Brace Yourselves

>> Monday, August 31, 2009

Football season is upon us. This coming week is the days I've been waiting for. This coming Thursday kicks off football season. I know, I know, we have been suffering through NFL preseason scrimmages and other junk for a month now, but this Thursday kicks off College Football!!!!! YAY!!!!!

I decided that for those of you who don't know me personally, I owe you some fair warnings. First, there will be football in this blog. I can't help it, football is in my blood. Second, there will be disparaging remarks made about Ohio State, Michigan, and Bobby Bowden. Third, and most important, this household contains rabid Penn State fans. We own lots of blue and white, and we do think Joe Paterno is as good as it gets. He may be 80 something, but he can whip your butt, and that takes grit. Last, we like the Aflac duck, and we do not pretend to be balanced in our commentary on various teams. Nope. Very biased here.

Okay, now that we've got that straight, I hope there will be no huge shocks for anyone. For those of you that are not football fans, I have to say it isn't really all that hard to learn. Kids are not born with this in their blood. They are taught, and with the proper amount of motivation, anyone can become an avid watcher and love it.

Let's take my sisters and me, for example. Two of us love football. One of us tolerates it. All three of us know an awful lot about it. Two of us have been told over the years that we know more football than "any other woman I have ever met." One of us knows almost as much, but chooses to say nothing. Trust me, she knows.

So how is it that all three of us came to know so much about the sport? I'll admit, a lot of our analysis came from our mom -- she knew her stuff in her day, before Ohio State got an inflated ego and she began to mistakenly think they would win every game all the time. Isn't it funny how fan loyalty can screw up your sense of perspective? (Not that I know anything at all about that ... no ... not at all.) The real truth is that Dad made us this way. I don't imagine he set out to do this. In fact, I'm pretty sure that our growth in the land of football-fandom was a complete accident -- an added benefit that came from Dad satisfying his own Saturday football lust.

He had a pretty iron clad plan, though. Pay attention fathers. You, too, can make football gurus out of your daughters. Here is how my dad did it. First, you need to understand that my dad was a little bit (read: a whole lot) of a workaholic. Every Saturday while the weather was good enough to survive, there was work to be done outside. There was car washing, lawn mowing, leaf raking, bush trimming, picking up those nasty bush trimmings, edging the sidewalk, the garden, and the driveway, putting on new blacktop (yes, we did that ourselves), shoveling snow, chopping wood, picking berries ... oh, you'd think we lived on 5 acres of rural woodland instead of half an acre in suburbia.

But, even workaholic Dad had a weakness -- Ohio State football. Not even the ever pressing "yard work" could take precedence over Ohio State football. Dad was fair, though. Strict, but fair. He gave us a choice. We could stay outside and keep working, or we could come inside and watch the game with him. Those were our only choices. Just imagine for one second how fast three girls become football watchers when those are your choices. Manual labor, or watching football with Dad. Seriously, what would you do? After my oldest sister moved out, things got even sweeter. We could watch OSU AND PSU, even when they weren't playing each other. Now, if you are stuck in a room where the only things to do are watch football or die of boredom, you become a fan in self defense. After all, fall is a long, long season if third and long isn't exhilarating to you.

I'll admit I can't often see a pass interference penalty unless the wide receiver is flat on the ground and the corner is on top of him while the ball is dropping next to them, but I can groan with the best of fans, and I can see a sack coming a mile away. My abilities may be due, in part, to all the years watching Penn State (aka, Linebacker U) and the Eagles (Offense wins games, but Defense wins championships). This means that when we are on defense, the ball was definitely uncatchable, and there is no such thing as interference. It isn't that I didn't see it, it's that it didn't happen.

But, more on this later. Our good boys in Blue and White are ranked 8th in the preseason, so things could be interesting. Wait. What am I saying? PSU football is ALWAYS interesting. Trust me. I even watch the draft.

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The Secret to Improved Productivity

>> Friday, August 28, 2009

Ever since we got a special August membership to a local swimming pool, I have discovered how to be productive. No wonder I couldn't manage it before. I was going about it all backwards. Productivity is really counterintuitive, but I've got the hang of it now. See, if I had nothing specific I had to do in a general day, I had no deadline to do it, so I got around to it when I got around to it. Laundry would take all day, and I'd get distracted with a million other things I thought needed my attention. Once it took me about 4 hours to finish cleaning an entire floor because I kept interrupting myself.

Oddly enough, lots changed when we got the pool membership. First of all, I'm cheap. I'm not paying for any membership if we aren't going to USE it. I have the cost of the membership broken out into how much it costs for every day in the month of August, and darn it we WILL GET OUR MONEY'S WORTH if I have anything to do about it. So long as we are in town, it isn't raining, and the temperature is above 84, we will go to the pool.

Of course, going to the pool smacks of relaxation and vacation, and all things lazy. But, anyone who goes to the pool with a 2 year old knows there is nothing relaxing and lazy about it, but still, it feels like decadence. Instead of being inside an office, freezing under an air conditoning vent, I'm outside in the sun. Even better, I'm not worried the phone will ring or there will be an important email I'm missing. In fact, these pool trips are more like a vacation than any vacation I've had since my honeymoon. (Of course, I am glossing over all the nasty parts, like trying to figure out how to change one of those swim diapers, fishing the food out of Toddler's mouth before he jumps into the pool, trying not to think about what all might be in the baby pool, wading through the water at the end of the trip trying to find all the toys we brought with us ... etc. Despite all this, the sunshine and the only goal being to have fun is pure heaven.)

The problem is, I know this is decadence. You can tell me it is good for me, and good for Toddler, and all that, but I KNOW this is a guilty pleasure. After all, I spent 10 years missing the privilege. So, since a good pool trip doesn't end until right before supper, we have to get all the day's work done BEFORE we go or the trip is tainted. That means I have only the morning to get done what I used to do in an entire day. Take this morning for example -- I descaled the coffee pot (yes, again), we went to the post office, the library, and the grocery store, and got Toddler a nap, all before arriving at the pool at 1-ish. Of course, we had to take time out at the pool to feed Toddler, but he didn't care, and so long as we were out in the sunshine with the nice pool water just waiting for us, neither did I. Tomorrow I will finish the laundry, weed the flower bed, and do something else I haven't figured out yet, all before going to the pool. I know I will because I do it every day now, I love the pool so much.

(I love it so much usually Toddler is the one putting on his own shoes and saying, "Home, Mommy," long before I am even close to wanting to leave. If I'm not careful, my thin disguise as a responsible adult will be undone with this pool venture.)

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Descale, Descale, Descale

>> Thursday, August 27, 2009

Before I start today's story, I need to say that I have found it difficult to write today's post. Don't get me wrong, it isn't that I don't have anything to say, but rather this: When Toddler says, "Oh, no," I would be wise to look up faster from my blogging. I would save a lot of time cleaning up that way.

My newest battle with the forces of Entropy and Chaos is being fought over the coffeepot. Yep. The coffeepot. With the persistence that my combatants are fighting, you'd think the world ran on coffee. Well, maybe it does, but I, thankfully, have a "it tastes good, but I don't need the calories" addiction -- meaning I can restrain myself without too much effort. (Don't TOUCH that Diet Pepsi, though. Don't even touch it. Mine.)

I have one of those wonderful one cup machines that serves any flavor I happen to have bought. I have to admit, the different flavors are a ton of fun. Being able to smell the Pumpkin Spice in November, or all of the different ones with caramel in them ... I almost enjoy that smell more than the coffee. On the day before my colonoscopy, I drank black flavored coffee. On the morning of my colonoscopy, I just smelled it, and smelled it ... the sensation almost (almost) made me forget why I wasn't able to drink the coffee. (Of course, after the test, we had a Big Mac, some fries ....)

My coffee pot (which I love), has little lights on the top telling me what is going on and what the machine needs from me. There is a little blue light when the machine needs more water, and a little red light to tell me to be patient because the water is heating. Near the very top, though, there was a silent little button that never glowed. It read, "Descale." Now this little button/light didn't pester me, and I didn't think anything about it. I figured it would go ahead and light up or something to let me know if or when I was needed.

One day, after about 3 years or more, the light came on. The light was an ominous red color. Hmm. "Descale." I don't even know what that means. I decided to make a cup of coffee anyway, and the machine worked, so I figured I had time to think about this. I probably didn't have time to find the manual because I don't know that I ever even HAD a manual, much less read one. If we had it, only God himself could tell me where it was. So, I casually mention it to one or two of my friends and fam. This is what they said:

"Descale -- isn't that where you soak the parts in vinegar?" "Descale? Well, do you have vinegar?" "Descale ... I think that is what you do when you clean things with vinegar to get all the yucky crusties off." So ... you all know this? Where have I been that I don't know you can clean with vinegar, much less that doing so is called "descaling?" Here I am thinking that vinegar is good for making easter eggs and taking pet odors out of rugs. (Well, I guess that is a form of cleaning, isn't it? Good point.)

