Monday, November 29, 2004

Was That Out Loud?

If "Competitive Laundry" was an Olympic sport, I would have brought home the gold medal for the good old US of A this past weekend. Seriously, I should be on a Wheaties box, which I suppose is better than a milk carton. But I digress.

There are 4 people living in this house – FOUR. I swear I did enough laundry for the entire starting lineup of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The clothes were just as dirty, too. Who are these people? I KNOW I don't see everyone in 5 different outfits per day. This is not some Hollywood awards show for cryin' out loud. No one here makes several clothing changes each day, except the Little One before school. And those are not sanctioned by the Management, but it's easier than fighting with her. Tell me how you can wear something for less than a minute, yell "I look stupid in this!" and it is now dirty.

This weekend I was determined to get it all done, come hell or high water bills. I was like a madwoman. I couldn't stop. The more loads I did, the more determined I became. As I got closer to the bottom of the pile, my anger grew. Please tell me why there are bathing suits in the wash? It is the end of November. The pool has been closed since Labor Day. And while you are at it, please explain to me why I found folded clothes – clean ones mind you – in the pile as well. And of course there was my all-time favorite – clothes that no longer fit anyone and haven’t for months. WHY are these in the laundry pile?

Ah well, it doesn't matter. The laundry is all done for the first time in the five years we have lived here. I know, I know. You don't have to remind me that the pile will have regenerated to twice its usual size by Wednesday. But I'm over laundry for the year, so I choose to focus my attention elsewhere. The house is actually sort of least the downstairs is sort of presentable...not including my office. Ahem. What in the world will I do with all that extra time I have between my end of semester papers, finals and ferrying the kids to all their activities? At some point I need to tackle the second floor, but that's no fun. Did I mention my office?

I put a lot of thought into how I was going to spend my "spare" time in the coming days and weeks. It was then that I uttered the most horrid words in the English language, the words that everyone dreads. The phrase that sends sane adults screaming for the liquor cabinet. Those words that as soon as they escape your mouth you wish you could take back:

"I guess it’s time to get out the Christmas decorations."

Lord help me.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

FaLaLaLaLa LaLa La La

Ah yes. We went to pick the Prince & Princess of Wails up from my ex this evening. We surprised them by taking them to our local Cinema Cafe to see "Ladder 49." Man, what a great movie. A bit of cheese for sure, but well worth it. I had been wanting to see it and was so glad I did. The Little One and I bawled like babies. She has decided that we should only see movies at this place from now on. It occurred to me that with all the fun stuff we do, we had never managed to take them here for a movie. Go figure.

Of course as I said, we surprised them which basically means we wouldn't tell them where we were going. They always try to guess, but they're usually wrong. And as usual, it denigrates into some sort of fight between them. There's that sound we "missed" at Thanksgiving! We're feeling the love again.

Little One: Where are we going?
Mom: You'll see.
#1 Son: It's probably to dinner.
LO: /insert whiney voice: But I don't want to go. I'm not hungry.
#1: You are, too.
LO: /continue whiney voice: I am not. I hate that place anyway!
Mom: You don't even know where we're going!
LO: SO! I hate it. I'm not going to eat. You can't make me eat!
#1: You are too, you're just being a pain.
LO: You're the pain!
#1: Oh yeah? I'll show you pain.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noooeeeell

If there is one thing I have learned as the parent of an early teen and tween, it's that the fear of public embarrassment by your parents goes a LONG way. Tonight I made a new threat. If they fight and get out of control in public, I will simply begin singing Christmas carols. Loudly. And off key. Their eyes got HUGE and I heard pleadings of " WOULDN'T!" Oh yes sweet child, I would. "Mom PLEASE, we won't fight." We'll see.

As we were in line before the movie, it started again.

Little One: Go AWAY retard! I want to talk to Mom.
#1 Son: Whatever. If it's so private wait until we get home.
LO: I WANT to talk to her NOW!
#1: Stop being a brat!
LO: You're a brat!
#1: Don't make me hurt you. I'll bash your skull in!
LO: I don't think so zit face!


Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Most Relaxing Thanksgiving

For the first Thanksgiving in at least 7 years I did not have to get up at the crack of dawn to put a turkey in the oven. Last night was the first Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving that we weren't running around throwing things in closets - I mean cleaning the house because the family was coming for the holiday. No fighting, no crazy relatives - well OK a couple of crazy relatives, but nothing like usual. This was the most peaceful Thanksgiving day we've ever had. So why does it feel so weird?

My parents and my in-laws downsized to condominiums several years ago. Since C. and I own a large house (relative to condos anyway), we've always had the Thanksgiving feast here. We usually have anywhere from 10 to 25 people depending on whatever relatives are in town and what friends aren't leaving town. One year we had 32. We've had grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. For the last three years we had a German family of five. They were in the states as part of a military training exchange program. The dad was German special forces and because their rotation is a three year committment, they bring their families. We were their exposure to American culture and the Thanksgiving tradition (as well as other holidays). God help them. We have friends who are military and can't always go home for the holiday. They get invited here. Kids run and play all day, football gets watched, wine gets consumed and lots and LOTS of food gets made and consumed.

You would think that the challenge of "cleaning" the house, cooking for and serving a small platoon of people would be stressful for me. But it's not. In fact I actually love it (well not the cleaning house part). Books always tell you not to try a new recipe for a holiday meal, but I'm a rebel. I start reading cookbooks weeks before the actual event for new ideas. OK, well I actually read cookbooks year round, but the holidays are my chance to "go for it." Please don't get the wrong idea - the one I hoped you would get - that I slave away for the benefit of my guests. Because I don't. I have TONS of help and food contributions. For instance, I have never actually cleaned a turkey. NEVER. You don't have to when you have your Mom and MIL around. Good thing too, because when I was a kid and "helped" my mother they didn't put the innards in a bag like they do now. Something about that experience grossed me out for life. I have successfully avoided putting my hand in a bird to remove the "crap" and wash the thing for years. Not only that but everyone brings something. We've had some "interesting" contributions, and they were all wonderful. There was jumbalaya from the Marine who couldn't get leave that year, rolls made from scratch from my last "best friend" who later went crazy and left her family to move to Vegas, several traditional German dishes from the family mentioned above and many others. I loved them all.

