Last Chance of 2009

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009

Today is New Year's Eve. We are all waiting around for the ball to drop, talking about what a great or rotten year or decade it was, eagerly ancitipating turning the calendar to 2010.

Have you ever wondered why this particular flip of the calendar means so much? Sure, we call it a new year -- but what does that mean? For the most part, it means we all date things wrong for a month or so before we get the hang of it. Nothing else really changes.

Religiously, many faiths celebrate the beginning of the year at other times. Medeival scholars give odd days for the beginning of the world that don't coincide with New Years. The US fiscal year begins in October. New Congressional and Presidential terms of office begin in mid to late January. Even winter already came a few days ago.

So what gives? Why celebrate? No one celebrates any other flip of the calendar ... like ... say April to May or anything.

All of our state and federal tax witholdings reset, so if you had a bump in pay at the end of 2009, you can kiss that goodbye now. If you met your medical insurance deductible, you have to start over, unless you are one of the few whose plan years start in some odd day like July 1. And, if you are like most people, your semi-annual auto insurance bill is staring you in the face any day now.

And still we celebrate. We laugh in the face of winter while it throws 2 feet of snow at us, and something ancient in our souls hopes we will still have food enough and strength enough to laugh in the face of winter when it throws another two feet right before springtime.

If we celebrate nothing else, I guess we can all celebrate the fact that we have one day, one thing, one moment where we can all celebrate together without religious overtones, weighing of spiritual holiday wishes versus inclusive language ... all without need of presents. Culturally, New Year is a holiday without strings.

It's a time for even humor bloggers to get sentimental.

For whatever reason, a new year, however arbitrary it is, is something we all see as a chance for a new beginning. And a whole hell of a lot of alcohol.

So let's make a deal. I won't check up on your New Year's resolutions if you don't check up on mine. I won't share how much you drank so long as you don't post it on any social media site.

Happy New Year, Happy New Year Bowl Games tomorrow. Don't drink and drive, and don't drink and tweet. Or Facebook. Or Myspace. And for Pete's sake, don't drink and post on Linked-in because that's where all the people you want to work with look for your resume.

In the meantime, check out for some comical New Year's superstitions. I'll see you in 2010, and I promise we will get back to being funny then.


The Dark Side of Decking the Halls

>> Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Girl Cat is sitting next to me. I am being seduced by her long white whiskers and "pet me" eyes and that cute off-center stripe down her nose.

She is acting out of character.

Normally, when Girl Cat wants attention, she makes a mad jump for my feet and legs when I'm walking out of the shower in the morning, and she hangs on until I pet her or knock her away. This acrobatic stunt only happens, however, if I have failed to notice her jumping up on the bed and meowing frantically, which only happens if Darling Husband has already left the room.

Today she is sitting next to me nuzzling my head with hers. She is raising her paw to pet my face.

I'm pretty sure she is thanking me for the Christmas tree and for all the warm fires since the temperatue finally dropped enough to turn all of our rain into snow.

She almost has me hypnotized. I am most grateful for her rare gestures of affection toward me. I have almost forgotten ...

all the sounds of heaving and yacking night and day because all three of them insist on eating the pine needles that fall from the tree. Fake or real, it doesn't matter much to them. Both upset kitty tummies. The only difference I can see is that apparently artificial pine needles are not digestible and they come back right away. The real needles come back as bright yellow slime after a period of time.

If I wasn't concerned about losing a lot of followers, I would give you a rather detailed description of the incredible sound effects that come from upchucking cat, because it is so unique for each beast. There is nothing human about the sound, and nothing to even make you think of upset stomachs except the fact that I keep saying "puke" and "upchuck" just so you don't forget what we are talking about. I think Girl Cat sounds a bit like a cartoon car backfiring, and that is as far as I will go with the visual and audios.

I am writing this blog post for posterity, so when the time comes next year to go buy the Christmas Tree, you all can remind me of how much fun I am having. I am feeling so victimized. My entire family was so annoyed with me because I so anally made sure that there was no tinsel on any tree anywhere low enough for any cat to reach, swallow, and die. (Of course, tinsel can be very bad for cats, but my cats have a secret stash of Easter grass they found a long time ago and have been bringing it out periodically for batting and yacking fests. So far they are all still alive, and I have found a wide variety of very effective cleansers for various surfaces.) But, despite my painstaking care, all three of them are doing impressions of reverse vacuum cleaners several times a day.

Of course, they have a new team member this year. A certain Toddler has begun to experiment with opening doors for them to explore rooms that were previously shed and yack free. I think the cats joined forces with Toddler because they were concerned about finding a way to stop Toddler from slamming doors and locking them away from food and litter until some other Two Footer was smart enough to miss the forlorn cat.


I might have had an epiphany.

As I am typing this blog, Toddler is upstairs pretending to take a nap, all the while babbling about "more cookies."

I think I might have to start investigating where all the cookies are really going.

Maybe this dynamic team of trouble is into more than I thought.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go find out why the conversation upstairs is no longer about cookies and consists of repititions of the words, "Oh, no. Oh, no."

Until tomorrow....


Non Sequiter Hot Dogs

>> Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Toddler starts talking the minute he wakes up in the morning and only stops when he is unconscious.

Let me say this again just so we are all on the same page.

He talks all the time. All. The. Time.

Now don't misunderstand me. I love to hear him talk. The child has absolutely no filter between the thoughts in his brain and what is coming out of his mouth. While I don't recommend it, this type of affliction makes parenting from another room quite a bit easier. I can be typing a blog entry, and I hear him say, "I stand up! I sit down." If I hear him say something like, "I touch Christmas Tree," or, "ooh, sticky tape!" I know the time has come for me to say something.

Another communication afflication of my child (and probably most toddlers) is the art of the non sequiter. A "conversation" with him is not like a conversation with a brick wall so much as it is a conversation with a random word generator.

Let me give you a few examples.

Me: "Honey, do you have to go potty?"

Toddler: "I have a red car!"

Or this:

Me: "Toddler, come here, please!"

Toddler: "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse!"

Me: "Come here!"

Toddler: (to his toy) "Hey look! It's Mommy!"

Or one of my favorites:

Me: "Toddler, do you want to color crayons?"


Of course, every time he gets into trouble (read, "gets caught"), and he starts to cry, the conversation goes something like this:

Me: "Toddler, stop it!"

Toddler: "Stop it! Stop it! Back to bed! Be quiet! Me want Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. No Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. No Handy Manny. No Little Einsteins. No Pooh. No Handy Manny Tools. Back to bed!"

Yeesh, to listen to this you'd think I actually sent the kid to bed as punishment. Actually, once, about 2 months ago, I sent him to bed because he was so tired he was acting out. I've been hearing about it ever since.

Of course, as you might have guessed, the great mouse that lives in Florida has a big influence in this house. This child sees mouse ears everywhere, including places that no one employed by Disney ever envisioned or intended. He found a model of the Good Year Blimp made around 1970-something, with three wheels on the bottom.

Yes ... my child looked at this and saw Mickey Mouse.


Of course, when he looked at me for confirmation, I was at a loss for words. The best I could come up with was, "Well, yes, in a weird sort of way."

He probably answered me with something like, "Hey look! It's Houdini!"

Just think -- when he is a teenager and refusing to talk to me at all, I will miss these days of listening to him in his bed at night singing, "It's the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! Come inside, it's fun inside!" and talking about chicken and hot dogs when I ask him where his shoes are.

At least he is talking to me.

And while we're looking at the bright side, he still thinks Skittles and M&M candies are "balls" and coins are "buttons." I didn't teach him this, and I really did try to correct him, but he is not interested. After I thought about things for a little while, I decided that I like it this way. Balls and buttons. If we all thought of them this way, chances are we would be happier.


I Defend My People Against Killer Candy Canes

>> Monday, December 28, 2009

On a recent snowed-in Sunday, while Darling Husband was outside trying to remove two feet of snow from our cars and our neighbors were setting odds on how long (if ever) the plow would take to remember we are still part of the County, I heard a noise.