Just a day or so later, my sister calls. "Guess what! My coffee pot's 'descale' light went off. I found out I wasn't supposed to be waiting for the light, and I was supposed to be descaling it periodically every so often. My coffeepot is ruined, and I need to go buy another." Umm ... really? So I said, "Yeah, my light just turned on, too. How do you descale?" She replied, "You run vinegar through it. There is this whole little process, and it takes a few hours. You can Google it. I'll try to send you the link sometime. By the way, your pot is probably ruined too."

Really? It seems to be working just fine .... Remember when I told you that coffee was a take-it-or-leave-it thing in this house? Well, in her house coffee is a major event and a broken pot is a real crisis. She just told me that, in her world, she thought my house was shortly going to be falling apart. I'm thinking, "That's a stinky way to make a coffee pot! Do what it tells you to do, when it tells you to do it, and you BREAK it?"

So, I Google the process, and there it is. Pour vinegar in the water trap, run it through, let it sit for four hours (4 hours???), run water through, and go on with your life. Of course, I have next to no vinegar in the house. I wasn't planning on making Easter eggs for another 7 or so months. I had a little, though -- about a coffee cup's worth. I made it work. Instead of filling the water trap with vinegar, I poured in what I had, ran it through the machine, poured it back, ran it through ... over and over and over. Oddly enough, when the first bit of vinegar ran through the machine, the menacing red light went out. Was that all it took? Was the crisis averted? I followed through with the process, rinsed, rinsed, rinsed, and all seemed to be well.

About a month later, the light comes back on. "Descale." Again? Ok, I will. This time, though, I didn't rinse well enough, and when I finally made a cup of coffee, the cream curdled. Oh, yuck. What a waste of a good cup of coffee. Actually, no matter what I do, the first cup after descaling is a bit rough, but some are worse than others.

Then, about 3 weeks later, the light comes on again. Really? Again? So soon? Is this pattern what was supposed to happen all along, or is this what Darling Sister meant by "broken?" Am I really not getting it clean, and eventually the thing will freeze up? I guess we'll have to see, but I'm not giving in until the coffee actually stops flowing. A mere threat is not enough for me. I can descale with the best of them. In fact, when I was wiping the countertops this morning, I found a lot of crud on the can opener. I was looking at it and said to myself, "Should I have been 'descaling' this all along, too?" We'll see. I bought the vinegar in the gallon size this time. I'm prepared.

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Old Fashioned and Apparently Cursed

>> Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Many times upon a time, a long, long time ago, I used to sit and watch my mother scrub our kitchen floor on her hands and knees. Well, let's be truthful ... she was on her posterior because my mom has bad knees, and she was never on her knees for more than the time it took to say "Ouch." But, scrubbing a floor on your hands and knees sounds a bit more noble (and likely) then saying, "scrubbing the floor while sitting on it indian style and sliding across it on your bum." (Oh, and this was the 70's so we were still allowed to say "indian style." "Criss-cross applesauce" wasn't invented yet.) Not only did she wipe it up with soap and water, she scratched off all the tar stains and other gunk with her fingernails. (Dedication, I tell ya, dedication.)

Then, as a present, the family got together and bought mom a few visits from a cleaning service. She enjoyed the freedom and kept the service up herself for awhile. Cleaning services never, ever, ever scrub floors with anything but a broom, mop, or one of those floor cleaning sponge mops they advertise on TV. Then one day, someone spilled something, and mom bent over to clean it up. One spill led to a revelation that there was some dirt or dust or something, so she cleaned a little further. Before very many minutes had passed, Mom decided that the cleaning service's method stunk, and the floor wasn't clean at all, and she sat down and did the whole thing herself.

Before I go any further, I think I should probably mention that the linoleum on our kitchen floor in that house probably took up a space about 8 feet by 8 feet.

So, that was the end of the cleaning service. When I grew up and got a kitchen of my own, I was never so determined, or patient enough, to scrub a floor on my hands and knees. Heck, I was lucky to actually bother to "scrub" a floor. I owned a squeegie mop and that was it. Sometimes I used it ... most of the time I was too busy to remember where the kitchen was.

Then, the world changed. I decided to have a baby, so we needed to start using the kitchen. Feeding any child on carpet is a dangerous activity. Then someone had to clean up under Toddler's high chair, and no squeegie mop is going to get all those crumbs, no sir, no how. So, it all started with me, a paper towel, some water, and some post-meal high chair cleaning. At that moment I realized how much fuzziness and cat hair becomes visible from the view of 6 inches when it is decidedly invisible at the view of 5+ feet. Still, the floor relied on brooms and mops -- none of this hand cleaning stuff. Then Toddler learned to eat table foods, and cleaning under the high chair became a daily activity. I was annoyed by this because I felt like no one else was cleaning up the floor -- just me, every morning, as part of my routine. Then DH mentioned that he was wiping the floor ... on occasion ... after meals. I didn't believe him, so I decided to test the theory. I wiped the floor under the high chair after every meal, three times a day, just to prove a point.

Well, I proved a point all right. I proved that dirt, dust, and cat hair grow under high chairs at an alarming rate. They seem to follow the food particles. Then the blinders came off, and I looked at the entire floor from the 6 inch level, and I cringed. Mom was right. Nothing beats a good hands and knees scrubbing. So, one day (the day I posted about wanting to be rescued by a fairy godmother), I scrubbed the entire floor and the walls on my hands and knees, using paper towels and clorox scrubbing wipes. The amount of dirt was scary, scary, scary. Even scarier, though, was that two days later every bit of it was back.

Sad to say, I became fixated, and I wipe up that floor from one end to the other at least every other day, sometimes more often. It has become a new kind of sick addiction, and when I don't do it I can imagine I feel particles under my feet while I type these blogs. Now, I don't do the kind of scrubbing I did that first day, but I feel like if I keep up with the wiping, then every so often a good squeegy-ing will do the trick to help keep it nice and fresh.

So here I am, feeling a sense of accomplishment. I've given up my life on the dark side, at least as far as the kitchen floor is concerned, and I've returned to my mother's tried and true method of cleaning. Mom was right all along, and her way is the only and best way to keep a house clean. I thought briefly that maybe this was a little bit much given that I seem to have one and a half times as much floor as she did, maybe twice as much, but all to a good end, right?

Last week I visited with her and mentioned that I'd started wiping (not scrubbing, wiping) the kitchen floor every day on my hands and knees.

You know what she said?

"Oh, isn't that awful? Why do you do that?"

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Bugs that Bug and the Tale of the Lost Sunglasses

>> Tuesday, August 25, 2009

As it turns out, Houdini's fight with himself yesterday morning was a small omen about the day. He was warning me that some things are really too bothersome to ignore. I'm not sure what good the warning did me, even if I had understood him, but it was true. As it turns out, a cloud of gnats in Toddler's face is about as bothersome to him as a super-itchy ear is to Houdini.

We went to story and music time in the town square yesterday, like we have done often enough before. Toddler is bored with the stories, but he sure looooovvvveeess the music. Yesterday, though, he couldn't even be patient through the stories because these little nasty gnats just kept flying around our faces, and they were driving him crazy! He was swatting at his face and crying into my clothing and begging me to let him go back to the car. I knew as soon as the music came on, things would be fine, so I spent the next 15 minutes trying to find a place with few enough gnats to give him a chance to wait it out. The best help was letting Toddler walk around with my sunglasses on so the nasty little things couldn't get too close to his eyes.

This whole "gnat" thing would have been so much easier if we had Toddler's sunglasses with us, but alas, those lovely things have been lost. Yep. Lost. We took them to Hersheypark last weekend, and I, in my infinite wisdom, took them from Toddler and put them in my pocket so that he wouldn't lose them on the Scrambler ride. Well, guess who lost them. We reported them to the Lost and Found, and we received wonderful news! They were found, and the park mailed them back to us. Whew!!!!! There was rejoicing in the house. But ... the rejoicing was premature. The sunglasses they found were not ours, and we learned that as soon as we opened the package from the park. If anything, these sunglasses are even less attractive than the ones Toddler found for himself in Nevada. Well, for one thing, they are for a girl. Yep -- white sunglasses with little flowers on them.