This year was different. This year the kids went with my ex. This is the first holiday I have ever been without them...EVER. My MIL offered to have dinner at her house and I took her up on it. It would be so much easier on me, on us. And it was. My parents were sick, so they cancelled on us this morning, though my Mom still made her contribution and we went to pick it up. It ended up being just 6 of us. C & I, my in-laws and my BIL and his girlfriend. It was peaceful. No stress. I made most of my side-dishes last night to be warmed up this afternoon. No running around, no worrying about everything being hot enough, no kids fighting, no wondering if the bathroom is clean enough. This was the most relaxing Thanksgiving ever.

So why was I so sad?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


This is not the post I planned to write tonight. In fact, this is a post that I did not even want to write, but I am so livid I need to vent somewhere. Lucky you. I am SO OVER political correctness and the wussification it has caused. I am sick and tired of the public school system that coddles thugs who belong in jail. And I am infuriated by the system that ties the hands of school administrators so that they cannot act against juvenile delinquents for fear of being sued, or worse hurting little Johnny's feelings and making him feel like he's "bad."

The call came at 3:00pm this afternoon. It was #1 Son saying, "Mom, can you come up and get me? I've been hit again and I'm bleeding a little. I'm in the nurse's office." Was it not just a month ago that I received a call from #1 Son's gym teacher telling me he got attacked during a soccer game IN class? From what the school told me, my son kicked the ball and it hit another kid in the face down field. When my son apologized, the kid attacked him. The monster threw my son on the ground and jumped on him with his knees and elbows. And what, you ask, happened to that delinquent? Well see, that's a funny story. Seems it was his first day back in "mainstream" school. He was previously in a place called Madison, which is a "special" school for children with "behavior problems." His FIRST DAY back! At least he made it to the last class. His dean (they have deans in school now that handle all discipline issues - sheesh!) assured me that it would be dealt with, but steered me away from filing charges because this kid was a "special ed" kid. And WHY was he in special ed? Because he has "anger management issues." Excuse me?! What the heck is that? You would not believe the number of kids that are in an "anger management class." They have classes for this? This is what my tax dollars are paying for?!? What the heck do kids this age have to be angry about? I think for most it's a copout. But see, this kid is "special" because I guess his anger is worse than the others. SO, like a fool, I didn't press charges and let the school system handle it. He was suspended. For one day. And guess what? He lasted 3 days back in school before he punched a girl in the face. I hear she was briefly hospitalized. WHY IS THIS KID IN PUBLIC SCHOOL??? This isn't even a "bad" school. It's actually one of the best in the city. Lots of awards, accredited, etc.

Today's incident, believe it or not, was unrelated to the last fiasco. Today #1 Son was standing in his usual spot with his 3 friends waiting for their little siblings to be dismissed from the elementary school (the schools are next to each other). This gang of 5 morons were walking down the sidewalk when one of them ran up behind my kid and sucker-punched him in the face. #1 Son never saw it coming. Not only that, but my son does not know any of these kids. Apparently it was a random thing. The thugs all thought it was funny and rook off laughing and running. They didn't count on a couple of men there to pick up their kids running them down. Well, 3 of the thugs anyway. The security guards were "scrambled" from the Middle school and got there in time to pick up the three who were trying to slither away up the street. Unfortunately the "hitter" wasn't among them.

Once I got to the school, not too freaked out mind you because #1 sounded OK on the phone - he didn't want to upset me - I took one look at him and asked if the police had been called. The reply was "we were waiting for you, is that what you want to do?" I said absolutely. Luckily, the school nurse had cleaned him up quite a bit. There must have been quite a lot of blood and she was concerned about upsetting me, as was #1. That's probably a good thing. Mamma hunting down punk kid and going to jail would be bad. SO we filed a police report. Luckily there were several witnesses who wrote statements. The school is handling it on their end, and the kid will most probably be suspended. But I'm not done. Oh no...Mamma's just getting started. I have to go down tomorrow and file a "petition" against this kid. So now he will be in the court system, if he isn't already. His parents will be subpoenaed (GOOD!) and we'll all have to take the day off to testify. And I'm looking forward to it.

I did stop to worry about retaliation to #1, but it sounds like pressing charges is the only way to protect him. As one of the security guards told me, some of these kids only understand "street law." They know a petition is serious. The danger lies in NOT filing because then they are free to try to intimidate #1 Son into keeping quiet and refusing to file. It's not going to go down like that. Not this time, not this Mom.

I ask you, why is it that violent kids are allowed to stay in public schools? Why can't I send my kid to the local Middle School everyday and know he is safe? What the heck is wrong with parents these days who allow their children to get so out of control? That's right, I said parents. Because that is where the responsibility ultimately lies. I don't know what the answer is. I really don't. I do know that C. tells a story of when he was in nursery school in Bowling Green, Ohio. He was a wild child then and a teacher had to take the belt to him. The BELT! Can you imagine if that happened now? They'd arrest the teacher. Know what it did for C.? It straightened his butt right out. He's a college graduate and a contributing member of society. "Anger management classes" aren't cutting it. A slap on the wrist suspension (where they get to stay home and probably play video games) is not the answer. I say bring back the belt.

Oh I know that the belt is a fantasy in our PC, no child left behind world. Do you know what I really want? I want the school voucher program to be passed. If the PC world allows hoodlums to roam freely in our public schools, I deserve the right to send my kids to a private school. But you see, I can't exactly afford a private school on what we bring home now. If I got a tax credit I could. Why the heck should I continue to have to pay for public school when they can't protect my kid? School is no longer a matter of going to learn. If you doubt me, I dare you to spend a day - ONE day - in your local Middle School. Public school, even in the best of neighborhoods has become about survival. And it's total crap. Voucher programs get shot down by one political party here every time...EVERY TIME. I DARE any one of them to come tell me face to face that I don't deserve a tax break to send my kid where he is safe and has a chance to focus on learning. While I will still will work for adoptee rights - and I'll fight hard as usual - I think I've found a new political outlet.

So how was your day?

