Ding, Dong the Mouse is Dead

>> Friday, April 30, 2010

If you haven't yet had a chance to read yesterday's post, then stop, rewind, and go do it.  Don't worry.  I'll wait for you.

Okay, are we all ready and up to speed now?

We left our story yesterday with me turning in for the night fully armed with visions of "death by rat" (thanks again, Spike TV) while Girl Cat, Houdini, and Big Black Cat were wandering around the house in search of Girl Cat's new friend "the mouse."

The plan was to have DH run to the hardware store the next day at some point to pick up some sticky traps.  While the idea of traps at all with Toddler in the house is not pleasant, sticky traps beat traditional traps because if I lose track of the child for two and one half seconds, and he finds a trap, at least I can cut it off him and no bones will be broken in the process (his or mine).  In the meantime, I was going to stay home and try not to think about "the mouse" somewhere in the house.

After all, chances were good I was never going to see him again.  Either he found a way out, or he suffered "death by cat."

However, early in the afternoon that next day, I was belatedly folding some laundry and draping some shirts over the dining room chairs.  I was about to go check on a corner near my plants while I was out there, because I thought I caught the faint whiff of pissed-off cat potion.  (That's unlitterboxed pee to those of you not worthy of having cats.)  

*Fold, fold, fold* *Sniff* *Take one step toward plants*


He's right there on the floor, not moving.  (I say "he" like I know.  I assure you, I don't know.)

No sane, healthy mouse sits in the middle of the floor in broad daylight.  I know that much.

I back up.  He ... doesn't move.

I went back into the laundry room, thanking my lucky stars Toddler is snoozing in his room.  All I need right now is for him to come running around the corner yeling, "WHAT YOU DOING, MOMMY?"  I retrieved the bucket and broom from last night's collection of mouse-combating elements.  I gingerly walked back into the dining room.  The mouse was ... still not moving.  Okay.  I took that bucket and dropped it on him, trapping him inside.

He ... didn't move.  I'm getting the very real idea that perhaps he has met his maker and is never moving again.  Perhaps that smell I so hastily blamed Girl Cat's temper for was really ... the smell of dead mouse beginning to emanate.

So, I promptly announced to Twitter:  "Because I have a child who will soon wakeup, I will actually pick up the dead mouse I found. If I didn't, I'd wait for DH like a coward."  Then I said, "At least, I hope its dead. If not, you will hear the shrieking." Followed by, "I'm getting the cat for backup."

The problem was I couldn't find Girl Cat, and neither of the boys were interested.  I tried.  I even brought down Houdini and sat him next to the bucket.  He promptly ran away.  Great.  Just what I need.  Me, a mouse, and no backup.  So, I donned some disposable gloves, grabbed a plastic bag, called my mother for a pep talk, and went out to remove said mouse.

A few moments later, I said on Twitter, "Oh help.  He's alive."

Yes, the little stinker (and I mean that literally) was, in the immortal words of Monty Python, "not dead yet."  I moved the bucket, and as I was reaching my hand up, he sidled away a few steps. I promptly slammed the bucket back down, threw a towel over it and, after further thought, got a big book and put it on top.  Then I got a moment to catch my breath and think about it, and I had the sickening feeling this was not the same mouse we saw last night.  That one was small and black.  This one was medium (if you know what I mean) and gray. 

That meant that this mouse was probably not lying here in a fit of exhaustion after having been harrassed and teased by my cats all night long.  I had been imagining them kicking back with some catnip tossing insults at the mouse while he was surrounded.  Alternatively, I imagined that after being chased from the upstairs by a cat bigger than he could imagine, he met all three of them at once, looked up, had visions of being in the movie, Cinderella, and just gave up the ghost.

But no.  This was altogether a different mouse.

So, here I was, the proud jailer of a semi-conscious mouse in my dining room, under a bucket, under a towel, under a very big book.  (It was Antonia Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots, if you must know, an ex-library edition.)  Even better, Toddler was due to wake up soon.  Best of all, there was still another mouse somewhere in the house.

What to do?  What to do?  Clearly the mouse was messed up.  I was thinking perhaps I might have the courage to take it outside and let it go, but I was afraid he'd been poisoned somehow and would possibly harm the outdoor predators like my cats ... or the neighbors dogs.  Or worse ... he might recover and come back.

Of course, my alternative was to ... I can't even say it ... kill him. 

Either way, I couldn't just let it sit there.  I was having visions of Toddler coming down the stairs, picking up the bucket, and then grabbing this sick mouse.

Ugh.  I decided that it was a good day to leave the laundry unfinished and go ... anywhere with Toddler.  Shortly thereafter, I sent my first (and so far only) tweet by phone:  "I am now outside with Toddler. mouse is dying in my dining room."  Then Toddler and I went for a walk.

Wouldn't you know it, though, but today was the one day Toddler did not want to stay outside.  After the walk, and a little bit of playing, Toddler insisted on going back inside.  At that moment, I found out that even though Toddler is not tall enough to open the screen door from the inside, he is plenty tall enough to open the garage door.  He was in the house before I was even sure which way he went.

I succumbed to my cowardice.  I decided to just play, "distract the Toddler from the bucket" for the afternoon and leave the semi-dead rodent for my husband.  After all, snakes, bugs, spiders and rodents are some of the reasons I got married.  They became, "someone else's responsibility" on the day I said, "I Do."  (For that matter, so did the job of examining loud noises and stealthy sounds of intruders in the middle of the night.) 

Surprisingly enough, I was able to keep Toddler's attention from the bucket for the remainder of the time until Darling Husband came home.  Toddler never even noticed it was there, even when he took his push toy and ran it around the living room and dining room a few times.  I guess I have to thank goodness for small favors.

Despite my neurosis of not wanting Toddler upstairs in case any more ailing rodents appeared, and not wanting him downstairs in case he kicked the bucket (literally, not figuratively), and while periodically looking for Girl Cat, who was most decidedly MIA when I needed her the most, I found time to tweet a few observations. 

"The small woodland creature expiring in my dining room bears no resemblance to Warehouse Mouse of Imagination Mover fame."

"Neither does it resemble Mickey Mouse."

"Toddler asked me if we could get a dog today. I said no. If I had known how apathetic my cats were about mice in the house, I'd have said yes."

"Cat #3 used to live outside. He is chomping his food not 6 feet from the rodent under a bucket and he doesn't even care. "

"From now on, the round eared creature that lives in #disney shall be referred to only as "Mickey". No mice are allowed in my house."

And so I passed the hour, waiting for some sort of solution, or for someone else to bump off the mouse so it wasn't on my conscience.  Darling Husband came home as soon as he could, and with a piece of cardboard as an added weapon, slid said mouse into a plastic bag, at which time he told me the blasted thing was dead, and I had suffocated it. 

I deny suffocating it.  I say he was at death's door before I got the bucket, and all I did was give him a little bit of privacy. 

Either way, the mouse had left the house.  Thus endeth the drama.

PS:  After a closer look when sliding said mouse into the trash bin, DH said he thought it WAS the mouse from last night. (We're still debating that, but in his defense, the cats seem to think we are alone again.)

PPS -- Special thanks to those of you who participated in the "mouse dialogue" that day.  I especially appreciate the clarification that Douglas Adams was referring only to white mice as being super-intelligent pan-dimensional beings.  The gray (or black) ones are just ordinary mice.


His Name Isn't Mickey, So He Isn't Welcome Here

>> Thursday, April 29, 2010

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you have probably stumbled on the fact that I am not ... exactly ... a fan of mice unless they happen to be named Mickey and live in Orlando, Florida.  For the full story of mice (and a practical joke played on me by Entropy), see here.  That post is a long one, so let me summarize it for you.

I bought a house (this one) that was occupied by, among other people and creatures, a very large dog and a large family of mice.  The dog and its owners left quietly, but the mice refused to move despite the posted eviction notices.  Even after the spiders and other creepy crawlies had (mostly) departed, the mice remained, and we, the unwilling landlords, had to get tough.  The mice left, one way or another.  The end.

Because we live in a bizzarely rural part of a major metropolitan area, we have since employed a couple of outdoor cats as door guards to help ensure that the mice family didn't return or invite it's mafia brethren to take a swing at us in some kind of blood feud.  Somewhat later, we added the dynamic duo of indoor hunting pals Big Black Cat and Girl Cat.  (See here, for Big Black Cat's prowess in defeating bath toys and candy canes.)  Even later, Houdini snuck inside.  Life has been good.  Furry, but good.

Then, apparently, I made two mistakes.  First, I wished for a night when I could sleep in a bed without having to share it with cats (and without the guilt of locking them away 'cause I'm softhearted that way).  Then, when our contractor commented that our old garage door had a big gap and he was surprised we didn't have a lot of mouse problems, I said, "Aw, no problem!  We haven't had a mouse since we got the outside cats."

I guess tempting fate is never really wise.  Apparently, neither is replacing a garage door, replacing all holes in sofitting, fully replacing all gutters and installing an underground water pumping system, all at the same time.  Sure, we are finally waterproof, and the gentle spring rains will no longer carve deep rivets into our yard, pour into our basement, or erode our foundation.  These are good things.  Apparently not giving the local woodland creatures notice that the neighborhood was being developed and they might want to move was a bad idea.

Yes, yes, I'll finally come out and say it.