This was no ordinary noise. This was Big Black Cat's rarely heard, loud, "I Caught IT! I AM KING HUNTER" yowl. This, "MEOW," only appears in our home when Big Black Cat has captured and subdued an evil catnip mouse, the occasional bath toy of Toddler's, and various other household objects. Surpringly, Big Black Cat has not yet yowled triumphantly for any actual "live" prey, such as a Camel Cricket or, heaven forbid, a mouse. No, while he may catch live prey from time to time, he does not yowl triumphantly and bring them to me as a present. I think this may be a good thing.

So, what, you may ask, was the horrible mean prey that Big Black Cat was carrying on about? I would draw this out, but if you bothered to read the title, you can almost certainly guess. He rescued the family from a viscious, blue, killer candy cane that Toddler got from Santa and which had been hanging most menacingly on the holiday garland running up our staircase railing.

Whew! Thank goodness he saved us from ... whatever the candy cane was going to do to us. Give us cavities, perhaps. Maybe Big Black Cat has secretly begun doing promo spots for the American Dental Association. I'm not sure.

Either way, I certainly feel safer now. Don't you wish you had a Big Black Cat to save you, too?

Needless to say, the blue candy cane certainly met its match. I believe it was already snapped in two inside its wrapper when Big Black Cat mauled it. After Big Black Cat's attentions, the poor candy cane was in many more than two pieces. Thankfully for me, all of the pieces, including the dust, were still inside the wrapper. Despite that blessing ... I decided that I would heed the warning of Big Black Cat and dispose of the thing. True, it was the only blue one Toddler had, but he doesn't like candy anyway. (I know. Odd child.)

Better safe than sorry. Rest in pieces peace, blue candy cane. I'll never know what flavor you were.

If I had to be completely honest, I would guess that Big Black Cat saw fit to attack the candy cane as part of his long term apprehension about Christmas decorations, which originate with the day the paper bag tried to beat him up.

Well, either Big Black Cat failed to learn his lesson, or Christmas really is out to get him, and he was right to strike back where he could. I say this because another paper bag attacked him today, by wrapping itself around his neck in the mere 2 minutes that DH left it sitting next to him while removing its Christmas contents. This time the bag had no bows, so the fight didn't last anywhere near as long as the last time. Sadly, though, the poor animal has now run away to hide, beaten and degraded after his triumphant defeat of the candy cane.

The paper bag is sitting triumphantly on the chair.

What's a mom to do?


Merry Christmas -- What Are You Doing Here?

>> Friday, December 25, 2009

Hm. So you thought the title of this blog wasn't talking to you, did you? It's Christmas Day, and you are checking out this blog.


That's ...

devoted of you. (Yes, let's go with "devoted.")

I'm off drinking egg nog with Darling Husband and Toddler, as I mentioned yesterday that I would be taking the day off in general. True, I didn't specifically mention this blog. You have me there. (Notice how I said, "You have me" instead of saying, "You've got me.")

Since you came all this way, I won't send you home empty handed. Please feel free to check out this video sent to me by one of my darling readers, and I'll check in with you again tomorrow.


Christmas Eve -- The Day Before The Truce

>> Thursday, December 24, 2009

Today is Christmas Eve, and I am expecting a full-fledged, all out engagement with the forces of Entropy and Chaos. I doubt this incident will be a mere skirmish. The annual Battle of Christmas Eve is always one of our fiercest exchanges, and I would not be the slightest bit surprised if I found mysef barricaded in the kitchen today in a desperate attempt to hold some sort of front against the onslaught.

You see, I have this compulsion that everything must be done, neat, and put away on Christmas Eve because I know I will concede Christmas Day to the forces of Entropy and Chaos. There is no stopping the mess, the hustle, the bustle, the chaos, and the fun of Christmas day, and who would want to? But, because I know I will be conceding the fight for a day (my own version of a Christmas Day Truce), I want to win some ground the day before. Strangely enough, the forces of Entropy and Chaos also fight all the harder to keep me one step behind and moving further from my goal as the hours progress.

Well, I cannot make this a long post, else I will lose today's stuggle in an epic fashion. I must get the house ready for Santa Claus. We need to mop the floors, make cookies, finish wrapping last minute gifts, quickly drop off cards so the postmark is before the big day so no one thinks I'm that lazy, clean out the fireplace so the big guy doesn't get all sooty, and so we can have a nice fire all day long, too, dust off the rooftop and shine the chimney.

I've already done the laundy, done the dishes, made muffins, matched the socks (well, to the extent I can), cleaned out the coupons, and made arrangements to donate old sheets and towels to the local animal rescue group.

Did I miss anything?


Uncomfortable Much?

>> Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sometimes I think that advertisers don't always listen to (or read) their ads before they go to air or print.

At least, I can hope this to be true.

I am not hostile to advertising, nor am I all that picky. (Honest.) I fully understand that some of the most effective ads are the most irritating simply because they are irritating.

Sometimes, though, I just have to wonder, "What were they thinking?"

Take Facebook for example. Each day Facebook users are inundated with advertisements on the right side of their pages extorting us to buy this or that or sign up for this or that service. My personal favorite is the one that says, "President Obama wants Moms to go back to college!" He does? What about dads? stepmoms? childless married couples? Does he want them to go back to college, too? I later learned that on some of my male friend's pages, the ad reads, "President Obama wants Dads to go back to college!" To me, this begs the question, did the ad-preparer really think that the ads would be more effective if it said, "Mom" or "Dad" instead of "Parents?" or how about, "President Obama wants adults to go back to college." Honestly, I don't think the reference to "mom" made me at all more likely to click the ad. I can't say I totally appreciated that the picture shown with the ad was of a well-styled mom holding lots of shopping bags. Hey, if she can afford to buy all that stuff, why should she go back to college? She seems to be doing just fine on her own.

Another of those Facebook ads that I find rather disturbing is the one with three women standing there in cyberspace under the title, "Cervical Cancer and You."

What is this, a party? Thanks, but this is one invitation you can keep to yourselves.

I am presuming (and this might be dangerous) that the goal is to have me so interested that I click on the ad and learn all I need to know about protecting myself from cervical cancer. This ad makes me think I might actually get the disease if I look too closely. Woops! Someone missed the boat there. I may have to go wash my computer screen.

In their defense, medical advertising can be tricky. You have to be relatable, accessible, not too gross, not too scary, but scary enough to be memorable and motivating. Oh. Yes. And you have to sell products to sick people or hypochondriacs, and you have to be memorable enough for healthy people to remember when they are sick, all without losing decorum or being too crass about the "sell" part.

That isn't too hard, is it?

Let's take a look at another ad. Yesterday, I heard a commercial on the radio for a nearby hospital and its Breast Cancer Clinic -- one of the top rated in the nation. This commercial had a woman talking about how she was going to fight her cancer with the help of a "Breast Care Navigator"

Wait. What was that?

Breast Care Navigator?

Did I hear that right?

Apparently this is a nurse who is supposed to guide you through the process, but I guarantee if I took this title out of context, a whole lot of men in the world would have an entirely different idea of what the job was and apply on the spot.

On the whole, the ad was inspirational and comforting, so I am not faulting the idea. But, "Breast Care Navigator?" Really? I don't know. I just don't get good vibes from this term. I think it was a dubious choice. I can't get past the vision of hypersalivating men with big, big eyes.

Then again ... I won't forget the commercial anytime soon, will I?

Tell me -- what commercials make you cringe?


Bathroom Humor -- But Not How You Think

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009

With the H1N1 pandemic all around us, I find that I have been innundated with instructions on how to wash my hands.

On the back of the door on the toilet stalls in Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University, I saw a sign telling me I washed my hands long enough if I sang "Happy Birthday" to myself twice. In church a few months ago, someone suggested that I sing the Doxology to myself to time my hand washing, and just yesterday I heard Handy Manny tell his Tools that he knows he washes his hands long enough if he sings the "Hop Up, Jump In!" song.

Personally, I think that at this time of the year we should be singing the Christmas song of our choice, and out loud, too. Now, for my non-Christmas-celebrating friends, you may elect to take the position of my Jewish dentist and sing Christmas carols with gusto, or feel free to substitute a song of your choice. If you love Chanukah songs, feel free. I personally love to sing "Jingle Bells" all year round, so I would enjoy hearing a little Chanukah music even though the holiday is "officially" over. (Actually, on my mother's advice, I've taken the position that "Jingle Bells" is really a winter song and I am free to sing it up through February without penalty.)