(Post Script: #1 Son had to go to the urgent care. I called his doctor (I'm documenting everything) and they suggested we go to the ER to get an x-ray just to be sure everything was OK. The urgent care has an x-ray machine minus the 4 hour wait. And hey, the insurance co-pay is the same. Nothing is cracked, though the doctor was surprised because my pretty boy's face is not so pretty right now. Both lips are fat and torn up. Inside is ugly. Thank God we haven't had the braces put back on yet. One is bruised (I've never seen a bruised lip before, so it's weird). He has a bruise on the side of his nose, a swollen nose and cheek (it's all cherry red, too) and it looks like he might have quite the shiner tomorrow. Don't feel too bad for him, though. This is becoming his badge of courage. The boys he's seen since the incident can't believe he didn't go down (he only staggered a bit) and no one can believe he didn't cry. All the girls are all over him "Poor #1 are you OK? Oh sweetie!" It's rather sickening. He's cool. But he'll be sore and bruised tomorrow.)

There Oughta Be A Law

I saw something the other night that really fried my tomatoes and I felt compelled to comment on it. What is it that has disturbed me so? Christmas lights. Yes, you read that right. I am not a scrooge; in fact I actually love Christmas lights and holiday displays. My family loves to ride around and look at them. I have a problem, though because they are already going up in my neighborhood. One house has been lit up for over a week now. What the heck is wrong with people?

It's bad enough that the stores shove the Christmas stuff down our little consumer throats starting in early October, but does that mean we have to play along? I have enough trouble making sure everyone gets fed, has a clean pair of underwear and actually gets dropped off and picked up when they are supposed to. How the heck do they expect me to handle premature holiday decorations? These people...these Holiday freaks are putting a lot of undue stress on me. I cannot be expected to dig out the Christmas stuff already.

I have decorations for the house for most major holidays: Easter, July 4th, Halloween and Christmas. That's a holiday for each season. I figure that's enough to get me in the Martha Stewart Happy Homeowners Club. The problem comes with my personality. You see I am the polar opposite of Martha. Oh I try. I do try, but life gets in the way. I am the Queen of Procrastination and I am forgetful. That's a dangerous combination.

After a holiday passes, I get all excited and purchase holiday stuff on sale. I then store it because hey, who wants to trip over decorations all year? Therein lies the problem. By the time I realize that it's time to get out the decorations, I've forgotten where I've stored the stuff I bought on sale the year before. Do you see where this gets ugly?

I guess it's time to put away the Easter stuff so I can get the Christmas tree up before New Years. Shoot me.

Friday, November 19, 2004

1. Write To Do List

I sat down to write my "To Do" list tonight. Instead, I am blogging about writing my "to do" list. What kind of sickness is this?

I am a list person. Sometimes I am on top of things enough that I can keep track of my "to do" list in my head. This is not one of those times. In fact, the older I get the more I need to write things down. I like to SEE the tasks I have to complete. I want it written down. I like the feeling of accomplishment when I cross something off the list. I think I am so into lists because I am also a visual person, much like men are.

Lists are essential to C. He will do ANYTHING around the house that I ask him to. Clean the bathroom? No problem. Laundry, dishes? Consider it done. The problem we have is that it must be written down (or at the very least expressed verbally) or he's lost. I like to think I am a reasonable and rational person. I begin to lose it when the wrecking ball is parked in the front yard and we're one step from being condemned; when there is not one clear path to walk on the floors in any room; when no one has clean underwear and the laundry pile is taller than my second born; and when the trash has cascaded out of the can and is now chasing me out of the kitchen anytime I attempt to go in to fix dinner. When things get like this I, understandably, get a little teensy bit irritated. I am told that I stomp around yelling "I can't STAND living like this anymore!" That's their cue that Mamma's wrath is about to descend on all of them.

It is about this time that C. will very calmly ask me what I want him to do. Apparently when I get in this agitated state, I don't give clear directions...or so they tell me. They say my eyes pop out as my head spins taking in the wreckage and I say helpful things like "What do I want you to DO?! Do SOMETHING!!" I mean damn. No one makes ME a list. The last time this little scene played out in the house C. disappeared for 2 hours. I finally stalked off looking for him and found him where? In the garage. Oh sure, he had made wonderful progress cleaning the garage. It was at this point that I thanked him for his effort and explained to him that what I had in mind was cleaning parts of the house that PEOPLE CAN ACTUALLY SEE! Anyway, episodes like this have become examples of why C. really wants a list. Fine. I make him lists. I make the kids lists. And I make my own list. I am the queen of lists. This is my lot in life. I guess I accept it. Hmmm...what was my point?

Oh yes. My "to do" list. I really need to get right on that.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I Love YOU More

For as long as I can remember the kids and I have had this running dialog. It starts with a random "I love you," followed by an "I love you" back. It progresses to "I love you more" and "No, I love you more." Finally it goes to "Well, I've loved you longer" and "No, I've loved you longer." To give you the full flavor, it goes something like this:

Kid: I love you
Me: I love YOU
(Repeat a couple of times)
Kid: I love you more
Me: No, I love YOU more
(Repeat a couple more times)
Both: I love you more, I love you more, love you, love you,loveyouloveyouloveyou
Me: I've loved you longer
Kid: No way, I've loved you longer
Me: Not possible, I've loved you since you were a little punk the size of a grain of rice in my tummy and you didn't even know who I was!

You get the picture. Over the last couple of months The Little One has presented a counter argument to my "closer." You see, she has to have the last word on everything. She now tries to end it with, "No, I remember I was with God in heaven when we picked you out." OK, cute, I'll give her that one. Today I thought of a way to counter her yet again.

Me: You picked ME? What were YOU thinking?
The Little One: I looked down at you and said, "She's crazy enough for me, that's the one I want!"

She's got a point.

The Weblog Review

In school, because of my major, I write a LOT. The nature of the beast is intensive research and then writing about it. Another interesting feature of the process is known as the dreaded "peer review." Peer review (some professors call it "workshop") consists of submitting your paper to other budding historians in your class to get their opinion of your work. Everything is examined: the validity of your thesis, your research and even your writing style. As you can imagine, this can be a stressful process. But I'm used to it and quite frankly I enjoy the feedback. I feel like it makes me a better historian.

This blog however, is nothing like the things I do in school. This is my escape. I started this little piece of the web in what has quite arguably been one of the worst years my family has been through. I write here to remind me that despite the trials of 2004, there are lots of things to laugh about and be thankful for. It was with tredpidation that I decided to submit my blog for review. I was a little scared, but I'm glad I did it. Again, I find myself enjoying the feedback. One of the reviewers actually GOT my twisted sense of humor (scary for her, huh?).

