Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cow vs. Woman

Today I sat in the waiting room of a doctor's office. Save me, there was only one other being in the room. I was having trouble telling if it was a woman or a cow.

See, it was chewing. With its mouth open, jaw grinding side-to-side, no doubt, enjoying Juicy Fruit or cud. Hard to tell.

Me? I sat all the way across the waiting room growling on the inside and glaring at it across the way. I was trying to read Kiplinger's magazine, which, in and of itself, is no small feat, but my reading was being thwarted by the evil sound of jaws-meeting-springy-substance.

Now, MOST people wouldn't be bothered by a little background noise. Truly, if I listened, there were also the sounds of cars moving outside the window, typing on the computer in the office, and voices talking in the exam rooms. But, my ears are hyper-vigilant and I hear everything. Cripe, if a mouse throws up in another room I'm asking someone "What WAS that?"

I grew up with a person who chewed gum with such intensity that she should have an Olympic medal in mandible manipulation. She, like my cell mate in the waiting area from Hades, used to have NO CLUE she was chewing gum, even though she had clearly unwrapped the piece, placed it in her mouth, and started the process of gnawing on it.

There were times I would say "COW" and, immediately, like a Pavlovian dog, she would realize "OH! I'm chewing gum" and tone it down for a little while. It actually became a little bit of a game between us for awhile there, me trying to catch her, she trying to stay under the ear-dar. Then she up and quit gum. I'm sure Wrigley's executives cried big tears over that decision.

Years later my ears are still hyper-sensitive, and, like firemen hear cries from a burning building, I hear the sound of gum chewing from miles away.

Thankfully, back in the waiting area, I was saved by the nurse who called me to the back for my appointment.

As I was leaving I noticed cow-woman had maintained the same position she took when she originally sat: head cocked to one side, mouth opening and shutting, reading a magazine. She never looked up and she never stopped torturing that gob of stuff.

Which left me wondering: Did she grow up in the proverbial barn I ask my kids if they are being raised in? That would certainly explain all the chewing.

It would not, however, explain why she was waiting for an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist instead of a vet.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Breakfast Food Belongs on Plates

Forget Komen. The American Heart Association. Jerry's Kids.

I have a new not-for-profit that rises above any need, past, present, or future.

You see, I just had my annual mammogram done and I am still considering the length of time it will take for my breasts to stop looking like breakfast products that should be served with butter and syrup.

So, for those of you reading this, I am announcing the new, not-for-profit, soon-to-be-collecting-from-you: "PANCAKES UNITE".

As a woman who has been enduring this yearly ritual now for the past 18 years*, I have a little bit of knowledge about this process. It is a necessary evil, kind of like giving blood or birth.

This much I know about the big, cumbersome, pain-inducing machine they use to reduce tissue to paper-like thickness: if men had to endure this, there would be new technology TOMORROW.

So, my organization will focus on better ways to keep ourselves out of the vices of medical technology, in favor of a gentler, kinder way of doing business.

Any woman who has inadvertently scheduled her squishing session just prior to her monthly cycle will want to marry me, in a non-sexual kind of way. Men will honor my name as they will no longer have to hear their wives gripe about this injustice.

Man or woman, husband or wife, Father or Mother, this is a huge win-win.

So, if you are a budding entreprenuer, I want to hear from you. Just don't think I'm volunteering for any kind of research.

I already gave at the office.

*When you are 25 and have "abnormal" written on your chart right next to "breast", you get to start boob squashing 15 years ahead of all your friends. This is NOT an honor.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eating My Way Fat

"I'm gaining weight the old-fashioned way: I'm eating too much."

That would be my commerical for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or The Biggest Loser. Right now I feel like I could be a walking "before" ad for any of these fine establishments.

This morning I stared at the scale and saw a number that is my "Holy Crap! Who's standing behind me pressing down with their toe?" weight. This is the number that I saw when I was "going up", rightfully so, during pregnancy and one I saw when I was "going down", when I was making every attempt to look un-pregnant after I wasn't. Somehow, my weight, as of late, has looked like a revolting line chart in a business with completely erratic earnings.

And, as I've expressed in previous posts, I haven't even hit the high-eating zone of the year yet. That commenced with The Texas State Fair, which kicked off this weekend.

Fortunately for me, unless Julia Child returns from the dead and pronounces this year's stomach-acid-producing, cholesterol-raising assault, FRIED BUTTER, a "gastronomic tour de force", that's one less thing I'll be eating at the Fair.

Corn dogs? Can take 'em or leave them*.

My downfall? Turkey legs, cotton candy, candy apples, and funnel cakes. I'd participate in a a girl fight in the baking barn if they'd actually allow spectators to try the baked goods that are entered into the contests. Most of those recipes would make Paula Deen's baking look skimpy in the butter department.

Sadly, there just isn't enough walking to be had at the Fair to warrant the lack of restraint I've been known to show on Fair Day.

So, this year, I'm trying a new tactic. I'm going to drink. Water**. And I'm going to let my boys enjoy whatever makes their hearts sing. Yes, I'll be jealous. Yes, I'll be cranky. But, hey, at least I won't gain any more weight.

Because I really don't like that Jillian woman on Biggest Loser. She's a little too much like Hitler, but with boobs and no mustache***.

And if I end up needing her, I end up in a two-piece workout uniform on the TV.

Frankly, I like my friends too much to make them throw up.

*Yeah, I'm wierd. I'd rather gnaw on a turkey's skinny legs than a pig's snout/butt/whoknows. OK, maybe NOT so wierd.....

**If you instantly thought "She means booze", go to the head of the line. I stopped in Baptist land for quite a while but I've been back in the land of drinkers ever since.

***Though she may know someone who does a hellacious wax job.....


Now, I warned you, eons back, that on occasion I would write something ultra-conservative. If this is going to offend you, please stop reading RIGHT NOW.

However, if we are truly friends (or family), I hope you will at least read today's post, consider my opinion, and take time to discuss your opinions with someone you don't agree with.

In my humble estimation, our future depends on it.

To the tune "America, The Beautiful" (with unending gratitude to Katharine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward, whose artistry I will never be able to touch in this life, and whose words and melody still make me cry when I hear them. May America find its way back to the utopia of your song.)

Oh, beautiful, for spacious malls
For greenbacks we can spend
For hoarding things and being mean
With the words we expend

America, America, ashamed is what we should be.
We're crowned ourselves
With a bit of Hell
From sea to shining sea.

Oh, wonderful, those welfare checks
That enslave our fellow man
That take away his dignity
And his world incarcerate.

America, America, we must find liberty.
Help fellow man
On himself depend
From sea to shining sea.

Our future kids, we've thrown away
With hatred and with pain.
We've killed them all with "it's OK"
Our tears should fall like rain.

America, America, when will we ever get?
That killing babes
Is not a game
Their souls we shan't forget.

Now, it seems, that it is good
To punish those who work
Who give the jobs, the food, the homes
And then are labeled "jerks"

America, America, when will we wake to see?
That from the job
You should not rob
Those who provide for thee.

America, my dear country, we're in a sorry state.
We've learned such things as greed and hate
On love we turn away

America, America, let's turn this thing around.
And put the crown
Where it belongs
On the TRUE head of state.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Elementary School Beatdowns

I am not Catholic, but tonight I thought about Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

You see, tonight I realized I have something in common with the favored one: we are both Moms of boys. Boys who don't always listen to their Moms the way they should.

What brought this on? Working with my child on an explorer presentation. A three-part presentation, to be exact. A presentation, I explained early last week, that needed to be done on Monday night so it could be practiced and tweaked on Tuesday and dress-rehearsed on Wednesday in anticipation of a Thursday afternoon delivery to all the students, their parents and his teacher.

This was THE project at school for the past two to three weeks during History hour. "Research" was being done during the school day. Note cards were being written. Facts were being impressed upon little brains. Education was taking place.

From a week ago Monday through to yesterday, I was repeatedly told it was "all good".

Uh huh.

It turned out that the "research" and resulting note cards completed at school had no relationship with chronological, logical, or sensible order. They bounced from topic to topic and time to time like Pooh's friend, Tigger, on crack. And these note cards were the basis for the entire two-to-four-minute performance.

So, tonight, the night before the day of the presentation, the note cards were painstakingly reconfigured to their proper order and sentence structure. Not Monday or any night prior to that, as I had so sweetly suggested. No. Twenty hours before the presentation.

The "board", part two of the three part mini-series of torture, was to include a picture of the assigned explorer, a map of his route, and a timeline. This part of the assignment was partially done because we had forced son to find/print a picture last Friday night. The following Monday, after much gnashing of teeth, a map was discovered. And the timeline? Miraculously threw itself together once the note cards were reconstructed.

Much tape, background paper, and patience from darling Daddy, later we were at T-minus 18 hours and counting.

Part three? Optional costume. We're talking about a 1500's explorer, people! Last time I checked at Party City, they were overflowing with "Sleazy girl nurses", "Jason" from "Friday the 13th", and the ubiquitous mask of a "Clown gone homicidal"*. Sir Francis Drake? No.

So I settled for a Gothic vampire costume with a removable cape that resembled the lace collared, lace wristed, super queer looking get-up the gents of the 1500's used to wear. Thankfully, Presentation Boy didn't kick up a stink when I bequeathed his costume. Because at that point in the evening, in what had quickly become "our" presentation, I would have gone postal.

Costume "altered" to hold very explorerer-looking sword--check.

Boy to bed with 17.5 hours until time to hit the stage--yo.

Which brought me full circle back to Mary. I SO would love to skip back through time to be a fly on the wall in the Jesus, Joseph and Mary house. I think she would completely empathize with what I've been through tonight.

I'm sure Mary yelled at Jesus, probably over something really dumb, like not finishing his Hebrew homework until the night before it was due at temple. Kind of like I lost my mind on the man-boy in present times because he waited until the last minute and monopolized my time, exactly the way I predicted he would last week when I explained how this process SHOULD work.

In some ways the early years of raising Jesus should have been a cake walk. Basically, because she was raising the son of God, who could not sin, Mary could get away with murder** because Jesus was incapable of taking on her nasty tendencies.