Okay, so far so good. We have a little bit of disharmony and conflicting music in the public restrooms of the nation, but so far no problems. So what is my beef? Well, I have many. First, in the largest public gathering I have ever attempted (Beaver Stadium, which seats in excess of 100,000 plus vendors, security, staff, and other personnel), there is no hot or even warm running water. In the middle of freezing cold flu season, we as paying guests of the stadium have no choice but to wash our hands in cold water. When the temperature is 40 or below, washing hands in cold water is very difficult to do.

Truthfully, I was once standing in the lavatory at Beaver stadium trying to figure out if I wanted to go and pretend to wash my hands at all or if I would just step aside and whip out my pocket hand sanitizer in an attempt to avoid frostbite. I was all in favor of the no-frostbite approach, but I had a bit of a fear the other women would start pointing at me and saying, "Yuck! She didn't wash her hands!!!!! In a fit of inspired creativity, I did whip out the hand sanitizer and offered it to the four women nearest to me in lieu of all of us washing hands in cold water. They were most grateful, and we exited the restroom in solidarity, with our sanitized hands safely inside our gloves and no risk of chapping or freezing. For one brief, shining moment, I was a hero to my fellow women football watchers in the nosebleed seats. I felt great.

No, there is no "but" to that story. It ends with "I felt great."

Moving on. Someone sent me an email with instructions on how to handle public restrooms during flu season. In a nutshell, the advice is to wash hands (in appropriately warm water, singing your approriately designated song), obtain a paper towel, turn off the faucet, and open the door with the paper towel before discarding it and exiting the restroom, all while touching nothing but said towel.

Well that's great! If your restroom is about 3 feet long, has paper towels located near the sink and a trashcan located near the door. I've only been into one restroom that met all these criteria, and it was a Toyota dealer's stall in South Central Pennsylvania -- not a place most of us will end up before we die. (Although the restroom was shockingly clean and the people were most charming. Still.)

Most of the time I find myself facing the question of what a responsible citizen of Earth and bathroom-visitor is supposed to do? Am I supposed to concern myself primarily with environmentally green issues like turning off the water quickly and minimizing towel use in favor of mounted heaters? Or, am I supposed to concern myself with biohazard issues and treat myself and every object around me as if it is actively contagious and I am solely responsible for stopping the spread of the flu by not touching anything?

What do I do? Save the Earth from global warming, or save humanity from a flu epidemic? My email and my doctors tell me to worry about the flu, while the signs soldered to the mounted heaters tell me to preserve the environment.

Help! This is too much responsibility for one trip to the restroom!

I'll admit I often choose the anti-flu regime over the pro-environment regime, but this choice is not without a good dose of guilt. I figure that maybe I am being duly punished, though, during the times where there is no trashcan by the door. In that case, after I open the door using the towel, I have no place to put it, and I am left holding a (supposedly) contaminated towel in my hand in some public place -- like a restaurant. I either continue to carry the germy thing, drop it on the ground (hence littering), or shove it in my pocket.


I like hand sanitzer best. It's portable, and the only overarching issue with that solution is whether I am contributing to the creation of superbugs by using it. Hmm. I'm going to pretend I didn't ask that question.


Another Shout Out -- Howie Mandel

>> Monday, December 21, 2009

For the second time in the history of this blog, I am going to redirect you to another entertainer for your dose of humor today.

First, let me give you some background. Two posts ago, I said that I think in laughter we can evidence understanding, misunderstanding, strength, and foibles. The risk of trying to be a humor blogger (or a comedian, for that matter) is that the humorist may think he or she is showing acute understanding and highlighting enduring strength of venerated institutions despite human foibles, while the listener or reader may think the humorist has obviously misunderstood and is just trying to poke holes in sacred ground. (On the other hand, the humorist may be trying to highlight foibles and making institutions or people look bad, but that isn't my point today.)

Some of you may have heard that comedian and Deal or No Deal Host Howie Mandel has written a book entitled, Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me. I have not yet had the chance to read the book but the fans on Twitter are raving about how good it is. In a nutshell, the book is Howie's autobiography about his life with ADHD and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD.

The more I read and listen to what people are saying about this book, the more impressed I am about the courage it took to write this book and to share a life like this. I am very proud of this man. (Can you be proud of a man you have never met? Let's go with "yes" on this because otherwise I would have to make up a new word to describe this emotion I'm feeling, and you know from my post last Friday how I feel about made up words.)

In fact, I am so moved by the strength and honesty it took to write this book that I am actually a bit chagrined at my casual use of the term "OCD" in this blog in the past, including my recent post, "The Self Conscious OCD Visits the Dentist." In hindsight, the ease at which we use the initials "OCD" in common conversation is rather insulting to people who are affected by this very real and very serious disorder.

Howie, I'm sorry. I know you never even saw what I wrote, and you probably will never see this post, but I'm sorry nonetheless. No insult was intended, but perhaps insult was given anyway.

Some of you may be wondering why I've taken such a serious bent in my usual tongue-in-cheek forum. Here is why. I think Howie Mandel's approach to life is evidence of a truly incredible part of the human condition -- the healing power of laughter, on ourselves, and on others. As Darling Husband and I learned over the past few years, you can understand this concept, or you can live it.

Laughter got us through some very dark days in the first two years of our son's fragile life. If you had been here in this house, you would have heard jokes that were very dark, and sometimes very gross. (Medicine in the home can be a very messy thing.) I can only classify this phenomenon as "gallows humor," and I think the very fact that we have such a phrase is evidence again of its impact.

I know that I generally refrain from talking about anything "medical" in this blog, but I can't help myself today. I started writing this blog in part to help reach out to the families of medically fragile children who so desperately need a chance to laugh. We were fortunate enough to finally see an end to use of the term "medically fragile" in this house, and replace it with the words "typical" and (however politically incorrect) "normal." Many, many families are lifers with the medical stuff, and sometimes those stresses are unendurable, yet they must be endured.

I thought maybe you all who read here so faithfully might be interested in knowing why I persist in doing this every weekday, day in and day out, rather than occasionally or sporadically or "when the mood hits me."

Now, for your chance to really laugh, I would ask you to please take a look at Howie Mandel's segment on the Ellen DeGeneres show earlier this month. And, if you are still shopping for Christmas Gifts, consider purchasing one, or two, or ten copies of his book. (If you still need a gift for me, I still need this book.) While you are at it, though, skip the book signings and just read it. You'll see why in this clip.


New Words And Extra Syllables

>> Friday, December 18, 2009

I think some of you have gotten the hint since I started this blog that I am a fan of good grammar.

Of course, I have made a rather grand exception to the rule shoved into me as a child that I should never, ever, ever start a sentence with "and," "or," or "but," because, frankly, these words make great starts to funny sentences. In addition, my spelling, or rather, my typing, could use some help, but I am working on it. I swear. I've offered an unpaid position as my proofreader, with the fabulous benefit of seeing my blogs in advance, but so far no one has the wisdom required to accept my offer. (Good spelling and grammar a must for this position.) So, in the meantime, I am relying on spell check, which doesn't always help and is useless when I accidentally type a different word from the one I intended.

In addition to my support of good grammar (someone start a Facebook fan page, please -- oh, wait. Someone probably already has), I am fascinated by the apparent international compulsion among English speaking people to invent new words. Well, quite possibly this compulsion appears in people who speak all languages, but I don't speak any other language well enough to recognize a fake word when I hear it.

Almost 20 years ago (cripes, am I old enough to say that?) I was touring England. (As a matter of fact, yes, it was the same trip made famous for the carrot abundance, thanks for asking.) We had this lovely tour guide named Theresa, and she spoke in this lovely accent that, to my ears, sounded so charming and cultured. Or, it did until the day she had the bus driver drop us off in a nice English town and said that she needed to "orientate us" before we got off the bus. I'm not sure which unnerved me more that day -- the use of the word "orientate" or the fact that I could never remember which side of the bus had the door ....