We ... have ... a ...m-m-m-m-mouse ... in the house ... again.

At times like these, I desperately hope that Douglas Adams was wrong about mice being super-intelligent pan-dimensional beings.  I just don't want that sort of crime on my conscience.

We had our first clue earlier this week that something wasn't right, but we failed to understand the significance.  We had a little ... funk ... around the house.  We even complained about it, but, like many pet owners and small children owners, we blamed the wrong source.  In hindsight, that was dead mouse in the wall, I'm sure.  There really isn't any smell quite like it, no matter how much we try to blame it on other things.  (You know that "old house" smell?  That's it, except it isn't old house, it's dead mouse.  We just tell each other it's "old house" so we don't have to think about the dead mice rotting away somewhere.)

Well, that was pleasant ... okay, not.

Our second clue was a little more obvious.  Darling Husband caught Girl Cat toying with something alive that he described as a "very big black bug thing."  This "toying" was going on in our bedroom, no less.  I never saw it, but DH said he saw no tail, and Girl Cat let it scamper away and disappear, hopefully to go where all icky crawly bugs go when they don't come back.

Last night, though, we got the clue that was hard to ignore.  I came up the stairs, and Girl Cat was worrying something behind the bookshelf in the hallway.  She had "that look".  I've never seen it before last night, but I just knew that she had something big trapped behind that bookshelf.  This was no bug.  I yelled down to DH that Girl Cat was acting funny.  He came up, looked at her, and said, "Yeah.  She has been doing that for at least an hour."  While we were talking, she got up, walked to the other side, and began pawing underneath, only to walk back to the end where she could peer in. 

Yes, as much as we wanted to deny it, something was back there.  I tilted this (very tall, twice my height) bookshelf back about a half a centimeter.  The bookshelf is very cheap, so I could move it by simply flexing the fake wood.  Nothing ran out, so DH and I spent a few moments fooling ourselves.  "It can't be a mouse.  A mouse would have made a run for it when I moved the bookshelf."  We both agreed.

So, DH felt a lot more comfortable with the idea of muscling the bookshelf out a little further.  I was on the floor, with my eyeball pressed to the wood again, trying to peer under with a flashllight, and I had a creepy feeling that if we were wrong, some creepy thing was going to come running right at my head.  So I asked him to wait just a moment while I got up.  For added comic effect, our flashlight kept flicking off.  Anyway, DH moved the bookshelf a little bit, and Girl Cat promptly wedged herself in further so we couldn't see anything past her furry backside.

Finally, she agreed to step back and let DH take a look.  He laid himself down and peered with the flickering flashlight a long time, before he said, "Yep.  There it is.  A mouse."  Thne he got up.  Girl Cat resumed her  sentry duty while we discussed what to do.  We had all the stereotypical tools, like a broom and a bag.  We also had a bucket and a pole.  Of course, I'm never sure what we're going to do with any of these things, since I've never known anyone to successfully trap a mouse with a broom.  Ever.  (And yet we continue to try.)

I tried to bring Big Black Cat as a backup, but he would have none of it.  Usually he and Girl Cat hunt together ... at least when they are attacking insects that fly in during the summer, but he was all about running downstairs last night.  Houdini is scared witless of Girl Cat, so I didn't even try.

So, DH stuck a poking stick under the bookshelf with one hand, while holding the broom in the other, hoping to grab the little sucker in the bristles.  Of course, the little snot makes a run for it.  I think DH might have actually had a shot if it weren't for Girl Cat being underfoot.  She wanted the mouse, and she ran for him, but then she saw the broom coming and backed away, while DH stopped the broom because he didn't want to hit Girl Cat.  I felt like maybe I was watching a junior high baseball game when someone forgot to yell, "I GOT IT!"

In the meantime, the mouse took advantage of the confusion and headed straight to the guest room and vanished.  After a few moments of fruitless searching, I returned to my quest for a bath and bed.  I was having flashbacks about my earlier experiences with mice, and was sorely regretting ever agreeing to watch even the five minutes of Spike's 1000 Ways to Die that I forced myself to sit through.  The subject was death by rats.  Right.  So sorry I watched that.

I left the guest room door open all night, figuring if the mouse didn't find another way out, one of the cats would corner it again.  Besides, they love that room because they aren't allowed in it, so I knew they'd at least pretend look to appease me so they could stay there for the night.  In turn, I had the night mostly free of furry creatures on my feet.  From time to time they would appear and snooze, but most of the time they were pretending to hunt down the hall.  As you might imagine, I was a restless sleeper last night.

I got my bed back ... but what a price!


The Dictionary Still Needs Work

>> Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Recently I posted a few excerpts from my Toddler to English Dictionary I have been working on so my family and friends can converse with my son as fluently as I do. So far my write ups have been immensly helpful around the home.  Unfortunately, there are a few ... okay many ... Toddler-isms for which thereare no known translations.  Of course, since every Toddler speaks a different dialect, I cannot ask anyone else for help. 

Here are a few of Toddler's more troublesome phrases:

1.  "My eye is cold."

2.  "I need to pick up the bananas." (When he said, "I need to pick up leaves" and picked up brown packaging filler, we thought we were good.  When he changed it to "I need to pick up bananas" in the same conversation, we lost faith in the original translation.)

3.  "Mommy's knee is sick."  (It is?)

4.  "I need my arm."

5.  "Eee weee."  (We think it might be a lazy variation of "This way.")

6.  "gnang, gnang, gnang." (Spelling uncertain.  This phrase appears in one of several repeated sentences as follows, "Don't worry [Mommy/Daddy/favorite toy], gnag, gnag, gnag, we'll turn the TV back on.  I promise."  "Now remember, [dramatic pause] gnag, gnag, gnag ...[later half of sentence varies without warning]."  "Once upon a time, gnag, gnag, gnag.  The End."  We have identified no meaning that fits in all three uses of the sound.)

7.  "I want sawgrass pudding." (We have chocolate, chocolate brownie, chocolate vanilla, and banana.  No sawgrass.)

Of course, if you have any suggestions about potential translations, I would welcome your insight.  Heck, at this point, I would take your speculation.  I have extrapolated tons of meaning out of general gibberish, but these have me stumped.


A Few Things I Don't Understand

>> Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm sitting here at my kitchen table (in front of my computer, no less), trying to answer this question:

If my contractor says his team is going to be here sometime between 8AM and noon, what on earth are they doing?  I understand giving somewhat of a range for afternoon service calls for travelling repairmen.  I don't like it, but I understand that you can't really tell how long it will take to fix Mrs. Johnson's washing machine.  I get that.  I even get, "I have to finish a job first thing in the morning, then the team will clean up and go right over to your job, so expect us sometime after noon." 

What I don't get is a range for a construction start that begins at 8AM and runs until noon.  Apparently, we are the first job of the day, because what job is there for a handyman or construction team that can end early enough to let them get here by 8, especially considering the local traffic situation?  So, what could they be possibly doing that might delay them?  Are they just not setting their alarm clocks and waiting to see what time they wake up?  Are they bringing in workers from West Virginia?  What is going on here? 

Not knowing when the other repair guys are showing up today, if at all, is a whole different story.  Their truck brakes aren't working, and they will get here when they can make it here, if not today, then tomorrow.  I completely understand this strategy.  They want to get here alive, with all of the materials intact and not trailing down the highway, and they want to be able to stop when they hit the bottom of the street without running into my house to do it.

Totally understandable.  But just establishing a window of 8 AM to noon for the first job of the day?  Yeah.  I don't understand that.

While I am on the topic of a few things I don't understand, let's hit a few more, shall we?

Have you ever noticed that when people on TV have a costume party, they always have the most spectacular costumes ... even if they are on the Love Boat?  This begs sooo many questions in my mind.  For example, even if you know there is a costume party, do you travel with an extra suitcase for your Marie Antoinette ball gown?  'Cause I don't.  I don't even have a ball gown, and I wouldn't want the rental fees to take one on a cruise anyway.

For that matter, how come all those college kids who have costume parties always have the most amazing costumes that must cost a fortune to rent?  I don't have that kind of money now, much less when I was in college.  Come to think of it, I don't know where the costume rental store was in college.  I'm sure there had to be one, because TV would have me believe that you can't have a college with a Greek system without also having a costume rental place for the obligatory costume party.  I don't even know where a costume rental shop is here, now, in a much bigger town.  (And, no, I don't care to Google it.)

I guess I'm just not the costume type.  Either way, most of the people I hung out with were more concerned about where they would score the next beer.  Come to think of it, some of the people I still hang out with have the same view on life.

I guess some things are just beyond my comprehension.


It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This -- Shout Out Time!

>> Monday, April 26, 2010

I love laughing, and I love reading.  What I love perhaps best of all is those moments when something makes me laugh out loud, literally, in a belly-holding, tears streaming down my face, I've totally lost control and can't talk moment.

I don't get those opportunities very often.  I had two, recently.  In one, I was telling my sister a story that I cannot find a way to blog about on the internet.  (Trust me, I've tried.)  I cracked myself up so hard I couldn't talk.

But ... sometimes what cracks me up doesn't go over so well with the internet blogging world.

Then, every once in a while, I find the gem -- another blogger who writes a post that makes me laugh so hard the neighbors can hear me and the cats start running. 