So, if you have a minute, please check out the review at The Weblog Review. There is an option at the bottom where you can rate my site as well. Feel free to weigh in, because honestly I appreciate your opinion. The reviewers were pretty much dead on, even the second one that wasn't as crazy about this site as the first reviewer. And note - I fixed the links they both referred to - the first few didn't work (my bad). They do now.

I promise I'll bury this post soon and we'll be back to our usual nonsense. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

To Drive or Not to Drive

There was a segment on the Today show this morning about older drivers and the safety hazard they cause. There was a time in my youth where I was adamant about this issue. My conviction that "old people" should not drive came from a ride with my Grandfather. He was about 75 at the time and despite diminished faculties, he was insistent on driving. My parents, especially my mother, were torn up about the whole thing. Mom was worried about forcing her father to stop driving because he would lose his independence and might just "waste away." I was riding with Grandpa because he was available to take me where I needed to be. We were traveling on a 4 lane divided highway and came to the left turn we needed to make. Grandpa sat in the median for at least a minute or two even though there were no cars coming from the other direction. I have no idea what was going on in his head. It wasn't until a car came toward us from the other direction that Grandpa decided to go for it. We were lucky; the other car saw us and slammed on his brakes thus avoiding a certain accident. Grandpa didn't say a word. I, of course, was totally freaked out. I refused to ever ride with him again. I was livid with my parents for not stopping his driving. I got my license shortly after that and riding with Grandpa became a non-issue for me. Dad put his foot down a few months after the "near miss" and they took Grandpa's keys and had him turn in his license. That was excruciating for my parents. I couldn't understand what they were so upset about. He was going to kill himself, or worse, someone else.

Once my kids were born, I was even more adamant that "old people" shouldn't be allowed to drive. I can't count the number of news stories I'd see where an older driver got confused and plowed into another car or a group of people. I had even been cut off, cut in front of and "bumped" a few times by these "impaired" drivers. I could not understand why these people would be allowed to drive if there was ANY chance that they could kill a kid. To heck with their independence.

I now find myself coming up on the same decision my parents were faced with all those years ago. My father is 72 this year and his health is failing, as I wrote about earlier this summer. The decision to stop driving won't be made in the immediate future, as my father is still fully functioning, still has his reflexes and is mentally as sharp as he was in his youth. But it's coming. I can feel it. My mother refuses to go on long driving trips with him anymore, so they don't go. They used to travel all over the east coast from Florida to Canada visiting relatives. This saddens Dad, but he doesn't complain about it – much. He drives mostly during the day, and they don't take the highway as much anymore because it makes my mother nervous. I wonder how hard it's going to be when Dad has to hang up his keys. Part of it will be his loss of independence, of course, but I think part of it for me is facing his mortality...and maybe my own. I hope it is a decision my parents make themselves, because I can't imagine my having to step in and insist.

My how your perspective changes when you're actually in those shoes you were once so critical of.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Women love to make jokes about their men and shopping. Several of my friends swear that they cannot trust their significant others to go into Sears, Lowes or the Home Depot without female supervision. Others can't turn their back on their men in sporting goods stores. I can totally understand this. You see, I have proven yet again that I cannot be trusted to venture into Costco alone.

It's not entirely my fault. They have built this virtual wonderland of bulk shopping. It's all laid out there like a smorgasbord and it draws me in like a starving child. As soon as I walk in the door, there are the electronics flashing brightly. Sure I want a laptop and while the brand and model I want isn't there, just LOOK at those prices! But I was a good girl. I only played around with them for a half an hour or so and some of that was browsing software. Yeah, I found a program I couldn't live without. Into the cart it went. Just when I thought I was safe, there were the photo printers that I have convinced myself I really need. Again, I resisted temptation, but I made notes for later.

I was feeling pretty confident until I got to the book and DVD section. How could I walk away from this stuff? The prices sure beat those in the retail stores. I threw a couple of books and a DVD into the cart and moved on. Next I got to the section that always tests my willpower – the wine section. Granted, the selection isn't always fantastic, but ever since I found that bottle of Vieuve Cliquot for $29.99 I have been hooked. There is at least SOMETHING I’ll drink. Luckily my favorite white was there for $19.99 – a price reduction! Woo Hoo! Two bottles into the cart (can't get that price at the wine shop!) and I was on a roll. I only circled the display twice this time. I am proud of my level of restraint.

Next stop – food. How can I be expected to behave myself here? I LOVE food! Besides, they plot against even the most disciplined shopper by strategically placing those sample carts all over the place. Of course they sample extravagant foods that most people do not buy on a regular basis. But (insert whiney voice here) they are so good! Certainly my family deserves a treat every now and then, right? Although I have more cheese in the fridge right now than Hickory Farms, I could not pass up that fabulous 5 pound block of extra sharp cheddar. Then all I did was turn my cart and BAM – there was that fantastic artisan bread dead ahead. Perhaps the 4 pound package was a bit optimistic, but what the heck, we’ll just plan a fondue night or something.

The meat department is one of my personal favorites. I can justify just about any purchase here. You see we bought one of those vacuum pack Food Saver thingies a couple of years ago. Buying in bulk saves us money. We call it the schrapper, and while the replacement bags can get a bit spendy, it's worth it to me to save a buck a pound and schrap the meat for the freezer. Half a ton of meat later and I was on my way to produce. The cart was starting to get a bit unwieldy.

Why is it that the produce in Costco seems to look so much better than in my local grocery store? Could it be that it's stacked in such immense piles that the sheer volume blinds me? Whatever, I picked up what I "needed." What the heck is a pummelo anyway?

I finally got around to the paper products. We eat toilet paper around here, so I was sure to pick up a brick of that. Luckily my cart had one of those bottom racks so I could save space. Paper towels go fast around here, too. It was unfortunate that I forgot buying that pallet load last month. No problem, we'll still use them. Darned messy kids. I then proceeded up and down the frozen and refrigerated foods aisles. More damned samples. Surely we'll consume the 5-pound bag of wild mushroom ravioli right? The kids despise mushrooms and I'm not too crazy about them either, but with the right sauce and some stealth on my part they'll never know what's in it. I'll just enjoy another opportunity to play the martyr and choke them down because; hey you can’t beat the price! I'm doing my part for the family budget.