But, me? I bequeath my ability to pile similar items in tall stacks that, if they fell, would crush small kittens. And my talent to slide in to any activity at a hair past last. Plus that uncanny capability to wait until the last minute and pull stuff out of my rear with astounding results.

So, there it is. My son is a procrastinator, exactly like me. And it drives me nuts.

Yet, tonight will all be worth it at 1pm tomorrow afternoon when he stands up in his polyester pirates-gone-gay costume, recites his presentation, and explains Drake's circumnavigation. When those four minutes of his and my life are over, I'll breathe a little easier.

And afterward, when I wink up at the Heavens, know I'm acknowledging you, Mary. You did a mighty fine job of raising that boy of yours.

I hope, someday, Mary's little boy will look me in the eye and tell me what a good job I did raising MY baby.

Even if he becomes a perpetually late, procrastinating, piler of all things that should really be filed.

*And we wonder why coulrophobia is right up there with acrophobia? Not this chick. Way to perpetuate fear, costume-makers of this world.

**Ha, ha. Get it? Punny girl, I am.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Things I didn't know I couldn't live without, Part Uno

Since moving into this house and pursuing the art of not going crazy in the midst of the longest remodel in the history of remodeling, I've had one pet peeve that was almost impossible to get past: The brainiacs who built this house around 1959 decided to install the lighting for the bedroom closets right above the closet doors.

Great for lighting, bad for the face. You see, everytime you enter a closet, if you measure above five foot, you get assaulted by the light chain.

Really, if I want to get slapped, I'll adopt a family and go on the Jerry Springer show. I don't need that junk in my every day life.

So, off my brain goes. There must, I reason, be some sort of gizmo that will allow me to control this light without this pulling thingy*.

A quick search on the Lowes and Home Depot websites yielded nothing.

The nice man who got my hopes up in the lighting section of Lowes, only to take me to the OUTDOOR lighting section and show me a motion-activated light the size of a small planet with light output rivaling the sun, just motivated me even more.

A discussion with the general contractor led to a conversation that made my toes curl and included the words "electrical", "dry wall", and "repainting". My checkbook fainted during that process.

Not the least bit dissuaded or discouraged, I entered Elliot's Hardware in Plano. If you've never had the pure bliss of shopping at Elliot's, get in your car and go now.

You'll be greeted by tons of Grandma and Grandpa types who still know what customer service means. They get you what you ask for and don't hover or try to sell you something you don't need.

My "Grandpa" for the day walked me directly to a fixture that screws into the old light socket and has a little box that can be mounted on the wall to look just like a regular light switch.

I about hugged that man dead. He must have thought I was nuts, but I had solved my problem, I hoped, for a mere $30.

When I got home, installed the object of my affection, and hit the switch, I had an out-of-body experience. It was nearly the best appliance I'd ever received. I almost cried.

Mike and I can now walk into our closet, hit the switch, and not get slapped by a metal thingamabob.

It's the little things in life that I dearly love. And, Elliot's Hardware. God Bless You and all your wonderful employees. You rock my world.

*I'm a VERY technically savvy person.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Remote Euphoria

I think the remote control must have been a male internal organ in some former century. That is about the only thing that explains why men are so attached to it.

If you don't live with men or boys-becoming-men, let me catch you up. When you sit down with the penile set, they MUST have the remote within reach of one of their arms.

Actually, I think most men feel dissatisfied if the remote isn't physically ON them. It's kind of bad when Mike falls asleep watching a football game and I know exactly where to find the clicker: perched on his chest, like some victory trophy he won on the TV Olympics.

What is becoming kind of difficult is having a house full of male-types all watching the same show and only one remote to control all the action. Imagine four male lions all trying to court the only female lion within 100 miles. There's always SOMEBODY pawing at the poor thing.

Now this past weekend it was just me and the Babe all day Saturday. We had been stranded at home by the most unfortunate turn of events*.

Boys have a most peculiar sense of adventure when given an entire day of leisure. The Babe thought the trifecta of a lazy Saturday was Star Wars, pizza, and homemade cookies.

So, we ordered pizza in and watched Star Wars IV. Then Star Wars II. Then Star Wars I**. In fact, there was so much Luke, Leia, and Han that we totally forgot about making cookies.

Somewhere in the midst of StarWarsPalooza, the Babe needed to go to the loo. Since I live in a household of boy-types, they LOVE it when someone needs to potty because that means SOMEBODY GETS TO USE THE REMOTE!!!!

Me? I'm actually a little annoyed when someone announces their need for relief because that means we have to pause the movie and wait. And hope it's just a number one.

Babe looks at me and says "How do I pause it?" I guess being last in the pecking order of remote wielding has left him bereft of lessons on the fine art of pausing. So I show him.

To say he was beaming from ear to ear when he hit that button would be putting it mildly. He was as giddy as a school girl about to get her first kiss from the cute boy in the class. I'm pretty sure the act of pausing validated his manhood in some way.

We went through the motions of "playing" the movie then "pausing" the movie until I thought either the DVD remote batteries would die or he would pee himself because he hadn't gone to the bathroom. Really, it was getting obnoxious.

But, now, he had THE POWER. His own little light saber. An extension of his manliness that he could control. I think I heard him roar.

For my part, I accomplished a ton "watching" all four episodes of Star Wars that were in the cards that day. We had many conversations about how I knew so much about Star Wars*** and what the Babe would do if confronted by the "bad guys".

Somewhere in the process, I was crowned Princess Leia and my budding little Jedi learned the pause trick previously mastered by his Jedi-bros.

Now, let's just hope the dogs don't figure out they are the only ones in this house without the power. 'Cause I don't do slobber and I sure don't want it all over the remote.

*NEVER take your car into the Firestone and let someone else pick it up. They will attach your only car key to THEIR key ring and go about their merry way. The next morning you'll find yourself marooned. While they are having fun. In another town. A LONG, LONG way away.

**Are you seeing a pattern here?

***I'm older than dirt, child. I stood in line to see the FIRST one. And the effects about short-circuited my brain.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Birthday Party Blues

So tonight I'm watching the Duggars on TV. Michelle is pregnant again and is about to add another "J" kid's name to this universe*.

And she's about to become a GRANDMOTHER. In fact, her next baby will be Aunt to the grandbaby. But they'll practically be the same age. That's creepy with a capital K.

But, really, what this got me thinking about was the number of birthdays there are to celebrate in the Duggar house. If the birthdays were somehow evenly divided between the days of the year, they'd be celebrating once every 2 weeks.

Now, I'm kinda digging that scene. Talk about taking the pressure off. That makes me want to go out and adopt a hoard of kids so I can get rid of the curse of the birthday party.

Am I the only parent in America that feels that way? I stress WAY TOO MUCH about birthdays.

I think, if I gave the boys fourteen buckets of over-full water balloons and a gob of cupcakes, they would think they died and went to Heaven. That's the LOGICAL side of me talking.

Here's the emotional, "I'm building memories for this generation and generations to come", side of me yakking: The bucket colors should not clash, the balloons must be the right weight to break just as they hit their victim (and color-coordinate, fo' sho'), and the cupcakes must be homemade, individually decorated with perfectly whipped, appropriately colored, buttercream frosting.

I know what you're thinking, "Control freak!"** You think that like it's a BAD thing.

I guess I'm really fortunate that I have boys. I get easy party requests like "swimming" or "watching a movie". I'm the one who complicates them. Or forgets the most important elements.

Like deciding it would be a good idea to throw a party the night before we MOVED? All because I felt bad that I hadn't had the party on the anniversary of the very moment he was born.

Or the time we decided to drive FOREVER to the natatorium where some schmoe of a parent didn't put a proper swim diaper on his/her baby. It was Baby Ruth city in that joint. My arsenal contained paper plates, forks, napkins, and cake. It's kinda hard to entertain pre-pubescent boys for 45 minutes with nothing but chairs and tables after you've tanked them up with sugar and they've been banned from the poo-poo pool.***

Oh, to be Michelle Duggar, if only for one month. I bet she has all the kids help bake a sheet cake, from a mix out of a box, and frosts it with a tub of pre-made frosting. They probably use candles that have been burned before. And I bet there are no birthday invitations or planned activities or anything unnecessary. And, I bet those are some of the best birthday parties in the world.

Now, there's a woman with priorities in the right place. I could learn a thing or two from here.

Maybe I'll try to gain her wisdom. That is, after this weekend's birthday party that starts at a restaurant and moves to a theater. With no back-up activity. I don't even know what kind of cake the b-day boy wants.

Chest pains? Who, ME?

*She's used all the good ones, if you ask me. And some crappy ones, too. Jedidiah got totally hosed. I just hope that kid doesn't have any learning problems or he'll never get past trying to spell his own darn name.

**Emphasis on freak. That's me.

***Lesson learned? Always have a back-up activity.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Surviving Milestones

When I had my first baby, I just couldn't wait for all the milestones: rolling over, walking, talking, first tooth, etc.

Had I been wise, my fervent wish would have been for a perpetual newborn, at least for the first year or so. What I (and probably you) never realized, until after squeezing a kid out, is that every one of these milestones creates yet a new challenge.

Take the rolling over thing. Kids do this with absolutely no forewarning. With our kids, acrobats-in-training, they craftily decided to try this sideways maneuver for the first time whilst on the master bed. First kid hit the floor on his first attempt. SECOND kid hit the floor on his first AND second attempts. I have no idea what happened to the Babe, so I'm guessing we finally got it right with him.

Walking? If that isn't the beginning of stroke symptoms, I don't know what is. All the sudden, every thing is a hazard in a house you THOUGHT you had baby proofed. Each of my budding pedestrians managed to walk early, before 12 months. One, over the course of about 14 months, also became a human experiment in pediatric stitches and earned his way to the ER three times for three sets of thread.

And we parents look forward to these events? Please.

Now I am in the throes of worrying about injury on the sports field. Frankly, I've been here for several years, but it has about reached fever pitch for me.

