Sleeping Patterns

>> Friday, October 30, 2009

Something has gone backwards in our house today. I went in to Toddler's room and found Houdini sleeping on Toddler's bed. (This hasn't happened before, although I don't honestly know why.)

Then, when Toddler went in to take his nap, he asked if he could sleep on the floor instead. More than once I've found Toddler sound asleep behind his door, in a perfect location to get smacked in the head by the door when I decide to come into his room. I've taken to opening the door very, very slowly so as not to give him a concussion.

I must have the weirdest family.

Girl Cat's favorite sleeping places are: 1. DH's chest, 2. our bed, 3. any pile of clean laundry she can find, and 4. (which still baffles me), Toddler's changing pad. (I so don't get that.)

Beds I can understand. I haven't met a cat yet that doesn't want to sleep on his person's bed at least part of the time. This is why the doors to our guest bedrooms are always closed. But on the laundry? I understand the fascination with DH's dirty socks (well ... so to speak) because they smell like him. It's the same reason that Girl Cat starts fawning all over DH when he comes in from mowing the lawn or chopping wood. He smells. She thinks he smells good. When he smells like that, she can have him. (I'm not thrilled with the dirty socks, either, so as far as I'm concerned she can have them too. I just wish she'd share the laundry some times ....)

Houdini and Big Black Cat have taken to sharing the back of the couch -- both the one I allow them on and the one I don't allow them on. I'm not all that thrilled about their sleeping places, and I'm always chasing them off the "good" couch, but I am thrilled that they've stopped trying to beat each other up. This is a good thing.

Me? I occasionally nap on the couch, but I'm really a recovering insomniac and pretty much stick to a regular bed. DH comes from a long line of family members that can sleep anywhere, at anytime, on very little notice. I've never been able to do that. I'm waiting to see which way Toddler pans out. He can sit in bed and talk to himself for literally hours before giving up and falling asleep, but he can also fall asleep on the floor, or sideways in his bad with his feet hanging off. The jury is still out on this one. Let's just say he snores a lot like Daddy. (I don't know if he snores like me because I very seldom hear myself snore.) Heck, even one of the cats snores around this house.

Yep. That's one weird family.


Circling Back to the Weather ... Again

>> Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another few weeks have gone by, and still I find myself staring at rain more often than not, and I still can't figure out what outfit to put me or Toddler in on any given day. A few days ago I managed to wear a sweater and it was 80 degrees by lunch. The day before that I wore a t-shirt and jacket and the temperature didn't break 65. I was outside that morning watching a tennis match with Toddler and some other family members, so this was a bad choice. Part way through the second set, Toddler asked if he could go back to the car, poor baby.

Although I generally like the idea of living in a state where true winter doesn't start until at least Thanksgiving, if even then, there is something to be said about predictability. If it was October in Pennsylvania, when I was a kid, we were pretty much wearing coats, and that was that. Even if "we" (the kids) didn't want to, "they" (the moms) put their feet down.

This weather pattern, and the stubborn mothers, made Trick or Treat a bit of a disappointment. Of course there was the candy, and the going door to door with friends, and all the good stuff, but the costumes left a little bit to be desired. We would plot and scheme for a whole month about what we were going to be, convincing our parents to buy this or that special mask or accessory to go over our outfit (which sometimes consisted of a generic black sack because the mask was so cool we didn't need -- read parents wouldn't pay for -- a full costume). All of this planning sort of went for nothing when the whole ensemble, with wooden sword strapped to the belt, or cat tale taped to the buttocks, was hidden under a big, heavy, long winter coat.

Aah, weather gear. I lived for four winters in a part of Pennsylvania where we all owned an "over the butt coat". Down here in Virginia, if the weather is that bad, things shut down. I also lived for three wet winters outside of Boston where ice floats on the puddles in the street, and we called it "slog". Because we were at sea level, the water never went anywhere but right there in the street. The puddle on one side would reach almost to the center of the road, and the puddle on the other side would reach almost to the center of the road, leaving a mere 18 inches of dry land in the middle of the sea of floating ice caps. For Boston, the mandatory weather gear is boots, and tall ones at that. Here in Virginia, we wear boots only to look trendy or go mountain climbing. No icebergs float on sidewalk puddles here. (But, for a few days in August, the pavement will begin to melt, causing much sliding and tripping by those on rollerblades.... not that I'd know anything about that or anything.)

Circling back to Hallowe'en and Trick or Treat, I have kept my annual disappointment and parental arguments very much in mind as I pick out Toddler's costumes. We buy full-body warm fuzzy things so no coat is required. There is always the possibility, however, of a late warm spell, meaning we might worry about excessive sweating rather than toe numbing cold.

Hard to tell.


Watch Out -- Your Character is Showing

>> Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This past week in football was both satisfying and distressing, all wrapped up together.

I neglected to watch ESPN Game Day on Saturday, and I have not yet caught up on my DVR'd version of "College Football Final" (yes, I'm a dork), so I'm sad to say that we have no individual awards to give out today. Instead, we will substitute the honor (dubious though it is), with some team and group awards.

First award -- the "That's More Like It!" Award goes to Penn State for stomping Michigan on their own turf and for owning Michigan two years in a row. You know it's a great football weekend when people come bounding across the pews in church to come talk about how nice it was to watch the Lions hang a bunch on some weasels. I mean wolverines. Eh, same thing. Really.

The "Enough Already" award goes to the entire staff at ESPN for mentioning at least once every 5 minutes that Penn State has not beat Michigan in Ann Arbor in 11 years. You can stop saying that now.

For a lightening change of heart, the "BOO! HISS" Award goes to Florida State. No, this isn't what you think. We are proud to be anti-Bobby Bowden in this house because, like all good Penn State fans, we think "Samford Shouldn't Count". (If you need an explanation for that statement, look here at this article. The article is old -- Joe is back in the lead now -- but it explains what the gripe is about in a more unbiased and polite way than I would.) All the booing and hissing relates to the way FSU is treating Bowden now, mid-season demands for his resignation and all that rot just because the team has hit some bad times. Let's think about that. One: You gave the guy a statue outside your stadium. Two: He built your football program. Three: He's one of very, very few active College Football Hall of Famers, and they changed the rule so he and (Joe) the other one (Joe) whose name I won't mention (Joe) could get in while they were still alive. Four: Great football coaches don't live long after they retire, so griping on him now is just plain mean. FIVE: EVEN IF YOU GET ANOTHER COACH IT WON'T STOP THE BLEEDING.

Just think about it -- ask Notre Dame, Michigan, Illinois, Miami, even Alabama. You can't replace a longtime coach, especially a legend, and expect things to improve right away. All you are doing for the next year or so is moving a new guy into the hotseat as the sacrificial lamb to the fans and alumni until you find the "real" coach. Why rush the transition years? (Again, let's look at Notre Dame, or how long it took Alabama to come back to life. Miami is still waiting for redemption.) If Bobby shows up to work, does his job, tries to make improvements, and nothing works, then sometimes you need to let nature take its course and let the cycle work itself out. Bobby can do a lot with a football squad, but he can't upgrade kids who just don't have the talent to perform. Not every team will win the conference every year. Not every coach can pull wins out of the ether. Not even Joe. FSU -- don't send Bobby out this way. Don't be the school that did that. Please. Seriously -- how can you build the guy a statue, and appeal the NCAA sanctions just to preserve his record, and then pull the plug on him? Frankly, it makes you look like the mean-spirited idiots we all like to think you are on Saturday.

Moving on to other subjects, this weeks "Huh?" Award goes to the referee team for both the Penn State-Michigan game and the Michigan State-Iowa game, both of which called defensive holding at crucial moments of their respective games. What the heck is defensive holding? Did they just invent it for this weekend? How is it that I've never heard of it before and yet hear it twice in the same weekend?