On our errands today, we will be stopping at CVS to see if the Mickey Mouse sunglasses have more appeal than they used to for Toddler. I sure hope so. I have a funny feeling those Nevada glasses are gone for good. They didn't like me making fun of them, I suppose, and that is unfortunate because they really did fit unusually well.

Oh, well. Maybe as soon as we buy some new ones, these will show up caught in the folds of the stroller or something. That would be my luck for sure, even though it hasn't worked yet for my GPS.

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One of "Those" Days

>> Monday, August 24, 2009

Before the alarm clock even sounded this morning, Darling Husband and I had already looked at each other and said, “I hope this morning isn’t an omen of how the day will go.” Man, oh man, I hope not.

The day actually started at 5:30, when Toddler decided to get up. This early wake up usually means he is about to fill his diapers, and since we have no other advance notice from him, early morning means potty training. Sheesh. Thank you, Universe, for giving a woman who hates mornings a child with a very early morning constitution. Love you too, man (or woman) (or non-gender-specific entity).

Shortly after we got Toddler all changed and back to bed, the cats started fussing. I swear, I have the weirdest cats on the planet. First, Girl Cat chased Houdini onto the bed. There is nothing quite like having the cats race around in the morning staging the Kittyopolous 500. At least with racing, the trips on the bed are short and too the point. With arguments, though, comes the combined weight of 22 pounds thundering on the bed … Girl Cat on the attack, with Houdini running to mom and dad for HELP! HELP! HELLLLPPPPP!!!!!

Don’t worry, cats, we were already awake.

But then, just to keep the drama going, Houdini picked a fight with himself.

Yes, you read that right. The cat picked a fight with himself. No, I’m not talking about that trick where they chase their tails and get upset when they actually catch it. Nope. This is something altogether funnier. Lots of cats find it very irritating to have anything touch the inside of their ears. They’ll scratch the ears with their back paws or at least think about starting to. (You’ll see the paw go up and the head go down, but they sometimes restrain themselves.)

Well, Houdini can never do anything quite like a typical cat, as we have well learned. His compulsion to scratch his ears when something touches his ears is quite acute, and it includes when HE touches his own ear. Yes, when Houdini has a super-itchy ear, he starts a feedback loop where he scratches his ear because it itches, then he scratches his ear because something is touching his ear. Well apparently this morning that left ear was so darn itchy that he couldn’t control himself. He kept scratching, then getting “stuck” to the point where he couldn’t stop scratching, scratched even more frantically, and finally ended up growling at himself. This happened at least 3 times – mostly with Houdini flipping around at the foot of the bed trying to get away from himself so he could scratch his ear.

Well after 3 tries at this, DH and I decided there was no help for it. Toddler got us up first, and now we were going to get up again to clean out a cat’s ear for him. Yeesh, the things I do to catch a little shut eye!

Thankfully, after a lot of kicking on Houdini’s part (I was touching his ear, you know), he started to feel better and got a hold of himself. We all went back to bed for 5 minutes and then started the day on time.

Like DH and I said to each other this morning, I hope this isn’t an omen for the day.

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Smart Technology Breeds Dumb People (or People Who Do Dumb Things)

>> Friday, August 21, 2009

So, in my last post I lamented the trials and tribulations of my dependency on a fickle and unreliable internet. As of this writing, the problem is not yet fixed. Nonetheless, today we return to our regularly scheduled programming, where I will continue my lamentations about our society’s growing dependency on portable technology in the car.

As you may recall, two postings ago, I described to you the odd behavior of my new GPS, particularly the part where it suddenly demanded that I make a legal u-turn after I had been driving for several blocks on the road it told me to drive on. I described my utter confusion at the verbal instructions and reprimands the machine was giving me. What I did not tell you was that I broke the rules of good driving and took a few glances at the GPS as I was getting these conflicting messages -- just a few quick sneaks at traffic lights. I do think if I had been able to look at the screen in detail, I might have seen that the machine failed to inform me of a turn that would have made the route a little shorter and straighter. But, the truth is, I almost never look at the screen of a GPS unless I'm being a backstreet driver. I figure if the thing can't tell me in words where to turn, it isn't worth the money someone paid for it. (Thank you, Aunt Marcy.) Driving in the middle of downtown Washington, DC is sometimes enough like playing a game of dodge-the-cars-and-pedestrians as it is without trying to do it while staring at a screen. After all, DC has a law against using cell phones in a car without also using a handsfree interface, and this GPS thing is way worse than my cell phone. (Don’t even get me started on how hard it is sometimes to make the hands free part work and how many buttons you have to push sometimes to start it – it might be faster to just dial the silly number….. but I digress. That is a rant for another day.)

Honestly, I just don’t understand drivers that spend time looking at GPS screens when they drive. I imagine those who do are the same ones that look at their Blackberry or I-Phone while they drive, too. To me, it seems like common sense that if you wouldn’t read a book while driving, you shouldn’t be typing with your thumbs or reading your email either, but obviously not everyone agrees. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time that someone didn’t agree with something I thought was obvious.

My first clue that there were otherwise very bright and highly educated people checking their email on the freeway came several years ago at a company meeting. The head of our company mentioned, among other announcements, that it was company policy to refrain from checking your Blackberry while driving. Ummm … duh? Honestly, I could hardly believe that the man had said such a thing. Seriously, there was a meeting among higher ups where they actually sat down and had an agreement to add “don’t read your Blackberry while driving” to the formal company policy? Wow, what a colossal waste of time.

Alas, I was na├»ve. I never truly imagined that anyone with the education and intelligence enough to be hired by that company to a position that required a Blackberry would actually try to use it while driving. Boy, was I wrong. I don’t know how widespread the problem was, but the woman down the hall was a prime offender. I knew her reasonably well – she was small, tough, and afraid of nothing in the world I knew of but getting lost while driving. I don’t know if she is still typing on her smart phone while driving, but if she has a GPS, I’m willing to bet she’s looking at that while driving.

I guess to each his own … just don’t be heading my way with your eyes in your hands.

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Frustration! Frustration!

>> Thursday, August 20, 2009

I am suffering from massive internet failure!!!!!! I know you are reading this online, but I’m writing it offline because my internet is playing nasty, cruel tricks on me again. Oddly enough, right now it is only working first thing in the morning, before we run out for our errands, and by the time we come home, the darn thing is pretending not to get a signal from the cable. (Of course, the cable company claims it isn’t *their* fault …. And I suppose no one cares that the modem is brand new….)

Now, why is this internet failure an especially cruel, cruel trick? Well putting aside the fact that I don’t actually own a copy of Bejeweled Twist and have to play it online, and also putting aside my Facebook withdrawal, I still have to object to the timing of this modem. Mornings? The thing works in the morning? Really? I’m supposed to sit down and blog in the mornings? I mean, just because I schedule the posts to publish at 7 AM does in no way mean that I am actually competent enough to string a written sentence together at that time of day. No sir, no way. Besides, even if I could string together two sentences, there is the Toddler factor. Things that are important happen during nap time, not during “crawling on my lap” time. This timing is just plain nasty, and I won’t go there. Nope. I’ll type my blog later in the day and cut and paste it when I can get a signal.

See, there is a solution to most everything. If all else fails, we’ll be switching to a new internet service provider. The real problem, though, is the email addresses. We’ll need to clean them out, and we’ve had them since we moved into the house in the spring of 2002. I think half the stores in America are sending us their e-news letter, as well as every organization we belong to that doesn’t send out paper mail. I could just let it all go and start fresh, but I know I’ll regret that the next time I can’t remember a password for an online account and it emails all the hints to my old address.

This could take some time, I’m thinking.

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Silly Machines. Darn Murphy Anyway.

>> Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Note -- this post accidentally published on August 7, out of order. If you begin reading it and find out you have already read it, I apologize, but because of the references to "yesterday's post" contained in this entry, I am re-publishing it in the correct order. Also, if you have previously read the post below, please be sure to check back to August 7 and see if you missed the introduction to Houdini the Cat, which also published that day.


So after I published yesterday's post, I got to thinking that I had missed making a really important point. I had meant to ask you guys what you thought the odds were that the old GPS would show up, now that we finally have a new one. What do you think, a week? A month?

I'm sure it will show up eventually. Things like this often do. (I'm still not comfortable with that "stolen" theory.) Remember waaaaayyy back in the beginning of this blog (see post in May entitled, "No, Seriously.... Why?") when I described those sippy cups I bought that had a bunch of cups, a bunch of straws, and exactly one lid? Well, the day finally came. I lost the lid yesterday morning. Actually, I lost an entire cup. I gave it to Toddler in the park, and I thought I brought it home (pretty darn sure), but it was nowhere to be found in the morning. I searched the car, the fridge, the dishwasher, the cabinet ... nothing. Nowhere. So I had no straw cup to give Toddler yesterday.

