More Than One Kind of Coffee Addiction

>> Friday, July 31, 2009

Yesterday I lamented about socks and tupperware. Today, we're talking about coffee mugs

Is it me, or do they multiply in the dark? How did I get so many? I drink a fair amount of coffee, and I'm related to some pretty big coffee fiends, but even my entire, very large, extended family could drink two cups of coffee each day in my house without washing and I'd still have some left over. Every year or so I send a box to the attic (treasures we can't bear to part with) and a box to charity. I gave up sending any to the garage sale because I think everyone is suffering from mug overload like me.

If we all have mug overload, then, why are tourist traps full of mugs to choose from? Why are the grinning character mugs at pick-your-theme park so enticing? I mean, let's think about it. Our dishes probably came with matching mugs, or at least tea cups. Even many super-cheap dishes do that these days. So if you are one of those families that have wedding china, and then your mother's wedding china tucked away, and perhaps even her mother's (or sister's or best friend twice-removed's) china in the attic, how many coffee cups do you have already? Of course, you can't use THOSE day to day. They practically don't even count (so if you don't have them, don't feel left out). They just occupy the top shelf of the highest cupboard next to the ice cream sundae dishes. So, since you can't use those "special" mugs, you get some simple ones for every day -- perhaps some funny ones to brighten your morning. But you can't use THOSE for lunch with your friends. They have to match, right? So you need a matching set.

Then, if you are nutso about holiday decorations (I'm admitting nothing, here), you can't pass up the Christmas mugs on sale in January, and if you get a heavy set, then you can't use that with the kids, so you have to have a trashy holiday set too ....

Add to all of this the compulsion we all seem to have to buy mugs for people for birthdays/holidays/bosses day/secretary's day/any day I feel like because it reminded me of you, and we all have a big, big problem. When you consider that every conference, camp, time share presentation and class prom has its own mug, we have enough mugs to gravitationally collapse into a black hole.

Am I the only one with this problem? I doubt it. How many boxes of camp and other treasures can one attic hold, though? I shudder to think whether those mugs are multiplying up there, too. Which ones do we use? Which ones do we store? Which ones do we throw out/donate/sell? And to whom? I ask these questions as I sit hear drinking coffee from a mug given to me when I was in junior high. No joke. It is too cute for my tastes now, but it was a gift from my sister, so I can't bear to part with it. My favorite morning mugs, though, are ones from the old Aladdin resort in Las Vegas. They are plain, black, and uninspiring, but they are of a good weight and balance in my hands. Yes, of all the inspiring and attractive mugs I have, these plain ones are the ones I use. (Plus a few similar looking and feeling ones from my days as a lawyer ... nostalgia for the old grind, I guess. Cheers PWSP.)

Don't even get me started on the mugs I have that aren't dishwasher or microwave safe. Talk about a waste! But ... sigh ... they change color when they are hot. How can I turn that down? I mean, how can I? Little fields that glow with Van Gogh's stars when heated, or Thomas Kinkade cabins with the little windows that light up when the liquid is poured. Of course we have to have those ... right? Don't think about using them, though, because then you'd have to wash them by hand, and if your coffee gets cold, you have to pour it into another cup to stick it in the microwave. So, it isn't like you actually *use* them. They are like decorations for the inside of your cupboard.

I think this mug mania has got to stop. Next time you are out wandering the tourist traps and feel compelled to buy 3 or 4 mugs, ask yourself these questions: will they fit in the top rack of my dishwasher? Are they too cool to use? Are they such an odd shape they won't even fit in my cupboard? Will my fingers break if I try to pick them up with liquid? Is the cute character's hat right where my lips would go if I tried to use it? In short, will I ever actually DRINK out of it, or am I just buying a face to entertain all my other mugs? (If it is a funny saying, think even longer, because I'm pretty sure the other drinking vessels in your cupboard can't read.)


It's More than Unmatched Socks

>> Thursday, July 30, 2009

I have two things on my mind today. Unmatched socks and tupperware.

I know the whole question about socks has been done to death, and we still don't know how socks go into the washer in pairs and come out of the dryer in singles. I know women who safety pin the socks together and it still doesn't always help. But ... I'm not here to cover old ground. You can read my hero Erma on that topic. She said it best. What I want to know is how do you handle all the single socks? I suppose we could set them up a dating service, but we are a pretty closed society here. I don't think we are ready to be supportive of mixed-color sock marriages. After all, as a society we still can't wear pink and orange together and shrink in horror when someone wear plaids and stripes on the same day. I admit to very strong biases in these directions, and I'm actually somewhat fashion-null. I'm sure I commit 1000 faux pas a week and don't even know, but I'm pretty sure we're still in a society where two different socks are only appropriate in the circus. So, I guess we can try to set up an internet sock dating service, but I think it might lead to disappointment and ridicule.

So, what do you do? How long do you keep the poor things before sending them to the rag bin or the dumpster? Does it matter how many you have? I think I'm staring at the largest pile of unmated socks possibly in the history of Western civilization. Rough justice, it measures two feet by two feet by 8 inches. Some of the socks have been in here for years, poor things, still hoping. I've seen some pretty far out reunions in the past, including one yesterday that was maybe a year old. I just don't know how long we should let the poor things hang on to hope before we break it to them that their buddy is probably not going to come back. And how big of a home do we give them in the meantime? Do we give them their own unmated sock drawer? What is the kind thing here? I don't know, but a huge pile on the coffee table just doesn't seem like the right answer. In this house, it is an invitation to more lost socks (at which time you know as well as I do the long-time prodigal mate will return to find himself alone).

Then we have the tupperware. I think tupperware is possibly a worse problem than the socks. First, the unmated tupperware is usually larger and harder to store and, if possible, they are even harder to throw away. After all, a bottom without a top will work in a pinch with some foil, or even as a mixing bowl if you are making one of those kitchen-clearing recipes. But I have to ask, because I don't know that anyone has yet -- WHERE DO ALL THE TUPPERWARE PIECES GO??????? I am looking at 9 tupperware bottoms, ranging from square, to oblong, to upright, to liquid, all without lids. Then we have 3 lids with no matching bottoms. Obviously I can't store them in the tupperware cabinet, because that will cause tremendous frustration when we need a mated set. Unlike even two feet of socks, I can't stick them in a plastic bag and hang them in the laundry room. And yet, how can 9 lids and 3 bottoms just disappear? Did they melt in the dishwasher? Are they hanging out in an interdimensional vortex with all of Erma's unmated socks? Is there a portal leading to someone else's dishwasher, as Erma suspected about dryers?

Of course, in my house, I have to ask a few other, more routine questions, like: Did I turn my back too long and Toddler grabbed them and threw them down the basement stairs? Did he filch them into his toybox? Is this some mysterious action by the forces of Entropy and Chaos? (If the last one is true, then as soon as I throw these unmated pieces away, the rest will show up stored behind the George Foreman grill or out on Darling Husband's workbench. You know I'm right.) Before the end of the day I need to decide what to do with this stack. Right now I'm bereft of ideas.


Oh, Dear

>> Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh, dear. I honestly don't know what to do. As I am sitting here typing this, something truly frightening is going on in the other room. Toddler is safe in bed, and Darling Husband is sitting in the family room chuckling to an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place.

I mean, it is one thing to leave it on for the youngsters. It is one thing to listen to it in another room when the show comes on long after the show you wanted is off the air. BUT IT IS ENTIRELY ANOTHER THING to take the cat food to the back door, get waylaid by the tv and pause for a full 10 minutes laughing out loud. I guess it is the curse of young adult programming. The shows are just entertaining enough that if it starts, you want to see what happens. I know I was bummed this past weekend when I missed the middle segment of "Wizards On Deck with Hannah Monanta". Oooh, it bugs and irritates while it entertains. Each time I see even a part of an episode of The Jonas Brothers I have to ask myself whether my parents thought the reruns of "The Monkees" or the episodes of "Kids Incorporated" were that ... what's the word ... inane?

(Now, for the record, I am not old enough to have watched the Monkees when they first aired. I only caught the 80s reruns. Just so we're clear on that.)

OK, now that I have all of that out of my system, I'll tell you what I sat down to tell you. Darling Husband and I were driving down a four lane main thoroughfare with traffic lights yesterday. True story -- we were stopped at a red light when a gaggle of about 6 or 7 geese decided to cross the road. They crossed, single file, with the light, in the crosswalk no less. They didn't manage to all get their tail feathers out of the road before the light changed, but all the drivers were laughing so hard at their serious attempt to comply with the rules of the road that we gave them a little bit of leeway.

Where were they going, you might ask? Well, they were crossing the street from a complex of office buildings to ... wait for it ... the mall. Yep. No joke. I guess they were taking advantage of the summer clearance sales. (What do geese need to buy, anyway?)

Well, the last episode of Wizards just ended, and I feel compelled to change the channel before another episode begins, so I will cut this one short today. (Makes up for the long one last time, right?)

PS -- It's me again -- a few hours later. When I went to bed tonight I found Darling Husband already upstairs watching Hannah Monatana. Yikes!


Entropy Plays a Practical Joke

>> Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Entropy got me back. Apparently I have been accomplishing too much. I haven't even finished my great kitchen kaper (organizing and scrubbing from one end to the other) and already I've felt the backlash.

