Monday, April 30, 2007

Adventures in Real Estate, part one

When we sold our old house and bought our new one last year, we did almost everything wrong. Or at least backwards. We got some things right at least, but the whole experience left us feeling a little fragile. I bring this up now for a reason. Spring has sprung, and like a lot of the world we’re in home improvement mode. It isn’t going as smoothly for us as it could, and there’s a good explanation for that. Let me take you back in time, back to the first week in February 2006. Actually, scratch that. Let’s go back even further, to Fall 2005.

I wanted a new house. The Film Geek was not so sure. I was finally working and all in all we were in a position to pull it off. We called in our trusted realtor just to walk through and tell us what we’d need to do to sell. We figured that it would help us at least decide if we wanted to pursue it. It was discouraging, to say the least. The entire front porch had to be repoured or rebuilt, and the plumbing had to be completely redone. These were the big things, but there were plenty of small ones. We ended up with two entire pages of single spaced things to do. Now we all know I like lists, but this one was just plain intimidating.

Winter was coming and we were trying to decide what to do. In the Midwest, and especially in a college town, the Spring market is huge, and if you miss that window you can have some real problems if you’re selling. April 1st is the magic cutoff date. We went back and forth as only we can do, and finally one day the light bulb went on. For the first time in years we were comfortable and relaxed. I wasn’t stressed out by school. I loved my job. Finances were being kind. My husband wasn’t in the middle of any projects that were killing him. The kids were all doing well with everything. Why rock the boat? We decided to stay put. There was nothing wrong with our house really, just a bunch of stupid stuff we could now fix at our leisure or ignore. When we finally made this decision there was the huge feeling of relief for both of us. A huge cloud of potential anxiety went away.

Fast forward to February. I was taking the kids to school and saw a really cute house with a For Sale By Owner sign in front. More out of idle curiosity than anything else, I wrote the number down. I have a real estate clock the way some people have a biological clock. I just love houses for sale. Really, I just love houses in general. This real estate lust was particularly bad in LA where we couldn’t have even afforded a small carport in Watts. It’s never gone away, especially now that so many of these cute houses were actually possible for us. I went to open houses regularly, but I was fixated on one particular neighborhood, a sixteen square block area smack in the middle of the elementary and middle schools my kids go to. The area is one of two historic neighborhoods in town and is full of older, funky houses and huge old trees. It had, of course, also become quite trendy, and anything that went on the market tended to get snapped up fast, and often with several people bidding against each other. Part of the reason I was okay with waiting a year to sell was that I was so discouraged by how fast these houses were going. We had pretty much decided to wait it out for as long as it took. The FSBO house wasn’t in this area. Like I said, it was just curiosity that made me write down the number. I stuck it in my purse and promptly forgot about it.

Later that afternoon I drove by the house again and remembered. I called the number from my car while I sat in front of school waiting for the bell. The woman who answered the phone turned out to be someone I knew, and when she found out it was us, she said she was sure this house was way too small for us, but there was this weird hesitation in her voice. Then she slowly said that she and her husband had another house that they were thinking about selling that summer, but they weren’t totally sure when. She said if I wanted to take a look at it to let her know and then she gave me an address solidly in my dream neighborhood, on the very street I drove down at least once a day just to covet. In a trancelike state I picked up the kids and drove straight to the house. I parked in front, took one look at the house and knew immediately that the Film Geek and I were in very bad trouble.

We saw the interior of the house the next day, and our troubles intensified. I was hooked the instant we walked in the front door. My husband is made of stronger stuff when it comes to real estate, but when we got to the separate studio he actually pressed his nose against the glass like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. Our eyes met, and it was one of those marriage moments where the stars align and two brains really are as one. And those two brains were screaming the same word. Sold. Without ever really even going on the market. I was terrified someone was going to hear about it and outbid us. We had a contract on the house the next morning and were in escrow by lunch.

We had seven weeks to get our house ready to put on the market.

to be continued…

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mnemonics Are Your Friend

Want to know the mnemonic for putting a trauma patient in a cervical collar and on a backboard? You know you do. Admit it, it's okay.

She Needs Apples Like She Needs Donuts.

S - Stabilize the head. Don't let go until entire procedure is finished. In class it's an automatic fail. In real life it's an automatic go work at Wal-Mart, because your patient just died.

N - Neuro check. Tell them to wiggle their fingers and toes.

A - Assisstants. One to take off the patient's jewelry* and apply the cervical collar. One to straighten out arms and legs. One to get and postion the backboard. *Assistants are chronically underpaid. We don't begrudge them the benefits.

L - Logroll. This is a special three to four person roll to turn someone while not moving their neck. Roll them one way to get the board under them and then the other way to get them on the board. All on my count of three.

S - Straps and supports. Strap them in and support their heads with towel rolls.

N - Another neuro check. Wiggle fingers and toes again.

D - Done! Now you can let go of the head. And watch the paramedics drive away with your patient.

This was the no-brainer of our check-offs yesterday, the only one that wasn't guaranteed to make you sweat. (Except for that nasty little don't ever take your hands off the head business).

Want to know my mnemonic for today? You know you do. Admit it, it's okay.

S - Sunday! And I don't go back to work for Six wonderful days. Sweet!

N - No worries, mate. Finished the class, passed the test and even got through the check-offs.

A - Absolutely gorgeous here. Sunny, warm and not a cloud in the sky or a mud puddle to be found. Also, still quite good relations between eldest child and other family units. Aaah...

L - List of endless things that need doing before tomorrow. Grocery shopping, laundry, picking up various kid items left at other people's houses during weekend sleepovers and continuing to chip away at various home projects.

S - Shovel out children's bedrooms to verify urban legend that there really does exist a floor under all that crap. In theory this is their job. In reality we all know there will be maximal parental involvement.

N - No, I'm not sure that I'm spelling mnemonic right and No, I'm not even going to spellcheck it. And No, don't ever ask the Film Geek to look at a post before you publish it and tell you what he thinks, because the next thing you know his fingers are flying on the computer keys. Although, come to think of it he added some funny stuff. Don't get used to it, Buddy!

D - Done! One more certification (the most terrifying of the three) DONE! Is there a D word that means I plan on doing as little as possible today in spite of my family's obsessive need to eat, wear clean clothes and locate their beds? Wait, I've got it...Delicious.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

check THIS

One more class that was not supposed to kick my butt, but is. One more frantic night studying because I don't want to look like an idiot in front of my peers. Especially since this is a trauma certification class and I have two years of trauma experience at THE Level 1 trauma center in the area. The catch is that I didn't have it in the ER, I had it in the ICU, and let me tell you they are two totally different animals.This is my life. When I started this ER job they told me I had a year to get three certifications I didn't already have. The problem is that these classes aren't offered every week (or even every six months) and sometimes you have to just bite the bullet and get them over with based on when you can even take them.

The bottom line for me is that from the beginning of April to the middle of May, I will have taken all three of them. Five full days of classes, three written exams at the end and untold numbers of "check-offs", a process that has devilled me since I started nursing school. The idea behind a check-off is simple. The person being tested gets up in front of their entire group and demonstrates a procedure. The person testing gives you vital pieces of information that you absolutely need, but only if you're on the ball enough to know exactly what to ask for or do. You always have some sort of mannequin and all the equipment necessary for the specific procedure. Usually, to make it interesting, they throw in stuff you don't need just to see if you're paying attention. My problem is that I don't like performing for an audience and I have been known to freeze up even when I know the material front and back. Give me a written test any day. To say that this frustrates me is a whopper of an understatement.

So today I have not one but three of the little check-off darlings, and for the first time in my memory, we can't retest if we jack something up. You would have to retake the entire two day class. And one of the check-offs has something like fifty things you have to do without notes in an exact sequence. Then once we're in the proper calm state of mind from the check-offs, we have a fifty question multiple choice test with the same pass it or repeat the class threat. It's like nursing school or the state boards all over again. And it wasn't that much fun the first time around.