Since it was raining and the pool was out, we opted for shopping. The first stop was at Target to find more sippy cups. This time I examined the cups closely. It seems I owe a partial apology to the Take and Toss Company for slamming their product for being packaged with only one lid. All of the sets on the shelves had as many lids as cups, just like the spout packages did. I did notice, though, that all but the bottom lid were pretty darn easy to dislodge from the packaging, and if they were ... say ... sitting in a bin on sale at a children's store like when I first found them, I could easily see how all but one of the lids would fall out.

So, Take and Toss manufacturer, I apologize for making fun of you for only including one lid per set of cups. Instead, I would like to make fun of you for not packaging the set sufficiently enough that the lids actually STAY with the cups during ordinary store handling.

Anyway, I digress. We buy the cups, come home, and sure enough, that evening I found the missing cup and lid under Toddler's chair, where he apparently abandoned or stored it. I am willing to bet that if I didn't buy any replacements, we would still be looking for it. So I ask again ... how long before our old GPS shows up now?

Well, whenever it gets here, it will have a home. In the meantime, we are breaking in the new one. (And I do mean breaking in. This is going to take some practice.) I am tentatively proud to say that I made it the whole way to Toddler's appointment in the middle of downtown this morning without making any wrong turn, for the very first time ever. At least, I don't think I made any mistakes. There was this incident, though ..... Basically, the GPS told me to bear to the right, which I did. Everything is fine. It says nothing else, but after several blocks it suddenly says, "Calculating Route. When possible, make a legal u-turn, followed by a hard right." So, basically, I'm going about 90 degrees the wrong way, and as the roads diverge, it will soon become closer to 180 degrees. But wait, I know the hospital is ahead of me. Then, a few seconds later, the GPS says, "Destination ahead on the left." Umm ... huh? I didn't move! Oddly enough, the hospital ended up being two streets over, on my RIGHT, not my left, but I still kept going the way I thought was right, and I made it without any turning around. Success!!!!!

I think the GPS just needs a little practice. I mean, after all, the hospital is a hard place to find. In the next day or so I will tell you a little bit more about the hazards of modern technology use in automobiles, but for today, I am just glad we got there and got home and no one is too much worse for the wear.

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Technical Stuff -- A Necessary but (Mostly) Serious Post

It's that time again -- to talk about technical and serious stuff relating to the blog. I know, I know, this is not what you tuned in for. Take a look, though, because a lot of your questions will be answered. Even better, our regularly scheduled blog entry will be posting at 2:00 PM today to make up for your pain. Here we go.

1. Comments. Some of you have called to my attention that you are not able to make comments to the blog anymore. I have investigated this, and apparently when I changed to the new format and background, something was incompatible with the new format. I have fixed this. You can now go ahead and leave your comments on the blog, and I encourage you to do so. I understand if you don't go back and comment in all the places you would have had this technical problem not occurred, but it sure would be fun for all of us if you did.

Thanks very much to those of you that reachd out to me on Facebook and email to let me know you were having problems. I was thinking you were all just reading this out of charity or something.

2. Following. Some of you have asked me what the purpose is of "Following" a blog, and what do you get out of it? If you sign up to "Follow" a blog, you create a user ID, and it gives you something called a "Dashboard" where you can keep track of all of the blogs you are following in one place. Basically, instead of bookmarking my page directly, you log into Blogger, and it tells you on that page which of the blogs you are following has a new update and lets you link right to it. If you follow multiple blogs, I highly recommend it.

On the flip side, if you only read this blog, then I'm the only one who gets something out of it. What I get is the satisfaction of knowing you find my blog enjoyable enough that you want to read it regularly. I will then include you as part of my SIBF statistics in my periodic jokes about my own popularity, or lack thereof.

3. If I follow your blog, do I have to tell you who I am? No. You can pick your user ID. Also, I'm pretty sure you can also hide your user ID from the public. I don't know how exactly you do this, but one of the followers already seems to have done this, so I think it is possible. (Either that, or someone has the oddest user ID I've ever seen, and it has way more characters than I can possibly remember.) This "anonymous" approach is totally fine with me. I'm just thrilled to know someone wants to follow the blog ... I don't need to know who you are. I might be a little curious from time to time, but I don't need to know. The mystery is half the fun.

4. Will you be linking your blog into Facebook? Umm, maybe. First, I have to figure out how to do that. Second, I need to figure out how to deal with some privacy issues. This blog is open to the public, and my Facebook account is not, and I am not at all sure how those two work together. Maybe one of you who has already linked your blog can chat with me and help me figure it out.

For the health and safety of everyone, I will keep this brief. If you have any more questions, please let me know. If things still aren't working they way you think they should, please let me know. Thanks for reading, and be sure to tune in at 2:00 today for another post.

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Technology is as Flawless as People

>> Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Well, we did it. We finally broke down and replaced the GPS that the Borrowers ran off with months ago. Actually, to be fair, we didn't replace it, some good soul decided to spot me one as an early birthday present. (Whew!) We had just managed to borrow one ourselves (the legal kind of borrow, where the owner knows about it and you intend to give it back). Toddler has a doctor's appointment tomorrow at the medical facility in the middle of downtown where I can NEVER find it without making at least one wrong turn along the way. If I ever want to make it on time, I need some mechanical device telling me when I screwed up and how to fix it.

My dear aunt bought me the same brand of GPS we used to have, so that was a relief. Every one of those things works differently. Some tell you what street name you are supposed to turn on and leave it up to you to figure out how far ahead it is. Some of them tell you how many yards away your turn is. (Can you estimate your travelling yardage at 35 MPH?) Ours never told us the name of the street (unless we looked at it), but it did "ding" every time we were supposed to turn. (Well, to be candid, it dings almost every time.) So the good news is I don't have to learn a new way of interacting with my GPS-crutch. I can smoothly progess into yelling at this one as easily as I did the last one. Whew! (Well, there will probably be one difference. My mom named the last one Jane. I don't think I'll do that this time.)

For some reason, things went downhill quickly, though. Part of the problems were my fault, and part were the machine's fault. I took the contraption to the car and ran the startup sequence. One of the first questions it asked me was a question I can never answer with any certainty. "Are you in a time zone currently operating on Daylight Savings Time?" Now, don't get me wrong. I know that we change the clocks, and I know that we "spring ahead" and "fall back". I get it. What I don't get is which one is called Daylight Savings Time and which one is called Standard Time. I don't know if anyone else has this problem, or if I'm the only silly one out here in time zone land. Eventually I get the answer, and I've been right so far, but I have to logic it through every time. I keep telling myself things could be a whole lot worse. My mom can't tell her left from her right. She gives me directions all the time saying, "turn left" while she points to the right. We've long since learned to follow the gesture and ignore the words if we want to arrive on time. I guess we all have our odd quirks that challenge us.

The second GPS hitch still puzzles me. I was trying to find a location in Washington, DC. I had a choice of entering a previous destination (that doesn't help, the machine is brand new), entering a zip code (which I didn't know), entering an intersection (which didn't help) or entering a city. So, I chose city. Logical, right? Now, in a computer, is the city "Washington" or "DC"? Usually the answer is Washington, so I start with that. I type "Washington". Now for those of you who have never looked at a GPS, when you start typing, it limits your letter choices to keep you within a set of parameters it understands. For example, if you want to go to "Cooper Street" and it doesn't have any street by that name in its database, it won't let you spell it. It will only give you the options for the next letter that correspond with streets it does know. When I typed in "Washington," by the time I got to the "n" it was only offering me one letter choice at a time. In other words, the only word the GPS knew that started out "Washi" was "Washington". Nonetheless, I kept spelling it out until the end. I might have put a space at the end of it to see if it would let me keep going to spell "DC" but even if I did, the result was silly.

After I hit "done" the machine showed me all the options for "Washington". They included things like, Washington District, Washington Heights, Washington Navy Yards (Washington DC) but no plain Washington, DC. This was not a choice. Hmm, I think. This is odd. Well, I put it aside, and by the time we got to the store, Toddler was asleep, so I tried again. This time I typed "Washi" and hit "Done". The machine then gave me a whole set of choices I never saw the first time around. It gave me the option to pick Washington, PA, Washington NE, Washington, TX, and on and on in no apparent order, including, thankfully, Washington DC. Whew. At least I would be able to get to the doctor tomorrow, unless it did something silly like not know where the hospital was or the street it was on.

