Friday, March 31

Dizzy Spells

I'm feeling kind of dizzy right about now, the same way you feel when you've been playing Ring-around-the-Roses with a toddler. I looked outside in our driveway and found this strange truck parked next to my van. I'll ease your fears right away; I haven't taken up with the mailman, the FedEx guy or the pool boy. A lady brings our mail, Max is the one who tries to ride home with the FedEx guy and I pretty much play the role of pool boy around here. The strange truck apparently belongs at our house now. The kicker is that the truck John traded in for this one was officially mine - on paper anyway (something or other about lower insurance).

On Saturday morning, we had a discussion about replacing the truck that I generously allow John to drive sometime this summer. We alternate vehicle purchases between the two of us, and John is next in line to acquire a new vehicle. Since John is quite the planner when it comes to large purchases, he eagerly began to scan the newspaper "just to get an idea of what kind of truck he wanted and how much he would need to spend." The question I keep asking myself is after almost 17 years of marriage, why did I not see this coming? Truth be told, if I fall for the same ploy every time, I suppose I should cheer him on for pulling it yet once again. The story pretty much goes like:

1) Scan Saturday paper for truck deals. Sneak out when supposed to be filling up the propane tank for the grill to scope out the possibilities. Pretend that traffic was really bad getting back home, which accounts for the inordinate amount of time it took to fill the propane. Reassure wife that this is just appropriate planning for summertime so that we can budget and save until we find the perfect truck. Van is paid off in 2 months, so we have plenty of time to look around.
2) Find the only 2 trucks that will be available at awesome prices between now and when we plan to buy the truck.
3) Dash the entire family to the car dealership on Monday afternoon and spend several hours drooling over truck #1. Sneak back over to second dealership alone to remember what truck #2 looks like. Still planning.
4) Go to bank and get loan set up for possible purchase of mystery truck. Just in case. Nothing written in stone. But the loan rate is just so tempting.
5) Dash the entire family to second car dealership on Tuesday afternoon, explaining how absolutely perfect both trucks are, both will be snatched up at any possible minute and no others will be coming along by the time we're ready to purchase.
6) Get kids all excited about driving around in a nicer, newer, roomier truck and convince them that the one we presently own just is no longer suitable because it's just too dirty and smells too much like fire department smoke. While driving, kids declare that truck #2 is much better than truck #1. Wife hesitantly agrees.
7) Sneak the bank check out of pocket that was brought along "just in case", give puppy-dog eyes to wife who can never resist, assure wife that truck payment will be absolutely no problem since van is almost paid for and the loan rate is out of this world.
8) Suddenly, we are no longer planning. Enter dealership with big grin, for wife and family have said okay. Don't tell wife that new truck will be put in own name so she can't threaten to sell it.
9) Get home and suggest that new truck was put in own name because wife has a traffic ticket issue and a run-in with a deer on record. Reveal that new truck has been driven home even though modfications are not yet complete. Old truck has been left in dealership parking lot even though it has to come back home tomorrow to have the fire bells and whistles taken off it.
10) Run back out Tuesday night at 9pm to nonchalantly stop by the fire department while training is in session to "check on training progress." Hoping that somebody will notice new wheels. Wildest dreams fulfilled with all the ooohing and aaaahing that goes on.
11) Get up Wednesday morning and admonish wife on how she really needs to watch her spending for the next 2 months until van is paid off.

Let's take a guess about who owes who for the next couple of months or so!!? I'm just planning on how to cash in....Let's see, my birthday in April, Mother's Day in May, anniversary in June. I'm thinking this deal is going to work out okay after all.

Wednesday, March 29

Faries of the Toothy Type

This morning the Easter Bunny was so excited to be finished with its shopping for Easter baskets....well, all except the few tidbits of candy that will be added to the toys and games. Now it's suppertime, and the Easter Bunny has to plan another outing to replenish its supply. One last trip is necessary because the meowing stuffed cat that was planned for Caroline's Easter basket will now be placed under Caroline's pillow compliments of the Tooth Fairy. It's nice that they borrow from each other that way, isn't it. What a spirit of cooperation between that Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy--they are such a pair!

I tried to explain that since it is dark in some parts of the world already, the Tooth Fairy has surely started her journey toward our house, so she probably already has Caroline's gift in tow (and it probably is not a stuffed kitten). That's why Caroline started her note nicely asking "if you have it".

Tuesday, March 28

Horrors of Hairdressing

I knew I shouldn't be feeling so smug after taking 2 haircuts of Eric's into my own hands. By the admission of marathon Karen (who was a hairdresser in a past life), Eric has a difficult head of hair. It is difficult to cut and look good-no matter what style you choose. She was doing me a huge favor by squeezing Eric into her schedule for haircuts and his hair never looked better. It all just got too complicated trying to juggle meeting up (Eric is at school while we eat lunch at Nick's each day, so that won't work) thus the reason I took to learning to cut hair myself.