My exposure to this made up word "orientate" was the first time that I can recall observing that someone invented (or elongated) a word when a perfectly fine word already existed. For those of you having trouble keeping up, she should have offered to "orient" us, not "orientate" us. If we follow through on the pattern, no one will ever be "disoriented" again. We'll all have to be "disorientated." I have to admit, I'm getting there myself.

Of course, for those of you who follow sports, you have undoubtedly heard the sports-coined terms, "trickeration" and "commentator," both of which can now be found in online dictionaries. I doubt there is any way to stop our grandchildren from thinking that these are actual words. Too bad.

I'm not sure what about the human psyche makes people want to use bigger words when shorter ones will do the job. Caustically, I might say that some people want to sound smarter than they are, and they think more syllables will do it, but I don't really think that is the case for everyone. Certainly this theory works for some people, and quite well, too. For others, though, I think they must have a compulsion that some words are simply too short to hold all that they are trying to convey ... and so additional syllables just come blathering out. Not all of them are new, but most of them are unnecessary, and unnecessarily wrong as well. And incorrect, too. And erroneous, also.

At times like this, I am reminded of a bumper sticker I received from a Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal box when I was a young girl. It said, "Stamp out and abolish redundancy." Of course, at that age, I didn't even know what it meant, but I believe you can still see said bumper sticker (as opposed to the bumper sticker) on the back of the Radio Flyer wagon in my mother's garage. You are most welcome for that flashback.

The examples of excess words seem endless. To wit (That's a quaint lawyer-ism meaning, essentially, "namely," but doesn't it make me sound smarter? Or, perhaps, saying, "namely" just doesn't seem like enough of a word to hold all these examples.):

I once read a friend's newsletter where she referred to her daughter's boyfriend as a "romanticist". Again, I'm not sure whether I was more baffled by her making up a new word, "romanticist" rather than simply saying, "romantic," or by her husband and children not bothering to tell her she made up a word before she sent the newsletter. Maybe they didn't know either. She isn't exactly the kind of woman who has enough chutzpah to make up a word and be proud of it, although some of her children are.

When I was still working in the law firm, a great many of the staff would send around emails and memos with sentences like, "If you have any concerns, please contact Sheila or myself." Oh, I cringed just typing that quote. I may need another cup of coffee to finish this story. I cannot tell you how often I was tempted to walk out and start referring to the staff members as "Herself," except I was pretty certain those who needed to get the joke wouldn't, and those who got it already thought I was a little bit odd. (Again, for those of you having trouble keeping up, she should have said, "please contact Sheila or me.") The rule of thumb, per Grammar Girl and my high school English teachers, was to drop the "Sheila or" and see what still made sense. Unfortunately, I also saw a lot of emails asking people to "please contact myself." I have no idea what to tell the people who wrote those messages.

Darling Husband and I have some interesting discussions about odd speech habits heard in this house. He has a tendency to use the word, "whenever" instead of "when" and we have endless discussions about when to use which. Rather than picking on him much further, and risking him starting his own blog about me, I will just refer you to this link that addresses a somewhat similar dialogue between two people I have never even heard of, much less met. The most interesting part about Darling Husband's speech, though, is that he doesn't realize he even says it. In his head, he thinks he is saying, "when." Curious, don't you think?

I would think that perhaps, "curious" is a poor word choice for forgetting the words that just came out of your mouth, except Darling Husband is not alone. We have a friend that starts the first sentence of every new discussion with the phrase, "As I said." (When did you say this before? You just got here.) He doesn't believe he says it either. I've threatened to follow him around with a video camera just to prove it.

Also, one of our family members, who shall remain nameless, likes to respond in conversations with the phrase, "I agree with that one, too." (In addition to what else? No one knows.)

On that same trip to England I mentioned above, my mother and I took an extension tour of Ireland, where we met another lovely tour guide named Finola (I think). She would tell stories using the bus microphone to help keep us entertained during some of the longer rides. One day, apparently, she lost track of what she was saying, as she told us the story of some Irish heroine who, "died and never recovered." After we all laughed she had to ask what she had said because she admitted she wasn't really paying attention anymore.

Well, I'm going to stop here, now, at this point in time, to get me a cup of coffee for myself.

Until tomorrow ....


It's All About You, I Mean Me

>> Thursday, December 17, 2009

For about a month now, I have had the idea to blog on a few topics that would amuse me, but I have restrained myself. I think at least some people would be amused and intrigued, but there are always reasons for not proceeding with any given topic.

Here are the things that sometimes stop me.

1. I will offend someone in my attempt at humor. What works in conversation sounds all too serious in print, or it hits too close to something that people find hard to laugh about. For example, I have blogs about the u-turns of the doctrine of certain organizations of the faithful, as well as a demand for pet insurance health care reform, that I have not had the nerve to publish. I think in laughter we can evidence understanding, misunderstanding, strength, and foibles. I may think I'm showing acute understanding and highlighting enduring strength of venerated institutions, while you may think I'm just stupid and picking on sacred ground and sacred cows. Even worse, some of you might mistakenly take me seriously. (Don't do that.)

2. No matter how I generalize, or how many examples I provide, someone I know well who reads this blog will think I am talking about them. Of course, sometimes I have no problems calling out friends and family members and throwing them under the Blogger bus, so that isn't the issue. The issue is when I am actually not talking about a family member or friend and they will think I am talking about them. To list one, I had an idea for a blog about coupons, how to use them, and how not to use them, but I can think of one family member and one friend right away who would be certain I am talking about them. They can think it all they want, I can't stop them ... but I am certain they will want to come talk to me about it.

3. I have (what I think is) a fantastic idea about phone etiquette, but I am fairly certain that some of my most faithful blog readers will think I am talking about them and stop calling me altogether, which might make some of our holiday gatherings a bit ... awkward.

So, what to do? Throw caution to the wind? Continue my self-censorship?

I don't know. Let's just say I wouldn't be taking up valuable blogging space writing about what I'm not writing if I wasn't actually still thinking about writing it. (Did you follow that?)

We'll all just have to wait and see. I have touched tangentially on religion and health insurance before, and I didn't appear to lose any followers, no eggs were thrown at my house, and no one sent me any hate mail.

Maybe if I hoist myself on my own petard enough the Blogger world will all come to understand one fundamental truth.

This isn't about you. It's all about me. :-)

It is okay if we disagree, so long as you still think I'm funny. :-) :-)

See you tomorrow.


The Magnetic Power of Black

>> Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm stumped. No, this isn't about Christmas presents, but I'm stumped there, too. This is about tablecloths.

From what I can tell, the most disastrous color to wear a) near a Toddler, b) on a Toddler, or c) anywhere, if you are clumsy or self-conscious, is white. After all, I believe Jim Davis said something about cats being attracted to white suits (but who wears a white suit anymore? I must have that wrong. Someone check me.)

Apparently, in formal tablecloths, as with carpet, dark is the new white. The color you don't want to have unless you live in a clean room with a brilliant filtration system, is black. Basically, a black tablecloth looks great out of the package, but one drip through the dryer, and you are living in lint city.

I've had this tablecloth for a few years now, and I think it makes a rather stunning backdrop for some nice Christmas place mats ... but now, even freshly washed, the poor thing looks like a sheep slept on it. I mean, at first glance, one might be tempted to blame the cats. On further reflection ... I don't have a white cat anymore. He's been gone since I was in high school. Sure, Girl Cat has a few white hairs on her, but to make this kind of mess, we would have to pluck nearly every hair off of the average cat and lay it on the tablecloth. I checked, and she still looks pretty hairy to me.

Besides, these hairs are long-ish, and blond. Houdini's hairs might look blondish on a dark tablecloth, but they are not by any stretch long or wavy. None of my cats have long, blonde, wavy hair.

Oh, wait.

I do.

Now hold on a second. I do not go around rubbing my head against the tablecloth. I promise.

Well, anyway, however all these fuzzies got on the tablecloth, I wanted them off. I don't want to cop out and switch to a white one. I want the black one. So, I tried the dryer, and if anything, it got worse. What to do?

Well, I was using scotch tape to clean a "spot clean only" pillow (who makes these things?) that actually was infested with Houdini fur, and I had an idea. I could "tape off" the tablecloth too. Of course, scotch tape wouldn't cut it, and I'd need ... like ... postal tape or something, but it would work.

