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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

An afternoon in my mind

Does my outfit for tomorrow need to be ironed? I'll have all morning tomorrow after the kids are at school. But I should probably just take it out and check it, just in case there's some sort of Unforseen Outfit Emergency that I'm going to have to deal with, because I am not going shopping for interview clothes the same day as the interview. Phew, clothes look good. Which shoes? These ones? No, they're scuffed. These? That's not quite the same black. (God, I envy men their one or two pair of dress shoes.) These? Too strappy. These? Too clunky. Hello, where did these come from? These are awesome! And new! And designer! And I don't even remember buying them. Yay me and my twelve pairs of black heels.

Does Chickadee's outfit for tomorrow need to be ironed? Nope, looking good. Shoes? Sneakers. Surely she'll agree to wear sneakers. What if she wants dress shoes? Well then she'll be sucking it up and wearing sneakers. Ha!

Where's her backpack? Did I put it... no, wait... maybe... okay, phew. Yanno, it might have been a good idea to empty it out at the end of kindergarten, in June, instead of just leaving all this crap in here for me to sort through, today. Oh well. Exactly how many rocks are in here, anyway? And fusion beads! A pox upon fusion beads! Maybe in first grade they won't do fusion beads, please sweet lord, I cannot take any more of the fusion bead proliferation. Save me. Chickadee is glued to the computer... quick check to verify... yes!... evil fusion beads being buried in the trash. Eleventy billion scraps of paper, likewise. All this other stuff... I'll put somewhere... later. A pile in the mudroom will work, for now. Backpack's empty!

Milk money... milk money... where's my pile of change.... Okay, gonna put this change in a ziploc in her lunchbag. Gonna put this change in a ziploc labelled "MILK MONEY" in her lunchbag. She's going to forget to buy her milk. Her bones will rot and she'll come home dehydrated. And yet, no one can say I didn't try. Cuz I did.

What is that smell? Oh, the cantelope is ripe. Yay! Gonna cut that up right now before I forget. I can put some in Chickadee's lunch; she'll like that. (I could put some in Monkey's lunch, too, if I was just interested in giving the cantelope a little vacation from home.) I love my melon baller. Okay, that's done.

Okay, put the pile of school stuff in Chickadee's backpack. Is everything here? Amazingly, yes. Wait, where's the name/bus tag? I know I had it. Where is it?? Oh, crap. It has holes punched in it for a string, but no string. I have to find some string. I don't have any string! Lessee... I have ribbon. Ribbon will work. I'll tie it. No, it's all slippery. It'll come untied. I'll glue it. I can't find the good glue. Hmmm. I'll glue it with Elmer's, and then put tape on top of the glue. Sure, why not. I've already spent an inordinate amount of time on this neon green name tag, why not turn it into a full-fledged craft! Oy. Okay, glue, tape, bus number written nice and big. Make sure it fits. ("Mama! I'm on the skillway, take that thing off me!") Put it with the backpack. I need to write a note saying she can get off the bus at daycare tomorrow. Okay. Then who do I give it to? I guess I just put it in her backpack. And resist the urge to sign it "Epstein's Mom."

"Chickadee! Remember to get off the bus at daycare, tomorrow! Will you remember?"

"Mom, you've told me that about two hundred times already."

Oh, fine. If I'm this tiresome at six just imagine how uncool I'm going to be when she's a teenager. Hmph.

I should get those sheets out of the dryer and fold them. Okay, back upstairs. Hey, I wonder if I still have any of that nice paper. I bet the ex forgot a box in the basement somewhere. I'll go look once the sheets are done.

Down to the basement (pausing on the way to give the 10 minute warning to my little 'puter addict). Empty the dehumidifier. I'll start with this stack of boxes. Geez there is a ton of crap down here. Most of it his. Aha! Like how this box of premium ivory vellum is his. Correction, was his. Possession is nine-tenths of the law and all that, and besides, he already has a job. I'll just put the paper by the printer for later.

I should probably find my briefcase. I have no idea where it is. Hmmm. I have this amazing briefcase my mom sent, but it's been in quarantine in the garage since receipt because (like everything that comes from her house) it reeks of smoke. I should check it out. Ick. It's better, but not fabulous. I'll try spraying the inside with Febreeze, and then setting it out in the sun for a while. And crossing my fingers. And hoping that the people who interview me are all smokers with no sense of smell.

Okay, time to fetch the boy child. Off we go. He's collected, and then we're headed down to the ex's, where I drop them for dinner. Back home again... this time to blissful silence.

Print resumes. Lay out clothes. Set alarms. Empty Monkey's lunch bag. Start to pack tomorrow's lunches. Go through the mail. Do dishes. Vacuum. Tidy up. Make phone calls. Keel over dead from exhaustive attention to all this minutiae. Wonder how in the world I think I'm going to be able to handle a full-time job and two kids and keep the house from falling down around our ears. Well, no matter, as tomorrow will be a little exercise in polish-me-up and reject-me-again, in all likelihood.

Thank goodness I've got my positive attitude to keep me going.

Fickle Frugal

It is totally okay that I went and spent every penny I saved on groceries yesterday at Trader Joe's this morning, because food is necessary for survival. And I totally wasn't going to survive without sweet potato french fries, guacamole, organic fig bars, and eggplant cutlets. Really.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Who let the boobs out

I was reading this post and found myself feeling very jealous that Melissa's boobs got to go on an excursion. I mean, just look how happy they are! You go, girls! But what about me? Because, after all, everything is either totally about me or damn well should be. My girls want some action.

Let's face it; last summer, I had a tonsillectomy (thank you, children, for bringing home the most vicious strain of strep throat known to mankind to take up residence in my tonsils). This summer, I had the hysterectomy. The way I'm going? I'll probably end up with a double-mastectomy next year, because I am really running out of things to remove. And we all know that summertime may be misrepresented by the media as sun and sand and fun, but in reality (at least, in my reality) summertime is all about being sliced open and having troublesome body parts fished out. Yeah. You can see how my time may be running short.

Tonight, I lay on my bed with my children--freshly scrubbed and sweet-smelling--snuggled up on either side. I was reading along in our evening book when I heard definite giggling. I put the book down and turned towards my son. He had a huge grin on his face, and was caressing my breast with the delicacy and concentration of a great artist. (So lightly, in fact, that through my shirt and new slightly-padded bra, I hadn't even felt it.)

"Stop that!" I said, while moving his hand away. But--I couldn't help it--I chuckled a little. Which was, apparently, tantamount to saying, "Yes, please, this is both enjoyable and hilarious, feel free to use both hands." A bit of wrestling ensued when I found myself fending off four hands intent upon groping me with a clumsiness that rivalled even the most drunken high school encounter. Eventually, order was restored. I issued my standard Why Mama's Breasts Are Private And Touching Them Will Result In Years Of Therapy For All Involved speech. We finished our reading, and the kids went to bed.

Only, now I'm sitting here wondering two things. First, will anyone other than my demented offspring ever really look at my breasts ever again? They're not spectacular, or anything, but, well, they're boobs, and the last time I checked, 50% or so of the population was male. I'm not looking for full-out ogling, or anything, but the girls would probably enjoy an outing and a little discreet admiration. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards for us any time soon. Oh well.

Second, when I go to add the money to the therapy fund over this, do I put it in for the kids or for me?


Training wheels: Discarded.

Bicycle: Still a slave to gravity.

Temperature: Over 90 when we concluded that we'd had enough riding for today.

Air conditioning: Cranked.

Reader Rabbit 2nd Grade: Played for an hour (then I peeled the child off the computer).

My super-special scrambled eggs: Devoured for lunch to gleeful proclamations about how much Monkey hates them and it's great he's not home.

Coupons: Clipped and organized.

Groceries: Purchased, loaded, put away.

Savings between coupons and store rewards: $32.73. I rock.

Four fresh cases of Diet Coke With Lime: Purchased at $2.22 each and making me very happy.

Pipecleaner insects: Carefully crafted, and enjoying the pipecleaner flowers.

One over-tired little brother: Retrieved from school, and spreading exhausted crankitude to all in his path.

Cereal and milk: A delicious and nutritious dinner.

Showers: Coming up next.

Girls' Days

Monkey started school today. Chickadee doesn't start until Wednesday. Last year, Monkey went to school only three days a week, so twice a week we had some alone time while Chickadee was at school, and she complained bitterly about not getting the same. So today and tomorrow? Estrogen Central, baybee!

We took Monkey and all of his assorted gear to school, got him settled in ("You can leave now, Mama, cuz I'm gonna be pretty busy playing here"), and then went to Chickadee's old room to visit with her teachers from last year. There was much hugging. I love her old teachers so much; I kind of want to grab them all, shrink them down, and put them in my purse for safe-keeping. Then it was back up to the front desk to puzzle out payment schedules and such. There is an advantage to having been a patron of the same school for four years; when I explained that Chickadee would be coming to aftercare but I wasn't sure how many days, or when, and that it was all dependent on finding a job, the director just waved her hand in the air and said "we'll only charge you for when she's here, don't sweat it." That was a huge relief. (I am already having panic attacks over Monkey's tuition given that I'm still unemployed.)

It turns out that Chickadee will be headed to her old school for aftercare on her very first day of school. That wouldn't have been my first choice, but I have an interview on Wednesday afternoon. (This is your cue to cross your fingers, legs, toes, and eyes.) But today's visit got her totally jazzed about her return on Wednesday, and in a rare stroke of luck, her regular bus is the one that goes to the old school, so the change to her routine will be minimal. Phew.

Then it was time to start our day of girlitude! First stop: Dunkin Donuts, because that's how all great outings start in our family. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at this fine dining establishment, with me savoring my coffee and Chickadee managing to yammer non-stop inbetween slurping juice and demolishing a sprinkle-covered donut. Nothing but the best for my children. "This isn't a very healthy breakfast," she noted at one point.