The problem is, I began feeling like I knew what I was doing because his hair started looking kind of decent once I wet it down and plastered it with White Rain in the mornings. So I upped the ante and spied the ear taper attachments to my clippers. I thought those would be so much easier to use around the ears. NOT. They failed to include in the instructions that taper means "scalp" in Chinese. Truthfully, I probably threw the instructions away when I got the clippers because I always dig right in anyhow. At any rate, Eric barely had fuzz 1-1/2 inches up the side of his head. So now, he is sporting a #2 clipper cut with a #3 right on top. It's kind of embarrassing, with me being into looks and all--having my boy going around looking like a chopper-head half the time.

Good thing he is 9. He could care less--he thinks haircuts are way over-rated anyway. It's me walking around with the red face. I wonder if it would be wrong for me to instruct him to blame it on his dad? Hee Hee.

Monday, March 27

Cutting off my nose to spite my face

The best-laid intentions sometimes go awry. In the attempt to prove to myself that I can, indeed, wean off (well, cold-turkey really) half-n-half in exchange for the fat-free stuff, I've put myself into a tailspin. The first day wasn't too bad really. I choked down a couple of cups noting the foul taste but putting up with it. Since it was Friday, I had my weekly Starbucks latte and felt like a new woman. Saturday was a bit more difficult, but I was busy getting ready for dinner guests, so after the first cup, I didn't really have time to think about having a second. Sunday went pretty smoothly as well, even though I left my full coffee mug in the car during Sunday School (a first for me). I wasn't really enjoying the taste so I decided to not finish it. An afternoon nap distracted me for the remainder of the day and I really didn't need to suffer through another icky cup to get the caffeine. Today, though, instead of my usual two large travel mugs before kickboxing, I had about half of an 8-oz mug and then decided I actually am not getting used to the taste. By the time I reached kickboxing, I had a whopping headache, presumably from lack of caffeine. A couple of Excedrin Migraine took care of that, but I dragged my rear around for the remainder of the day feeling sluggish without the artificial pep of caffeine.

I'm thinking rather than going fat-free, I've probably just about broken the habit of having a coffee mug glued into my hand all day long. Perhaps I can join the ranks of well-adjusted coffee drinkers and have a cup in the morning, just the way I like it with the real stuff, and call it adequate. I might experiment tomorrow.

The ironic part of all this is that John spied the fat-free half-n-half in the fridge Saturday morning, without me saying anything to him about switching. It was sitting right beside the regular stuff and he took it upon himself to fix us both cups with the fat-free. He has been guzzling it ever since, like nothing is out of the ordinary. Why is it that I'm the one who wants to switch and he's the one who doesn't have any trouble with it? Something is wrong with this picture.

Saturday, March 25

First "Roses"

Caroline has been carefully planning her singing debut at school for the last year. Her school has a Talent Show and last school year she opted to perform a karate kata, and quickly regretted the decision because she wished she had sung instead. She was enthralled with a couple other little girls who sung and received flowers from their family "fans" after the show and she was disappointed that she hadn't received any. So starting right after last year's show, she began going through her Disney Jamz and Kids Bop CDs, rehearsing every song, memorizing all the lyrics of each one so that she would have ample choices when the day came to declare her selection.

The entry form came home a month ago, and although she's had all year, she took too long to make her song choice. The morning the form was due, I suggested she pull out the CD of "Amazing Grace" that she had just performed at church. She agreed, and all was set. After two rehearsals, the performance time arrived last night. She was a bundle of excitement all day, and took just about as much time choosing her outfit as she had her song. I asked John to stop by the gas station or drug store and try to find a long-stemmed rose to give her after her song. When we arrived at the school, I was informed that they had reordered the schedule and since they wanted to end with a "strong performance" they had placed Caroline at the very end of the show. She was thrilled to know that everybody would leave with her voice in their ear.

Needless to say, she did a great job, and a few tears were shed by some of the crowd. One audience member came up to John and told him that she was a vocal coach and once Caroline is a little older, she would love to give Caroline voice lessons. After Caroline came off stage, John gave her the bundle of red/purple carnations he had picked up at the Mobile gas station. She came running over to me with a huge smile and said "Mom, take my picture--I never got roses before".

It'll be much later before we inform her of the difference between carnations and roses because for now, she feels like a star.

Thursday, March 23

Making the Switch

I am not one who denies my problems. I readily admit when I have weaknesses and it's confession time. Most of you know I am gripped with addiction to coffee. That isn't actually the real problem though since the caffeine doesn't bother me and coffee has zero calories. The issue is that I must, must, must have half-n-half to go in it. I have tried everything to change this preference, trying fat-free half-n-half, skim milk, 1%, 2% and whole milk, powdered creamer, even the creme brulee' coffee mate, plain coffee mate, and everything in between and outside those lines. No matter what I've tried, in any amount, nothing even remotely suffices. I prefer to go with no coffee rather than put something other than half-n-half in it. I have gone to great lengths at times to acquire half-n-half, even sending John out or going myself at midnight so I'd have it the next morning. So it was with dismay that I actually observed myself buy a 32 oz container (that's a quart) of half-n-half Friday afternoon and watched myself empty it by Tuesday morning. That's the same size as my little water jug there in the picture, baby. I can say that I am not the only one who uses the half-n-half. John uses it as well, but for only one cup in the morning. Othewrise he drinks his coffee at work.