And just to show how far I've come in this world, I did it. I cleaned the entire tablecloth, one tape length at a time. Two years ago, I would have just bought a new one. Now I may never buy another one. Money is precious, but my time is precious too. Or at least, in my own mind I have way better things to do than clean a tablecloth one fiber at a time. After all, I need to check my Facebook account, right?


Deck the Halls With Lots of Help

>> Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We are still furiously decorating for Christmas here in the house. Everything takes at least 4 times as long (at least, at least) when you have lots of enthusiastic help from the under-3 crowd and the four footers, and I'm using that as the excuse to explain why we aren't quite done.

By the time we went to bed last night, we managed to get the artificial tree decorated with (mostly) cat proof and Toddler proof ornaments. The live tree with all the "my heart will break if this ornament breaks" will come in a few days -- as soon as we figure out when we have time to go get it, that is. (Gotta love all that rain -- and for kicks and giggles, you might be amused to know that as soon as it stopped raining here, it started snowing. Still no outdoor Christmas lights ....)

The most common sounds heard around this house yesterday were these:

TODDLER: I do it! I try it!

GIRL CAT: *chew* *chew*

ME: CAT! Don't eat the tree!

TODDLER: CAT! No eat tree! No, no, no! (Said while crawling after the cat on all fours, pausing periodically to wag his finger at the cat in the age-old, "No, no," gesture.)

ME: Toddler, only touch the green part of the tree, nothing else. (Fat chance, Mom.)

TODDLER: Mommy, it's broken! (pointing out the numerous blown tree lights by grabbing them with his fist repeatedly)

GIRL CAT: *blah* (expel artificial tree needles)

ME: Again? Seriously? I just cleaned up furball a few minutes ago.

TODDLER: I help! Mommy, I help! (Okay, that one got me running for the disinfectant wipes really quickly.)

Of course, I cut out a lot of stuff, but you get the general sense. Shortly after DH got home, Big Black Cat got into the act and made a few attempts to climb the tree. He has yet to figure out that there is a reason why I spike the tree with all those bells -- I can hear a violation of the branches from two rooms away.

All told, we only lost two ornaments. One turned up broken in the box, and one "fell" off the tree while I was out of the room. I came in to find Toddler squealing with glee, pointing at the pieces on the ground, while one or more of the cats were huddled under the coffee table in defense-mode.

Hard to say which one did it, but my money is on Toddler.

On the other hand, Toddler still has a tremendous tendency to announce what he is about to do, and doing, repeatedly. This is a great habit, in my opinion, because it gives me warning. For example, Toddler was playing in the family room when I heard him say, "Cut, cut, cut. Cut, cut, cut." At that moment I realized I had made the very poor decision of leaving the scissors (which I was using on the wrapping paper) on the floor. He was announcing to the universe that he was going to pick them up and try them out. Whew! Thanks, Mickey Mouse for having those silly repetitious phrases throughout Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! (Bad, mommy! Bad, mommy!)

I'm sure today will bring more of the same. I'm sure of it.


I Wouldn't Pick Me To Sit Beside If I Were You

>> Monday, December 14, 2009

I have a confession to make. When it comes to solemn occasions, I am the last person you want to be sitting next to. Honestly, I am a nice person, and I have a great deal of respect and admiration for solemn occasions. I had a pretty formal wedding myself, and I'm a big believer in ceremony.

Nonetheless ...

Weird things happen to me in solemn occasions. (You might want to take a moment to reread what happened when Toddler and I went to a funeral. Now why I thought taking him was a good idea still escapes me, but I thought it was some place we (and by that I mean I) needed to be, and he had to come.) The strangest thoughts run through my head, and I can't control them. The best I can possibly do is control myself, and sometimes that takes all the effort I have.

Take this story, for example. A few weeks ago I was a participant in a baptism ceremony. This was a dangerous choice, but I thought I could handle it. Before I even got into the sanctuary, though, visions of The Gilmore Girls were flashing through my head. I don't know how many of you were fans, so I'll give the long version. Some of you already know where I'm going with this "baptism" and "Gilmore Girls" reference, but you'll just have to be patient while the rest of the class catches up.

At first I wrote this brief but wordy description of the relevant scene in the show, but then I woke up (think "I Should Have Had a V-8" slap) and remembered someone probably posted it already on the internet. Sure enough, I found it at the WB. You can view it here.

Okay, are we all caught up now? Do you get where I'm going with this? Here I am, about ready to participate in this baptism and answer solemn questions, and all I can think about is Sookie saying, "Lorelai, why aren't you renouncing Satan?" I'm fervently hoping that my mind won't wander, and I'll respond appropriately and in a timely manner. Then I have this flash of what would happen if I didn't, and it involved DH slapping me on the back of the head and stage-whispering, "Renounce him! Renounce him!"

Needless to say I went through the whole ceremony with a barely controlled smile that was constantly on the verge of a giggle.

While we are "true confessing" I do admit to nearly lighting my veil on fire at my own wedding with the flame from the Unity Candle.

I also admit to playing a singing sheep in a Christmas play a long, long time ago ... and being fairly unable to excise that memory every yuletide season.

My whole life works this way.

I hope you are glad that yours doesn't.

Stay tuned, and I will tell you stories of the people who made me this way, and what happens when we all attend solemn occasions together.


Am I The Only One Confused?

>> Friday, December 11, 2009

I have now seen (most of) the movie Polar Express twice. The movie sure is a fun one, with a great moral about growth and development and learning to trust, to lead, and learn, and blah, blah, blah. Of course, Tom Hanks is always cool, even in multiple cartoon roles. (Take that, Jim Carey!)

But, honestly, does anyone actually get this movie?

I swear it was written as a string of repetitious mishaps involving children in runaway carts that were graphically designed with the amusement park industry in mind. DH and I count at least 4 potential roller coasters and one water ride that can come out of this one film. Heck, they won't even need to invent a new plot for the rides -- they can just download the digital footage from the film and run it through the giant screen with the moving cart. Job done! I'm surprised it isn't up and running already somewhere.

Putting aside the roller coaster mania for a moment, we are left with a kitchy Christmas moral and ... what? Children who walk on the top of trains, a hobo that lives on top of a moving train and disappears miraculously from time to time, and adults that leave kids in charge of driving a magic train. Okay, I can be persuaded that a magic train can have goofy adults that leave children in the passenger seat to apply the brakes. After all, this is (allegedly) a children's movie and children need to be the heroes, right? But then what about that hobo/ghost/angel guy? What are we supposed to get from his presence in the movie? And if this is a kid's movie, why does the little boy we are supposed to be rooting for end up in such a dark and scary place on top of the train for scene after scene, swinging dangerously off the side and -- of all things -- skiing and jumping into a mountain face?

Suddenly I feel like I might be watching a digitized nightmare instead of a Christmas movie. Yeesh. I don't wonder that Toddler refused to watch most of the movie. If I had remembered, I might not have let him see it. Then again, I managed to survive Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and if there is a bigger example of people being mean to each other for no apparent reason, I can't think of it. Oh. Wait. Maybe Charlie Brown at Hallowe'en. Yes, maybe that one. "I got a rock."

With all this meanness in our children's specials, I'm considering getting amazed that we all survived childhood intact. Then again, I watch how considerate everyone is to each other in the DC traffic scene and it all makes sense again.

Eh, quit analyzing, grab the eggnog, and keep watching. We survived. They'll survive too.

Merry Christmas movie-watching season. I'll see you for the Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty, and Harry Potter. Yes, Harry Potter. I don't know why those are considered Christmas movies, but they happen this time every year. (Actually, I'm sure that ABC is merely promoting the new movie that will be released -- actually, has been released prior to -- this blogdate.)

I'll be watching. You will be too. You know it. Just admit it.


Quick, Someone Build An Ark!

>> Thursday, December 10, 2009

I know I complained before that everywhere I go it rains, but this fall has been non-stop rain. I swear, it has raining for the past six months, pretty much the entire time I've been writing this blog.