So tell me, what happened? How can the machine show me only cities with "Washington" as part of the name when I spell it out, but if I stop part way, it shows me all the cities called "Washington"? I mean, is that one of the dumbest things you have ever heard, or what?

On the other hand, the GPS we had borrowed told me a major cross street in Alexandria, Virginia didn't exist. I didn't believe the machine because I was driving on the street, but that is what you get when you listen to technology. I guess the saying is true, technology is about as flawless as people.

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Which Path Leads to Perdition?

>> Monday, August 17, 2009

I've been having a struggle this morning. Toddler is involved, but the struggle is really with myself. See, when I was young, my mother always had a set of stock phrases she used whenever I wasn't toeing the line. I always swore up and down, left and right that I would never, ever, EVER say those things to my kids. Actually, I said I would never, ever say them at all, but I broke that about 8 years ago when I got irate with my oldest niece and told her to "do what you're told when you're told to do it." Oh how my tongue burned that day. I still give her grief for driving me to it.

Today I've been turning somersaults to try to find another phrase that does the same thing. So far this morning I've said, "When mommy tells you to do something you don't say 'No.'" I've tried, "You don't say, 'No' when mommy asks you to do something. Instead you just do it." I've tried, "You don't get to say no to mommy." (Then I thought that was a little much since I ask him his opinion a lot, so I quickly abandoned that one.) I tried, "Come here when mommy calls you." These all work, but the problem is none of them are generic enough. They won't work in all circumstances like my mother's stock phrase.

So now I'm starting to doubt myself. Let me explain. Have you ever had one of those, "Why didn't I think of that/see that" epiphany moments that make you wonder whether you were blind or daft? I've had several in the past few days. For example, I was playing a quick computer game, and I couldn't find a valid move. I had to wait for the computer to prompt me, and there was this huge move, right in front of my eyes. How didn't I see it? Was I blind? Something similar happened when I made myself a cup of coffee this morning. I have my "coffee supplies" in three rectangle green vases next to the machine. The vases are three different heights, small, medium, and large. I had the individual coffee K cups in the smallest one, the creamers and powdered cream in the medium one, and the sweeteners were in the largest. I've had them this way for about 2 months. The problem was, the coffee K cups didn't fit in the smallest vase, so I had them stacked alongside it too, and a few were sitting on top of the creamers. This morning I looked at them as I was digging past the K cups to get at the creamers, and it finally dawned on me that this was stupid. I should move the creamers to the small vase and put all (yes all) of the K cups in the medium container. How on earth did I not see that before? Was I daft?

So, with these things being so crazy obvious, I'm wondering if I have made a mistake. Maybe my mother was right all along. Maybe it is just best to use her phrase, "Do what you're told when you're told to do it." Maybe I am just fighting an epiphany.

On the other hand, before I give in, I have to remember to ask her what HER mother said that she refused to ever repeat. I don't remember my grandmother ever telling me to do what I was told, "when I was told to do it." I think she must have had a different line. This theory gives me hope. Maybe I will come up with my own perfect phrase to annoy the crap out of my children. I'm sure I can do it if I try hard enough.

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More On The Four-Footers

>> Friday, August 14, 2009

So the cats and I have been having some chats, and they have reminded me of a few things I should have mentioned about them. (Girl Cat wants me to tell you about the things that make Houdini weird. Houdini just wants you to pet him.)

So, for "peace in our house," I will oblige.

Our cats divide themselves up into groups. There's "the twins" and then there is Houdini. This division is more than just a personality clash. This is Venus meets Mars at the speed dating round. There is nothing in common and only looks to go on.

Let's take the "velcro cat trick" for example. First, there is a typical cat's behavior, which Girl Cat and Big Black Cat embody. When you nudge a cat, it moves ... at least a little bit. If the cat is sleeping on your bed and you wiggle your foot, the cat moves. If you nudge, the cat usually slides off your feet and finds a better place to sleep. No one told Houdini this. If you nudge Houdini, he activates all 10 claws and hangs on for dear life. Trying to get him off a lap is like extraction surgery. God forbid you actually have to stand up quickly if he is on your lap because he is likely to dig in for all he's worth and go vertical with your leg like a velcro cat. There he is, stuck to you. By the time you get him off, there is more than a little blood to go around where human flesh meets cat claws. At least in winter there is the slim protection of long pants, but in the summer there is squat but bare flesh. And don't even try to get him to move in the middle of the night without surgery. The only moving he will do is to take your spot if you leave for any reason, because your spot is warmer. Hopefully, you see him when you get back, or its a cat pillow for you, and Houdini sheds like nobody's business.

Girl Cat, on the other hand, prefers to lie in the dark directly in front of the bathroom door so she can strategically sweep her tail under your foot in the middle of the night, then yell at you loudly to see how high you jump. Big Black Cat doesn't have any clever night tricks. He just purrs a lot, and as he settles down to sleep, he prefers to lick himself all over, every last inch, at least 7 times, while lying on your feet. When a 15 pound cat starts rocking back and forth to get those last few hairs at the base of his tail or on his tummy, believe me, you know it. No sleeping here until he's done. (Call it, Daddy the human bathtub.)

Then we have the vet trips. Big Black Cat and Girl Cat can smell a vet trip a mile away. They do not go quietly into that dark kitty carrier. No, no, they rage against the starting of the car. Trust me. If you can find them, and persuade them to stop holding on to the outside of the carrier with all four paws and their teeth, the yowling starts. They hate the carriers and will not go willingly. No, no, no, no, GET ME OUT OF HERE! That is ... until they get to the vet. Then suddenly the kitty carrier is the nicest piece of real estate for miles, and of course I don't want to get out. Why would I want that? Hey! Put me back!!!!!!!!!!!

Houdini, again, has to be different. He has no issues with the carrier. He has no concerns with the car. As usual, his only concern is when someone will next pet him. Houdini is the only cat I have ever met (or ever expect to meet) who purrs at the vet. Heck, this cat even purrs when he gets his temperature taken. (Don't think about that too much. Nothing good can come of it.) I mean, seriously, this cat will do anything for a pat on the head!

The most confusing thing about this whole "cat trio" is who is really the boss? Girl Cat beats the snot out of Houdini (he literally runs from her, and she literally dive bombs him from the bed.) Houdini isn't afraid to take a swat at Big Black (or vice versa). Whichever one of them is on the high ground is usually going to pick a fight. Big Black Cat beats the fur (literally) from Girl Cat in weekly wrestling matches that don't always seem consensual on Girl Cat's part. (Hard to tell.) Someone gives Big Black Cat some light claw scratches on his head or his chin, but he never seems to complain. (I'm blaming Girl Cat getting her digs in during the wrestling.)

But how is it Houdini isn't afraid to swat at a Big Black Cat who outweighs him but runs in terror from Girl Cat? How is it Girl Cat has this effect on every male cat but Big Black Cat? How is it that Big Black Cat can hate all interlopers but never manage to have them trembling in fear? (They just learn to stand aside and wait their turn at the food dish.)

I guess we'll never know until someone gets me that collar from the movie UP!

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Do Things Like This Happen to Other People?

>> Thursday, August 13, 2009

You know, I find myself in situations sometimes and I ask myself, "Do other people do this, or am I just nuts?" I'm sure there are other people out there as silly and clutzy as me ... but I'm pretty sure I haven't met them.

Let's take my trip to Big Lots yesterday as an example. Toddler and I went in to look for catfood (didn't have what we wanted), and stayed to look around. I found a stack of woman's shorts in my size that looked an awful lot like the same kind of shorts I was wearing that day. The ones I was wearing were a gift from my mother, so I really had no idea what brand they were or where she got them. These looked the same, though. I read the label. Hmm. No insight. So there I was, in the store, craning my head around to look down my spine to see the label in my shorts. When that didn't work, I tried twisting the waistband of my shorts around far enough to read the label. That just gave me painful red marks. This was the point where I wondered if other people ever did this. Do other people turn themselves in circles in a discount store to read the labels of their own clothing? I'd like to think so, but I'm not sure.

So, I was left with a few choice, and none of them seemed to be really good ones. First, I could show the labels to Toddler and see if he could give me a clue. This didn't seem plausible. I could go to the car and perform acrobatics in the seat until I could read the label, but I might get spotted by a passerbye, and I certainly would be exhuasted for the effort and too tired to come back and buy the darn shorts anyway. I could just buy them and hope for the best? Nah. I'd never get around to returning them if I was wrong. There didn't seem to be a store bathroom, so that was out. I could have asked a clerk, but the only ones that seemed to speak English well enough for me to be sure we understood each other were men ... and that just didn't seem like the right answer

So, I left the store, sans any new shorts. I found out after I got home that the ones in Big Lots were actually the right ones, and I should have gotten them. Alas, the store is far away and I can't get there until this weekend. With my luck, the shorts will all be sold out.