The problem that results from this prolific consumption of fat and cholesterol is that despite my active lifestyle, the scale tends to the upward trend rather than going down the way I prefer. I will admit to being a first-born, slightly obsessive, perfectionist individual, so I do focus on the scale, clothing size, calorie intake and all things weight-related a bit more than I should. However, just for the sake of proving I can, I am determined to disentagle myself from this vice. I have at times, gone cold turkey--like my two pregnancies, and the frightening year I gave up coffee for Lent. However, I am going the more difficult route and employing moderation.

So here are my rules:
-1 pot of coffee gets made in the morning and when it's gone, the pot stays off (I'll get about 2 travel-mugs out of the pot). I can easily make and drink 3 pots a day with the accompanying half-n-half.
-NO buying coffee out except for my once-a-week non-fat latte at Starbucks on Friday, grocery day. No telling how much I get when I order "extra-cream" at Dunkin' Donuts.
-I can drink half-n-half in my cup, by I am going to gradually make the switch to the fat-free stuff.
-After my coffee is gone (generally by 8:30am), I will be drinking 2 of these 32 oz jugs of water by bedtime. Watch out, toilet, here I come.

Your job is to ASK me how I'm doing. I am not known for enforcing my own rules, so only public humiliation will work. Perfectionists hate to fail in public ;)

Wednesday, March 22

Got Nails?

Ever since Junior High, I have had an obsession with hands. I remember discovering this one day when somehow I realized that I could picture the hands of every single person that I knew. I had a friend test the theory by calling out name by name, and sure enough, I was able to picture in my mind's eye exactly what the person's hands looked like. Not the eyes, not the hair, but the fingers, all the way down to the fingernails and cuticles. Weird, I know, but I sort of hopped right on that obsession and began buying nail files, and then clippers, and then polish, and then buffers, and then ridge filler, and then ridge smoother, and then cuticle nippers and cuticle dissolvers and on and on. It fit right into my habit of snatching up gadgets, any item marked "new" on the shelf and whatever could be remotely attached to a commerical.

Over time, I didn't think much about my growing collection until I would pull out my "toolbox" complete with the Craftsman logo and unload the metal implements, sandpaper files and the plethora of base coats, polish colors and top coats and my friends' jaws would drop. Apparently I'm the only person that I know who can outfit an entire spa party with the implements and polish choices that I have on hand. I have actually done that twice, at overnight girl's weekends, and everybody left with a newfound respect for what a little filing, cuticle nipping and smoothing can do for the soul. My routine grew do include a Saturday night ritual of taking off polish, doing the whole sanding, smoothing, polishing routine and having fresh nails for Sunday morning church and it didn't cost $12 and chip by the next morning. For the record, the Craftsman toolbox was a lot bigger and a lot cheaper than the Caboodle they had over in the cosmetics section. I really needed the extra space.

As I've grown older, I've realized my obsession comes from wanting really girly-type hands, and I just don't. No matter how much nipping, smoothing, filing or painting goes on, my lifestyle is just too rough, what with a family, 4 pets and kickboxing. I'm thinking it could also have to do with the fact that I've taken to watching suspenseful shows while I am trying to nip my cuticles, and mishaps result from startling at what you are watching at the same time as using sharp implements on tender skin. Blood never complements polish, no matter which color you've chosen for that week.

The polishes above are not from my own collection. I purchased them today in my "bargain-finder mode" at CVS for .75 cents each. We are going to do a spa day at the MOMS group I attend, so everyone will have their own little bottle of "pamper" to take home themselves!

Monday, March 20

Sibling Rivalry Run Amok

I've mentioned our Jack Russell Terrier, Max, in previous posts. What I didn't mention is that in the lineup of the "pack", she definitely sees herself first in line after John and me. To her, the kids, although larger than her, are a total bother and take up way too much of our attention. When John gets after her, she trembles in fright and pees on the floor. When I fuss at her, she looks a little sad and quickly obeys. When one of the kids tries to direct her, she ignores them until they force her, and then she yips at them to say "You're not the boss of me".

One of the cardinal rules we "enforce" at our house is no dogs on the bed (note the picture--that's a bed). John detests dog hair, especially on his PJs and Eric has mild allergies, so we just don't allow her to sleep with us. She regularly tests this rule, but when she hears John's footsteps, she hops off the bed and gets busy with something else all innocent-like. When she hears me, she stands on the bed, ready to jump off, but waits until I tell her to get down.

Well last night, Eric came up to crawl in our bed around 2am after a bad dream. The dog began to paw and whine at the bed, as if she had to go to the bathroom. This is very unusual for her, as she has never asked to go out in the middle of the night. After ignoring her for about 30 minutes, I got up and let her out. No sooner had I gotten back in bed, she began behaving in the same way. I tried to shut it out for another hour or so, telling her to "go night-night" but she persisted. I got up around 3:30, tried to let her out, and she wandered around the kitchen not wanting to go outside. I checked her water and food dishes and found both of them fine. I returned to bed and the pawing and whining began again. John woke up, groggily wondering what in the world was wrong with the dog. It suddenly hit me that she either wanted up with us since Eric was getting to snuggle, or she wanted Eric out of the bed.