I recently discovered one such blog post, and I even mentioned the author two times before in my posts The Great Green Crayon Mystery and Catching up on a Little News for Blah, Blah, Blah Day.  The best part of all -- he's not only funny, he is PG enough for a Shout Out.  (Let's face it, there are something things I don't want to advertise that I find amusing...)

Anyway ... moving away from my questionable sense of humor, I would like to introduce you to John Cave Osborne, author of the blog And Triplets Make Six and the book Tales From the Trips (which you can purchase directly from John's website, and he will autograph it).

(Ahem ... I'm still in the process of ordering mine ... honest, John ... I do mean it ....)

John claims to be the spouse of a beautiful woman, the step dad of one charming daughter, and the father of toddler triplets, as well as the owner of a chocolate Lab. (That's a dog, not a chocolate invention place.)  I say "claims to be" because I've seen the pictures on his web page, and honestly, I think they are all models.  Well, maybe not the dog, but certainly John, his wife, and those four kids.  John, I can't believe a family that looks that good, healthy, rested, and frankly adorable can possibly all live together in the life you describe in your blog posts.  I only have ONE Toddler, and I haven't looked that good since before he was born.

Now, there is plenty to laugh about over on John's page, but the post that got me writing him to do a Shout Out is linked below.  I'm sure you'll love it ... but please don't forget to come back and see me once in awhile.

And Triplets Make Six-- Whiz Kids 


Toddler to English Dictionary

>> Friday, April 23, 2010

I have found recently that one of my primary occupations during the day is serving as Toddler's interpreter.  Other than Toddler, I seem to be the only one fully fluent in "Toddler" and even I get some things wrong from time to time.  (Toddler is not always patient in correcting me.)

So, in an effort to make my life somewhat easier, I have begun making a list of some of Toddler's more esoteric sayings.  Hopefully, as word spreads, my services will become less unique, and I might be able to get a bathroom break once in awhile without having to have an interpretive session through the door.  But even if it never works, I thought you might enjoy some of these.

TODDLER:  Oh no!  What you gonna do? ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  The video on demand TV cartoon has just ended and I want another one.

TODDLER:  I need to go get the blue car from the shoe garage.  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I want to get my blue toddler-ride on toy from the garage and play with it in the driveway.

TODDLER:  I need help! My coat is stuck on a branch!  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I would like to get my coat from the closet, but I can't reach it.

TODDLER:  I need help roll the booster seat!  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I pushed my chair too far away from the table.  Please help me get back.

TODDLER:  anneeeya neeya, neeya  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  This jabbering is a meaningless phrase used to distract the adult from whatever he or she is asking Toddler that he does not want to answer.

TODDLER:  Uh, oh.  It's yucky!  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I just pooped in my pants again.

TODDLER:  My nose is stuck!  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  (1) My nose is stuffed up; or (2) I'm bored and I want to play with the tissues.

TODDLER:  Get off my nose!  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I'm happy with my boogers where they are.  Leave me alone.

TODDLER:  My finger hurts.  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I have a piece of nail dangling/rough nail on my finger and I would like it off, please.

TODDLER:  Go away/Go downstairs now  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I'm about to throw a temper tantrum.

TODDLER:  Gotcha!  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  A word you say when you grab onto something.  In context:  Child:  "Gotcha!"  Adult:  "Yep, you got me."  Child:  "Not got me.  Gotcha!" 

TODDLER:  I said yes!  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  Why do you get to be the boss, again?

TODDLER:  Puleeze?  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I don't understand why I can't have what I want.

TODDLER:  Fre-frey  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  (1) french fry; or (2) flashlight

TODDLER:  What a mess! ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I just dumped a box full of a lot of things.

TODDLER:  I want to color crayons. ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I want to hand you crayons and make you write my name and numbers over and over in various colors while I scribble next to you.

TODDLER:  I want listen Ooh Aah.  ENGLISH TRANSLATION: I want to listen to my Disney Channel CD.

TODDLER:  Hello everybody on the TV.  ENGLISH TRANSLATION:  I want to listen to my children's music songs on the CD player in the family room (as opposed to the one in the car).

Well, that's about as far as I've managed to date.  The problem with Toddler is that, like the child that invented it, it is constantly changing.  This list will be out of date by the time you are done reading it -- tomorrow at the latest.


Someone Has Taken Sales Too Far

>> Thursday, April 22, 2010

I have learned more about gutters and leaf guard systems in the past week then I ever cared to know ... ever ... in my entire life. 

Once again, I wish that were a joke.

You may recall in my prior post The Circle of Home Repair that I cannot repair my garage door because in order to actually "fix it" I need to fix a lot of other things first, starting with regrading my back yard.

After waiting for nearly two years, I am proud to say that the bureacracy in the way of allowing us to pump all our excess water into the nearest public drainage ditch have been satisfied.  The landscaping company took only about 10 hours of labor to actually do the work.  I waited almost three years for ten hours of work. 

But, the good news is that we are officially one step closer to getting our garage door.  Now we just have to get the gutters repaired and the sofitting replaced ....which is why I have been sitting at my kitchen table, listening to contractors and salesmen expound the virtues of various gutters and leaf/debris protection products.

(Please, lord, make them stop.) 

I know that a good salesman can sell anything, but please, people ... it's a gutter.  It should not cost more than my car.  Leaf guard technology is a necessity in this house, but, no, I will not pay a few extra thousand dollars for the special "wind blow" technology that guarantees I will never have to climb a ladder to scrape away a leaf pile sitting on top of my debris protection system.

I am not afraid of ladders.  (I am afraid of heights, but we can pretend that ladders have nothing to do with heights, right?)

All this leafy talk reminds me (sadly) of the time I had to sit and listen to all those basement people talk about how to waterproof my basement.  Now, forcing both spouses to sit at a table and look at dreadful pictures of destroyed basements and talk about steel rebar is just wrong, wrong, wrong.  But, let's face it, if the basement goes (and with enough water over enough time, it eventually will go) so goes the house.  At least with basements, the salesmen know they have an element of fear to exploit.  Plus, if you spend enough hours bailing out your sump pump in the middle of a hurricane, you will do most anything to make it stop.  (I'm not even going to deny that I know this is true.)  (But, I will admit that the company that tried to sell me a waterproofing system on the grounds that Colin Powell liked them and bought it was less than persuasive.  No offense to the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but how do I know what he knows about basements?)

But gutter guards?  Really, where is the fear factor with these?  We are all well aware that having the gutters dangling from our house and swaying in the breeze is really not good for anyone.  We know we have to do something.  What I don't know is why I have to sit here and flip pages in some salesman's book to examine each and every award and listen to him try to explain why the lifetime warranty is worth more than the gross national product of some small countries.  These are gutters.  They take water away from my house, into a little pipe that now (at long last) runs into a public drainage ditch.  If big chunks of debris get in them, it will be bad.  Still, I see no reason to have a self-ventilating, hypoallergenic system in custom-made colors.  Heck, I'd hang my own new gutters if it didn't mean I had to climb on the roof or buy a specially made ladder that lets me hang something right where my ladder wants to lean.

Thankfully, not all gutter installers think that cadillacs belong under the eaves.  Thankfully, there are still sensible contractors in this world ... who, by the way, will also install garage doors.  (Whew)


I Have Proof It Isn't Paranoia

>> Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Last night, I found proof of something I have wondered for a long time.  Ever since Girl Cat came to live with us, I have asked the question, "Is she the dumbest cat in the world, or the smartest?"  Until last night, I was never completely sure. 

Girl Cat has had moments when I thought it was good thing she was beautiful, because she had me convinced that she had no other survival skills whatsoever.  I mean, this cat would meow before she pounced on anything, leading me to believe that if she ever had to actually catch her own dinner, she might have problems getting enough calories.  Announcing herself to her prey may be polite, but it doesn't make for good eats. 

Then, of course, we have Girl Cat's complete inability to recognize a barrier when she sees one.  I guess that kind of trait could be considered stubborn, but sometimes you just have to go with "dumb".

On the other hand, Girl Cat did accidentally get out of the house one night, and she was smart enough to hole up with the feral cats until we came and found her.  Plus, anytime she wants a door open, she manages to find a way to get Big Black Cat to open it for her.  Then we have her relationship with Houdini.  Something "behind the scenes" is obviously at work here when an 8 pound ball of Girl Cat fluff has the much-bigger Houdini absolutely terrified.  I mean, Houdini isn't even afraid of Toddler, but Girl Cat?  She gets him running in terror. 

Last night, though, we found the truth.  Girl Cat is obviously far more than she wants us to appear.  We found her doing this for nearly half an hour.  I can only wonder what she was plotting.  (And yes, that is the fuse box.)

I'm Not Paranoid


Time ... or Serenity ... One of Those

>> Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm trying doggedly to catch up on my Crazy Hip Blogger Write Out Loud Wednesday posts, late though I am.  I have two left:  Serenity and Time.  Admittedly, neither of these topics is really up my alley. 

I mean ... serene?  What do I know from Serene?  If I capitalize it like that, I think maybe I can write a story about someone named Serene or Serenity, but that's about it.  If you think I have any chance of understanding or writing anything meaningful about Serenity, you need to read back a little bit in this blog and catch up.  I just have two people to introduce on the subject of serenity -- my son, Toddler, and my archnemesis, Entropy.  At this point in my life, I have the sneaking suspicion I might confuse serenity with boredom, but I doubt I'll ever know.  My life has a high dose of adrenaline running more often than not: 

"Don't touch that!" 

