I Just Can't Get Over This Pluto Thing

>> Monday, May 31, 2010

Off and on over the past few months, we have been working on decorating the room that will eventually become Toddler's.  At least, it will become Toddler's when he no longer has the compulsive need to press his face into the bedrails so hard that it leaves marks for hours, and all of Mommy, Daddy, and Toddler are ready to move him further down the hall without tears (by any of us).

One of the "decorations" that came with Toddler's new bed comforter/curtain set is a picture of the solar system for the lucky child to color and hang on his wall.

The only problem is that this picture has only eight planets -- no Pluto.  I still can't get over how wrong this is.  I mean, yes, maybe technically Pluto was misclassified early on, and if we had to do it all over again knowing what we know now, we would have called Pluto a "dwarf planet" all along.  But why do we have to do it all over again?  Why can't Pluto just be special?  By itself, the discovery of Pluto is a mathematical achievement reflecting mankind's growing understanding of the space we occupy in the universe.  The planet is not observable with the naked eye, and yet, with math, we discovered it because of the pull it has on the gravity of the other bodies in the solar system.  None of the other "kuiper belt objects" had enough "pull" to produce that effect, so doesn't that make Pluto an extra-special kuiper belt object deserving of a little bit of respect from us?  Doesn't its discover make it ... say ... a little more like Neptune, which was discovered in the same way?

I mean, this is harder than getting used to the idea that we weren't supposed to call Halley's Comet "Haylies" anymore, but instead we were to call it "Hallies (rhymes with Bally's)".  (I'm really giving away my age here, aren't I?) 

Besides, if we demote Pluto, do we then have to name all of the kuiper belt objects, or at least all of the estimated 200 of them that will likely be dwarf planets?  What happens if all the other kuiper belt objects make fun of Pluto because it actually has a name? I guess Pluto could hang out with the other dwarf planets recognized by the International Astronomical Union (Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris), but shouldn't we at least be sensitive to the issue and aware that we might be setting Pluto up for some bullying?  I mean, with Jupiter as your big brother, who will touch you?  Take that away, and it just might be open season on Pluto.  You don't know.  If there is an increase in asteroid attacks on Pluto, just don't come crying to me for help.  I warned you.

If we de-planetize it, will Congess refuse to fund NASA's proposed missions to Pluto?  (Eh, probably.  They've managed to un-fund everything else, why not this?)  In that case, don't we feel like we are kicking some poor hunk of rock out of not only a home, but a job, too?  How far will the madness go?

What does Mickey Mouse's dog think of all this?

The whole problem stems from the idea that we have no universal definition of a "planet".  I'm not scientist enough to be able to say what that standard should be, but whatever it is, we should make an exception to be sure Pluto gets to stay.  I firmly believe that no matter what, Pluto's time as a planet should not be the Amarna period of cosmology.  We should not be able to just erase it from a few King's Lists and  "George Orwell" it out of existence and pretend it never happened.  Let's just own up to it for what it is -- a hunk of rock the citizens of Earth feel a lot of attachment to, even if it doesn't "technically" qualify for it's title.  After all, plenty of people still count Europe as its own continent, even though it is techincally attached to Asia.  Isn't that pretty much the same concept?

A few years ago I finally tossed out a poster from the Smithsonian showing all the planets in a pretty neat 3-D arrangement. A good friend of mine bought it and mailed it to me after I left my copy in a cab, along with all my business receipts and my raincoat.  *sigh*  The poster was looking a little beat up in those last few years, and I decided it was time for a change.  I honestly don't know why it was looking beat up, as I had only had it in my last two dorm rooms at law school and moved it seven times by the time we got it here.  It should have been fine, right?  Careless, I tell ya.  Careless.  Anyway, I tossed it, thinking I could just run down to the Smithsonian myself these days and pick up a new one if I needed it.  Well, if I had only known that the whole composition of the solar system was changing around me, I would never have let the original go!  Think of what it won't be worth in a few dozen years!

Of course, no one listens to me.  Just you wait, though.  They'll find microbial life under the ice on Pluto one day, and then everyone will wish Pluto were still a planet.  Won't they all be chagrined then.  In the meantime, I'll bet someone starts a campaign to kick Uranus out of the solar system because it orbits sideways.


Celebrating the Onset of the Madness

>> Friday, May 28, 2010

One year ago tomorrow, this blog was born. Yes.  That's right.  On May 29, 2009, I sat down in front of the computer and wrote a post called, "Erma Bombeck is My Hero."  Then, according to the time stamp, I wrote two other blog posts that same day.

I assure you, I did not.  (I only wrote one other one.)  I had not yet understood the miracle and mystery of how to make post dates and times work.  For that matter, I also failed to realize that my blog thought it was in a different time zone altogether, so the times it recorded usually equated to times when I was asleep.

For the record, let me interrupt myself right now to clear up one little thing.  I do not get up very early in the morning to get a post published for you by 7 AM.  If you have been reading for awhile, you know that I don't do mornings with dignity and grace, and while I might be outrageously funny to watch in the mornings, I don't have the coordination to string together a sentence, much less type it, for at least an hour.  As soon as I figured out the magic of "scheduling" a post so that I could write it one day and it would publish itself some other day while I was taking a shower or drinking coffee, or hiding from Toddler, well, life got good. 

Before I figured that little trick out?  Well ... what can I say?  It was a rough beginning.  In fact, I even attempted to complain about the little inequities of post times in my third post, "Computers Lie and Cheat."  Unfortunately for me, I failed to realize that the things I was complaining about would no longer be visible after a day or so, and no one would understand what I was talking about anyway.  Let's just say, when someone asks me to send over a post to reprint on their website ... Computers Lie and Cheat is never on the list.  Perhaps I really should remove it from the rolls, but honestly, I think it's a whole lot more fun to just poke fun at myself, don't you?  I mean, the post has its redeeming moments ... or maybe just one.  Anyway, it's history, and it reminds me that despite such brilliant pearls of non-wisdom and barely-funny, I'm still here, and the number of "you" that are actually claiming to read this blog has grown quite a bit.  At first I was just talking to a cousin, my mother, and a woman I met online who became my Follower before I even knew what a Follower was (and before I'd even published a post, I should add).  No, she didn't have that much faith in me.  She's just that nice of a person.

And now, there are people reading this blog I've never met, online or otherwise.

That's just cool.

I poked fun at myself and you laughed.  You even told your friends.

Some of you might not think that reaction is enough to celebrate.  If you were in my shoes, you might feel compelled to ask whether the readers were laughing "at" you or "with" you.  I make no such distinction.  I think that distinction is a lot like saying, "No offense."  Nothing changes, you just use different words to make yourself feel better.  I learned this from my family when I was very young.  I would do something stupid, or get confused and decide I wanted to contribute to the conversation anyway, and my whole family would laugh.  Of course, if I was trying to be serious and not make anyone laugh, I'd get all hurt and say, "Don't laugh at me!"  Inevitably, someone would say, "Oh, honey.  We aren't laughing at you.  We are laughing with you." 

I had a hard time figuring that one out because I was seldom laughing when they said it.  Once I even whined, "But I'm not laughing!"  Everyone only laughed harder.

Now, in hindsight, I admit the laughter was probably deserved, and I freely admit that my family had no malicious intent with their laughter (which is probably what they meant by laughing "with" me).  While I still have a low threshhold for looking foolish, I must also admit that the best weapon against people laughing at you is to first step up and laugh at yourself.  Without a doubt, I deserve it.

So, laugh with me, laugh at me.  It's your choice.  At least this time I'm laughing too.

Happy Blogaversary.


Humor in Unlikely Places

>> Thursday, May 27, 2010

Some of you know ... well ... all of you know, if you have read my bio, but some of you know because you have been reading my stuff (here and elsewhere) for a long time, that Toddler was born with medical challenges.  Some of those moments in his very early life were among the scariest I have ever lived through or ever hope to live through.  Inevitably, though, my family and I found the humor in what we had to endure. 

As you already know, if you have been paying attention, I process much of the major events in my life through humor.  For example, I advise you to not sit next to me in solemn occasions, and I explain some of that here.  I share some lovely stories about trying to avoid inappropriate bursts of the giggles in my post about my family here.

Given this history, no one who knew me was surprised when we found the levity in the dark days and nights of watching my son breathe and coughing up snot balls from his trach.  While many might find the humor "dark," we found it natural, and we called it survival.

Howie Mandel describes the "sense of humor" in the beginning of Chapter 3 of his book Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me

The actual sense of humor is the ability to sense humor in places where it might not be obvious.  I am not talking about the ability to laugh at jokes or even tell jokes.  This sense is the ability to find the joke.  Some people can find a seed of humor in the darkest, most humiliating moments.  I know personally that these moments have made for some of the best stories and material in my act, and judging from the audience's response, I was right.

I have come to believe that humor, more so than the other senses, actually defines who we are.  I want to qualify that by saying that the lack of a sense of humor doesn't make you a worse or better person.... I just believe that a sense of humor is an identifying factor of who we really are deep inside.
I think there is a lot of truth to what Howie Mandel is saying here.  Where others may think it amazing or inappropriate to find a joke or a laugh when our children's very health and life might be at stake, I find it only natural, as without the humor to hold us together in the dark times, we will never be easy in the light times.  For me, a sense of humor is a survival trait.