Now, of course, that previous sentence was a slight exaggeration. Yesterday it didn't rain, and there have been a few other days when I was stuck inside, looking at the nice weather, thinking I might be missing my last chance at sunshine before the film crew for "Waterworld" began setting up their equipment.

Last month I saw a guy modifying his 1970-something car with skis. Last week I had to drag the sodden leaf waste to the curb (of course beginning this task only when I saw the truck coming down the street and realizing that no one had taken the bags up yet). Each one had a puddle of water in each of the folds, and for every bag I dragged, about a gallon of water soaked into my jeans. The guy picking up the bags was wearing a trenchcoat with hood, looking strangely like a cross between Denzel Washington and the Gordon's Fisherman. Thankfully, he decide to take pity on my sopping status and came up to the house to get the rest of the bags, which he promptly dumped into the trash bin and wheeled down to the curb. Hey, I guess if you are the trash company dude, you can use the improper container all you want, right?

This afternoon I bought a lot of groceries at the store. And by a lot, I mean ... enough to have the manager call the bagger to help me to my car. (Hey, it was a big sale, plus coupons, plus an extra 15% -- it was worth the hassle. Besides, Christmas is coming. I can't tell you what I bought because some of my gift recipients read this blog faithfully.) Well, by the time we got to the car, unloaded everything, and got the doors shut, the cardboard on the soda boxes was pretty well doused from the overhead sprinkle. I got home, unloaded the car, and sure enough, one of the boxes ripped and all 12 cans went rolling around the driveway. Two of them developed pretty impressive, fountain-like leaks and a few more went under the car.


The driveway is wet. It has puddles. I really did NOT want to retrieve all 12 cans. I just wanted to grab the ones I could see that were not obviously foaming and abandon ship.


No can do.

With my luck, I'll run over one and bust a tire or something. My tires pick up the oddest things. I think the guys at Just Tires are Just Tired of seeing my shining face each year.

So, down I go, into the wet to get all the cans. Since I'm now soaked from the knees down from crawling on the ground, I emptied the foaming ones on the driveway and watched the diet cola drizzle its way down the rivulets of water toward the small stream that is forming about a block away. I figured in about an hour it would make its way to the new river about a mile up the street.

Once again, I entered my house soaking wet. It's so wet around here even Houdini doesn't want to go outside anymore. We all leave our shoes in a sopping heap at the doorway. No one goes near the mud pits in the backyard -- not even the outdoor cats. We don't even bother to water the plants anymore -- we just open the door.

I bought a pack of candy canes at the store today, and as I did I wondered if it will rain until Christmas. (As a total non sequiter, the candy canes are "The Original Bobs." Who is Bob, and when did he start making candy canes? Am I supposed to know the answer to this?) Toddler tried to claim that it was "snowing," but I'm pretty sure that was wishful thinking. It was 48 degrees. If it keeps up this way much longer, we'll not be putting up any lights for the holidays. I have a thing about stringing lights while standing in puddles of water. I like my electricity out of my body, thanks.

So, I will close this post with one thought. Did anyone actually get that promise from God about the flood in writing? Notarized, perhaps? Please don't tell me now that this was all some big misunderstanding.



>> Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Yesterday I berated the woeful inability of our human society to make a superglue dispenser that actually glued the target, not the fingers, and worked more than once without gluing the cap to the tube.

Today, along the same vein, I'm trying to figure out why no one has been able to come up with a better way to dispense fast food condiments. It seems we have two choices.

First, we can use plastic little packets. Lets take a look at this choice in more detail.

Like most plastic packets, condiments don't actually "tear here". Most of them don't even say, "tear here" anywhere, and good luck figuring out which part is the part you are supposed to tear. Unlike in my kitchen at home, I don't often have scissors handy to help myself, and I imagine you don't either. This situation leaves us with a few options, and none of them are any good. We could choose to go without ketchup/mustard/mayo/condiment of your choice. (Usually I pick this option.) We could continue fruitless attempts to tear said condiment packet until we finally manage to wrip the whole side off and splatter condiment fluid over our clothing, the bag, the car, and the person sitting next to us. Or, we could attempt to open the packet with our teeth. I don't even want to think about how messy this one can be. I have never opted for this method, but I have watched people try it. Personally, I just can't imagine how much condiment sauce I would be forced to swallow or spit out once the darn packet finally ruptured. Condiments in such high doses are not altogether pleasant. (Toddler agrees, having tried honey mustard sauce by spoon earlier today.) The last option I can think of for us to open the packet is to pick the "teenage boy" method, meaning that we just lay the packet on the nearest hard surface and punch it so the condiment splatters everywhere.

I'm fairly certain that it was the "teenage boy" method that led to some fast food restaurants removing condiment packets from their restaurants in favor of little plastic cups. We can dispense our condiments from a pump into these cups and snap on the little plastic lid. Well, we can provided that the pump is actually working, has condiment sauce in it, and it dispenses in the general direction of the cup and not elsewhere ... such as our shirts.

Sadly, I think I must rest my case at this point. There is no easy, mess-free way to obtain and use condiment sauces at a fast food restaurant.

In a space age society, I think there must be a better answer. After all, I don't have this problem with my mustard at home ... most of the time, that is. What do the astronauts use in space? Surely they don't use packets. Imagine what floating ketchup balls would do to the shuttle technology. I doubt that the payload of the shuttle carries tubs of sauce with a dispensing spout, either. So, what do they use? Can we try it here? I'm sure it must be an improvement.

At this point, I'm quite relieved that Toddler doesn't seem to like any condiments. I'm sure these days won't last.


Someone Really Should Have Solved This By Now

>> Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Today I'm experiencing the miracle that is superglue. Okay, to be fair, I'm sure superglue is a trademark of somebody or other, and I'm also sure that I'm using some generic brand that is not technically called "superglue," but honestly, for purposes of this blog, they are all the same. Really. I wish they weren't.

Please excuse any typos you might see, because I have a thin white film over most of my fingers that makes it difficult to bend them. You see, I had to repair a Toddler toy today, and only superglue would do, despite my fervent wishes otherwise.

You would think that a human society that sends spacecraft to other planets and will send people to Mars in Toddler's lifetime could create a tube of superglue that can be used more than once. Alas, no, not yet. Every tube, no matter what the package claims, is really only usable once because as soon as you put the lid back on, the lid will almost certainly glue itself to the tube permanently. Every once in a great while you might get lucky enough to get two uses out of a single tube (perhaps because the tube has dual openings?) but I've yet to see anyone get three uses out of any tube. I have heard claims, but I have never seen the proof. I strongly believe that this fundamental flaw in superglue dispensing is why most brands will offer the consumer the opportunity to buy two tubes in one package. At least then you are guaranteed two chances to fix the same toy.

The most forward thinking superglue packages are those that have both the glue and the antidote in the same package.

I didn't buy one of those.

I wish I had.

I will probably wish this for several days.

Many brands of superglue dry clear. This one apparently turns white on contact with human flesh.

On the other hand, even if I had bought the superglue antidote, there as no one around but Toddler to administer it, so it wouldn't have helped much.

Here is what happened:

I tried to remove the cap on the tube to expose the dispensing spout. (Fat chance because it had already been used once before.) Instead of the cap coming off, the whole top began to separate, exposing the wider, toothpaste tube shaped opening. This was not good because the area I had to glue was very narrow, and anything that wide was bound to get glue everywhere. I needed a toothpick or something to apply the glue since the little spout was irretrievably glued shut.

Apparently, though, the accidental opening of the tube to the air released some sort of pressure or something, because glue began oozing out at an alarming rate. I had little choice but to coat the small area of the toy (plus the surrounding several centimeters) in a bold effort to save my countertop. Of course, in the process, the glue dripped all over my fingers. I instinctively ran both hands under water in the kitchen sink before the gooey mess had a chance to dry, but of course once the glue has made contact there is little one can do but spread it. By the time it hardened, I had managed to leave a nice film over five fingers and both thumbs. Thankfully I managed to separate all of these appendages from each other and anything else I cared about before they became irrevocably attached, but each one is nice and stiff now.