"Are those real tears or are you faking?"

"What just went *CRASH*?"

"Don't you go NEAR that road!"

And ... that's about all I have to say about Serenity.

On the other hand, I have a lot to say about Time.  The only problem is all I want to talk about is mornings, and I fear I have done that and done that and done that unto death.

Still, no one is listening enough to actually do anything about it.  I am firmly convinced that mornings are an ill-conceived idea, and I cannot figure out why we all tolerate it.  The second worst hour of Time ever invented is the one between 6 and 7 AM.  The worst hour is the one immediately preceding it, commencing at 5 AM.  The earlier ones aren't so bad because there is still time to return to sleep most nights, and in many states bars are still open, so those hours aren't irredeemable.  I do not dispute, however, that they can be difficult when, say, you wake up in one of them to try to catch a pre-dawn flight to someplace you want to be at when the sun rises.  (Disney World comes to mind.  If you catch an early enough flight from Dulles, you can still be at Disney World shortly after the gates open, provided that you go straight there from the airport.  I cannot think of any other place worth getting up that early to see, though.)

I've watched Toddler yawn his way through enough breakfasts, admitting, "I'm tired!" to think that there is something altogether silly going on in this world.  Why is he up if he's tired?  I'll give you a hint.  It's either one end of his digestive track or its the other, and for both of them he claims he needs our help.  I'll give you that "potty" requires parental supervision, but why does breakfast?  He and 2/3 of the cats are hungry, while the rest of us (DH, me, and 1/3 of the cats) would rather stay in bed.  We should be able to find a way that Toddler and 2/3 of the cats can get themselves fed without our help.

Here is our plan.  We will leave out a box of cereal on the table for the three of them, along with a bowl, and some sippy cups of milk in a tub of ice in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I figure Toddler can pour the cereal and the milk into the bowl, and whatever he spills, the cats can have.

Doesn't this solve everyone's problems?  I think it would be an excellent use of some of the worst time available to us.  Those that want to be up are up, and those of us that don't want to be up aren't.  Of course, once I actually do get up, and I need to wipe up the floor on my hands and knees, I might have some other ideas, but let's just go with this one for now.  It sounds really good to me every single morning, and the way I figure it, I have to clean the floor several times a week already. 

Anyway, it has recently come to my attention that not everyone views the morning with the same kind of fogginess and reluctance that I do.  Some people can tolerate mornings because they have to, and that is that.  I can understand these people, and on my very best days, I can reproduce this approach, provided I have the first hour completely to myself with no conversation.  I managed it rather well when I was practicing law, because no one spoke to me from the time I hit the shower until I actually walked in the door at work. Nowadays, when the first thing that happens is a Toddler with his nose in my face saying, "Oh, good morning, Mommy!" I am finding the path through mornings much more difficult.  Somehow, even the soothing warmth of the shower has lost its healing power when the curtain is ripped aside and a piping falsetto enters with the chill saying, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MOMMY?  MOMMY TAKING SHOWER!"

On the other hand, I have heard that there are people who actually voluntarily get up early, even when they don't have to, and they actually enjoy it.  I have no explanation for these people, as they are clearly out of their ever loving minds.  That is all.

While we are investigating the intricacies of Time through the lens of Mornings, I must confess one thing.  I do like how long the days are when I am dragged out of bed early in the morning.  I do like the quiet of the early mornings with a nice cup of coffee and a cool morning breeze on a warm day ... until the peace is shattered by the shrieking sound of cartoons or the cacophony of a small child thundering toward my leg yelling, "GOTCHA!"  Those moments take more coffee than I usually have time to drink.

Time-- it would be so much more pleasant without those early morning hours.


Catching Up on a Little News for Blah, Blah, Blah Day

>> Monday, April 19, 2010

I thought today would be a good day to catch everyone up on a little news about some things I mentioned in some prior posts.  After all, this past Saturday was Blah, Blah, Blah Day on the calendar of weird holidays you never heard of before.  (Go ahead, Google it.)  Since I don't post a blog on Saturdays, and you wouldn't read it if I did, I chose to defer recognition of said holiday until today.

To start, I thought some of you might be interested in knowing that despite Houdini's trauma of being trapped in Toddler's room with a child that was supposed to be napping, I have had to chase Houdini from Toddler's bed each day.  He really never does learn.

Moving on to other tidbits, I was on the phone with an old friend (and mother of two).  We decided that if Dante were a modern parent, he would add a section in his Inferno to include a special place in hell for receptionists that don't let children go potty.  Similarly, we think that new angel wings might be in order for patient shoe salespeople at Stride Rite.  Think about it -- can there be a more difficult retail job than that?

For those of you that were inspired (or stunned) by National Blame Someone Else Day and are reeling in shock from not knowing about Blah, Blah, Blah Day, I thought you might appreciate the following additional little-known holidays:  April 11th was Eight Track Tape Day.  Did you miss it?  Never fear.  You can make up for it by remembering the holiday we all should pay attention to now, Richter Scale Day on April 26th.  I also like that the 26th is Hug an Australian Day. I would, but I'm not in Australia, and none of them are visiting me next week.  (And you thought it was just Secretary's Day.  Yeesh, are you out of the loop or what?)  Today's holidays are National Garlic Day and Patriot's Day, so if you are in Boston, you probably have the day off, and you should go to the North End and have some pasta for the rest of us.

On to other life shattering news (my life, not yours), I was recently granted a very prestigious honor. Okay, okay, you pinned me down, it was on April 6th and I'm just now telling you about it.  Shoot me. 

Anyway, back to my story, I was recently given my very first BLOGGER AWARD from another blogger.  Yes!  I was granted this lovely Beautiful Blogger Award from my dear friend Janis (aka @sneakpeekatme):


Oh, the miracles of the internet and social media.  Someone who has never laid eyes on me thinks I am beautiful based only on the pictures I post and my fantabulous writing style.  I did notice that Janis was giving out two bloggy awards that day.  There was the Beautiful Blogger Award, and also the Prolific Blogger Award.  Now, on first blush, I would have nominated myself for "Prolific Blogger" with all the posting I do, but I am much happier receiving the Beautiful Blogger Award.  It sounds a little bit nicer for a first award than one that merely acknowledges that I'm a bit in love with the sound of my own keyboard.  Even better, the rules for accepting the Beautiful Blogger Award are quite a bit more relaxed.  I only need to give this award to 7 + 7 Beautiful Bloggers.  (Now you know why I've taken so long to accept my award.  Janis knows all the people I know and then some!)

So, my 14 recipients are below (because 7+7 = 14, you know.  And if you didn't know ... well, I don't know what to say to that).

First, I want to give this award to John @johncaveosborne and his blog And Triplets Make Six and Ron @CK_Lunchbox and his blog Clark Kent's Lunchbox.  I hope you gentlemen will forgive me calling you "beautiful" and accept that this is the only award I have to pass along to two of my favorite bloggers.  (Ron, I know you claim to thrive on external validation, so I hope this counts.)

Next, the award goes to @meltdownfreedisney for her blog ... well, Meltdown Free Disney

Then we must include the Delirious Mommy for her blog ... (wait for it) ... The Delirious Mommy

and Ann for her blog Jack's Journey and Then Some

And @abbiperets for her blog You Get What You Get

And Brenda (@mamabegood), our former Shout Out participant, for her blog Mama Be Good 

And to Erin (@QueenofSpain) primarily because she feels the same about playing with children that I do, she just has the guts to admit it in her blog Queen of Spain.

This next one will seem from left field because she doesn't even know I read her blog, but to the author of The Fearless Formula Feeder for a courageous blog that tackles a very hot topic in a calm and sensible way.  If we all approached controversial subjects with the same respect and consideration that she demonstrates, I think we would all find that we accomplish a lot more.

Moving on, here is to Dazee Dreamer for her blog Crazy Daze & Nites

and to Molly, aka, @salamicat, for Life With the Campbells

and to @Duane_Scott for (surprisingly) Duane-Scott

and ... wait, that's only twelve.  That's right, 6+6 not 7+7.  For the time being, I am holding two spots in reserve and I will announce them on a future post.  Stay tuned ....

Okay, are you all still with me?  Still paying attention?  I didn't lose you on the other blogs, did I?  Trust me, they are all worth looking into.  Not all of them are humor blogs, but all of them have something worthwhile to say, even if you might find that you disagree with what they say. Nonetheless, I do hope you manage to find your way back here from time to time.

Award winners, now you have to pass this award along to 7 + 7 Beautiful Bloggers, too.  (See, there is always a catch, isn't there?)

Whew!  That was a busy post about Blah, Blah, Blah.  Okay, be sure to join me tomorrow when I will be celebrating National Look Alike Day.  I think I have to call my sister and celebrate the day with her.  It would only be fitting.


Please, Someone Find That Switch!

>> Friday, April 16, 2010

Somewhere, in or near each of us, is a switch that makes things happen.  Some days it is "on" and some days it is "off."  You know the one -- some days it turns all the traffic lights red or green the moment you drive up, depending on whether you are having a good or bad day.  Some days it gets you a parking spot up close to the front at every single place you stop, or it lets you drive in to the parking lot right behind the guy that takes the last parking spot each and every time.