I have never been more keenly aware of this observation then when I read the blog of one of my dear friends, Janis, who writes about her life with a medically fragile child in her blog Sneak Peek.  In fact, in one of her medically-related posts, she achieved the rare feat of making me actually laugh out loud.  This post is an old one, but I can't forget it, and I want to share it with you as an example of humor in unlikely, but very necessary, places.  So, without further blather from me, I give you another shout out:

Deaf Awareness & The Pointy Nurse


Things it Took Me Too Long to Learn

>> Wednesday, May 26, 2010

From time to time, I tell you about "things I have learned" in various places and doing various things (such as our vacation to Lake Tahoe, or from living with an almost-3 year old). 

Of course, the more embarrasing things to write about are the things where I didn't learn things as fast as maybe I should have and ended up feeling a bit like a dolt when I finally figured it out.

Take Erma Bombeck's book, Motherhood, the Second Oldest Profession, for example.  I first read it when I was a young girl, and I could not figure out what the heck the "oldest profession" was supposed to be.  I remember thinking, "well, technically, you become a dad the same time you become a mom ... so ....????"  Of course, the years passed, and I didn't think about it much.  Then one day, I came across the book again, when I was probably in my early 20's, and suddenly, "OOOHHHHH!!!!!! Riiiiighht.  The second oldest profession.  Yes.  Got it now ."

I mean, I wouldn't exactly call myself naive.  Squeaky clean?  You bet.  No one squeaked better than I did.  I still suffer a lot from the Goody-Two-Shoes complex.  But naive?  Not so much.  I was completely aware of how much my classmates were boozing it up (or dealing drugs), I just didn't participate or want to.  Apparently I even fooled a lot of them into thinking I was too clueless to even realize.

My mother gave me Flowers in the Attic to read before I was 12.  (I still don't know why she did that.)  She tried to keep kept me from a lot of things (like the sequels to Clan of the Cave Bear, because of their blatant pornography randomly inserted into various chapters), but Flowers in the Attic was just fine, apparently.

I was just a little slow on the double entendre, I guess.  I don't know.  I have no excuse why it took me so embarrasingly long to get the joke.

Then there was the whole water conservation movement building steam when I was young.  The "in thing" to do to help the conserve water was to put a brick in your toilet to artificially increase the volume.  Every so often people would recommend this as part of the "tips to save the planet" we would hear in school, on TV, etc.  I just couldn't figure this one out, though.  I understood turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, as annoying as I found that at the time, but I didn't get this whole brick thing.

See, I thought they meant put the brick in the bowl of the toilet, and I couldn't figure out how that would help anything.  Besides ... wouldn't it get really messy ... and more than a little bit gross? 

I don't even know how old I was before I finally understood that the brick didn't go in the bowl. 

Of course, like a lot of little kids, I didn't understand the connection between the food on my plate and the starving kids in China (or wherever).  To be fair, I need to tell you that my mother never said anything to me about cleaning my plate.  She would be very mad at me if I let you think that.  She never told me to clean my plate.  I do remember reading a Dennis the Menace cartoon (or maybe it was Family Circus) where the mom told the child to clean his plate because there were starving kids in Africa (or somewhere).  The child answers, "Can't we just send them this stuff?" 

I didn't get the joke.  To me it was a serious question -- if there were starving kids in Africa, what did the food on my plate have to do with it?  Why would my eating more help starving kids?  Of course, I knew we couldn't actually mail my dinner to them because it would go bad, but how would my eating it help them?

Now, I finally do understand that there is more than one answer to this question.  First, we should be grateful for what we have, and second we should not take more than we need so that there will be enough for everyone.  Still, I think this logic is awful tangential when likened to the food on my plate.  I guess at my age, I still don't understand that very well.

So ... I think it should be your turn now.  What puzzle took you way (embarrasingly) too long to figure out?  Post your answer in the comments below.  Don't make me call you out individually, 'cause I will. ;-)


Twenty Years of Madness

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I have had a mystery on my hands for about 20 years, and I need help to stop the madness.  Really.  Please.  Help.

About 25 years ago, I read a book, and I need to find it again.  I don't know the name, and I don't know the author.  I have tried every Amazon and Google search I can possibly think to do, and I have come up dry.  Only I would make such an issue of this, but this missing book has been driving me nearly mad since about 1990 and someone has simply GOT to help me find it or I will spend the next 20 years driving myself even crazier than before trying to figure this out.

Here is the story.  For the love of all decency, please post below if you can help me.  Circulate this blog post if you can't help me in the hopes of finding someone who can.  I am begging you.  Have pity.

So, I was in 6th grade (I think), when I read this book.  Basically, back in those days, our teacher would pick a book, read a few chapters to us, and then put the book away for good.  The goal, I think, was that if we liked the story, we should go get the book ourselves, read it for ourselves, and see what happened.  I imagine this was one of those "encourage kids to read" kind of movements.  Eh, whatever.  I read anything I could get my hands on and was always looking for more.  I am -- I mean was--  kind of nuts that way.

Anyway, this boy in our class named Dave (real name, by the way), bought the book and read it.  He said it was FABULOUS.  He was kind enough to loan it to me, and I read it too.  I, too, LOVED IT.  I read it, then read it again, then kept it so long he had to ask me to give it back.  I didn't mean to be rude, but I was having such a good time that I was struggling to part with it.  Insofar as I can recall, I have only ever borrowed something and had trouble returning it because I was enjoying it so much twice in my life.  The other was a cassette tape of Phil Collins in Genesis that I borrowed from my best friend in High School.  My favorite song was Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, and I listened to it in the car about 10 times a day.  He, too, had to eventually ask me to give it back.  Normally, I was much more polite with other people's things.  Honest!  I was!

About a year or so later, I was in a bookstore with my Aunt, showing her a copy of the book, because I was still coveting it.  To my surprise, I found about half a dozen SEQUELS!  HOLY COW!

Then ... I don't know what happened.  I didn't buy the book.  I didn't get the sequels.  I guess I thought there would be time, and I'm sure I didn't have the money.  I obviously failed to add them to my Christmas List, and I wonder if even then I was struggling to remember the name.  I certainly didn't think there would come a day when the books might *gasp* go out of print so that I couldn't just figure it out by going to the store.

And yet, here I am, 20 years later, wishing I had that book.  I even ran into that guy Dave on email awhile back and quizzed him about it.  Sadly, he neither remembers the book, the story, or my borrowing it.  He is sympathetic, though.  He told me if he still had the book and knew what it was, he would mail it to me immediately.  Unfortunately, he doesn't even know what I'm talking about, and only the politeness of grown ups keeps him from calling me, "a nutso he used to know."

Here is all I can remember about the story.  I hope someone, somewhere, has a clue for me:

The "villain"of the story is some dark spirit that kidnaps young women and takes them away to his castle.  I can't remember if we know in the beginning that he is bad.  I seem to think not, but I can't be sure.  I also seem to think that rather than "kidnapping" these women, he is marrying them, or so their families think.  Again, I can't be sure.  At the beginning of the story, the heroine's sister is taken away.  Or maybe it was her best friend.  Anyway, for some reason or other, the heroine goes with her sister/friend to the castle, as a servant, I think.  I seem to remember a subplot that she thought she was terribly ugly, or something.

Over the course of the story, we learn that the girls/wives waste away in the castle and become wraiths of some sort.  Eventually, the villain realizes that the heroine is a pretty girl, too, and he courts her as well, while her sister is (or has?) faded away.

I remember one scene where the heroine is lying on a bed, very sad, and all the former wives/wraiths come to her.  They tell her they could come to her because her heart was weaving a string of despair, and despair was a strong enough emotion for them to follow back from wherever they were.  Unlike happiness or sadness or whatever other emotions they talked about, despair weaves a strong enough thread that it doesn't break when they try to follow it to the source.  (Eh, something like that.)

I don't remember what happens next, but I do know that was the turning point of the novel.

That's it.  That is all I have to go on.

Is this ringing a bell for anyone?  Anyone??  ANYONE???

Only you can stop 20 more years of madness.  Help me solve this mystery?  Please?  (She asked pitifully.)

Edited to add:  Less than three hours after tweeting a link to this blog, someone had an answer.  Thanks to @rachelintheOC, we now know that this book is DarkAngel by Merideth Ann Pierce.  For achieving this miracle, she has demurred any offers of thanks and instead asked that I refer to her as "Queen." Given how little she had to go on in finding this book, I think I can manage "Queen Rachel" ... for today.  You can check out her blog here.  Have a look. I dare you not to love it.  


The Hazards of Living in the "Not-Country"

>> Monday, May 24, 2010

In my last post, I shared with you my first, and for nearly a decade after that my only, telephone call to the police.  (Notice that I carefully did not say, "encounter" with the police.)

I really did think that it was quite something to say that my one and only telephone call to the police station involved a runaway cow.  I just wasn't sure whether that "something" was a good thing or a bad thing.  Certainly, it was distinctive.

Little did I know that my second ever telephone call to the police (and, so far, the last one I have ever had) would be even more unique, involving a racoon and a mayonnaise jar.