Last season I had a child on the lacrosse field wearing protection for the mouth/head/shoulder/full arm/hand. And a cup, to boot. When I was growing up and you brandished a big arse stick, nobody else bearing a stick wore combat gear. But, if you play lacrosse, you not only get complete upper-body protection, but goodie protection as well, all for the low-low price of about $250*.

Now I have a gent on the football field. Thankfully, we're still in flag mode because I'd need an elephant tranquilizer to make it through tackle games. I just don't think my nerves could take the incessant violence inflicted upon my little boy's body.

For the lovely game of flag you need but one piece of equipment, which, thankfully, is not optional: a mouthpiece. I guess a group of Moms like me must have implemented that rule because Dad's would have found it cool to have a son with broken and/or missing teeth. Can't you hear it? "Yeah. He lost it on the football field."**

The Babe is now a soccer stud. For his sport, we're into padding the legs. Seems soccer balls, cleat-bearing shoes, and shins don't mix. For the life of me, I have never understood why cups aren't used in this game. Even I have had the tar pounded out of me by a kick to the groin. Let's just say the young stud who inflicted the kick was showing ME what it felt like. I'm a fast learner in the physical pain department and I never did that again to any other human being, for fear of puke-inducing-groin-kicking retaliation.

So, I'm in for another Fall of "Please, Lord, don't let anybody get hurt during this game/practice today."

If I can survive karate, flag football, and soccer for about seven weeks and the ER doesn't see anybody with the last name NOWELL, I'll be a really happy AND thankful Mom come Turkey Day.

*And that's the "recycled" equipment. The new stuff costs about as much as a small Kia.

**Followed by a knuckle exchange, chest bump, or approving nod.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Perfect Children Needn't Apply

There is an obnoxious commercial from about two years ago that features a five-ish daughter and her VERY patient Father. He buckles her into the car on the second row, passenger side while she, talking as if the world will end if she stops, babbles on. After closing the door, dear Dad walks to the driver's side door, opens it, and you hear daughter, who has, no doubt, NEVER STOPPED TALKING.

Oh.My.Gosh. She is related to the Babe.

He babbled like other babies but generally found the ear-piercing scream to be more effective when it came to important stuff like "Let go of that toy, older sibling" or "I've been in this crib longer than I care to be". We learned, early on, with this one you better not cross a line because he'll rain death and destruction on your ears that no hearing aid will ever be able to remedy.

Over the course of his young life, approximately one quarter of his days have been spent with us in "remodel mode" in one house or the other*. The child is well-versed in contractor types and recognizes that they make good play buddies. THANKFULLY, we've had a house full of guys who have obliged him in every way possible, from letting him "participate" to just listening to his ramblings on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Legos.

One fine day, about three weeks ago, the only person working on our house was the general contractor. He is a really nice man, with grown kids of his own, and one grandchild under his belt. He's been there, done that, before. At least, he THOUGHT he had.

Then the babe unleashed his verbal powers. Literally, I was standing in the kitchen loading and unloading the dishwasher and the child, a couple of rooms away, NEVER stopped talking. Every once in a while the object of his communicatory unload would say "uh huh" or something like "that's good". The project he was working on was accomplished a while later. His ears? Still ringing when he approached me about an hour later.

I proceeded to tell him what a good sport he was for listening to the Babe. Then I said "I guess you didn't find the "off button" at the base of the Babe's skull, underneath his hairline?"

Without missing a beat, his response was "You didn't tell me he was a Stepford Child."

In case you missed that 70's phenomenon, Stepford Children are related to the Wives, mechanical beings who do everything right the first time, without question, and no backtalk.

They bear no relation to any child who has ever grown up in this house. We are a clan of questioning, third-time responders, who think backtalk is a political right, buried somewhere in the Constitution.

Yes, folks, our kids aren't perfect. In fact, they very much resemble, well, real kids. The off button? Not a one in sight.

So, the parental, verbal corrections will have to continue until these issues are resolved. Or until the kids hit eighteen and move onto college somewhere.

Or until my ears start to bleed. Whichever comes first.

*Just typing that makes me grind my teeth.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bedtime Routines

Last night I made the rounds to the boy's bedrooms. At each, I had to obey the "rules" of the boy's routine. Most nights I'm too tired to remember my marching orders, so I have to watch reactions to see what I'm "supposed" to do.

My oldest doesn't want to be kissed on the lips anymore. I usually remember this when I bend down to him because he reacts the same way women do when they've had a date with a nice guy to whom they aren't attracted: they offer the cheek*. He's, thankfully, still all about the hugs.

Then we went through this little exercise
ME "You know I love you, right?"
ME "How do you know?"
(Giggling and acting a little embarrassed) "I don't know. I just know."

I didn't push it. I figured this was like trying to explain all the ways I know God loves me--it's an overwhelming list and I wouldn't know where to start.

My middle guy still kisses me on the lips and gives big hugs. Instead of getting all this love from the bottom bunk, he has graduated to reaching down to me from the top bunk. It's kind of like getting love from a giraffe, without that obnoxiously long, black tongue and/or drool. It somewhat freaks me out because I so buy into that theory that broken arms are a natural result of falling from the top bunk to the floor. So, we make it quick.

Exercise #2
ME "You know I love you, right?"
"Yes I do."
ME "How do you know?"
"Because you tell me all the time."

I like people who are straight to the point and shoot from the hip.

The Babe is waiting on bedroom furniture, so he is on a mattress on the floor. I kind of fall gracelessly onto the bed every night. The Babe loves to snuggle and gives lots of kisses and very long hugs.

He would be glad to have Mom or Dad sleep with him every night. When you lie down with him for even a few minutes, he basically smothers you with his arms and puts himself in a position of being face-to-face with you. Claustrophobic for me and BIG incentive to make sure his teeth are properly brushed.

Exercise #3
ME "You know I love you, right?"
ME "How do you know?"
"Because it was on the Internet."

Glory be! A four-year-old Internet surfer. Just the thought got me chuckling. The Babe had no idea why this was funny, but he repeated it to Daddy and got another laugh. I'm sure we'll be hearing so much more about the Internet from him now.

As long as it is all "G" rated, includes no potty talk or references to female body parts, I'm cool.

*The Northern cheek, that is.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Ode to Incontinence

This is for all my sister-friends who have pee-pee pants on occasion.
What a lovely parting gift we get after pregnancy, eh? Or, once we hit a "certain" age and something* takes a mean hold on our bladders, squeezing them with the force it takes to milk an over-full cow, without us doing a thing, other than sprinting toward the nearest bathroom.

OH, the joys.

I recommend you put a maxi-pad in its proper place, find a quiet locale, and, without embarrassment, sing along.

To the tune 'O Tannenbaum'

O pee-pee
O pee-pee
Why can't you stay inside of me?

O pee-pee
O pee-pee
Inside would make me hap-py.

When I cough, bounce and/or laugh
You get all over my girly pants.

O pee-pee
O pee-pee
A new bladder would be lovely.

*Is this gravity, the devil, WHAT?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Revenge of the Tennis Ball

Editor's Note: I normally don't pay enough attention to sports to write a post on the stuff. HOWEVER, this is my beloved tennis. So, indulge me today as I rant about sports. I promise this will only happen once in a blue moon.

Generally, I despise spoiled sports people who think they can get away with stuff. That applies to greedy owners, parents on the sideline, and extraordinarily well-paid sports figures. But, mostly to the pro-types*.

When one of these bozos actually gets knocked back into their place, I am happy. Happy because these folks, whether I like it or not, are role models for hundreds of thousands of kids across the world. And whether the athlete likes it or not, they have a responsibility to these kids that came with the price tag called FAME.

So, I read that Serena Williams, defending champion at the US Open, went all mafia on a line judge. Here are the actual details:

1. it was match point but NOT in Serena's favor.
2. the call was poor. There was no foot fault.
3. Serena decided the line judge would feel good having a ball shoved down her throat (announced with screaming and cursing to emphasize the point).

My guess is that Serena was totally freaking out because she saw her title defense being squashed like a bug. That sucks. Still, no excuse. When you go all Michael Corleone on a judge who is just trying to do her job (albeit, poorly), you have lost sight of who you are as a person. You've lost your dignity and your right to be on top. That's exactly what happened to Serena.

Now, if I were Serena's Mommy, I'd have been all over her like stink on poopy. Parents can give stink-eye from as far away as Sweden and their kid will recognize it. Ask Mike. His Mom used to stare him down from the choir loft all the way to the back of the church for talking it up during his Father's sermons. He got the point without anybody raising their voice. If Mrs. Williams, who was in the audience, had done this, it is possible that Serena could have battled back and continued on in the game.

In our lives, we've all had someone make a bad call: like the time your office mate got the raise you really deserved, you lost the game based on someone else cheating and you were the only one to recognize it, or your insurance rates increased because you had a minor health scare four decades again and the condition popped back up temporarily.

But bad calls are an opportunity to do the right thing. You can disagree, but you have to disagree civilly. Especially on a tennis court where several hundred people are watching you and several hundred thousand more are tuned in via TV.

If I spent the next seven hours, I still wouldn't have a comprehensive list of all the sports figures who have gone postal or made bad choices in their careers. From steroids to gambling to drinking and driving, their mistakes are not only theirs alone, but they become a cloudy beacon of light for the youth of America and the world.

Truly, if you can't stand the heat, don't enter the kitchen, people. And it you do and the heat gets all Hades-like to you, please be sure you've made good financial choices so you can sit a spell and get your head back in the right place.

The kids of this country, this world, are counting on you to do the right thing.

*Though, I have to admit that I could write a spell on Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban, the ying-yang of the sports owner's world.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Flippin' Facebook Off

Facebook sucks. Now that I've put it out there* I feel so much better.

Why, might you wonder, do I feel this way? Well, let me invite you inside my warped little mind for just a gander:

1. If I see "LOL" or "OM_" one more time, I'm going to puke.

I'm a dinosaur when it comes to technology. I don't text. I don't Twitter. I don't attempt to get myself into positions that people would want to film to put on YouTube.