"Nope," I agreed. "But once in a while it's okay."

"Right! Cuz today is a girls' day!"

And you just can't have a girls' day without some chocolate and sugar, right?

I'm finishing up a few chores inside, here, and next I'm off to find my wrenches. One of my biggest regrets about this summer is that we never did get in enough bike practice to get Chickadee riding without her training wheels. I'd promised her, back in June, that she'd be riding on two wheels by September. We've got two days for me to keep my word. If it doesn't work out, well, I guess we'll go get some more donuts....

Sunday, August 29, 2004


Well, that last post was a laugh a minute, huh? I am nothing if not inconsistent... sometimes. *rimshot*

So hey, guess what! Even when I am feeling miserable and whatnot, I occasionally make the effort to pretend to be a productive member of society. And this can be difficult, because I have very few useful skills. I try to play to my few strengths. Now, the wallowing thing, I am amazing at that; it may be my greatest talent. But there's not much call for it in social circles. So sometimes I have to play to my other strengths, such as painting.

Are you painting a room? You so want me there. I work for cheap (read: nothing, or snacks), I'm fairly speedy, and--insofar as one can be talented at slapping paint on the correct surfaces--I'm pretty good at it. It's going on my resume, just as soon as I reconstruct it from those copies and disks I set on fire a few days ago. Anyway. Yes, I'm your woman for a paint job. My reputation is known far and wide (read: by every friend of mine who's ever had to paint a room).

My friend Marcey had called upon me to assist her in painting her kitchen this weekend. I was thrilled. Okay; I'm weird. But, um, did you read that last post? I needed diversion. Badly. And besides, the last time I helped Marcey paint, we laughed so hard, my stomach was sore the next day. It was three of us for the family room job: Marcey, Eileen and me. Marcey and I had already done the trip to the neighborhood paint store, gotten the perfectly matched paint and all our supplies, and figured out The Game Plan. Eileen brought alcohol, and what's interesting to note here is that she and I were drinking, but Marcey wasn't. However, it was Marcey who engaged in a stunning display of manuevers that resulted in a paint can being dropped in the middle of the kitchen floor, spilling half its contents and denting in an entire side.

For a few movie-slow-motion seconds that stretched forever, we were all frozen. Marcey, crouched in disbelief over the ever-widening pool of paint; Eileen and I, rollers forgotten in our hands, blinking at the carnage.

"Wow," said Eileen, finally. "You're never gonna be able to get the cover back on that thing."

"Yes, the cover is what I'm most concerned about at this moment," snapped Marcey. And then we all laughed until we cried, while I ran to stand the paint can back up and scoop what I could back into it. We still had enough paint to complete the project, and even got the floor clean. But that was the birth of a never-ending supply of jokes about how if you wanted someone to throw paint on the floor, Marcey was your woman, or are you sure you want the paint on the walls, because all the coolest people just drop it on the floor, etc. When Marcey asked if I might be able to help her with the kitchen, I said I'd be there.

"Someone's gotta come over and make sure you don't hurt yourself," I couldn't resist adding.

"Shut up. I hate you. See you later," she grumped. See how irresistable I am?

Marcey is in the process of beautifying her kitchen. Her new counters arrived on Friday, and her new floor will be in on Monday. This past week she single-handedly stripped down the wallpaper, as evidenced by all the wallpaper crumbs still hiding in every available cranny of the room. The wallpaper in question was ugly under the best of circumstances, but against new counters and flooring it would've been intolerable. To whomever designed the bushel baskets of apples print which isn't even recognizable as such until your nose is three inches from the wall: shame on you.

So I showed up on Saturday night to paint. I started priming while Marcey tended to her daughter and got her settled in for bed. Periodically she would holler down the stairs that she was feeling guilty that I was painting her kitchen. I told her to take her time, I was fine. And I was. I finished taping the cabinets. I sang along with the radio. I rolled with gusto and then switched to the slanted brush to cut in around the edges. My mind emptied. I was being useful.

I was nearly done priming when Marcey joined me, and together we admired the paint color when we opened the can, then got the topcoat done in record time. Even though she's having new vinyl put in tomorrow she refused to drop the paint on the floor for old times' sake, so for entertainment I had to sit down squarely on the lid while I was edging near the baseboards. Ick. She laughed at me, of course, but in the final analysis I had one painted buttock and she was completely coated, so it was okay.

I wonder if there's a way to get that painting zen mindset to linger a bit. If not, my kitchen wallpaper came in a close second for world's ugliest wallcovering, so maybe I should start scraping.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Playing with fire

One morning when we were quite young, my older brother and I were up before our parents, eating cereal and watching cartoons.

"Wanna see a neat trick?" my brother asked me. Of course I did. My brother could make the sun rise, as far as I was concerned. He dug out some matches, struck one, and lit the corner of a paper napkin on fire. I oohed and aahed and then he blew on the napkin--to extinguish his tiny flame--and instead of going out, the flame doubled in size. He yelped and dropped the napkin on the carpet. I ran to our parents' room and screamed that the house was burning down. My father came running and with one good stomp it was all over. Except for the scorch marks on the carpet. And the hairbrush (bristle side down) spankings that my mother administered afterwards.

Later in childhood, I never lost my fascination with the ability to focus sunlight with a magnifying glass until wisps of smoke began to rise. This was best done outside, of course, but I have a very vivid memory of sitting on my bed and methodically burning hole after hole into a sheet of paper. I stopped when I burned a small hole in the bedsheet.

I still find fire fascinating. But as an adult, you don't light napkins for kicks or go outside and burn up some unfortunate ants. The occasional blaze in the fireplace, sure, or a rare night by the campfire, yes. I now have a healthy respect for fire and take all the recommended safety precautions. Because I'm a grown-up now, and I know to be careful. And I don't want to get hurt.

Only, I still play with fire. A different sort of fire. I make poor decisions. I love people who hurt me. I get burned and come back for more. I talk the talk and I walk the walk and then I put myself in harm's way because I'm mesmerized by the brightness of the flame and reason that I'll be able to keep it from getting too close. It always gets too close. I'm left wounded and bewildered, trying to puzzle out whether this is the nature of human relationships or if there is something fundamentally wrong with me.

Then I retreat for a while. Curl up within myself, tend to my injuries; slowly journey back to health. Emerge restored. Restored, yet isolated; lonely. Where I am drawn, again, to the sparkle and the dazzle of those who will--albeit unintentionally, most times--singe me if I let them.

There must be a middle ground between seclusion and the inferno. I am weary of trying to find it.

Friday, August 27, 2004

The way-ay-ting is the hardest part....

Just FYI:

The period of time inbetween leaving a message at the pediatrician's office and when the nurse finally deigns to call you back is more than ample to find multiple nauseating pictures of severe poison ivy rashes on the web. None of those pictures will exactly match what is now whining and spread on the couch before you, but they will make you rethink having a snack.

UPDATE: Ding ding ding ding! We have a winnah! Poison oak, anyone? I'm off to grind up oatmeal for a bath. My poor tree-climbing baby....

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Tender bits of non-sequitorial goodness!

  • The Atomic Fireballs are the fault of Dollar Tree. I just went in there for Antibacterial Hand Gel (the last item on Chickadee's school list), honest.
  • Because I live under a rock, I hadn't heard of the Texas woman whose kid got snatched from the car. I regularly leave my kids buckling in the car while I return my shopping cart, and I am now writhing in paroxysms of guilt. Thank you.
  • My friend brought me raspberry chocolate chip ice cream tonight. I didn't know I liked raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, but where has this raspberry chocolate chip ice cream been all my life? And also, could we come up with a shorter name than raspberry chocolate chip ice cream?
  • The school bus schedule has been published and I am too stupid to interpret it. If I read correctly, we have to walk a block to get on the bus, but that same bus--in the afternoon--will drop Chickadee right in front of our house. Huh?
  • I let my kids stay up late tonight for a number of complicated reasons, not the least of which was that they'll be headed to the ex for the weekend, tomorrow, and I won't have to deal with the overtired crankiness meltdowns sure to occur. I am evil.
  • What am I supposed to do with myself once the Olympics are over? It's hours of viewing enjoyment and nearly endless opportunities for snark.
  • And speaking of the Olympics, I am not telling you about how Kira and I discussed "BOUNCE" as it relates to men's track events tonight. On account of we are pitiful and hard up and I wouldn't want to tell you about that. (I charged Kira with blogging about this, but she declined, saying something about how her priest reads her blog...?)
  • We had our first choir rehearsal of the season tonight. It only took about an hour before I said something that came out totally wrong and in trying to correct it I babbled and made it worse and was completely mortified. People were still laughing at me when I left. It's so nice to be back.

What I know, and what I wonder

I now know that the number of consecutive Atomic Fireballs I can consume before my mouth goes completely numb is six. I'm not sure I really needed to know this, but I wondered, and decided to figure it out. And I did. Yay me. No one can say that I didn't do anything productive this afternoon.

I very much wonder what goes through the mind of people at the supermarket who unload their carts and just leave them there. Can anyone explain it to me? I'm not talking about carts abandoned at the Outer Siberia end of the parking lot or carts left rolling around in a whipping thunderstorm or anything. I'm talking about carts left on a gorgeous, perfect 75-degree day less than 10 feet from the carriage corral. WTF? Are they in full-body casts, unable to go the extra few steps? Were they abducted by aliens moments after placing their fridge packs of Pepsi in the trunk? Are they fugitives from justice and spotted a cruiser? There must be an explanation other than the ol' "some people are stupid to live" thing.

Thursday headline: still cranky

Nine hours of sleeping like the dead has not cured me of a severe case of selfpityitis. Neither has directing the small ones to clean their rooms. Or all of us "lounging" (read: being slugbutts) in our pajamas all morning. I may have to break down and make an appointment to see my therapist. She's a lovely woman who never tires of listening to me tell her what a horrible human I am. Or maybe she's just thinking of all the things she can buy with the gobs of money my insurance company gives her. I'm not really sure.