Yes.  A racoon, a mayonnaise jar, a feral cat trap, and a laughing dispatcher.

Here is what happened.  Basically, Darling Husband and I were running a shelter for feral cats.  Well, no, we weren't, but the cats seemed to think we were.  We had adopted two feral cats to live in our backyard and help us control the rodent population.  At first, they (the cats, not the rodents) were contained in a very large pen -- I think it may even have been bigger than Darling Husband's single dorm room at Penn State.  Then, after enough time went by, we released them into the backyard and left the pen there with the door open.  (They returned every night to sleep and use the litter for awhile before we took the pen away.  Yes, we cleaned litter for outdoor feral cats.  We wanted them to like us.)

Literally hours after we first let the two orange mousers out of their pen, we were watching them cavort around the yard in the fading sunlight.  As the moon rose, we counted one, two, three, four ... five??? sets of eyes in the backyard and the neighboring undeveloped land.  Our new friends had friends ... and lots of them.  As it turned out, there were a lot of feral cats living nearby, probably because there was an old woman with a lot of cats who used to live somewhere around here.  No one knows what happened to the cats after she passed away, but the neighbors all seemed to think her family just opened up the house door and let them all go.  With all the eyes we kept seeing in the backyard, I was beginning to think so too.

With the help of Alley Cat Allies, the wonderful organization that gave us Princess and Charlie, our two feral cats, we gradually began trapping, neutering, and returning those cats to the wild.  Surprisingly, none of them were totally wild, although I wouldn't have invited most of them over for dinner.  Those that were friendly enough (although clearly abandoned) went on to live in new homes with people thrilled to take care of them in all the domestic glory they could stand.  One of them went on to become the now-famous Houdini that wormed his way onto our queen-sized bed -- in the middle, thank you very much.

So ... as the years passed by, we accumulated one or two ... sets ... of traps to catch and transport feral cats to vets who will treat them. 

One day, while I was trying to use the internet to identify the strange long-legged, odd looking animal that ran through my backyard (it was a young coyote), not too long before the 12-point buck chased my husband out of the yard, our family of racoons came to try to steal the cat food from the back stoop. 

Did I mention that we live just outside the beltway in metropolitan DC?  No, I don't mean in the West Virginia or Gettysburg commuting corridors, either.  I mean, I could be downtown in 15 minutes.  I know, with all this wildlife, you just knew I lived in a big city.

Anyway, here comes the racoon family, and one of them is looking mighty strange.  He's following his family members, and wobbling and weaving a little ... because he has a mayonnaise jar stuck on his head.  Yes, he looks like a jar head -- literally.

As annoying as racoons are (and expensive, with all the cat food they eat), we were too much of softies to let this situation go.  So, Darling Husband got out the cat trap and set it for the racoon, baiting it with cat food.  The poor thing kept creeping in, trying to figure out how he could eat that food through the jar on his head.  For the life of me, I can't figure out how he was breathing, much less smelling anything.  He'd move forward, hit his jar head on something, and back away confused.  Anyway, Darling Husband got him trapped fairly quickly while I, once again, had the pleasure of calling the police to report an animal issue.

Fortunately for me, the county I live in now has an animal control division that they can send, but I still needed to talk to the dispatcher.  The conversation went something like this:

"I need some help with a racoon in my backyard."
"What's wrong with the racoon?"
"He has a mayonnaise jar stuck on his head."
"...  I'm sorry, he has a what?"
"A mayonnaise jar.  On his head."
"A mayonnaise jar?"
"Yes.  On his head."
"It's stuck there?"
"Well, that's about the strangest thing I've ever heard.  I'll call the animal control officer.  Do you want us to remove the animal?"
"I want to get the jar off its head before it suffocates or starves in my backyard."

According to the animal control officer when he finally arrived at our house, the dispatcher could hardly stop giggling when she radioed the call.  He, of course, was mildly amused at the diversion, but he wasn't sure it was going to live up to the yogurt cup that got stuck on a possum once....

Now, the animal control officer was a nice enough guy, but he was a little bit ... of ... a goofball, if you haven't already figured that out.  He didn't understand what we were trying to tell him when we said we had the racoon confined to an animal rescue trap.  He took a big hook-loop thing like the kind they use on Animal Cops or whatever that Animal Planet show is, and he tried to open the hatch to the trap so he could hook the racoon.  In the process, he managed to let the racoon go, and off into the woods it ran.  I don't know why he couldn't just take the trap we gave him, take the 'coon to some vet, shoot him full of drugs, and pry that jar off.  I'm figuring if the 'coon couldn't get it off himself, I don't know how one guy could do it with a control collar around the 'coon's neck.  But hey, I'm not the animal control expert.

And what was the officer's advice?  "He'll be back.  If so, give me a call.  If not, it probably means he broke the jar and got it off somehow."

Yea.  Sure.

To be a bit more fair to the officer, he did apologize for letting the 'coon go, and he blamed it on his unfamiliarity with the trap, thinking the door would only open a little bit.  He thought the trap was a neat idea, and he thanked us for trying it.  But still .... confined animal in small cage versus animal dangling from metal pole.  How would you prefer to deal with it? #justsayin'

Anyway, we never saw the 'coon again, so either he starved in the woods or he did manage to get the jar off.  I guess we'll never know.  Either way, I have now gone down in the police log books (again) as calling to report some pretty crazy animal antics.

Yep.  That's how my life rolls.


The Hazards of Life in the Country

>> Friday, May 21, 2010

I grew up in a small town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  No, I did not grow up on a farm.  We lived in an ordinary suburb in a house that was only as old as I was.  I did, however, live across the way from a horse farm, and the vacant lot next door was fertilzed by the leavin's from that there horse farm, if you smell what I mean.

Down the end of our street, the housing development stopped rather abruptly, leading out into the great wide open farmland that you can see on all the postcards.  We bought most of our fresh vegetables from the Plain farm down that street.  Beyond them was ... not much -- a lot of winding, twisty roads with very few street signs.  Like much of the "back roads" of the County, those road signs were turned 90 degrees or removed by the local kids "for fun." 

Of course, these days were before the GPS era, and the word to the wise was, "Don't go driving on those roads unless you know where you are going."  A body could get lost for hours trying to find their way back to a main road ... or a house that believed in using electricity.  And a bathroom?  Forget it. 

If you knew where you were going, however, precisely, and without needing to see road signs, those so-called "back roads" could save you a lot of time, especially in the summer when the tourists clogged all the main roads gawking at the horses and buggies.  Most of the time you would easily be the only car on the road, and if not the only, then one of a very few, especially on the unmarked roads.  A hawk's eye out for people walking, horses and buggies, and bicycles was a very good idea.  Occasionally, a few other moving beasts were back there, too.

I worked at a restaurant at the other end of town, so I knew half a dozen ways to get back home.  Many of them were so rural that my mother made me promise to go the same way every night if I was coming home after 10 PM so she'd know which way to come looking for me if I never came home.  One night, on my way home from a late shift at work, I met one of these "beasts" of the back road.

I was driving down this windy, dark road that had fences on either side to keep the local livestock contained.  The fence line was several feet back from the road, and parts of it (at least) were made of wire.  As I traveled, I thought I saw a dog in the distance, near the fence.  As I got closer, I thought, "man that is a big dog."  As I got even closer, the animal starting running, first towards my car.  At that point, I realized that this was no dog, and if it was, it was the biggest dog ever made by man or spirit in this universe.  Just as I thought it was about to plow into the side of my car, it turned right and started running along side of me.  It was drag racing me!  I was in a rural drag race with a ... a what? 

A cow.  Possibly a bull.  It was too dark to see.  It was bovine, and it was big, and I was country girl enough to know two things:  (1) If it hits me, it will win.  It is stronger and heavier than my car.  (2)  If it hits me, I will lose, because that cow is almost certainly worth more than this car.  I swerved my car into the other "lane". (I say that in quotes because most city folk wouldn't consider that a two lane road, although much of Scotland would call it a three-lane road.)  The cow kept running, drag-race style.  If it got in front of me, one of us was in big trouble, probably me.  I don't know if my auto-insurance covered cattle loss, or "death by stampeding cattle," for that matter.

Thankfully, it veered right when I veered left, and I had the chance to speed on without it, leaving it galloping alongside the road. 

After I caught my breath, I got to thinking about the next poor vehicle coming down that road.  What if they weren't so lucky?  Think of all that beef and moo juice that would go to waste!  Think of all the damage to that car!  What if they closed my little shortcut and all my restaurant buddies got stuck?  (I was a very conscientious college-aged kid, you know.)

So, like any super-squeaky clean kid, I drove the rest of the way home and called the police.

Yes, I called the police.  My name went on record in the local police station as reporting a ... a ... runaway cow.

The call went something like this:

"Hello, East Lampeter Township police, how can I help you?"

"Hi.  I'm calling to report a loose cow on ____ road?"

"A what?"

"A loose cow.  It got past the fence line, and it's on the road.  It almost ran into me when I drove past."

"Which part of the road were you on?  That road cuts across the township line."

"I was on the part between Route 30 and Old Philadelphia Pike."

"Uh.  Shoot.  That's us.  Are you sure it was a cow?"