Generally, if I want to communicate with someone, I pick up a telephone and call them. Then, if something makes me laugh, the other person hears me snort and giggle and I don't have to type "ROFL"**.

2. If I have to read this type of post again, I might go postal: "________ has a long day ahead but it should be a good one."

This is classic "Facebook baiting", where the person KNOWS the rest of her FB friends are obligated to reply with "WHATZUP that your day is going to be long but good?"

I hate bait. It stinks and it's squishy. I only deal with it because I HAVE TO if I want to fish. Thank you, I don't want to bite it on FB.

Besides, if she REALLY wanted her friends to know what was going on, she'd have typed "I have my annual gyno appointment today, followed up by a massage."

3. Quite possibly my "favorite" type of post is this one: "Just finished 1000 crunches, 15 miles around the track, and 1.5 miles in the pool. All before Wheaties."

This is the "Facebook fishing expedition" you've just encountered. The one where you are baited into complimenting someone for something they think you should be impressed by.

This type of post always makes me wonder "Did your parents not pay enough attention to you when you were little?", "Is your arm broken from all the back patting you are doing?", or "Should my hands hurt from clapping for you?"

We'll notice you did these things later, when you actually LOOK LIKE you did these things. Then, IN PERSON, we'll tell you how good you look.

Meanwhile, please don't fish for "WOW! You're awesome" as a reply. Again, not so much into the "baiting" thing.

4. How can someone possibly have 1236 friends that they communicate with on a regular basis?

Good gracious. I have five core family members and two dogs in my life. There are plenty of days I can hardly get around to giving all of them the love they deserve.

Now, if I had to do that for 1231 MORE people (or dogs), I'd be psychotic. There just isn't enough time in a day or that many words in my vocabulary***. Especially if I want it to MEAN something.

Do yourself a favor and pick your TRUE friends and communicate with them on a one-on-one basis. Even email is a little more personal than 1236 of your friends being all up in your business.

I'm kind of a "If you are going to gripe, there really should be some deep thought going into this and, hopefully a solution" kind of person. So, in keeping with my personality, I thought there should be an answer to this annoyance I'm feeling with FB.

So, I'm checking my FB page once per day or less. If someone asks a real question (that I can logically answer), I create a reply. Otherwise, I'm checking out the comings and goings of my narrow list of friends and logging back off.

No more minute-by-minute waiting for someone to reply to my posts or them to reply to mine. No more refreshing the screen to see if a new post has appeared. No more wondering if this person is referring to something I'VE done to him/her when he/she posts a wonderful/hateful comment.

From now on, I'll call or email my friends directly when I have an issue or just want to catch up. Back to the prehistoric ages for this chick.

C Ya FB. Parting is such sweet JOY.

*And, according to one of the greatest lines from one of the greatest movies of ALL time, "OH NO. It's out there." Big hugs to Billy Crystal.

**The acronym, incidentally, reminds me of ralphing.

***OK. That's actually a lie. But it sounded good.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Using Crayons to Paint a Tile Floor

Editor's Note: Somehow this story, which occured mid-August during cousin's camp, got buried in editing mode. I had to post it late because it demonstrates a very rare* instance of me keeping my cool.

This is the ensemble cast that is cousins and brothers, who are in a bedroom this week, ostensibly getting along well while I get ready to take them to Chuck E Cheese.

The players. In order by age.

1. Oldest male cousin (very analytic; sees the world in black and white.)
2. Oldest brother at home this week (a comedien to be. Very concerned about keeping the peace. Loves his female cousin**.)
3. Only female cousin (sweet on the outside, cunning on the inside. My kind of gal.)
4. Youngest brother at casa (Knows he can pretty much get away with anything if he feigns being hurt or looks cute. Prone to potty mouth.)

Every one of these kids grew up in or within spitting distance of East Texas towns. They, therefore, are versed in "ya'll, ya know, and fixin'". They all talk at once and never stop. When they get riled up, it just gets louder and louder until some one taller than 5 foot has to scream above the din.

To set the stage, remember that I am getting ready: washing my hair and face, drying my hair and putting on make-up. Total time: 10-15 minutes, tops.

Upon exiting the bathroom, towel on head, I hear a noise eminating from the bedroom that sounds like "Kaboom, thud". LAUGHING. "Kaboom, thud". LAUGHING.

Also remember that we've been in remodel mode for slightly longer than it takes to incubate a human baby. So, I spring into action, trying to avoid the big hole in the wall I'm afraid the "Kaboom, thud" routine has created.

When I open the door, the source of the disturbing racket becomes apparent: the washer/dryer box fort has been turned into a slide by turning the box on it's side. Access to the "top" of the slide is had by a strategically placed chair, from which the lucky contestant launches him/her self and "slides" down to the other side, which has been squished to the ground by the weight of the participants. A ground which is made of hard, potentially skull-cracking, tile.

It's like watching an episode of "World's Stupidest, Most Dangerous Tricks" and my son is leading the charge.

To add insult to injury, every one of the crayons and stickers used to color/decorate the forts yesterday is "in" the slide***.

Until I pick up the "slide" and look, I don't realize the jumping and sliding has created shards of crayon that are marking up the floor. A tile floor which now has grout in shades of crayon yellow, red and blue.

I'm not sure where the restraint on this one comes from. I look at every one of them and state: "This will be cleaned up in 15 minutes or we will not be going to Chuck E Cheese."

That's when it starts: "So and so hit me and I'm so injured I cain't (not CAN'T, cain't) help", "He's the one who put all the crayons on the floor", "I didn't do ANYTHING."

I give a good long stink-eye**** to the complainers, then exit the room, turn on the timer, and leave them to figure it out on their own.

There is a frenzy of work going on: brooms, plastic bags, plastic boxes, wipeys. The brother caught in the act is orchestrating the entire clean-up.

Surprisingly, the room is clean and ready to go in 15. I only have to add the encouragement that you have to put a LOT of elbow grease into a wipey to get crayon off a tile flour and out of the grout.

Chuck E Cheese is, as usual, a kid's paradise and a parent's worst nightmare. The kids have a blast, I drink too much Cherry Coke, and the sickly smell of vomit doesn't leave my nostrils until much later in the evening.

But, the slide incident doesn't lead to the ER*****, I regain my status as "cool" Mom and Aunt, and everyone is worn out and goes to bed on-time.

I have to give credit to the cousins and brothers. Nice reuse of the box that became a fort that became a slide. When I think of it that way, I realize this is the old "ashes to a Phoenix" story; it is ugly to watch but turns out pretty well. And it only took fifteen minutes!

Chuck E Cheese? Now THAT felt like 1,000 years.

PS: Just this week I was cleaning the "slide room" and noticed something green on the floor. You guessed it, crayon stain. Cripes.

*Think Hope Diamond rare.

**Whom he CAN'T marry, even if they are super-in-love and would die a thousand deaths if their parents repeatedly said "No. Not just no. HECK no."

***Approximately 5000 of them.

****At least five seconds. Which, in stink-eye, is FOREVER.

*****A MIRACLE in the Nowell house, as almost anything that even remotely looks dangerous ends up hurting SOMEONE to the tune of a $1,000 medical bill.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Height and Weight, Please

At what point do you stop wanting to get TALLER and HEAVIER and get excited that you aren't getting SHORTER and THINNER?

I started thinking about that this morning when, for the fiftieth time in two months, I measured a son who is desperate to get out of his car seat.

Of course, he was almost tall enough to make the move BEFORE the law recently changed. But, we won't bother telling HIM that lest we have hari kari committed against Mom and some random politician from our district*.

While one son is bucking to sit on solid leather, the other end of the spectrum is dying to drive a seat without a back. He's 1.5 pounds shy of freedom. He's practically singing George Michaels**, he's so stoked. Of course, if he eats measly meals like he did this morning, he'll end up needing to gain 2 pounds instead. Eat, boy, eat!

As usual, the middle child is just along for the ride. He has said nary a word about butt-on-leather nor did he do the happy dance the day he moved to a booster. Some people are just satisfied with life, no matter the curveballs they are thrown.

Me? I'm pretty satisfied with my current height but my girth is expanding as the days pass. MUST.DO.SOMETHING.DIFFERENT. And a car seat incentive isn't going to do it for me. Unless it is a new CAR, a shiny convertible, that I would only fit in should I lose the requisite 15 pounds.....

"MIKE!!!!!!! I have an idea."***

*Son: " seat or juvy at a tender young age?" Hard to determine the right answer when you are PISSED.

**The catchy chorus from the song "Freedom", in case you aren't up on your George.

***This always spells imminent danger. As in "Danger, Will Robinson."

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Partial Argument for Hating-on the Media....

I'm positive my son has been sneaking around watching the "Nightly News" behind our backs because, otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to even put the words "swine" and "flu" in the same sentence.

I can though: "If you kiss a pig or a chicken, you might get a "special" flu that causes people to go hysterical when their kid runs a 99.1 degree fever."

Below are actual emails between one son's school and me. Names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent.

Email number one:
From: Sweet Teacher
Subject: Question
Date: Thursday, September 10, 2009, 12:20 PM

Your son mentioned this morning during prayer time that his younger brother has the swine flu. He also said many of his cousins have the swine flu right now. I wanted to first of all run this by you to see if this is true. If so, is your youngest son contagious? I don’t know a whole lot about swine flu, but I know we want to take every precaution to keep it away from school. I told your son to wash his hands a WHOLE lot these next few days. If he shows any signs whatsoever of swine flu, please keep him home.

I will be calling next week all the moms to check in about homework. I hope it is going well so far. Your son is such a reader - I hope his love of reading continues all year long! Have a great afternoon.

Sweet Teacher

Response Email:
I'm not sure where my son went to school to diagnose his brother, but I think we owe that institution a check for education expenses :)

We don't know exactly what the Babe has, though he does have a high fever and it started around 10pm last night. His cousin was sick this weekend; though originally it appeared to be his "usual" seasonal sinus infection kicking in, I talked with my sister-in-law last night and he is just returning to school today. His sister, our niece, has had the same symptoms and is still home today. Neither of the kids went to the doctor for diagnosis, so I can't tell you what they contracted, just that it took about five days before they were able to return to school.