Think good thoughts and send them my way. I can't believe I'm missing soccer games for THIS.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Wave of Silliness

It's been a long week. The Film Geek has been out of town, I've been working and the kids have continued doing all their kid things. It's been one long juggling act and this circus performer is whipped. Once again, thanks to (and for) the friends who bail you out when you most need it. (And even feed you cinnamon cake). In times of stress, my mind always goes to that one perfect place where I never feel anything less than total peace. my my fantasy...completely submerging in the incomparable bliss that is salt water. Just looking at this picture literally lowers my blood pressure. The butt thing is a little weird, however.

It's not really my butt, you know.This is Butt Lite, compared to mine.

A little giddy insanity isn't such a a bad way to start the weekend. And maybe I've even left you with a mental image that you'd give quite a lot to get rid of?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Thursday Three

I humbly submit my list of the BEST CHICK FLICKS EVER MADE (as interpreted by me) This was not at all easy to narrow down, as the chick flick category happens to be very dear to my heart. When the world gets to be too much for me, I take to my bed with a chick flick and it rarely fails to perk me up. Or calm me down. Whatever. In the interest of provoking arguments amongst the faithful, I’ll give it my best shot to pick just three...

#1) Working Girl – Really, it’s almost impossible to top this one. It’s funny, has a terrific cast, and features all those marvelous eighties fashions. The most important element in a chick flick is that magical payoff moment and the one here will bring tears to your eyes. At least it always does to mine. All this and both Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin pre voice mail follies. What’s not to like?

#2) Dirty Dancing – Why mess with a classic? It amazes me to this day how many adult women I know who can quote HUGE chunks of this movie off the top of their heads. Taken apart piece by piece, I honestly can’t tell you why this film is the chick magnet that it is, but it truly has no peer. Set in a “simpler” (ha) time and the Catskills to boot. And who doesn’t want Johnny to teach them to dance, even if he can’t act for beans. NOBODY puts Baby in a corner, do you hear me? Don’t even try. You heard it here first.

Oh god this is so hard to pick just three…

#3) Notting Hill – Two words. Hugh Grant. This has been in heavy rotation at my house the last couple of years, and it proves my theory that if Hugh Grant can’t make it better it simply isn’t fixable. This chick flick has some terrific elements. It is drop dead hilarious, has some British guy with floppy hair whose name I can’t recall, and delivers a pretty wonderful payoff moment to boot. I’m all over anything set in England anyway, so this one has a lot going for it.

Okay, people, I’m throwing down a challenge. I want your lists! Put them in comments so everyone can see them. Come ON!! Be brave, little buckaroos!!

P.S. Happy one month birthday to this blog!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An Evil Plot Uncovered

My husband met me as I was getting up yesterday with a grim look on his face. “You have to come and check something out on the computer,” he said. “You aren’t going to like this at all.” Being the worrywart I am I immediately started thinking the worst. Earthquake in LA? My ninth graders report card? Dukes of Hazzard 2? I knew it was something to be reckoned with because he was herding me to the computer instead of the coffee pot, which is simply not done in our house. People standing between me and the coffee pot first thing in the morning have been known to meet unpleasant fates. After all these years, he certainly knows better. I sat down and he then brought me a cup of coffee. With just the right amount of milk and everything. I braced myself. This wasn’t going to be good.

Like the intelligent man he is, he sent me the link and got the heck out of Dodge to let me open it on my own. As I opened it, shock gave way to outright disbelief and then lead to white hot fury the more I read. It’s astounding the lengths some people will go to ruin other people’s lives. Here’s what he sent me –

A Swedish hospital wants to ban its staff from wearing Crocs plastic
clogs, saying they generate static electricity that can knock out medical

Blekinge hospital in southern Sweden suspects the slip-on shoes, made
by US firm Crocs Inc, are to blame for at least three incidents in which
respirators and other machines malfunctioned. The mishaps caused no

Hospital spokesman Bjorn Lofqvist said staff wearing the clogs could
turn into "a cloud of lighting" because of the static electricity.

He said there were similar problems with other shoes not designed for
hospital use, but the popularity of the Crocs had raised the issue to a
new level.

"It's been a problem for many years, but now there are so many people
that have them," he said, adding that officials were discussing whether
the shoes should be banned throughout the hospital or just in certain

A spokeswoman for Pforce AB, the Forsberg-controlled company that
imports Crocs to Sweden, said the company was performing tests on the shoes.

"We take this very seriously," she said, adding that the shoes were
very useful for hospital staff. "They are good to work in and have a shock
absorption that really helps people who do strenuous work

It’s me again. Are they out of their ever-loving minds? How could anyone ever expect me (and millions like me) to go to work in ANYTHING else? This is not a fashion statement, people. This is a way of life. This is the only footwear product in existence that allows you to run your butt off for twelve hour shifts without making your FEET hurt. Yes, they’re ugly. Yes, they’re everywhere. Yes, I’ve bought $100 pairs of tennis shoes hoping they would work. (They didn’t). But if my house was on fire and all the living things were safely out, my battered black Crocs would be one of the first things I would grab. They are like walking on air. I could write a poem about my Crocs. You can’t imagine how much all medical people think about their feet. Respirator Schmesperator. I worked in an ICU where it sometimes seemed every patient was on a vent and I never exploded. Not once. I’ve got your “cloud of lightning” right here, buddy.

We’ll see where this insanity leads, but I guarantee you any hospital that tries this here is going to have a big ol’ fight on their hands. Only a fool would take on a bunch of tired nurses with aching feet.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Q & A

There are some questions I’ve been asked a few times in the last couple of weeks. Why exactly am I doing this blog and what exactly am I hoping to get out of it? Am I finding it rewarding for the amount of work I’m putting into it or am I discouraged by the response? Do I plan to keep it up and for how long? Fair questions, all of them, and I wish I had a good answer. Luckily for me, I’ve never let lack of an answer keep me from talking, so…

It would be easy to say something snarky, but I don’t really want to. It’s tempting to say that this is the only way my husband “listens” to me, but I won’t. (Even if it is true). I could claim that it beats cleaning the bathroom on my day off, but I won’t. (Even if it is true). I could even say it’s for the sheer pleasure of being able to express an entire thought without being interrupted, but I won’t. (Even if it is really true).

It’s almost easier to list the reasons I’m NOT doing this for. I don’t have any illusions about writing the Great American Novel or getting any kind of recognition for “my work”. I don’t imagine I’m going to change anyone’s life for the better. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know me would be interested in what I have to say. I’m not in this to change the world.

Now that I’ve gone through all the reasons I’m not doing it, what is my answer? Well, to start with, I’m having fun with this blog. I really had forgotten the sheer pleasure of putting words on paper, and that thrill when something actually comes together the way you want it to. There’s also an element of truth in the “therapy theory”, that I use this forum as my own personal diary to keep from going totally nuts. Writing is a lot cheaper than Prozac. You could also look at the original reason I started doing this, which was to feel more in touch with the people I love and miss. On that level it has been a rousing success, and I’m so grateful for the response I’ve gotten.

Here’s an analogy for this blog. It’s like the mail. (Alright, go on and scratch your head wondering what the flip I’m talking about. As my grandmother would say, I’m fixin’ to tell you). Growing up, my stepfather was a musician, and the check was perpetually in the mail. When the mail got delivered, very often there was something good in it and people were happy. In all of our own freelance years, the mail was often a source of happy things too (like income). The Film Geek and I still race each other to get to the mail first. Yes, I know the mail also brings things from the IRS and AmEx, but there’s always the possibility of something fun. It’s like a big wrapped box, every day, just brimming with potential.