"Well, it was big, and heavy -- too fat to be a horse, and to big to be a dog."

"Did you see any markings?"

"Big and brown.  That's it."

(They had a few more questions to try to be sure I wasn't some prank caller -- like, what were you doing on that road this time of night? -- , and they made me give my name and phone number for good measure.)

The Operator turns away from the phone and talks to someone beside her, "Hey. We got another loose cow tonight.  I'm getting the directions now. One of yous is gonna have to go wrangle it in and find the owner."

Yep. That's where I grew up.  They totally believe the possibility of a drag racing cow.  I think their only concern was whether some band of drunk teenagers was off chasing the cows.

Yee haw.


The Good and the Bad about Blog Awards -- The Versatile Blogger Award

>> Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blog Awards are great, and blog awards are terrible. 

They are great because when someone sends me an award, I (momentarily) feel thrilled.  Oh, wow, someone reads my blog.  This is great!  They think I am worthy of receiving these pretty little electronic pixels. ('Cause we humor bloggers really thrive on the attention, ya know?) 

Another reason that Blog Awards are great is that they give me something to write about other than my usual stuff.  Of course, Blog Awards often come with a lot of rules, but as far as I'm concerned, rules about what I am supposed to write about are great because then the topic is not my fault. 

Now, however, we get to the "bad" stuff about Blog Awards.  First of all, most of the rules are not about what to write -- they involve finding some huge number of other "worthy" bloggers to whom we will grant the award.  The higher the number, the worse I feel.  I read lots of blogs, for sure, but I honestly don't sit around all day reading blogs.  (I know you thought I did.)  Plus, lots of the blogs I read are by people who don't know me and wouldn't respond to any award I might choose to give them.  (Or, they are by some super busy moms who might flip off the deep end if I try to lay one more hair of work on their plate.)

Of course, the higher the number of recipients from each gifter, the closer we are to a ponzi scheme, I think, and the more devalued I feel.  Did they give me the award because they love me, or because they know me and desperately needed one more name?  Ya gotta wonder ... ya know?

But, back to basking in the glory.  I am the recipient of this:


Isn't it so pretty and green?  And the name "versatile blogger" -- how flattering! (I'm going with flattering.  Don't spoil it for me.)

The rules for this award are as follows: 

1. Thank the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic!
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

I will start by saying, "THANK YOU" in big letters to Dazee Dreamer for sending this on to me.  The rules do not specifically say no "tag backs," but as part of my thanking procedures, I will also refrain from sending the award back to you.

So, next, I will share 7 things about myself.  I will also refrain from merely copying my post A Few Random Things to Know About Me (although, again, I see nothing in the rules that would prohibit this approach).

Here goes:

- I like the color green.  You might have inferred that from my remark above about the award being "pretty and green," but I have repeated it in case you weren't paying attention.

- I'm actually starting to appreciate the show Wizards of Waverly Place, and the movie wasn't half bad.  Of course, I watched it while out of town at a funeral, so possibly my standards weren't very high that day.

- I love Disney, but I'm mad at them for cancelling Bunnytown, and I think Special Agent Oso is the world's dumbest bear.  He even makes Pooh look smart.  (Sorry, Pooh.  You are loveable, but no one ever said, "smart" in reference to you.)

- Toddler's first ever amusement park ride was at Epcot, in Norway.  Yes, I took my son on a semi-scary boat ride.  Why?  Darling Husband and I might have ... possibly ... if you want to consider it that ... taste-tested a few too many wines at the Food and Wine Festival when we made that choice.  The good news is that Toddler loved it.

- I am an excellent cook when forced to be.  In general, I really hate cooking.  This fact has bothered my oldest sister for many years now.

- I never wanted three cats.  Nope.  Never.  Houdini didn't give a crap what I wanted.

- I never really thought I would be a stay at home mom, or a blogger, but look at me now.

Now, here is the hard part.  How do I find 15 other bloggers to give this award to?  Of course, I know plenty of worthy recipients.  (I'm not that unpopular, thank you very much!)  Yet, I can't give an award to the same 15 people all the time.  First of all, most of them haven't posted their entries on my last award, and second, they might start blocking my emails and tweets and stop speaking to me.

So ... here goes.  I'm fairly sure none of these people will stop speaking to me or send me (too much) hate mail.  Some of them have never even heard of me, so if they get mad ... eh.  And one of them, at least, has a whole heck of a lot more to bother to get mad at me about over the last 20 years than this:

@kailexmummy (Turnabout is fair play, my dear.)  Allaboutus and Suchlike

@BustedKate from Busted Plumbing because you crack me up about something that I never knew I could laugh about. I guess that's only fair because until now, you probably didn't even know I existed.

@kadiera for Our Little Acorn

Adrian for his fledging blog Now Once, because the award is green, and he used to always show up wherever we were going wearing this green sweathshirt....

@jterzieff from her blog JulietteTerzieff.com because she was so darn thrilled the last time I tagged her (honest, no sarcasm intended!) that I can't help doing it again

And ... that's it.  It ain't 15, but seriously, this is the third "tag" I've had to do in a short period of time.  I reserve the right to send this out to future bloggers at a later time, just as I did with my Beautiful Blogger award.  It's always good to have something in the backburner for the future, right?


Guaranteed Weight Loss and Fitness Tips

>> Wednesday, May 19, 2010

As hard as it may be to believe when you look at me, I actually have a fairly fool proof way to lose weight and increase exercise.  My system really will work, if you simply follow the rules.  In fact, the program is very, very simple.  The only trick is making yourself actually do it.  Can you?  There are two methods.  One involves the stay at home (or weekend) parent.  The other involves similar rules for the workplace, but today we are talking about the home-based version.

Here are the rules:

1.  Small children are required.  If you don't have any, borrow some.  Lots of parents will gladly give you their children for as long as you need them.  Now, if you choose the, "conceive, carry and give birth from your own body" method of having children, of course, you will have some extra weight to deal with before you can begin losing the weight, but the more children you have, the more effective the weight loss rules become.

2.  You may only eat when you are sitting down, alone, in your own chair, without any children sitting in your lap.  If you can't satisfy all of these requirements, you need to eat later.

3.  The car does not count as sitting down.  A table is required.

4.  You must use a plate, a napkin, and utensils.  Actually, you don't have to "use" them, but you have to take the time to get them out and set up a real place setting.  If you don't have time, or if small children take them away before you sit down, you need to eat later, when you can satisfy these conditions.

5.  You must not eat anything until your entire meal, drink included, is on the table.  Again, if you cannot satisfy all these conditions due to complications from your family, you must wait until you can.

6.  You must close your eyes and count to ten.  If no child screams or speaks to you during this time, you may proceed.

7.  You may not start eating unless you honestly believe you will have time to eat an entire meal without interruption. 

8.  If you are interrupted by small children, other messes, the telephone, the doorbell, Famville, or Twitter, you must stop eating until the interruption is over.  If your meal gets cold, you may reheat it.

9.  If your child wants fast food, you may go, but the same rules apply.  If a fast food restaurant is within walking distance, you have the added obligation of having to walk there, with your children, and any strollers they may require.  You may only order from the dollar menu, and you must have the same thing each time you go.  Trust me, you will tire of this before they do.

10.  For aerobic exercise, tell your child s/he may not go into a specific room, then play goalie to keep them out of it. 

11.  For yoga and stretching exercises, tell your child you will be scrubbing a floor on your hands and knees or vacuuming a carpet with a hand-vac.  Then attempt to do so while climbing over, around, under, and past your child.  The goal is to not actually get anything clean, but to try to get around your child while you are both on the floor. 

12.  For weight lifting, periodically tell your child he needs to go upstairs to take a nap, take a bath, clean his room, or something else he does not wish to do.  Proceed to carry him there.  When he runs back downstairs, follow him and repeat.  When you get truly advanced at this exercise, tell the child and the family pet the same thing, then proceed to carry them both.  You may receive the added aerobic benefit of having to chase the pet/children, and the mental exercise of having to figure out where they are hiding.

By following these simple rules, you will surely lose weight.  You will only be able to eat about 3 bites per meal, and by the time the children are in bed, you will pass out from hunger and fatigue. 


We All Survived The Garage Sale ... Even the Baby

>> Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Few things in our family are more fraught with peril than a family that garage-sales together. 

First of all, the "family" consists of three under three.  While the indeterminate number of lumps of teenage hormones are helpful or not, agressive, or not, as they see fit, from year to year, at least they know how to "sound off," are not likely to wander into traffic, and will (mostly) respond when you yell their names.  The under three crowd scores very low in all of these crucial skills.  

Then, on top of our family composition being less-than-ideal for haggling and large gatherings of people, we must consider the unique challenges of the so-called "garage sale."  Let's dispense with the stupid jokes early.  No garages were sold, nor were any yards.  Every year we try, and every year we fail to sell those things.  Perhaps the problem is that we do not hold the "garage sale" or "yard sale" in either the garage or the yard.  We hold it in the driveway so no one steals the non-sale items or ruins the grass.  We have dogs and small children to ruin the grass, so we don't need the help of potential customers.

Okay, now that we have that out of our systems, let's get back to the story.