Kira and I have exchanged a tearful reunion via email, complete with expressions of our undying adoration for one another, commiseration over the difficult five days away from our nightly IM snort-fests, and her promising to share the recipe for the amazing Kira cookies. "... but I have to WARN YOU," she wrote me, "They contain SHORTENING. So. You know, trans fats and all. The guilt is killing me." Shortening? Trans what, now? Do you not know me at all? Have you not been reading my blog lo these many months, the ultimate repository of my narcissistic wallowing? If I don't deserve a little shortening, then who does, I ask you!

Anyone out there with a must-have cookie recipe that uses actual lard? Because desperate times call for desperate measures, you know. It's best to be prepared, just in case things get worse.

And speaking of food (when am I not speaking of food?), a friend called this morning and invited herself over for dinner. Which is fine with me. But it started out as "I will bring dinner over to your house" and somehow devolved into me mentioning that I needed to make a grocery run and ending up with a shopping list for said dinner. At least this way I know I like what we're having, right? And I will have company (kids will be with the ex for dinner), which is good because it serves to mitigate my self-loathing a little.

But in other news, I have a gmail account, now, thanks to Beth. Which means I am cool. Managing my various email account could now officially be considered a full-time job, but alas, the pay leaves something to be desired.

I should be better by tonight. Tonight, I will start up my grill and have an excellent meal. You know how playing with fire cheers me right up. Everything tastes better when cooked over an open flame. Also, burning effigies of people who pissed me off is good, too. Sometimes ya gotta go with the simple pleasures of life.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Lemon-scented frustration

So you know how I was getting all nostalgic last night before my vacation had even, technically, ended? Know how I was saying that it was time to come on back to reality, blah blah blah?

Reality was here waiting for me! Yessir! Reality welcomed me home good and proper.

But wait. Let's back up, first. Our trip today was uneventful in spite of the fact that today is apparently Close All But One Lane Of The Road Day in the northeast. Road work was happening everywhere. No matter; the trip was a little bit longer than usual but not too bad. But I was thrown off my game early on today when I realized that something horrifying and strange is happening. I don't want to alarm anyone, but in all three states I went through today, there appeared to be some sort of vegetation blight. It was very odd. Everywhere we went, there were trees--not all of them, mind you, but a good portion--with red leaves. I'm an intelligent adult (at least that's what all those pieces of paper in my basement say) and since it is August and many of us are still waiting for summer to arrive amidst the forty days and nights of rain interspersed with cold snaps, I know this anomaly cannot possibly be the start of fall, because that would just be Wrong. Bad. So I will just conclude that there has been a local outbreak of a rare and terrifying plant disease. Do not panic! But do lock up your ficuses (ficii?) and be extremely wary.

In retrospect, all of those incongruous red leaves jumping out at me from the countryside may have been a harbinger of how strange and displeasing this whole return-to-reality thing was going to be.

So, we drove and drove and then drove some more. Monkey fell asleep and despite my hissed threats Chickadee poked him until he woke up. We all arrived home stiff and crabby and tired. I assigned the children each a few items from the back seat to take inside. Oh, sorry, my mistake. Did I say I asked them to bring their toys in? I meant to say that I charged each smallish child with carting several tons of manure. At least, that's what I'm guessing, based on their reaction. By the time each one had managed to carry in two stuffed animals and a small blanket, I'd made twelve trips between the garage and mudroom and completely emptied the car. Then I set the children free (they ran to make sure none of their toys had evaporated in their absence) and walked back outside to get the mail.

Junk, junk, bill, junk, junk, bill, junk... job offer? No, job offers are for people who have good luck. For me, we have a lovely consolation prize: a beautifully typed form letter thanking me for my interest and participation but regretting to inform me that the position has been filled by someone cooler and savvier and probably prettier. But I know that there must be a silver lining to even this, so I content myself with the fantasy that the person they hired has genital warts. That helped.

Back in the house, I am now trying to figure out how to proceed with the rest of the day given that I would like to scream and yell and cry and maybe kick something. As none of these activities go over very well with the kids, I decide to channel my anger into tidiness! Because that would be mature and adult-like! And also because reality smack number two has just come along in the form of Chickadee bringing me a cup "of water" that she says she found "with a tissue in it." Well, honey, that's not a tissue. That's your cup of milk from the morning we left which has congealed and clumped and for the love of God get the bleach because if I have to smell this cup for one more minute I am going to hurl.

And so began the cleaning. I unpacked! I started laundry! I did dishes! I cleaned the whole kitchen! (Which I'd sort of done before we left, but that cup of rancid milk made the whole place smell so I did it again.) I put out the trash! I recycled! Cleaned out the fridge! Scrubbed toilets! And so on! Until everything was tidy! And fresh!

Strangely, none of this changed the fact that I am still unemployed. Or that five days of vacation is just about enough time to make coming home really, really suck. But it smells better in here, now.

To celebrate the joy of being back home in my fabulous life, I capped off the day by discovering and then removing a tick from my daughter's stomach (one of my less favorite parental duties, that) and putting the children to bed early for their own safety. I don't think there's too much left for me to clean. I may just have to park myself in front of the Olympics and have some ice cream.

I'm pretty sure that the person who got that job is also lactose intolerant. Sucker.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

On the road again...

... I just can't wait to get back on the road again....

Actually, I could wait. A long while. If my folks decided to pick up their house and move it just down the road from mine, instead of being so selfish and inconvenient as to live in another state, that would be fine with me. But in the current arrangement, all good things must come to an end and I must reload my car and spend my day tomorrow traversing three (small) states before making it home to my own bed.

I spent some time tonight loading the car and marvelling at the sheer magnitude of stuff that we brought and have accumulated during our stay. That was in addition to the obligatory stint of cramming myself into one of the carseats in order to weave the complicated web of portable VCR suspension straps between the front seats and adjusting the little screen to appropriate child viewing height. It's a three or four movie trip, and I risk swerving off the road often enough between passing the tapes and various snacks back and forth. Getting the screen adjusted before take-off, I've discovered, is imperative.

In the morning, we'll shove our jammies into my suitcase (the kids' is already in the car) and get dressed and round up the dozen stuffed animals and do a last sweep of the house for forgotten objects. There will be kisses and hugs and a last snapsot or two, and then we'll be on our way.

Back home. Back to our routine. Back to the job search. Back to school. Back to our own beds. Back to quiet evenings on my own. Back to reality.

Hmph. Reality is way overrated. Like the tedious drive back, it's necessary; but I still kinda wish I could skip it.

Despite my promises prior to the drive out, I forgot to regale you all with the tale of Pat the Androgynous Tollbooth Person. I don't know why, but being unable to discern an adult's gender is very unsettling to me. I wondered for a good long while and still feel the encounter was a bit creepy. We'll just have to hope that something even more interesting happens on the way home (although how do I top Pat? maybe a fully-garbed and drunken clown at one of the rest stops?) for me to ponder once I'm back and without coffee and company and climbable trees to conquer.

For now, I'm just steeling myself to get back on the road. See you tomorrow night.

My ears are bleeding

I always thought nothing could possibly grate on my nerves more than listening to my children bicker.

But today there is a piano tuner here. He is ostensibly tuning my stepmom's piano. What he is actually doing is hitting each key approximately eighty gazillion times as loudly as possible. Kill me, please.

Have I mentioned that Chickadee is going to start taking piano next month? With a keyboard, of course, as I haven't the money or space for a real piano. Thank God. (Note to self: do not increase money or space.)

Monday, August 23, 2004


Today was an uneventful day; I got about two thirds of the way through my book before realizing that I've read it before. (Alas, poor brain cells... I barely knew ye.) My father took the kids outside and gave them rides on the tractor and then set them to work picking up scraps around the woodpile. Everything was going along smoothly.

Then it happened.

This afternoon, Monkey asked for a "Kira cookie." This will apparently be our household name for the most amazing molasses cookies on the face of the earth, which--courtesy of my beloved Kira--we have been happily gorging on since we embarked on our trip last Friday.

It was then that I discovered there are only two Kira cookies left. I shared this info, and suggested we save them.

I have two children.

If you think there's no dilemma here, you haven't had one of these cookies.

Let's see.... If I eat one, they can split the other one. No, they'll complain about that. Hmmm. If one of them does something really naughty, then I can have one and the other child can have one. That might work.

Or, I could eat them both, and shred the ziploc a little bit and leave it on the floor, and blame my parents' dog.

Decisions, decisions....

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Trees, flowers, fish and perspective

Did you know that my daughter is an amazing tree climber? Neither did I. We were out in the yard this morning and she asked if any of the trees were good for climbing. We found a suitable one and she hung by her knees from the lowest branch while my stepmom and I snapped a few pictures. The next thing I knew, she was waaayyyyy up in the branches and I was trying to keep the panic out of my voice as I called up, "I think that's far enough, honey!"

Later, I held my breath as she descended. She came down a bit slower than she'd gone up, but with the same alacrity. I was just flipping through the photos on my camera and I still can't believe how high she went. The grin on her face in those shots is about a mile wide.

Monkey--once my fearless acrobat--was placed on the lowest branch for a photo op and spent the entire time alternating between "Cheeeeeeeeeeese!" and "Alright alright get me down from here now!" Chickadee patted him on the back and told him it was okay and she'd help him climb if he wanted. He declined. Once down, he ran all over the yard picking dandelions for me and declaring, "Mama had a baby and its head popped off!" while flicking the tops off and giggling.