Although I have said something like this before, the "Groundhog's Day" Award goes to Michigan State for once again managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the game against Iowa. Iowa threw a touchdown pass in literally the last few seconds of the game. (Ouch, I'm remembering an old PSU-Michigan game in Ann Arbor in 2005.)

And finally, the "Grudging Respect" Award goes to Iowa for achieving an 8-0 record for the first time in school history. (I still have a hard time believing that stat, but ESPN said it, so it must be true.) I am pulling for Iowa to lose every week since they beat PSU, which is why the Michigan State game was such a heartbreaker for me, but I have to admit the team has spunk. Maybe it is their turn. Aww, na. That's too nice.


More Things I Have Learned

>> Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Near the beginning of my attempt at blogging, I posted about "Things I Learned on Vacation". I thought the time had come for me to share a similar post.

1. I learned that if I ignore the "Descale" light on my coffee pot, then after a mere 2 cups of coffee, the ominous red light will begin to blink. I strongly suspect that a verbal countdown and subsequent explosion will be next, but I don't intend to learn that.

2. As you may have noticed, I have finally learned how to create hyperlinks in my blog. Now you can see all the irritating light blue text where I think there are key words that you might want to click on to see prior posts mentioned in (or implicated by) these words. Woo hoo! Even better, I have been going back to older posts and inserting these hyperlinks in all my old posts. So far I've only gotten as far as mid-July, but I am trying ....

3. I learned that I have a surprisingly high tolerance for loud obnoxious flowers that sing, "You Are My Sunshine" as well as for certain CDs of children's music. I learned that I have almost no tolerance for children that try to climb me after I said, "Please wait a moment" when they asked to be picked up.

4. I learned that Toddler has an insatiable appetite for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and for coloring with crayons.

5. I also learned what my father must have been feeling when he found crayon on the white walls of my childhood home.

6. I have learned that if I call a hamburger "meat" Toddler will eat it. If I call it a "hamburger" he won't. Similarly, I have learned that if I call anything "meat," Toddler will eat it, but that trick is fast losing its effectiveness. Just last week DH tried the trick by giving Toddler rice and veggies and saying, "there is meat in there." There wasn't. Toddler ate it, but for the next bite said, "I want the meat, not the no meat."

7. On a similar note, I have learned that Toddler is serious when he says he doesn't want any bites of bananas (although he loves banana puree). After finding a banana piece Grandma stuck in his yogurt, Toddler took Grandma's hand and said, "Grandma, no nanas."

8. I learned that Toddler has better rhythm than DH. DH has noticed this, too.

9. I learned that Toddler can understand "bad" words even when mumbled around a toothbrush and whispered under the breath.

10. I also learned that there are times when Toddler will cry in a whisper when he thinks he's supposed to be quiet. I strongly suspect that these cries are fake, but I haven't actually learned that yet.

I'm sure I will continue to learn more each and every day.


Why Am I Not Rich?

>> Monday, October 26, 2009

For today's entry, I've decided to go back and re-read all my prior blog posts. I was astonished to discover how many times I have had a great make-it-rich scheme or idea. I mentioned some of this back on my post about Bread Bowls, and I decided to make a quick count.

1. I first mentioned the idea that I could become rich in my post "What Do You Mean 'Challenging'?" In that post I described that wealth would come if I could actually catch my coffee cups multiplying in the cupboard. You know I'm right. Yours do it too.

2. Okay, this one isn't exactly about making it rich, but I did make a very fiscally responsible post discussing the amount of tax and charitable dollar waste that we are suffering because of the de-planetization of Pluto in my post "Some Things Just Shouldn't Change" (De-planetization is my own new word. Do you like it?)

3. In my post "May I Suggest Some Improvements?" I did not specifically mention money, but I did suggest some improvements to the GPS devices on the market that, if developed appropriately, would make a lucrative investment. I should not have been so quick to give those ideas away.

4. I have a plan for making millions bootlegging mayonaisse in the event our food regulations ever become hopelessly absurd, as I mention in "I Wish, I Wish, I Wish....".

5. A waterproof hoodie with a pull down waterproof facemask, for rain drench football games, was my idea for Nike and Champion (to pay me for, of course), in "We're Ever True To You".

6. I have invented a new kind of fast food restaurant in "Drive Through Pizza" that is bound to become a major franchise.

7. In "Bread Bowls" I reveal the secret to fortune-making soup. Since then, DH has decided to add to this inspiration by branching out into chili in a bread bowl. I might have to share the profits with him.

8. While I didn't specifically talk about marketing strategies, in "Do You Routine?" I describe the necessity in my life of learning to find the source code for humans. Just imagine how much money I could make if I actually ever located it?

More times then I can accurately link you to, I make reference to the invention of a collar like the one in the movie "UP" that will translate the thoughts of pets and toddlers. Clearly, this is the finest idea yet, but I don't think I've the capacity to build one.

Now, all I need is to find a backer.... I know I can make this work. Right?


Mini Warps in Space/Time

>> Friday, October 23, 2009

DH and I have been noticing something, recently. I was going to say that it was something, "unusual" but maybe not. Maybe it is very common, and you all figured it out by now, and I'm the only one left to marvel at the vagaries of physics in this world.

I'm talking, of course, about soda. (That's "pop" for those of you west of Pittsburgh.)

My favorite kind of soda (pop) is Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi. The problem with this particular product, though, is that all of the cans are sold with a hole in the bottom. I open it up, I take a few sips, and it is gone. If the cans didn't have this defect, I think DWCP is all I would ever buy. (Well, unless Diet Cherry Zero was on sale.) As it is, I buy a few 12 packs of Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Pepsi One, just to make sure we have some soda (pop) in the house for when guests come and the DWCP has all disappeared.

On the complete other end of the spectrum is ginger ale and root beer. For some reason, the manufacturers of these products have managed to find the miracle of self-filling containers. You drink some, and it magically refills itself so the can lasts the entire day.

Now, I can neither see the hole in the can of DWCP, nor can I catch any ginger ale or root beer refilling itself. And yet, I know these things happen. It is the only explanation that makes any real sense.

Of course, you can make some argument that I drink faster when I like something more, but that just doesn't fit the facts. For the DWCP, that can is empty almost as soon as I open it -- basically, using this theory, I open it, chug it, put it down, and reach over to find it empty. With the ginger ale and root beer, I open it, drink, put it down, drink, put it down, drink, and on and on and on and on. So, rather then drinking "faster," or "slower," I'm forced to conclude that either I am taking "bigger" and "smaller" sips of said beverages, or there are a different number of sips in the different kinds of cans. I think we can all agree that the latter is far more plausible than the former.

DH and I agree on the DWCP. Some beverages we dispute, but for the most part, we agree. He also adds that orange and grape soda have fewer sips per can, and I agree. The can with the absolute most sips of all, insofar as I have been able to tell, is club soda with quinine. The second largest number of sips is in Peach flavored Fresca.

I think if we want to understand the mysteries of the universe and create one big "Theory of Everything" in physics, then the scientists examining black holes and similar space/time distorting properties of the cosmos need to also take a good look at soda cans.


Mixed Metaphors

>> Thursday, October 22, 2009

Yesterday, DH, Toddler and I went to the Renaissance Faire with our Dear Aunt. Due to family chaos and other things, we had not been able to go for the last three years. In many ways, nothing changes in three years, but in other ways, three years gives a little bit of different perspective (as does parenthood).

Here were the things I observed that I wanted to share with you.

First, the time period of this "village" is supposed to be 1500-something. I never remember exactly what year, but it is allegedly an English Tudor Village.

The first thing I saw when I walked through the gate this time, though, was a short woman (I think) dressed in all black leather with (no joke) a spiked mohawk that was at least 15 inches long in each spike. Nearby, and scattered throughout the festival, were many people in "goth" clothing. These were the first stereotyped people I noticed, and they felt a little bit out of place to me. I don't know ... I see how the weaponry and the metal look might go together, but I just don't get the motorcycle gear among all these guys in tights and waistcoats. Being completely shallow, I'm thinking do these people come here because of a secret love of Tudor History? A desire to stand out in a different locale? A feeling that among other oddly dressed people they are not so oddly dressed? Did their significant other make them do it? Or, are they here for the dope? .... Because ....