The Switch is neither good nor bad, it just is. 

Apparently my switch was turned on today.  At first, the switch was on the positive side.  I spent the large part of the morning  walking to the store to buy make up.  The traffic was light enough that we crossed the street each time with ease.  (This fact is so unusual that random passers-by were commenting on it as we returned home.)  The makeup was on sale (I didn't know that), and I had a coupon (I did know that), so here I thought I was having a good day.  Toddler and I even stopped for a snack to take home with us.

After nap time, though, my switch apparently shifted to the negative side.  I went outside with Toddler to play.  I had this brilliant idea to blow up the swimming pool and let him splash around, since I understand bad storms are coming soon and we might be rained in again.  I had this absolutely brilliant idea that I would use the new air pump DH got for Christmas to blow up the pool.  No more would I spend hours by the kitchen table squeezing the little spout until my fingers hurt and blowing until I saw stars.  No, I would use the air pump and have that pool blown up in nothing flat.

Then, I tried it.  Hmm.  The air didn't go in.

Oh, wait.  That's right.  You have to squeeze the nozzle to open the valve.  But wait.  Isn't this pointy thing on the air pump supposed to poke right through the valve?  Um, yeah.  It didn't work.  So there I was, sitting on the front stoop, holding this little pointy plastic funnel thing inside the little plastic nozzle while simultaneously squeezing the nozzle until my fingers hurt.

I think about 10 breaths of air made it into the entire pool.  I mean, I couldn't hardly see the thing move.  At least when I was blowing it up with my own lung power, I could see the air cells expanding ... or maybe that was the hypoxia.  Maybe I just thought I saw them expanding.  Maybe I've never succeeded in blowing up anything at all except a little oatmeal in the microwave.

Either way, the wind picked up, and the sky got a little cloudy, so I figured the day would get cloudier and cloudier until it finally rained.  So, I went inside to grab a small bag and decided to pull some weeds with Toddler's enthusiastic help.  I come out with the bag, and the sun is shining again.  I sat down to play with the pool again, and the sun mysteriously ducked behind a non-existant cloud.  Once again, I changed my mind and went to pull weeds.  I sat down in the grass and pulled weeds while the sun beat down on me the entire time.  When the bag was full, I stood up, took it to the bin, and sat down in the warmth to continue to fight with the pool ... only to watch the sunlight fade again.

By then, Toddle spared me any further back and forth by announcing that he wanted to go inside.  (Of course, the minute I sat down in the kitchen, the sun was back....)

I am telling you, someone really needs to find that switch that affects the world around us so we can master it instead of being so ridiculously at its mercy  Don't you agree?


Sometimes, It Sucks to Be the Cat

>> Thursday, April 15, 2010

In my last post, I waxed philosophical about cats and their sense of entitlement, and where they are is where everyone should stand to admire them.

Sometimes, though, this sense of entitlement can get a cat in trouble.  Take Houdini, for example.  His sense of entitlement (or perhaps his general cluelessness), sometimes overrides any sense of self-preservation.  If we can say, without laughing, that a cat has "no filter," then Houdini is the cat.

If Girl Cat is trying to get some loving from Darling Husband, Houdini sees absolutely no problem with jumping up to try to get some pets of his own, even though every time he tries, Girl Cat rewards him with a swift swipe or a really mean glare that will become a swipe if he doesn't back away ... slowly ... without any sudden moves.  If Houdini is thirsty, he sees no problem with jumping into the nearest shower or bathtub to see if there is any water left behind rather than going downstairs to get constantly refreshing kitty water from the electric bowl.  The fact that water may come crashing down on his head from the shower head means nothing to Houdini ... no matter how many times it happens to surprise him.

Sneaking into sleep on Toddler's bed is much the same entitlement/cluelessness adventure for Houdini.  He continues to do it, knowing that many of the consequences are not good, but in the end, no one can save a cat from himself.  The other day I chased Houdini from Toddler's bed.  Then, some time later, I took Toddler up for a nap.  With little fuss, Toddler climbed into bed, pulled up the covers, and laid down.  I went downstairs to enjoy a precious few moments of quiet and a little late lunch.

Now, when Toddler goes to his room, I'm used to hearing him talk to himself a lot, talk to his toys, sing songs, and sometimes jump out of bed to play with toys.  Today, though, I heard something strange.  I hear a lot of "thump" "thump" and other strange sounds.  For the most part, he can't hurt anything in his room, and very little can hurt him, so I decided to let it go for a little while to see if he (or the strange noises) settled down at all.

After a few fruitless minutes of waiting, I finally decided to go up and see "what the heck was going on."  Of course, I wasn't really sure I wanted to know, because finding out probably meant I had to clean it up, and I wasn't really interested in cleaning anything up

I walked upstairs, opened the door, and out shot Houdini like his life depended on it.  He made a mad dash for my room and disappeared for at least an hour.  Toddler, in the meantime, was standing in the middle of his room, laughing and squealing.  He ran to the door, and I quickly saw that his shirt was covered from collar to waist in Houdini fur.

Perhaps my imagination is not even sufficient to consider what must have been going on behind that closed door.  Houdini puts up with a lot from Toddler, and Houdini is not a quiet cat, either.  Nonetheless, Iheard no peep from either of them and only saw a lot of giggling, a lot of fur, and a blurry streak that I am fairly sure was my cat.

I wish I could say that Houdini was smart enough to never allow himself to be locked in Toddler's room again.  Sadly, I have "rescued" Houdini from just this predicament more than once, and I am certain I will do so again.

Sometimes, thinking you are entitled to be someplace doesn't mean that you should be.  #Justsayin


The Best Thing, or Life According to Cats

>> Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In honor of International Moments of Laughter Day (I'm not kidding about this one, either), please drop a comment saying hello to my blog readers from outside the US.  Maybe they'll say hello back.

You know, cats are wonderful creatures.  They have no sense of human boundaries or ownership, and respect no property claims other than their own.  I've often thought about this glorious (and singularly annoying) fact about cats when I try to understand what my cats might be thinking, which leads me to today's topic, "The Best Thing," another topic brought to you by our friends over at The Crazy Hip Bloggers and their "Write Out Loud" series.  (Candidly, we could also make it part of their "Take it Tuesday" photo series under the topic "Animal Antics," so I linked it to both segments.)

I think the singularly best thing about cats, and what makes their lives so enviable, is that they are mentally incapable of imagining a world where they are not welcome, entitled to be wherever they are, and blessing you (the mere human) with their presence. 

Of course, in the case of our outdoor cat, Princess, her sense of entitlement can cause problems when she wanders over into the garage of the neighbors that don't like us.  (Hey, it isn't us.  They don't like anybody, and we refer to them as our Nutso Neighbors -- see here.)  As far as I know, they have never tried to chase her away, but I never know what I don't know.  I can only imagine what they must think when they find her walking their fence like it was put there especially for her, and I am grateful when she doesn't make me get up and shoo her away from their garage.  She is semi-wild, so picking her up would be ... well ... not the wisest idea anyone ever had.

Inside the house, the sense of entitlement means that we (the humans) need to demand our fair share of the bed and continue to assert our authority all night long.  This same sense (or in the case of Houdini, a sense of utter cluelessness) means that one or other of the cats is often in the way of any place we might want to walk, sit, or stand.  Some nights, as we approach "feeding time," a casual observer might think the cats are playing some aggressive game of chicken and the humans are playing, "Kick the Cat."

In the end, perhaps the very best part of being a cat is the complete and utter cluelessness they have that they might be in the way, and their complete lack of caring.  Like this:

Houdini On the Stairs


National Blame Someone Else Day

>> Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Today, April 13, is National Blame Someone Else Day.  If you don't believe me, Google it.  If you don't like it ... hey ... not my fault.  Blame someone else.  And if you don't like this post, well that's your own fault for not having a good enough sense of humor to understand it.  So there.

In the days leading up to National Blame Someone Else Day, I kept thinking, "I really need to make the best of this."  I have to come up with some doozies.  I mean, I can blame Entropy and Chaos for the state of my daily existence, but I do that every week.  Where is the fun in that?  Of course, I can blame my husband and child for a whole lot of things, but I feel unoriginal even thinking about it.  I seriously could blame all the other bloggers out there on Twitter for why I don't have enough time to write my own blog, but I want something ... bigger.  Bolder.

I want to figure out who I should blame for the fact that it has been raining or snowing for almost a solid year, with very few breaks.  I want to blame someone else for the fact that I hate exercising so much but feel guilty when I don't do it. 

I want to blame someone for the fact that I am not in Walt Disney World right now.  Heck, let's be honest, I'd live in Walt Disney World if I could.  No, not in Kissimmee, not in Orlando, in WDW itself.  To be specific, I want to live at the Beach Club.  Okay, to be fair, I would be pretty darn happy living at the Marriott World Center just outside the gates of Walt Disney World, I just wouldn't be able to walk to Epcot anytime I wanted.  I would actually require wheels to get there.  (On the other hand, the Marriott has some pretty amazing frozen drink concoctions at the main floor bar, and I wouldn't want to miss out on that, and they will be happy to drive me to Epcot.)