John woke Eric up and walked him back to his own bed, and what do you know? Max slept peacefully till morning!

Saturday, March 18

The Seventh Day

Saturdays are weird days. They are different for everyone. For some, it is catch-up day; a day to get the laundry and housecleaning done after a week of working outside the house. For others, it is a day to do nothing; a day to relax and re-energize before the craziness of Sunday with church and family. Still for others, it is a day for projects, errands, appointments and other things we have put off until the weekend.

For our family, Saturday is not the same for any one of us. For John, it is a day of yard work, odd jobs, and usually some type of fire department responsibility, either training or planning. For me, it is a day to chill out after a busy week and before the flurry of activity that Sunday brings. For Eric, nothing suits him better than to stay in his jammies absolutely all day and go nowhere except the back yard to play, when he is good and ready. For Caroline, it's a day she likes to drag all her little projects out to the middle of the floor, to stitch and sew, pretend to knit, create an elaborate picture or some other such art.

Today was no different. I have a friend who spent the day preparing for the Leprechaun to come visit their family complete with a meal of corned beef and cabbage. Another friend took a tour of a fitness center in order to sign up for excercise. My mom spent the day traveling to TX to spend a week with her beau. John headed out at 7am for a day of fire rescue training. Eric spent the day planning attacks and battles with his favorite boardgame, Life, all by himself. And Caroline and I did one of her favorite things--we worked on a project together. She and I prepared goodie bags for the Mother/Son Bowling Extravaganza that Eric and I attended tonight. This school event gives a chance for moms and boys to spend some fun time together and just bond.

Saturdays are good, no matter what you spend them on. That's true even if your schedule makes your Saturday happen on a Monday.

Friday, March 17

Put your left foot in, Put your left foot out

John was seriously deprived as a child in that he did not have any pets growing up. None. Nada. Zero. Since we have been dating, we've had a cockatiel (that he bought me for Christmas before we were married), two finches (after the cockatiel escaped), a miniature pinscher, two guinea pigs (Sam and Peter) a Jack Russell terrier (after the min-pin was hit by a car) a cat (who won't pee on the toilet) and two baby turtles. I grew up with lots of pets, so I gladly accept any and all new additions to our family when they come. And then I regret it. So it goes with these two amphibians.

Our son, Eric, adores turtles. They are without a doubt his favorite animal. I searched high and low for a baby turtle in NY only to find out that in NY, it is illegal to purchase a turtle until it is six inches across the shell (unless you are a teacher). So last summer on a father-son trip to FL, John and Eric adopted two baby turtles that cousin Jessica Hendershot had caught. They brought them home on the airplane and we fell in love with the silver-dollar-sized creatures. But since turtles have risk of salmonella, we decided that John would take care of their habitat for safety reasons. I think he did this one time. Yours truely has become quite efficient at mucking the tank because I've had lots of practice. So after much loving, doting, cleaning and feeding, as soon as spring arrives, the creatures of the beautiful pond at Lockheed Martin are getting two new roommates. Luckily our turtles have very good apptites, and they are now much bigger than they were when they came to NY. They should make out fine in the wild.

One of the funniest things about them is how they bask under the heat lamp--they stick one front and one back leg out, and later they switch and put out the opposite limbs to let the "sun" soak right in! Sometimes the legs reach as straight up in the air as the shell with let it go. By the way, Eric's smaller turtle (the one in the back) is Flippers and Caroline's, a little bigger, is named Sheila. I'll just have to figure out what to do with all the free time that I'll have after all the sludge and algae is gone.

Thursday, March 16

Addendum to Tips

I can't believe I actually forgot what was going to be Tip #1 for Sally Anne's boutique in yesterday's post. It is this: You should absolutely refrain from introducing your children to a thrift shop until they are old enough to be interested in looking at used clothing. All thrift shops have toy sections, and your kid(s) will find it immediately. They will come to you with gem in hand, a castoff, broken-down, dirty toy that some other mother has instructed her own children to "pass on to the less fortunate children who don't have as many toys". If your children are with you, that prize will go into your cart (they actually do have shopping carts in such places) and the junk piece will go home with you. Not only that, it will be your child's favorite treasure for the next week and it will go everywhere with them. When asked where they got it, they will proudly exclaim "My mom bought it for me at the Salvation Army"!