And that’s how I feel about Rotten Correspondent. When I check and see who has been on the site, it’s always a thrill for me. When I look back at a post and see that someone has actually commented, it makes my day. I can’t tell you how much I love comments. Sometimes when there’s no response I do feel a little like I’m writing for myself, but that’s okay. In a lot of ways I am writing for myself. But when I get emails and calls based on something I’ve written, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I like warm and fuzzy inside. It’s like hot chocolate for the soul.

I’ve forgotten the original question. Did I answer it?

Monday, April 23, 2007


I am here to tell you that the people who go on the Jerry Springer show are real. They are not actors. Just because they are throwing punches and marrying first cousins doesn’t mean this mess is scripted. Just because it all seems so over the top as to be laughable doesn’t mean it isn’t really happening. What makes me so sure of my position? Simple. Twelve hours in our ER yesterday = the Springer audience is alive and encroaching on our reality. I can only hope it’s our reality and we aren’t really living in theirs.

All of us on days started off on a high note since the snake incident had happened on night shift. Some yahoo had gotten bitten by a snake. In the middle of the night, god knows how. He came in to get his hand looked at and to make sure it wasn’t a poisonous snake. So when the ER doc asked him to describe the snake, the man reached into his bag, pulled out a MOVING pillowcase and said “hell, I don’t know what kind of snake it is. You look at it”. Seems he had caught the snake, put it into a pillowcase, whacked it against the side of his truck to stun it and come on in. That was one ticked off rat snake and one very fast moving ER doc. Poor doc is from New York City. Never even knew what hit her.

The layout of our unit is a big square with rooms and patient bays all along the perimeter. The middle of the square is a big work station where all the nurses and docs hang out and try to get something productive done. You need to try to visualize this as a playing board to fully get the impact of yesterday. Ready? Big square, rooms along the edges, work station in the middle. Let’s start our day, shall we?

Enter patient #1 who is escorted in by our fine men in blue and handcuffed to a stretcher. Massive alcohol ingestion + paranoid schizophrenia + LSD = one cop permanently placed outside of this patients door. Take your little plastic cop marker out of your game kit and place outside room. Depending on this patient’s minute by minute status occasionally move all your cop markers to his room. Every now and then a nurse with a loaded hypodermic would go into the room flanked by two cops running interference and attempt to land a sedative shot somewhere helpful. Eventually he had “improved” to the point where he paced the room incessantly, dragging the bed he was handcuffed to with him and shouting all the while.

Patient #2 also came in with a wave of blue uniforms. Blood alcohol level off the charts at ten in the morning and decided it would be a beautiful day for a bicycle ride. Maybe he ran out of supplies, who knows. Unhelmeted (of course) head + concrete curb = big old head lac bleeding everywhere and a belligerent patient who kept telling us his name was F*!$ You. Take another one of your cop markers and place outside his door.

Patients #3 and 4 came in together, also escorted by…Guess who? Some kind of family argument turned physical and this brother and sister act found themselves injured and arrested. They had to be separated, so place them at opposite corners of the square and put a little cop marker next to each of them. You aren’t running out of cop markers are you?

Patient #5 was a young, heavily tattooed woman with abdominal pain, who actually came in without a police escort. She was pretty anxious, but very cooperative. There were family members who came in later, a young man and the patient’s small baby. The baby pooped his diaper and the guy never thought to change it, so now we have the sense of smell involvement as well. Even after the guy and the baby left, the aroma lingered. Imagine that whole corner with a stink bomb marker in it.

Patient #6 was another young woman who had been sick for a month and was just miserable. She also had family with her, a young woman and that woman’s baby. The patient was very anxious about a domestic situation at home and needed to get out of the hospital as soon as possible to lock her boyfriend out of the house. I took this woman’s history. Bipolar, Anxiety Disorder, Explosive Anger Disorder. I asked what meds she was taking for these and she said none, because they don’t work. I took a big step back from the bed and kept writing. She actually was very easy to deal with, except for the fact that her whole body never stopped shaking. Her friend left the room for a minute and when she came back she was really upset about something I couldn’t follow, but it seemed to have something to do with her baby. The patient was discharged and got ready to leave, carrying on a heated conversation with her friend the entire time.

They left the room and walked down the cop lined hall toward the door. I was right behind them and it looked like they were having trouble finding the exit door, because the friend opened the door to the stink bomb room instead. I thought it was an accident until the friend started yelling at the tattooed woman, and come to find out that the friend’s baby’s father is the tattooed woman’s fiancé who had been visiting with her own baby by another man. Are you following this? It came to blows as all the cops left their respective posts and rushed to break it up. Move all your cop markers at high speed to the stink bomb room. I give the tattooed woman props for throwing a great punch while hindered by an IV and a bag of fluids. On the other hand, the friend was holding her baby while she swung with the other fist, so maybe it was a fair fight. Those aren’t skills you run into every day, you know what I mean?

The day wasn’t even over yet, but you get the gist. We kept looking for the hidden cameras that would prove we were being Punked or something, but we never found them. It would have been a great day for a crime spree, since we had at least half the force with us for the better part of the day.

I’m still glad we missed the snake. They’ve never had a snake on Springer, have they?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

sunday morning

I'm having a hard time figuring out what to write about today and I'll tell you why. To start with, I got my schedule confused. For some reason I've been working a run of Sundays, which in itself is unusual.Today I'm working, but it's a shift I picked up, not my regular shift. Which means that instead of going in at ten a.m. I'm going in at seven a.m. That three hours makes a difference when you're trying to get something readable written. Normally I would have just done something ahead of time , but we're having soccer scheduling issues due to all the weather rescheduling and are still, after three hours of phone calls yesterday, not sure if there are or aren't games today. Saturday went by way too fast for me.

It's not like I don't have stuff to write about, either. I could go into great detail about my morning routine on these early work mornings. A routine that I honed in two years of getting up at zero dark thirty. I can get dressed, put my make up on and be in my car in ten minutes flat. If I forgot to take my shower the night before, add on two minutes. I'm quite proud of this routine, actually, because you really have to be pretty organized to be that lazy. Early morning and I go together like devilled eggs and hot fudge sauce, so I'm thrilled to feel that one way or another I've gotten the upper hand. There is almost no thrill around that can beat slapping the snooze alarm into submission. I could go on for hours about the pleasure I'm getting from the process of writing again, and how much sheer fun I'm having doing this blog. I could just do a Seinfeld like riff on absolutely nothing at all.

Or I could look at the clock and say OH $&*_)% look what time it is. Gotta go!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Game Day

FINALLY! After two weeks of weather they played.
And not really so worth the wait either. Gumby was up first in a 9:00 game and they got handed their shorts, 6-3. Then Surfer Dude played at 10:45 and they lost by one goal, 3-2. Always a pleasure to see siblings at their best. Gumby was rooting for the other team because he couldn’t stand the thought that his brother could actually win when he himself had lost. Because we had to be there half an hour early for the first game, we’ve just spent three and a half hours on a very windswept field. We’re all covered in grit, starving and cranky. The Film Geek is out of town and we’re off to eat Chinese. Whee…!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Compartment Syndrome

My response to really horrendous events is to shut down, the classic shock response. It’s not a reaction I’m particularly proud of, but it’s like my brain absolutely can’t compute whatever it is has just happened and I simply block it out as best I can. This head in the sand approach isn’t new to me, nor is it something I have to work at. It just is. This is especially true for things like the Virginia Tech shootings and 9/11, where it is so easy to feel that there is nothing you personally could do anyway. Part of it is the control element, in that if you feel you have any control, real or perceived, over a situation, it makes it easier to grasp. I don’t take anything that happens to my family in this manner, by the way. I anguish and obsess and carry on shamelessly. It’s more evident in the events that impact me strongly, just not personally.