I walked out to the garage to put something in the freezer, and I hear the sound that chills my heart. Its the little scrape, scrape, scrape of a small rodent. I am oh, so, SO familiar with that sound. My experience with mice is not overwhelmingly broad, but it sure is memorable.

My very first experience with mice didn't actually involve a real mouse, but it made a real impression on me. We lived in a fairly rural area when I was a child, and the land next to us was planted for horse fodder. The risk of rodents was everpresent, but I never saw one. One day, though, I took a whole bunch of grass clippings into my red radio flyer wagon and built a little igloo. (At least, that is what I think I was doing. It was a long, long time ago.) I didn't think too much about it, and just wheeled the wagon into the garage at the end of the day, igloo intact. Some time later, I recall my father hollering for us to come to the garage. It seems he spied the igloo and was worried that he had found a mouse nest. At the time, I was awestruck at the power of this creature, a "mouse" to inspire such bellowing in my father. Clearly, a mouse in the house was something that could bring even big brave daddies to their knees.

Now, 30 years later, I have a whole new perspective. I think mice can bring big brave daddies to the edge of reason. I mean, seriously, the mouse would pick a child's wagon to build its nest? That wagon moved in and out of the garage a dozen times a day. If I were a mouse, I would find much more quiet spaces to build my nest, even if I did manage to get into the gargage. After all, bigger and more domesticated animals than mice are terrified of toddlers. I think wild creatures might blow a gasket at the thought of a youngster coordinated enough to actually try to chase them effectively.

Years later, after my dad had passed away, we were at my grandmother's house. Now she lived in the middle of nowhere. Mice were the least of the creatures one might be concerned about moving in, but one decided to visit while we were visiting. (I guess it thought it had the right to meet the family?) I don't remember how we found it, but I do remember that it ran under the grandfather clock. So here we were, a true family circus -- a couple of old teenagers, my mom, three kids under 10, my grandmother, and my uncle, all staring at a grandfather clock. Two people had brooms, and we were going to flush it out. I'm not sure what we thought we'd do with it once we had it on the run. It isn't like we could invite it into the trap or anything, and it seems a bit far fetched to assume we could "broom" it out the door, but I guess that was the plan.

Then my mother cursed herself. She said, "I don't know why I'm squeamish, but I always think a mouse is going to run across my feet. It gives me the squiggles." (To best understand this, think of the "squiggles" in mother-speak as approximately the heebie-jeebies with the hair standing up on end at the same time. If I told you the real truth, you wouldn't believe me.)

So, in goes the posse to the grandfather clock, and out came the mouse. Sure enough, my mom was prophetic, because that white little thing made a beeline to my mother and scrabbled right across her foot before dashing out of the room. I'll never forget the sight of her hopping up and down yelling, "I knew it! I KNEW IT!" We spent the rest of the night talking about Mom and the mouse running over her foot, and I honestly don't even remember what happened to the little white thing.

My next near encounter came a few years later. One summer day my mom went to the back door where the cat was asking to be let in. This cat (much like Girl Cat) had a reputation for not being too bright, but he was well trained. He was also a pretty good hunter, but a lousy fighter. Mom opened the door, he meowed at her, and promptly dropped his contribution to dinner, a stunned but still alive field mouse. The mouse made a dash inside the house (narrowly missing Mom's foot.) Woah. Chaos. I came home from work to find the downstairs bedroom barricaded shut and the cat locked inside. Mom somehow managed to trap both mouse and cat down there. Oddly enough, the cat agreed to stay contentedly in said bedroom all weekend. We heard no scuffling, no pouncing, just snoring ... and we never saw whisker or paw of that mouse again. Strange.

So these are my mousing experiences when we moved into our current house. You need to understand that our house was an utter disaster when we bought it, which was how we managed to afford it in the first place. To say it required a lot of work is like comparing a piece of hail to a glacier. This house will be fodder for many a future post, I assure you. But, suffice it to say there was no living in it for many weeks. We had to scrub it from top to bottom, paint, and rip out a lot of scary, scary stuff. It took us months of nights and weekends commuting from our old house, and we slept on an air mattress on the family room floor.

Fortunately for us, our friends and family took pity on us and came down to help for work weekends. One weekend we were all painting, and we had me, Darling Husband's parents, his brother, my mother, and my sister all sleeping on the floor of various rooms on the ground floor and in the basement. (The upstairs rooms were still untouchable.) For awhile I had noticed that our cleaning discards seemed to be cutting holes in our cheap trash bags pretty quickly, but with the nails and other things we were pitching, I didn't think too much of it. I should have had a bigger clue when we threw out shrimp shells and the bottom of the bag was in tatters the next morning. But ... no ... I didn't. I should have been suspicious when I would be alone in the house and would hear rustling in the walls. No, I just got spooked and turned up the radio and kept working, telling myself I was just hearing tree branches. Sure. Tree branches scraping the inside of the air vents. Right.

So there we were all asleep one Saturday night. Darling Husband and I were asleep in the family room, and my sister was sleeping in the dining room with the kitchen between us. In the middle of the night I heard her get up and go to the bathroom, and then I heard her pawing through things in the kitchen, looking for something. After several minutes of this, I almost yelled out to turn the light on for crying out loud, but she finally stopped.

The next morning, I teased her about it, and she said, "I didn't get up last night. I slept like a rock." ????????? But I heard her plain as day. In the meantime, Darling Husband and his dad opened the box of donuts on the table and said, "Hey, there's a hole in this box!" Sure enough, the mouse had come out in the middle of the night and chewed a hole right into the donut box, just feet from where we were sleeping. Not to be too stereotypical, but "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!" How many times had that mouse been close to my head when I was sleeping? Did it drink my soda in the middle of the night? Believe me, I had much trouble falling asleep on the floor every night since.

Of course, Darling Husband is from Very Rural Country, and I'm from Somewhat Rural Country, so the thought of exterminators never occurs to us. We go out and buy mousetraps, etc. and try to do for ourselves. I'll tell you, we had absolutely no luck. In fact, we went days without even seeing a sign of a mouse. We'd sometimes hear a rustle in the middle of the night, and Darling Husband would spring to the kitchen, flick on the light, and chase the mouse with a broom. (There we go with that broom image again.) He smacked a lot of floor, but never so much as a mouse. Some mornings, though, we would wake to find an entire box of cereal gone. (No joke.)

Finally, we give up and call and exterminator. A woman comes to the house, looks all over, finds lots of evidence of mice (including mouse turds in my cupboards -- YUCK!) and pronouces our house, "full of mice." We told her we weren't seeing signs of a lot of mice, though. She then asks about the pets of the prior owners (one very, very big black dog) and tells us that mice that live with pets are "hoarders". They come out seldomly and take back as much food as they can and hide away until it runs out.

So, Ms. Lady Exterminator baits the house, lays traps, and we wait. Still nothing. Still a lot of broom chasing. Still a lot of cereal missing. Life goes on, and we install new carpeting in the entire upstairs and the basement. Starting the next morning, the mice fled the walls in droves. I have no idea whether it was the new carpet smell or what, but we caught a mouse on a trap or dead in the middle of the kitchen floor every day for a week.

Still, we knew there was one more. See, while Darling Husband had been chasing he mice with a broom, we had come to know one. He was quite the acrobat and a distinctive color we hadn't seen in any of the mice we were discarding. We saw a lot of sprung traps, though, and we named him Hercules for his strength in escaping all the traps. (If you haven't figured it out already, names in this Blog are changed to protect the guilty from public stoning and ridicule. The mouse actually was named Hercules, though.) One day, though, we learned that even Hercules had his limits. (If you are squeamish, skip the next paragraph.)

We came in one night to find that poor Hercules had finally met his match, although he had lived up to his name. He had come out of the hole and sprung the trap, and finally lost his luck. It caught him around the neck, but at best it barely stunned him. He bravely carried that trap toward the next mousehole to escape, and he ran into a sticky pad trap. Again, he lost his luck, as the trap stuck to some of his paws like superglue. Hercules would not be daunted, though. He scrabbled toward the other hole, dragging BOTH traps. He took a few moments out to try to chew his own leg off to get off the sticky, but he gave up and kept pulling toward the hole. We think he even tried to make it in the hole but found the spring trap too big to carry with him any further, and he finally gave up the ghost. He was a brave, clever, and very strong mouse, and I tip my hat to him. I seldom see that kind of courage in my cats (or some people). He was a worthy adversary, and I would have liked to see him released into the wild for his effort, but it was not to be. Besides, if we had released him, I imagine he would have been back with lawyers for improper eviction, or at least returned to claim his stuff. No, this was the only way. (Douglas Adams might have known some mice like Hercules, I think.)

At last, it was quiet in the house. No strange whispers in the walls. (The Borrowers, as you know, are much quieter than mice.) During this whole adventure, I gained a new perspective of my father's healthy intimidation of a pile of grass in a child's wagon. Mice may not be dangerous, but they are foes worthy of great respect.

All of this was in the back of my mind for years. I'd imagine I heard a rustle, and I'd cringe. Oh no, not again. When we had the opportunity to adopt some semi-wild cats to live in our back yard, one of the major perks was the thought that the cats would help keep small woodland creatures from invading our home again. So far, it worked.