Wednesday, March 15

La Botique de Sally Anne

I have a secret that I don't share very often. I am a label snob. I have always liked brand-name clothing and for quite a bit of my adult life, I indulged. But 10 years ago, I found myself deciding to quit my full time job and stay home with my baby, and I became poor for a while. So my ingrained habit of buying 2 or 3 suits at Casual Corner then hitting Kauffman's for the next sale on Liz Claiborne had to be curbed. Eventually my craving got the best of me, and I was dragged by a friend into a place I would generally turn up my nose to. Once I gave it a chance, I found out that the Salvation Army is a wonderful place. I have another friend who accompanied once and she loved the experience, but admitting she shopped there was a bit too much for her, so she dubbed it "Sally Anne's" (the initials S.A.) After my first trip, I was hooked. I had found where all the people like me take their clothes. There are original owners who get too fat or too skinny for something, the ones who quit a job or start a new one and don't need their brand name togs anymore, the ones who need to get rid of some of their designer duds to make room for new ones, etc. I left my first shopping trip with literally bag loads of amazing stuff. The biggest thrill came the first time I decided to actually admit where I'd gotten a particular peice of clothing and the person's jaw dropped. First because she couldn't believe such a find would be cast off at a thrift store and second because she knew me to be a mall rat and didn't dream I'd enter a thrift store. Once I became able to return to traditional shopping, I found I still got the urge to hit the thrift racks every once in a while and see what I can find. Today was such a day. For $66 dollars, I came home with 20 items, all in new condition, a couple with the original tags on them. I got: 3 pairs size 10/12 snowpants for the kids, Caroline a dress for Sunday and 2 shirts, Eric a flannel-lined pair of jeans and a shirt. For me - 5 pair of dress pants, 1 dressy skirt,1 pair casual pants, 4 shirts, 1 sweater and the fabulous find of the day - an Ann Taylor blazer. Other brands I bought today included Izod, Old Navy, Columbia, Geoffrey Beane, Talbots, Chadwicks and Rafaella. Since I'm very experienced in persuing this passion on the sly, I have a few tips for you in case you try it out for yourself.
1) Don't even try if you don't like to plow through racks of stuff, much of it junk. Yard sales are a good test. And in some stores, you do have to get used to the smell.
2) Go expecting to find nothing. Then if you hit the jackpot, you'll be thrilled.
3) Don't buy anything you wouldn't be ready to wear exactly the way it is (after washing, of course). That includes no stains (the original owner has already tried to get them out), alterations (unless you have a seamstress who knows your measurements already- you'll never get it altered) or any other fixer-uppers unless you already routinely sew on buttons, hem pants and fix torn seams. This rule also includes not buying anything that you have to lose 5 pounds to fit into. Otherwise next week you'll be re-donating the same items you generously bought the week before - they don't give refunds or store credit at these places.
4) Don't buy it if you wouldn't buy it at the mall. Even if it is a $75 shirt that is marked $2, you won't wear it if you don't like it.
5) Don't buy anything that has that "broken in" look. Go for "like-new, looks-unworn" only. If it appears already worn, whenever you go out in it, you'll wonder if people can tell where you got it, and you'll be too embarrassed to wear it anymore.
6) Stay away from anything black unless it pops out as the darkest black on the rack. Black doesn't fade to charcoal, it fades to light black so it looks already worn. Everybody will believe you when you tell them you got it at the thrift store. That goes for pills, fades or anything else that happens in daily wash 'n wear.
7) Stay away from sweaters. Almost always (except for the one I bought today), it has been shrunk by somebody's dryer, stretched out by somebody's washing machine, or it was in style in the 80s when the original owner bought it and they've just now gotten rid of it.
7) I'm sorry to say this, but you have to try every single thing on. If anything is wrong with it, you'll be able to tell why it was donated to the thrift store. Weird fit, hidden rips, strange stains and other things will show up when you try the item on. Be prepared for your hands to be a little grimy and to need a shower afterward. That's normal. But you can take care of that while you toss the first load of your haul into the wash.
8) Most thrift stores have one day a week where everything is on "sale". You can't imagine how I felt getting that Ann Taylor blazer for $4.50 instead of 9 bucks!

If you try it and decide it's not for you, that's okay--it's more for me!

Monday, March 13

Levels of Pathetic

I realize that I have just stooped to a new level of pathetic. But I'm really liking it down here--it makes me happy. I've always been a sucker for "gadgets", unusual finds, and I watch with drooling tongue anything new that comes on an infomercial, especially if it has to do with fitness, beauty or make-your-life easier.

When we got our cat 2 summers ago, I toyed with an idea I found on the internet--toilet training your cat. The process was long, involved and not guaranteed to work, and since our cat took right to the litter box, I decided not to bother. And THEN, while getting turtle food at Pet Depot, this little jewel practically jumped off the shelf into my hands. It is the Kitty Whiz, a little device for the bargain price of $12.95 that will practically perform the toilet training for you. You basically fit the plastic shield over the toilet, pour kitty litter into the closed-in bottom and the cat will magically want to use the toilet just like his humans. Hmmmmm. They suggest that you actually get rid of the real litter box and lock the cat in the bathroom with the Kitty Whiz until it has to go so badly that its legs are crossed, but our cat has never had any accidents and I'm afraid it will traumatize her into taking to the carpets.

Tonight I tore into the directions, got everything all set up and called to Bobcat to come see what I bought her. She acted very interested in sniffing the new contraption, but I am pretty sure it was the scent of the catnip they included to make the whizzer more enticing. She about clawed my arms off trying to escape from me when I set her atop the toilet seat. After all, she is one that does not appreciate others giving her direction and besides, the water wasn't swirling, so she had no interest in cooperating. I'm hoping the whizzer will give us lots of success as potty training my kids was not an easy accomplishment of my early parenthood.