By the time I made it to the dried foods section, my cart was piled rather precariously. I had to stop to do some creative rearranging, but it was all good. In this section I always reason that the stuff doesn't go bad in the pantry. It doesn't matter that I picked up a 24 count box of spaghetti (a pound a piece) and a 12 can package of stewed tomatoes among other things (I DO make chili every once in a while, although my recipe uses only one can at a time). It makes sense to get after school snacks for the kids, too. They eat them eventually.

Finally I rolled through the section I like to call the HABAs (health and beauty aids) and picked up all the stuff we eventually will use. 2 gallons of conditioner for $9.99? You can't get that at Walgreens. It was now time to make my way to the checkout. I had to do this slowly, lest my overburdened cart spew my thrifty purchases. All those "bargains" add up under the harsh truth at the checkout counter. I was lucky this time. I made it out at just under $350. Seriously. I considered this quite an accomplishment. Especially since I only went there for contact solution. Which I forgot. I guess I’ll be headed back to the Costco later this week.

Friday, November 12, 2004

E Does Not Mean Excellent

Report card time is always one of thrills and chills around here. This one is no different. It is a sad day when you realize that your incredibly brilliant child is merely average. At least according to the state grading scale. I could buy that, honestly, if their report cards didn't tell me a more ominous truth. My children are smart, but apparently just lazy. Great. Obviously this is a gene they inherited from their father.

#1 Son managed to bring home an E in math this grading period. This disturbs me on several levels. First, he's good in math. His grade at the interim was an A. Last year he got As and Bs in the subject. In fact, he tested into Pre-Algebra prior to this year, though he opted to stay in regular math for one more year because he had a rather challenging course load including two advanced level classes and a foreign language. How, you ask, did he manage the stellar E despite good test grades? Well you see here in Virginia they have this silly rule about turning in homework. Crazy right? Oh sure, he does it at home. THAT I am able to be sure of. Unfortunately once the homework leaves my lair I have no control over it. You would think that it could make it in a binder for the 5 whole minutes it takes to get to school. You would be wrong. #1 Son has no clue what has happened. He looks at me like a deer hit with a spotlight and utters brilliant thoughts like "Huh? Wuh?" To say this situation has frosted my tomatoes is an understatement. I could go on and on telling you about all the great excuses I got from #1, some of them rather hilarious, but I won't. I don't think I could stomach them the second time around.

Instead, the other issue that disturbs me is the E itself. I mean, come on. An E?? What kind of a pansy grade is that? E does not mean excellent, Sparky. Political correctness has run rampant through our children's lives. Apparently they don't want to "hurt little Biff and Buffy's feelings" with the grade he actually earned – an F, a FAILURE. Yeah kid, you failed. Welcome to the real world.

This PC crap in schools goes hand in hand with kids' sports. When I was a kid you got a trophy or a medal only for a real accomplishment. First place teams, most valuable player, even most improved got rewarded. It was an honor – something you worked hard for. Now? Oh no, now EVERY kid on the team gets a trophy. Can't single anyone out for special honors, lest you hurt Bipsy, Buffy and Regan's feelings. And you can't expect a child to live with a FAILURE now can you? Certainly not. An E will make them feel much better.

And we wonder why this generation is the most spoiled and self-centered one in the history of our nation. We wonder why they come out of college and expect to get a job as CEO of a bazillion dollar corporation. Why should they settle for working their way up? Instant gratification is much easier. It's kind of like a Play Station 2 game. As for #1 Son? He's grounded until he's thirty.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

It's ON!

As I was standing there with my arms as far outstretched as possible, legs braced and a kid pressed against each hand kicking and swinging, trying to get at each other like wild animals, all I could think of was a glass of wine. "A nice cold glass of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc, a hot bubble bath and my current non-school related book. Maybe I won't have Sauvignon Blanc this time. Maybe I'd rather splurge on that luscious Meritage I like so much, the Conundrum? Yummy."

It all started when C. and I were discussing the origins of the word "bootleg." He figured that as a history major specializing in American History that I might know that one. Well heck, he's the one with the English Linguistics degree. But I digress. I first heard the thundering of the herd overhead. Then it came smashing down the stairs headed directly for us at high speed. The kids have been in this family for quite awhile (their whole lives) and they know the rules. If you come running into a room and interrupt an adult conversation to tattle on your sibling, you will get the punishment you were hoping your counterpart was going to get. So there they stood, grimacing and doing the potty dance like a couple of toddlers. Of course C. and I continued our conversation nonchalantly because hey, we can.

Finally I asked them the important questions BEFORE letting them tell their side. 1) Is anyone bleeding? Usually I qualify that with "bleeding from the eyes," but tonight I sensed the urgency. 2) Is there a fire? After getting the satisfactory negative answers I laid down the "one at a time and don't say a word unless it's your turn or you lose phone privileges for a week" rule. That one usually gets results.

Of course they both had completely different stories. Each version started the same though, and there were some similarities somewhere in the middle. Knowing that there are three sides to every story - his, hers and the truth - I envisioned what I thought had happened. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck you know. Apparently, she invited him into her room to hear all about a tiff two of her classmates got into today. I know he really didn't care, but he'll do just about anything to keep from cleaning his room, so in he went. It gets a little cloudy at this point. One version is that he stopped paying attention so she "gently shoved him to get his attention." The other version is that she "attacked him and punched him on his blindside." Whatever. He left her room in a huff and -"slammed" or "closed" depending on your point of view- his door. The stories sort of converge again here to her –"tapping" or "pounding"- on his door for –"not five, less than five, well almost five" or "more than five"- minutes. He then ran and –"pounded" or "tapped"- on her door continuously. Somehow a wrestling match ensued in the hall, slaps were thrown and then the stampede began.

Of course they felt they needed me to solve this one. Usually when it's something little, and there is no blood and no fire, I let them resolve it on their own. I read somewhere once that you should let children resolve their own sibling spats because it teaches them conflict resolution, a skill that will take them far in their adult lives. I bet the guy who wrote that article doesn't have kids. No matter, it's something I live by. #1 Son only wanted my permission to "just this once beat the crap out of my sister." The Little One then screamed that she could "take you any day, wimp," and it was on. They lunged at each other and that is how I found myself wedged between them chanting my mantra "stop it, stop it, stopit,stopit!"