This afternoon my dad and I took the kids fishing. We trooped down from the parking pull-off to the rocky embankment and climbed down towards the water, whereupon Chickadee caught a fish on the first cast. We admired it in all its tiny splendor and then my dad unhooked it and tossed it back. A few minutes later she reeled in her second fish; larger than the first, but still too small to keep. She was delighted anyway. While the three of us fished, Monkey scrambled up and down the rocks, setting up his "house" and working on his "experiments." He also upset the worm container several times ("But I didn't mean to!" he always reassured us) in his travels, but for him the fishing itself held little allure. After Chickadee tired of it he asked for a turn. He held the rod for about a minute and said, "Grandpa, I think maybe you should do it now, I'm kinda busy."

Inbetween these two gala events, I had the dubious pleasure of speaking to my mother on the phone in an attempt to set plans for later in the day. Communication between my mother and myself is not effortless and smooth. Today was no exception. I think we managed to work out my latest transgression to where I was no longer The Most Thoughtless Human Ever and downgrade it to my being simply Somewhat Rude, but the entire interaction left me drained. To my memory, it has always been this way between us. In fact, it's not as hard as it used to be (though still incredibly taxing). We set our plans to meet for dinner.

Dinner was fine. About halfway through our time at the restaurant, while Monkey was discovering that he could slide down the leather booth seat with minimal effort and Chickadee was whining for me to puhleeeeeze help her with the word search on her kiddie menu, my mother turned to me and said, "Do you ever feel like it's just too much and you can't possibly take it for even another second?"

"What?" I asked. She gestured ever-so-slightly with a tilt of her head towards my children. "The kids?"

"Yeah," she said, "don't you ever feel like it's more than you can bear?"

I stared at her. "No." She looked skeptical. "No," I repeated, "never." And I tried to find something else to focus my eyes on so that I wouldn't have to bore a hole through her skull with my Glare Of Disbelief. It's no secret that we have very different takes on child-rearing, but still. I was floored.

I'm not a very patient person, and my children often drive me nuts. I often long for a break or savor my time alone when I do get it. It's not that I'm some sainted soccer mom who lives to cater to my kids' every whim. It's not even that I think they're the most splendiferous humans ever to grace the planet. They possess ample abilities to be gigantic pains in the rear. My daughter has attitude from here to next week and my son is prone to raising his voice to glass-shattering pitch during tantrums.

I lied to my mother tonight. Sometimes, I do feel like it's just too much and I can't possibly take it for even another second. But it's not what she meant. Not what she thinks it is. Today, when my daughter stretched up to touch the sky, full of the pride of her newfound talent and the giddiness of her new vantage point, it took my breath away. Today, when my son scurried amongst the rocks with his perpetual smile, offering us all crumpled leaves and using an overgrown plant as his "utility seatbelt," something caught in my throat. Sometimes, it is too much.

And sometimes, as I tuck my children in for the night, when they smell of toothpaste and fresh air and they collapse down into the covers as only a very tired, very content child can, it's just right.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

I laughed, I cried, it was better than... um....

We went to see a regional theatre production of "Cats" today. I have relinquished my title of The Only Person On The Planet Who Has Never Seen Cats. I am still, however, proud holder of the Only Theatre Major On The Planet Who Hadn't Seen Cats During The Formative Years title.

It was a lot of fun. The children would've enjoyed it more, I think, if they hadn't been sharing a room last night and so awakened this morning at "the crack of darn" to torment each other. At one point, Monkey--who was sitting on my father's lap--commenced shaking his head back and forth wildly for no apparent reason. This is what you do if you are four years old and realize that you are in imminent danger of falling asleep at an inopportune time. It kept him awake, but he may have whiplash and I think my father might've sustained permanent sternum damage.

Chickadee whispered various things to me throughout, including (but not limited to): "Are all those people kids?" "Why do they like dressing like weird cats if they're grown-ups?" "How do you know?" and "Look, smoke!" The star of the production according to Chickadee was the smoke effects. Now playing... "Cats"! Starring... smoke!

For me, it was an enjoyable production on its own, enhanced by the fact that it afforded me many flashbacks to my days in college as a theatre major. Ah, memories. ("Meeeeeemory... all alone in the mooooooonlight....") Memories of dance classes, with everyone in leotards. Memories of yummy men... in tights. Memories of how those yummy men could dance. Memories of how every single one of them was gay. It appears not a lot has changed since I left the world of theatre. During one particularly... uhhh... flamboyant solo, I found myself expecting the actor to start tap dancing. In a loincloth, maybe. It wouldn't have surprised me. But I would've been laughing too hard to cover the kids' eyes, so it's just as well that the choreographer had something else in mind.

I did not run into anyone I knew in junior high, which was fortunate. The kids looked appropriately spiffy for about five seconds after they got dressed. By the time we got to the show, Monkey had green marker all over his pants and Chickadee had managed to will about one-third of her hair out of its twin plaits and into a fuzzy halo around her head. Both of them were also covered in dog hair (because the world's sweetest but hairiest dog lives here). If we'd encountered anyone I'd once known I probably would've introduced the children and then said something stupid like "They're normally much tidier but I dropped them in one of those mud puddles out there! Ha ha!" Because I'm weird like that, and the last few days of rain had left the theatre parking lot a bizarre labyrinth of mud swamps.

My father did see a coworker and introduced us over intermission. My father, my number one fan, apparently makes periodic announcements at his office that all employees must read and love my blog or face immediate termination. So this poor woman, who was really just wanting to get her kids settled with their snacks, immediately started telling me how much she loves this blog. My dad was standing right there so I didn't think it was a good time to tell her he hasn't really ever fired anyone for not reading it. Instead I said something stupid because that's what I do best. Then I tried to placate my whining children with delicious and nutritious Tic Tacs while everyone around them ate chocolate cake from the concession stand.

So, Cindy? It was very nice to meet you, and let's just pretend I said something witty and my children were perfect and I bought them some cake. Great; thanks.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Good Eats

I love eating with my parents. I do. The food is plentiful, cooked by excellent cooks, and I don't have to do a damn thing. We had wine and cheese before the meal, just like civilized folks. (Well, things got a little crazy with the cheese plane once the kids figured out there was cheese to be had, but anyway.) After dinner I am pleasantly full and still don't have to do anything (like clean up). And still later, after I've settled the kids down for the night, we have dessert. Just us adults. With coffee, even. I hardly ever make coffee at home. Not because I don't like coffee, but because it's kind of silly to make a pot of coffee for just one person.

So here's how the dessert conversation went tonight:

Stepmom: Look, we have pie!
Me: Oooooh, pie.
Stepmom: We also have fruit.
Me: Fruit? Is there something wrong with the pie?
Dad: No, that pie is goooooood.
Stepmom: The pie's fine, I just meant there's fruit if you prefer.
Me: Wait, you're placing a coconut meringue pie in front of me and asking if I would prefer fruit? What?
Dad: *laughing* I think she wants pie.
Me: Of course I want pie!
Stepmom: Okay, then have pie.
Dad: Oh, no... wait, do you know what else you can have? *walking over to microwave*

Mass hysteria ensued. We had reheated beans to go with dinner, and forgotten them for several hours in the microwave.

I still went with the pie. As did my father. But my stepmom is doing Atkins, so she had a Peppermint Pork Rind Bar or something. And we all had coffee. And everyone was happy.

The end.


We have arrived; the trip was uneventful.

Today's big news? New York has a lot of cows. And we, apparently, like to moo at them. Because that is entertaining no matter how many times we do it.

Also? I need to sign Monkey up with a child talent agency to do some commercials for... water. He asked at one point if I'd brought anything to drink, and I said, "Only water." He responded. "Water? Water?? I love water!!"

But that may have been a result of the bovine fumes.

All my bags are packed...

... and now I'm gonna have that song stuck in my head all day long. Ugh.

Well, we're off in a cloud of dust. I won't promise Facts and Fiction Friday today, but I'll post something tonight after we arrive. Perhaps a poignant moment on the interstate. Perhaps a tale of the tollbooth guy. You never can tell what wonders lay on the open road!

In my absence, talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. Let's see. Insane college boyfriend is still mailing me multiple times daily, in spite of my having avoided all of his questions and now--last night--having flat-out stated that I wonder where all this sudden interest is coming from, and I have no time for another correspondence. So: Cultboy, still just mildly insane and nothing more, or marriage about to implode? Discuss.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Anybody seen my facial muscles?

The cavities have been filled for several hours, now, and I am still bearing a frightening resemblance to a stroke victim. I am not even going to tell you what happened when I tried to eat a cookie.

But, loving mother than I am, I marched my deformed self straight to the movie store after my dentist appointment and picked up travel movies for the kids, because I love them so and putting movies on stops them from talking for 400 straight miles.

Now I'd like to walk over and let our neighbors know we're going to be out of town, but my speech is still a little slurred. And they'd probably think I was drunk or something. So I guess I'll just sit here and make funny faces for a while longer.

The Packining

Packining is what happens when you simultaneously pack and panic.

Packining is what happens whenever I try to pack for a trip, but particularly when I am trying to pack for a trip that is supposed to start tomorrow morning and I haven't done the laundry yet and I have one additional child here at Chaos Central and despite my proliferation of lists I remain convinced that I am going to forget to pack something absolutely crucial, like children's vitamins, and then my children will die because I'm a negligent mother.

Guess what's happening right now! Go on! Guess!

The idea is, the kids and I will head out first thing tomorrow morning in our traditional style of Embarking On The Trip To Grandma and Grandpa's House. We have a set routine for this. We get up in the morning and pile into the car, whereupon the small ones start screaming for a video before we've even pulled out of the driveway. I churn out one Logical Motherly Reason after another about why we should wait to start the VCR until we're on the highway. In the meantime, we stop at Dunkin Donuts to get me a coffee of sufficient size to ensure that I will need to make a bathroom stop before we even get out of the state. We also get adequate donut and chocolate milk supplies to make sure that the only thing keeping the children from crashing against the roof of the car is their seatbelts and the various blankets, pillows, and eleventy billion stuffed animals and books tucked in around them.