When you consider the kinds of nursing I’ve done it makes sense, really. On a daily basis I see massive trauma, unspeakable acts against other human beings, families whose lives really are irrevocably changed in that clichéd blink of an eye. I have been the one frantically giving chest compressions to a teenager all of us in the room knew was already dead while his mother made deals with god just outside the door. I’ve watched sons look at their mother on a ventilator and in a coma and listened as they told me that their last conversation with her had been an argument over their behavior. I’ve taken care of people who have had “routine” surgery go horribly wrong. I’ve finally come to realize that control really is an illusion, as much as I hate to admit it. Blocking these things out is sometimes the only control I have. Because lets face it, if I allowed myself to remember it all, I’d never let my children leave the house. They wouldn’t be alone. I’d never leave either.

And then all of a sudden worlds collide. Yesterday morning someone called in a series of bomb threats to our school district and all the schools went on lockdown status. All the schools were already in session. I was at work and found out about it when we got an alert that we were on a special protocol to handle potential mass casualties. Potential. Mass. Casualties. There are fifteen elementary, four junior high and two senior high schools in our district, in addition to at least three private schools. I have kids at two of those schools. The district was not cancelling class but parents were able to pick up their kids if they chose to. The private schools closed. The police were frantically tracking leads. It was pretty nerve wracking.

Then the kids started to freak out. Upper grade kids were sneaking into the bathrooms and making cell phone calls begging their parents to pick them up. All across town, people left their jobs to get their kids. At the grade school level with each picked up kid, the ones left got more and more anxious. We ended up getting all of our kids, based on phone calls from two of them wanting to come home. The Film Geek had to cancel his classes for the day to stay home with them. By the time the police had taken someone into custody and given the all clear, at least a third of the students district wide had been pulled out, not counting the schools that had closed. It had been a very long day all around.

Today, however, is a new day and all of my kids are back in school. I’m not happy about it, but neither do I have my head in the sand. The reality that is our society hit a little too close to home yesterday, and I don’t think I’ll be blocking it out any time soon. No matter how hard I try.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Thursday Three

I love making lists. It’s one of my favorite things to do with my anal little obsessed self. There’s something so satisfying about drawing a line through anything that you’ve actually managed to accomplish. I even cheat and put a task on each list that I’ve already done so I can cross it off immediately. Make list – check. Cross off make list – check. See how efficient I can be when the mood strikes?

I also love reading lists. Doesn’t matter what kind of list it is, I’ll read it. If Bobbie Jo in Tulsa made a list of her five favorite kinds of Corvair parts I’d at least glance at it. You know those email forwards where you have to answer all kinds of weird questions like when is the last time you ate ketchup? Love them! And in my broad definition of “lists” I include things like that. I’m aware that this is probably more than you want to know about my (numerous) idiosyncrasies, but there you are. I’m a list lovin’ fool.

So in light of this I thought I’d try a new Thursday tradition – The Thursday Three. (Say that three times fast, I dare you). The Thursday Three will be some odd little list of things that no one but me really cares about, but will hopefully at least be amusing. At the bare minimum you’ll all have a view of the inner workings of my mind that will (again hopefully) not frighten the wits out of you. Or make you run to lock your doors. Or both.

Are we ready? Let’s go…

Three impossible things I wish I could do:
(bearing in mind that I am a Gemini and this list will probably change in five minutes)

1. Live as a member of the leisure class in 1920’s England. Real Upstairs Downstairs kind of stuff, but I insist on being the second floor. I want to be Lady something or other and have tea delivered to me in bed when I ring a bell. I want to be able to tell cook to tell the second under-gardener that I would like to have some fresh herbs picked from the kitchen garden for my luncheon. I want to send the children back to the nursery when they misbehave and let the governess deal with them. Can’t you almost smell the kippers?

2. Win Wimbledon in straight sets. Throw my racket in the air and then collapse on the ground weeping. And since this is my fantasy, Patrick Rafter would be the men’s winner and we’d do the ceremonial first dance at the victory ball. Have you SEEN Patrick Rafter?

3. Be a student at Hogwarts. No explanation needed.

In looking these over does anyone else notice the strong British bent? What’s THAT about? Feel free to add your own impossible wish in comments. It would be very cool to hear what other people think. If anyone has a subject idea for a list, hit me with it. Better yet, send me a list.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

do not adjust your color

It's Crazy Hair Day on the plains! Don't ask me why they wanted to do this. I just live here.

Gumby goes green. You wouldn't believe how much gel it took to make his hair look that way, but he declared it "perfect".

It's kind of hard to see the blue in Surfer Dude's hair, but it's there. Doesn't this look exactly like a mug shot?

Some random ramblings on the day...

Thanks to everyone who called or emailed about my primal scream of a post yesterday. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. You're the best! Things here today are still terrific. Here's hoping it stays that way.

I went to my Weight Watchers meeting this morning and am finally back on the losing side of the scale. I think my will power had gone walkabout the last few weeks, let me tell you. Almost more than the weight, I'm thrilled that my motivation is back. Gotta fit into that thong bikini somehow. (There's a visual NO one needs!)
Well, I'm off to volunteer in Gumby's classroom and then have lunch with him. So...that's all folks!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

a clean slate?

My household is solidly in the Honeymoon phase today. Everything is good and calm and peaceful, and I can once again feel okay about my family and how we interact with each other. People are being kind and considerate and loving all around. There is absolutely no tension in the air except for that nasty little tax thing, and even that’s finished. (Confession – our taxes always get done at the last minute. Wait, it’s even worse. Last night when the Film Geek came home from the closed post office with unstamped envelopes still in hand, I almost felt a letdown. What do you mean they aren’t due until tomorrow? You mean we’re actually early? How can that be? It comes from all those freelance years when we always owed big and put off the bad news as long as possible. Some habits are hard to break, but it’s probably about time we tried. Maybe next year).

For anyone familiar with the Domestic Abuse cycle, the Honeymoon phase is what keeps the victim in the relationship. It’s the time when the abuser goes out of their way to be as loving and conciliatory as possible, turning on the charm full force. Their remorse at whatever they have done is palpable. The victim, who desperately wants (and needs) to believe that everything will be okay now, goes along with this and is convinced that the abuse will never happen again. It’s a coping mechanism, sure, but in their own way, they each believe that things can change. The Honeymoon phase turns into the Normal phase, where things are still good, just not fabulous. This moves into the Rising Tension phase where the abuser starts getting more pent up and the victim begins to walk on eggshells. Inevitably this leads to the Explosion phase and then the whole process starts again.

Before we go any farther, let me assure you that I don’t know any of this from personal matrimonial experience. My husband and I have an understanding that if he ever feels the need to hit me he needs to knock me out with the first blow, because as soon as I get up I will a) call the police, b) have his sorry ass hauled off to jail and c) file for divorce quicker than a celebrity rehab stint. When I was younger I said that I would have killed him, but prison looks less appealing as I get to like comfort more. I don’t have the psychological make-up to be battered, thank god. I’m also extremely lucky to know that I always have family and friends solidly backing me up.

No, my husband has nothing to do with our Honeymoon phase. It’s my teenager. My firstborn son, the reason I changed my entire life, the child I would willingly take a bullet for, the kid I adore beyond any possible reason. My angry, sullen, stubborn, hormonally driven, quite possibly clinically depressed teenager. My brilliant, loving, compassionate, funny teenager. I know how bad it looks to paint him as “the abuser”, but for years we’ve all understood that he is the emotional barometer of our family. When he’s up, we’re up, when he’s down – look out. We all tiptoe around on eggshells, trying not to set him off. He explodes and we start again. We’ve done counseling and learned techniques to minimize this effect, especially on his younger brothers. He’s just started on a medication that appears to be helping. But we’re still on the roller coaster, and the ride doesn’t appear to be over just yet.

We had a blow-up Saturday that was pretty bad. We can spare the details, but it was emotionally ugly. All the usual elements were present. Accusations on all sides of not listening, understanding or caring, feelings of frustration and failure, a volcanic teenage explosion, a father/son head to head showdown that left me week in the knees, younger children scattering like flies, oh yeah, we covered it all. Same show, same script, different day. This has been going on for years in one form or another.