The bad part of all this is that I am never going to live it down. My friend Paij tells everyone to ask me before they buy a newly advertised item because I will have tried it and its alternative, and I can tell you where to get it and for what best price. I guess I'm going to have to rename her "busts-my-chops-for-having-tried-every-product-under-the-sun" Paij.

Sunday, March 12

We are just SO proud (sniff*sniff)

The monster on the left (the one with its ladder reaching out to show off) is the newest addition to our extended family. I can't begin to describe the glee that entered the Olsen household on Friday afternoon when this new truck was delivered to the fire house. It brought John out of work several hours early armed with my digital camera to capture the glory. According to "dad" the light wasn't quite right Friday afternoon to show the truck in its best form, so we had to wait until Saturday to get this picture. Investigating all the thrilling features of this new machine took my kids (all 3 of them) from 6pm Friday night until approximately 11pm. There was still more to see, so John left the house at 7am on Saturday morning and returned home about 6:30pm Saturday night. I only got antsy when ye ole ladder truck just about threatened my coffee/dessert date with John. He came home just as the babysitter arrived, but he had a tough time hiding the fact that he was worried about leaving the new baby alone all night at the fire department. He took a swing by the fire department again on Sunday after church under the premise of "dropping off some papers" that he accidentally left in his pick-up truck but I know better ;) My only hope is that they delivered it full-grown, because we can't handle much more in the way of size. You can see that every bay is filled to capacity and our house has already inherited an extra TV and decrepit fooseball table that got kicked out of their home to make room for Truck #301.

Saturday, March 11

Mother of 2 will kick the pants off 'ya

There is nothing like a night of freedom with 30-something moms to make the girl-thing come out. For a few months, the group of girls I kickbox with have been getting together on the 2nd Friday of the month for a little socializing. Prior to this, we knew one another simply from a one-hour class three times a week, with not a lot of time left to get to know the personal side. We remedied that with instituting our monthly dinner out, and what a solution it has proven to be. We have become very familiar with one another, to the point that last night we wondered if some of the other patrons wished we'd asked for a private party room. At the end of dinner we realized all our kids would still be awake and nobody was ready for that. We extended the hours away by having dessert at the coffeehouse down the street and at that point the raucous laughter was just getting primed. We finished the night at Paij's house and left wondering how Trea (her 5 yr-old guy) hadn't been wakened by the hilarity all around.

The group that made it out last night were (from left to right): sweet Lois, skinny Paij, me, marathon Karen, four-kid Lisa and quiet Kathy. (You can see more on these nicknames in my previous post about it all being in a name). Sorry my eyes were closed, but I was blushing because all the girls kept telling me they were jealous about how great I looked! The girls that didn't make it last night will definitely be with us next month after hearing what they missed.

Thursday, March 9

That Cat Scats

I'm losing control. And the problem with that is I'm really not all that upset about it. The little rascal, shown here "sunning" herself in my warm clothes dryer, is taking over the house. The problem is that I'm letting her. It really doesn't bother me that much but it is a serious problem for the adult male species that shares the house with us.

Last night as I peeked my head out the sliding glass door to say goodbye to John as he was leaving for an EMT class, Bobcat skitted past my legs and hauled butt outside. She has always been obsessed with going outside, but since we live on such a busy road, we've forced her to be an indoor cat. I realize this is not natural, but our neighbors have been through about seven cats to our one, so being the doting grandmother that I am to this one, I have become very protective. Her favorite escape place is under our front porch. It is the type that has a 3-foot crawl space under it, so there is just enough room for an adult to squeeze under, but not enough room to navigate without banging body parts all over the place.

Picture last night for instance--it is 30 degrees outside, it is pitch dark, the cat has escaped from the house and is prowling under our front porch. A sane person would wait inside until the cat decided it was too chilly and begged to be let back in. Apparently when it comes to this cat, I am not sane. I sent my 8-year-old daughter out with a favorite cat toy to entice Bobcat back into the house. Caroline had no luck and since she was starting to fret about Bobcat spending the night outside, I joined her in the mission of rescue. Under the porch I go, flashlight in hand, whacking my head all the way. Dizzy from all the head-banging, I saw glowing green eyeballs dart past me as Bobcat realized I was about to catch her. My snatch at the tail missed and I hollered for Caroline to head her off at the end of the porch. Bobcat darted through the stairs, got on the porch and back under at the other end, all within about 15 seconds. My second pass at trying to catch her elicited a whiny meow from her, as she gets very annoyed whenever she isn't in charge.

Luckily, I caught on after 10 minutes or so and told Caroline to stand watch at the door. Bobcat likes being in control of her own agenda and I was hoping she would choose to re-enter the house. As luck would have it, the fourth time I chased her back on to the porch, she went to the door where Caroline was not. Caroline was able to sneak in the front door and head over to the sliding door where Bobcat sat waiting with a look that said "what's the matter with ya'll? I've been waiting to get in. But you'll have to wait for crazy woman. She's still hanging out under the front porch. I don't think she's cold yet."