(Videos! Crap! I haven't been to the movie store yet!)

The drive is about six and a half hours. Since the addition of the portable VCR to our artillery, the journey is quite bearable. I arrive at my parents' all stiff and glazed over, but the children have had a marvelous trip and tumble out of the car thrilled to see their grandparents, or, maybe, crying about me turning the movie off. Rather than pay much attention to this, I generally toss out a couple of quick kisses and hugs and then stumble my way into the bathroom to stretch my legs and pee out the last of my coffee.

But before we can do that, I need to pack everything that three high-maintenance humans might require in the wilderness of a house and town much more civilized than our own. Huh. Now that I've said that I feel a little silly. But the packining! It does things to my brain, I tell you!

Just for example: we are going to an honest-to-goodness theatre show while we're there. I am really more excited than I ought to be. But... what to wear? And you understand, I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about the kids. I'm going to be out in public in my hometown, and we may run into people who used to pick on me in junior high. So it is of the utmost importance that my children look as though they just stepped out of an ad for the Gap. Because that'll show those bitches! Yeah! After all, it's too late to change myself, but as long as I'm saving money for the kids' therapy, I may as well utilize them to the fullest extent of dysfunctional pride.

Also: I have to be careful about what I choose to wear around my mother. The last time we were there? There was a long and somewhat confusing exchange about my eyebrows, ending with her assuring me that I was lovely and also telling me I should probably get them professionally shaped rather than doing it on my own. Um, huh? And that was tame. So I need to pick my clothes carefully, you see.

And just because my parents have a washer and dryer doesn't mean I can avoid packing all kinds of extras, because you just never know with kids. I mean, really. The one trip I don't pack extras will be the one with projectile puking and state-wide blackout conditions. It's best to be prepared.

Don't even get me started on what would happen if I neglected to include one of the many Cherished Objects Without Which The Children Cannot Survive. That class of items is doubly fun because they cannot be packed in advance. I have to scurry around finding them all right before we leave. Good times.

Well, I'd love to chat some more, but I have to get back to running around the house like a chicken with its head cut off. Did I mention that I am also having my first ever cavities filled this afternoon? That was a tour de force of scheduling on my part, don't you think? Then again, I've never experienced packining while drooling, and that may add a whole new dimension to things. Or just make everything a little damp. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Purplexed! Purplexed!!

No, I have not forgotten how to spell. I am purplexed!

As in, I am truly, madly, and very deeply in love with the rockalicious Kira, who not only sent me an entire package of goodies for my birthday but included the surest way to my heart: nailpolish! For my toes! Called "purplexed" which is a delightful play on words because it is purple! It is nailpolish geek nirvana, I tell you.

And as soon as I paint my toenails with it (which is happening any moment now, because I have priorities) I am going to tell everyone I run into that I am feeling so very purplexed and then I will titter merrily to myself while they dart away from me, frightened.

Kira, will you marry me? We can register at Target, although I'm looking through the registry choices and I don't see the one gift we both need listed, anywhere. Hrm.

Anyway. Back to the package! In addition to being purplexed I can also be relaxed, because there's a whole kit of yummy relaxing Bath and Body stuff. I can relax in the tub while eating the world's most sinful molasses cookies that Kira baked her own damn self! They are so good that you are hating me just a little, right now, because I have some and you don't. Also? Homemade jam. Homemade raspberry jam. Which I am totally planning to drip on my purplexed toes as I drool over my toast tomorrow morning.

It was all wrapped up all girly-like with pretty ribbons and doo-dads and pretty things and then packed in paper and then? Topped with plastic bugs. For the kids. Kira and I are soul-mates. You have no idea how much I wish she lived closer. (Or how much I wish she had a penis. Life is cruel this way, sometimes.)

I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy. And purplexed! Teehee!

Dial 1-800-SAVE-MIR

So once upon a time, in a land kinda far away during a time that was... ummm... a while back, I had this boyfriend in college.

We were in loooooooove. Cuz I was all grown up and knew everything, you see. I was 19! An adult! Worldly! And he was really different than all the other men I'd known in my vast experience (which wasn't very vast or worldly). And by different, of course I mean insane. But I was in loooooooove!

We dated for a couple of years. It was Serious. I assumed we were going to marry. He was local to our university town, and so I got to know his parents pretty well, and became fairly close to his mother. She was very sweet and wonderful. Also insane. But sweet. And totally accepting of me. Kinda. There was that time she took me out to lunch to tell me about the evils of pre-marital sex and how her son and I were needing guidance, and while I tried not to choke on my iced tea I suggested that A) her son wasn't exactly a blushing virgin before I came along and B) what we did in private really wasn't her business. She still liked me after that. But she did tell her son I was "too forward." (Because bringing up sex to your son's girlfriend is okey dokey as long as she blushes and begs forgiveness, I guess.)

You see, this guy and his mom belong to... ummmm... an extreme religious sect. I won't say which one. That's not necessary. But in the beginning of our relationship, when our love was fresh and new, I of course responded to any expression of this rather interesting faith-base with, "You know that's bullshit, right? No? Well it is." I'm sensitive, that way. After a while, I became convinced that the only way to adequately talk him out of this nonsense was to better acquaint myself with his beliefs, and somehow in there--perhaps insanity is contagious?--I lost my mind and decided to become One Of Them, myself.

My poor parents. Beside themselves, they were. But yeah, I converted. Not just to Christianity but to a very extreme and cult-like version of Christianity. I'm amazed they (my parents) still speak to me. (I'm still a Christian, but a nice, friendly middle-of-the-road Methodist, now.)

Anyway, things happened. Things like, me planning my life, while this boyfriend felt that a woman's place in life was to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. It became clear to me that we were not the match I'd previously supposed. I broke up with him... it was messy... his mother tried to talk me out of it (because anything can be worked out, even her son's addiction to porn I suppose). That was a fun time, yessir! Yeah, baby. Okay. I would like to go through that again as soon as possible, or maybe never. Good times.

For a while, we didn't speak. I was still friendly with his mom. Then after a while we were able to stay in sporadic touch, friendly catching up and whatnot. That was fine. Then he married someone so completely batshit insane that it made his family look downright normal, and Batshit Crazy Woman correctly surmised that his entire family wished he had married anyone other than her, perhaps even me, and I think she forbid him to ever talk to me again.

For many blissful years, I haven't heard from him. However, like clockwork, I receive birthday wishes from his mother every year. I think she put my birthday into her computer in 1991 and every year when the date pops up she finds herself composing her to-do list for the day. And it goes something like:
* call so-and-so
* do laundry
* read the bible for several hours
* curl hair
* send Mir email and attempt once more to save her soul from the flaming pits of hell

I'm touched, really, that someone is so concerned about me. I don't mean to make light... much. Every year my effusive birthday email arrives, telling me how much she loves and misses me and how God's plans for my life are still unfolding, etc. At some point last year, she emailed my ex because she'd lost her email addresses and his was the only one he could find. He did give her my address, but briefly (and, I gather, bitterly) filled her in on the divorce situation, and then I was treated to a mid-year missive on the sanctity of marriage and how she just knew that I could work it out if I really prayed enough.

I'd mailed her back, thanking her for her concern, telling her that I would take her suggestions under consideration but that--while I was not going to get into it--I had done what was necessary for the safety of my family. She hadn't responded, and I'd assumed (hoped?) that I'd finally managed to get myself off her birthday list.

But no! Now, you see, my soul is in grave danger! Necessitating not just a birthday email from her, but a follow-up email from the old boyfriend to whom I haven't spoken for 9 years or so. When I knew him in college, he'd been raised in this faith but was... hmmmm... I'm not sure how to put it. He wasn't unreligious, but let's say his practice was still fairly lax. It seems that years of being married to the Batshit Crazy Woman has caused a renewal of his faith, which I applaud. I mean, if you're not smart enough to get out when it's obvious that things are bad and getting worse, finding a way to blame it all on God just seems like good sense.

Anyway, I made the mistake of responding to his email. I didn't say much; I was pleasant, gave a very brief update, figured we were done. How wrong I was. What came back? A long email about how his faith has grown and strengthened and he and BCW have been through very rough times, abuse even, but with God on his side they've found their way through and it's not easy but blah blah blah, I don't know, there was more, but it was hard to read while I was smacking my forehead on the desk repeatedly. Oh, but this gem did jump out at me:

"I have come to realize that if I put God first and glorify Him, everything else will fall in place. The storms of human life may rage about me, but I am untouched."

I cannot tell you what a relief it is to be so edified, especially considering the source. I now see what a disgrace my life has become and how I've made baby Jesus weep. I wanted to call up my ex immediately to set things to rights, but naturally first I took off my shoes and went into the kitchen to bake something for him as an offering of my perfect wifeliness (fortified by my renewed commitment to God and Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour).

Also? He'd asked me if I was "still writing" and I'd said yes, some freelance stuff, some blogging, and he asked for the blog address. It was then that I realized what I'd unwittingly stepped into. And once I publish this entry? Well I can't very well give him the address, now can I? One problem solved.

Sometimes, I wish for salvation. I do. Sometimes I turn heavenward and ask for a sign--anything--to show me I really am on the right path. But I'm fairly certain this is not how salvation arrives... and that it may indeed be my clue that I'm doing just fine.


Hey, I woke up today and... I don't feel any different.

Still 33.

Thank God that's over.

Anyway. If I'd found a glimmer of hope in the possibility of a job I wouldn't hate, I would be waaaaay too superstitious to talk about it. Especially here. Because I wouldn't want to jinx it, or anything. So I wouldn't say anything but it would be on my mind constantly and I'd really be wanting to say something and not holding out for any other reason than my basic Murphy's Law approach to life, which says that if I breathe a word, I won't get it. Hypothetically speaking, of course. But if that happened, you know, I sure would appreciate some happy rainbows and fluffy bunnies type thoughts and good karma and all that stuff.