Both brothers have had a minor, hacking cough during the day. It is not keeping them up at night and neither has (or had) a runny nose, fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, etc., from the list of swine flu symptoms.

At this point, the only symptom the Babe has is fever. As is usual with fever, he doesn't want much to eat or drink. He is sleeping some but mostly watching cartoons and movies, just to keep him quiet and give him needed rest. If the symptoms change or if we end up in the doctor's office and get a diagnosis, I'll let you know.

Now we just need to be sure that "Dr. Brother" doesn't spread hysteria to anybody else.....

Thanks for your concern. MommaJ

Here's the truth. Unless this conversation ensues:

"Mom? OINK. I'm HOT. OINK."

And I do this:
"MIKE?! I think he definitely has the swine flu."

And he says this:
"I agree."

Then we won't be going to spend $125 on a visit to the doctor to learn what type of flu we have, followed by a visit to the pharmacy to get meds we probably don't need.

Let's face it, those of us who have the privilege of visiting the pediatrician KNOW that you face a wildly high probability of picking up some random strain of yet ANOTHER condition when you enter the "sick" side of the waiting room. Plus, there's enough green snot and yellow eye discharge to make triage nurses hurl.

Really, I'm happy watching "Dirty Jobs" and getting my gross-out for the week via the hi-sterical Mike Rowe. It pleases me NOT to be within five feet of such disgusting things or have smell-o-vision in my life. Truly, "Dirty Jobs" is the show that could be filmed in the throwing-up-out-of-our-noses side of the sub-teen doctor's suite. I don't have to experience the real thing when the divine Mr. Rowe is doing the heavy lifting for me.

So, no diagnosis, dear readers, at least not this time. Stay tuned, though; Fall is upon us and the season is long.

PS: Approximately 36 hours after this incident began, Babe is running through the house, talking NON-STOP, eating like a hungry teenager. All accomplished with copious hours of cartoons in Mom and Dad's bed*, children's Tylenol every four hours, entirely too much "juice"**, and LONG naps.

Hold your applause, please.

*Which has since been fumigated.

**Actually, XXX Vitamin Water. Don't ask. Just try it and be sure to read the very funny bottle commentary. And don't blame me if you get hooked.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The BESTEST Brother in the World

Know what makes you feel old? No, not the sagging, creases, or belly fat. Not that your friends from high school are graduating their children next Spring. No, it's when your YOUNGER brother is turning the big 4-0.

I remember the good old days of screaming matches, name calling, and tongue-sticking-outing. The days when it was boys vs. girls, pitted against each other for days on end over some trivial little issue.

Where have those days gone? Sometimes I actually miss them.

Truly, when our biggest worry was who was going to get the last package of Little Debbie's, what in the world was there to get stressed out about?

Today, my Bro and I get to worry about our kids getting exposed to junk on You Tube, the crazy people who kidnap 11-year-old girls and lock them up for 18 years, and whether or not our children will survive this horrible generation.

But, this weekend, we'll put all those worries behind and stop for a minute to salute the passing of my Bro's youth. My sweet, shy, ATM-loving, devoted father and husband of a Bro. And, truly, the best brother a girl could ask for.

I won't buy him a $12 cane with a horn on it from Party City because that kind of thing embarrasses him. I remember his best friend's wedding, where he was appointed best man. Poor guy almost passed out with fright before going on stage. He swore off wedding gigs from that day forward. Even avoiding having to do a big wedding himself. THAT'S how hard it is for him to be in the spotlight.

If, somehow, anyone in our family ever becomes famous enough that reporters skulk around and find Bro to ask for an interview, he'll become a hermit. Cross my heart, hope to die, he will.

Truth is, for every forty words I speak, Bro speaks one. Or, maybe, more accurately, half of one. He is a man of very few words, so when he does speak, you know to listen because it is likely going to be good. He probably thinks I have diarrhea of the mouth. After all these years, I'm just thankful he still takes the time to listen to my overwhelming ability to drool words.

I'm also thankful that he has a posse of friends whom he adores and keeps in touch with. They are a great collection of guys, gathered from years in high school and college, who are dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue friends. I know he has stayed sane through all these years, and all those beers, because of them.

I'm most thankful that he married a generous, loving, out-spoken*, woman who has endured two pregnancies to bring our beloved niece and nephew to this world. They are a cohesive bond of love in action.

For my part, I know he loves me because, when I ran away from home with a gallon of milk and a box of Cheerios, Bro cried big, croccodile tears. Mom says he was hysterical. Of course, I was just beside the house, under the sailboat, in the pouring rain, eating Cheerios. But HE thought I was gone for good**. If the tables had been reversed, I would have been crying, too.

I hope he knows that I love him fiercely. We don't get on each other's nerves much anymore*** or resort to calling each other unfriendly names, so I think we've made progress. He has grown into a man any sister could be proud of. And I am.

So, here's to you, Bro. Happy 40th. If the good die young, then there's a problem, because you are GREAT.

But, you're still OLD. ;)

*She is so awesome because she has the gift of being outspoken without being a "b" with an itch. Me, on the other hand? A "b" AND an itch...

**This is a true story. I was a little bit melodramatic as a child. Some things never change.

***OK. I can only speak for myself here. I can HOPE I'm speaking for him, too.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Piles, Piles, EVERYWHERE

"Hi. I'm Jill. And I'm an addict."
"Hi Jill"
"It's been (looking at cell phone clock) 1 hour and 20 minutes since I created a pile."

Gasps of horror. One woman passes out cold. I wonder when I'll be able to leave the building, speed home, and ORGANIZE something, into a PILE.

Yes, sports fans, I am a piler. Add that to my sugar addiction and you get a FAST PILER.

I think this problem has been an issue all along, it just came in different forms when I was younger. Such as the fact that I had my books on a shelf, with a card catalog*, all arranged by the Dewey decimal system. I don't remember anybody ever checking out a book, but I was READY for the chance to be the Huber Library.

So, I've always been an organizer. The organization has just morphed over time.

I don't remember my first pile, but I can certainly look around my house and tell you about the ones that are the most current.

Right now, there are approximately 10,503 piles in this house. Among them:
1. Bills that need to be filed. At least two feet deep.

2. Credit card receipts for which we haven't received a bill. At least 150 of them.
3. Books and magazines. Unread, "I'll get to them soon", editions that are patiently collecting dust in my bedside table, on top of my desk, and in the driver's-side pockets of both cars.

4. Coupons. Oh, the coupons. They actually have a manila file-folder home, but they rarely seem to make it there before they expire. Which always make me wonder: why did I clip them to begin with?

5. Recipes. From soup to bread to desserts and beyond. I even have one buried somewhere that tells me how to boil eggs properly. If I made one recipe a day from the pile, I'd die trying.

I could go on naming the rest of my piles, but, frankly, I need the time to actually try to get them where they rightfully belong.

Seems to me there is a 50's-era-horror-story-"B"-movie wrapped up in my piles. They are big. They are prevalent. And they seem to be prolific. Kind of like too many rabbits in too small a cage with intense hormones and no supervision.

I'll get working on the manuscript right after I work on roping in this problem. But, before the piles take over this house and, ultimately, the planet.

How does the title "Bunny Piles from Beyond" work for ya?

*Index cards in a box.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Muscles Sprains Galore

I sprained my tongue. No joke. I was making all "wah-wah" at Mike, using way-overexagerrated mouth movements, and that sucker just went "ZOING!". Then came this funky pain, that started under the right side of my tongue and radiated all the way down my neck. It was absolutely excruciating and weird all at the same time.

It felt like God had reached down with a baby lightning bolt and interceded on Mike's behalf to get me to SHUT THE HECK UP.*

I was so surprised, I stopped making fun of Mike's situation, which, incidentally, was something like "What restaurant should I leave the house to go to with my friend? The expensive one or the MORE expensive one?" When the menu at home was pb&j with the kids, followed closely by dishes, I felt his dilemma deserved a little well place "wah-wah" action.

What it didn't deserve was a sprained tongue.


Fast forward to two weekends ago. I decided it would be a good idea to "clean out" the flower beds in the backyard. Normally, Mike does this, but he was out of town** with the guys, so I decided to be the "good" wife and surprise him with my ability to pull ill-placed, nuisance weeds.

Today, two weeks later, I still can hardly bend at the waist without the thigh in my left leg going "ZOING!" My days as a weeder have temporarily ended.

Thankfully, for me, my tongue has righted itself, so I have the ability to complain.

This leg issue has been useful in making my kids do the "right thing" by cleaning up the floors of the rooms they manage to cover with Legos, books, and DS games each and every day of my life. The phrase "Mommy can't" followed by a ten-minute tongue wagging on my latest injury is enough to make them spring into action. Just to shut me up.

So, I'm nursing my wound, literally and figuratively, for all it is worth. Probably, a good massage or an hour of yoga would cure my ills. But, then who would be available to complain?

What do you think my boys would do if I stopped all the "wah-wah" talk and went silent? I know the ubiquitous phrase "Silence is golden." But, is it really?

I, for one, am not about to find out.

"BOYS!? Come clean up this room!"


*Yes, this is a recurring theme in my life. You'd think I'd have gotten the hint by now.

**Probably eating at an expensive restaurant. But, I'm not bitter in the least. No.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Planning of Dinner

I absolutely despise this time of day. In about fifteen minutes I am going to have to make the final decision on what to put on the dinner table.

Earlier today I thawed some pork. Have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but I can tell you that "How do the little piggies eat?"* won't be part of the conversation at the dinner table because I'm not serving mashed potatoes (there are no spuds in the house....)

I'm short in the rice department, too. Pasta. Nada. I do have a loaf of plain wheat bread, which could make a nice piece of garlic toast with parmesan for those who aren't cow-intolerant.

Fruit is never an issue around here. We are the fruitiest family on the block, in a non-gay kind of way, of course.