The second thing I noticed as the day went on was the overwhelming use of incense -- generally being carried around (lit) by individuals and not, as one might think, being contained in an incense burner. Okay, people, we weren't born yesterday. The middle ages were not the most pleasant-smelling era of world history, but certainly the servants were not walking around burning incense over the castle midden or out behind the stables. We all know what you are trying to hide behind those smouldering sticks of incense. So ... are these reefer tooters coming to the festival for the ambiance? To wear long dresses while stoned? Or because they think it is somehow "period" to smoke dope? Or possibly the festival looks a little more authentic with reefer. Yes, I'm sure that is it.

I saw a lot of people I think might have looked equally comfortable dressed up as a Vulcan at a Star Trek convention (and I've been to one of those, too). I saw a lot of families with dads who seemed to have a thing for swords. We bought some really yummy honey, and we played with some musical instruments (Toddler wants a drum). I saw some people who looked like they might be a bit stuffy and tense no matter where they were. I saw women using the place as an excuse to go as topless as allowed in this country by squeezing their coconuts so hard they nearly explode out the top of their dresses.

And then, there were the "free spirits". This, of all the things I saw, is what puzzled me the most. Where did the Renaissance Festival groupies ever get the idea that free thinking, free love, free spirited people roamed the middle ages? This was the era where it was death to speak ill of the King, women (and men) were bartered and sold into marriage by their fathers for the good of the family, land, or national politics. If you weren't rich enough to hire someone, you worked for them, or you scraped a living from the land and starved when the weather turned against you. Yes ... lots of free spirits in that life, wondering where the next meal was coming from. I see the connection.

Well, either way, the Renaissance Festival is a nice place where children can watch grown men beat each other over the head with swords and drool over wood female busts wearing chain link bras, where King Henry has whichever wife the scriptwriters prefer that season, and where hippies and bikers with piercings alike can wear flower garlands.

Peace out!


Wednesday Again ... Football Again

>> Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Last Saturday was Homecoming in Happy Valley, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers (that still makes me giggle) tried some "trickeration" in State College. They sent a storm and blew out power to the Paterno house the night prior to the game.

Even that didn't help, as the Lions held the Gophers to a goose egg in a stadium still very, very full despite the rain. Yes, DH, Toddler and I were all there, and we had a great time. Beaver Stadium (or "Be-leaver Stadium," as I like to call it) is the only place where Toddler is allowed to scream to his heart's content without admonishment from Mom or Dad. Sometimes he just yells for fun, but most of the time he follows our lead and says cute things like, "YAY PENN STATE!" He has even learned some of the words of the fight song and the ode to the mascot. That's my boy! His favorite line is "Roar, Lions, Roar!" Even better, he is all PSU even when he is telling you he doesn't want to participate. Lots of time when we say, "WE ARE!" He yells, "PENN STATE!" But every once in a while when we say, "WE ARE!" He responds, "No. No 'We Are Penn State!'"

Speaking of "trickeration," I have been wishing this week that I were a real sportscaster, with access to all the film of the weekend's games to play over and over. If so, I'd watch USC blow coverage on that fake punt over, and over, and over, and I'd play it back for you right here, because I can't figure out how this actually happened in real life. I mean, let's think about this. All of the Notre Dame guys line up for the punt except one guy who lines up waaaayyyy out at the sideline. Ya think it might have been a good idea to spare a guy to line up in front of him just in case? No ... don't bother. It's perfectly normal for guys to just wander around the field and line up in the wide receiver position on a punt. That is, if it's a fake punt. (Seriously, again, no one saw this? How do you not see him standing out there??)

And speaking of figuring things out, I think the Big 10 has got me just about befoodled and befuddled. (I'm not even going to talk about the AP top 25 -- that's a can of worms too big for a short blog.) The only team undefeated in Big 10 conference play is Iowa. Wow, who saw that coming? Ohio State has an overall record with two losses, and they are still number 2 in the conference. And who is number three? Why Michigan State, of course, with an overall record of 4-3 and a loss to Central Michigan on the books. I'm so confused. On the other hand, at least I'm feeling a little bit better about PSU's loss to Iowa at this point.

As far as this week's awards, I only have one. This is the, "Huh? Award." In anticipation of the Oklahoma-Texas game, Mark Cuban was heard to say, "Usually for this game, the weather is horrible in Dallas." You know, unless it is is the middle of August, or during a hurricane, I don't think anyone would call the weather in Dallas, "horrible." After all Mr. Cuban used to live in Pennsylvania, speaking of horrible weather. Hmm. Pittsburgh ... Dallas ... Pittsburgh ... Dallas, which one has the worse weather? I said weather. Nothing else.

On the whole, though, I have to say the most dramatic part about the whole weekend was trying to figure out how to get there. All the ugly weather forced Penn State to close all the grass parking lots, destroying much intended debauchery and grilling of bratwurst. In true PSU form, this was solved by efficient machinery in motion. This decision could have been a disaster, but somehow Penn State managed to quickly and painlessly bus in (for free, no less) a stadium full of people. I have absolutely no facts to back this up, but I am guessing that the number of people coming to the game on the impromptu bus system was at least 40-50 thousand. Yes, 40,000-50,000 people, all riding local school busses from distant parking lots and hotels to Be-leaver Stadium like the believers they are. Picture yourself, your children, your parents, and your elderly grandparents all wearing warm weather gear and draped in rain ponchos, sitting on a public school bus with everyone else's children, parents and grandparents, waiting to go sit 3.5 hours in the freezing rain, and all being HAPPY about it. Without the beer.

Only in Happy Valley, I think.

Don't worry. Football season is about half over, and then those of you nasty football haters will get this space back on Wednesdays.



>> Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In my last post I mentioned that I was planning on talking about Houdini's latest exploits. I told you earlier about how Houdini came to live with us, but I think I neglected to tell you why I chose to give him the name "Houdini" in this blog. Of course, Houdini is not his real name, but, like Houdini's real name, I have chosen it because it represents a very persistent part of this cat's personality.

Houdini likes to do magic tricks involving hiding and escaping. I believe I mentioned, briefly, that he used to hide for days on end when he first came to live with us, but I don't think I ever mentioned the "escaping" part of his routine.

Recently we haven't had as much problem with this (but we will now that I said that), but in the recent past we have had tremendous problems with Houdini's attempts to return to the outdoors. Over the winter and spring, Houdini would sit by the front door when I had it open, and keep checking, and checking, and checking, to be sure it was completely latched. He and Girl Cat would stand up on their hind legs to sniff longingly or curiously (depending on the cat) at the outdoor breeze. Then, while Girl Cat was content to stare and sniff (she once had a bad experience outside), Houdini has conveniently forgotten how hard it was to worm his way inside this house and decided he wanted back outside.

So, for the longest time, every day Houdini would find a way to get outside. Most often he would sneak his way out between someone's legs when they were coming or going, usually with groceries. Sometimes he would convince Toddler to open the door for him. Sometimes ... sometimes he just mysteriously de-materialized inside the house and re-materialized outside like his namesake. Our first clue that he was gone in those cases would be one of us spotting Houdini on the back step nosing into the outdoor cats' food.

For a cat that moved mountains to move inside, he's awfully eager to get back outside. I've taken to having to bring the groceries in very carefully. First, I have to toss Toddler inside, with the instruction, "Go get Houdini." Houdini takes a few steps backwards from the door in self defense. Then, I stack the soda packs just inside the door in an effort to block access to the screen so I can open it without having to guard the entire threshold. Then, I stack all of the remainder of the grocery bags in the threshold, starting at the point where Houdini is trying to make an end run around the boxes of soda. I try hard to leave myself at least six inches past the screen door to try to give myself a chance to actually step inside the door without falling. Last, I throw myself through the doorway, jump the pile of groceries, push Houdini out of the way, and pull the screen door tightly closed, all in one motion.