The mantra works to calm me every time. You know what they say about meditation and mantras. They take you to another place: "I don't think we have wine in the house. Maybe I could go get some Sauvignon Blanc? Of course then I'd have to drive to get it. I think we still have a few beers. Yeah, beer. I could go for a beer."

And they wonder why I drink.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

If It Hops Like a Frog...

This past weekend was absolutely wonderful! We went to the wedding of a dear friend of C.'s from high school. The ceremony was held in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The kids stayed here in town (not alone, Dear God. We value the house more than that!), the dog was safely deposited at my MIL's and we were free to escape the usual responsibilities and "to do" lists that we ignore every other weekend.

We got a later start than planned. Now let me preface by saying that I am a very good driver. Knock on the wood-toned pressboard that serves as my desk, I have not received a moving violation nor been involved in a serious accident in over 13 years. And I wasn't even the driver in the accident, so I don't really count that one either. The plan was to leave as soon as my early afternoon class let out. C. took the day off and he headed to get the oil changed in the truck. I set off to school in my car, with the 2 week old tires mind you, and promptly had a flat. Luckily my tires were under warranty, and even luckier, C. happened to be on his way home and saw me on the road. We quickly switched vehicles, I made it to class and C. took my car to get a new tire.

3 hours and 45 minutes later the tire was finally replaced. All was well and we finally got on the road. Despite the late start and the usual tunnel traffic, we still made excellent time. The 5 and a half hour drive actually flew, despite 2 stops. We wondered out loud why this was? Then it hit us. It was quiet when we stopped talking. There was no fighting or screaming coming from the back seat. No objects being thrown through the air. No kicking of the seats. No flailing bodies. No pushing and shoving and grabbing of CDs. No whining, no whispering and plotting. The kids were at home! Ah Ha! We've confirmed something else that makes our marriage work. Separate vacations!

I mentioned my excellent driving record earlier because it came up in conversation during our trip up. C. couldn't understand why that tire just blew like that. In fact, C. who is very non-confrontational (remember I'm the bad cop?) was very angry with the tire dealer. He was concerned that the blown tire put his beloved wife in danger. He questioned the quality of the tires and the quality of the work when they were put on. "How," he wanted to know, "can I be sure my wife will be safe with this new tire that is exactly the same as the obviously defective one?" Awww... my man was standing up to protect me. He related this conversation with the tire guy to me, then he asked me why in the world I thought that tire just blew like it did. Of course I answered him truthfully, "Well Duh, I did hit the curb silly." You should have seen his face. Apparently I forgot to mention that little detail to him in my hurry to get to class. Oops. I'm not sure exactly how it happened. Something about lighting my cigarette and a good song on the radio that I wanted to turn up (Oh I LOVE that one!). I guess all that coincided with the 90-degree curve on my road. At least I wasn't going very fast. C. has now threatened to get me curb feelers for Christmas. Good thing he has a sense of humor.

So the wedding was gorgeous. It was held in this small one room church, built in 1880, which sits back in the woods off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The reception was held at the visitor's center in the same park. The building was very rustic with hard wood flooring and a real wood exterior (kind of like a log cabin). A roaring fire greeted us and a Blue Grass band completed the theme. No, none of us are Blue Grass junkies, but this band was fantastic and it was perfect for a fall harvest wedding in the mountains.

One of the groomsmen and his wife brought their small children. They were not only incredibly well behaved, but also as cute as they can be. Me, being a mother, of course talked quite a bit with The Wife (TW). Their kids, one of each flavor like us, are 3 and 5. The younger child is this precious little girl who looked so gorgeous in her pink tulle and satin dress. The boy wore a kilt. TW related to me that the kids are always really well behaved, but yet the little one occasionally exhibited a bit of an attitude. HA!! Sister you have NO IDEA!

C. and I discussed this phenomenon on the trip home Sunday morning. How do they go from being so cute and sweet to raging heathens at war who test every fiber of your patience? C. has a theory and I think it is a viable one. He says it is like the old frog in the boiling water story. If you throw a frog in boiling water, it immediately jumps out. BUT, if you put the frog in a pot of cold water and slowly heat it, the frog will happily sit there and boil to death.

You see, my friends. Parents are the frogs.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

OMG - It's a Teenager!

We just got back in town from a wedding. What a wonderful trip! I'll post about it later, but I'd like to tell you about another milestone our family hit today. At 6:47pm, #1 Son became a teenager. Yup, my oldest baby turned 13. I have mixed emotions about this. On the one hand I am so excited!! Each stage of his growth is wonderful. It's amazing to see him grow into this really cool young man that I am so proud of. Conversely, I am suffering a bit of melancholy. This is my first child, my baby boy. How in the world can he be a teenager already?!? I'd like to tell you a little bit about him.

#1 Son has always been not only my child, but my buddy. We lived through the last years of my trainwreck of a marriage to his father. He was only 4 when his father and I split. His sister was only a year. She, of course, doesn't remember being with her father at all. Unfortunately #1 Son remembers. He remembers the knock down drag out screaming matches. He remembers his father's temper. He also remembers being the "man of the house" after his Dad left. This really ticked me off, because I have always felt that it is too much responsibility to put on such a young boy, but that's what his father in his "infinite wisdom" said to him. I didn't find out until later. It made sense when I would lay in bed crying in the middle of the night and this dear sweet child would come and get in bed with me to rub my back and tell me everything would be alright. He's been strong and protective of his Mama ever since.

Boys have quite a bond with their mothers and #1 is no different. I revel in it. Son and I share many interests. One is history, so you can imagine how much I love his curiosity about my chosen profession. He also loves space and the Apollo/Space Race era. This is something he definitely got from me. I'm a space nut. There are always places I want to take the kids and we talk about it. One was the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. We made that trip during the summer of 2001. It was FABULOUS walking around there with #1. We hope to see the Johnson Space Center in Houston sometime soon. The Grand Canyon is high on the list, as well. Imagine my delight when he told me earlier this year that there are a couple of places HE wants to take ME after college when he can afford it. He told me he'd love to take me to Hawaii to see the volcanos (another interest of ours). He's also talked about taking me to Europe and the Panama Canal. He is the sweetest, most caring boy I've ever met.