Veggies? Choice between asparagus, salad, or green beans. Problem is, there is no concencus across the boy population about which of these they will eat. I obviously didn't give the Babe enough strained lettuce when he was young. Ditto green beans.

I have to stop and give credit to my Mom here. She drilled into my head the concept that no meal was complete unless it had a starch, protein, vegetable, fruit, drink AND a dessert.

Yes, you read that correctly, a dessert. This is where I have to get off the family train to CRAZYVILLE because I would weigh at least 150 pounds MORE if I had dessert every day**.

Mom came by this in the most innocent of ways, when she first married Dad. Turns out my beloved Grandma made a dessert after most every dinner meal. So, naturally, he thought this was the gold standard in families.

Innocuously, after one of the first meals Mom made when they were beginning their lives together, Dad asked "Where's dessert?" Mom, being the doting newlywed wife of the 60's, figured she could bring peace and harmony to their lives with sugar. Hence, the curse of dessert began.

There have been very few days in my life without dessert. Pies, cakes, cookies, puddings, you name it, I've eaten it. There have been a mere handful that I've turned down. In fact, there have been scarce few I haven't attempted to make and serve myself.

Truth is, if Heaven is a place where we eat, I'll be eating nothing but dessert. Breakfast will be coffee with white or strawberry cake topped with buttercream frosting. Lunch will be cookies, with some form of chocolate and nuts, and whole milk. Dinner will include hot tea and key lime pie.

I understand we won't have the same "bodies" in Heaven as we do on Earth. I'm counting on that meaning that I will be able to eat as I please without consequence. Between my songs of praise for God, that is. On that front, God, I'm counting on a new singing voice, too. Please. For YOUR sake?!

But, for now, I'm going to try to turn over a new leaf and return to a legacy of pre-planned, nutritionally-balanced dinners. Without regular desserts.

Stay tuned for my nervous breakdown, which will occur as my body realizes I won't be feeding it processed sugar.

*A Christmas Story. Quite possibly the funniest, most sarcastic movie on the planet. Hence, one of my favs.

**If you don't believe me, check out my inability to resist cake in a previous post.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let Them Eat WAY-TOO-MUCH Cake

I think I just experienced the ultimate, near-perfect, most wonderful day yesterday. It was book-ended by cake.

So, this weekend, we visited my brother and his family near Houston. They have this stellar piece of property that Mike and I drool over every time we visit. They sit on about two wooded acres with a lovely house and a great pool that flows from the house via a patio with a TV, lots of chairs, and a cooler the size of Montana that can hold all sort of beverage. Just for us, it seemed, the weather fairies were out in full-force, giving us plenty of sunshine and cooler temps. Had there been mountains in the background, I would have pronounced it Heaven.

Now the reason for our visit was birthdays. Let's just say that the fertility gods shown upon our family this particular part of the month; we celebrate three birthdays in the span of 13 days at the beginning of September.

Quite correctly, then, there were THREE cakes in the house. White cake/white frosting, chocolate cake/white frosting, and yellow cake/chocolate frosting.

Having this much cake around is MommaJ nirvana. I could have lounged on the back porch with a fork and a barf bucket, all Roman-like*, and eaten all of them in Guinness World Book record time. But, I still have some modicum of decency about me.

On Saturday we enjoyed birthday festivities for brother and my Bro, with gifts, cake, ice cream, and way too many candles. I had a piece of cake the size of a pumpkin in mid-October. A pumpkin grown for it's size. That has to be transported via forklift, to the scale at the county fair, to be weighed in at slightly under 500 lbs. To say I was on a sugar-high would be the worst bit of under-exaggeration in the world.

I ate such a large piece of cake on Saturday night that I thought "That's it. I've enjoyed my cake for the weekend. Back to trying to watch what I eat." Then Sunday morning issued in, with the smell of early-morning coffee wafting through the house, beckoning me to fill my mug half-full of over-sweet, vanilla-flavored creamer and half-full of strong coffee.

The minute the spiked coffee hit my lips and that satisfying sugar met my taste buds, the devil on my right shoulder, from whom all suggestions about eating issue forth, whispered, "Au contraire, madame. You are NOT done eating cake. Turn around."

When I spotted the half-eaten beauties, I felt for them. I imagined the cakes feeling neglected when they were thrown to the back of the counter, maybe to never be touched again. I wondered how it must feel to be covered in transparent plastic, partially-naked at the edges. Well I wasn't taking any chances with the feelings of THESE cake orphans. I greedily helped myself to another pumpkin-sized slice. Then I chased the cake with eggs, so I'd feel better about my diabetes-inducing, artery-choking second slice in less than twelve hours.

For lunch? A big salad. Redemption, of sorts.

Then dinner. Holy cats. One of our bestest couple friends and their kids were celebrating their son's 11th birthday, with their extended family. There were a total of nineteen of us and food for about eighty.

Smoked chicken and brisket, baked potatoes with the fixins, homemade mac n cheese made with an entire stick of butter and at least four cheeses, grilled vegetables, crescent rolls and french bread. A virtual tour of all things grand, starchy, and carby. By the time I ate the obligatory plate of food, I was stuffed. Like a thanksgiving turkey.

Then, around rolled the cake. Marbled white and chocolate cake with white frosting.

I really shouldn't have, but I took the edge piece. In case you've never noticed, there are only four of these coveted areas on a cake. And nobody around me WANTED the one that was cut. So, I dove in with abandon. Frankly, enjoyed every last bite, with absolutely NO guilt.

In fact, I told my friend "This is the perfect day. It began with cake and ended with cake."

Little did I know, but I should have, the day would REALLY end with Tums. But, that, as they say, is another story.

And, in my spirit, I still hear the loud cry of partially-eaten cakes everywhere, beckoning me to their assistance. And so, my war cry, even after much too much of the spongy, airy, divine goodness?


*One of the funniest/grossest SNL skits, the historically inaccurate, "Vomitorium".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Crime Fighting, Momma Style

I had to call "311" today because the signal light on the school zone sign was out and people were flying through the area, talking on cell phones, generally making a hazard out of a 20mph swath of concrete. And, most importantly, I was having a hard time making a right out of the parking lot to get home*.

Yes, I'm the kind of person who reports these things. I also call 911 on a fairly regular basis. I kind of feel compelled to report such things as**:

1. Motorcyclists who go down the Bush 80+mph doing wheelies. Also, the same type of idiot on Central Expressway.
2. Two kids in a Mercedes, in the left turn lane about to get on the Tollway, who are smoking weed***.
3. Men in pick-up trucks who are drinking beer at 10am, throwing cans out of the windows of the vehicle in an attempt to disguise the fact that they are stinkin' drunk, and bouncing off the backs of other cars.

Yeah, somehow, I manage to be "there" just in the nick of time. Like some kind of pudgy superhero. Without a cape. And no ability to fly.

Back in my elementary, Junior High or High Schools days, this would have been labeled telling, tattling, narking, snitching, or squealing. Today, it has become my "civic duty".

In fact, when I call 911, I expect the conversation to go something like this:

Operator: "911. What's your emergency? Oh, HI, Mrs. Nowell!"
Me: "Hey! How are you? Is this Tabitha?"
Operator: "No. It's Laverne. What's shakin'?"
Me: "Well, there's another tire in the road on 635. Fourth time this week."
Operator: "Geez. It's amazing that you are the ONLY ONE to call these things in. Do you have some sort of super power?"
Me: "No. Just a misplaced sense of duty and a lot of time in the car due to carpooling."
Operator: "I feel your pain. Crossroads?"
Me: "Preston and 635. Northbound side, going West. How are the kids?"
Operator: "Great. Harley just went to obedience school and he's a new dog. Barney is as rude as ever."
Me: "Give Harley a biscuit for me! What a sweet little dog."
Operator: "Anything else I can do for you?"
Me: "Naw. I'm sure I'll be calling again soon (uncomfortable laugh.)"
Operator: "You know we're here FOR YOU!"
Me: "Thanks. Have a great day."

Instead, it goes like

Operator: "911. What's your emergency?"
Me: "I think there's a drunk ahead of us."
Operator: "How can you tell?"
Me: "Every five feet he's weaving from one shoulder to the other and going 30mph in a 60."
Operator: "How long has he been doing this?"
Me: "Forty miles, since Tuscaloosa."
Operator: "HMM. Do you think he just dropped something on the floorboard?"
Me (covering the mouthpiece so I don't chortle in her ear): "UM. No. I think he's wasted."
Operator: "What's your location?"
Me: "I-10 and Smith Road. Can you send a police officer? I'm really concerned he's going to hit someone."
Operator: "Ma'am. Simmer down. The police are busy tending to other "real" emergencies right now****. We'll get one out asap."
Me: "So, in the meantime, should we try to pass this guy or continue the drive from Hades behind him. That is, us and the 500 cars bottled up behind us?"
Operator (slightly annoyed): "Ma'am. I can't tell you how to drive."
Me (using the best sarcasm I can muster): "OK, fine. Thanks for your help."
Operator (no clue I'm being sarcastic): "No problem. Thanks for calling 911"

Now, I'm sure there ARE people who call in dead squirrels in the middle of the street. Not me. I make sure this is a real life or potential death type of situation.

The true solution, of course, is to take up a career in law enforcement. The biggest problem is that I guarantee the belt o' weapons would absolutely make my hips look at least 10" bigger than they really are. Plus, I hate polyester. And, hat head? Really. Not happening.

Word to the police departments of the world: if you want me on your force (and who wouldn't?), PLEASE consult a cotton-producing institution of fashion and have them get working. I'm sure the weapons could go across my chest, all Girl Scout sash-like, and somehow act as a bra at the same time. And let's just can the hats and replace them with tiaras. The female officers will feel not only empowered but also FABULOUS.

Since I figure this has a bat's chance of actually happening, I guess I'll just stick to my cell phone, crime-fighting ways.

So, 911 operators, when you see my name pop up, please take note. I'm trying to collar the real criminals and idiots of this world, not just blow smoke to hear the sound of my own voice.


*If it becomes an inconvenience to me, I take action.