When people come to visit, my mantra after the words, "Come in!" is "Shut the door tightly, please."

Sometimes, though, I don't get it all right. Houdini escapes, right betwen my legs, alongside my legs, or sometimes over them if I'm lying on a heap on top of the groceries. On some of those days, I ask myself whether I really want to go chase him down. I mentioned that once, briefly, in an earlier post. Unless Houdini makes his escape immediately while I am coming in from the outside, chances are I don't have shoes on. With my luck, it's cold outside, or Toddler is screaming, and I know that I have mere minutes before Houdini is off into the woods where the foxes, deer and coyotes live (coyotes probably killing an earlier outdoor cat of ours). One day I caught him because he stopped to scratch his back against the sidewalk. Once I caught him because he was flabbergasted to find out that a dog moved in next door since he last lived outside, and it is biiiiigggg, loud, and not too fond of cats. Other times I've had to make a mad dash to the fence gate because he scaled it and kept on going, and once I had to drag him out from under a bush. Once I almost had to give him up for gone before he finally stopped, and I perservered only because I didn't want to explain to DH why his darling cat was missing.

For a brief period of time, Houdini thought he had a brilliant new plan. He would follow me out to the deep freeze in the garage and try to sneak out that way. Guess what, Houdini, there is no way out that way. Woops! After one or two circuits around the garage to conclude that there was no other open doorway, Houdini would return inside and try to make the best of things. We thought he had learned his lesson, but apparently we overestimated his intellect and/or underestimated his stubborness. Twice in the past two weeks Houdini has apparently snuck out unnoticed into the garage after one of us and failed to return inside before we shut the door --leaving Houdini out in the garage over night. Boy was he sorry the first time, but apparently not sorry enough to refrain from doing it again the next time. We'll have to see if he has learned his lesson yet.

But, now you know how Houdini got his name. In the end, I don't think he wants to run away, but he misses eating fresh grass, beating up the other outdoor cats (so he recalls), and coming and going as he pleases. We are hoping to get to a level of trust where he can come and go as he pleases, but I'm not so sure DH is ready for that kind of committment, even if Houdini is. We will see. Until DH is ready, though, I have the unenviable job of "rescuing" Houdini from the outside and bringing him back in, thankfully still purring.


Okay, Change of Topics....

>> Monday, October 19, 2009

I was going to write a blurb today about Houdini's latest failed escapades, but maybe later. Today, I've got insects on the brain.

You see, I just met this guy:


I'm not sure where he came from, but he was next to Toddler's chair when I stood up from the computer. I was fairly certain when first saw him that it was a big ... giant... baby-eating spider. Then, on careful reflection, I remembered that baby-eating spiders are black, and they live under my sister's stove or in my mother's downstairs bathroom. They do not live in my house. I do not permit them. Since we had to stop the pest terminator contract to save cash, I have been forced to permit other spiders to live in this house (but only until I find them), but not the baby-eating spiders. Nope. Not here.

I don't much care for spiders, but I wouldn't especially say that I am afraid of them. Snakes? Yes -- paralyzing, irrational, blood chilling fear of snakes, even little ones. Spiders? I would like to say no, but the dislike of them and sharp, noisy reaction to their presence has increased with age.

I recall when I was younger, helping my mother out with her Girl Scout Troop, Mom had a rule -- no screaming unless there is blood. Anyone screaming at spiders was subject to severe ridicule and spontaneous punishment. My middle sister was the other Girl Scout Leader of the troop, and I was the tagalong, with some authority, but not a lot of respect, if you know what I mean. I can safely say that Middle Sister and I have the same healthy dislike for spiders. (I know this for a fact.)

So, the Girl Scout "no screaming" rule often meant that at campouts, the leaders (and I) would need to go tent to tent to deal with little girls trying hard not to scream about the spiders. When I was a scout their age, the Daddy Longleggers didn't bother me, and we didn't see too many other creepy crawlies. By the time I was old enough to be helping my mother, I think I'd seen a few too many nature movies, or Alfred Hitchcock, or read too much science fiction, or something. I don't know, but picking up those Daddy Longleggers and pushing them out of the tent took all I had some days. Middle Sister would just go in, pick them up by the leg, and toss them, with a sideline to the girls, "See? That's all there is too it."

I used to feel a little sheepish about that reaction, until one day when I went to Middle Sister's house. Her oldest was a scarce few months old, and we were spending a lot of days together that summer. One of those days a spider as a big as the whole house crawled across the kitchen floor. To my shock, my sister yelped! She called me, and I came out, baby on my hip. She said, "Look at that!" This big giant arachnid was making a straight line to the stove. She swatted at it with something, but she missed. To my surprise, she almost seemed ... intimidated by it? She yelled, "Get it!" I said, "Get it? If I put the kid down, the spider might eat the baby!"

Well, the spider disappeared under the stove, never to be seen again, so far as I know. Middle Sister then confessed that spiders freaked her out a little. "Really? But you were so calm about them at camp!"

She grinned. "I know. It was because I had to. Here, I thought you might get it for me."

HA! (But don't ask her about it. She won't admit it, but I swear I'm telling the truth.)

Now, that couple-month old baby I was using as an excuse not to kill the spider is applying to college. (I wonder if she is afraid of spiders, too?) Now, there is me, Toddler, and this guy:


Before you go saying anything, I know it isn't a spider. I realized that as soon as I remembered that I don't permit baby-eating spiders in my house. This guy is a cricket ... I think. Well, he's some kind of jumping dude that is at least related to a cricket. I don't kill crickets. I tossed a paper towel over him and was about to scoop him up when he leaped up about the level of my head, at which point I yelped like a puppy. Mr. Cricket then snuck under the refrigerator and hasn't come out yet. Well, either he comes out soon, and I escort him to the front door, or he becomes cat food tonight when the three stooges find him.

PS -- edited to add, the cricket apparently returned in the middle of the night, at which point he met one or more of the sentry cats and did not survive.


Yesterday ... All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away....

>> Friday, October 16, 2009

Yesterday was an odd, odd day. I accomplished a LOT. I was so proud of myself.

I made it to the pet store.
I made it to the store to pick up laundry detergent.
I weeded the flower bed.
Toddler actually went pee pee on the potty.
I got all the laundry at least into the dryer.
I tried something new for dinner.
I almost got my in-box cleaned out.

I mean, WOO HOO! Right?

By the time Toddler went down for his nap, I thought everything was going GREAT! Now, I was a little bit leery, because days this efficient usually mean the forces of Entropy and Chaos are massing for a big strike against my home, but I've learned to enjoy my successes where I can find them. In fact, I was thinking about sitting down and writing a blog about procrastination and asking how many times would I have to learn that the longer I waited to do the landry, the worse the chore became? I was so excited -- the last load of laundry was going in to the washer at about noon! How great! I was going to wait until the second to last load was dry so I could swap out some pants for the ones I was wearing and make a complete sweep of all the jeans on one day. Wow.

Then the rose colored goggles came off, and reality set in.

I realized I went to the pet store, but failed to use some coupons that were expiring.

I realized I went to the store for laundry detergent, but I failed to remember to buy the butter we were out of.

I weeded the flower bed, but I didn't get the full bag of weeds out to the curb in time for the truck. Plus, I wasn't able to get all the clover out, and it will grow back by tomorrow. Worst of all, a whole bag of weeds went out, and DH didn't even notice a difference.

Toddler went pee pee in the potty, but he decided to hold the poop until the diaper was on.

The reason I was so ahead in the laundry was that I forgot about two piles that were up in the bedroom, and I was actually not ahead, but behind.