I'll admit that I've no brilliant ideas, but I would think by this day and age someone should be able to invent some kind of superglue dispenser that really works where and when we want it and no where else and won't drip even so much as a drop on the container so that it can't ever glue itself closed. After all, we have drawing products that only work on paper, and we have washable crayons and markers. Why can't we have superglue that repels itself from human flesh and won't stick to its own tubing?


About That Entropy and Chaos Thing ....

>> Monday, December 7, 2009

I've been thinking a lot about the role of my arch-enemies Entropy and Chaos in my life. They are sneaky, sneaky opponents, that is for sure.

Every since I started this blog, I've been careful about monitoring our activities and keeping track of the nefarious plots of Entropy and Chaos to destroy Order and Organization in my home. I know you've seen my musings in earlier posts, and you will be pleased to know that I believe I have discovered another secret undertaking by these persistent forces. (And if you are not pleased, then I am certain you are in league with them, so shoo! Shoo!)

I believe I have discovered that the forces of Entropy and Chaos are in league with retailers -- especially retailers of children's toys.

At first, I thought that I was to blame and not the retailers, thinking that perhaps I had a profound weakness for holidays and a soft spot for giving the children in my life all the toys I wish I was still young enough to fit comfortably. Then I went shopping with my mother, and now I am beginning to believe that certain retailers have some sort of secret mind-altering weapon that weakens the will and opens the home to never-ending clutter.

This past Saturday I was in Toys R Us with my mother and DH. Before leaving home for my mother's house, DH and I had discussed how we just have too many toys and we need a better storage system, and toys that Toddler has outgrown need to be stored or handed down. After all, few things are as big and bulky as toddler-sized toys or come with quite as many little tiny pieces. (If you doubt my conclusion, let me remind you of hobby horses, blocks, child-sized furniture, tinkertoys, indoor playground equipment, and legos. Are you with me now?) Streamlining and storage was our goal.

So what happened? I caught myself pointing out an inflatable Mickey Mouse ball pit and extra large bag of balls that Toddler would love, and hey, it was a really good price.

Mother agreed.

She bought it.

Why did I say it?

Now I have until Christmas to figure out where to put it.

I wish I could say this was my only experience with breaking my resolve to declutter in favor of super-sized Toddler toys, but the giant diner/kitchen set from last birthday would prove me wrong. One side is a diner table with benches and a table, and one side is a kitchen. Half of it showed up for the birthday (the kitchen side). This half currently fits nicely in the real, big-people kitchen, snug against the wall.

I have until Christmas to figure out where to put the whole giant thing once the diner-side arrives under the tree from Grandma and Grandpa. The only bright side to this organizational nightmare is that the box containing the diner will no longer be living in the garage.

As you can see, the forces of Entropy and Chaos have somehow found a weakness in my psyche and are exploiting it to coax me into purchasing (or requesting for purchase) extremely difficult to store objects that measure multiple square feet AND come with many, many, many, many parts. Talk about self-defeat!

My only comfort is that I am not the only one subject to this compulsion to buy (or to want). The day after the trip to Toys R Us, my mother declined to accompany me to the Disney Store on the grounds that she might feel compelled to spend yet more money on behalf of her hoard of grandchildren.

Heck, if she has trouble resisting the impulse, then who am I to blame myself, right?

In the meantime, does anyone have one of those wizard tents from Harry Potter that are bigger on the inside than the outside? I have a ball pit, a diner, an indoor sliding board, a rocking horse, a table and chairs, a giant toybox and a ride-on airplane looking for a home. In fact, there is a giant toy castle, fully equipped with a tower and toy fireplace, too ....


The Self Conscious OCD Visits the Dentist

>> Friday, December 4, 2009

Yesterday I had that truly unique experience of visiting the dentist. I hear rumors from time to time that visiting the dentist ranks very high on the list of fears and phobias of Americans and that dentists often find this reaction depressing.

I am not afraid of dentists. Of all my phobias, dentistry is not one of them. I've had 24 teeth pulled over the years, and I lived to tell about it, so I figure there is nothing left to be afraid of. Been there, done that. I'll admit to having evil thoughts about the dentist during those years, but the past is the past and we all have to move on or risk being the victim of snickering at cocktail parties.

Still, going to the dentist can be unnerving. Sure, there is all that scraping, and flossing below the gum line is never pleasant, if you ask me (which you didn't).

In my opinion, though, the worst part about going to see the dentist is battling the visual images from the obsessive, compulsive brain and forcing myself to sit still and endure. Let's think about this for a second. In few other public circumstances is a person that close to your face for that long.

If there is a flaw in your make up routine that day, they will see it.

If you ate an onion or garlic anytime in the last three days, they will smell it.

If you are having post nasal drip, they will know.

If your nose is not clean, they will notice.

On the flip side, if their nose is not clean, you will likely notice that, too.

Why, you may ask, am I so worried about clean noses? Well, for starters, I'm a mother. We worry about things like that. More importantly, though, I am short. If you are having a bad nasal day, we short people will see it. In fact, the inside of your nose is often the most prominent thing a short person sees when they look up into your face. You tall folks might want to keep that in mind. Please. Tweezers and tissues are your friends. Use them.

So, if you tend to the OCD and are visiting the dentist, you have a lot on your mind. I, for one, brush my teeth obsessively in the hours before going to the appointment. I know that eleventh hour brushing will do nothing to fool a clever dentist as to my overal orall hygeine, but perhaps it will leave a minty fresh impression, which is a good thing. Honestly, having someone know what I ate before I came in without me telling them is just a bit too much information for them to have. A girl needs her privacy.

Also, with the kind of personal space violation that comes from seeing a dentist, I have to wonder what he or she might think of the amount of facial hair -- too much? too obviously an issue I am addressing? What about DH, does anyone notice the five o'clock shadow when he goes in? (Facial hair is a gender-neutral issue, you see.)

Of course, once the scraping (or if you are so unlucky, the drilling) begins, there is little for a warped mind like mine to do but "observe" things and draft fictitious blogs in my head. I wish you could see the things I don't dare actually write down.

Today, though, I noticed something rather intriguing, although a bit unnerving. My hygenist had shaky hands. I think she might have just consumed an entire pot of coffee or something, because she definitely had the quiver. (Either that or I made her nervous.) Now, I'm fairly certain she did not have any condition that might lead to trembling hands, and so I am forced to wonder exactly what was going on a few moments before I walked in the office. She did keep me cooling my heals in the waiting room for an awfully long amount of time. Was she reprimanded? Did she overdose on asthma medicine (which can give an awful bout of the shakes ... so I hear. Not that I've tried or anything)? Did she actually suck down an entire pot of coffee?

Most importantly to me, though, is whether any of this was going to get worse enough that I needed to worry where she was putting that pick?!

The dentist himself is a sweet man. (I don't go see dentists with lousy personality. After all, I have to control for some circumstances in this situation, right?) He sings a lot. I've never quite figured out whether he does that to distract his patients or whether he really has secret aspirations for Broadway. Today he sang a lot of Christmas carols, which didn't help my analysis much, as I know for a fact he is Jewish. Of course, there is absolutely no problem with anyone singing any song if they want to, but this Jewish dentist singing Christmas carols just highlights the question even more strongly for me. Is he doing this to try to distract me from those sharp tools in his hand, or just because he likes the song?

Last, every time I am about to get out of the chair to go to the receptionist and make my next appointment, this dentist hands me a tissue. I have no idea why. Every time. I like to think he is being polite and giving me the tissue in case the flouride he just poured on my teeth starts to drip out. But ... part of me is afraid it has something to do with my nose.


A New Sitcom? Perhaps Not.

>> Thursday, December 3, 2009

I don't need to be wasting my time actually writing a humor blog. I just need to hire a videographer to follow me around all day. Laurel and Hardy made it big on way less than what happens around this house.

To begin with, I just walked up the stairs three separate times with the sole intention of getting some medicine to put in my travel bag.

Three times I came downstairs without it.

While I was upstairs one of those times, I decided to try to put away some medicine that belongs upstairs. I put it in the cabinet, and it fell out. I put it in again, and something else (on another shelf) fell out. When I put it in the third time, I seriously considered jamming it in there and slamming the door really quickly to leave the problem for the next person, but then I remembered that the next person is likely to be me -- or if it isn't, the person who finds it will just let it fall and leave it for me anyway, so all my solution would do is delay the inevitable.