**Yes, every one of these things actually happened.

***How did I know? OOHH, that smell....

****Donut runs? Cleaning their patrol cars? What?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dog Treats

Tex developed an eye infection so I have to put drops in his eyes four times a day. He HATES this little routine so I have developed a silly habit of giving him a biscuit each time we finish.

Now, these biscuits are pretty stinkin' hard. I don't know why, but they are, so Tex isn't really terribly fond of them. Today, he sat down for his drops then followed me into the laundry room for his "reward". He stared me straight in the eyes and attempted his best human-mind-bending-maneuver, silently thinking "You are getting very sleepy. Feed the soft, chewy biscuits. Give Tex the SOFT, CHEWY biscuits."

Problem is, the soft, chewy biscuits cause Tex to have gas. Silent-but-deadly-dog-gas, which is, incidentally, the worst gas on planet Earth. So, he gets those only at times when I know I'm not going to have to
a. transport him in the car, where the odor is magnified about 10,000 times.
b. keep him inside the house. I have been duped into looking for Doug poo MANY times by Tex odors.

Of course, while Tex is trying to use his doggy-brain-influencing-powers on me, Doug realizes where we are and comes flying around the corner like a dog on fire. He sits down quickly then expectantly wags his tail against the floor, no doubt thinking "Oh, please. I know I didn't get the abhorrent eye drops, but I sure am cute. PLEASE?!"

Knowing that these biscuits are bone-hard, I crack one in half for Doug, so he doesn't have so much trouble with it. Tex gets a whole treat, not just because he got the eye drops, but because he also has a much bigger mouth.

Doug immediately drops his half treat, which goes careening toward Tex. Tex, seizing an opportunity, drops his WHOLE biscuit, scoops up the half in his mouth and flies out of the room at record land-speed pace. Doug just looks up at me like "No wonder you adopted me. The amount of brain cells in the canine population around here was negative before I arrived on scene."

I didn't see Tex again for a good two minutes, but I could hear him killing his find in the other room. Knowing his brain capacity, I'm sure he probably thought he'd gotten the better deal because he absconded with something originally meant for Doug. I don't think, even to this moment, he is even aware that he ripped HIMSELF off.

Doug, meanwhile, just laid down on the floor and enjoyed his large, tasty treat.

The smile on his face told me "Yet again, I've managed to con my brother. I'm THE DOG!"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Carpool Manners

Dear Lady-ahead-of-me-in-the-carpool-line-who-isn't-aware-that-the-fourteen-cars-ahead-of-you-have-moved-and-you-are-blocking-the-rest-of-us-from-moving-forward,

There is this little law on the books that says, "when you are in a school zone, you can't talk on a hand-held cell phone." Apparently you are related to the person who thought it was proper to bring her "dog in a bag" to school earlier last week, because it seems the rules don't apply to you, either.

Normally, I wouldn't even think to mention this, but you are blocking my sorry butt and I am late*. Thus, you make me, and everyone behind me, later. And this just has the effect of pissing off the teachers who put up with our children all day long. God Bless them. The teachers, I mean. And the children, too. But, mostly the teachers who put up with the children.

I knew it was bad when the division secretary thought it appropriate to point out, via email to the ENTIRE SCHOOL, that we have "work to do on carpool--don't we?". In case you don't speak satire, I'll translate: THAT WAS SARCASM with a capital S. She was trying to be nice, but the sassy side of her slipped out with the "don't we" comment. In my opinion, it's BAD when the issue reaches the secretary and even SHE is hacked off about it.

Should this unfortunate incident EVER occur again, the bumper sticker slogan "hang up and drive" will be tattooed to your forehead by whomever you are blocking. I'll gladly pay for this service, but I'm sure there will be overwhelming support for this action and I'll be able to raise "ink" funds from the entire carpool queue.

Why a tattoo, you may wonder? Because I don't trust this won't happen again. And when someone behind you lays on the horn, you'll be forced to look in the rear view mirror and be reminded
a. you are on the phone, AGAIN
b. you need to hang-up, NOW
c. your gas guzzler needs to move FORWARD

Future warnings will be in ink. Permanent ink. In a shade that doesn't match your complexion.

Thank you for your cooperation,
Cranky Mom and all the other parents you blocked yesterday

*As usual.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My husband's evil ways

Somehow during my childhood I was deprived of one of the most beloved little ditties of all times. I had heard it before, just never knew the words or how to properly execute it. That is, until my husband started teaching the boys this song:

"Jill, Jill bo bill
Banana, fanna fo fill
Fee fie mo mill

Then he proceeded to go through all the family names, youngest to oldest.

Now, I have to add a little bit to the post by telling you where this was going on and why.

See, at that point we were at about day 2,135 in our remodel* with only ONE bathroom amongst all of us. Turned out, Mike had to use the facilities, I was putting on make-up and, true to form, a child HAD to get into the bathroom to ask a question.**

So, there we were, three of us in a bathroom clearly designed for someone the size of a Smurf. At first, because I was putting on make-up and didn't want to end up looking like a Picasso painting, I refrained from joining in. But, the boys were having SO MUCH FUN, that I threw caution to the wind. And started singing right along.

When we all finished with the family names, Mike looked directly at me and said "Let's do DUCK."

Having now done this annoying song exactly twice in my life, I didn't catch on that I was traveling down the road paved with good intentions that ends up in a twisted pile of wreckage outside the range of cell phone coverage. So, on I go...

"Duck, duck, bo buck
Banana fanna fo _______ "

OH MY GOODNESS. I almost dropped the "F" bomb in front of my, scratch that, OUR kid. And Mike encouraged it?!

In all honesty, Mike thought I KNEW what I was doing and figured I'd just smirk at him and say something pithy. In all honesty, I had NOT a clue. I was just glad I caught myself.

The bruise on Mike's shoulder, should you care to know, has faded quite nicely.

The child in the bathroom with us? Still trying to figure out what came next.

*A wee bit exaggerated, but close to how it feels.

**There is no such thing as privacy in a bathroom once a child learns to walk. It is completely mind-bending for a child to imagine you wouldn't WANT them in the bathroom with you for the entire three minutes it will take to get the job done.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Doggy Day Camp

"We make money the old-fashioned way. We EARN it."

Are you old enough to remember that semi-snotty Smith Barney commercial? Well, I have the 2009 version of the way to earn cashola:

"We make money the new-fashioned way. We STEAL it."

That's how I feel about my latest trip to our local pet store. Just a little overwhelmed and much poorer for the journey.

Let's just start with the fact that there were about a dozen and a half dogs in the "doggy hotel" area. Obviously, the big-wigs at corporate had put a LOT of thought into the lobby area. It was complete with big, seamless, glass doors, columns worthy of Rome, and hardwood-like floors. The desk had a granite-looking top. I looked for the bell hop and concierge. They were, apparently, on break.

Now when I stopped to admire the dogs in the "play" area*, I encountered a collection of some of the most fabulously expensive mutts in the world. I counted among them a Bichon Frise, Italian Greyhound, Australian Ridgeback, and a Malamute. I think the one that most got my attention, though, was the oldest one in the area.

This poor guy was lying completely on his belly, hindquarters tucked under his abdomen, front legs straight forward, chin on his paws, sad eyes looking exactly nowhere. He had this look of "If I get more bored I might just die on the spot." You know the look; you get it from your kids every time you try to drag them to something cultural, like the symphony or museum of art. The big difference between this dog and kids is that the dog wasn't whining.

He maintained his stiff-as-a-board-dog-stature the entire time a poor cockapoo was being attacked by two dogs clearly out for blood. The cockapoo would run to the corners of the cage and, like two huge, obnoxious magnets, the big dogs would follow. No matter where this fluff of a dog went, biting paparazzi pursued. I almost knocked on the window to signal to these two alpha-wannabes "HEY! There's a Momma out here! If you aren't careful, I'm gonna open up a can o' whoopass on you" but the poo-shovel-and-rake carrying person beat me to the punch**.

I wondered if the spiritless dog's owners knew how insanely disenchanted he was? What were they paying for their little dog to be so blase? Obviously, they had gone through the "pet's parent interview" process and their little depressed dog had been introduced to the group. How could they have possibly missed this little symptom when they did a "temperament assessment"?

Well, if boredom came with a price tag, it would cost $18/day. According to my calculation, if you took Fido every work day all month long, that would cost $360. Can you say "car payment"? Cripes, I send the Babe to Preschool for less than that! Somehow, I'm thinking that there should be a GREAT divide between what it costs to educate my child and take care of my mutts.

Now, I love my dogs. I don't "heart" them and let them french kiss me like some people I know, but I'd sincerely be sad if they decided to run away or got hit by a Mack truck. When it comes down to it, though, if there is a choice between my dogs going to a "doggy day camp" and me getting a massage, I'm stripping down and jumping on the table, face down, in a New York minute.

As I left the store, about $20 lighter for the shopping, I realized "GEEZ. All I bought was a collar and few dog biscuits." So, as much as I'd like to rescue that poor old camper from his days of indifference, I really don't think I can afford another dog at this house.

That is, unless he comes with a "doggy masseuse" who will work on humans at a discounted rate.

*They are referred to as "campers". That sound you are hearing is me gagging.

**I have one dog who deposits poo inside my house and the smell is horrendous. I wonder if this person, who is dealing with much more poo than I, is receiving hazard pay? Or, better yet, will there soon be a class-action lawsuit for "poo lung"?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Car Safety

Today I heard that a new state law is in effect: EVERYONE in the car, regardless of seat location, must wear a seat belt. My first reaction was to wonder how people in Texas are going to install seat belts in the beds of trucks. Then I wondered if the wonder twins, Doug and Tex, were going to need some sort of special doggy-belt and doggy-seat.*

This law also got me waxing nostalgic. It effectively puts the final coffin nails in the last chapter of "Unsafe Car Riding Practices"**, which was a freely distributed tome during my childhood. I remember being free to move about the cabin in the 70's, all whilst inhaling unfiltered cigarette smoke. Those were the days when the captain NEVER turned on the "Fasten Seat belt" or "No Smoking" signs.