But then I veered from the script. Usually I get very measured and then very coldly angry. But this time I just snapped. Plain and simple, out of control, hysterical snapped. Today I was the abuser. I said the most heinous thing a mother can say to her child. I told him I hated him. Told him I hated what he was doing to our family. He looked absolutely stunned and then said if I hated him he hated me too. I’ve done some reprehensible things in my life, but this was the absolute worst. When my brain fully realized what my mouth had said, I just lost it. Truly, I don’t remember a time in my life where I have cried that hard for that long and with that much despair. It was frightening. I honestly didn’t know if I could stop. I didn’t know if I even wanted to. I didn’t know if I deserved to.

And for some reason, it got my child’s attention, maybe because it’s all so out of character. The kid forgot to be furious and actually comforted me. Put his arms around me and told me it would all be okay. And then allowed him and me to talk about what happened in a reasonable way. He apologized for his part in what happened. I don’t remember the last time I got an apology from him. I said I was sorry too, sorry for anything I had done to hurt him in his entire life, but sorrier than I could say for those appalling words that flew out of my mouth. I assured him that nothing could be further from the truth. I asked him if he could even imagine how desperate and backed into a corner I must have felt to have said that to him. I asked him if he could forgive me. We talked for a really long time, and for the first time in ages, I felt like maybe we had had some kind of a breakthrough. For the first time in a long time I feel a lack of pent up angst in all of us. It was as if the slate had been wiped clean.

I’m hoping against all hope that this will be our last Honeymoon phase and that we’ll never again get to the Explosion point. I don’t think any of us could take it. I know for a fact that I couldn’t. I’m hoping that in some cataclysmic way we’ve broken our cycle and we can move forward into being the kind of family we all deserve. I think we’ve earned it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

change is good?

I'm messing around with my layout, as you can probably see. Any thoughts?

thank god it's Monday

two cases of food poisoning
a motorcycle accident
a probable miscarriage
rule out massive heart attack (MI)
a gangrenous foot
man vs. 2x4
a pelvic exam
shortness of breath
small bowel obstruction
a dislocated shoulder
a migraine headache (theirs, not mine)
an emergency transport to the nearest trauma center (my old stomping grounds)
a conscious sedation procedure
runner having a seizure

This was my day yesterday. Every room was full for twelve solid hours and security had to set extra chairs up in the halls to handle the waiting room crowd. It was my first day off orientation, so I was "on my own", so to speak. Thank god for helpful coworkers and supportive charge nurses and considerate doctors who aren't surgeons. This is how surreal my day was - I was actually in a fight on the same side as a surgeon.

I may have to revise my opinion about some surgeons, but I believe I'll wait until I'm thinking clearly. It may be a while.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Eighth Dwarf

hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go, to clean out dog bites and confiscate knives, hi ho hi ho...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday Update

I don't know why that last post is dated yesterday, when I did it this morning, but c'est la vie. It is now 10:30 and the MS walk is over. We ended up doing the three mile route and Surfer Dude was the first place finisher. He sprinted the last few blocks in a dead heat with a sixth grader and barely edged her out. He won a very spiffy camp chair and is pretty sure he's da man. He's on the sofa behind me complaining bitterly about how his legs hurt, but he's still clutching the camp chair. Gumby finished fourth, doing a large percentage of the walk with a donut in one hand and a bag of fritos in the other. There were rest stops along the way to replenish. Every now and then, for variety, he would switch hands. Sasquatch finished, slowed down considerably by the fight he picked with me. I guess all that arm flailing and jumping to conclusions took it out of him.
I felt pretty good at the end (pounding teenage headache notwithstanding) and was more relieved than I can say that the weather cooperated. The day is sunny and cool, with not a shred of snow. It did spit slush all night last night and it rained furiously, but no snow. Happy happy joy joy!

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kid's Top Chef...the results

The challenge was to make a pizza. Any kind of pizza was acceptable. Each kid got five dollars to spend and we allowed them fifteen minutes in the supermarket. Then we would come back to our house to put their creations together. We didn’t put a time limit on that, since we knew we’d have to juggle cooking times and oven space. There ended up being nine kids, since my kids had a friend came over specifically to compete. His parents own a restaurant, so he came to show the other kids how it’s done. On your mark, get set, go!

I live an easy walk to the market, which is a Dillon’s. I also live very close to a retirement community. Taking this logic one step further, the retirees also live very close to Dillon’s. Still with me? In hindsight, it was a mistake to take nine kids to Dillon’s, stand them by the door and, looking at our watches, say “You have fifteen minutes. GO!!” Startled old people scattered like flies as crazed wannabe chefs raced by them on a mission.

The first problem they all ran into was that pizza crusts are expensive and would take a big chunk of their budget. This was also when they started getting creative with it. Some went with a biscuit crust, one bought a boxed mix and made his own and a couple decided on dessert pizza and bought rolls of cookie dough. Not one of them went with a Boboli, even though they’re two to a pack, and we encouraged everyone to share what they could, like cheese, pepperoni and crusts. We had also raided my cabinets and pulled out things like pineapple, barbeque sauce, black olives and chopped jalapenos that could be used by anyone who wanted them. When they were finished shopping we headed back home. Only one of them had gone over budget, but he sold someone a handful of pepperoni and we called it even.

Once we came back they all got to work quickly on their projects and chaos reigned in my kitchen. Everyone was competing independently except for the two youngest girls who had opted to work as a team. Every counter was full, the kitchen table was a hive of activity and the island was covered with pizzas ready to go into the oven. The three moms were giving advice and help when absolutely necessary, but mostly we were trying to stay out of their way.

There were three junior high boys in our group and they were all in varying degrees of protest, feeling they were far too mature to participate. The junior high school girl, on the other hand, was game from the beginning. Two of the boys (not mine) got into it and really made an effort. Sasquatch, on the other hand, was just determined to be a pill. I know that’s hard to believe. He bought a frozen microwavable pizza (words that should never be used in the same sentence) and a bunch of Slim Jims. He nuked the pizza, then chopped up the Slim Jims and threw them on top. Dinner is served. If you’re a fifteen year old gorilla with no taste buds that is.

When the pizzas came out of the oven (which took a while, believe me) we assembled our judges, who were the three moms and the Film Geek. He hadn’t been there for the whole thing, so he was good for an impartial opinion. They would be judged in four categories – taste, presentation, use of ingredients and creativity. Let the judging begin…

The youngest girls made a white pizza, with a biscuit crust, butter and mozzarella cheese. The junior high girl did a dessert pizza, with a chocolate chip cookie base topped with chocolate syrup and M&Ms. The visiting friend created a multi-cultured pizza, with BBQ sauce, pineapple, pepperoni and jalapenos on a boxed crust mix. The red headed step child was the only one to actually cook a topping. He made a spiced ground beef mixture to go on his biscuit crust. The other junior high boy did a cheese and black olive pizza on a biscuit base.

Now we come to my own aspiring chefs. Sasquatch you already know about. His pizza continued to deteriorate before the judging, because a lot of the kids kept sneaking pieces of the Slim Jims off the top. His score wasn’t helped by the fact that not one of the discerning judges would even taste his pizza. Not one single bite. Never before have I been so happy to have vegetarianism as an excuse. Gumby made a dessert pizza on a sugar cookie base and topped it with fresh fruit, a drizzle of yogurt and crushed Butterfingers and Nestle Crunch bars. Surfer Dude used a biscuit base and added pepperoni and black olives. His attempt to do something different was to add pineapple juice to the biscuits. I had a bad moment when I saw his crust literally floating in juice, and convinced him that maybe that wasn’t the best idea after all. He grabbed the turkey baster and sucked the juice out of the pan, but there was still enough left to fill the kitchen with smoke when it started burning off in the oven. You’ll be happy to know that not one of my brand new smoke detectors went off. Yes, I said brand new.