Technically, the town had multiple "neighborhood" yard sales going on, with folks setting up in their own yards/driveways/garages at the times designated by their neighborhood.  The neighborhood where my mother lives was supposed to start at 8 AM.  The neighborhood where my sister lives was supposed to start at 7 AM.  Of course, we all knew that the early bird shoppers would be prowling the streets by 6:30 AM at the very latest.  One year someone in the neighborhood was organized enough to publish a list of who was selling what sorts of things, and I'll be darned if someone wasn't knocking on our garage door before 7 in the hopes of picking up something we'd advertised. 

This year, we were more prepared than usual.  We actually had a critical mass of "sale crap" unboxed and on tables before midnight, just waiting to be pulled out and sold in the morning.  Now, none of it had a sale price on it, but hey, at least it was out.  The only decision left to be made was ... who had to get up and go deal with the insane buyers at the sale, and who had to stay home long enough to herd the mass of children out of the house and over to the sale.  Neither job had anyone jumping up for volunteers.

I ended up being one of the ones on the "herd the children" brigade.  As it turns out, both jobs began at 5:30 AM, when two of the four under-threes tried to get up.  Someone promptly sent them back to bed where they dozed for awhile and then an hour later got up and began "whispering" to each other.  After a few moments of this "whispering" I sent them downstairs to bother the television set instead of the other kids.

By about 8:30, I think (who was looking at the clock?) I arrived at the sale in a borrowed minivan carrying an army of children.  Actually, come to think of it, the word, "circus" would fit better.  Yes.  We were a travelling circus.  By 8:45, give or take, we were entertaining offers on selling the little beasts - er - offspring.  The younger the child, the cheaper the price.  By 10 ... or so ... my sister and I snuck off to go troll sales, conveniently leaving all of our children behind with other relatives. 

After nearly 20 years of these sales, I do not understand what people will buy, or why people will charge what they will charge.  I might think I have the most wonderful thing, and I can't give it away, while the neighbors are selling broken bookshelves for $50 each. 

I have concluded that there is some sort of "garage sale bug" that goes around that makes people do strange thigs, and I am far better off not trying to figure it out.  I nearly bought a table to redecorate a room my son is still living in, for the benefit of another child I may never have.  My excuse?  It was cute, and it was only a dollar.  I nearly overlooked the fact that it seemed stained beyond repair, and the foot was missing so it would be forever crooked.  Thankfully, I came to my senses and moved on.  I managed to only spend $1.60 the whole day and I accumulated a book and a jacket for my kid and a present for someone else.

Meanwhile, back at "our" sale, things were moving along swimmingly.  This year no one brought anything that had been a Christmas gift from anyone else at the sale, so no one's feelings got hurt.  I'm pretty sure my sister swiped a bunch of my sale items frm the table and took them home with her, but that's okay with me.  It's about getting it out of the house, not about making money.  Now, if she tries to send it back to me in the next hand-me-down box between our kids, then I will get upset.  No one should have to discard the same item twice.  Really.  That's unfair ... especially when you come from a family of packrats, and selling anything even once sometimes requires therapy.

Of course, in the days following the sale, we have to ask ourselves a few questions.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  Will we do it again next year?  Well, probably, once we forget what it felt like to get up at 5 AM, to feed all the children outside because some of them are allergic to the dog, all of them are filthy from playing, and none of them will cooperate in taking a nap in the tent we brought for them.

It all comes down to how much therapy we need to part with our things we don't need, and how fast we can forget how painful those early morning hours can be.


How Has It Come To This?

>> Monday, May 17, 2010

Just last night, Darling Husband and I were driving to our first parent meeting for Toddler's new preschool, where he will be going in the fall.  On the way over, I was wondering how we managed to find ourselves in this situation?  Us, at a parents meeting for school?  Really?  I mean, we got dressed up and everything.

I can visualize myself in a lot of roles in life, and I've played a lot of roles already.  I've finally even accepted my role as "mommy," although I'm still having a hard time believing it.  But when did we go from "mom and dad" to "parents" at a school meeting? When did that happen? 

After all, I may be 37 years old, but some days I think I still have one foot in college.  I am definitely not one of those moms on the playground that definitely thinks she has all the answers and is happy to advise all the other moms.  (That mom, more often than not, is quite a bit younger than me but thinks she is older and wiser.  It's funny sometimes when you don't look your age.)  In fact, I'm the mom that forgot to take really important things with her when she left the house with the kid the first few times ... like food ... and stuff.  You know -- the basics. 

I don't know if people think I look like I've got it all together, but I sure seldom feel like I've got it all together, and I don't think I've got it all together.  (I don't think the mom on the playground that says she has it altogether really does, either.  I think she's just making it all up.  No.  Really.  I think that.  I also think that if you spend too much time reading parenting books and magazines, then you are compensating for something.)

So, in the middle of all this, I have to ask how it is I managed to become the responsible adult in this household?  And, does anyone really think that was a wise idea?  Moreover, who was silly enough to let my kid into a co-op preschool where I will now be the responsible adult for an entire classroom of three year olds, and sometimes other kids, at least one day a month?

Sitting in those little chairs with my knees up in my chest didn't provide any answers.  The fact that my child was the only one who had to come with us to the meeting just made the feeling worse.

The fact that he introduced himself and played quietly with one of the veteran moms, was very polite, and in general acted like a well-behaved little man and not the wild hooligan he was being not half an hour before did make me feel a little better.  The fact that membership in the co-op gives me the option to join a babysitting co-op makes me feel even better.  Then again, I think a co-op babysitting group means someone will be giving me their child ... alone ... without any other adult supervision.

Oh dear.


I Met *HER* Today

>> Friday, May 14, 2010

I finally found her, in the park.  I have been wondering if she was real, or simply a figment of my imagination triggered by the paranoia inspired by modern media.

Yet, out of nowhere, there she was.  I didn't recognize her, at first.  She looked like just another mom in the park watching her toddler and hanging out with other moms.  True, this particular group of moms she was with was exceptionally fit-looking, with well groomed hair, fingernails, toenails, and kids.  I overheard them talk about their desire for pedicures, so I knew we had little in common.  Still, I didn't recognize her.

Then, after about a half hour of sitting near each other, and chatting just a little, I watched her pick up an infant from a stroller I didn't see earlier.  Hmm.  She had not one kid with her, but two, then.  The baby was not too small, but still, there was something about the way he was curled up that triggered a recognition in me.

"Oh, you have a really little one!"

"Yes," she answered.  "He's two weeks old."

At that moment I recognized her.  With her perfect hair, her clear complexion, her well-rested eyes, her makeup, her trim figure and fashionably tattered clothing, I don't know how I didn't see her before.

She is that mom -- the mythically, etherally, perfect mom from the cover of parenting magazines.  Two weeks post-partum, and she looks almost airbrushed.  Her infant didn't cry, and her toddler had no dirt stains on her dress.  She and her children all looked well-combed and thoughtfully dressed.  None of them looked tired, there were no red eyes (from tears or otherwise), and no one had a drippy nose even in the middle of a terrible allergy season.   She was stunning, in a blonde-next-door-meets-Kim-Kardashian kind of way.  Even her clothes were stylishly shabby and unassumingly cute ... provided you overlooked the fact that she bought them that way.

In all ... she was perfect.

It was unnatural.

I am deeply suspicious.  She seemed knowledgable about things like how hard it is to convince a small child to leave a playground gracefully.  She seemed to understand about boo boos and the tension between giving your kids freedom to be independent and the desire to be a helicopter parent.

And yet, something was very wrong with this picture.

Either those perfect kids weren't really hers, or she wasn't a real person. 

Real women two weeks post-partum don't sit angelically at a picnic table looking serene and well-rested. 

Real children don't play in the dirt-playground in white dresses without stains.

Real babies don't sit quietly for hours waiting for their turn to have attention.

I think someone gave her a dressing room, a hairstyle, makeup, a suporting cast of actors and actresses, and sent her into the park that day.  I'm not sure who gains from this, but someone wants us to think that kind of perfection really exists in the world.

I am not buying it.  She was a fake.


Ten Things that Make Me Happy

>> Thursday, May 13, 2010

Today, we will be talking about Ten Things that Make Me Happy.  If you want to know why, please see yesterday's post where I offer a nice, long-winded explanation.  If you don't want to know what makes me happy, feel free to blame @kailexmummy and her blog because she made me do it.

So, what things make me happy?  I am proud to say that a lot of things make me happy.  In fact, you might even go so far as call me "easily amused."  Perhaps some people would think "easily amused" is not a compliment, but think about it from my perspective -- I'm happy.  I don't care if you don't understand why.  :-)  You should be lucky to be as easily amused as I am.

To begin with, we have the (now obligatory) potty comments:

1.  I am happy when I can spend an entire day without being peed on, or cleaning pee, poop, or hairballs from the floor from any species of animal.  I am especially happy when I don't step in any of the above, regardless of whether I am the one who actually has to clean it.

2.  I am happy when I can spend more than 2 and 1/2 seconds in the bathroom without seeing someone try to turn the doorknob and yell, "I want in!"