The new recipe I tried for dinner was plain awful. First of all, it had lots of carrots, and the sauce did not hide the flavor. The whole thing tasted a lot like my blood pressure pills when I swallow them without water. Toddler hated it, and I didn't blame him one bit.

I did almost get my in-box cleaned out, but I neglected to write a blog entry, and now I'm behind.

Entropy was very subtle yesterday. It made me think I was winning, when in fact I was losing ground.

Very tricky.


Mornings, Mornings

>> Thursday, October 15, 2009

I woke up this morning, and my first thought was, "Really? Another morning?" My second thought was, "Why is Toddler screeching like that?"

And so the day begins.

As I dragged myself out of bed and into the bathroom, I got to thinking. When I was working full time, if I stayed at home, in bed, with the comforter pulled up over my ears, the worst that would happen would be that I would get fired. Well, let's be accurate. First I'd have an anxiety attack about all the people I was letting down, lots of people would call looking for me, and then I'd get fired.

Now, if I stay in bed all day with the comforter pulled up over my head, the worst that would happen is that no one would fire me. First, Toddler would come into the room yelling, "Mommy, TV please! Mickey Mouse Clubhouse!" Then the cats would come racing up the stairs to jump on the bed to have me referee their latest argument and complain abut the supply of cat food and the state of the litter box. If I'm really lucky, the cat who discovered that the litter is not clean will sit right next to my head, but I can handle that. I would have the covers over my head, remember? If I still refused to get up, the day might progress without me, but then I'd have to clean it all up eventually.

But, back to reality. On my way to the shower I saw cat stomach contents. Being in a state of undress, I called down to DH. "Hey, ____! I see hairball! Watch out when you come upstairs!"

At that point, he called back, "OK! I have time. Just put out the hairball flag, and I'll come get it!" Hmm. Sounds like DH has been watching too much My Friends Tigger and Pooh. We may need to snap him back to reality. But, in the meantime, I was rejoicing that there was a hairball attack timed so that I did not have to be the servant who cleaned it up. WOO HOO! Of course, I just got done telling that cat food survey company that there wasn't any puking during the past week ... hey survey company, can you call back? I need to amend my response.

Then I got dressed. It took me a while, because I have a lot of old fashioned shirts (cut "short" by today's standard), and new fangled jeans (riding "low" by my standards), and the two don't match. Trust me ... no one wants to see my gut hanging over my belt loops. Now I'm sitting at the kitchen table, typing this blog, eyeing the coffee machine, and trying to figure out how much protesting I will get when I tell Toddler we have to go for a long drive to drop off a big box and we can't bring the TV with us. DH is on his way out the door and just advised me that as far as he knows, Toddler hasn't pooped since early yesterday. He's a time bomb waiting to explode.

What did you do this morning?



>> Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ah, football. Toddler has caught the bug big time. He loves going to the game and asks about it all the time. He talks a lot about his "Lion on his cheek" too. Unfortunately, he came down with a cough, and DH attended the game in the cool mist while I watched wistfully from the hotel room and Toddler coughed on me.

And to top it off, Penn State was playing a top 25 team: Eastern Illinois. (Now, I didn't say in which division they were ranked, did I?) Of course ... I couldn't actually watch the game on TV because it was broadcast on ESPN Classic, and the hotel room doesn't get that channel. The good news is that all games are available on line. The bad news is that if you are on an internet connection that does not subscribe, you can't watch the game for free. Guess which kind of internet connection the hotel had.....

Now, if I were home, apparently I COULD have watched the game for free. Of course. For starters, we get ESPN Classic. Plus, it seems our internet connection was a participating company. Of course.

There does seem to be a one-time-pay online service that will get all the games I want forever (so it claims). I'm deeply, deeply suspicious, because I can't find the cost of this "one time payment". Needless to say, I didn't take the opportunity on Saturday. I just watched the clouds blow over State College, PA and listened to Toddler giggle and cheer over recorded DVDs of "Bunnytown" and the occasional "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" on our portable player, and I cleaned up the milk he spilled on the carpet while trying to hear ESPN over the singing antics of those Bunnies.

I consoled myself by sharing a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips with Toddler and keeping tabs on my friends actually at the game via Facebook. I tried listening to the local sports cast on the radio, live from Beaver Stadium with student announcers ... but I couldn't hear the announcers over the crowd noise. Good job, crowd. Bad job, radio announcers. Finally, thanks to a wonderful website of a frustrated Penn Sate fan, I located a list of radio websites that would stream the game to me, and I clicked into one. It's a good thing I had directions, because nothing on the web site said they were actually playing the Penn State game, but they were. Whew! I tuned in just in time to hear PSU's first touchdown on its first possession of the game. Nice.

I spent the rest of the game trying not to stare at the pretty psychedelic lights moving around on Windows Media Player in case I got hypnotized. It kept me from the Mikes Hard Lemonade in the fridge, too, because I thought that might be too potent a combination in case I accidentally looked at those lights while playing on the computer. Whew!

Moving away from Penn State, let's give some awards.

I can't decide which award to give to Desmond Howard. He's managed to qualify both for the, "Never Ending Nostalgia" award and the "What About Me?" award. Once again, Desmond Howard took great care to remind his TV viewing audience about his past glory again this Saturday. He was even heard to say, "Now, the year when I won the Heisman ..." and he proceeded to give a bit of a blow by blow of his achievements during 2 straight games.

Umm, Desmond ... you won the Heisman 17 years ago, and now you are a football talking head. Some of the current college football players weren't even born when you won the trophy. I know. The truth hurts. You could have been an aging star in the NFL still, but you aren't. Please, please try to transition a little more gracefully.

On the exact other end of the spectrum, we have the, "I'm Just a Guy" award, which goes to Lee Corso. Every week or so (give or take), Lee makes a statement like, "This game will be closer than the experts think."

Lee, I've always wanted to ask this ... who are the experts if not you and Herbie? I mean, you do have votes in the football rankings ... right?

And as for the Gameday Final group, I have to ask ... are you guys seriously in love with Tim Teabo? I wasn't sure if I was listening to a Florida game wrap up or a love sonnet. Bastardizing scripture? Comments about hugging and wardrobe? Was this Gameday Final or a Lifetime reality TV show? I wasn't sure for a few moments there. I've never seen these guys so effusive for one guy. Where was the obligatory critic? I mean, Teabo is a great humanitarian and a pretty fabulous quarterback, but I seriously doubt he is, as quoted on ESPN, "One of the greatest players in the history of the game."

Well, I'm signing off, sad for missing the game, confused about who the "experts" are in college football, more than a little bit pleased that my good old boys in Blue and White pounded some serious football on Saturday, and obviously suffering from "Teabo Fatigue" as coined by one sportscaster (who claimed we were wrong to be so).

See you next week.


Bread Bowls

>> Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I've done it. I have finally discovered the secret to great soups. Here I was thinking that it had something to do with base ingredients, lots of salt or spice, fresh off the restaurant stove, or something else I wasn't doing.

And then I remembered my mother and my grandmother making soup in my mom's kitchen (over and over again) each year when I was young. I remember thinking that soup was pretty crappy. (Hey, I was young.) Maybe it was that the kind of soups they liked to make most -- split pea and black bean -- were not huge favorites of little kids. Maybe it was that my mother never salted the chicken soup when she made it.

Maybe it was just that none of us had discovered the secret yet.

The secret is that really good soup comes in a bread bowl.

Yes, it is that simple. I've discovered that anything tastes better in a bread bowl.

You doubt me? Well, I've proven it. See, I had some of that wonderful Panera soup in a bread bowl, but I was too full to eat the bowl. So, for supper, I made some ramen-type (shrimp flavor) and dumped that in the leftover bread bowl. The verdict? The noodles tasted the same, but boy did that broth improve the minute it soaked into the bread.

Soup ... it's all about the bread.