But finally, there I was, in the garage, listening to the rustle of something in the bags near the wall, along with a strange periodic tinkling sound, almost like "rain" inside a "waterstick". Of course, I'm not wearing any shoes, and I am painfully aware of this. But, I nonetheless walked bravely (hunched over, of course, because that helps, you know) toward the wall. I looked around for a stick or something to move the bag on the ground, and suddenly I hear the rainfall again. Something is falling softly in front of my eyes. I was very confused. Mice falling? No, wait. Something isn't right. I looked up, and there was a bag of grass seed on the shelf, split completely open on the seam, slowly dribbling grass seed on the ground, hitting everything as it fell and spreading out in a wide pool.

Grass seed.

My first thought is, "Whew! It isn't a mouse!" My second thought is, "Unless a mouse ripped that bag ... no, it's too clean a tear." My third thought is, "Oh, crap, now I have to clean this UP!" My fourth thought was, "I've got to post this on Facebook." My fifth thought was, "Oh, you couldn't have planned a better scare for me than this one."

So tell me, what do you think? Was this a practical joke from my old pal Entropy? I think it was. I do think it was. Not funny, Entropy. (OK, it was funny, or I wouldn't be writing about it.) I'll show you, Entropy. Tomorrow I'll clean a closet.



>> Monday, July 27, 2009

So ...

I bought this box of cat food for the 4-footed people that live in this house. It came with this special second edition collectable, pink, heart-shaped cat dish at no extra cost to me.

I can't figure out what to do with it. It is "collectible" so I'm supposed to think it is desireable. I certainly don't object to it. I mean, it is pink, and I don't generally do pink, but it looks sturdy, serviceable, if a touch fancy.

But, am I supposed to collect it, or use it as a cat food dish? Am I wrong if I serve my cats mushy food in a dish that is "collectible"? If so, what am I supposed to do with this "collectible" cat food dish? I hope no one honestly thinks I will put it on a display shelf anywhere.

Sadly, though, I am certain that someone is actually out there collecing fancy cat food dishes and putting them on a shelf. This someone, and all his or her collector friends, would probably be mortified if I actually fed my cat out of this silly thing. I have seen some mighty strange collections in the past 10 years, and I'm not even going to count the ones I married into.

About 10 years ago, Darling Husband and I bought a house from a woman who had a collection of Barbie dolls in her living room. Now, I understand a doll collection. I don't have one and never will, but at least they are mainstream. Putting them in your living room ... that is another story. Here is the clincher, though. The carpet in that same livingroom was Barbie pink. I honestly don't know if she decorated the room around the dolls or just picked that carpet and found the dolls match, but oh, Lord was that room a sight. It was hard to see. I swear we got a discount on the house by virtue of that color, which took up most of the top floor. The first thing we did when we moved in was paint the walls white instead of beige so that the carpet was no longer the brightest thing in the room. The second thing we did was buy an area rug until we could afford to replace the pink.

I'll bet that woman who decorated that room would have displayed my pink cat food dish. In fact, I'm certain of it. This dish is slightly rosier and less in-your-face than Barbie, but I have a hunch it would not have mattered to her.

Either way, I still plan to feed my cats from it.


Girl Cat Gets Some Publicity

>> Friday, July 24, 2009

Last week I promised you I would soon introduce you to the rest of the cats in our colony. Honestly, I'm not really cat crazy (or at least not much). I really do think cats are funny. When you think about it, a lot of us think pets (especially cats), are funny. Why else would we EVER tune into America's Funniest Pets? It sure isn't for the sophisticated humor of the host.

Girl Cat was one of the two original "twins" that came to live with us. She weighs about 8 pounds, and most of it is fluff. She lets her twin push her around, but he is the only one who can, and for years she has had me confounded as to whether she is the smartest cat I have ever met or the dumbest. Let me give you some examples.

For a time, we had the twins confined to a single room of the house. We had gates put up, stacked boxes, everything we could think of. Each of them struggled to find their way out. Girl Cat would climb the gate and leap to freedom on the other side, at which time one of us would chase after her to bring her back. One night, Darling Husband stood on the "outside" of the gate and watched her. She decided to make a run for it anyway and climbed right past him. He pushed her back down. She climbed again. He pushed her more firmly. She climbed again. He pushed her back and scootched her away from the gate altogether. She ran back and climbed again. Nothing was going to keep her from making a mad dash for the rest of the house. It didn't matter that Darling Husband was standing right there. It didn't matter she was leaving her food, her bed, and all available petting hands behind. She was going to go. In the meantime, Big Black Cat (then Little Black Cat) was practicing his sneaking around techinques and would stealthily try to escape. Not Girl Cat. She was brute force. That day I nicknamed her the dumbest cat on the planet. She couldn't even figure out that waiting five minutes for Darling Husband to walk away would clear her path. No, she would prefer to keep climbing and climbing and let him keep knocking her down.

Well, time has passed, and Girl Cat is still brute force incarnate around everyone but her twin. She has bullied every single foster cat that has ever come into this house. There is nothing more incongruous than seeing an 8 pound ball of fluff back a 13 pound wildcat to the top of the toilet and have him crying for help. I don't know how she does it. She seems to neither be smart enough or strong enough to open doors (like Big Black Cat). But, she does seem smart enough to go and get Big Black Cat and have him open doors for her. When I catch her sleeping on the back of the couch (where she isn't allowed to be), she doesn't seem to have the sense to run away before I get over to her. I don't know if she thinks she can stare me down or what, but she requires forcible removal from said couch (at which time she promptly retaliates by leaving behind a shower of fur).

Girl Cat is a sweet cat, within limits. She is the most maternal of all the felines in the house in that she seems to care deeply for Toddler. While Toddler was still in the hospital, we would bring his newborn blankets home to be washed, and she used to steal the blankets and drag them away to lay on them. (Yet, given an awake and talking/walking child, see if you can find her anywhere.) She has yet to forgive me for bringing Toddler into her world in the flesh, though. He was much better when he was just a smell on a blanket. She still thinks his bedroom is her playroom (which it was BT (Before Toddler).) She still sleeps under his bed where she used to sleep, hides in his closet, and when she is feeling especially willful, up on his changing pad. Sometimes, too, I think she deliberately sheds little clumps of white fur in his room just so I understand that she hasn't yet relinquished her claim. (I spend more time sweeping up cat fur in that room....)

None of this even compares to how ticked off she is at us for letting Houdini move in. Houdini has a major crush on Girl Cat, but she believes he is beneath contempt (when she isn't using him as a punching bag). Poor Houdini is so googly-eyed in love with her that he won't fight back (but he has no problems taking a swat at any other cat, inside or out). He just hunkers down and cries for help. I wish I could cow my adversaries with the kind of glare Girl Cat uses. Sometimes it even gives me chills when I have, apparently, done something wrong. I mean, just look at it.


Girl Cat will have nothing to do with Houdini, though, because her romantic interests in this world are for Darling Husband. I think we have one of the first documented cases of interspecies romantic love by a cat. The way she looks at him, crawls up him, and proprietarily claims his chest as her nap place speaks volumes, but not quite as much as the jealous stare she gives me when Darling Husband scratches my back instead of hers. Think I'm kidding? Look at this picture.


If she were human, I'd be watching my back, that is for sure. She has an evil streak, that one. Wait. Did I say the dumbest cat on the planet?

All things are good with Girl Cat so long as we lowly humans remember a few simple things. All boxes are hers (unless they are Big Black Cat's). All suitcases are cat beds. All people are hers. Period. Dangle the toys slowly, or I will get annoyed. Don't touch me when I'm eating. If you don't touch me when I want you to, I will meow pitifully and follow you around the bedroom. If you insist on walking past me, I will climb your leg. Keep these straight, and we will all get along just fine, got it?

(On a slightly different note, for those of you who wonder who is really in control, cats or humans, I offer you this Yahoo article for your consideration:


There Might Be a Conspiracy

>> Thursday, July 23, 2009

The whole world is busy, I think, except maybe some small village in the middle of some jungle somewhere that hasn't been found by tourists yet. (This is why I was dreaming a little bit yesterday about the leisurely life of the old landed gentry, if you read that post.) On the "busy-scale" though, I have way fewer meetings, appointments, and medical visits than I had even a few months ago, much less a year or so ago.

So why is it no matter how I rearrange my days, everything always has to happen at once? It used to be that everything happened around here on Mondays. We have a friend who comes by twice a month to help with some household projects. She used to come the first and third Monday of the month. Toddler used to have a home care speech therapist visit every Monday too. Obviously, household projects and speech therapy don't often go well together. Monday became harder and harder for our friend, so we just managed to get things changed to the first and third Wednesday of the month. Good. Finally, these two things happen on different days. Well, that lasted a whole week. The next Monday, the speech therapist told me her schedule had changed and she needed to move us to Wednesdays. (Okay, raise your hand if you didn't see that coming.) The weirdest part is that I apparently neglected to tell Darling Husband that everything had switched to Wednesdays because he did me a favor and booked Toddler's dentist appointment on a day when the two of them could go. Sure enough, he picked a Wednesday.

Similarly, I've been trying for months to find a day to take some family members to visit an historic house not far from here. (It has some connection to our ancestors.) After much planning and thinking and phonecalls, we settled on the only Saturday all summer that worked for everyone. In the meantime, Darling Husband's family was working on an equally difficult project to get all of THEIR family to a local amusement park. Of course, they pick the exact same Saturday. (OF course they did. In my life, what else could possibly happen?) Never fear. Never fear. I managed to move my side's trip to the house back to Sunday so all fits. Yep. All fits.