Okay, now that we have taken care of that obligation, let's move on to more general stuff:

3.  Disney World makes me happy.  Epcot may be the neatest place on the planet.  The Beach Club is pretty neat, too, as is the Marriott World Center, which is very, very, very close by.  (You can't walk, but it's darn close.)  Whoever says that Disney is for kids has never done a wine flight in Italy, Germany, and then France.  The Food and Wine Festival is a dangerous place if you plan on driving anywhere.

4.  Japanese steak houses make me happy.  There is just something about watching people flame onions near my eyebrows that makes the beef and shrimp taste divine.  Even Toddler agrees.  Heck, he'll eat more vegetables in one meal (with chopsticks no less) at one of those places than he normally manages to choke down in an entire week.

5.  I have never tried this, but I am absolutely convinced that a swim-up bar would make me extremely happy -- particularly if a waterfall is involved.  Don't try to convince me I'm wrong ... I'm just smiling away thinking about it.

6.  Watching my son eat makes me happy.  No, there is nothing funny about this one. Even I get sentimental once in a great while.  For that matter, telling my son to "be quiet" makes me happy, as does the fact that the ER doctors no longer know me by name and the pediatrician no longer has my phone number memorized.  *sniff, sniff*.  Okay, moving on....

7.  I love my Kindle.  It makes me happy that no one can look in my bag and see how indecisive I am about what books to take on vacation or how disillusioned I am about how much time I'll actually have to read.  I can look normal and still feed my book habit without compromise.

8.  Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi makes me happy.  I know someone will want to tell me about all the reasons why I shouldn't drink it, but good luck with that.  I go through years of my life not drinking or eating anything "bad" for the sake of the children living off my body.  Given my allergies, "bad" includes milk and cheese and ice cream.  So, when I'm feeding only myself, diet soda and champagne are two of the basic food groups.

9. Hot tubs, hot baths, and swimming pools make me happy, especially if there is a loud TV with waterproof remote nearby.  Of course, the TV should ideally be loud enough for me to hear over hot tub bubbles, but not so loud as to annoy anyone else.  Maybe directional speakers.  Yes, that sounds good.  Candles and wine don't hurt either.  The ocean?  Eh, not so much.  I have to share it with too many other life forms.

10.  Football makes me happy.  Going to a Penn State game makes me happy, especially when no one is using the hot tub but me.  I know from experience that absolutely none of you understand this, but it's my story and I am sticking to it.

Now, here is the rub.  I have to tag 10 people to tell their readers about Ten Things that make them happy.  Like I have said before, there is always a catch.  Truthfully, some of you might be annoyed to see your name or blog on this list right now.  I know that.  I'm putting it there because I think maybe you need a reminder of what makes you happy, and because I'm annoying that way.  Go ahead.  Be annoyed.  It's okay.  I'm getting all bossy on your blog and all "here is what you need," and that is most definitely annoying.  For those of you not annoyed ... Hey, cool!

So, here you go.

Sneak Peek
@mommyperks - (I rather suspect on your Humor Page, but hey, you write what you want!)
Mommy Nani Booboo
Ainsley Rae
Now Once
You Get What You Get
Julliet Terzieff
Merrill and Roberta Simon and Family

I'm happy now.


I'm Amazed We Can Talk At All

>> Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I was recently "challenged" by a blogger I just met from "across the pond," kailexmummy.  She was challenged to write about the "Ten Things that Make Me Happy," which she did here when she also challenged, er ... invited? ... me to do the same. 

I'm tickled pink ... no, wait.  I don't like pink.  Let's think of another expression.  Hmm.  Blue means hypoxia, purple and red mean angry, green means jealous ... what's left?  How about orange?  Okay, for today, I'm tickled orange by this challenge (and/or invitation). 

First of all, I just "met" this woman.  Either she really, really loves my blog, or she was desperate to find enough people to send the challenge too.  I know what I really believe, and I know what I want to believe, but the beauty of blogs is that I can choose to wear whatever shade of glasses I want, and no one can stop me.  (I won't opt for pink.  As I said before, I don't like pink, even if you call it rose.)

The second reason I love this idea is that my new bloggy friend is from "across the pond."  That makes communication a whole lot of fun.  I can learn all kinds of new words like, "chuffed," and then I get to figure out what they mean. 

For example, she referred to her blog post as a "meme".  I don't know that word, so I looked it up.  According to the ever-so-reliable Wikipedia, a meme is defined as follows:

A meme (pronounced /ˈmiːm/, rhyming with "cream"[1]) is a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. (The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word μιμητισμός ([mɪmetɪsmos]) for "something imitated".)[2] Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate and respond to selective pressures.[3]
The British scientist Richard Dawkins coined, or adapted, the word "meme" in The Selfish Gene (1976)[1] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catch-phrases, beliefs (notably religious beliefs), clothing fashion, and the technology of building arches.[4]
There was more, but I spared you the pain.  Interestingly enough, this particular entry in Wikipedia is specifically identified as being improperly cited, potentially unreliable, and subject to removal.  So, not only does the definition seem confusing, it may be more likely to be wrong than even your average entry.   As a result, I'm no further along with figuring out what a "meme" is than before I started.  I made an executive decision that I would pretend she said, "memo" and just move on. 

Even better than the individual words we use on one side of the pond and not the other, we also have the added fun of being able to have whole conversations where we might think we understand each other, but we don't. 

For example, she might tell me to get "on the pavement" because a car is coming.  I might, sadly, think she is telling me to get on the road and walk right into traffic. 

She might offer to loan my child a jumper, and I might try to figure out why she wants to put my kid in a romper at his age, or I might think she meant a child's jumping toy of some sort.

If she were to offer me a "nappy" for my baby, I might, after thinking about it for awhile, decide she was offering me a napkin to wipe my baby's face.  In fact, she'd be offering me a diaper for his backside (or his "arse" if you will).

I might tell her I thought her children had "a lot of spunk," and she might wonder why I'm speaking of a male bodily fluid not usually discussed in polite company. 

My all time favorite, though, is a sentence suggested by another mom I met several years ago.  "Let's get pissed and go smoke some fags." In American English, I have just said something very offensive, and depending on the circumstance, potentially an illegal rallying cry for immediate violent action against homosexuals. In the Queen's English, I've just suggested we go get drunk and smoke cigarettes.

With these kinds of potential misunderstandings, it is a wonder the United States and the United Kingdom are still such good friends. 

Even more fascinating, both countries still claim to speak the same basic language.  I, on the other hand, disagree.  Apparently, we do not even use the same rules of grammar.  For example, I attended "a" university, while my friends in England attended, "University."  I go to "a" or "the" hospital when I need help or visit someone, while my friends simply go to "hospital."  When we talk about singular groups such as corporations, we can't even agree whether they are singular, or plural.  I would say, "Disney is releasing a new movie," and my friends would say, "Disney are releasing a new movie." 

Sometimes we even have roughly the same idioms, but we put them together using different parts of speech (nouns versus adjectives, or similar).  In England, someone may be a "nutter" and "crackers" but in the United States, we might call them "nuts" or "cracked."  So close, and yet ... so distinctinvely not.

Putting all these difference together, I strongly believe that there is a major market need for an "English to English Dictionary."  You can add that idea to my list of get-rich-quick schemes.

Now, for my Ten Things that Make Me Happy ... tune in tomorrow.


You Know You Want My Life

>> Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oh, have I had a day!  I learned so much.

I learned that Toddler finds the cabinet in our kitchen that won't stay closed to be a real personal threat that he intends to beat into submission.

I learned that when it comes to linens and towels, some documentary television company may soon make a weekly special about us.  I threw away/donated at least three sets of sheets (I lost count).  As for the towels, we are parting with three (possibly four) sets of worn and frayed towels.  And by "sets," I mean two of everything you need to run a bathroom properly.

Despite all this throwing away, I beg you, please do not get us any new sheets for Christmas.  We really don't need it.  Really.

I learned that Toddler stil thinks vacuuming is a game because he has started bringing his toy Dusty the Talking Vacuum Cleaner into wherever I am sweeping and "helping" me.  I am truly lamenting not buying him one of those little kid sweepers that really works, especially since I think our vacuum cleaner is quite possibly on its last legs ... er ... wheels.  When the almost-20 year old hand held Dirt Devil has more suction, I should be a little concerned, right?  Or am I over reacting?

I learned that I need a new hairdryer immediately.  Mine bit the dust this morning.  Well, to be fair, it technically still functions, if you can handle the loud helicopter noise and only want the airflow on "low". 

I have learned to suffer for fashion.  I have been attempting scrubbing and cleaning in my brand new capris style pants, cut in the newest fashion.  I have to say that all day I've felt like my pants were falling down and my butt crack was showing.  It wasn't, and neither was my underwear, but still ....

I have learned that Toddler is entering a new phase of random engineering experimentation.  Toddler has developed a new trick where he takes his Mickey Mouse toy airplane ride on toy (which we love) and drives it into the walls to see how much contact is necessary to stop the propeller blades from spinning.  Boys.  Destruction, love of cars, and fascination with dirt and trains is all apparently bred into them at a very basic level.  Everything else is a crap shoot.

Speaking of crap, I learned from a pediatrician's office all the possibly pyschological and non-serious reasons why a toddler doesn't poop for three days and what we are supposed to do about it. (I know! I just can't get away from these potty stories!  Believe me, I am as sorry as you if not more so!)