I'm thinking I could open up my own "Soup Nazi" kitchen here in Virginia. I can serve as many different soups as I can find on the shelf at Big Lots, and I just have to procure enough bread bowls to serve them in. Bread bowls will be mandatory, to hide the fact that I'm using generic condensed soup, and I should rake in the dough.

So ... let's see ... if we are keeping track, I think that makes ... 3 ... yes, 3 major money-making ideas I have had this week. I suggested the waterproof hoodie with rain mask (Nike/Champion, I'm still waiting for your call). I suggested drive through pizza, and I figured out how to sell soup and make millions.

I'll sell you all of these ideas for a mere negotiated percentage of your profits.

Just give me a call.


Drive Through Pizza

>> Monday, October 12, 2009

You know, there is something that has been puzzling me for a few months now. I am reminded of it every single time I am driving in the car around lunch time with a sound asleep child in the backseat.

Living in one of the more "urban" suburbs in this country has some pretty great upside. We have lots of things available here that weren't available where I grew up, or in my college town. (That isn't to say we have everything. We won't have everything until Barney's Coffee comes back, someone opens up a La Famiglia Giorgios around here, and a bagel shop and Dunkin' Donuts moves in close enough for me to walk to no matter where I am. Then we will have everything.) One of the really big upsides is that in a pinch, when your Toddler is sound asleep in the backseat for the first time in days, you can get almost anything you need from a drive through window.

I can get burgers, chicken, french fries, salads, coffee, fancy coffee, fish, baked potatos, and even my prescriptions, all through the drive through. One thing I cannot get from a drive through window, however, is pizza.

Am I the only one that has ever thought about this? With all the innovation in this world, and all the people trying to sell me things I don't even know I want, why can I not get pizza through a drive through window? If course, there are some obstacles to waiting in line in my car for an entire pizza to go through the oven. I get this. But why can't I order my slice (or two) and my very, very, very large 32 ounce or larger "medium" diet soda at a speaker, have them slap it in the reheater, and give them to me at the window just like a burger?

I hear some of you thinking, "but you can't eat pizza in a car -- too messy". Well, sure, pizza in a car is not the smartest thing anyone could eat. But then, how smart is any eating in the car, really? I think a slice of pizza is no worse -- and probably better -- on the easy/not too messy scale than (1) a salad, (2) a baked potato, (3) fried chicken on the bone, (4) a Big Mac. (C'mon, you know more lettuce goes onto your lap than into your mouth ... admit it ....)

So why not? Why not Drive Through Pizza? With Pasta? There is this restaurant in Lake Tahoe with this great sounding name that would be perfect for a new chain of drive through slice shops: Fasta Pasta. I'll admit to never having eaten there, but boy did that name sound cool.

With great ideas like this, I have to wonder why I'm not the richest woman in the world.

Oh, right. That's because I blog about things and don't actually do them. That's right.


Watch What You Say

>> Friday, October 9, 2009

Most families go through the phase where the child/ren repeat everything you say. In some cases this can go on for years, and the older the child, the bigger the time delay in when they repeat what you said -- usually they wait for the worst possible moment.

Take this story, for example. I think it is safe to tell it now without causing strife, as it happened over 10 years ago, and all the parties involved are either still friends or are dead....

When this story happened, my oldest niece was a little girl. I don't recall how old, exactly, but old enough to be in school. My mother, my grandmother and I were to meet my sister and her family at the local Chinese Buffet for lunch. Now, to be fair, this was a period of time where my mother's entourage seldom arrived anywhere on time. Nobody liked this, least of all my mother, but things were what they were. My mother would be hunting for coupons or something, my grandmother would forget we were going someplace ... it wasn't a pretty scene. Of course, we were all used to it by now, and everyone made some sort of accomodations for transport of the elderly and the generalized chaos that seemed to follow the three of us when we were living together. By the time we arrived, we were probably 10 minutes later than we said we'd be. At that point, my niece comes running up to us and said, "Mom told us to just go inside and get our seats, because she said, 'You know how they are!'"

Umm, yea. Kids will say the darndest things, right?

Well, we are in that phase right now with Toddler. Our one saving grace is that his speech, while complex, still requires a human interpreter, so even if he rats us out, chances are he won't be understood ... for now. I've been having fun with this by saying things like, "Go tell Daddy that Mickey Mouse is a piece of broccoli." (Of course, he does.)

Today, however, we saw what we all knew was coming. Toddler repeated something little boys aren't supposed to say. For about a minute, he was walking around the house saying, "dammit, dammit." Now, I know we have all been trying so hard not to say such things anymore, but when the brand-clean pile of laundry falls down on the big giant pile of cat fur, things just slip out, okay? Thankfully, he dropped the idea quickly, and the front door was closed.

Be very, very careful. The day has arrived....


Of Fur, Food, and Freaked Out Pets

>> Thursday, October 8, 2009

Things have been unusually interesting in the cat colony here. We've crossed the line from Cat Owners to Weird Cat Family. Yes, we've begun to treat the emotional issues of our pets. I never thought I'd see this day.

I think I've mentioned that Houdini is not popular among the prior four-footed residents, but he is very popular with Toddler. Houdini goes back and forth between acting like he doesn't care about this and wishing everyone just loved him enough to just sleep in a big giant fur pile with him like all good cats are supposed to.

Let's take the bed, for example. Prior to Houdini moving in, Girl Cat would sleep on DH's feet, and Big Black Cat would sleep on mine. This was peaceful, or as peaceful as life could get with a 14 pound cat vibrating the bed with the force of his purr and rocking the bed springs with the motion of his tongue-bath. Then came Houdini, who decided that if everyone else could sleep on the big bed, so could he. But there was no peace if he slept next to the other two at the foot of the bed, so he tried to sleep on the pillows. Umm, no. I thought maybe that would have been fun when I was about 10 and tried to get the family cat to sleep on my pillow, but I'm older and wiser now, and I don't want 11 pounds of shedding orange Houdini fur next to my nasal allergies. So, the pillow was out. Next, Houdini decided he wanted to be on top of, in between, or preferably both, DH and me. *sigh*

We've tried banishing them to outside the bedroom altogether, but Big Black Cat will claw the door, Houdini will yowl, and Girl Cat will smack the boys around until they open the door, and I'm too much of a softie to lock them in the basement.

All this dispute started lots of anxiety among our family of four footers. Girl Cat boiled over in a pit of resentment when Houdini moved in, and apparently again when Toddler was born. She took it out on us and the house. There was nothing we tried that made a lick of difference for months and months and months. Sometimes it would get better, but I knew that it was only a matter of a few days before I was going to have to get up in the morning and clean up a nice puddle of resentment from the floor. What a great way to start a day, right?

So, finally, we found this magic (and very expensive) cat pheromone room deoderizer that has brought affection and tranquility back to the house. There are still swats, but no more rolling fights. The liquid resentment has declined to the occasional, "I saw you pet him, take that" in the front room, and the purring has increased. So, sadly, has the "pet me, please, right now" behavior from all cats, in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, and any time anyone is trying to sleep. Now, instead of trying to march around the house dividing it into individual fiefdoms, they all try to jump on the same lap at once. (Ouch!)

And now, to top it all off they hate both sets of that test food the nice cat food company sent to us. So, not only do they want lots of attention, they're hungry too. Hungry cats don't sleep at all. Starting at about 4:30 in the morning, Big Black Cat sneaks up to my belly, starts purring, and nuzzles my head to let me know that the pheromones make him very happy and content, and he is very, very, very hungry please. Food. Now. Most happily and respectfully, of course.

I don't know where this story will end, so consequently, I don't know how to end this blog entry except to say that I never, ever, ever, ever imagined I would honestly become the Crazy Cat Lady who mistakes her pets for her children. I never thought Houdini would be the sort of cat to let Toddler roll all over him, thus making it impossible to give him away. I never thought I'd get pushed out of my own bed by three cats, one of whom has a big crush on my husband.

And, most of all, I never thought I'd be so glad for an expensive bottle of cat smell in my outlets.