Okay, I've decided.  I am going to find someone to blame for the fact that I don't live at the Beach Club next to Epcot or at Marriott World Center in Orlando.  For free.  Let's get that part clear right now.  I want to live there for free, and I want free admission to all the WDW parks and to Islands of Adventure, along with unlimited FastPasses for Expedition Everest.  Is that so much to ask?  I can wait in line for the rest.  I can be patient.  I will share.

Now, whose fault could this possibly be that I do not have this dream life?  I could begin blaming random people, like former President Bush, or President Obama, or Alan Greenspan ... but I think I need someone a little bit more realistic.  You know, companies are legal persons in the United States ... so I'm thinking I could blame The Walt Disney Company and Marriott for their failure to recognize how simply fabulous I am and how enriched their properties would be simply by my presence.

I think I can only get away with this on National Blame Someone Else Day or I will likely get blacklisted by two of my favorite places on the planet!  Just picture beautiful swimming pools, soothing hot tubs, fabulous food, warm sunshine, cool drinks, and a huge animotronic playground right next door.  How much closer to heaven can one family get?

Then again ... if I lived there, where would I vacation?  And, admittedly, I would have an awfully long way to drive to go to the Penn State games in the fall.

Maybe I should just stay with the old standby and blame the Easter Bunny because I'm overweight.  I could blame my parents for making me short.  I certainly could blame Toddler for my ever increasing amount of wrinkles as well as a fair amount of stretch marks. 

I definitely need to blame someone for the fact that I have not put more than a handful of photos into an album since 2004.  For that, I think I will blame my old boss.  I'm sure there was something he made me do way back in 2004 that got me behind, and I never recovered.  I can't recall what it was, but I'm sure it was refinancing something-or-other.  Hey, it's as likely an answer as anything else.

For most everything else, I generally blame the internet because the possibilities are endless.


A Morning In the Life

>> Monday, April 12, 2010

I got up this morning, feeling bleary, as usual.  No matter how hard I try, and no matter how hard I want to, I don't make the transition from sleep to wakefulness with anything close to grace.  Legend has it (from my family, so take it for what it's worth), that I am the only child in the history of the United States that had to be woken up on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought.  Not much has changed since that mythical time.

For example, I stumbled around the room this morning, after my shower, trying to find something to wear.  I rooted through my drawer and pulled out four individual knee high stockings ... and all of them were a slightly different shade.  I mean, what are the chances?  So, I kept looking and finally came upon a matched pair I had knotted together.  With my luck, I'll put a run in one of them before I even get my shoe on, but maybe I won't even notice.

Next, I gathered my shoes and other things I needed and began heading toward the staircase.  Before I took the first step, I remembered that I am responsible for dressing more than one person in the morning, and unless I want to take my only child out in public naked (or wearing Handy Manny PJs), I'd better turn around.  Actually, I just gave myself a little bit too much credit.  I turned around because I thought I saw Houdini, out of the corner of my eye, sleeping on Toddler's bed, and I went back to chase him away -- only then remembering that bringing Toddler clothes would probably be wise.  As it was, I left his shoes upstairs and left his bed a rumpled mess.

As I approached the kitchen, I remembered the dream I had been having when Toddler came to my side of the bed and yelled, "Why, hello, Daddy!"  In my mind, I had some clever retort like, "He's over there," but instead I think I said, "Huuunnngh?"  I had been dreaming that I was trying to deal with a twitch in my cheek, below my eye, that wouldn't stop, and I remembered the dream because as I walked into the kitchen, it started again.  Not a dream, after all.  My cheek was twitching.  Somehow, this activity did not seem like a good sign to me.

I sat down at my computer and logged in, only to find that April 12th is National Big Wind Day.  "Oh no," I thought.  "This is too good to be true.  This has to be a joke."  Then, after doing a little research (thank you, Google), I found out that apparently this "holiday" commemorates the highest wind speed ever recorded on the planet, on April 12, 1934.  Huh.  What do you know.  I'd better not share the holiday with the men in my life ... if you know what I mean.  I'm too tired (not to mention too sophisticated) to deal with day's worth (or blog's worth) of passing-gas jokes.

Moving on, I went to the bathroom to get ready and found that my eyeliner was "kaput."  Like every well-prepared woman, I have an emergency backup eyeliner pencil for just these circumstances.  It may not be the exact color I want, but it's a pencil, it lasts forever, and it's always there for me.  So, I sharpened it in my little makeup kit pencil sharpener.  And ... I overdid it.  I sharpened the thing so far that it became a deadly weapon and certainly something I should not be handling this early in the morning, much less so close to my eye.  (**mash against sink, try again**) I must remember to get to the drugstore to pick up a new eyeliner later today before I forget and have to go through this whole exercise again tomorrow.  Hopefully I will remember to buy another lipstick, too, since the last one I bought (and the only one I currently own) is just the exact shade of zero that it looks like I've done nothing whatsoever to my lips.  I couldn't have managed buying one so precise if I had wanted it, but when I wanted a light color, I got blah.  Still, I've yet to manage to replace it.

Once I determined that my makeup was on reasonably straight, I noticed that the necklace I had struggled to clasp upstairs was on backwards.  **sigh**.  Some days I really need a chaperone ... or at least a warning label.

We managed to make it into the car reasonably on time, where we soon found out that Toddler now has the strength to open the car door from the inside, from his car seat, without assistance.  (Note to self:  Flip child safety latch, and remember that you did next time you try to exit the car from the inside of the back seat and get stuck.)

Good morning, world.  I'm ready now.


The Great Green Crayon Mystery

>> Friday, April 9, 2010

I want to share with you a mystery that has been going on around our house.  We call it the Great Green Crayon Mystery.  In a nutshell, mysterious green crayon marks have been appearing on our walls in our entranceway and our upstairs hallway, and now, most recently, on the ceiling of the bathroom.

I know.  I know.  I can hear you from here.  You think Toddler did it.

Well, unless Toddler was crayoning around the house since before he was even conceived, and unless he has found a way to reach the ceiling of the bathroom ... you are wrong. 

Now, don't misunderstand.  Toddler has done his fair share of inappropriate crayoning when my back was turned.  He has gotten the floor, and old baby bed circa 1970s that was in the hallway or disposal.  (Don't report me to social services.  We didn't use it.  The last baby that used it was me.  If you want to know why I still had it at all, see this post.) 

The best we can figure, the green, crayon-like markings began appearing on our white walls some time after we hired our housekeeper, who no longer works here. I guarantee you she was not walking around this house with a green crayon in her hand. In fact, we think they are still appearing even now, although we might just be on the lookout for them. (Hard to tell.) The marks started in the entraceway, in the stairs going up to the bedrooms. Something she was carrying could easily have bumped the walls, and this is our very best theory, given that the marks appear in hallways and stairwells, but not in wide open rooms. Exactly "what" she might have been carrying is beyond our comprehension.

Even better, we have never successfully removed any of the markings, unlike the red crayon in the kitchen. In the process of our investigation, we learned that metal frames leave graphite-like marks and the vacuum cleaner leaves dents if you brush it against the wall. We now know what fingerprint, and newsprint (and fingerprints from newsprint) look like on walls, as well as what can happen when a big framed oil painting and a white wall meet forcibly. We can describe what cat pee on walls looks like, as well as baby vomit, milk, puree, and a host of other food and food products.

At no time, though, have we ever discovered what leaves a mark like green crayon. Any suggestions or should I just blame this one on Entropy and Chaos, too? To help you decide (and in blatant copying of my fellow blogger John Cave Osborne author of And Triplets Make Six), I've included a video, below.


Random Acts of Blogging

>> Thursday, April 8, 2010

The hardest thing about being a daily (er ... weekdaily?) blogger is not coming up with ideas.  No, funny stuff happens to me all the time.  The hardest part is coming up with cohesive stories I can tell you in more than one paragraph and in only one sitting.

The second hardest thing is not getting stuck in a rut when my life gets stuck in a rut.  We all have that from time to time, don't we?  This problem isn't exclusive to any occupation.  Some days, if you have to get up and do the (insert monotonous task) one more day, you might fall over from sheer bordeom.  Even if you aren't bored quite yet, after so many days of the same thing, sometimes finding an original blog entry can be a challenge.

Take my past two weeks, for example.  I have been rather dominated by two primary tasks - getting my kid to poop on the potty so we can declare daytime potty training over, and getting ready for a garage sale next month.  Of course, if I weren't stuck in or near the house for the first one, I would probably not be bothering too much with the second one, but that's life.  Anyway, most of what ends up happening around here these days involves potty stories and stories about dirt and junk.  Sure, poop, dirt, and junk have their moments, but I think I have used up all of those moments for several years to come.  I don't doubt that most of you are bored with those topics, because, candidly, I am bored with those topics. 

So, on days like this, as I think I have said before in this blog, the best we can do is to embrace the randomness.  Like this:

Big Black Cat just came down the stairs, yowling like he was sitting on the fence outside his girlfriend's litterbox just waiting for a date.  (Not that he is interested in that sort of thing anymore, I should add.)  Once upon a time, I used to think this horrible cat-erwauling sound was the sign of a feline in the house about to drop dead of some fit, but now I know the truth.  I know that Big Black Cat has triumphed over a mean and viscious predator, and he is waiting in the entranceway for me to come and praise his fighting and pouncing ability.  He only graces us with this performance once every few months, so we should enjoy the moment when it comes.  Today's prey?  A green spongy bath toy he found in Toddler's bathroom.  He even managed to drop it in front of me without leaving any teeth marks -- he's just that good.