Then Toddler's doctor calls. The only available appointment for him at the specialist that is far away and hard to get to is the Friday before the amusement park (which is the Saturday before the historic house). OF COURSE it is. OF COURSE we will run around like mad fellows with three essentially day long trips back to back to back. How else could it have possibly worked out?

You may think this phenomenon is just a phase we are going through, but I beg to differ. I have been struggling with this for at least two solid years. Every week I would have a conversation with Toddler's old therapist (no longer works here) who used to ask, "Can we begin seeing him on Thursdays?" Every week I would reply, "No, he has a standing appointment every Thursday in another county. Its a long drive, and I don't think we can manage both in the same day." I'm not sure what was more puzzling, that her only open day was the same only open day for the other office, or that she couldn't seem to remember this from week to week.

Our summer vacation plan to go out of town (the only days available, of course) completely coincide with other family and friends coming INTO town for the week. Say it with me ... OF COURSE they do.

I'm hoping that Dr. Michio Kaku will soon be explaining this phenomenon on Sunday nights on the Science Channel. Maybe figuring this out will be the key to solving the problems surrounding the theory of time travel.


The Grass Isn't Really Greener Over There, You Just Ate Too Many Green Veggies.

>> Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Erma Bombeck once said that the grass was always greener over the septic tank. I imagine that is often true. For the rest of the grass -- I've decided that greener color is really an optical illusion brought about by excessive roughage.

The other day I was imagining what life might have been like if I had been landed gentry, living in Georgian England. What luxury I could have, changing my gowns for tea and for dinner, having a maid to wait on me hand and foot, having a cook and a houseboy to run all my errands. However, if you were reading my earlier posts, you will recall that we recently suffered a critical shortage of broccoli and that I eat other green vegetables only unwillingly (and thus sparingly). As the broccoli levels in my blood declined, I had a new vision of clarity.

Even if I had been living in some other time, the life of the well-to-do would just not be my luck. Once upon a time, my mom and I were touring an old English model village showing all the types of houses, shacks, and hovels people lived in on a castle estate. She walked (or rather, ducked) into the meanest of them and said, "This is where we would have been living." She is probably right.

I'm not sure it really matters, though, because the more I think about it, both sides -- the haves and the have-nots -- had a cross to bear. Think about it with me. Let's suppose you were King of England. Suppose, if you wish, you were King Henry VIII, one of England's more extravagant monarchs, living in Hampton Palace (or, if you prefer, any of his 6 unfortunate wives). Sure, the palace is a beautiful place, but as royalty you have no privacy. Yes, you have a maid/manservant to help you dress, but as royalty, you stand naked before your servants. They don't strip in front of you. (Well ... let's put aside that part of Henry's nature, shall we? This is a PG blog.) I understand things are even worse in pre-Revolutionary France where the gentry actually put the royal couple to bed every night in a public spectacle and were there when they rose in the morning. Wow. I sure don't want anyone seeing me first thing in the morning if I can help it.

Now put yourself in the servant's position for a moment. You have to help this royal person bathe (occasionally) and get dressed and undressed multiple times a day. You probably sleep on the floor of their room while they get the bed. There are few flush toilets available for several hundred years yet, so everyone uses the outdoors, the outhouse, or the chamber pot. And some poor soul has to empty those pots. Who has it worse, the one who has to empty it, or the person who has to sleep with it in their room all night? I have to admit, every time I read some novel with some poor drunk puking into a chamber pot, it almost makes me hurl.

Of course, the very rich Henry had one better than a chamber pot or an outhouse. He had a closet in his palace with a special royal "throne" if you will. Pretty neat, huh? Well, true, except for that poor body servant of Henry's. The tours at Hampton Palace will tell you if you go there that Henry had a favorite servant who had the very special job of helping the King on this special throne and making sure ... well, making sure he didn't get diaper rash, if you know what I mean.

Before you get too grossed out, I'll change subjects. Think about how hot all those people were in their floor length gowns and jackets? And the discomfort? Of course, we have high heels and ties, but they had corsets and wigs. No thank you. No thank you at all.

The grass only looks greener. In reality, its all just weeds, just like my yard.


Fairy Tales -- Who Needs 'Em?

>> Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yesterday I was scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees, thinking to myself, "Where the heck is that fairy godmother, anyway?" I keep waiting and waiting, and she never comes.

What's the catch? Is it that Cinderella was a better housekeeper than me? Heck, most people are better housekeepers than me, but Cinderella didn't have the Wii to distract her, and last time I read the story, there were no small children living in the house. Sure, there were small rodents, and a whole lot of other creatures, but the kind that followed Cinderella around seemed to be more helpful than my cats when it comes to scrubbing. I mean, after all, they could sew. The best we have in this house is Big Black Cat who thinks that his forehead is the same as a paintbrush when we are painting walls. So, if the catch is I need to get the house clean before I get promoted to Princess with a staff of my own, I think this is one promotion I'll never see. The closest thing we'll probably get to a princess in this house is the cat outside. (Her name is Princess.)

Let's think about this. Cinderella never had another housemate with a collection of matchbox cars to step on, or eight little people for a bus that only holds six. By the time I even match all the toy pieces, the sun has set and there is little time for actual cleaning. But hey, I was actually scrubbing the floor yesterday, as well as the walls. That should count for something, don't you think? Admittedly, today has come and nearly gone, and all my hard work seems to have been for naught, but I did try.

On the other hand, what do I want with Cinderella's fairy godmother anyway? After all, she put the poor girl into glass slippers. Can you imagine how uncomfortable a glass slipper would be? High heeled shoes are bad enough when they are made from pliable leather, much less unyielding glass. I'm reminded of a fancy Christmas Party I had to go to one year on the same day that I broke my toe. I have a feeling Cinderella's feet felt much the same way. And those hoops on that dress! Sure, its beautiful, but the poor child probably couldn't sit down all night! For that matter, she probably didn't dare drink anything either because I don't think there is a bathroom in all of fairy tale land that would hold that dress.

Okay, I'm on the right track now. The heck with Cinderella and her beautiful castle. She had to share it with her in-laws anyway so it wasn't really hers. (No offense, Mom and Dad.) No, I've changed my mind. Someone send me Mary Poppins. She could make the toys dance their way away and even made cod-liver oil taste good. Yes, it is Mary Poppins I need -- or at least her magic umbrella.

Wait, scratch that. She had a tendency to wander away with children. I'll take Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter books. She is gifted with using her wand for household chores, and I understand she is a fabulous cook. I'll sit back, drink my coffee, and she will put this place to order right quick. Sure, I won't have my castle, but castles are cold. I won't have my princess gown, but I can go to the bathroom whenever I want without help (provided I remember to lock the door).

And above all, I have my Wii.


Things I Can't Believe I Ever Said or Heard

>> Monday, July 20, 2009

This is another "list" post that I've developed over time. The list includes things I've heard or said that I never thought I'd hear or say ... and still can't believe I did.

1. "Honey, please stop fingerpainting in the wine." (said to my 2 year old son).

2. "Oh good, the power is back on. Now I can go back to sleep."

3. "Excuse me, but is your marinara sauce supposed to taste like cocktail sauce?" (Honestly, I just said this on June 20th. The comment was followed by a quick taste test, a new meal, and abundant apologies by the entire restaurant staff.)

4. Did you just take back the ripped bag I put in the wastebasket? ("Yes, I did," was Darling Husband's reply.) Did you pack your weekend clothes in it? ("Yes, I did.") "But it is ripped." ("And?")

5. "Honey, the baby just threw up on the cat. The cat doesn't seem to care."

6. "Because I said so." Honest to Pete, I said this, and it burned my tongue as it came out. The worst part of it was that I said it to my oldest niece when she was eight. I didn't even have to wait for my own children before those evil words of my mother's sprang from my lips.

7. "If you must talk with your mouth full, at least do so more clearly."

8. "Make up your mind. Are you wearing the bunny ears to church, or not?"

9. "Only after we have everything planned out do we have any hope of being spontaneous."

And, for all my trach mom friends, this one is for you:

10. Where is the baby's nose?" (Ok, this is a medical thing, so it isn't what you think ... but it still sounds good.)


I Have No Idea

>> Friday, July 17, 2009

You know, so far I've had a pretty good day. I've met no particularly annoying or unsually stupid people today. In fact, I've met primarily smart and helpful people today. It seriously made me think about moving further out into the 'burbs, but then I'd have that much more traffic to deal with.

I haven't cooked anything, so I couldn't get it wrong. Toddler is playing well today, although he is driving his toy bus on the screen door, which is annoying but not terribly destructive. There is no funk to find. The guy who was supposed to pick up my equipment between 1:30 and 4:30 actually arrived at the beginning of the window, seemed pretty smart, and was very nice.

I'm actually thinking this might be a Seinfield kind of blog day -- a whole entry about nothing at all.

I did learn this morning that it isn't the shower that is waking up Toddler an hour earlier than he used to. This must just be some body chemistry thing, because everyone took a shower early and he woke up at the same time. This means I had better get used to earlier mornings or break down and give the kid the keys to the TV remote.