Wednesday ... It's Football Talk Again

>> Wednesday, October 7, 2009

For those of you paying very close attention, it's Wednesday, and on Wednesdays in this blog, we talk about football ... at least during the fall. I know. I know. Most of you think I'm just random, but there is a pattern here. If you hate football, you can know to just skip the Wednesday entry for a few months.

Of course, putting in football exactly on Wednesdays is sometimes trickier than writing the blogs. See, to be sure that you don't miss a single day of humor, I have written ahead on some of these blogs. But, writing ahead in football is really hard (impossible), and posting football posts too late makes them nonsensical and boring even to the most die hard fans of the sport.

SO, to make this Wednesday miracle happen, I actually type the entry, then go into my blog calendar and move ALL the existing entries ahead a day so I can slide this one in. Tricky, huh? I knew you'd be impressed at all this effort.

Well, I picked Wednesdays because it is the day before the "football" week begins, and usually there is not much football happening on TV. It seemed like the perfect time. Except, apparently, ESPN is screwing up my schedule again. Last week, for some reason, the "Thursday Night Game" was broadcast on Wednesday (Hawaii, LA Tech), and on Thursday there was no football. (Gasp!) My whole system is in tatters now. The football world is in disarray. As late as last year we could count on a few things. First, NFL and college ball would never be broadcast simultaneously (GONE, opening Thursday of College Football this year), Wednesday is a football hiatus (GONE, as of last week), and Tuesday is a football hiatus (still intact for the moment).

If this chaos continues, pretty soon we'll see ACC and Big East schools playing football on Saturday, and then again the following Monday, just to catch the tv schedule. Yeesh!

BUT ... enough about all this. Let's talk about this week's crazy football stories.

Lee Corso was overheard to say, on College Game Day, that "USC's offense is struggling offensively." So, what were the other choices? Could the offense been struggling defensively? Or did Corso mean they should have been struggling "politely"? Good question.

This story is crazy only in that when my team can't win, they find something else to be winners about, and that's cool, but the "Good Sport Award" for this past weekend is shared by Penn State and Iowa. Check out this article from the Daily Iowan.

Now I want to talk about Michigan. I know some of you are groaning -- there she goes again, picking on us. Well, hey, it's your turn. I haven't picked on Michigan hardly at all this year, despite my promise to do so. I could start out by asking Michigan fans if they are sorry yet about all the bad things they said aout Lloyd Carr in his last few years, but I will do my best to refrain. Instead, let's talk about those helmets you are so proud of -- those "winged helmets". What part of those funny stripes running from the front to the back of the helmet is supposed to represent a "wing"? I will (grudgingly) admit that the curved stripes are visually appealing. They are distinctive. But a wing? I just don't see it.

And then there is Saturday's game. Wow. Michigan versus Michgan State is always entertaining. Heck, watching Michigan State is entertaining enough, considering that the poor school holds the NCAA record for the biggest come-from-ahead loss. We have a saying in our Big Ten Circle called "Pulling a Sparty," which means managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after putting up a really convincing lead.

But, as Lee Corso is famous for saying, "Not so fast, my friend." This year, Michigan State manages to lose its big lead in the fourth quarter, like usual, and it became a war of which team has the worst mojo and karma this year ... in overtime. As it turns out, this year is apparently not Michigan's year either, because Michigan State managed to pull out the win despite their own crippling efforts of self-defeat. Michigan State has beaten Michigan for two years straight ... for the first time since Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States.

Have I twisted the knife enough yet? Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.


Weathering the Weather

>> Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This is the time of year I have a dreadful time figuring out what "season" to dress in. Do I wear Fall and risk roasting my insides, or do I wear Summer and risk my chilled skin and goosebumps doing an impersonation of a smurf with acne? (Hey ... if you understood that joke ... chances are ....)

Well, consistent with Murphy's law, no matter which way I decide, I'm wrong. I tried looking at the weather report, and checked the temperature, but it doesn't help. For starters, I made the mistake of looking at the weather forecast that shows up on the web page. Let's just say that at 8:00 last night it said that the weather was 82 degrees and sunny. I was thinking that it was awfully dark for "sunny" at 8 PM in late September in Virginia ... perhaps there was an eclipse of the sun I missed?

But, if I go out dressed in shorts in 55 degree weather, the worst that happens is that someone chuckles into their hands and whispers to their companion about what an idiot I am (or perhaps how I am wearing fashion-challenged clothes, but that doesn't depend on the weather). If I happen to take Toddler out in the wrong gear, though, heaven help me.

I first learned about this phenomenon of random strangers to comment on my parenting-dressing skills shortly after Toddler came home from the hospital. He had spent a couple of months there and was well adapted to the cold. In fact, the Virginia August heat was a bit much for him, so we were hanging out in shorts and a t-shirt in the usually quite chilly Costco. Out of no where, in the freezer section, this random short woman came up to coo at Toddler. She felt compelled to tell me that he was going to get very cold and I should have him wrapped up in a blanket or something.

Okay ... random stranger ... and I do mean strange ... what if I told you that it was really quite warm in the store and obviously you had a rare but severe metabolic disorder probably brought about by dressing your children too warmly when they were little? Hmmm, you probably wouldn't understand what I said. What if I told you I was really the mother of 7 children, and this was my grandchild, and I have so much more child-rearing experience than you do? How would you know? But, in the interests of not wanting to slap you upside the head for being rude, I will simply walk away with some trumped up excuse about going to find Darling Husband. Follow me at your own risk. Darling Husband is a very big man.

Two weeks ago I took Toddler to music class. The rain was heavy, the air was chill, but it was not "cold." It was "cool." We were going to a music class to run around in, so I decided on shorts. The walk to the door from the car was short, and not worth putting on a coat, so we made a run for it. I got an awful lot of funny looks from the other moms on my way in. It had to be the way we were dressed -- they hadn't met me yet and had no other reason to look at me that way.

The next week I decided on long pants. After all, it is September, and the temperature is rarely getting above 75, and the class was in the morning. We might have to change later, but at least we wouldn't get chilled from the start. Woops. The room was warm, and Toddler was sweating in 4.5 seconds and getting mad about it. Wrong again, Mom. I guess this coming week we will try shorts and jogger pants so we can be layered for all weather.

At that point it will probably snow or something. I love Fall.


Things That Make You Say ....

>> Monday, October 5, 2009

For the past few days, I've had advertisements on my mind. I've seen a few while driving in my car that made me do a double take, and I've seen some on TV that make me wonder who is so dumb as to believe it? (Hopefully not the writers, but you never know.)

Let's start with those TV commercials. Have you ever noticed all those auto insurance customers that claim to save people all that money? Did you ever notice the way they phrase those savings? "Customers that switched saved an average of ...."

Um ... duh. If they didn't save, I doubt they would have switched. Now what would be really useful information is if they told us the average amount of non-savings of all the people who got quotes and didn't switch. That would be useful information, but probably it wouldn't be good advertising....

The rug commercial I heard last night just takes the cake, though. The voiceover promised that if Carpet Store couldn't beat the competition's price by 15%, you'd get the carpet free.

Uh ...

Okay ...

I hope no one thinks anyone is getting a free carpet from that place. I mean, what would you do if you were Carpet Store? Give a 15% discount or give it away?

More importantly, does anyone actually believe this stuff?

As far as advertisements seen through the car window, I thought you might appreciate these:

Near the Pennsylvania/Maryland border, heading north, there is a Nesquick Billboard (with the rabbit and everything) that says, "When life hands you lemons, make chocolate milk."

I'm not sure I want to think about that too much. It reminds me a little bit of pineapple pizza.

In Frederick, Maryland there is a Motel 6 with one of those announcement boards where the motel can put up things like, "Welcome Jones Wedding." This one said, "Love Chapel." That's all it said.

