an evening?

I think I may have a problem.

I was interviewed for the New York Times today. (See how nonchalantly I said that? That's how you know I'm famous). For the beauty section of the NYT, actually. The only section I'm less likely to be in? Sports. A reporter saw my (unpopular) post about sunscreen and decided to call me. She wanted to know why I chose a high SPF moisturizer for myself and a high SPF sunscreen for the kids.

I don't know if I'll actually make it into her article, but it's an honor just to be nominated. I took a bunch of Sudafed before the interview, so I wouldn't hack and cough in her ear, and I honestly don't think I strung together an entire coherant sentence during the 20 minutes we spoke on the phone... That's why I feel like I can tell you all about it now - because my chances of actually appearing in the NYT, after that pseudoephidrine-induced-babble-fest are between slim and none. I am fairly certain that I said, and I quote, "Well, I still get carded when I buy booze, so I must be doing something right."

That's right, I finally make it into a major national newspaper, and I sound like a lush. What's funny is that I've bought booze exactly twice in 2009 - once when I went out for dinner with Dad a few weeks ago, and the other night before the movie party. But that quote makes it seem like I'm at the liquor store all the time, right?

I think I also said, "Please don't make me sound stupid."

Yeah, there's no freaking way I'm going to get into the Times. Oh well.

Speaking of incoherant, I think it's past my bedtime. I'm just going to check FB one more time...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hawthorne Blogging

It's funny, the way that knowing someone might be reading this changes the way I write it. For example, instead of just titling this post, "OMG, I just got the most amazing NEWS, y'all!!" I had to Google and remember the term for reactivity in psychology (click through the title for the wiki page), and use that as the title.

I am verbally preening. I want to appear smarter, more erudite, more eloquent, more... everything than I did yesterday. And I can't tell you why!

But it seems that there may be something veeerrryyy interesting afoot here at PrettyBabies. So you're going to want to stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I'm going to find it very difficult to write anything at all, for fear of who might be reading this and evaluating it.

PS - I'm not pregnant. That was the top guess on Facebook.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Kindness of Neighbors

Sorry for the blog break, folks. I've been one busy bee. And I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on FB (join my mafia!!).

On Saturday, my sister and I took a couponing class at the Grammaland campus of the university. I learned a ton about how to save big money from the lady who keeps this website. Then I left the kids with Megan so that I could host a party at my house.

Our good friend, John Paul, who I've talked about before, was in an independent film called Dead at the Box Office before he died in 2006. After 3 years, BJ and I thought enough time had passed that we could watch it, so we bought a copy, invited some friends, and had a blast. JP would've loved it.

Watching him act wasn't as emotionally hard as the gag reel. He used to quote movies all the time, and there was this one scene, a sound check, where he was doing Sean Connery from The Hunt For Red October. I had to go have a little cry in the bathroom after that, because it was him, you know? Watching him pretend to be someone else was different. He had different mannerisms and posture, even his voice was different... But for that one moment, I caught a glimpse of my friend as he really was, and I missed him terribly.

The audience, BJ, and I went to Denny's after that, and were out until nearly 2:30 am! We laughed a lot. It was just the kind of get-together that JP would've loved.

On Sunday, my sister met me halfway and we traded kids and cars back. The kids had a lot of fun and not much sleep, so Sunday was a bit of a behavioral nightmare.

My wonderful neighbors split all of the daylillies and hostas in their yard, and brought me a ton of mature plants to put in my front yard! They are so awesome!! I'll post pictures when they fill in a bit - right now they look a little disturbed. I hope they grow, because as I've posted before, nothing else does. All the stuff I put in last year? Dead. Even my phlox didn't creep. I got Crappy Phlox instead of Creeping Phlox, I guess.

I'm going to embrace my yard's shadiness and plant things, from now on, that have a chance at growing in the shade. I'm not sure that the lillies have a prayer, but we'll give it a go. Do you think I'd get in trouble with the cops if I put some grow lights on my front porch? It would be like an episode of Weeds.

My neighbors across the street were having a family party (their daughter's first communion) and the neighbor's brother came over when he saw me gardening and offered to help. He put in the entire front garden. I guess I was doing it wrong. It was so nice of him to help, but it was a little uncomfortable, so I kept making jokes about how I'd finally perfected my "damsel in distress" look, and maybe if I brought the laundry out to the front yard someone would do it for me. I gave him a couple glasses of rum punch, left over from the movie party, to fortify him, and the garden looks terrific. Or it will, when the plants stop being all droopy from being moved and stand up. I hope it fills in. If not, I'm going to just pave the entire yard.

The kids went to bed at 7 pm and stayed there (well, they snuck into MY bed, but they stayed asleep) until 9 am! It's totally hosing up our nap schedule today, but oh well. It was a nice break after a busy day!

Now I'm coming down with a cold so we're taking it easy today. I need another cup of tea, I think...