I mean, let's face it. I don't do "wake up" well. It isn't mornings, specifically. It is the act of waking up that I stink at. I read somewhere that this is a condition known as "sleep inertia" that I was supposed to outgrow sometime before puberty, but I guess I'm defective. Trust me, it doesn't help to give it a name. Anyway, all I know is that the first half hour after I open my eyes (whether morning, nap, or middle of the night screech fest from Toddler's room -- it doesn't matter), my head hurts, my eyes are blurry, and the cognitive part of my brain absolutely refuses to kick in. My Mom tells me I was the only little kid she knew that didn't want to get up for Christmas morning. The bad news is it looks like Toddler will be the same. Every time he wakes up, he cries. Yes, son, I feel like crying, too -- so why are you putting both of us through it so early in the morning???????? Nobody is telling YOU to get up, so why cry in MY ear?

I actually caught him peeking around the corner into my room this morning to see if I was awake or not. Trust me, after listening to him try to open door for 10 minutes before actually figuring it out, I was awake. I shudder to think what he would have done if he thought I wasn't awake. Hopefully I won't find out anytime soon.

But truthfully, we had a pretty efficient day. We had an appointment in the early afternoon, but before that we managed to complete five (yes five) errands PLUS a stop at the playground for two quick slides before our appointment.

The only question left in my mind is whether this is a well-deserved payment for yesterday, or whether I'm paying it forward for tomorrow.


What a Day!

>> Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oh my. Some days just don't go well, do they? I'm definitely paying for something -- probably my new awareness of our collection of glasses and shoes as I mentioned yesterday.

Toddler is insisting on springing from bed as soon as Daddy's shower starts, which is about an hour before he used to when in the crib. Ah, I miss the crib. I don't miss the idea that Toddler could do plies on the top rail and was in great danger of flipping himself out, but I do miss that extra hour of peace and quiet!

I don't know what it is, but I was ready to call it quits before 10 AM today. I had to play a game of "Find the Funk" this morning. I'll give you a hint -- I started with Toddler's diaper and was shocked, yes shocked, to find it empty. It took me awhile to figure out where (still not sure "who"). That is way more cleaning than I want to have to do early in the morning. (But then again, who wants to do cleaning any time of the day?) If you were inclined to read this sort of thing in detail, there was a lot of funny there, but I will spare you.

Let's just end this part of the tale with our heroine saying, "Take that, Entropy! Not only did I clean up the mess, I vacuumed four rooms and hand wiped the kitchen floor!" Too bad I can't really feel that kind of triumph. It is all an act, believe me.

Moving on. I planned to make beef and broccoli for dinner, from a recipe a friend posted on Facebook. I mean, I have beef, and if there is one thing we never lack for in this house, it is broccoli . What could go wrong?

First Lesson for the day: Never, ever, ever start a recipe without checking ALL your ingredients first.

Second Lesson for the day: Too many deviations from a recipe and you have a brand new dish. It may not be a good one, either.

So I start making the recipe. I thaw the beef and cut it up and begin to make the sauce. Then I reach the first hiccup. Woops. I'm out of soy sauce. You would think I would remember this because it happened last week and I had to cut open a whole lot of the little packets from the Chinese food place and pour them one at a time into a measuring cup. Quickly I check -- yep, there is a small handful of packets left. We can squeeze by one more time, and what else does anyone do with all of those soy sauce packets anyway? Then, on a whim, I decide to substitute half of the beef broth with onion soup. Why? Because I had a half a can of onion soup in the fridge waiting for a recipe. I figured it couldn't hurt, right? Just make the sauce taste a little stronger ... right? Then I went to get the broccoli out of the freezer. It was supposed to be fresh, but I always have frozen on hand.

To my dismay, there was 1/3 of a bag and no more. I was deceived by all the bags of frozen green beans. NOT ENOUGH BROCCOLI! IN MY HOUSE, NO LESS! Broccoli is the only green vegetable I willingly eat. All others are consumed under protest for the good of my family. OK, I've gone this far in deviating the recipe and avoiding taking Toddler to the grocery store. What can I do about this? I see a bag of mixed vegetables. Let's give it a try!

So, instead of Chinese Beef and Broccoli, I have No-Particular-Origin Beef and Mixed Vegetables (with some Broccoli) flavored with Onion Soup. I can't say it was bad, but it wasn't what I had in mind. Darling Husband suggested we use seasoning salt to improve it. Heck, why not? That way it doesn't resemble Chinese Beef and Broccoli in the slightest. Now we just need to name it.


Strange, Strange, Strange

>> Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Let me start out this morning by saying that without a crib, Toddler is getting up earlier and earlier. He is no longer content to doze in bed after he wakes and will open his own door (or wake us all up trying) and run out as soon as his body will obey him. Sometimes I'm not sure he is completely awake at that point, as he is still staggering like a drunk man, and if you hold him down in bed, his eyes close automatically. Just writing about this reminds me of how tired I am. Where is the coffee?

So I get up this morning, and shortly after Toddler is all squared away, I stagger into the bathroom myself, where I promptly knock over the shower shelves that are sitting on the back of the toilet. I nearly do this every morning, resetting them at the last minute, but this morning I had a clean shot and down they went. As I'm on the floor picking up the various things that fell from the shelves, I begin to wonder. Why do I even have these if we keep them on the back of the toilet? Why aren't they in the shower? Oh, that's right, because the Scrubbing Bubbles shower cleaner is hanging from the shower head and there is no room. Of course this arrangement makes sense because we use the Scrubbing Bubbles shower cleaner every day, right? Umm ... no. I'm not sure when we last "hit the button." That shower is scrubbed by hand instead and only by hand. Why is that, I can hear you asking. Beats me. Let me know when you come up with an answer because I'd like to know.

So as I'm picking up the things on the floor, my sleep fogged eyes clear enough to actually look at them. One, two pairs of Darling Husband's glasses. Well, I think to myself, that seems excessive. I know one is brand new, and the other one is a backup with a slightly old prescription ... wait. Aren't these the super old ones that make him look like an owl? Why yes, yes they are. But doesn't that mean -? I look around the bathroom with more care. Yes, there next to the toothbrush is the new glasses. The two in my hand are the older ones. Yes, you read that right. We store two pairs of unused glasses (without the case) on the back of a toilet on an unstable shower rack. Other things I found on the rack (because honestly I haven't really looked before) is an unopened box of Qtips and a picture of Darling Husband's youngest first cousin, from early high school. If I told you how many years ago that was, someone would get embarrased (probably me because I'd get it wrong). Let's just say it is more than five. There is also an unopened jar of hand lotion of some exotic variety and a coupon for bic razors. In other words, except for the coupon, these are useless things. The coupon is useless too if it isn't downstairs in the coupon bag to actually go to the store with us.

Moving on, I leave the bathroom discouraged already for the day. I'm sure I can't throw out any of this stuff without causing some sort of domestic ruckus, but I will have a cup of coffee and think about it anyway. On my way out of the bathroom I trip over a pair of sneakers. They are big ones, so they aren't mine. (I have micro-feet.) With my newly clear eyes, I look around carefully. One, two, three pairs of sneakers. Okay, what man who goes to work in a suit needs three pairs of sneakers, I ask you? I'm sure they are here for the primary purpose of making the walk through the bedroom a health hazard.

All of this has made me wonder -- am I about to strike another blow for organization by cleaning this all up? Have my Manchurian eyes cleared so that I can actually see it? Or, instead, has it all just arrived in response to the five boxes of useless things Darling Husband and I loaded out of the basement and into the truck this past week?

On the one hand, I think I am starting to understand why we have too many things and not enough house. On the other hand, I'm pretty worried about how the rest of the day will turn out.


Everybody Wants to Be A Cat

>> Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I have these three pretty wacky cats. Two of them were by "our" choice, and one of them came later by "his" choice.

We met the "twins" at a pet store when they were kittens. The little black one climbed up Darling Husband's arm and sat on his head. No joke. They came home with us and switched their loyalties. After we took them to the vet for their little "surgeries," the little black one (now the Big Black Cat) became my best friend because I was the one to come and rescue him from the Mean Scary Vet. He has been following me around ever since. Darling Husband picked up little girl cat the next day, and she has been sleeping on his dirty socks just about every night. (Someone has to take care of the dirty socks, right?)

So there we were, living harmoniously, just the four of us, then the Universe came around to disrupt things. Mommy got pregnant, and Houdini the Outside Cat made a mad dash for the cushy life.

So now, we have Big Black Cat, Girl Cat, and Houdini. Big Black Cat is sweet and gentle and a ... little ... bit ... high ... strung sometimes. When Toddler drops a toy in the family room, if Big Black Cat doesn't see it coming, he's likely to be up the stairs before he stops to take stock. Other times he seems unphased by the world. His biggest claims to fame are his remarkable ability to smell ice cream and his fascination with wine. If there is a wine glass within reach, he will have his nose in it. If there is an ice cream bowl anywhere in the house, he will be sitting in front of it begging like a dog. Vanilla is his favorite flavor, but he has been known to beg for frozen cool whip, too. (Actually, he is sitting at my feet now instructing me that cats do not beg. In the case of ice cream, he is just actively demanding his due respect as a feline, and under no circumstances does he ever behave like a dog.)

Here is Big Black Cat when he was not so big, sneaking his first draft. Note Girl Cat in the corner egging him on.


With due consideration for the vagaries of feline relationships, Big Black Cat is the alpha cat, and he knows it. He is the best at everything, and everyone get out of his way. In his own way, he is more *cat* than the others, and he shares that cat trait of knowing his own mind and not caring what you think of it. He also doesn't know the meaning of "give up." Every morning he sits in front of the fish tank, pawing at the glass, certain that today will be the day he gets a fresh fish for breakfast. Every evening he sits in front of the glass doors batting at the glass to catch the tail of the outside cat. It never seems to occur to him that he hasn't caught either in 5 years. He's perfectly content to keep on trying.