I have learned that I love Amazon, because if I want to post a picture of something very specific, and my camera battery is dead, and my phone is MIA, or if I am just plain lazy, I can still put up a picture without having to leave my seat.  Not that I would do that, or anything ... and certainly not in the next paragraph.

Now, of all the things I learned today, there is one thing I have not learned.  I have not learned why I found this book buried underneath an entire stack of towels on the third shelf from the bottom in the bathroom closet.  No, the closet is no where near the pot, so that can't be it.

I'm wondering if I can sneak it into the garage sale, or if I have to return it to the only person in the house it could possibly belong to.  Even better, he can have it back if he tells me how it got there.  Maybe that will solve everything.


A Prelude Of Things to Come?

>> Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm not sure how to caption this post.  I wasn't even planning to write it, but some days, even when you think it might be time to write about something other than toddlers and what they say, you see something you know you have to share.  I'm not sure whether we should call this post, "A Prelude of Things to Come" or possibly, "Some Girl's Mamma Will Hate Me Someday."

For those of you new to this blog, I have been wondering whether my son is a junior Casanova, and if so, how on Earth am I going to handle it.  (If you haven't read that post, you should check it out.)  I mean, I didn't even date all that much.  What do I know about cute and popular?  We figured Toddler didn't stand a chance at either with the two of us as his parents, but it looks like Mother Nature is getting her kicks with us ... at least for now.  I mean, all kids are cute when they are two.  Who knows what will happen between now and kindergarten.

Anyway, I have to give a little bit of background, otherwise someone will try to call Child Protective Services because you won't understand.  We have a CD that Toddler LOVES to listen to called Music Play Date by Playhouse Disney.  On that CD is a song called "What's Monkercise?" where Aah the red monkey teaches Ooh the blue monkey to exercise.  One of the exercises involves Ooh "shaking his monkey tail."  The song even has a line in it telling everyone to "shake your little monkey tail."  When we hear that line in this house, Toddler gets up and dances, looking quite professional with his little Toddler gyrations.  There is absolutely nothing inappropriate about his little boogeying.  We even say the line and do the dance in public for fun.

Nonetheless, when taken out of context, those words ... well ... let's just say this.  Whenever Toddler wants to "shake his little monkey tail" while we are in the bathroom, we have to tell him this isn't the time or place for dancing.  I just don't even want to think what the other moms might be thinking if he were to say that in a public restroom.  Yikes!

Today we were at a playdate with a girl-child a few months younger than Toddler.  The kiddos were having a blast playing, and chatting back and forth.  For the most part, they can understand each other just fine, even when we are having trouble.  (Somehow, I feel sheepish asking my Toddler what his toddler-friend just said, but he always seems to know.)

While they were standing on the stairs, I heard this:

Toddler:  Look at me, I'm shaking my monkey tail!
Toddler:  C'mon, Girl.  Shake your monkey tail.
Girl:  No.
Toddler: But why not?

Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but I have a bad feeling about this conversation.  I am well aware that there was nothing but unbridled innocence in those words, but I couldn't help but think about Toddler and his girl-chasing in music class and wonder:

Am I in over my head?


It's Time for More Things I Have Learned

>> Friday, May 7, 2010

My wisdom is accumulating daily, even if my spelling is getting worse.  Thank heavens I finally found the spellcheck button. (Whew!)  With all of this new wisdom, though, I would be a bad, bad person if I didn't share the knowledge.  (I'd share the wealth, but trust me, I don't have any.)

1.  A clean room is an open invitation in a house full of boys.

2.  Apparently my post The Great Green Crayon Mystery has something in common with the movie The Ring.  If you read the post, the green crayon-like markings begin showing up in your house, too.  If you haven't watched that video post yet, you are hereby warned. Other readers have had some transference issues.

3.  Nothing on Earth is more fun than chopsticks, when you are two.

4.  Black cats are extremely attracted to white pants anywhere and to any light colored garment on the bed.  Orange cats, on the other hand, do not discriminate on the basis of color.

5.  The packrat should ideally begin desensitization therapy by age six, at the latest, as we now know that packrats can be made and born.

6.  Unsupervised Daddy will attempt to crayon on Toddler's face even though he gets mad when Toddler tries to draw on Daddy's pants.

7.  Grown men have the same guilty look as their sons do when their wives yell, "BOYS!"

8. When children are finally old enough to actually "help," they don't want to anymore.

9.  There is nothing like being pregnant, giving birth, and potty training to cure squeamishness.  Nothing at all.

10.  When you have a toddler living in your home, you never again know where your shoes are.

Now, I know you have some pearls of your own.  Let us have 'em!


Cat On My Stuff ... Er ... Stuff On My Cat

>> Thursday, May 6, 2010

So much of what is out there, on the news, and even in "non-news" social media posts is enough to make even the most optimistic of us give up on laughter.

I could, without a lot of effort, find a blogger that will make me feel bad about feeding my child anything in a box, letting him drink milk, not letting him drink milk, making him eat vegetables or fruit when he doesn't want to, letting him eat anything but vegetables or fruit, carrying him, not carrying him, potty training him before he is 3, not potty training him before he is 3, dressing him in synthetic substances, letting him cry, not letting him cry ... and basically every other parenting decision I might want to make. In fact, the hyper-critical environment among parents has even itself become the subject of blog entries.

All of this is *almost* enough to make me write a serious post about respect and choices ...

But that would be work 'cause then I'd have to respond to all that hate mail.

So, where does a humor blogger go to get away from all the intensity?

I go here to a website my cousin sent.  This would be my real cousin, not my sister I call a cousin to spare her identity, or a friend I call a cousin to explain something or other.  No, this is my gen-u-ine Texas-lovin' cousin.  Hi, there, cuz! *waves in the general direction of Texas.*

Love 'em, or hate 'em, I think you will enjoy this website Stuff On My Cat.  Take a look and check out all the links.  I guarantee, one of them will make you chuckle.  Don't be afraid to look at the link "Naughty Stuff on My Cat."  It isn't what you think.  There is no beastiality on this website ... at least if it was there, I missed it.

When I first saw this website, I was still working, and I used to flip through it every time some jerk called me up to yell at me.  My husband loved it so much we got a calendar for home, and he has been crying every Christmas since then that I didn't get him another one.  I suppose some family members could take some notes right about now.

Big Black Cat was rather a bit offended by this website, I must add.  He believes the founder got it wrong, and the proper way to think of the subject is, "Cat on My Stuff" not "Stuff on My Cat."  He even encouraged me to be sure to buy the domain name "Cat on My Stuff" so he could rectify the situation.  At the time, the domain was available.  Since then, I am sad to say, someone stole Big Black Cat's idea and has created Cat on My Stuff.  Although there isn't a whole lot to the site it seems, as if they are on the right path.  I think Big Black Cat will approve.

And, for those of you skeptical or too lazy to bother to click, I leave you with an example at the bottom of the page.  The real funny part is that all the previews are to the same picture, so no matter which one I pick to link to, we just end up with a cat with a frog on its head.  Heh.  Hey!  I used to have a frog like that!  Wait a minute... Mom?  Mom?  You remember that frog ... oh, never mind.

So, I guess this post is a Shout-Out of sorts, to a random website I like, and to a cousin in Texas. *waves again.*

PS -- hey, cuz, if you have any more like that, send 'em on!


I Declare it International Are You Kidding Me Day

>> Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Because everyone else seems to have a nutty holiday, I've invented my own.  Today, in this Blog, I declare it International Are You Kidding Me Day. Come to think of it, every day we have a "What" or "Why" or "Things I Can't Believe I Ever Said or Heard" type post, I think we should declare it International Are You Kidding Me Day.  Today's post falls in the general category of "What Were They Thinking?"

Anyway, as you can guess, I was looking at the roster of goofy holidays again.  Today, I am talking about April 30.  Of course, I should have gotten my act together and wrote about this in time for April 30th itself, but I was a little bit preoccupied writing the two part story of the mouse that got away and then came back to share its last moments with me.

According to My Time Calendars, April 30th was Hairstyle Appreciation Day.  Now, I'm curious.  Am I supposed to be admiring your hairstyle, and perhaps compliment you on it, or is this observance really subtitled, "Tip Your Stylist Day"  What do you think?  I am a touch curious about how this particular observance got started, because perhaps I might figure out the purpose, but if I start down the road of looking up one of these crazy holidays, I will want to look them all up, and there goes the week.

My decision to write this post, though, has little to do with Hairstyle Appreciation Day.  Everyone else has their holiday, so why not hairstyles?  I have no problem with that.  I have a problem with the fact that Hairstyle Appreciation Day apparently falls on the same day as National Honesty Day.

Now, there I have to draw the line.  First of all, in the perfect world inside my head, I think every day is National Honesty Day.  One of my all time pet peeves is when someone says, "Now, to be honest...."

Stop right there.

"To be honest?"  Well, "to be honest," if you ever came up to me and said, "to be honest," I am very likely to put my hand up and say:

"Oh no.  Don't be honest.  I prefer if you just lie to me instead." (No, really.  I do say that to people.)