And the winner is…a tie between Gumby and the visiting friend, who each got perfect scores. The lowest score would be Sasquatch, with an amazing 0/20 points. Surfer Dude had a very respectable 17.5 score. We may have scored the visiting friend higher than we should have out of politeness, because when his dad came to pick him up he had a piece of the pizza and boy, you should’ve seen his face. He could barely swallow that bad boy. And while I’m at it, don’t waste any time feeling sorry for Sasquatch, because he was absolutely reveling in his lack of effort. He positively beamed when his score was announced. Makes me so proud…I have a little tear in my eye.

Stay tuned for details of Kid’s Top Chef 2, now in the planning stages. This time we’ll warn the retirees.

winter, part 12

It's just about noon and I'm still in my bathrobe. I'm wrapped up in a fleece blanket and Gwen Stefani is singing The Sweet Escape as loud as the volume will go. I'm the only one home except for three snoring dogs and I'm chair dancing in my robe. Soccer has been officially cancelled for tomorrow and the slate grey sky is beginning to spit ice chunks onto the rain soaked ground.

I'm ready. Bring it on...

Kid's Top Chef

There are a few people in my house, yours truly included, who are Bravo reality show junkies. It all started with Project Runway, which, if you haven’t seen it, is an amazing show. It’s more about the creative process than scripted reality sound bites, although I will admit that they edit the bejeezus out of it. When PR ended we sort of segued into Top Chef, mostly out of curiosity, but also because we missed the ongoing conversations about who did go home and who should have gone home and who was plain old brilliant and who was smoking crack that week. And while Top Chef isn’t Project Runway, it did make us keep watching. It’s also about the creative process, just in the kitchen instead of on a sewing machine.

One week an odd thing happened. Surfer Dude picked up one of my cooking magazines and asked if he could plan a meal for the family. Are you kidding me? Be my guest. So he did. This was his menu – Meatless Chili Mac (a macaroni and bean stovetop dish), Italian green beans and a dessert that I have to admit I can’t remember, but I think was a cinnamon pumpkin cake. We made that cake a lot last fall. He made a shopping list for me and then, with my help, prepared the entire meal himself. It was fabulous, everyone heaped praise on his sweet little head and all of a sudden we had a chef in the making living in our very own house. Life was about to get interesting.

Over Spring Break the idea came up to do a Kid’s Top Chef. For those unfamiliar with the show the contestants are given a specific challenge, a budget and a time limit to come up with a finished dish. Then they are judged on taste, creativity and presentation. One person wins and one person goes home. The last person standing at the end of the season is the Top Chef. Two of my friends, Laurie and Stacey, thought it would be fun to get our combined eight kids together and do a little competition of our own. Surfer Dude and Gumby were beside themselves at the idea, so the planning began.

Come back tomorrow and see what happened…

Thursday, April 12, 2007

California Dreaming

This is what my lilacs looked like two weeks ago.

This is what my lilacs look like today.

These are my hostas.

Kind of looks like overcooked spinach, doesn't it? You should have seen them two weeks ago - they were gorgeous. But since we have spent the better part of a week in a "hard frost", my budding garden has taken a hard hit. I would post a picture of my tulips, but then I'd have to cry.

As I write this we are being told to prepare for three to five inches of snow tomorrow night. This will follow the thunderstorms and high winds they're predicting tomorrow afternoon. The Film Geek was supposed to be away this weekend on a shoot. The plan was for him to be something like fifty feet up in a crane shooting a planned prairie fire. On Friday the 13th. This sounded suspiciously like a human lightning magnet to him and he insisted on postponing until the weather got better. Luckily they agreed. We have two soccer games and a six mile charity MS walk planned this weekend. The soccer they'll have to cancel, but we're committed to the walk, and I can't imagine they'll cancel it. And as much as I'd like to bail out, I'd feel pretty bad, since my friend who actually HAS MS will walk it no matter what.

Last fall at a garage sale this amazing woman was selling some of her plants and she had a drop dead gorgeous jasmine. You could smell it ten feet away. Now jasmine is my all time favorite scent, next to bald baby heads. It was actually kind of funny. I was with my friend who grew up in Missouri and doesn't know jasmine from orange groves. She just walked by it. Then I hear this southern voice saying "oh my god, is that JASMINE??" and of course that got my attention. To make a long story short, I duked it out with this chick from Florida over the jasmine plant, and it has sat in a sunny window by my computer all winter. I actually cried when I brought it home and my sweet husband has babied it ever since. I'm smelling it now, looking at an ominous sky outside and feeling very homesick.

Is it Spring yet?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Meet the Furry Kids, Part 2

This is Trixie, full name Trixie Belle, AKA The Diva, Bella, Trix, girly girl, golden eyed girl, Bella Boo, Your Majesty and Whiny (rhymes with stich).

Here is Isaiah, full name Isaiah Elvis Beans, AKA Izzy, Beans, the Sparkplug, StarButt and The World's Most Perfect Dog.

And let's not forget DeeDee, although it's tempting. Also known as Dumb Dog, Needy DeeDee, Destructive Dog, the Escape Artist, psycho (rhymes with stich) and the Walrus.

I can happily go on with my day since I actually won a battle with my computer and we have pictures! You are all going to regret that I've figured this out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Green Acres

I just got back from running an errand at the house my mom and step-father own out “in the country” here. I’m not sure of exactly how far from me this place is, but my guess would be around seven miles. It’s certainly no more than ten, and maybe not even seven. It’s been awhile since I’ve gone there, and today I was struck by how geographically close and yet so different two places can be.

We’re smack in the city where we are, but in the Midwest it seems like all you have to do is go a few miles and you’re in the middle of nowhere. I drove past tilled fields and grazing cows, past enormous ponds and rustic red barns. I went from city blocks of houses in neat little rows to huge expanses of land and endless white fences. It felt like a whole new world.

When I got out of my car “in the country” it was raining pretty hard. The land was green and gently rolling and a soft mist covered everything. The air smelled amazing, a combination of the rain, the soil and the indescribable fertility of spring. It was kind of hard to get back in the car and drive back home.

I keep using the quotes around “in the country” because, while it is rural where their house is, it’s by no means “country” by Midwest standards. I have two friends who each live on more than two hundred acres of land. Their lives take place in “the city”, but they go home each night to a property that goes on forever. Now that’s country.

I’m a city girl at heart, but it sure is nice going out to “the country”.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter Revisited

I have one kid hiding on the bottom shelf of his wardrobe and one kid sitting in the huge Rubbermaid container we have in the laundry room that we keep dry dog food in. The hanging up laundry is, he hopes, shielding him from casual vision. The third kid is up in his room, blithely oblivious to anything and anyone except the video game of the day. My husband is passed out cold on our bed from a sudden onset migraine and the dogs are out in the yard eating all the candy filled eggs that the kids missed. Oh yeah, one more thing. Did I mention that our company is still here and that things have deteriorated to the point where they’re barely speaking to each other? Aren’t holidays FUN?

It all started so nicely, too. When I finished my post yesterday the house was presentable, the food was done and the kids were excited about the day. My trouble started when Gumby and Surfer Dude got into a huge argument in the front yard and the Film Geek blew a gasket. He was shouting and grabbing kids by the scruff of the neck until I was pretty sure all of our neighbors were calling Child Protective Services simultaneously. The man never has realized that his voice carries like a bull walrus on a desolate iceberg. He hadn’t started out short tempered, but had become that way in the minutes preceding this episode, when he and Sasquatch got into it because everyone else in the house was helping to get ready and our charming eldest refused because “it isn’t on my chore list, and by the way, will you drive me to a sleepover tonight?” Ain’t fifteen grand?

So between the impending migraine and the urge to maim his firstborn, he just plain lost it. He made the younger two stand in the corner in the entry hall, at which point Sasquatch looked downstairs and had the idiocy to laugh. Cut to three kids standing in the corner in the entry hall and me, with steam starting to spew out my ears. I went into the hall and in my sweetest most loving voice said “Honey, can I see you in the kitchen NOW????????” The kids were just leaving their corners when our friends got here, but I was still madder than H-E double hockey sticks.