On the other hand, we found a nice set of Elmo socks ("MELMO!") for Toddler, so it wasn't all a waste.

Later on, Toddler was playing with his sidewalk chalk, drawing outside while I was weeding the flower bed. Then, for some crazy reason, he decided to chalk on my shorts ... while I was wearing them. I thought he was trying to get my attention. Now I have blue sidewalk chalk on my posterier.

Seriously, does this happen to anyone else?

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Blah

>> Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So, if I told you Toddler got up an hour early, screaming, and for the most part has punctuated every morning activity with a temper tantrum and collapsed by 10:30 in the car for a nap, is that enough of a blog entry for today?

No, I didn't think so.

Okay, how about this -- the coffee pot produced one cup of coffee this morning and then shut down for a periodic de-scale. Cool! The smell of vinegar in the kitchen all day!

Still not enough, eh? Well you are asking a lot from a woman with a screaming, exhausted child when said woman has only had one cup of coffee, but here goes:

After his appointment across town, Toddler and I went shopping. At first, this was great. We had a good time, but apparently I went one store too far. The whole trip ended with me carrying a shrieking Toddler out of the store while the whole place listened to him scream, "MELMO! MELMO! I WA MELMO!!!!!" I don't think Burlington Coat Factory will be inviting us back anytime soon. On the plus side (umm, I think), I learned he also knows who Barney is and who the Little Einsteins are, and he can say both of them. (It sounds funny listening to a two year old try to say, "Einshtein.") I don't know quite how he learned about the purple dinosaur, though. He only saw the show once, and it was probably a year ago. Hmmmm. Someone has been sneaking my kid videos when I wasn't looking. Hmmmm.

I must say, Elmo has grown on me, I suppose as part of my survival instinct. Media calls him the word's most popular three year old. I used to call him the world's most annoying 3 year old (and will someone please tell him to STOP REFERRING TO HIMSELF IN THE THIRD PERSON!) By this point, however, either his charm is growing on me, or I've gone simply numb. Barney is a different story, though. The only Barney thing in this house is the "Clean up, clean up" song, and that is all it will be if I have anything to do with it.

Just to put the final touches on the day, I found out (after lunch, of course) that Hard Times Cafe was giving away free chili dogs today in honor of National Chili Dog Day. For those of you who don't have one near you, how do I explain Hard Times Cafe? Well, it's chili even for those folks who don't like chili. I mean, they have an option of serving it over a bed of Fritos. Enough said!

Yep -- sounds like a hit and miss day ... mostly miss. There was no major damage, though, so I think we'll have to call it a success.

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Why Do We Say It?

>> Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I have a lot of random thoughts in my head tonight -- no cohesive stories. (Sorry!) So I thought I'd take a few moments to share with you some of the things people commonly say that I find a little bit ... silly.

"A.S.A.P." used to be shorthand for "As soon as possible." Apparently we are all too busy to say that now, so we all say "Asap."

When I was working, I used to get a lot of notes about protocol from various HR folks and office managers written as "gentle reminders". Um ... just because you call something "gentle" doesn't mean it is, and does it really help to send a note "gently" reminding people that speaker phones are loud and you should close your door when you use one?

Whenever something painful or bad (but not devastating or life threatening) occurs, why do people assume you want to hear about something worse? For example, when I stepped on a magnetic letter from my kid's collection, why does someone feel the need to say, "If it makes you feel better, legos hurt even worse." Thanks, but seriously, your words did nothing to ease the pain in my instep.

Why do we feel compelled to share all sorts of horrible labor stories with pregnant women? "Oh, you're due in January. My sister has this 72 hour labor ...." I mean, don't you think they have enough on their minds?

Does your guard go up as soon as you hear the words, "Don't take this personally, but ...." And when someone says it, is there usually any way to take it OTHER than personally? It's like saying, "Don't take this personally, but you really smell bad." How else are you supposed to take it? If I am the one who smells bad, what isn't personal about that? (Just to keep my record clear, I don't recall anyone ever telling me I smell bad ... although I've said it to Toddler a few times so I imagine my mother did once or twice when I was very young.)

And then there is the "No offense" comment. I can almost understand it in the case of BO in the prior example, but most of the time this saying is as much garbage as reminding someone "gently," and often masks a hostile intent. The words mean absolutely nothing other than a very transparent excuse to say something you know you shouldn't say without feeling the need to apologize for it afterward.

My all time favorite saying, though, is, "God wouldn't give you these challenges if you weren't so strong." You've got to love this one. Now, I don't intend to insult anyone's faith (and if I have, I'm sorry and "no offense"), but this pat phrase seems silly at best. You are just inviting the person to respond, "So if I were a weaker person, God would have been nicer? Well, bring on the lethargy and the booze then! If this is how God rewards strength, then I'll degenerate quickly. Thank you very much for the tip."

Ahh, yes. After sticking my own foot in my mouth more times than I can count (and more every week) I have drawn this conclusion. The world would be a nicer place if we all counted to 5 and thought carefully before we opened our mouths to speak.

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It's Like the First Day of School All Over Again

>> Monday, August 10, 2009

For the past many weeks I've been avoiding my local grocery store. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, mind you. The poor thing is just located in the wrong county. See, around here, grocery prices can change when you cross the county line. I don't know why that is, but it is. This is why I have been taking advantage of Toddler's weekly appointment in the next county over to do a little cheaper-than-down-the-street shopping. Lots of important things (like baby food) are ten cents an item cheaper, and since I'm out there already, I don't have to worry about whether I've saved enough pennies to make up the cost of the gas in actually driving there and back.

So, each week, we stop for something -- sometimes a lot of somethings, and we come equipped with a cooler on those days. Since its the same store as the one down the street, all our coupons work, as does our shopper card. Add that to the five cents a bag they give me for bringing my own bags and I feel like I'm getting away with something.

Today, I just decided to go back to our local store. I didn't need much. (Famous last words ... I know.) I was debating whether to use my Starbucks gift card at the store itself, or whether I would go to a real Starbucks after Toddler and I were done. It's a good thing I decided to wait because they remodeled and reorganized the entire store. Not only was the Starbucks gone, but the shelves were different, the bins were different, and almost nothing was where it used to be.

I think there are few things that upset a quiet, routine domestic excursion than finding yourself a stranger in your own grocery store. It feels ... a little bit like the first day of high school or something. I mean, no matter how you stray, your home grocery store is just that -- home! You might forget where some things are because you get confused, but you shouldn't ever be wandering down each aisle like you've never seen the place before.

On the one hand, the renovations look nice. The store was due for an upgrade, as it was starting to look out of step from the other stores. On the other hand, it is a little disconcerting to find all the organic foods in the same alcove where I used to shop for flowers and balloons. I'm a little uncomfortable that the wine shelves are the same height as the other shelves (meaning above my head), though. Plus, instead of having the wine shelves facing each other in one aisle, they are back to back in two separate aisles, and for some really strange reason I can't understand, someone thought the popcorn should be in the same aisle with wine and not with the other snacks. I don't get that.

To top it off, I bought one single jar of baby food at the store today and it didn't seem to make it home with me. I hope the woman behind me liked it. It was pea soup and green vegetables.

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Houdini -- Better to be Smart or Stubborn?

>> Friday, August 7, 2009

Houdini has been pestering me recently to write a blog entry (or 2 or 3) about him. He says it isn't fair that Girl Cat and Big Black Cat get all the attention. I keep telling him, "You're such a silly cat, no one will believe me. Everyone will think I am making you up!" He just purrs at me and stares at me with those big "pet me eyes," which I interpret to mean, "What's your point, Mom?"

Houdini used to be an outdoor "wild" cat. He used to wander out in our yard from the time he was about 12 weeks old, the cutest little thing, popping his head up from below the glass door to say, "Hi there!" Clearly he was used to people and had lived with some people who either let him roam or kicked him out. It was hard to say which, but eventually it became clear that if he ever had a home, he wasn't going back. We had two semi-wild cats of our own living outdoors and he was trying to join their colony. (They needed a home, and we needed some mice protection, so it was a match made in heaven.)