I don't know what you guys think, but to me, the phrase, "To be honest" is an admission that almost everything else you said up until that time was a lie.

Er, you didn't mean that you were lying to me before now, did you?

I feel similar about the phrases, "To be perfectly honest" (which is, I feel compelled to add, redundant), and "To be frank" or "To be perfectly frank." Er, were you disengenous before, or are you having an identity crisis and you want to metamorph into someone you have met named "Frank"?  Which is it?

Every word matters.  What are your filler words saying about you that you wish they wouldn't? 

Moving aside from my bias against "filler words" and open expressions of honesty, I have to wonder, which holiday came first, and which creators weren't looking when they picked their day?  In the fabric of our social society, can the holidays of Hairstyle Appreciation Day and National Honesty Day really go together?  Are we capable of celebrating both?  What if you run into a client or acquaintance who just got a really nasty looking haircut?  Do you stumble around and appreciate it as best as you can with a straight face, even if you are lying, or do you tell the truth and let them know they look like a shaggy dog?  Do you have to publicly declare at the beginning of the day that you are only observing one holiday or the other?  Do you have to tell the people you are talking to that you are observing one, the other, or both?

Man, these are tough questions.  I think the whole situation was avoidable if whoever declared their holiday second had picked a different day.  We should start a petition to get one of these days moved.  Heck, let's move 'em both and just celebrate International Are You Kidding Me Day.


Let's Try This Again?

>> Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In the past few months, this blog has gained a bit more diverse set of followers ... at least from what I can tell from reading the comments you leave and the blogs you write.

So, I'm going to try touching on a topic that was resoundly ignored the last time I tried it ... football.  No, don't fear.  I'm not going to try to revive Football Wednesdays after y'all killed it off. Well, at least I'm not going to try to do that in April.  However, I am sitting here, watching the NFL Draft, and I can't restrain my football twitching fingers.  (I know -- ancient history to you, but bear with me.  I'll bring it home.)

It's the Draft -- only the most diehard can even stand it.  But watching the coverage briefly on the NFL Network before (thankfully) switching to ESPN got me thinking.  I don't often watch the NFL Network, and I'm not very fond of the announcers they have going on ESPN tonight, but let's face it, ESPN has a steadier camera tonight, they are filtering out the background music and noise better, and they have a bell ringing every time the Commisioner is about to speak.  Already, this set up is better.

Still, I am dreaming of the mythical day that will never happen -- the day when prior NFL players hang up their microphones and turn the chairs over to the likes of Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Curso.  Aside from the fact that I prefer college ball over pro ball in the first place, I just like ESPN's analysis on College Game Day.  (I confess, I liked it better when Game Day was only an hour.  Two hours seems to have made them a little weak on coverage and a little long on filler.) 

Now here is the really controversial part.  The difference between College Game Day and Fox Sports is like the difference between a New Year's Eve Party and a fraternity party.  In one there is a lot of alcohol, a lot of fun, some smart talk, some smart ass talk, and a little lip locking.  In the other, there is a a lot of beer in plastic cups, dirty bathrooms, a lot of belching, and a lot of talk about lighting farts on fire.  I love me some football, but I can do without the fart talk.

I will keep this one short.  Already I have given enough for the true fans to talk about for weeks to come in the ongoing debate of "college versus pro".  If you grew up an Eagles fan (go Iggles!) and then eventually landed in 'Skins territory, you might think pro ball didn't have that much to offer either.  But hey, look!  I lost McNabb only to ... gain McNabb.  I'm trying hard to figure out if I care on behalf of either team, but I think I really don't.  After all, McNabb will be on the bench for three quarters of the season with injuries no matter where he plays. 

Oh, well.  Larry Johnson is coming.  Good old Penn State Blue and White coming "home".  Maybe I'll become a 'Skins fan after all. 

Then again ... maybe not.


(PS -- guys, football guys, you know who you are ... please send me some comment love on this one!)


I Just Can't Get This Right

>> Monday, May 3, 2010

I swore to myself I would write no more posts about "potty."  I just don't want to be known as the "potty mouth blogger" or "that woman that talks about poop all the time."

Still, I have a beef about boys and potties that I can't seem to get past.

First, I understand the concept of directional peeing, and I know the realities of it by this time.  Being a girl, however, I have no first hand experience with the ability to directionally pee.  The closest I have ever gotten ... for the most part ... is helping Toddler figure out the art of aiming.

I have learned so many lessons I will someday have no use for and that I never really wanted to learn. 

For example:

1.  A little boy that aims poorly is (paradoxically) most likely to hit the back of his own pants.  I didn't understand this before.  Now I do.  This effect comes from aiming just a little bit too high and dribbling over the front of the seat.

2.  Little boys have an almost irresistable urge to watch themselves "go pee," which typically involves leaning backwards, aiming a great deal too high, and creating an arc.

3.  Arcs can travel a great distance.

4.  Arcs can form in the time it takes a parent to reach behind them and grab something.  Nothing in the world is faster, and no reaction time is quick enough to stop it.

5.  Nearly all public toilets involve a gap at the front of the toilet seat.  No very small boy, no matter how hard he tries, can "point down" far enough to avoid this gap.

6.  No portable potty seat fits well on these gapped public toilets.

7.  No non-portable potty seat fits well either because said toilets are longer, and to get the seat to fit, the parent has to put the seat way back, and the child must then either wrap his or her legs around the base of the toilet to stay perched or must attempt a straddle.

8.  Several pairs of extra pants are helpful for the non-parental caregiver that attempts to take a boy child potty and does not wish to violate any codes of conduct in their workplace.

Okay.  I learned all that, and I thought I was done.  I really thought I had mastered my parental obligations.  Sure, I was going to have more embarrasing moments, but I thought I had seen it all.

I was wrong.

I had a new lesson impressed upon me just the other day.

We (Toddler and I) were at PetSmart when he announced he had to go potty.  Well, PetSmart (at least ours) has a bathroom that is fairly clean, so it wasn't the worst timing.  I wasn't sure he meant it at first, because when we were in the last store, he kept telling me he wanted to go to a "party" and I thought he said "potty,"  so we had a lot of confusion all around.  This time, though, he really meant "potty." 

Off we went.  I thought we were lucky because PetSmart has one of those big, elongated toilets that actually has no gap in the front.  The seat is actually a complete oval that fits over the bowl without any gaps.  I figured this meant that there was no chance of Toddler peeing through the gap.  All I needed to watch for was arcs, and I wasn't going to take my eyes off him for a second.

Fortunately for me, Toddler restrained the urge to create any arcs, and he actually tried very hard to "point down" as we had so carefully taught him.  In all, he was being a very good boy.

So, when he said, "All done!" followed by the words, "And what a mess!" I was puzzled.  Mess?  What mess?  There was no shot across the top, so there was no mess.  I've never known Toddler to lie about making a mess when he hadn't, but still, I thought that just this once he had to be wrong.

I stood him up and began to help him get dressed, when all the sudden I felt my knee get wet.  With the excellent reflexes of a potty-training mother, I leapt backwards.  The floor was soaked, starting at the toilet and heading toward me in a river.


How the heck did that happen?

Of course, Toddler thought this was a RIOT.  "What a mess!  What a mess!" 

I'm thinking there must have been a spontaneous leak or something.  Right?  I quickly pulled Toddler's pants up and ... they were wet too.  On the back. 

Huh?  How is this possible?

Well, I had a lot of time to examine the situation while I frantically grabbed toilet paper and began mopping the floor.  Let me tell you, in case you were wondering, that the floor of the bathroom of the PetSmart in Falls Church is sloped.  Yep.  Sloped. 

Toddler was dancing around.  "Ooh, mommy!  What a mess!" to which I responded, "Yes, yes, I know.  I'm fixing it."

I finally figured out that while Toddler was being a good boy and "pointing down," he apparently was pointing right at the gap between the pot and the seat and he just peed straight through it.

Another lesson learned. 

9.  Even gapless toilet seats are not always safe.  Yeesh.

I also figured out this one:

10.  Because of all of the above, and the singular lack of reprieve in mess making potential, most families will elect to teach boys to pee standing up at the earliest possible opportunity.  True, there comes the additional fun of intentional misdirectional peeing, but I believe that most parents think that such a problem would be an improvement because at the very least, the parent no longer has to sit on the floor and is less likely to be in the line of fire.

Of course, while we finished our shopping trip, a PetSmart employee asked if there was anything he could do for us.  I suggested, rather sheepishly, that he might want to have someone mop the bathroom floor, and that I was really, really sorry for my child's inability to aim well.  You might think I was nuts to confess to this, but my thoughts and my actions were all for the benefit of the next potty training mom heading to that bathroom, to crouch or sit on the floor.  For her, I had to come clean, so to speak.  (I'm not being gender biased.  Dads wouldn't be in that bathroom anyway, so I would not feel in any way responsible for the state of the men's room.)

I'm not sure we are allowed back to that PetSmart anymore.

Even worse, when I described my revelation about "crack peeing," as I decided to call it, with DH, this is what he said:  "Oh, yeah.  He's done that to me a few times, too."

Nice.  Thanks for not sharing that sooner.  I might have wanted to know ... ya know?


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