I love him because he has so much empathy. He truly cares about people. Every teacher he has had since Pre-K has waxed poetic to me about how empathetic this kid is. He's kind to teachers and other students alike. He's not a bully, though he's getting big enough to be one. He cares about the outcasts as well. He is super popular at school, specifically among the girls. He and his friend count the number of hugs they get per day. His friends know they can count on him.

#1 Son has not found his "thing" yet. He's not real athletic yet, which I attribute to his rapid growth. At 12...uh 13 now *sob*...he's about 5'10" and wears a men's size 11 1/2 shoe. It's hard to be coordinated when you are growing so fast. Lord help them all when he finally fills out. This past year he played volleyball for his middle school team. Out of 10 or 12 6th graders who tried out, only 3 stuck it out and made the team. #1 was one of them. What I thought was so wonderful was how dedicated he was to the team. He never missed a practice or a match. There were several matches where he never left the bench. But you know what? He was the kid cheering the loudest and pumping up his team when they got down. In fact, he was made the player of the game in a match where he sat the bench the whole time because of his support and spirit, while other older star players were arguing on the court and placing blame on other team members. I was more proud of him for that than if he was a jerk star who hit the winning spike.

#1 Son has a brilliant mind. He passed the 6th grade with B's and C's and yet he never opened a book. NEVER. We've remedied that this year by cracking down on his study habits. If he doesn't form them now, he'll never develop them. He LOVES the new system and his grades are phenomenal. This child is smart, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be successful in any field that interests him.

#1 has so many other fantastic qualities. He has a phenomenal sense of humor. Laughing and joking with him is one of my favorite things. What's even more amazing is that he can laugh at himself. That skill will take him far in life. My son is spiritual. He loves God and enjoys learning about Him and discussing Him. He always wants to know more. We have an amazing relationship where we can talk about just about anything. And I REALLY enjoy our conversations. Sometimes I have to remind myself how young he really is. We have this small role reversal we go through. #1 is VERY into my school work and my grades. He checks them all. Let me get a 98 on an exam and he wants to know what happened with the other 2 points. We laugh about stuff like that a lot. He loves to read and has recently discovered some of the classics. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "War of the Worlds," and some Edgar Allen Poe stories have enthralled him. Yes, he plays the requisite computer games and Play Station, all of which he is very good at, but the reading of classics is somethingthat is new and I think is really neat.

#1 Son is close to all members of the family. And with the divorce, remarriage and my status as a reunited adoptee, #1 has TONS of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. He loves each and every one of them dearly. He even loves his sister, though he'd never admit that to her face. They love playing together and are two of the closest siblings I know - when they're not fighting. Sometimes when things get crazy he will remind me of someone's birthday or to call someone else that I had forgotten about in my overwhelmed state. #1 loves to spend time with me and he expecially loves learning to cook, so he doesn't starve in college. It is one of our favorite activities together.

I could go on for an entire book about how wonderful #1 Son is, but I think there is one thing that really gets me. Due to circumstances beyond his control, #1 will have to face some really heavy things in the future. It may be ridicule or outright hatred and prejudice. But he's prepared for that. He is smart and will face things as they come. There's no doubt in my mind that he will overcome anything and continue to grow into an even more incredible guy than he already is. He turns to me when he needs to, but he doesn't need my protection. Someday maybe I'll be able to realize that and let him go to face the world, confident that he's going to be fine. But I've got time. No matter how old he gets, he's still my first baby.

Happy Birthday Bubby. I love you.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bad Hair Day

What a nasty rainy bad hair day it was today. Weather like this tends to make my hair frizz. This is a phenomena that I am not used to. Perhaps it's a sign of age? My hair and I have never been on the best of terms. Back in the day, my hair was board, stick straight. I longed to have wavy hair, or at least the body my friends had in their hair. Can you imagine a Dorothy Hamil cut with NO body? Well, I had it in 6th grade. Sad.

When the 80s hit, spiral perms and big hair were all the rage. My hair, on the other hand can only be compared to an 80 year old man's member - minus the viagra. It hung flaccid, stringy and rather pathetic. So what did I do? I regularly paid for a spiral perm. The sadistic process of a perm (do you remember Apple Pectin?) didn't work on me in the regular way. Oh no. I would get a perm and within days it fell into a rat's nest of straw. Luckily I found Jameson, the first gay man I ever loved (there would be many others). Jameson was schooled in a technique called the transfer perm. This 4 hour (at least) process, which cost about $100 and that's 80's currency! - required very small perm rods for the first process. Then he would transfer (thus the name) my hair to larger rods for the neutralizing process. I have no idea why it worked, but I didn't care because it did. I had my big long spiral perm that would last for WEEKS (about 8). Oh yes, it smelled like the worst parts of a DuPont chemical plant for the first couple of days because I couldn't wash it right away. But I didn't care. I had 80's hair! And I LOVED it! My bangs were cut short and kind of wispy. Nothing like the Jersey Girl hair that hit it's peak in the 90's. You remember those 6 inch bangs sprayed straight up right? That was not me. My bangs were blown back in a sort of feathering thing. Dear Lord, it was probably a female mullet. Regardless, I had a mane to be proud of.

I loved my 80's hair so much that I kept it into the 90's. Well come on...I live in the good old south. You can't ever accuse us of being on the cutting edge of fashion like those manequins in New York. At least it wasn't "Jersey hair!" I worked hard for this look. It tool me long enough to achieve it. It was mine, and I wasn't about to give it up. The picture above is myself and #1 Son. It was takem in early '92. What you need to notice is that my hair in that picture was in a banana clip (remember those?). It was much longer than it looks in the picture. Eventually I cut my hair to just below my shoulders right around this time because #1 son started pulling up to a standing position on anything that was near him...and that included my hair. OUCH!

I've run the gamut of hair styles since then. Four years ago I cut all the stuff off. I was over it. I had a very short stylish cap of hair with a little short fringe in the back. Short hair looked good on me, but short hair has it's own baggage. You see, you actually have to have it cut on a regular basis to maintain the style. I'm lazy. Frequent haircuts cramp my style. Lucky for me, C. likes my hair longer. Also lucky for me, C. lived through the whole growing out of the hair fiasco without ONE negative comment. I, on the other hand, had LOTS of negative comments. He was smart enough not to agree or disagree with me. See why I love this man?