I remember, vividly, the game between my father, brother and me that would occur on car trips. Of course, it was FUN for me and my brother. My Father, however, should have had fourteen coronaries for every road adventure, because, for him, this would have been an appropriate response to being slowly tortured to death on the way to our family vacations in our 1970's-era, solid heavy metal, death trap of a car. It went like this:

Dad: "Quiet down back there."
Mom: "I don't see where we are on the map." (We were perpetually lost in my childhood.)
Dad (pointing to somewhere in Illinois though we were currently in Michigan): "We're there."
Mom: "But that's Illinois."

This little banter would go on for awhile before Dad pulled over to the side of the road, took the map from Mom, figured out where we were and where we were going, then gave the map BACK to Mom.

Poor Mom. She was hopelessly map-illiterate for all of my childhood. And Dad was a "half-full" kind of map relinquisher, who figured "THIS trip she'll get the hang of it."***

Now, in the back seat, we still hadn't quieted down. And we were like monkeys in an invisible cage, bounded by the front seat, back doors, and the rear windshield. We'd bounce around, scream, throw things, and paint an invisible line on the back seat whenever we got tired of each other. Then we'd announce "Don't go over that line." Of course, the other did, and that brought screams of "MAAAAHHHHHMMMMOOOOMMMM. She crossed the line."****

Dad (irritated voice): "I thought I told you to quiet down?!"
Kids, bouncing: "OK"*****.
Dad: "I'm serious."
Kids: no response. Still bouncing. Now hitting.
Kids: still no response. Bouncing, hitting, and screaming now.
Dad: "I'VE HAD IT!"

Upon hearing that phrase, kids would scatter, because we knew what was next. An arm, much like the tentacle of the giant squid in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", was about to makes its way over the front seat, searching for whatever prey it could get its suckers on. It's entire purpose: to get us to SHUT THE HECK UP.

To paint the picture a little more vividly, Dad is six foot four. He wears a size 15 shoe. His arms are LONG. So you knew certain death was about to visit you if you didn't move QUICKLY.

Whoever was lucky enough to get the back windshield ledge and play dead was out of reach. But the poor sucker who hit the floor or backed into the seat was just completely at the mercy of the Gods. You could flatten like a pancake and that hand might still hit you smack dab in the face. Sometimes, if you didn't breathe, that helped, because you weren't giving any indication of location to the tentacled-one.

Usually the car would quiet down after this little game. Then, undoubtedly, one of us would ask "Where are we?" Mom, map in hand, had not a clue but, I imagine, a raging headache. Dad, still winded from the giant squid imitation, was too irritated to respond.

So then the questioning would hit nails-on-a-chalkboard level, with the inevitable "Are we there yet?"

Now, in all my years as a parent, in retort to this annoying question, I have wanted to say, in an oh-so-patient voice, with the look of an angel on my face, "Children, if we were THERE, we wouldn't be HERE. Since we are HERE, we can't possibly be THERE. Once we get THERE, we won't be HERE anymore. So, in the HERE and NOW, please shut your mouth until we get THERE."

Back to the 70's: there were always the complaints of I'm hungry, thirsty, bored, tired, and the happiest one, "I'm going to throw-up." That would be my younger brother, who had the unfortunate habit of getting car sick. Back in the day, since I had yet to experience my own kids with very sensitive gag reflexes, the thought of being a possible vomit victim was horrendous, unfathomable, and downright proposterous. This greatly increased the chances of my parents hearing the "Are we there yet?" line of questioning, as I wanted to get away from barf boy as quickly as humanly possible.

Through all the road trips we took as a family, none of us ever said anything that sent anybody else to a psychiatrist. I'd like to think we had fun while getting on each other's nerves, the way most Americans who vacationed via car did in the 70's and 80's.

Today I thank goodness for airplanes. They make getting THERE pretty quick. Nobody has to rely on map-reading skills, wrong turns are almost non-existent, and, goshdarnit, it's just fun to look out the window at our beautiful country.

Best of all, an airplane is a smoke-free environment, where I can simply sit back, seat belt firmly fastened, have a drink and relax.

Because I KNOW giant squids don't exist at 30,000 feet.

*If PETA has anything to do with it, this will be law next month.

**Not a real book, just a title that encompasses the attitude of the 70's: "I wonder what these things are doing in here?" (sound of seatbelt hitting floor of car.)

***Fast forward 35 years and they are now in possession of a GPS. I'd like to thank the inventor for saving my parents from killing each other during some random road trip. I'm executor of the will and I don't have time to deal with all the paperwork a double-homicide would induce.

****Notice I used a feminine pronoun here. This could have easily been "he". My brother was just as much at fault as I was.

*****This response was a blantant lie. We filtered out anything from the front seat of the car, besides the music coming from the "state-of-the-art" AM/FM, 8-track player.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Now hiring...

Pool boys are supposed to be cute, charming, and accommodating. They are supposed to serve you drinks on command. Drinks with little pink umbrellas in them. If you believe anything you watch on TV, they "service" more than the pool.

Our Cabana boy is impossibly broken. Beyond repair. Ready for the dump. And I'm left to wonder: could it possibly be because we are CHEAP?

Back when we acquired the new house, we hired the least expensive, highly recommended company that promised "chemicals only" service on a weekly basis. That meant all the "heavy" work--cleaning, emptying the strainer basket, keeping the filters up--was OURS.

Of course, we'd never owned a pool before then, so we figured, being CHEAP, that we could do the bulk of the work and leave the chemicals to the pros.

Then our "pro" arrived.

He fit the poolside macho profile: young, tan, cute, and buff. He didn't arrive with drinks, but I figured that was a $20 a week premium I wasn't ever going to be willing to pay anyway. So he got a pass to enter our backyard without tequila and paper umbrellas. Frankly, if he had pulled out a condom I would have laughed in his face*.

When our chemical-dumping dude opened his mouth, we knew trouble had a new last name--and it wasn't N-O-W-E-L-L.

This fit young thing thought he should inform us our gate was locked. And that we were his last stop of the day. And that he was tired**. And demanded we unlock the East gate to save him 50 feet of walking and hauling his supplies.

Mike informed Mr. Man that the East gate was, indeed, going to be locked EVERY TIME he showed up because it was broken and, when unlocked, provided an escape for the fab-two***. And that it wouldn't be unlocked because we were knee-deep in remodeling inside the house and didn't have time to deal with a gate that was perfectly good as long as it was locked****. Besides, Mike reasoned, the West gate was totally accessible, 24/7. Cabana boy left downtrodden.

Fast forward a week and Studly returns. Now, I'm in the kitchen, completely within view of the the dude, so he brings his sad plea to me. Little did he know that I had already decided to plead complete ignorance on the issue and leave it to the He-Man in my life to duke it out.

He reasoned that the gate only needed a new spring, as best he could tell, and that he'd be glad to provide the BOLT CUTTERS to take the current lock off. All we'd have to do was buy a new spring and a new lock and then install the new spring. Easy-peasy-fresh-and-squeezy.

'Cept, according to plan, I wasn't playing along, and referred him to The Mister. He exited the backyard more downtrodden than the first time.

The following week he arrived to find our "save-your-children-from-drowning" pool net in its rightful place atop the pool. Truly not mechanically inclined, he had no idea what to do to move the net. So he left. Without dumping chemicals in the pool.

A bit later our more mature, paunchy-bellied, semi-bald, non-complaining pool boy showed up. Not only did he service the pool through the WEST gate and know exactly what to do with the net, but he didn't try to tell us when and how to fix the other gate. He didn't even knock on the door.

It appears that customer service has been shot about four dozen times, is bleeding profusely, and has arrived at the ER, but it isn't YET dead.

In the meantime, however, I'm still on the prowl for a non-condom-carrying cabana boy who will serve drinks and pour chemicals, all with a smile and a very low monthly fee.


**Lost me there, boyfriend. I get whiny all day from the under ten-set. Sure ain't taking it from a "grown" adult.

***Tex and Doug, the Houdinis of the dog world.

****In other words, we're too cheap to fix it right now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hello, Gorgeous!

"Do you remember the 21st night of September
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away."

If you haven't gotten your groove on with Earth, Wind and Fire lately, now is THE DAY. Log on to You Tube, search for "September", close the shades, and get down, get funky! I double dog dare you NOT to dance.

When September rolls around and August is but a distant memory*, I start fantasizing about Fall. I am all about Fall. Who could be against a season filled with cooler weather, longer sleep periods and FOOD?

When I think about all the things I love about Fall, I think, "HEY! I was really supposed to be a BEAR! I have the extra chubbiness, love salmon, and think there is nothing better than a good nap. Hibernation, frankly, sounds excellent."

But, since I'm no Yogi, I'll stay in the present and get thinking about all the good things I'm looking forward to:

1. brisk air in the morning when I first open the door to let the dogs out.
2. watching the leaves turn different colors and gracefully dance to their new homes on the ground.
3. the first whiff of a fireplace in the neighborhood being used.
4. finally being able to wear my winter slippers around the house without being questioned by the neighbor kids, who wonder aloud, "Mrs. Nowell? WHAT are you WEARING?"

Fall food? In a word: GLORIOUS! Funnel cakes at the State Fair, Chili pie at football games, Halloween candy**, Thanksgiving pies, homemade Christmas candy and cookies. Good gracious, I'm gaining weight just typing this!

August around here is supposed to end with a rather cool day for Dallas--highs in the upper 80's. That is close enough to Fall weather for me. I'll be breaking out sweaters and leggings next week, at least in my mind.

For today, though, I'll be breaking into my best 70's R&B funk, complete with singing and getting in the groove. Maybe it will make Fall come FASTER?!

"Ba de ya - say do you remember?
Ba de ya - dancing in september?
Ba de ya - never was a cloudy day?"

Yeah Fall!

*Read: on the first of September, in my failing mind, August IS a distant memory.

**This may be my only annoyance about Fall: stores have this cockamamie idea that we should start celebrating Halloween in August, Thanksgiving in September, and Christmas in October. Can't we just leave the holidays where they belong??