Big Black Cat thinks he is entitled to a seat at the dinner table, and if there isn't enough chairs, he will take yours if you get up for something. The only way to get him down is to tell him that whoever sits in that chair has to feed Toddler. He likes to keep a healthy distance from Toddler. He also thinks he is entitled to a spot on the bed at night and a Christmas present every December 25th. He likes to sit on the back of the couch, and if he wants a pet and you aren't listening, he will grab you as you walk past.

Here are Big Black Cat and Girl Cat eyeing the fish together:


Big Black Cat is also very curious. He can hardly resist a paper bag on the floor or a box big enough for a cat. (Big enough is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.) Sometimes, though, paper bags are beneath his dignity. This may be because Houdini CANNOT pass up a paper bag, and Big Black Cat thinks Houdini is trailer park trash. More likely, though, it has to do with a bad day one Christmas a few years back. We were storing bows in a paper bag with handles. Big Black Cat got a little too curious, and ended up with the bag handles caught around his neck, at which time he promptly panicked. He ran, and, of course, the paper bag followed. Well wouldn't you know that paper bag chased that cat around the house for nearly 15 minutes, throwing bows at him every few feet? No matter where Big Black Cat went, the bag chased him, right on his heels no less. Try as we might, we had a hard time convincing him to just "hold still!" By the time we got the bag away from Big Black Cat, he didn't want his Christmas present anymore. I think the experience may have scarred him even more than his de-manning surgery.

Here is Big Black Cat Getting ready for Christmas one morning.

Life with Big Black Cat has always been interesting. He likes to sit in the window of the living room, pushing back the lace curtains with his paw and staring out. Of course, in his world, glass is all one-way, and if he can't smell you, you can't see him. If you walk in the room, he runs for cover, because of course he isn't supposed to sit there, but otherwise he waits and watches carefully while you get out of the car and walk up the sidewalk. As soon as you put the key in the front door, he moves like lightening from the window, and by the time you get the door open, he strolls casually toward you from the kitchen (another direction altogether) to greet you for the evening. Funny thing, you can even go up to the window and knock on it from the outside and he won't budge. After all, you can't see him ... right?

The entrance of Toddler into this house has cause some stir. Big Black Cat is least bothered, but he does flip his ears a lot at the noise and glares at me if Toddler cries too long. In his own way, Big Black Cat cares a lot about all of us. He is quick to show up if someone is sad or hurt, but mostly, like any good cat, he cares about himself. After all, his diligence in getting us up on time in the morning has less to do with our schedule and more to do with his stomach.

Keep an eye on this spot, there will be more on our colony of cats later on. After all, I still need to introduce you to Girl Cat and Houdini.


Why, Part 3

>> Monday, July 13, 2009

These "why" questions keep on coming.

1. Have you ever seen the hotels known as the Swan and Dolphin at Walt Disney World? Have you ever looked closely at the giant "dolphin" on top of the Dolphin resort? It looks like a fish, not a dolphin. It is missing a fin, and instead it has scales. Unless my education was completely misguided, this statue is definitely NOT a dolphin. So I have to ask, why call the hotel the "Dolphin?" Admittedly, the "Fish" sounds pretty stupid in my opinion, but is it any more stupid then using a fish as the symbol of a hotel called the "Dolphin?" I'm sure curious how this all came about. Did they order the wrong statue and no one ever fixed it in all these years? It really makes me wonder.

2. When I was a kid, I couldn't get the cat to agree to sleep near my pillow if my life depended on it. He wanted the foot of the bed or nothing at all. Now, when I'd just as soon the cat find some other room to sleep in, the cat wants to be under my nose. Why?

3. Why would any manufacturer ever make a child's toy with fabric and stuffing and label it "surface wash only?" Or worse, "spot clean only"?

4. Now, I freely admit that I stole this one from Facebook's Status Shuffle (most of you don't even know what that is!) So, for lack of anyone to credit, I hereby give credit to whichever anonymous author added this to Facebook Status Shuffle. "What was the person who first milked a cow thinking they were doing and what made them decide to drink it?"

5. Why is the handicapped bathroom always the farthest one from the door?

6. Have you ever been up the Heavenly Gondola ski lift in South Lake Tahoe? At the first stop, with the scenic walkway, they have a set of bathrooms. In the handicapped stall (at the back of the restroom, of course), the toilet paper holder has been moved and is now screwed into the divider between the stall. Sound okay to you? Think again. The only way to reach the toilet paper is by getting up off the pot and taking at least one step (or stretching so far that you might as well have taken a step). Yes, in the handicapped stall, you have to walk to reach the paper. Why, I ask you?

7. Dogs will eat anything, whether you want them to or not. Cats, on the other hand, are the pickiest eater on the planet. Why, then, are there about a billion more dog food choices than cat food?

8. If you own a condo on the 18th floor of a building, why do you have to buy flood insurance? If a flood rises to the level of the 18th floor, I think we might be looking at armageddon, not an insurance claim.

9. Why is it that no matter how long you have lived in a town, and no matter how well you know your way around, it all goes out of your head when you try to give someone directions? How many traffic lights is it? I don't know, I never counted. What is the name of the street, and is it before or after the big ugly pink house? I don't know, I just turn.

10. About the scottish bagpipes. In general, just why? (And this is coming from a family that has CDs of bagpipe music. You've got to admit, it is an acquired taste.)


Who's a Secret Agent?

>> Friday, July 10, 2009

I am beginning to develop a secret fear that I am my own Manchurian Candidate. Maybe I, the paragon of Order and Organization am a brainwashed secret agent.

Tell me what you think. Just a few moments ago, I was on the way to the kitchen to get a cleanser for some stubborn spots on the carpet. Somehow I lost my way, fixed a noisy piece of electronics, added water to a plant, and found myself on the Wii Balance Board doing a weigh-in. Only then did I realize that I never did clean the carpet.

Yesterday morning, Darling Husband and I agreed, out loud, and definitively, that when he got home we would vacuum the furniture for our periodic de-catting. (This is easier done with two people.) It would be our contribution to progress that day. When he got home, he asked me what we were going to do that evening. (This is not a surprise. It is part of our marriage contract that I do the remembering.) I, surprisingly, had no recollection of any earlier conversation, and we spent the evening loading boxes into the attic and playing Wii Fit. (Is it me, or are we starting to see a pattern, here?) I failed to recall anything about the de-catting until after we were in bed.

So ... is it me? Or is it the Wii? One of us is not who or what we seem. It may be that I am the clandestine secret agent out to sabatoge myself, and the Wii is there to help me do *something* at least -- making my body stronger for the fight. On the other hand, the Wii seems to be the root of much procrasination. (See my post earlier on the Wii, where I first mentioned that I postponed cleaning something in favor of playing Wii Fit. I have only now noticed the connection.) Perhaps it is the Wii that is subliminally calling me away from my responsibilities. Oddly enough, if I had to be an electronic sabateur, I would have voted for Facebook, not the Wii, but these secret agents can be quite sneaky in carrying out their evil plots.

And then there is the Toddler. He has a fundamental compulsion to "be involved" during Wii play. He has to be on the Board, with me or instead of me, and he is not afraid to get physical about it. I'm not sure how to interpret this. If the child is on the good side, is he encouraging me (in his childlike way)? Or is he trying to pull me away from the evil Wii enemy? If the child is on the bad side, is he trying to pull me away from the Wii forces of good?

And then there are the cats. I haven't decided which side the cats are on. This could go so many different ways, what with the two original bottle-fed littermates and then the later-added formerly wild cat. At least one of them is not on the side of order, I am certain of that. I am just not certain which one it is, and whether it is the only one.


Sometimes I'm So Clever I Get in My Own Way

>> Thursday, July 9, 2009

Today I decided to do something different. Toddler and I were on our way to a weekly meeting in another county. For this meeting, we needed just a few bananas. Normally, when I need food for this meeting, I stop at Large Nationwide Typical Grocery Store or Typical Fast Food Restaurant. After all, one Large Nationwide Typical Grocery Store is just like any other, and this one is just like the one around the corner from home, only a touch cheaper.

This time, though, I decided I would try out the International Grocery Store. It was on an easier side of the street, and even though it looked different, we only needed bananas. I thought that maybe I would be the only one there who spoke English as a first language but maybe not. (Toddler doesn't yet speak English -- he speaks, but I'm not sure what to call it.)

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. All the signs in the store were written in five languages, only two of which I even recognized, and the checkout clerks spoke English better than the people at the local McDonalds. In the meantime, the store was a wonder to behold. There was fresh seafood all over the back, fruits and vegetables that I had never heard of and couldn't pronounce, and more soy sauce advertised then I thought ever existed. I'm not kidding, I think they sold soy sauce in every aisle. The store also had an unusual mix of pervasive odors -- I was reminded of the Boston fish market, of the Amish vegetable stand near my mother's house, and most pungently, the organic fertilizer (and by that I mean all natural) from the hay field next door to my childhood home.