I'm just saying.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

So blue-hoo-hoo hoo (we don't know what to do!)

My children have a special radar that would be precocious and maybe even charming if it didn't result in their being completely demonic. It works like this: if it is my birthday, or Christmas, or any other day on which it is really, really important to me that they behave... their heads spin the full 360 degrees while they speak in tongues and vomit pea soup.

I'm kidding. Their behavior is so repugnant it often makes me wish they were only vomiting. Because that? Could be cleaned up.

So tonight, our friends arrived, and the fun began. My friend's daughter is Monkey's age. Usually--as threesomes of children go--they are a suitable combination, because Chickadee gets another girl to play with but Monkey gets someone his age. And my friend's daughter (let's call her Boing) enjoys playing with them both. But tonight, silly, tonight was my birthday and so my children were tuned into that weird make-mama-cry vibe. They tormented Boing, they tormented each other, and they took out every. toy. in. the. house. While screaming. Shrieking, really.

Hope sprung eternal, and my friend and I ordered our pizza and chatted inbetween dispute resolutions and hoped that things would settle down. They didn't. Well, maybe the kids were just hungry. The food arrived and thus began another session of "Dining With Primates." Half a package of napkins and quite a lot of whining later, we excused the children from the table so that we could eat in peace. We reasoned that--fortified with nutrition--perhaps they would play together nicely. We were wrong. Interactions had reached a fever pitch when my friend suggested we call them back for cake and ice cream.

"Let me get this straight," I said. "They're acting like hoodlums, so we are going to reward them with enough sugar to make their heads explode?"
"Pretty much, yeah," she answered.

Well alrighty, then. So long as we're clear.

I had made a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. The children so lamented the plainness of my plan that I'd agreed to color the frosting for them. I perused my Wilton coloring gels and settled on "sky blue." Later tonight I will write a friendly letter to Wilton to let them know that they have misnamed this particular gel colorant. My cake is Cookie Monster blue, as independently verified by myself, my children, and Boing. Very, very blue. Vibrant blue. Blue like the big furry guy himself.

So here was this chocolate cake, with blue frosting, and a half-gallon of Bryer's chocolate and vanilla patchwork ice cream. Normal children would be delighted. Our children? Well, I was already at my wit's end. I was cutting cake and my friend was scooping ice cream, and all I could hear was a litany from the ungrateful beasties:
"I want cake! I want ice cream!" (Really?)
"I don't like cake!" (This from Boing. Weird, but fair enough. But we'd already promised no less than four times to give her only ice cream.)
"I need a fork!"
"I need a spoon!"
"How come I don't have any yet?"
"Why aren't we lighting candles and singing happy birthday?"

To this last, I replied that I wasn't really in a candle and singing kind of mood because I'd been too busy trying to keep them all from killing each other. My grumpiness had reached a zenith. I didn't feel like cake; I didn't feel like celebrating. I felt like putting my children to bed and enjoying some silence. Hmph.

Eventually everyone was seated with dessert and for a few blissful seconds, the only sounds were of eating. Ahhh. Then Monkey turned to me and--holding out his empty cup--demanded, "Hey, where's my drink??"

"In your stomach...?" I ventured.

Perhaps it was one of those "you had to be there" sorts of moments. The tension had been building, and somehow this was the dam break. My friend and I looked at one another and dissolved into hysterics. The children regarded us with curiosity, then puzzlement... and then shrugged and returned to their dessert. We were still giggling and snorting a bit when my friend nudged me and pointed at Monkey. Together we watched as he methodically shoved handfuls of cake into his mouth. His hands were blue. His mouth was blue. His teeth were blue. And his hands worked in perfect concert, right, left, right, left, delivering a steady stream of cake crumbs into his chewing mouth.

We lost it all over again. We laughed so hard, tears squirted out our eyes and ran down our cheeks. Through it all, Monkey's pace never flagged. He was unbothered by our laughter. When I managed to squeak out, "MONKEY! FORK!" he just smiled a peaceful blue smile my way and replied "No thank you."

Finally I had to turn away from Monkey or risk peeing in my pants. Whereupon I was just in time to behold Chickadee balancing her whole slab of cake on her fork and attempting to enclose the entire top of it in her mouth. This provoked fresh howls from my friend as I tried to stop laughing long enough to shout, "CHICKADEE! BITES!" Chickadee dropped the cake in surprise, grumping back, "I was taking bites."

"Um, Mommy?" said Boing to my friend as we were still trying to catch our breaths, "I don't like cake. Monkey and Chickadee has blue teeth!"

It was about then that I suggested "Revenge of the Frosting" would be an excellent title for a horror film.

Thus draws to a close my Very Blue Birthday. Thanks to all who left me birthday wishes! If any of you would like a slice of cake, come on over!

They say it's my birthday


Kira has threatened me with bodily harm if I do not share that today is my birthday. So hey! Guess what! Today! is! my! birthday!

I am not so much a fan of the whole birthday thing. There is no traumatic birthday-related drama in my past, or anything. Maybe it goes back to the unfairness of how us summer birthday kids never got to bring cupcakes to school. I don't know. It's not a big deal. Birthdays just tend to make me a wee bit melancholy.

So, I got up this morning and opened my presents from the kids. My ex struggled as a gift-giver even when we still liked each other; now that we've split things have not improved. (Remember the toaster?) The children gave me a locket in which I can put their pictures. I'll have to do it, of course, because it did not occur to the ex to actually put pictures in there. I'm having flashbacks to the year he and Chickadeee gave me the stepping-stone kit. Anyway, I could find some teensy weensy pictures of my kids, I guess. Except the necklace? Is a piece of junk. I fully expect it to break the next time I pick it up. Their other gift was the 5th Harry Potter book, which I did actually want (although the ex took the previous four, so now I own just the one).

Then the kids helped me to rip open a box from my mother. It contained--among other things--a gorgeous pair of earrings. It's hard to be glum when your earlobes are sparkly. That's a fact. La la la!

We will be heading home to be spoiled by my dad and stepmom this weekend. (I could say that's my favorite part of my birthday, but then, inevitably, someone would be offended; so let's just say I'm looking forward to it whole bunches.)

Now, I am trying to eat breakfast and the kids want to know when are we baking caaaaaaaaaaaaaake??? So I guess in a little bit, here, we'll be baking me a cake. Monkey magnaminously offered up the rocketship pan I used for his last birthday cake. Hee.

Tonight we will have friends over for a gala celebration event. There will be pizza. And cake. Woot. Our children will run around like small maniacs while my friend tries to convince me that this year will be marvelous... or at least, much better in comparison to the crappy year I've just had. Or maybe we'll just resort to the old "when child X is this age I'll be age Y" sort of thing. You never can tell, with us. We're wild.

Here's to 33. May it be... less sucky.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Pasta Kiddiano

No, a bomb did not explode in my kitchen. We had spaghetti for dinner.

I happen to love spaghetti and meatballs. Six years of being a parent has not yet taught me how ill-advised it is to serve this meal to those under the age of ten. Or maybe it has, and I just don't care, because occasionally we're going to eat what I like, so there.

My refrigerator and pantry are chock-full of kiddie convenience foods. Why no one has yet revolutionized the spaghetti dinner for children is, quite frankly, a mystery. This is a market begging to be cornered. And let's be clear; I am not talking Spaghettios, here. I'm talking the whole meal, that a family (read: even adults) can enjoy together. I would relish my meal much more if I didn't have to watch my children eat theirs, orangutan-style, while I try to eat.

If any of you work for Kraft, listen up! A new line of products could be hitting the shelves, synergistically revolutionizing the traditional spaghetti dinner. Behold: The Pasta KiddianoTM Line!

Pasteurized Processed Crustless French Bread SlicesTM. Do your kids like bread? Of course they do! Do they love the crust? Heck no! Does the crust make a huge mess all over your table while they attempt to eat every molecule of squishy white bready goodness without ingesting any crust? Oh yeah. So here's your solution. Not only do you get your french bread yumminess in a low-mess version (crust sold separately for discriminating adults), but every slice is exactly the same size. No more bickering over who got the bigger piece!

Pasteurized Processed Bread-Sized Butter SlicesTM. To go with your bread, of course. Again, equal amounts of food per slice, to minimize bickering. Quickly and easily cover the entire surface of the bread with a uniform coat of butter, without spreading! It's genius!

Spaghetti Roll-UpsTM. Intended for children too young to properly twirl pasta on a fork, this pasta was fashioned after the already popular Fruit Roll-Up concept. (Edited to add: upon further reflection, I realize these are more like Fruit-by-the-Foot. But I prefer the Roll-Up name so it stays. Sue me.) Each Roll-Up cooks to al dente perfection in your boiling water without uncurling. When placed gently upon your child's plate, he can simply peel off the start of the super-long strand and suck up an entire dinner's worth of pasta without the troublesome use of hands or silverware.

Shakey Cheese Sleeve SinglesTM. Everyone knows that a standard canister of parmesan cheese ends up with a gigantic parmesan hairball in the center, necessitating heroic measures such as slamming the container on the table repeatedly to free it. And there is really no way to measure the amount of cheese dispensed on each shake, resulting in that tiresome bickering over who got more cheese. Let's not even get into what happens when the shorted child decides to shake out "just a little bit more." These Singles come in a small, easy-to-open package which peels back to reveal a soft, round sleeve of parmesan cheese. This ring shape slips easily over the end of the Spaghetti Roll-UpsTM, smoothly dispensing an even dusting of cheese as the pasta is consumed.

Slurp-Ad Tube SaladTM. Love the tidiness of Go-Gurt Yogurt tubes? Then you'll love this. Green salad is finely chopped and mixed in the no-mess tube with a healthy dollop of ranch dressing. Each tube contains an entire serving of vegetables! This one is especially good for children who tend to just lick the salad dressing and leave the leafies. The perfectly blended tube distribution ensures that even the pickiest eater is consuming actual greens!