When he got older, we captured him as part of our local TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) program to reduce the wild cat population. We knew he wasn't perfectly wild, because he "talked" all the time to us (still does). "Talking" is a form of interspecies communication that truly feral cats seldom do. However, he was also not very tame. You could pet him ... if you snuck up behind him in his cage and scratched him before he saw you coming. Then he'd snuggle back and love it, but if he saw you coming -- no way! When he was living in our garage, if the door went up even a crack, he went nuts. But, with all the talking he would do, we were afraid the TNR people might not think him "wild" and wouldn't treat him at the feral cat clinic. Well, Houdini fooled them. In he went to the clinic, yowling from time to time, but when they went to take him out of the cage, he peed all over them. "Yep, this one is wild!" they said. That's when I learned that a wild cat is prone to pee on you when it feels threatened. Good to know. (But seriously, I know the stuff smells gross, but is it really a deterrent to a predator? "Stop now, or I'll ... pee.")

We decided Houdini was too wild to find him a real home, even with us. We liked him, but he wanted the outdoors too much. After his vetting, we held him a bit to say goodbye, but he saw freedom and scratched the skin from DH trying to get away. Bye bye, cutie. Have a great life outdoors. Come back and visit! Thanks for the belly scratches! (I mean on us, not you, furball. That was sarcasm.)

Well, another year or so went by, and that big orange cat disappeared, returned, disappeared, and returned. We always recognized him because the TNR people accidentally took a huge piece of his ear when he went in for his ear notch. (They mark vetted cats with a clip of the ear so people can recognize them from a distance.) It looked like he'd found greener pastures and was stopping by only to see if we had better food. Suddenly, though, after a long absence, he showed up again. He looked like Houdini -- big ear clip and all. He sounded like Houdini. But this cat wanted to be FRIENDS! At first it was a few pets in the yard. Then it was a lot of pets on the back step. Then it was, "Can I come inside?" Then it was, "Please, I'll be your best friend if you just let me inside!" Finally, it was, "Just move that leg over one centimeter more, and I can make it!" After chasing him out of the house several times, we gave up. It was easier to let him stay. We always had the intention of finding him a new home, but before too long DH couldn't live without him. Still, we had hope.

See, Houdini and the other kitties didn't exactly see eye to eye. Houdini liked to take a swat at Big Black Cat from time to time, and Girl Cat stalked Houdini within an inch of his life. Part of the problem was that Houdini thought he had to make up some lost time from living outside. He thought every hand was supposed to be petting HIM. If another cat had pets, there he was. If your hand was unoccupied, there he was, butting you with his head to make you work for your cat. Whew! This was one high maintenance cat!

Every once in awhile in those early months, Houdini would get an attack of nerves. He would run and hide somewhere in the house for literally days. I have no idea where he went, but I'm guessing Girl Cat told him we were going to sell him or something. Then he'd creep back out, and the constant begging for pets would begin all over again.

Then Toddler came along, and Houdini saw his chance. I think he was the only cat to figure out that Toddler was, in fact, a real person and not a ball of stinky formula and dirty diapers. He decided almost from the beginning that HE was Toddler's cat. Smart thing, too, because once Toddler fell in love with him, there was no giving Houdini away.

Here is Houdini staking his claim on Toddler.

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I've never quite met a cat like Houdini. On the one hand, he is all cat. On the other hand, he is a perfect pet for a small child. He will let Toddler do almost anything to him and purr his way through it. Toddler used to have some therapies he hated doing, and he would cry and scream and kick. Well, wouldn't you know it but Houdini would come up and lean against Toddler and let him cry and kick Houdini all over. What a trooper.

Here he is, being tolerant again.

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One thing we can't figure out is whether Houdini knows he's being a pest with this constant "pet me, pet me, pet me" and is too stubborn to care? Or does he do it because he knows we will? Is he stubborn, or smart? Or both? Why don't you take a look at this picture and judge for yourself.

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How Did We Come Up With That?

>> Thursday, August 6, 2009

I've spent several days in the recent past watching BBC America. While I have enjoyed the programming, I am continually struck at how difficult a time I have understanding what some of the actors are saying. I am a reasonably intelligent, fairly well traveled human being who usually has no trouble understanding my friends who live in all parts of Great Britain. Accents are mostly not an issue with my comprehension.

Still, I struggle. I have concluded that I struggle because the Queen's English is full of idioms and expressions we just don't use on this side of the pond. From my perspective, those who speak the Queen's English use a remarkable amount of expressions that just don't translate at all into American English without some explanation. (When one of my friends in Scotland once wrote that she was "chuffed" at something, I thought she was mad. Nope. That isn't what that word means.) I wonder if the British think the same about ... say, an episode of ER? Does American TV contain a lot of hard-to-undertand phrases and expressions? I think I'm too close to my own language to ever answer that.

While thinking about this, though, I have started to also think about some of the expressions we do use in American English. They are rather odd, when you think about it. I'm thinking I might do some research on the origins of some of these sayings ... but probably not. I'll probably not get around to it. (Take that phrase, for example. Why do we say we will "get around" to doing something? Then again, what else would we say?)

Some phrases that have piqued my curiousity are these:

1. Pulling my leg-- This seems awkward to me. Who pulled the first leg, and why, and how does this have anything to do with playing a joke on someone?

2. More ____ than you can shake a stick at -- I'm really confused by this one. Why would you shake a stick at something, and what actually qualifies as a bona fide "stick shake" Do you have to be really close? Is the general direction okay?

3. Two shakes of a lamb's tail -- OK, this one makes sense in that it means "quickly," but why a lamb? Why not say, "Two shakes of a dog's backside?"

4. All get out (as in, "as (insert adjective) as all get out.") -- I have no explanation for this one. It becomes even more odd when spoken quickly (as it usually is). Then it sounds like, "That's as scary as all gadout." I don't know what "all get out" refers to, but I don't want to meet it in a dark alley, or anywhere else for that matter.

5. Out the wazoo -- Let's keep this PG and say, I might understand it a little more if it was "up the wazoo" but I don't get "out the wazoo". Where (or what) is the wazoo, d'ya think?

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that I could go on and on about this (ad infinitum, ad nauseum). I think we may need to revisit this topic in future posts.

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The Names We Answer to ....

>> Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I just came back from a family get-together with all my siblings and all their children, plus my mother and others. Family get-togethers are second only to High School reunions for bringing back old nicknames you'd rather forget. My extended family is just too much on this issue. They seem to take nicknames to unprecedented levels. Just for kicks, I'll slander them a little bit.

We hear so many odd names at family reunions. Some I know are family-only names (and the owner probably cringes as soon as the first syllable is heard). Others I'm sure have followed them out into the larger world. Just to slander my extended family even further, here is a little list: (And, yes, we actually use these)

1. Sheppie
2. Bootsie
3. Kitsy
4. Three
5. Hoss
6. Zene
7. Railroad
8. Buddy
9. Con (not so bad until you realize her name is Carolyn)
10. Snookie
11. Sweetie (I think he paid people for that nickname)
12. Cool
13. Zett


(I love you all, guys, you know I do.)

Perhaps the hardest thing about family gatherings (large reunions or small "let's all go to grandma's") is remembering what name you are supposed to answer to. Of course, there are your nicknames, based on things you supposedly said when you were Toddler's age. But then, you have to remember to answer to the name of your mother, your oldest sister, your youngest aunt, and your oldest niece. (There is a similar list for the boys.) If you are under 5, you'd better be prepared to answer to the name of all first cousins of your gender, and in general it is a good idea to answer to the name of every person in eyesight whose name starts with the same letter as yours. (And don't forget their nicknames as well.) Heck, when the beer starts flowing and the hour gets late, you'd be well advised to even answer to the name of the family pet. The pet's name is the last resort of the family member trying to avoid calling you, "You there."

My sister grew up answering to my aunt's name, and my poor niece has had to grow up answering to mine. The cycle never ends. I remember when Niece was Toddler's age (longer ago then I care to admit). I was staying at my sister's house, reading a book in another room. She yelled, "Karin, STOP IT!" Umm, stop what? Stop reading? What did I DO? A few minutes later, she said to her daughter, "I TOLD YOU TO STOP IT!" At that moment I stood up and rescued the poor two year old by saying, "No, actually you told ME to stop it."

Poor child. She hadn't yet learned. In moments of rapid speech, stress, excess liquor or just plain because, even your own mother won't call you by the right name. I am not immune to this issue. I regularly call Toddler by my nephew's name, and his youngest cousin regularly gets called by Toddler's name. It might have been easier on all of us if we had just gotten together and named all of our kids the same thing, but that seemed mean.

I had a great grandfather that probably would have approved of everyone having the same name. He had this odd habit of only being able to produce the name of his children or grandchildren in order. If he wanted to call a certain one, he'd start at the oldest and work his way down until they answered. If he was thinking about the youngest, this could take awhile. If he wanted a grandchild's attention, sometimes he had to go through two generations before he hit on the right name. The great grandchildren were all just "you there." At best they were known as "So and so's kid."