Luckily this will work out great for Caroline who announced yesterday after school that she and Tiana (in Caroline's 3rd grade class) were going into business together when they are grown. Caroline has been aspiring to be a veterinarian and Tiana has decided to open a pet shelter. She has agreed to hire Caroline as the vet for the shelter, so Caroline already has chalked up her first experience at cat rescue. Fortunately, I've had a bit more experience with Bobcat, although this was the first winter rescue we've done so far.

Wednesday, March 8

I was Hijacked!

I was hijacked yesterday. Not my person, not my car, but my computer. It was someone I knew. That's why it hurt so much. The hijacker was John. John has his own computer. Several of them in fact. One sits directly behind mine. It even has its own computer desk and chair. He has a laptop that he can use from work. And another laptop he can use from the fire department. Hey, he can even go over the hill to the fire department and find a couple more, but he insists on using mine. Mine is nothing special. It was a $400 Walmart deal, but it is free of computer games and all the other bogger-down stuff that John's computer has on it. And it is several years newer. Mine also has an ergonomic keyboard that he hates, but he persists in trying to take it over anyway. This is a problem to me because the first thing I do after my kids are out of the house (after I read my Bible) is to check my email. When I get out of the shower, I check it again. So it goes every hour or so that I'm home, just in case somebody sends me a message of utmost importance that will change the direction of my world. That doesn't count the websites and blogs I monitor, the daily TV schedule I check online so I can see which reality show I'll be watching and the myriad of other things I get the whim to research. In addition, mine is loaded with the software needed for my medical transcription, so it is the only computer that I can work on. And still he sneaks into the seat before I can.

Yesterday he declared "tax day". This was the day he designated that he would have our taxes completed and filed online by sundown. The problem was that I accompanied him on a bunch of errands he had to do, we ate breakfast out together and I missed what would have been my only chance of the day to get a fix of world-wide-webbiness. Once we got home, John sat at my computer desk and reached over to cover his own keyboard and desk with all the necessary paperwork. I said I needed to check email. He said he was keeping us out of jail by filing our taxes on time. I said I needed to work. He said I could--after he was done. That ended up being way after sundown, way after I'd already gotten engrossed in American Idol and then the Amazing Race. By the time he finished, I had lost my inspiration at all the bloggy wit that I had intended to post. So here I am, losing my record of posting every single day, thrilling my readers with the excitement of a household filled with a stay-at-home-mom-wannabe reality TV star, a 9-year-old genius, an 8-year-old aspiring singer/actress/sports star of some kind/veterinarian and my third kid, the 41-year-old.

Walmart really needs to run a smiley-face special so I can get his favorite computer a twin sister.

Monday, March 6

Reverse Psychology.....It's a Beautiful Thing

I'm not sure if it is a male thing or whether it is just an Olsen thing, but reverse psychology is something that the boys in our household regularly fall victim to. Do I really have to call it manipulation? That sounds so much uglier!

The story goes like this. John surprised us by coming home early from work Monday afternoon. He had been bugging me to get the ingredients for a favorite stir-fry he likes to cook, so I suggested that I'd be happy to make dinner but I wouldn't feel bad if he'd rather do it "since he is so much better at it". John needs little encouragement to hop into the limelight so he got right down to business. Upon hearing about the unusual event of Dad cooking, Eric came in to peer about the kitchen. I had decided to play sous chef to get ahead of the mess that always follows John's concoctions, so I laid out the necessary red onion, green and red pepper and pretty much every spice I own since John likes to experiment. As Eric wandered about the kitchen, he wondered aloud if it is really true that onions make you cry. I told him that if he were a little older, I'd let him test the theory. He wanted to know why he couldn't try it today. I told him that since onions require an actual grown-up sharp knife, he was probably a little inexperienced to use it. (I regularly try to entice Eric into the kitchen, but he rarely shows any interest). All he needed to hear was perhaps he wouldn't be allowed to use a real knife to cement his determination to beg for the privilege. He assured me "Really Mom, I can handle it." With a grin of victory on my face, I demonstrated how to slice the onion. I could barely restrain him from grabbing the knife from me with his anticipation at trying it himself. As he hacked away, he said "Mom, could you please step back so I don't gore you?"

As dinner prep progressed, Eric proved the theory that onions make you cry even with glasses on, John got satisfaction at everybody oohing and aaahing at his great meal (Caroline even indulged the green and red peppers) and I once again saw the result of somebody actually begging to do something I wanted them to do in the first place!!

Sunday, March 5

Mutt and Jeff

Friendships are beautiful things. The problem is that by middle school age and pretty much from then on, even the best of friendships are riddled with a certain amount of concern over what the other person in the duo thinks of you. The bliss of friendships before this stage just can't be compared to anything else, especially when it comes to little boys.