Chocolate Chip MeatballsTM. Yeah, that's disgusting. But it's the only way they're gonna eat them, so why not?

Okay, the meatball one need some work. But the rest? Gold, baby.

In other news...

... I'm so pleased to be the number one Google match for grasshopper linguistic "six ways".

To the person who found me with that search: Ummmm... I don't wanna know.

Rain rain go away

I. am. so. sick. of. rain.

Today is the first day in two weeks that we didn't have to get up early and hustle out the door to camp. I figured we would sleep in--which is to say, Chickadee and I would sleep in while Monkey would slide into bed with me at his usual time but be placated with Disney Channel--and then come up with something fun that we could do today at a leisurely pace.

Thanks to a weekend with Fun Daddy and a grey dawn, both children slept quite late. We're all up now... sorta... and we're all cranky. The children are annoyed that they can't go out to play. I am being followed around by a cartoonish ticking bomb which taunts me with my continued conundrum: Preschool tuition is due in two weeks. Two weeks. I can take a job someplace like Target and every penny I earn will go directly to school, or I can hold out for a decent-paying job and try to figure out how to pay the bills in the meantime.

This little game of financial roulette is wearing me out.

But, it is what it is (as a wise friend of mine is prone to declaring). It can't rain forever and I won't be unemployed forever. It just feels that way. Why yes, I would like some cheese with my whine, thank you so much!

Do me a favor and spread a little cheer today. Go on over to The Mommy Blog and wish the fabulous Mindy a very happy birthday!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

As the wild weekend winds down....

Things I can do on a Sunday afternoon while waiting for my children to return:

  • Read the Sunday paper pre-trampling.
  • Put away the laundry (finally).
  • Remove stained and outgrown clothing items from children's wardrobes and bury the evidence.
  • Eat Doritos for lunch.
  • Finish reading the novel I started yesterday.
  • Marvel a little bit about how much I've missed devouring a book, uninterrupted, like that.
  • Make travel plans.
  • Make lists of things to do in preparation for said travel.
  • Admire how clean the kids' rooms are.
  • Do more laundry.
  • Pay bills and balance my checkbook.
  • Use vulgar language in reference to my checkbook.
  • Watch the Olympics. When my interest flags, amuse my ignorant American self by trying to pronounce the foreign Olympians' names.
  • Check the clock... three or four hundred times.

Saturday, August 14, 2004


I'm feeling so touched, and so honored, and so popular. *sniffle*

I've had my first troll!

This is a sign that I am now a blogging great, right? Once you start engendering mindless hate, it's time to declare oneself successful...? Where should I deliver my humble speech about how I'd never imagined this much attention would come my way, and I'd like to thank all the little people?

The place is all tidied up, now, but in fairness I did want to address this comment, as the commenter clearly worked very hard on it.

In my Procreation Police entry, this genius commented that sterilizing stupid people was a great idea, and I should start with myself. Upon reading this I of course wept, wailed, gnashed my teeth, and grieved deeply that a gentleman of such obvious brilliance had found me lacking. I then made immediate arrangements to sell my children to the highest bidders, so convinced was I that these many misguided years I've only been doing them a grave disservice. I will use the money from the transaction to buy more marshmallows for the Easter Bunny, as he comes to tea here quite regularly.


Oh, sorry, where was I? Oh yes.

Dear Average Joe, thank you so much for sharing your thoughtful opinion with me. Your wisdom has been taken under advisement and I have decided the only proper course of action is to heed your suggestion and have a total hysterectomy. Immediately. Or better yet, two months ago. After which, I will write about it on my blog so often that everyone who visits will be up-to-date on my entire medical history within five minutes of reading. Everyone, that is, except for cretins who have the time to type out predictable sophomoric insults but do not have the balls to leave their real contact information. Feel free to drop by my blog any time you feel like sticking your foot back in your mouth, and please accept my condolences that your parents didn't love you enough to buy you a bike helmet.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I'm such a rebel

Things I can do on a Friday night when my kids aren't here:

  • Consume my body weight in pepperoni pizza.
  • Take off my pants and throw them in the washer (when I drip sauce on them).
  • Walk around pantsless for the rest of the evening.
  • Turn my music up loud enough to make the china rattle a little.
  • Watch anything I want to on TV.
  • Shout at the Olympic commentators to STFU already and show something interesting.
  • Ignore the laundry.
  • Crank up the air conditioning.
  • Admire how clean the kids' rooms are.
  • Eat sweet potato pie. Straight from the pie plate. In bed.
  • Stay up as late as I like and know that no matter what, I can still sleep 8 (okay, 10) hours.

I've lost track what number installment: Fact and Fiction Friday

I'm back, and I haven't killed anyone. Instead, I drank about twelve cups of coffee. All of today's answers were typed on the ceiling!

Let's get to it.

Alektra wants to know what music I like.

(I am skipping the Monty Python bit, as we've both had it before and you did not specify the breed of swallow or its cargo.)

I listen to mostly twangy country music. (Fiction!) Know what happens when you play a country record backwards? The guy gets his wife back, his truck back, his dog back....

I like lots of different kinds of music. Right now I'm listening to lots of REM, Alison Krauss, Dar Williams, They Might Be Giants, Paula Cole.... This question is nearly moot because I can't listen to a lot of what I really like with the kids around. They kinda dig TMBG but I'm thinking they need to be a little older for Alanis, ya know? (Fact.)

Rae wants to know how I handle sibling rivalry.

What's that? (Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahaha!!)

It depends on what happens, exactly. I encourage my kids to work things out themselves whenever possible, and they parrot me word for word by the time I get to "... otherwise I will work it out for you and you won't like it." If they're squabbling over an item, they have to find a compromise or the item is put up. If they're flat out being mean, rude, or otherwise hurtful to one another, they are disciplined immediately, either with a time out or the loss of a marble from their jars. (We keep jars in which they receive marbles for good behavior and lose marbles for infractions; once full, the marbles can be redeemed for a prize.) If they are just relentlessly squabbling, they are separated (which they hate, because they prefer to play together.) I often reiterate that in our family we love one another and treat each other with respect, and always ask the offender "how would you feel if it happened to you?" For the most part I've been very lucky because I'm told my children get along very well with one another. I don't know that my methods are stellar; ask me in about 14 years! (Fact.)

Snowball is getting all heavy on me today. Girl, I'd rather have this discussion over stiff drinks, but I'll see what I can do.
... why do we make incredibly stupid choices in relationships despite being intelligent and educated women?

I can't answer for you, obviously. For me? There are many personality aspects which go hand-in-hand with my fabulous intellect of which I'm not terribly proud. I tend to look for someone who is opposite me in those ways, to kind of balance me out. So I chose my ex because--when I met him--he appeared to deal with adversity much better than I did. I always said things rolled off his back (and I wished I could be more like that). Unfortunately years of suppressed anger erupted, and lo and behold, he ain't the paragon of calm I'd once supposed. My bad. Then I chose the next guy because he knew how to have fun, enjoy the moment, and not take everything so seriously. That was a great idea, except that he absolutely couldn't deal with when life needed to be taken seriously. Oops. Bye-bye. Knowing that I do this doesn't seem to change the fact that I choose poorly. So what were we saying about how smart I am? Duh. (Fact, egads.)

... have I checked into hitman prices?
There was a period of time when I fantasized about it. Constantly. Now I realize that the longer he's around, the better I will come out looking, in comparison, to the kids. He's an annoying but useful foil. (Fact.)

... any progress on the mail-order poolboy?
I'm thinking that if I don't find a job in another week or so, that'll be my new business venture. Rumpus Rentals, I'm thinking of calling it. I'll be like the next Heidi Fleiss, but, you know, smarter. (Heehee.)

Steph wants to know if I've thought about writing a newspaper column.

Yeah, I kinda lied on my answer to Snow, above. Instead of hiring a hit man to kill my ex, I've decided to bump off Dave Barry. Then I figure, fame and syndication are mine as I step into his vacant shoes. (Fiction. I love ya, Dave, although I prefer you as Mr. Language Person to your recent string of daddy-columns.)

I've thought about it. Haven't done anything about it, yet. Some of that is because I've got other things needing more of my attention, right now. Some of that is because I'm a chickenshit. (Bawk bawk.)

Samantha asks two good questions I've already covered in previous installments, so I'm skipping her but giving her a little link plug here so that she won't feel unloved.

Pamalamadingdong wants to know if I love her.

Who are you, again? (Kidding! Don't hurt me because I'm certain you could kick my ass.)

Pam, I love you even though I don't understand you. As a fairly unathletic asthmatic, runners puzzle me. I have never had the urge to run "just because" and I'll cop to being a little suspicious of what the allure might be. But I totally respect your endeavors and also, wish I had your legs. (Fact.)

Randi wants to know if I have any animals, and if so what, and if not, why not.

Wait, can we go over that one more time? If I have what I have and if I don't why I don't and why isn't there anything to DRINK here??? (Fiction, I'm not actually that easily confused. I'm not. Shut up.)

Currently I have no pets. I am frightfully allergic to cats and birds, somewhat allergic to dogs--although I love them--which I think are probably the highest-maintenance pet one could have, and unfond of rodents and reptiles. As a grieving infertile I picked out a mutt puppy with my then-husband, and he turned out to be a handful and a half once the kids came along. He needed a lot more attention than he got, I'm sad to say. Once I booted the husband, this already-hyper dog appointed himself alpha male on speed, and I had to crate him any time someone came to the house to keep him from attacking. Not Good. So Huckleberry has gone to live with my sister-ex-law and her big goofy dog, on a farm, and is much happier now. Someday when my kids are older and I have some money and time, I'd like to have a dog again. (Fact.)

Shawn wants to know what exactly are my so called "outdated" technical skills.