All of this was interesting, but it wasn't terribly relevant. Focus. We need bananas ... just, bananas. Nothing else. We don't need to look at all those strange vegetables ... bananas. There is nothing special about bananas. Or so I thought. My first problem was that the sign as I approached the banana table said the bananas were there, but so were the plantains. Oops. I knew I had to look carefully, because plantains may look like Chaquita bananas but they sure don't taste like bananas, and this could be quite a shock to the unsuspecting. Then I saw some mighty funny looking bananas that were short and looked like they had swallowed golf balls. Hmm. I think they went with the sign for "apple banana." That would make sense. Then I saw signs for baby bananas, burro bananas, and manzano bananas, and I knew I was probably in trouble. There were green ones, brown ones, red ones, and things that looked bad (but I've since learned look that way when they are ripe).

Yikes! I just want an ordinary Chiquita banana (which I've since learned is more properly called a Cavendish banana -- another sign I think I saw in the store). I was in waaaaayyy over my head. Thankfully, the plain, ordinary, unadventursome bananas necessary for our meeting were hiding on the far side of the table. Whew! Who knew bananas could ever be so complicated?

There I go again, trying to be clever and stop at a new grocery store for something simple like a banana. Save time? Right ... sure. It took me way longer to find bananas in this store than if I had made the two lefts to go into the other store across the street! I should know better by now not to try to be adventuresome and save time on the same trip. Live and learn, and eat bananas.


Cats Have a Scary Evil Eye

>> Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Today was an interesting day. And by "interesting" you should read, "Boy am I glad I don't live there." It all started last night when I figured out (belatedly) that the cats were out of the good cat food. Now, I didn't say out of cat food. I said out of the *good* cat food. In other words, the dry cat food plate was licked clean, and the wet food bowl with the "substandard" cat food was being openly and obnoxiously disdained.

With three cats that barely get along on the best of days, running low on the good cat food means big trouble. There were swats, and growls, and cats chasing each other and mysterious unseen objects up and down the stairs. Of course, it was 11:00 PM at night when I realized the problem. By then, the cats were pacing the kitchen looking for an excuse to fight.

By morning, I must say, they had formed a truce with each other and were standing in a row eyeing me. Well let me tell you, I got really nervous, really quick. The last time I ever saw the three of them acting together, someone human was in big trouble. I had a funny feeling if I didn't get them their good food, and pretty darn quick, someone else would be pretty big trouble pretty soon.

So, off we went to the pet store in self defense. I thought this would be a good escape. No more yellow, glaring eyes, just me, the toddler, and some shopping.

Well, the so-called "toddler" (which, I have just learned, is a synonym for fire engine siren) proceeded to tell me and the entire store what an awful night he had last night, and how tired, miserable, and inconsolable he really was. Yeesh. I've never seen so many people staring at one raging two year old. If I could bottle that drama, I could sell it to Broadway and make a million. It all started when I said the sippy cup had to stay in the car. Now, I am not by any stretch a germaphobe. I believe in the 3-second rule and practice it regularly. But even I have limits. This pet store is one of those "pets are welcome" kind of places, and unlike the feet on my floor, I KNOW where those dogs have been. Yuck. So, outside the store we have a sippy cup tantrum. What happened to cause the tantrum after we got into the store is anybody's guess. To know for sure, we would need one of those interpetive collars from the movie UP, but calibrated to "Two Year Old". All I know is that it had something to do with the fish tanks and it lasted off and on until we got back into the car for the drive home. I guess I'll never know.

Things are changing around here rapidly, which can make anyone grumpy, or giddy, as the case may be. We dismantled the crib and replaced it with a toddler bed. This move had dramatically reduced the morning and post-nap screaming, but it has significantly increased the phantom appearances of toddlers around the house at odd hours. I call it "drive by toddlering." Watch out when you start hearing the "thump, thump, thump" coming at you. It might be the Borrowers in the walls. It might be a drive by toddlering. Then again, it might be those cats.


What If ...

>> Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We've spent some time wondering, "Why". For a change of pace, I thought we'd explore "What if."

1. What if Murphy were a Presbyterian? Instead of Murphy's Law being "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong," the Law would be,"Anything that can go wrong has already gone wrong, you just don't know it yet." (DH says I stole this one, but I thought I made it up. Apologies to any uncited sources I may have read in my sleep.)

2. What if parallel universes really do exist? Then we're in trouble, because anything that can go wrong has gone wrong somewhere, and even worse, in at least one place everything that can go wrong has all gone wrong at once.

3. What if you were Schrodinger's Cat? Talk about stress.

4. What if Douglas Adams was right, and mice really are super intellgent, pan-dimensional beings?

5. What if you put hand sanitizer on dirt and swish it around. Is it still dirty? What if you coat the dirt-streaked toddler's hands with it?

6. What if what just happened to me takes longer to explain than the 140 characters Twitter allows?

7. What if someone actually did invent a pet-translator? Would we still think we domesticated the cat?

8. What if all those people who love Renaissance Faires had to smell an authentic Renaissance village? Would they still love it then?

9. What if we had to use each and every one of our kitchen gadgets at least twice a year? What would we cook?

10. What if we had to wear everything in our closest regularly? Would we finally clean our closets?

11. And for all of you stay at home parents, what happens if Phineas and Ferb move next door?

I think that's enough brain stretching for now.


I'm Not Unpatriotic -- I Just Don't Quite Get It

>> Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy Monday After the Fourth of July. I hope you had a great weekend.

I love holidays ... with some few quirks that you will come to know as the year progresses. The Fourth of July has always been a great favorite, with picnics and family, and fun. Most importantly, for me, has always been the fireworks booming overhead and the 1812 Overature booming in the background with the cannons cracking. Aah, this is life. This is it. Screaming children and all, this is what the Fourth of July is all about -- celebrating the birth of our country with color and noise and fun.

One thing I just don't get is the whole bit about televising the Fourth of July. What are fireworks if you can't feel the explosion in your chest cavity? Sure, concerts are cool, and Barry Manilow and Aretha Franklin on the same stage in one evening is a lot of fun ... but there is something lacking in the magic in simply watching colored lights fan over the Washington Monument on the television, even with the best high definition television on the market. To make matters even worse, the coverage of the Washington celebration ends before the fireworks themselves end.

What's next? I am thinking that before too long, the networks will think it too much work to actually film the fireworks and will superimpose them on the digital signal before sending it out to our TV sets. How would we know? Unless we have one person on the ground looking up, and someone else camped in front of a TV, comparing notes, we'd never catch them, right? Hmm. Maybe they are doing it already. After all, China tried it, and there is precedent. For example, I'm pretty sure that for the New York fireworks they aren't beaming the name and composer of the songs onto the New York skyline. No, I'm pretty sure that's a TV edit.

Another really fun part of July 4th is the music. Not only do we have options of hearing bands excellent and crappy in every park in the land, we also take the time to teach our children the songs of patriotism we learned when we were young. (I was going to say, "when we were youngsters," but then I realized I sounded like my own grandfather. Woops.) So, let's look at the old favorite, "Yankee Doodle." The tune is great, the words are arcane, and if I ever did know what it meant, I don't anymore. Obviously Yankee Doodle was a country bumpkin, but no matter how far in the sticks he lived, what on earth possessed him to stick a feather in his hat? Okay, maybe it is a long lost fashion statement. I can see that, but why call anything "macaroni"? This generates a few questions that just beg for answers. First of all, exactly what was Yankee Doodle calling "macaroni"? Grammatically, it should be the hat, but does this make sense to anyone? What did he do, walk up to the townsfolk and say, "Hello good sir. Please know that I have decided to call this cap upon my head, 'Macaroni' and I would ask that you do as well." Umm, huh?

As a child, I always thought (grammar aside), that it was the feather that he called "macaroni," but honestly it makes no more sense to do this. Secretly, I have come to hope that it was really the pony he called Macaroni, because while this is no way evident by the grammar, it would make more sense that he is giving his pony a name, even if it is quite random that he do so in the middle of the song.

I could go on and on. For example, how exactly are we to interpret the first line of the song, "My country 'tis of thee ...."? Just think about it. Does this make sense? Let's break it down to unabbreviated words. "My country, it is of thee, sweet land of liberty, TO thee I sing." Umm, "to" thee I sing? Are we singing of thee, my country, or to thee, my country? I'm so confused.

But last, and certainly not least, let's talk about John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. It is most certainly a stunning and heart stopping song. Who on earth decided to make a parody of it that no one can get out of their heads once they hear it? I remember being a very small child, listening to my mom and her sister sing to me, with their arms bent like wings and flapping like chickens, "Be kind to your web footed friends, 'cause a duck maybe somebody's mother. Be kind to the man of the swamp, 'cause he's a dilly through and through. If you think that this is the end, well you're wrong 'cause there is still another chorus ...." (The worst is that this is all I remember, but remember it I do ... in the shower, when singing idly to my son, whenever I hear the song.)

Thanks, Mom. Thanks Aunty.


Death by Magazine

>> Friday, July 3, 2009

Today has been a singularly uninspiring day. So, my question of the day is simple. How on earth did I get so many magazines? When I take a survey that asks what magazines I subscribe to and read regularly, I always answer, "None." I subscribe to nothing. I'm totally serious about this. Yet, somehow, I have about 2 feet of unread periodicals sitting in my bathroom. (Well, they were in my bathroom, and now they are spread out over my kitchen floor for the toddler to slide on.)

I am one of those people that has a really, really, really, really hard time throwing any sort of reading material away if I haven't read it cover to cover. I don't really care if I think a book will be horrible, because it might not be. I have to read it to find out. As a result of this, I have three or four books I've been "stuck in" for about 2 years. Trust me, they are dreadful, but there is this little hope that they might improve ... just a little bit?