Fast forward to the twenty-first century. The style is now board straight hair. What does my hair do? Let me tell you. My hair has found a life of its own. Not only is there body, but there are curls here that have NEVER shown their faces before. These waves and curls only manifest themselves on the ends. Where did this big hair come from? Is this age? I suppose. Am I happy about it? No. I would have killed for this crap several years ago. Now I try to tame it straight with a myrad of styling gel and a flat iron. The irony is not lost on me.

At this point, though, I am pretty over it. Maybe it's because of all the trouble I went through in the 80s. Don't get me wrong, I go through the motions and jump through the hoops when I need to look decent. But let's face it, when my major meeting of people during the day is class I throw the crap up into a clip or a pony tail. You can dress me up...but only if I have to.

I have to say, though, that you know things are a bit "rough" when the people closest to you drop hints about the state of your hair. Over a year ago my Mother gave me a present. It was a gift certificate for VERY expensive procedures at the hair salon we both go to. Uh, Ok Mom I can take a hint. She looked at me with that "lemon look" (i.e. she looks like she's been sucking a lemon) and said, Honey, really, I think it's time. You are a beautiful girl." I get it already.

Recently, C. made the comment, "Honey, we've got some extra money. Why don't you get your hair done?" Friends, that is code for "Dear Lord woman LOOK at yourself!" OK, so I have a few extra grey hairs lately. I attribute them all to the people I live with - the kids!!. After throwing a minor hissy (in my head, of course - he meant well and was trying to be nice), I realized that I need to make an appointment. It's just such a hassle.

I look at it this way, I wash the mop regularly. *IF* I feel the desire to color it, I do so on a low key, low cost basis. In reality, it is by FAR better than the old 80's hair, no matter how bad it looks now. At least it's semi-straight. But I've got to tell you...sometimes I really miss that mass of curls with the feathered bangs.

And today? Screw it. Today I wore a hat.

NHL 2005 - Mini Post

C. and I saw the new NHL 2005 game tonight. It's out for the computer and several game systems. SO I ask the hockey lovers out there. What do you think NHL 2005 is going to consist of? Will you stare at a blank white screen? Maybe you'll have the ability to drive a zamboni around in different arenas? Will you be scored on your mad zamboni skills?

Man....this lockout has to end soon.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

You've Only Just Begun - UPDATED

This is a political rant, but it is NOT partisan. It stems from a discussion in which I participated in class this morning. Enjoy or ignore. As always, the choice is yours.

Due to a snafu in the transfer of credits, I find myself this semester in an English class with predominantly freshmen and sophomores. This was the first election in which most of these kids had voted. Several were Kerry supporters and were beyond disappointed in the outcome of yesterday's vote. The discussion started with a rather radical female who said she couldn't believe she was in class today. In fact, she plans to skip the rest of her classes and hibernate. She also mentioned that she is considering moving to France because Bush is going to take away the right to choose. What follows is the point I tried to make in response:

Your duty as a responsible American citizen does not end with the election. It is only beginning. As an intelligent caring citizen, your role is not solely to show up once every four years and cast a ballot because P.Diddy or Drew Barrymore told you to. The US is a representative democracy. Contrary to the belief of some, the President (no matter who he is) does not have a magic wand that he can wave to change a law - ANY law. Congress is a part of that process. Congress also plays a critical role in the appointment of court judges. We are moving into a critical period in our country's history. You still play an important role in the political process, regardless of whether your candidate won or lost.

Yesterday you not only cast your vote for the Presidency, but our state also voted in three new members of Congress. I can only hope that you put as much thought into that vote as you did for your presidential choice, maybe more. How many of you have ever contacted your representative to voice your opinion? (No hands were raised). How many of you have ever thought about it? (I was met with blank looks). Well let me give you something to think about. For better or worse, elected representatives are politicians. This could be a good thing or not depending on your point of view. Politicians want nothing more than to be reelected. An elected official that refuses to represent their constituency does not get reelected. It's that simple.

Lest you are so jaded that you do not believe in the American political system, let me give you an example. Last year there were two bills that came before our own General Assembly (one in the House, the other in the Senate) that were very near and dear to my heart. I was very opposed to these bills, as was the grassroots lobby that I volunteer with. I took part in a campaign to let our opinion be known. We called, snail mailed, emailed and faxed our representatives. We contacted our friends and families in other districts to ask that they do the same. You see, our issue is one that many people are not familiar with. The campaign was successful and both bills died in committee. I was told by at least one representative and several aids that they had no idea that people were polarized by the issue. They would have just voted it along as the only side they had previously heard was that of the proponents of the bills. They thought their constituents approved it because they had not heard otherwise.

The election is now over. You still have a choice. You can choose to hibernate and pout. You can bury your head and become apathetic. You can curse the political process and continue the negative effects this campaign has caused. You can let your government work without you and make decisions for you without your input. OR you can choose to continue to let your voice be heard. You can educate yourself and your fellow citizens on the issues that effect you on the local, state and national level. You can exercise your rights and use the system that was set up for your protection by the founding fathers of this country. Or, if you prefer, you can move to France.


I think Ted said it really well at Rocket Jones.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


...You have reached Catt's blog. I can't come to the blog right now, as I am busy voting. YOU should be, too. Once the bruhaha has died down we will return to the usual pissing, moaning and nonsense. Please leave a message at the sound of the tone and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Have a great day!


Name: Cattiva
Location: Virginia, United States

About Me: I'm the mom of three: #1 Son (20), The Princess of Wails (17) and their baby brother - The Baby (6). I was a grad-student working on an MA in history until we were surprised - I mean blessed - with The Baby. I'll get back to it...someday (the thesis, not the kid - I have no choice concerning the kid). I am one of only a few people I went to school with who is actually using their history degree in my career (and to think my Father called it Basket-weaving!). I live a very hectic life amongst massive clutter. I call it a good day if we have managed to get home at night without losing one of the kids (no matter how hard I try!). Friends say I have a humorous take on life's happenings. The sad part is that what I write about is true. I laugh to keep from crying.

See my complete profile

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