Today, I have finally decided to embrace the great Easter egg decoration tradition.  I know -- for you Easter was last week, but I wasn't organized enough to get this post up last week, so you'll have to read about it this week.  I have the vinegar, the egg dye kit, and I know where the coffee cups are.  Yet, I hesitate.  Me and a not quite three-year old working around food dye, eggs, and ceramics ... I think I might very well be nuts.

Of course, thinking about Easter egg kits makes me think of my own childhood, and how I begged my mother to please buy me the  ... let's call it the "Humpty Dumpty" Easter Egg decorating kit I saw on TV every day.  (Yes, that's a fake name, in case you didn't catch on.)  The Humpty Dumpty kit was the only one I wanted because it made neat blotchy egss from shaking (I think.  That was a long time ago.)  Either way, my mom bought the classic ... let's call it "Paws" kit that year.  She probably bought them because they were what she knew, and in the small town we lived in, Humpty Dumpty probably hadn't yet made it to the shelves.  Either way, I was disappointed.  Interestingly enough, while I was shopping for my own supplies this year, I was bemused to note that in at least one store, I found only Humpty Dumpty kits and no Paws.  Of course, I didn't find a single kit anywhere that had any Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters involved.  Marvel Comics? Sure.  Disney Princesses?  Absolutely.  Mickey Mouse?  No, sir.  As an avid Mouse Fan and mother of an even bigger Mouse Fan, I remain disappointed.  Oh, well.  I'm sure they will come out with them around the time Toddler has moved on to prefer Spiderman.  Life has a way of working out like that.

On to other fun topics, we have finally finished getting our back yard regraded and drained, with all the downspouts and sump pumps hooked together in an underground system running to the nearest municipal drainage ditch ... just in time for the gutters to fall off the house from the damage from the last few storms.  Of course, no gutter guys are returning our calls, because everone else's gutters have fallen off, too.  No one installed gutters rated for two 20 inch snowfalls and general rain forest conditions in Virginia.  One guy did stop by the other day to talk about gutters.  He was going door to door, trying to sell me on his gutter-replacement services like I didn't know that having the wood rot and the trenches dangling from the roof was a bad thing.  (Yeah, I knew that.)  My question?  If he is that good, how come he is the only gutter guy going door to door these days when everyone else is too busy actually doing jobs to bother to return phone calls?  Yeah.  That.

Moving on ... I think a scientific miracle might be happening in my garage.  I think the cardboard boxes in my garage are actually multiplying.  I take them out on recycling day, but I always seem to find more the next week than the week before.  No matter how hard I try, though, I cannot think of any good biological reason why boxes would want to multiply so effectively in a contained space, and I am forced to wonder if perhaps Entropy has played an April Fool's Day joke on me ... except it never stops.

Finally, as I am typing this paragraph, Big Black Cat has once again triumphed over his green sponge and is yowling at me to come tell him what a good job he has done, once again, in defending this family.  I think now is as good a time as any to end today's post.


You Just May Be a Packrat

>> Wednesday, April 7, 2010

As you may have gathered from my last few posts, we are gearing up for a garage sale.  (There is still time to join in the Thirty Days to a Garage Sale game by clicking on the community link in the lower right hand side of my blog.  Check it out!)  But, I digress.  In the process of preparing for this garage sale, I have created a set of clues that you or someone you love might be a packrat.

So, in true Jeff Foxworthy style, here are the top 10 signs that you might be married to a packrat (or are one yourself):

1. When you last moved, the movers said, "Oh my God."

2. You didn't feel it necessary to take a lot of stuff to Goodwill or the local dump.

3. You actually moved a box of unread newspapers.

4. You have ever looked into a bag or box and wondered when you bought/got *that*.

5. You identify your things by which grandparent owned them and where they got it.

6. You don't see anything wrong with a mattress older than you.

7. You think anything older than 50 years has *got* to be valuable.

8. Your parents and siblings use your house as their alternative to the garbage.

9. You've never (almost never) said "no" when someone says, "Would you like to have this?"

10. All the closests in your house are full to bursting, and you have no children.

The moral of this story is:  If two packrats get married, they had better buy a separate house for their stuff.


A Few Parenting ...Oopsies

>> Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Anyone will tell you that it's hard to be a competent anything, including a parent, when you are bone tired.  I will add that it is also hard to be a parent when it is raining, but that is another story, and something I will have to find a solution to since I think the rain may never, ever stop.  I don't even want to think about how hard it will be to be a parent on the ark.

Anyway, after being up most of the night, I am finding the idea of writing a narrative story for this blog to be just about beyond my capabilities, so I thought I would offer you a different kind of list.  I am going to quote (as best I can) some of our greatest parenting mishaps.  Rather than tell you what happened, I'm hoping you will enjoy reading what was said while it was happening instead.  Either way, it should be interesting.

1.  Toddler:  "Oh, Toodles!  Where are you? It's me, Toddler!  I stuck in chair and I need your help!"  Parent when unbuckling child from car seat:  "Note to self -- loosen car seat straps when inserting child with a heavy winter coat."

2.  Toddler:  "Mommy!  I go pee pee in the potty!  That's a good job!  Oh, and what a mess!  And mommy's pants!  And the floor, too!"
Mommy:  "I thought I told you to point down."

3.  Mommy:  "Toddler, what are you doing?"
Toddler:  "I need yellow spoon! I open drawer, get yellow spoon!"
Mommy, to friend: "Note to self.  Remove knives from that drawer, and fast."
Friend: "Yeah, I keep my kid spoons and my knives together too.  Bad us."

4.  Toddler (from another room):  "Oh, look!  It's scissors and sticky tape!  Cut, cut, cut!"

5.  Toddler (from another room):  "I play mommy 'puter!"

6.  One Parent to Other Parent:  "Should we let Toddler walk around the store himself, or should we make him ride in the cart?"
Other Parent:  "Oh, make him ride in the cart.  How long can he possibly scream?"

7.  Grandparent:  "Toddler, don't come in here, there is fresh paint."
Parent:  "Toddler, come back!"
Grandparent:  "Too late.  I hope you didn't like that outfit."

8.  One Parent to Other Parent:  "Are you teaching him to drink chocolate milk without a bib in his brand new t-shirt?
Other Parent:  "Yes.  Is that a problem?"

Well, I think that is enough denegrating our parental skills for one day.  I hope you are managing better at your house.


You Clearly Have Never Met a Child and Don't Remember Being One

>> Monday, April 5, 2010

I met a women today.  I know very little about her other than what I learned in a few short minutes of interacting with her, but I can tell you that I realized how amazingly much you can learn (or think you can learn) about someone in a very small amount of time.

This woman was the receptionist at my doctor's office.  I had never seen her before today, so I am guessing she was new to the staff.  She seemed young-ish, but in that nebulous category where you aren't sure if she is a slightly aging 20-something, a young looking 40-something, or a 30 year old who sits in the sun all the time.  You know the kind, right?  I never know if I say something about, "Phil Collins in the post-Genesis era" whether she will nod knowingly or look at me blankly.

Let me step back for a moment and set the scene for you.  I am now the proud mommy of a semi-potty trained Toddler.  He wears underwear, most of the daytime, and he's pretty good about peeing in the potty.  Like all boys, he needs some gentle reminders.  I would not push him too hard about waiting anytime he asks to go, if you get my drift.  I'm reasonably confident that, "I need to go potty" means he has at least a few minutes of game time to go, but I haven't really tested that theory and I don't really intend to.

So, there we were, Toddler and me, walking out of the elevator and down the hallway to the doctors office, when I asked him if he needed to go.  He looked up at me, calmly, and said, "Yes.  I need go potty."  Well, okay, then!  We're plenty early, the doctor's office has a nice, roomy bathroom, so ... cool!  We can do this.

We open the door, and I try to sign in.  Ms. Receptionist says, "Don't bother.  Name, please?"

I give her my name, and, because she is behind this wall with only a pretty darn high window to peer through and can't see people only 2 feet high, I said, "I have a toddler under the counter here, and he just said he needs to go potty, so we need to step away..."

"Is your address still at ******?"

"Um, yes."

"Insurance still the same?"

I'm looking over at Toddler, who has found a calendar at his eye level, and he is reading all the numbers in the calendar out loud to the waiting room.  I ask him, a little pointedly for my ambivalently-aged friend's benefit, "Toddler, can you wait a minute to go potty?  Are you okay?"

He looks quickly at me and says, "I'm okay."  Of course, anyone who has been around small children for more than ... say ... 15 minutes knows that when a small child says, "I'm okay," it means absolutely nothing whatsoever.  Those be "filler words," ma'am.  Believe them at your peril.

Alas, nothing is sinking in for the woman behind the window.  I tell her there has been a small update to my insurance card, and I hand it to her, thinking she can take it and copy it while I go take care of business.  I start to step away, and open my mouth to say I'll be right back, when she says, "I still need your co-pay."  Um, lady, how far do you think I'm actually going to go with my insurance card in your hand?  I think we can all pretty much be sure that I will be back shortly, at least to claim my insurance card, and there will be at least one other chance to ask me for my co-pay.  I don't believe I'm wearing a sign that says, "Idiot," but maybe she is just projecting something she might do.  Who knows.  So, I get out my credit card ('cause I forgot to bring cash), and I try to hand it to her, so I can walk away.  (Picture me, every few moments, checking in with Toddler, who -- thankfully -- is not yet dancing on his toes and grabbing himself by his personals.)