So we did the Easter egg hunt for the younger kids. The older boys volunteered to hide the eggs and we took them up on it, which proves that the Film Geek and I may have been smart once, but it wore off. We found eggs in the most god awful places you can imagine. Think floating in the gunky green water in the outdoor fire bowl. We ate our dinner, which was wonderful. We had dessert, which was a lemon cake that was to die for. The day was picking up. See what happens when you let your guard down?

Now, the piece of information you don’t have here is that our friends are in the process of trying to buy a house and that things are at the really nerve wracking stage. They had a meeting last night with the prospective sellers to pitch themselves as buyers, since there are a lot of people interested in this house. It has been pretty stressful and the two of them are at the point where not a lot of civil words are being said. At one point after my own beloved and I had snapped and clawed at each other, I said how nice it was to be so comfortable with another couple, because usually you make nice in front of other people and we obviously are well past that point. I think that’s a good thing, but can’t positively swear to it.

Okay, now I’m going to fast forward this, so hang on. First, DeeDee the bipolar dog gets out of the house and we all tear after her screaming and yelling. The Film Geek gets to her first and drags her back home. Then John and I go outside with all three of their kids and my younger two to play baseball. He didn’t want to, but Laurie had to type up the document they were taking to the house meeting and print it, since their printer is on the fritz. Their kids are roughly the ages of ours, by the way. The game is going fine until their eldest, who is also fifteen, gets into it with Gumby and Gumby storms off. We call this fifteen year old the red headed step child since he’s here so much he seems like part of the family. Well, Surfer Dude, who never sticks up for his brother, is enraged, and attacks the red headed step child. John and I break it up. He attacks again. Did I mention that the red headed step child is six feet four? It gets ugly. I restrain Surfer Dude. The red headed step child trips him. Surfer Dude spits at him. John, whose bellow matches the Film Geeks, is shouting. I’m waving my arms and wringing my hands simultaneously. The only thing we’re missing at this point is a trailer and a bubbling pot of meth.

My two kids run in the house and hide because they’re so angry. The Film Geek has disappeared, and come to find he’s just gone upstairs, company or not, to go to sleep. Laurie is on the computer saying bad words of her own. It seems that every time she types the word “will”, the computer changes it to “poop”. Now, this was a very amusing incident in our recent past, where Sasquatch thought it would be funny to change the settings on Gumby’s files. It stopped being so funny when Gumby had a paper due and the word “poop” was liberally scattered through it. You can spell check all day long, but it doesn’t help, since the computer recognizes “poop” as a word. Sasquatch had to write an apology letter to Gumby’s teacher when a couple of “poops” got missed. The teacher was no help, since she was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes. So I run screaming upstairs and demand that he fix it yet again. As I pass our bedroom door, I see the Film Geek sleeping like a *%&! baby.

He comes down and fixes it, laughing all the time. The paper gets printed and our friends leave, arguing all the way out to the car. I’m saying silent prayers that there are no “poops” in their letter to prove what a lovely family they are. Surfer Dude climbs out of the dog food and Gumby reappears. The Film Geek snores. The dogs have jelly beans stuck in their fur.

Honey, if you’re reading this today while I’m at work, this is what happened that you slept through. And when you woke up and ran through the house in a hurry to leave to go let your students into the studio…did you notice I looked a little peaked? WELL? Did it never occur to you to ask WHY?

I’m done. I don’t even have the energy to try to make this funny. I have to go and make sure that Child Protective Services hasn’t shown up to interview the neighbors.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Plans

We’re having Easter potluck with our friends John and Laurie and their family. This has been a tradition for the last several years, and we all look forward to it. They’re an enormous part of the extended family we’ve acquired here in the Midwest. Our families are sort of entwined on many different levels, and anytime we get together it is the ultimate in low stress entertaining. There is often another family involved as well, but they always have other plans on Easter, so they just have to miss out on the fun. So there!

Like I said, it’s pretty low stress. I don’t feel like the house needs to be fabulous, or my kids well behaved or anything else unrealistic. I will take the thirty seven loads of clean laundry off the computer room couch and put it somewhere out of sight, but even then I don’t think I’ll actually fold it. No, it’s awfully low key. The only stress comes from the fact that John, much as we all love him, is a professional chef, and a really good one at that. Do you know how intimidating it is to cook for a professional chef?? Never mind that the man happily and uncritically eats anything you put in front of him. Add the fact that Surfer Dude, at the ripe old age of nine, is an aspiring gourmet and a devotee of cooking magazines, and I can have a problem.

Here’s our part of the menu – baked ham, a mashed potato casserole with cheddar, cream cheese and sour cream, jalapeño and pineapple cole slaw, marinated bean salad with fresh mint and devilled eggs with wasabi. This menu evolved in an odd way. The baked ham was a no brainer, although I absolutely loathe ham. My entire family is addicted to cheesy or garlic mashed potatoes, so they’re a given. We all love spicy foods, so when the Film Geek saw a recipe in the paper this morning for the wasabi eggs, we got straight to work. My kids will eat anything with pineapple or jalapeño in it and they all adore cole slaw and bean salad, so there you go. (Our half of the) Dinner is served.

Well, the rest of the family is running around picking stuff up, and my sweet husband has been in the kitchen for hours, so I’d better go. By my count I’ve been interrupted sixty four times since I’ve sat down to write this, so I admit defeat.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Susan! May your Easter Basket always be full!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

who knew?

A crystal vase full of orange tulips.

That’s all it took – a crystal vase full of orange tulips. For weeks I’ve been so overwhelmed by the landfill we call a home that I just felt paralyzed. The less I did to change the situation the worse it got – of course. The worse it got the more paralyzed I became. Can you say vicious cycle?

But last night, in an inspired burst of self preservation, the Film Geek practically forced me to buy some tulips at the market. My mood never did get much better yesterday and the man has a strong will to live. I put them in a gorgeous vase and put them in the living room and all of a sudden the strangest thing happened. I WANTED to clean my living room. Just the sight of those flowers made me want the rest of the room to live up to them. I overcame the feeling last night and took to my bed with an Agatha Christie and a big glass of Chardonnay. No point in going crazy, after all.

Today, under the threat of death and the unconstitutional withholding of their allowance, the kids all pitched in and actually did their chores. As I write this, the aphrodisiac sound of my husband singing while he vacuums the living room fills my ears. My house isn’t what anyone would actually call clean, but it’s tidy and picked up. You can even see the floor. Surfer Dude threw in his two cents and picked a bunch of lilacs and brought them in for me. They’re in the dining room. Life is good.

That’s it for me today. I want to go and take advantage of this motivation while it lasts.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Biatch Alert

I am really cranky today and I know it. The fact that I have absolutely no good reason to be cranky makes me even crankier. As a matter of fact, I think we could probably retire the “cranky” word and move on to something a little stronger. Starts with B, rhymes with…there you go. Aren’t you all glad you’re safely in the Pacific Time Zone? If you see my name on your caller ID you might want to let the machine pick up.

In the interest of clarity, let’s look at some of the possible reasons…

First off, it’s flipping freezing here. We went from warm and gorgeous to 20 degrees and a chance of snow flurries, for the love of god. It’s April! I guess it’s lucky that I was too lazy to get anything planted or I’d really be cussing. Our local soccer organization (and I use the word very loosely) has already cancelled the games scheduled for tomorrow because of the weather forecast. Of course they’re rescheduled for the only day this month I can’t be at the games. Perfect.

Second is the fact that I’m stalled in the whole weight loss thing. Let’s look at why, shall we? Two weeks of non-stop family stuff (two birthdays and an anniversary), Spring Break, Girl Scout Cookies (bought from three different Girl Scouts), my PALS class fully stocked with bagels and cookies, it just goes on. I keep reminding myself that I’ve lost almost twenty pounds and am back in my normal jeans. You’d think I’d be happy, wouldn’t you?