My great grandmother was a little bit better. She called all her great grandchildren by their parent's name. I was my mother for years, and I just learned to live with it.

I used to think I'd do better when I was older, but now I know better. Every time I get angry or frustrated and blurt out the name of a child who isn't a child anymore, isn't even mine, and isn't even in the house, I know I won't do better. I've lowered my standards. I will do my best not to call Toddler by any of the cat's names. I may, however, call any of the cats by Toddler's name.

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Do NOT Turn Your Back on Them

>> Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Everyone who takes care of children has at least one story that starts out, "I was out of the room" or "I turned my back for just one moment" or "It was awfully quiet in the next room when ...."

I thought I would share a few of our more notable See-What-Happened-When-I-Wasn't-Looking stories.

Just the other day I was cooking dinner, and Toddler was "helping." I should have been suspicious, because he was helping somewhat less than usual. I had stripped his highchair to clean it, and I had set up his booster chair at the table. Toddler was going back and forth between worrying about his highchair (I can't tell you how many times that evening he insistently told Darling Husband and me about the highchair pad being OUTSIDE and not on his HIGHCHAIR where it was SUPPOSED to be) and trying to climb into his booster chair "by self." I figured the chances of him falling were slim, so I let him examine the chairs as much as he wanted. It was a whole lot nicer than playing, "Don't Touch The Oven" while I was chopping onions -- I find that a somewhat stressful and annoying game.

So, there is Toddler, playing with his chairs, while I'm cooking dinner. I honestly didn't think I looked away all that long. I was relishing the 30 seconds with no fly-by-night toddler hugs and rehashing of the whiney scene I-got-up-on-this-stepstool-and-can't-figure-out-how-to-get-down-again-Mom. Before I even finished chopping the onions, I heard a funny noise and turned around. There is Toddler, standing on a chair, with the salt shaker in his hand. Oh, no. This can't be good. I put down the knife (always important), and went to rescue my salt shaker. Sadly (for me), I was too late. The salt in the shaker had already been sacrified to the table, the chair, the floor, the booster seat, all of which I had just scrubbed less than 30 minutes before.

Now there are few things more difficult to clean up than salt. Sugar is worse, but not by much. Honestly, I didn't think there was that much salt in the big Morton's container from the store much less in my little table salt shaker. Fooled me. I've been damp toweling it and sweeping it for several days now, and I keep finding more. I doubt this will end anytime soon.

I'm not sure which is worse, though -- the recent salt fiasco, or the day Toddler got his little fingers on the giant hand sanitizer bottle. I think you can picture that one well eough. I'll just say this: giant bottle, couch, carpet, table, t-shirt, shorts, sneakers .... And what is the best way to clean up sanitizer anyway?

I have to say, though, that Toddler failed to take advantage of what was perhaps the finest opportunity to destroy the house, although he did seem to think about it. We had been playing in the mid to late afternoon. It was Wednesday, so we'd had a busy morning with friends and therapy and were chilling out with a little bit of addictive Disney Channel tv programming. I changed a nasty diaper, bagged it, and decided to run it to the outside trashcan to spare our noses. Like so many days in my life, it was raining. I dodged the drops, ran to the can, and returned. For some reason the door wouldn't open. Huh? I tried again. Nope. One of the morning friends must have locked the door on the way out. (Maybe they were from New York. Have you ever noticed how obsessive New York City dwellers are about locking doors the minute you step through them? Hey, wait! I was coming in too!!!!!)

So there I am, standing outside, barefoot, in the rain, with no key and with Toddler locked inside. Of course, the cellphone is in the car ... which is also locked. Plus one for having just pushed "play" on an episode of Bunnytown. Minus 10 for being locked out of my own house in the rain, which at that moment chose to fall harder. Okay ... run to the house next door to use the phone. Nope, they aren't home. Honestly, there is no point in running to the house on the other side because they are a little bit wacked and would probably slam the door in my face. Hmm. After thinking who might be home, I picked a house about 3 doors up and across the street. Thankfully, they were there, loaned me the phone, and I called DH to come home and let us in. Then I ran back to wait outside the door. At about that time, Toddler figured out I wasn't in the kitchen or anywhere he could see me, so he came to find me. He saw me through the window, grinned happily, waived, and ran back to the TV. Whew, I'm thinking. No tantrums, no tears. Good. Thank goodness for Bunnytown.

But no! Of course not! The next thing I know, he runs back with a tube of diaper cream in his hands, and it is OPEN! OH NO!!!!!!! Sanitizer has NOTHING on DIAPER CREAM IN THE HANDS OF A TWO YEAR OLD!!!!!! I mean, that stuff doesn't even come off your hands with soap and water. What on earth will make it come out of the carpet and the sofa! Then, for some strange reason I will bless but never fully understand, Toddler laid the tube down and went back to the TV. By the time DH came home, there was no cream spread from room to room, and no giant mess to clean. I count my lucky stars every diaper change for that one.

I wonder when he'll get me back, though?

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Media and Marketing

>> Monday, August 3, 2009

I have to say that, despite all of the convenience of DVDs, and before that VHS tapes, and ... yes ... even DVRs, I miss the thrill of a special movie or TV episode on real-time TV. Toddler will never know the eagerness of waiting for the spinning "SPECIAL" on ABC at 7 and 8 PM so we could all watch "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown," "Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Frosty the Snowman," and "Rudolph's Shiny New Year." If you missed it, well tough luck because it wouldn't be on for another year. (Then TNT got hold of some of them and broadcast them every day in the weeks leading up into the holidays. Wow. Talk about holiday cartoon overloading. I think I got grinched out about 10 years ago and I haven't quite recovered.)

Of course, with today's technology, we have holiday programming (any programming) on demand. If Toddler wants Mickey Mouse, we have Mickey Mouse. If the DVR fritzes on me, there is always the old DVD player. There is no suspense, no anticipation ... no popcorn while we wait .... Nowadays, we even have the power to pause live tv, so gone are the days of yelling to the person in the bathroom, "HURRY UP! IT'S BACK ON!!!!!" And since the dawn of this modern way of storing and viewing media, I've not managed to do well on "family movie night." I'm like an adult with advanced ADD. I never quite forget that it is all ... more fake than usual because I have a pause button and I know how to use it. Sure, I don't miss the idea of sitting in a theatre trying to decide whether to be thirsty and uncomfortable now, or drink and be uncomfortable later. On the other hand, any flitting thought in my head can derail home movie night and send us off to the ice cream store, the garage, or the internet. More likely, it sends me to sleep knowing I can catch up another day. I mean, why fight it?

I think this is why I am such a rabid college football watcher. I've always been a fan, but now I'm a watching-freak. Before the rise of the Big 10 Channel, we would get a season pass to ESPN Gameday, and from morning to night I would watch all of the major and most of the minor games from noon east coast time to midnight California time. (This is saying a lot from a family that refuses to pay for a single premium channel.)

So, not surprisingly, I've actually been enjoying watching BBCA's "Torchwood, Children of Earth." I actually watched the first episode as it aired, and I was hooked with the suspense. I felt almost like I was watching "V" the 80-something miniseries that made me break my bedtime. Honestly, a little something missing has returned for me with this nightly miniseries, and I'm sure I'll miss it when the show ends.

ON THE OTHER HAND, something of the mood is a little tarnished when I am constantly bombarded by commercials for the miniseries on DVD. Yes, I can buy the ENTIRE week-long miniseries on DVD, before I even finish watching day one. This would be like advertising the full season of 24 on DVD during the season premiere. Everyone is in on the act. Even my beloved Disney Channel advertised the DVD for its movie, "The Princess Protection Program" BEFORE the movie ever aired! This is like advertising the DVD for the next Star Trek flick before you advertise the movie itself in theaters! Yikes! I mean, if I was so certain I was going to want the movie forever before I even see it, I would just program the DVR to record it and never, ever, ever delete it. (To do anything else would probably violate some copyright, so of course I would never, ever, ever admit to do anything like that.)

Slowly but surely the spiderweb of modern media is weaving itself around me. By this time next year I might even have an I-phone and be updating you all "on the go." I mean, I wouldn't label it a "crisis" (like some people I know) if my cell phone up and died, yet I see the writing on the wall. BUT PLEASE, ICONS OF MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT -- PLEASE DO NOT RUB MY FACE IN IT! Let me think I'm independent. Fool me. Show me the show, then save your advertisements for the video until at least 30 seconds after the last line of the show. Please.

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