Well, I used to be able to tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue, but now it takes me so long, people aren't impressed. (Fiction. Heh.)

I am degreed in experimental psychology with a concentration in human-computer interaction. As a human factors engineer, I did software GUI design and evaluation, including rapid iterative prototyping, focus groups and beta evals, usability testing, benchmarking, and all of that kind of stuff (I figure at this point in the sentence, you are either nodding in understanding or wondering what language I've lapsed into). It's a narrow field and having a 4-year gap in my resume doesn't exactly make potential employers leap for joy, especially when HF engineering is often considered "fringe" and funding for it is being cut left and right. (Fact.)

Genuine is still obsessed with my hindquarters. I'm trying to decide... is that sadder for him or for me?

Sheryl wants to know my favorite smell, and whether there is a memory connected with it.

I love the smell of skunk. It reminds me of the time Huckleberry managed to get sprayed in the mouth late at night, and I stood in the kitchen--after his bath in vanilla extract--eyes watering from his skunk breath, feeding him item after item from the fridge, trying to find something that would alter the scent. (Fiction. Well, the part about liking it!)

I'm gonna cheat and name two, because they're very different and because I'm a dirty cheater. First, I love the smell of baking bread. Any kind of bread. Even a hint of that smell will make my mouth water immediately. No memories there (other than happy times spent being carb addict). The other scent is ground/grass right after a storm in the summer, when the moisture is evaporating in little puffs of steam and seeming to pull the essence of the earth up with it. That smell evokes my time at summer camp; uncomplicated joy. (Fact.)

Chewie is full of questions because she has locked her four children in the closet, I think.
... do I read the Bible frequently>

Hardly ever, undirected. I don't know why. I sign up for bible studies and small group stuff as often as I can to "force" me to read it more, though. Given how much I enjoy it when I do do it, I wonder why I'm not more compelled to do it on my own. (Fact.)

... do I journal outside of this blog?
Oh sure. I have three other journals, and I'm working on a novel. And... hmmm, when did I last feed the kids? (Fiction. How many hours do you think are in my day, woman?)

... do I sometimes sneak into the children's bathroom late at night to use their handheld shower head?
Only you would ask that, dear. I know that you and your handheld shower head have a... errr... special relationship, but I simply haven't gotten that desperate yet. (Fact. Dad? Dad? Chewie, you made my father pass out, again.)

My one true love Kira blames me for her purchase of purple toenail polish, and wants to know if I'm proud of that.

First of all, when you said you only had the boys there to advise you, I was sure you were going to tell me you bought black or maybe bright green. So bright purple is quite tasteful, I think, given that your guide was the Tiny Testosterone Trio. Secondly, of course I'm proud, but I'm still prouder of your use of "better gopher blog fodder" as casually as if that's a phrase you bandy about on a regular basis. You are smooth, girlfriend! You can carry off bright purple on the tootsies; I know it! (Fact. Smooches!)

That concludes this week's installment of Friday Facts and Fiction. Thanks for playing! Answers contained herein may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the moths on my kitchen ceiling.

Lazy (and grumpy) (and meme-y)

It occurs to me that we haven't done Fact and Fiction Friday for a while. It is also very clear to me that between the grey, rainy day, a couple of very mouthy children, and my continued joblessness, I am in one heckuva crappy mood.

So rather than inviting you all to my pity party, let's do some questions. Ask 'em if ya got 'em. You might get to learn something interesting about me, or you might--once and for all--conclude that I am just weird.

I'll be back with answers this evening, provided that I manage to restrain myself from killing anyone today.

Editing to add this meme from Mindy's; perhaps it will give you some ideas for questions. Mostly I just love that I know so many fellow Leo bloggers so I figured I'd join in. Anyway:

Pick your birth month and cross (strike) out what doesn't apply to you. To strike out you use the S tag. So for the cross out you would surround the "strike out" with strike out. Then post the whole list for the next person or link back to here.

Loves to joke. Attractive. Suave and caring. Brave and fearless. Firm and has leadership qualities. Knows how to console others. Too generous and egoistic. Takes high pride of oneself. Thirsty for praises. Extraordinary spirit. Easily angered. Angry when provoked. Easily jealous. Observant. Careful and cautious. Thinks quickly. Independent thoughts. Loves to lead and to be led. Loves to dream. Talented in the arts, music and defense. Sensitive but not petty. Poor resistance against illnesses. Learns to relax. Hasty and trusty. Romantic. Loving and caring. Loves to make friends.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Samaritan tendencies

Some people have a soft spot for stray puppies and kittens. Others give money or food to panhandlers; no questions asked. Still others always have a cookie for a small child. One friend of mine always manages to come up with a box of clothes for a new mom.

Me? I feel sorry for day-old baked goods.

I mean really, just look at them. One day old and suddenly they're half price like there's something wrong with them. I have children! I'm lucky to eat food that's only a day old! Heck, I'm lucky to eat at all.

Pretty, pretty baked goods... in danger of being thrown away like so much trash, just because the baker overestimated yesterday's demand. Is this the fault of the little cakes? The buns? The donuts?? There's so much sadness in the world, already. Must needless pastricide weigh on my soul as well? No. It shall not.

All of which is a very roundabout way of explaining why I am eating sweet potato pie. In August. It's an act of supreme altruism, really.

Stop looking at me like that.

tothedump tothedump tothe dump dump dump!

Live Free or Die! And haul your own garbage, sissy.

Truly, I live in the land of promise. And gun racks. But that is a different story.

Long ago and far away, when I was a young girl, I dreamed of my life when I was all grown up. My dreams were very detailed. Oddly enough, although I often dreamt that I would have two children--one boy and one girl--I never once thought that those children would, in fact, cry if one of them found out they'd missed (or was going to miss) a trip to the dump.

Yep, going to the dump is cause for major celebration. The dump is a happening spot. Many locals travel there each and every week, and word is that it's the best place in town to get some good gossip. Me? My feeling is, hey, it's a dump. It's smelly and crowded and I most certainly do not want to talk about people behind their backs over by the comingled plastics. But I am apparently in the minority.

I pay a monthly fee to have my garbage taken away by an independent hauling company. This is because my garbage cans smell like someone died inside them, are often infested with earwigs (WTF?), and I would rather gnaw off my own leg than put those cans inside my nice clean car. I intend to someday put a hitch on my car and get a small trailer--as most townies do--to haul the smelly stuff. For now, I only visit the dump with my (non-smelly) recycling. This means I only have to go to the dump once every few months.

Monkey and I loaded the car, which is to say that I loaded the car while he danced in circles of unbridled joy around and around me. "I will help you! I can put the cans in! I can throw them newspapers very high up! We're gonna do the re-psychic-ling!" Because I am a moron, I brought my empty newspaper container inside and filled it from the stack threatening to topple out of my garbage cabinet. Once the container was full? That's right. I couldn't lift it. So we dragged it to the door and then partially unloaded it and... okay, eventually I got it into the car and I don't think I gave myself a hernia.

Then I carefully tucked in the big plastic garbage can full of cans and bottles. (Approximate contents: 20 flattened gallon milk containers, 5 flattened orange juice jugs, 46 flattened Diet Coke With Lime cans, 2 soup cans, 1 Tide container, and 3 beer bottles. I am a party animal, I tell you.)

And we were off at last!

We drove across town and arrived at the dump in record time. I haven't ever been there during the week, I realized as we pulled in. Unlike Saturdays--when it is an absolute zoo--it was very calm and sort of nice. Ahhhh. In a fit of goodwill I made our first stop the "Still Good" shed to let Monkey poke around. The idea behind the "Still Good" shed is that--stay with me, now--you leave things there that are... still good. For other people's use. The reality of our town's "Still Good" shed is that people leave any old crap they don't want to have anymore, so it's rare to find anything of use there. But I let Monkey look around for a bit and then we got back in the car and headed up the hill to the recycling.

Now the fun began. First we had newspaper races; running back and forth between the recycling trailer and the back of the car, grabbing handfuls of newspaper and throwing them over the little retaining wall inside the trailer. After a bit my container was light enough to lift, so I took it inside the trailer and we just took turns seeing who could throw sections of the paper highest on the mound. Monkey was still trying to wing the Target flyer with all of his might when someone else came in, and thankfully she was amused at his efforts. Often I get the "how dare you let your child be here in my way when I have important gossiping to do" glare from people when I let the kids help.

Newspapers done, we moved on to the comingled bin. I passed containers to Monkey and he chucked them into the bin. Great fun. Lather, rinse, and repeat at the aluminum cans bin. The cans take longer because the opening is higher up, and Monkey has to throw them in one at a time, and screams at me if I dare to put anything in, myself. Two people ended up waiting behind us and both of them were pleasant. The woman smiled at Monkey and the man said "Instilling good habits early!" and ruffled his hair. This was lovely, but weird, because no one has ever been nice to us at the dump before. Maybe they were from a different town. Or maybe the Real Recyclers come during the week and I'd made the mistake of always coming on Saturday when the Gossipers Masquerading As Recyclers were running amok. I can't say for sure.

We drove back down the hill and stopped at the Book Shed on our way out. We tend to be much more successful at the Book Shed than we ever are at the "Still Good" shed. Granted, the Book Shed is overrun with cheesy Harlequin novels, but there are sometimes good finds there. Monkey picked a book and we picked a book for Chickadee and I picked a few books and we found a couple of brand new coloring books.

A successful trip, all in all.

We returned home and I was puttering around, drinking a Diet Coke With Lime, and when I finished it I tossed it into the recycling can. Monkey peered over the edge of it and said, "I think we're gonna need to go to the dump again soon!"

Maybe we can have the next birthday party there. Instead of goodie bags I'll just give each kid a big sack of crushed cans to chuck into the bin. And everyone can take a trip to the Book Shed and pick out an ancient volume of Childcraft to take home. Hmmmmm....