I’d give a third reason but I don’t really have one. My first two are kind of lame too, I know. There are a bunch of reasons to be happy and I keep reminding myself of all of them. PALS is done, for the first time in years we got the Film Geek the PERFECT birthday present, the sun is out even if it is cold, I have the whole weekend off, all my kids are healthy, my orientation period in my new job is over next week, I can sleep in tomorrow since soccer is cancelled, and on and on.

I get a quote a day sent to my email from Real Simple magazine, which I subscribe to and love. This was yesterday’s quote that I just opened today - “The bow tensely strung is easily broken”.

Hmmmmm…….are they trying to tell me something?

Thursday, April 5, 2007


I’m on the second day of a two day Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) class, and I’m not really thrilled about it. Peds is not my favorite thing to start with, and any sentence that has the words “pediatric” and “resuscitation” in it is not a sentence I want to discuss. Much less participate in. Call me a parent, but this whole concept bothers me a lot. It got even better yesterday when almost everyone else walked in with their BOOKS (which I never got) to take the pre-course TEST (which I didn’t know about).Aargh!! Guess who had to study all night on her anniversary? It’s shaping up to be a very long day. The fact that I'm up early writing this instead of cramming isn't going to help!

On a more upbeat note – Happy Birthday to my very own Film Geek! For your special day this year you get to wrestle with kids and carpools while I take on shockable rhythms and sick kid case scenarios. Want to trade??

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Photos on the Way?

We're trying to figure out how to post photos, so bear with us. We thought we had it worked out, but apparently not. Stay tuned for cute doggy pix...

Also, I'm so happy your surgery went well, Leigh. You're right, Darvocet IS your friend!

Meet the Furry Kids

First is Trixie. We call her The Diva, because she is. We brought Trixie home in August 2000 and she’s pretty much ruled things since. Even though she’s the smallest of the three dogs, she’s definitely the alpha dog. She and the Film Geek have each other wrapped around the others fingers. Paws? I’d be jealous if she didn’t have to pee in the yard. My family always had dogs when I was growing up, but my husband always thought he was allergic. He says it still amazes him how much he loves having dogs and it’s all because of her. Trixie’s specialty is whining to go out. For some reason she thinks if I’m not the one to let her out it doesn’t count. She will walk past three people sitting right by the back door to come find me; through the dining room, through the living room, up the stairs, through the library and into my bedroom, where I’m happily dreaming of Hugh Grant. She’ll get right in my face and whine pitifully. I’ll climb out of bed and retrace her path backwards, saying bad words all the way. When I come to the people sitting right by the door I’ll say really bad words. It’s a game she never tires of, and my bad word vocabulary continues to grow. Forgive me, Hugh.

Next is Isaiah, otherwise known as The Most Perfect Dog in the Universe. Guess who he has wrapped around his paw? That would indeed be me. This is the sweetest, gentlest dog you will ever meet, although he can be pretty fierce and protective when he needs to be. He was abandoned and abused as a puppy, and he just oozes gratitude for the life he’s fallen into. We adopted him in February 2002, because we saw a Humane Society ad with his picture and he looked just like Trixie. I secretly went to the pound out of curiosity and this little butterball of a dog climbed straight into my lap. That was all, folks. I had the paperwork in process before I even came home. If you think I didn’t have a lot of explaining to do to my husband, think again. He had no idea we were in the market for a second dog. In real life he doesn’t look a thing like Trixie. It must be fate. My precious boy’s only drawback is that he is severely intestinally challenged. He has been known to clear an entire room in one fell swoop. If you ever see any of my kids jump up and run out of a room for apparently no reason, take my advice and follow them, for your own sake. One time at a party he ate an entire serving bowl of seven layer bean dip and we had to move the party outside. Even the other dogs were disgusted. Do you know how hard it is to disgust a lab?

Last is DeeDee. Her nickname is Needy DeeDee. She is our newest addition, adopted in March 2005. She is obviously the Film Geek’s payback for Isaiah. Listen to what happened. We went to the pound to drop off our recycling and the kids wanted to go in and look. We said why not? Mistake number one. Then we see this skinny black lab, with, in my husband’s immortal words “the flattest ears I’ve ever seen”. The what? He said we should read her information card on her kennel. I said why not? Mistake number two. Well, the dog and her brother had been brought in together by a family that was unable to keep them anymore. On her info card, under Special Skills, it said she was trained to a cow bell. A what? It was a toss up by that point who was looking at me more imploringly, the dog or the husband. Fast forward…we brought her home. I kind of owed him one. Mistake number three? Well, the kids adore her and she’s fabulous with them. Having fed her for two years I have a better understanding of why her first family couldn’t keep her. She has some serious abandonment issues, as in she never stops eating. She’s enormous. I’ll bet she weighs twice what she did when we brought her home. Flat ears, huge appetite.

All doggy positions in our household are now filled. No further applications are being accepted.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Meals 101

I don’t know too many moms who enjoy meal planning. I’m not even sure I know one, to tell the truth. By the time you tally up who will and won’t and can’t and shouldn’t eat what, you have a head of romaine and a gallon of mint chip ice cream on your list. And even that is problematic. My cholesterol enhanced husband isn’t supposed to eat ice cream and he, of course, loves it. He hates mint, however. If I had known this before I married him I would have rethought the whole idea. I, on the other hand, would put mint chip ice cream near the top of my “ten things to take to a desert island” list. No scoop, thanks, just a spoon. This is also problematic, since I’m back on Weight Watchers, and I don’t appear to have a stop button when it comes to mint chip ice cream. This is the only flavor the Film Geek doesn’t like and it happens to be my very favorite. So it all comes down to choices. Do I buy another flavor (which means he’ll snarf it down) or do I get what he doesn’t like (which guarantees me mint breath until the carton is licked clean)? Whose will power is strongest? For anyone reading this who asks why you need to get any ice cream at all – you don’t have kids, do you?

See, just the thought of mint chip ice cream and I’m totally off subject. I was talking about meal planning. In my house I have two vegetarians, one die hard bottomless pit carnivore, one person who is supposed to eat high protein/no refined carbs and one gourmet chef in the making, who says things like “gelee” and “deglaze”. And actually I feel pretty grateful, because I know it could be worse. I have one friend whose daughter eats nothing but breakfast cereal and spring rolls. And another whose daughter only eats pasta with butter and cheese. And another whose son won’t touch a single vegetable ever, but thinks pizza is its own food group. Like I said, it could definitely be worse.

My particular problem this week is that I didn’t plan my meals and go grocery shopping over the weekend, since I was working. That’s my routine and it works pretty well. I’m off today and certainly could go buy food, but I don’t want to. I have the whole day to myself (until 4:30 at least) and I don’t want to spend it in the dairy aisle. On the other hand, we have nothing in the house to eat. I actually had to give the kids money this morning to buy a toxic school lunch, since I couldn’t interest anyone in an applesauce and leftover mashed potato sandwich. The longer I write the more I know what I have to do, but I don’t want to. (Insert pathetic whine in that last sentence for full effect). Do I have to???(Insert again).

I’m off to the market, it seems. I might make a small pit stop in the ice cream aisle.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Trolling for Feedback

Okay, everyone. We’re at the end of the first week of this little project and I need some input. What do you think? Does it make you smile or should I stick to driving the soccer carpool? (Or cleaning the toilet?) Tell the truth…I can take it. Leave me a comment and let’s hear it! (To leave a comment just hit the comment button under the post and it will bring up the screen. Enter your comment and then hit publish comment. Voila!) I loooove comments!

Thanks to everyone who has already expressed an opinion. Thanks even more for how nice you’ve all been. But some of you are hanging back and laying low. You know who you are. Don’t make me name names!