Eric has a friend at school named Isaac. By visual standards, you really can't find two people more different. Isaac is my size, at least 5'3, probably 120 pounds or more, looking like a small adult, or at least much more than his 10 years. Eric is on the smaller size, short, thin, maybe not looking quite his age of 10. But believe me when I say that their behavior is right on que with one another--by watching them interact, you can totally tell they are both 10!. It is sweet to see little guys enjoy one another before the age of toughness has arrived. They giggle, laugh, act totally goofy and think the other is all the better for it. For whatever reason, from the first meeting, Isaac has totally adored Eric. With Eric a first born, he is very accustomed to being the big cheese, so he took right to that like a fly on poop. It went so far as Isaac getting wire-rimmed glasses exactly like Eric's even though they wouldn't have been the fashionable choice for his not-so-delicate features. Ever since the beginning, a pair was born, a friendship was cemented and it has been going strong ever since. Isaac spent the afternoon at our house yesterday and fussed like a 2-year-old getting a lollipop taken away when he had to leave. Not easy to shuffle a grown-up sized kid into a van when they don't want to go!

Come to think if it, this phenomenon may have more to do with boy friendships than girl ones. Even John has guy friends who try to outdo one another with goofy stunts, bravado acts and other such nonsense. And Caroline, now 8, has been having little spats with some of her girlfriends since kindergarten. Maybe that is why it seems so sweet to me.

Thursday, March 2

Snow Day Thrills

It was with fear and trepidation that my morning began--school was cancelled because of an impending ice storm AND I only had enough cream to have one mug of coffee. However, about 10:30 am, we got built-in, delivered-to-our-doorstep entertainment. We had a knock at the door, and a frightened young woman was standing at our doorstep asking to use our phone. She had been heading to work and as she came down our steep hill, her car slid off the road, wiping out our mailbox (which has been replaced over and over because of the same thing) and running into a tree in our front yard. The road is usually well-plowed, but on no-school days the snowplow doesn't make its usual number of runs, thus the road was slick.

As soon as we assessed that the girl was pretty much okay, Eric and Caroline donned their snowgear faster than lightening to go inspect the damage and wait for the emergecy crew to arrive. Max (yeah, the same dog that was limping around just yesterday) accompanied them, somehow ignoring the pain that has gotten her all the extra attention. I'm thinking she is going to be an adrenaline-junkie since it controls her pain, so I'm watching for signs of excitement abuse.

It just so happened that John is on the rescue squad that services our house, so he heard the call from work-- "Emergency at , female injury". The 911 operator didn't mention that it was a car accident, so he flew out of Lockheed toward home, thinking that I'd been hurt somehow. Pretty soon, our driveway had the 6 vehicles shown above, plus my van plus the tow truck. I won't even mention what my kitchen floor looked like after having at least a dozen pairs of snowy shoes coming in and out for an hour! After everybody left, Caroline was thrilled to have an excuse to get the Swiffer Wetjet out and clean up the slush.

So, how do you entertain YOUR kids on unexpected days off school?

Wednesday, March 1

Dog-Dog got a Boo-Boo

This one is getting to be a pain in the neck-neck. Tuesday night around dinnertime, I realized she was hobbling around on three legs. She refused to put her back left leg down, which means she can't scratch on the door to go in or out, she can't jump, and that is really a problem for this hyperactive, totally nutso canine. We weren't sure whether she had hurt herself inside or out since she comes and goes a thousand times an hour. We can never even remember who let her in or out last since we all do it so much.

We were hoping that after a night of being still, with 12 hours of not greeting guests, not chasing rabid racoons or smelly skunks and not eating field mice, her leg might rest enough to feel better in the morning. Not so. She was still limping around and the one time I coaxed her to jump on the bed, she yelped out. So off to the vet we went (the same one where we lost our cat in the dropped ceiling). Going to the vet happens to be Max's absolute favorite thing to do. At home she wears a shock collar that keeps her in our yard. Going to the vet requires a regular collar with a leash. As soon as it comes out of the closet, she comes running and she will tear the door off the vehicle if you don't get it opened quickly enough. It is her favorite place to go because it is the only place we let her go. She loves going places so much that she jumps on everybody she sees, pees on every foot that gets close, choking herself and coughing on the leash until every single human engages in physical contact with her. Inside the vehicle she is up, down and all around, barking at anything that passes until I'm almost driving off the side of the road.

Once we did get to the vet, just as any kid will do, the dog got so excited that she forgot her foot was hurting for a few minutes. She was trying to tear around the counter to greet the receptionist and was actually jumping a little. At some point the pain kicked back in and she did a nice demonstration of the limping she was doing at home. The vet determined that it is actually Max's knee that is hurting her. She did this by feeling around on Max's leg exactly the way that I did, and figuring that when she squeezed Max's foot and Max nipped, that it must mean her knee hurts ;) I'm not convinced. In any event, we decided to forego the $400-$500 x-rays and opted for your average anti-inflammatory. I'm thinking that the $36 (10-minute) vet visit along with the $38 bottle of liquid medicine (which I'm betting is ibuprofen) was not quite the bargain they said it was.

OH--and the good news. After three weeks of the $20 dog food John bought at the vet when he was there last....the verdict is in. Max gained 1 pound. Way to go, girl!