I'm thinking, is this a band? Did I suddenly end up in a Bermuda Triangle Vortex to Las Vegas? Has Maryland changed its marriage laws? Was the motel bought out by an embarrasingly overdone Poconos resort and is now sporting heart shaped hot tubs? I don't know what to make of this.

While I was driving home, I happened to catch the other side of the same sign at Motel 6. It said, "Bible Life Church Ministries." I think I know what that means. I think it means irony.


Our Nation's Roadways

>> Friday, October 2, 2009

This topic is so vast ... our nation's roadways. I've spent a lot of time in automobiles, driving across vast stretches of this country (although most of it was east of the Mississippi, not all of it has been). On my travels, I've made some observations, and I am wondering how true you might find these.

Atlanta, Georgia. Apparently, no matter how much you might wish or need to, if you are stuck south of Atlanta during rush hour, there is no way around but through. I guess whenever the city roads developed, no one considered that there might be anyone that wanted to go ... say ... west of Atlanta. I guess they thought that the only interesting places to go were north or back to Florida? I can see their point, but I was trying to get from Tampa to St. Louis, and hanging out south of Atlanta wasn't in the cards for me, and a 3 hour traffic jam around the city was not in the plan! We found a small and windy road (that would be the narrow and twisting kind of windy, not the big breeze kind) that eventually led us to Tennessee, but I'm not sure that waiting in the traffic jam wouldn't have been faster.

Have you ever noticed that when you cross the Mason Dixon line from Maryland to Pennsylvania the quality of the road immediately deteriorates? When I used to live in Pennsylvania, PennDot used to blame the road conditions on the difficult-to-manage "freeze and thaw cycle." Okay. But 2 miles in either direction from the state line, aren't Maryland and Pennsylvania in the same freeze and thaw cycle? I'm more inclined to think that the poor road conditions are there to slow down the bootleggers so more of them get caught smuggling cheap liquor in from Maryland. On the other hand, if you've looked at the prices recently, they aren't all that different anymore ... Maryland just sells them in more convenient places.

I have not yet joined the world of modern technology enough to buy an EZ Pass (says the woman publishing a blog on the internet). Either that or I like to be shocked by how much money I pay in tolls every trip .... Regardless, I am always befuddled at why the Ohio Turnpike has not joined the electronic revolution in any way. They still collect all tolls manually. Is this some sort of public job protection for the toll workers, or what? Or maybe Ohio is just telling us all that they don't really want us trucking through their state anyway? After all, the Ohio Turnpike is one of those places where they put the first visitor's center 40 miles inside the state line (on the PA side). If you want to get into Ohio as a curious visitor, apparently you have to really want it. They don't give those tourist brochures away to just anyone, you know.

While we are on the subject of turnpikes, how is it that the Pennsylvania Turnpike always seems to have at least 1/3 of it under construction at any given time? I mean, seriously, at some point you'd think the Commonwealth would just give up and start blaming the freeze and thaw cycle like they do with the rest of the roads, wouldn't you? Then again, there is that old Pennsylvania joke that there are really only three seasons in the Keystone State: Football, Winter, and Construction.

If we move past Ohio into Indiana, we find one of the most curious phenomena I have ever seen in all of my travels. The state stretches in the dark. In the daytime, you can cross it in no time at all. At night, that skinny little state at least triples in size, and the more tired you are, the longer the state becomes. I distinctly remember one trip where I was swearing up and down that I'd made the trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in half the time it took me to get across Indiana. That's pretty amazing to me. That's even more impressive than the magical stretching Route 322 that makes the last 30 miles northwest into State College, Pennsylvania some of the longest minutes of my life.

The most confusing road signs in all of the United States, as far as I've seen, are those inside the gates of Walt Disney World. I've gotten so turned around there almost more times than I can possibly count, and I practically live there. I know more ways home from Walt Disney World than I do back roads in Pennsylvania. At least there are more street signs in Walt Disney World then there were in Amish Country, Pennsylvania, although people still give directions by reference point rather than street name. (Turn after the sign for the Yacht Club versus Turn left at the fork in the road past the old barn that burned down 10 years ago.)

The scariest roads in this country, that I've found so far, are in Hawaii. Some of the ones that tested my fear of heights to the utmost, so far, were in Lake Tahoe, although that is a close contest. I can't even pick where I saw the worst roads -- there were so many places to choose.

The place that has the most distorted view of distance and traffic is Kauai, HI. They honestly think that the other side of the island is a world away. The entire island would fit inside the Washington, D.C. beltway. You can be on the other side in half an hour.

Oh, I could go on and on about this one, but at some point I must simply say, "Enough!"


Who Has Been Teaching My Kid?

>> Thursday, October 1, 2009

I have had many a moment over the past many months where I stand amazed at the things Toddler has learned. I was impressed when he knew who Chip and Dale were when we went to Disneyworld. I was stunned when he could count to 20 and I had to sit down when he counted from 12 to 1 backwards.

From time to time, though, Toddler comes up with things that make me wonder who is teaching him things behind my back. I mean, we go lots of places, but always together. He isn't in preschool, and we don't have unsupervised play dates. We don't even go to other kid's houses very much. I haven't seen most of this stuff on TV, so I'm at a loss where he is picking it up. I'm beginning to suspect netherwordly intervention, or possibly reincarnation.

A few weeks ago, Toddler surprised me by being able to recognize Barney the purple dinosaur from a book. For reasons of my own personal sanity, I have restricted access to the "Barney channel" in the house. I knew he probably would like it, but I have a low tolerance .... I figured when he pointed at the book and said, "Arney!" that I must have slipped up a few times more than I realized. I only recalled one episode being on when he was in the room, but obviously, I missed some.

There are other incidents, though, that I just cannot explain, try as I might.

For example, a few weeks before football season began, Toddler began walking around the house singing, "Na, na, na, na! Na, na, na, na! Hey, hey, hey ... Goodbye!" Of course, this is very appropriate for a child of a football family, but where in the world did he learn it? (I have to admit, he is very good at it. You can understand completely what he is trying to say ... no problems whatsoever. He even has the right attitude to go with it.) I wonder if I had ESPN Classic on too much in the background ... but even so ....

Starting a few days, ago, too, Toddler has come up with another song. He sings the words to the song, "Lullaby and Goodnight." Now, I've no doubt where he learned the tune. His musical bedtime toy sings that song. But where did he learn the words? He is singing WORDS! The problem is that I don't know the words to the song and I can't figure out what he's saying. I can hear him say, "Lullaby and Goodnight" and after that it is all too difficult to distinguish. I tried to Google the words, and I get about a dozen different versions ... and so far no luck in figuring out which one he is saying. But all of this is guesswork is beside the point, which is this: "HOW DID HE LEARN THE WORDS?" Was Big Bird singing them when I wasn't listening? I can't figure this one out.

This morning I am fairly certain I heard him sing the opening bars to "2001: A Space Oddysey." I'll admit, the song is rather ubiquitous, so I suppose he could have picked it up anywhere, but I think it a bit odd, don't you? Just to be sure I wasn't imagining things, I Googled the song, found a YouTube video and played it. Sure enough, Toddler came running over and started humming along. There is no doubt in my mind now that he knows the song.

This last one is quite a bit more confusing. Toddler will repeat most music he hears -- no surprise there. He has heard an awful lot of music by this point. He has a toy piano with a "jukebox" function that plays a bunch of songs -- some I know, many I don't. Buried among them, for some strange reason, is a quick ditty that sounds a lot like the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It isn't a perfect match, but it is fairly close. Wouldn't you know it, but that is the song he latched onto, singing it for nearly an entire day in the car ride from Florida to Virginia? Why that one? Is in he touch with some cosmic wavelength or something? I'm not sure I really want to know. Even now he will still sing it from time to time ... spooky.

I could go on and on, but the long and short of it is I think Toddler has a hidden source of knowledge and information that I need to find. I may have to look into that Manchurian Candidate theory again.


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