She won't take the card.

She's too busy painstakingly comparing my existing card with the little numbers in her computer.  Then, when she sees a difference, she is backspacing something out of the computer and correcting it.

Hey, what happened to keeping a photocopy of my card on file and DOING THIS ON YOUR TIME, NOT MY KID'S?

Then, finally, more minutes later than I think are humanly possible, she swaps my insurance card for my credit card.  I, in the meantime, am eyeing Toddler sharply, noting that there is still no potty dance going on but thinking all the while, "Aw, c'mon, lady!"  I concluded that at no time has this woman ever so much as been near a small child.  She couldn't have been.  As for me, I was trying to figure out what the consequences would be if I said to her, "Listen, lady, if he pees on the floor because you are slower than a snail, I won't be the one to clean it up."  Then I figured she might not understand me, and I'd waste even more time trying to clue her in.  If he started potty dancing, I'd grab him and make a run for it and let her figure it out.

Finally, after signing my credit card slip, I was free to take my kid to the bathroom, where we made it with plenty of time to spare.  But still!  Really?  Someone tells you their kid has to go potty and you IGNORE them? 

I hate to be vindictive, but I think it might have served her right if he did pee on the floor, as mortified as I would have been at that time.


My Greatest Mistake

>> Friday, April 2, 2010

Today's blog post is brought to you by The Crazy Hip Bloggers and their "Write Out Loud Wednesdays".  We will try to forget that today is not actually Wednesday and that this topic is actually from February 10th.  I am operating under the theory that "late is better than never" - at least in this case.  I fully blame my lateness in responding to this topic on my difficulty identifying what actually is my "greatest" mistake.  Sadly, I have so many to choose from.

For example, there was the day I allowed Santa Claus to give Toddler a CD of music from the Disney Channel, and I actually thought we would be able to listen to anything else again before I die.  Then we must also consider some of my choices in college roommates over the years.  One of my old boyfriends certainly belongs on the list.  I really should add my decision in 1992 to start allowing myself to keep buying used books faster than I could possibly read them, resulting in more books in my house than I can ever read in a lifetime, but I can't bring myself to acknowledge that day as a mistake.  Admittedly, the dinner I had the other night was a big mistake, but I can't imagine that any of these are truly my "greatest" mistake.

Someone could certainly make a credible argument that my greatest mistake was the day I did ... whatever the heck it was ... that got me on the hit list of Entropy and Chaos, starting off this lifelong struggle.  As tempting as this idea is, I think my offense to Entropy and Chaos must rank second among my mistakes.

My greatest mistake, believe it or not, came in two parts, sometime before I turned twelve.  Part one was when I gave away my stretchy-blue octopus toy.  (Remember those?  One kid held part of it, another kid held the other part, and together the kids stretched the darn thing across the room.)  Part two came when I decided, against my deepest desire, to give away my Star Wars Ice Planet Hoth playset and all my action figures except Yoda.  You see, my parents had instilled in me a commandment that I needed to get rid of all toys I hadn't played with in the past year, and all my toys had to fit within a few designated spots in the house.  The home of these two toys was my toybox.  I don't actually recall getting rid of the octopus, but I do vaguely remember my thought process in packing up the Star Wars set.  It was just ... time to part with it.  I was reluctant.  I pulled it back out to stare at it several times before packing it away again.  At the last minute, I rescued Yoda and kept him with me.  (Yoda has since been lost to wherever it is that small toys disappear to.)

Still, all these years later, I still lament parting with those toys.  No, no, it isn't because my Star Wars stuff ultimately became "collectors items".  I just ... miss them.  I still want to play with that octopus, and I want to assemble the Ice Planet Hoth on the shelf next to Darling Husband's Millenium Falcon.

I'm kind of nuts, I know.

Nonetheless, the greatest mistake was giving them away to needy children.  (Boy, that sounds cold, doesn't it?)  I don't even consider it my greatest mistake because I miss them, but rather because I have spent much of the rest of my life afraid to throw anything else away in case I might later regret it.  I indulged this unfortunate behavior for many years, paralyzed as to how to stop myself.  Even worse, my family quietly took advantage of what one of my sisters referred to as my "bag lady tendencies" by offering me old family treasures that they didn't want to keep but didn't want to get rid of.  They knew I would not throw them away.

After I got married, I knew something had to change, or we would drown in clutter and perhaps never be seen.  Certainly, we would never have children, because there wouldn't be room in the house for them.  Why?  Because I married possibly the only man on the planet whose ability to throw things away was worse than my own.

After much self-induced therapy, I have improved dramatically.  I am no longer at risk of backsliding when I face the cute trick of my family members who, once they learned I intended to part with something we might all have once loved, always asked me at least 3 times, "Are you sure?"  Yes, I am most definitely sure.  How many old couches of our grandparents does one couple need in a single family home?  (Said couch in question became starter furniture for my old intern, who was grateful for it.)

Yes, throwing out those old toys has left me with a lifetime of regret and self-punishment that I am ever struggling to get over.  I envy my middle sister's lack of emotional attachment to "things".  She throws out more in a given year then I have probably done in a lifetime.  She cares little for personal items beyond a momentary infatuation, and I must admit, I do not understand that sentiment at all.  How easy would it be to keep a house clean if you didn't care to keep everything you've ever owned?


Wait a minute.

Something has just dawned on me.

I am beginning to wonder if that thing I did to piss off Entropy and Chaos WAS the pitching of my octopus and my Star Wars set.  Maybe that is why they have haunted me as long as I can remember.  Maybe those two events are one and the same thing.

Could be.  Could be.


Did the Miraculous, Now I'll Try the Impossible

>> Thursday, April 1, 2010

Somehow I managed to finish my routine cleaning of our house by mid-week this time around. I have no idea whatsover how I managed that, and I'm afraid to think too hard about it lest I jinx it. Sure, I've spent a lot more time at home this week ... like almost all of it ... while we are trying to cross the last threshold of potty training. This means no grocery store, no mass market stores, and no sneaking off for a fast food lunch. So, admittedly, I have had more time physically in the house to do the cleaning. On the other hand, as I said, we are at the verge of the last threshold of potty training, so I have spent quite a bit of time running to and from the potty with Toddler, sitting on the floor of the bathroom waiting for the "Great Poop Off" and rinsing out "oops" from the big boy underwear.

Needless to say, all this bathroom activity has affected my brain somewhat. I'm in a heightened state of alert, accompanied by excessive boredom. We've had a lot of "thrill of victory, agony of defeat" moments this past week, sometimes at the same time. Even better, Girl Cat decided to join in the fun, just in case I didn't have enough stuff to clean up.

So, all in all, somehow I'm ahead of the game and I'm not going to question how. I'm just going to call it a miracle and go with it.

Now, what does one do to top a miracle? I guess my only choice is to try to move on to accomplish the impossible. I could: (1) clean my laundry room, (2) clean my basement, (3) clean my bedroom, or (4) clean the garage.

Each one of those options scares the crap out of me. We have consolidated all the "pack-ratty" stuff we have accumulated into those three spaces. (I'm conveniently not counting the dining room table, where I have laid out all the photographs from the past 9 years that are not yet in albums. That isn't considered "pack rat." That is a "project" born from "procrastination" and is something different entirely. But I don't want to tackle it, either.)

Every hour or so, I walk into one of those rooms, completely intending to apply my "Two Square Feet" method and make progress.

One minute later, I walk out defeated. Some jobs are too big, even two square feet at a time, and I am sure there is a book around that needs me to read it ... or something.

But, you see, we have this big event coming up in May called the "garage sale". The "garage sale" is my annual opportunity to try to convince the rest of my household to move things out of our happy home and into someone else's home. This way no one has to think longingly of their old newspaper collection and wonder whether it is lonely at the recycling plant. The "garage sale" is my motivator to sneak back into the room and try again. I'll just take the first thing I lay my hand on, bring it back to the safety of the kitchen, and decide what to do with it. Even if the room grows another piece of junk to replace it, I will hopefully have another piece of garage sale treasure, or possibly something else to keep the garbage man busy.

My first few forays into the garage yielded: one winter coat, three pairs of shoes that still fit, and seven empty boxes.

My first few forays into the bedroom yielded: Four seriolithograph prints by famous artists (SCORE!), a clay pot no one has ever seen before (????), a big giant glass bowl, and three nails Darling Husband took out of the carpet strip from Toddler's room.

My first foray into the basement yielded an empty trashbag and a black foam ball none of us recognize. Toddler now has the ball, and I have decided to use the trashbag.

My first foray into the laundry room yielded several scraps of fake fur we once used to try to make a toy for the cats, a puppet from 1975, and a black foam tube that is obviously a piece of something larger, we just don't know what.

What does all this mean? Well, the message is no great surprise. It means the rooms still look just as bad, I am still bored, and I still can't leave the house. Hopefully we will find the magic poop button soon, or I will have to start describing lint trap cleaning in future blog posts for lack of anything else to talk about. (Trust me, I am as bored about this idea as you are. The difference is, you are reading it, and I am doing it, and I'm not really sure which is worse.)


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