I do have to admit that the "propping things against the medicine cabinet door" is a great technique to use in your guest bathroom right before you throw a party. If you prop it just right, you will find out which one of your (alleged) friends is snooping. I've not yet caught anyone doing this in my house, but that could be because there is no medicine cabinet in my "party" bathroom and it just doesn't seem fair to springload the under the sink compartment where the toilet paper is. I mean, what if there is a genuine TP emergency? Which one of us is the "alleged" friend then?

Moving back to my spectacularly organized day, by the time I got back from my multiple trips upstairs for the same medicine, I found that I had given Toddler just enough time to find and open all the plastic tubs of magnetic letters, plastic eggs, and wooden blocks. All the contents were spread in a nice clumpy sheet of clutter from one end of the room to another. I figured I'd pick them up with Toddler shortly, because I had more important, clock-related things to do, like potty time. I managed to take Toddler to the potty on schedule -- the clock's schedule, but unfortunately not his. I missed his schedule by a few moments. Well, that can't go on video.

(In that prior paragraph, I first typed "wooden blogs" instead of wooden blocks. I wonder if that is some kind of message from the internet about my writing style today?)

So, with a day like today, what could make it even more dramatic? I'll tell you.

While I was typing this entry, I heard Toddler find another box and dump its very noisy contents. I don't even have the slightest idea what must have been in that box except he keeps saying something about "cars". I didn't think cars could be so noisy. I finally managed to put on my makeup, and somehow I splattered it onto my white turtleneck.

And I have to go to the dentist today.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Shopping, A Retrospective

>> Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a man took his family shopping. He was an ordinary man, with an ordinary family, living in an ordinary small town. (Well, it was an ordinary small town if you didn't consider all the old-fashioned farmers with religious objections to electricity and modern conveniences such as cars and daily bathing and yet had no concerns with shopping malls. But, I digress.) The other members of this man's family consisted of a wife and three daughters. Two of them were adolescents, and one of them was a preschooler.

The year was 1970-something, and Al Gore had not yet invented the internet, so there was no realistic way to compare prices before leaving the house. Black Friday hadn't yet caught on to be the shopping phenomenon we all know today, so the weekend store flyers just weren't all that helpful.

Now, modern social experimentation will tell you that woman are "gatherers" when they shop, tending to browse and "graze" if you will, while men are "hunters" going quickly for what they want and leaving as soon as the mission is accomplished, with little or no loitering.

Modern social experimentation never met this man.

This man was born to find a bargain.

This man didn't merely hunt his prey, dispatch it, and bring it home. No. He first took out a biological surveying expedition to find the premium prey at the optimum price before producing any hunting implements. This man could take a 10 minute hunting party and turn it into a 2 week National Geographic Special on wildlife habitat.

Put in terms that you might relate to, this man could not buy a pair of shoes without making sure that no other store in the entire tri-state area had shoes the same or similar enough at a cheaper price. And, once he was on a quest for said shoes, there was no stopping him until the shoes were in the trunk of the car, at the best deal anywhere in 5 counties. Very likely, nothing else was in the trunk by the time the shoes rode home with the family, because on an expedition like this, there is only time enough for one kill.

If the prey was clothing, the man would leave his wife and/or child in the dressing room, trying on outfits, while he brought back piles and piles of options to sling over the dressing room door until said family member cried out for deliverance. (Keep in mind that any succesful "try on" needed to be verified, and prices compared, at all other department stores before any purchases could be made.)

Eventually, the man had to make a deal with his wife -- the hunting party was limited to one shopping mall only, and no one but the man was required to walk back and forth across said mall more than 3 times. Also, no person was required to sit in any dressing room in any one department store for more than one hour. Legend has it that the wife threatened to sit on the curb and not move again if this deal was broken.

Unfortunately for said wife, this family lived near the "largest shopping mall under one roof on the East Coast." While this little statistic is meaningless by itself, it translates to a mall large enough to comfortably hold four anchor stores and an ice skating rink (or 5 anchor stores and a food court, in later decades). A "quick trip to the mall" was an all day event in comparison shopping and sore feet.

This mall was surrounded by countryside and parkland, so there was no one to hear cries for help from exhausted families being run ragged looking for the best, cheapest, most efficient purchase. Passers-by, if they were listen, would have heard from this family such lovely refrains as:

"Pick me up and carry me! My feet hurt!"

"Not until they pick me up and carry me first."

To the very best of my knowledge, this man is the only man ever to have existed on the planet in the entire history of humankind to take an ordinary family of women and girls and make them beg to not have to go shopping.

This man was real. These shopping trips were real.

When this man passed away, he left behind quite a shopping legacy. He had a wife who hated shopping and would not even say the word. He had a daughter who would eventually give new meaning to "shop 'till you drop". Another of his daughters developed an uncanny ability to walk for hours in shoes that would fell runway models.

He also had a grandson who preferred shopping even more than watching Mickey Mouse ... especially if there was a little green shopping cart involved.

I fear for the future.


It Was a Dark and Lead-Filled Hand-Me Down Box

>> Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night ...


Not much going on here today.

I would like to take a few seconds and thank those of you that have been commenting, especially those of you who think my kid mooning the camera was amusing. I am deeply comforted to know that I did not fall down onto a church pew is spasms for something that was humorous only in my head, or that I posted my offspring's posterier for no good reason. (Whew! Sometimes we need that reassurance.)

You may (not) be interested to know that the trousers in said mooning picture are now safely in the box to be sent on to some other little boy in the family. Now when Toddler's trousers are too big around the waist, at least they will be long enough to reach the tops of his shoes before they fall down. Even if they have adjustable waists. Not that we've had that happen again. Or anything. And certainly not in the grocery store while waiting for someone to get us the little green shopping cart. Nope. Nothing like that.

Now, about that box of clothing we are handing down to younger cousins. I believe it is still technically illegal to distribute any item to or for children that has not been certified lead free by the owner pursuant to that extremely well-thought out child protection statute. Admittedly, the last time I checked, the application of said law was suspended until next February. And, so sayeth Congress, "second hand" transfers are allegedly not the target despite the wording of the law. But, unless I've missed an amendment or two to that bill, I think it is still illegal to hand this box of clothing over to another mom for use on her kids even though no one will come and arrest me until March. Of course, this law is what drove my craft business out of business, and brought me to you, blogging in my free time, so maybe it wasn't all that bad. (Or maybe it's worse?)

Of course, being a lawyer (former lawyer? once a lawyer, always a lawyer?) I have some reservations about doing something I understand to be illegal even if there is no penalty just yet. I mean, I have to uphold the dignity of the profession, set an example, respect my obligations as an officer of the court .... one of those, I'm sure applies. I could do some legal research to find out exactly what is still illegal and what is now permitted, but since it wasn't readily apparent to me on a 2 minute Google search, and since no one pays me for legal research anymore, I've decided on another solution.

I've decided to let my sister have my son's old clothes and toys, and if for some amazing quirk of fate her child comes down with lead poisoning from my son's old t-shirts, I will rely on my family ties to prevent said sister from reporting me to the police or from suing me for damages. Why? Because I love my sister and trust her completely? Well, sometimes yes, but that isn't the reason. The reason is ... she gave me the toys and clothes first. If I'm responsible, then she is too. (Ain't blaming sisters great?) Even better, if she does sue me, the gravy train is off, and I won't be sending her anymore clothes for her kid. (Of course, she won't be sending me any more either...)

I think I'm safe in assuming that we won't be suing each other.

Now, my cousin, on the other hand, did not give me any hand me down stuff for my son before I gave her used clothes and toys for her son. I don't have the same kind of leverage or bilateral trading agreement. The best I can do on that end is tell her that if she sues me I won't be bringing any more Chesapeake Bay hardshell crabs to the Christmas Eve potluck. Then again, I heard we aren't having the potluck this year ... so maybe I'm out of luck altogether.

Now for a total non sequiter ... I just noticed a spider crawling on the wall next to me. This is a little one, so I'm still calmly typing, but I need to step away to find a cat.

Until tomorrow ....


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