Just the other day some PAC guy was handing out reading material at a local stop sign, and I let him hand me his wares. They were two magazines about the dangers of our modern system and how the savior is Lyndon LaRouche. I will admit that I even tried to read those. That was the end of my endurance, though. There is a limit to even my tolerance for name calling and comparisons of current political leaders of both parties to Hitler and other historically evil characters. I used the pages of the magazines to clean up the spilled formula in the car and tossed them in the next trash can.

None of this answers my question, though. How does a woman who subscribes to no periodicals end up with two feet of magazines in her bathroom? OK, it answers part of it. I'm silly enough to accept free publications from every punk on the street who hands me one, and once I have them, they seldom leave.

I think the rest of the story is that every society, group, organization, club, playgroup, mailing list, family reunion, and casual meetings of friends for lunch has its own monthly newsletter or quarterly update. I went out for coffee this morning with a former colleague (and my toddler), and I will be circulating to him the layout of our bi-monthly mailing later this month.

Take my law school, for example. They send me two periodicals, and the University to which they are a part sends me two. My undergraduate is bigger, so the number of publications I can expect is bigger as well. I get a newsletter from my college, from another college that houses a club I once joined, from the University itself, and at least two from various athletic groups whose tickets I bought. There is similar deluge from the various bar associations that I ever in my tenure as a lawyer joined, called, emailed, or whose state I drove through. I find it of some note that at least 1/3 of all these scholarly and professional individual issues contain articles about the need for greening our lives. Hmmm.

Well, I suppose there is some sort of tort liability for me spreading them on the floor for surfing lessons. I have managed to throw five of them away today. The rest ... we'll have to see about that.

Happy reading.


Chaos Footprint

>> Thursday, July 2, 2009

We have got to do something about this internet! I may be somewhat more productive without it, but there is a lot of running back and forth – can I log in now? How about now? What about now? How long will the connection last? All these questions are giving me a nervous tick. On a quick side note, I just had to tell the toddler that Daddy and Mommy keep going downstairs to the basement to, “fix the internet.” Then, for some crazy, coffee deprived reason, I told him the internet lives in the basement. If he ends up with some irrational fear of basements when he gets older, I guess I’ll know why. Why do we say such things to our children?

Anyway, we all have been instructed and cautioned about the risks of our “carbon footprint” on this planet. I have a friend in Ohio who is working on reducing her “storage footprint” and is getting rid of a lot of things. On Day 5 of very limited internet capability, my brain is spinning again, and this idea of a “footprint” for this or that has got me thinking about the forces of the universe and something I have decided to call the “chaos footprint.”

Despite whether we choose to join the dark side of Entropy and Chaos or the light side of Order and Organization, I think we all have some form of chaos footprint that can leave greater or lesser degrees of headaches and exhaustion in our wake.

Take us, for example. Despite my one woman crusade against the forces of Entropy and Chaos, using the forces of Order and Organization, our chaos footprint is quite large. Even before we had children, the news was not good. Darling Husband and I would pack for a weekend visit to my mother’s house, and within seconds of us arriving, the suitcases would explode all over the bedroom and our things would be strewn from room to room. It really took a shockingly short amount of time for this strange phenomenon to happen. Hotel rooms were somewhat better, but only because there was a limited amount of space in which to leave our mark. At some point, the density of the clutter would cause strange grumblings, a lot of tripping over shoes, and even some raw nerves and quick tempers, causing us to marshal our strength to fight back and tidy up.

It goes almost without saying that small children have a fairly large chaos footprint. Even those inclined toward neatness are inspired to a great degree of general chaos, which is why mankind invented nurseries in church. If you need proof of this phenomenon, picture your nearest toddler when, for whatever good and beneficial reason, the chairs of his dining room are out of place. It wouldn’t matter if you were cleaning them, cleaning the floor, selling them, or using them to hold the French doors closed – they are OUT OF PLACE AND MUST GO BACK AT ALL COSTS, IMMEDIATELY IF NOT SOONER. Chaos ensues.

I believe I have discovered, though, that the forces of Entropy and Chaos are operating in our society through secret unknown agents in “Manchurian Candidate” fashion. I am watching Darling Husband closely, because I think he is one of those Manchurian Candidates. This scenario currently makes the most sense to explain our household. Here are a few things that make me suspect DH as a Manchurian Candidate. A few days ago I asked him to go get a wrapped birthday present out of the closet to give to a houseguest. He willingly went to get the present and returned with it. Later on, I learned that in order to get the box out of the closet, he needed to remove the vacuum cleaner. Ok, that makes sense. For some reason, though, he carefully closed the closet door but left the vacuum cleaner out. Why? I asked him, but he didn’t seem to know. Things like this happen all the time, and each time, he doesn’t know. To make matters worse, in the interests of “saving time,” he has begun putting things on my side of the garage again, and the car no longer fits….

I guess I should be flattered that my crusade is so effective that Entropy and Chaos feel the need to put one of their brainwashed agents within the walls of my home, but it sure makes things challenging.

I would think about fighting back in the garage today, but of course, the rain is once again falling. I wonder how that fits into this great battle? If the internet remains disrupted, I’m sure I’ll have a theory by the end of the week.


Life in the Rainforest

>> Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Life is gradually changing with the weather here in Virginia. I’m gradually getting used to living in the rain forest, what with the dishes molding in the dishwasher and the water fowl breeding in the backyard.

For the past few days I have been working on weeding the front bushes and flower beds, and I am learning the perks, and drawbacks, of life in the rain forest. On the one hand, the weeds were a whole lot easier to pull this year. I’m sure it isn’t because I’m older and wiser. After all, before I became a SAHM, I wasn’t weeding the flower beds … I was weeding the legal documents instead. I haven’t weeded my own flower bed in years. Remarkably, it was a whole lot easier than I ever remembered. I’m sure it is the rain, rain, rain that has been following me around. I managed to pull all the weeds in the beds in three short stints. The first one was about half an hour, the second one was cut short by a dirty diaper, and the third one was about an hour, with some breaks for bubble blowing in between. I swear that the last time I weeded that same flower bed, I wasn’t hardly around the first bush in such time. Even better, the weeds came out so easily that my fingernails hardly got dirty! Sure the kudzu is taking over the back fence in record time – never before seen this far north, but man do the weeds come out easily!

The other difference I noticed as the rain has fallen is the number of insects and worms right on top of the soil. I’ve never seen so many. I don’t know when they had a chance to move in, but move in they have. There are literally dozens of tiny creatures in every teaspoon of soil, and with the wild strawberries come the worms in record numbers.

I actually wondered whether I should go and show the worms to the toddler and get it over with or wait until he gets big enough to bring them to me himself. Tough choice. Hopefully he will actually bring them to me and not leave them for me in his pockets, but we’ll see.

I wonder how far this heat and rain will go. When I was in law school, one of my neighbors was an LL.M. student from Malaysia, and she told me how carefully they had to store VHS tapes in Malaysia so they wouldn’t mold and rot. Thank goodness we’ve progressed to DVDs now. Progress gives is some small favors, right?


Writer's Block and Sales Pitch

Whenever I am far away from a computer, pen, or paper, I have tremendous ideas for this blog. As soon as I sit down at the computer ... nothing. It all flies out the window. Last night I had two super-fantastic entries all planned out just for you, all 13 of my loyal readers. This morning, all of those wonderful ideas have slid back to the mysterious world of inspiration from whence they came. Of course, I can tell you how entertaining and insightful each of these two entries would have been, and you'll just have to take my word for it.

Ah, my 13 loyal readers. There is a local radio station here that always talks about its 13 "Arbitron Rated Listeners." If my internet were working enough for me to actually do a search, I imagine Google would find me some websites that tell me that Arbitron is some form of research and rating system, and I would further imagine that each Arbitron-rated listener represents a certain segment of the population. (Of course, until we manage to purchase -- and successfully install -- a new modem, I will have to limit myself to simply imagining.) Of course, this local radio station made a big deal about it when its Arbitron rating went from 12 to 13. (That happened to us just yesterday, and I really do mean yesterday this time.) Woo hoo!

I have been trying to figure out what to call my loyal readers. Obviously you can't be Arbitron-rated. It sounds really odd to call you the 13 "self-identified blog-followers." True, perhaps, but odd. So, I was thinking we should call you the "SIBF-Rated Readers." What do you think? Of course, the radio station has a separate loyal listeners club with cool prizes and contests, but I'm only one person and you can't expect too much. (Well, you can expect ... but be prepared for disappointment.) But, if you want to be one of the special SIBF-Rated Readers, just click the "Follow" button to the right of this blog and join our very special group.

Now for a brief bit of seriousness ... and answers to some questions. Yes, I will be adding pictures and other enhancements to this website soon after I get my internet working appropriately, and I will be establishing an email address for you to complain to me about my content. (Of course, all compliments and rave reviews should be made publicly in the Comments section of each entry.) If you haven't noticed yet, I am anticipating publishing a new blog entry each Monday through Friday at 7AM east coast time. Of course, just like Dear Abby, I will from time to time have to take a day off.

And, to make up for you having to read all this serious stuff, there will be another entry posted later today, at 2PM.

Thank you for your attention. At 2PM today we will resume our regularly scheduled programming.


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