Friday, December 22, 2006

Rewriting the Story

I just want to say up front, I am not whining. But it is interesting the way things happen. Fortunately, I'm a writer and I just file away the stories for future use. I'm not alone in this behavior, either. One of the local novelists had his car window smashed and his briefcase stolen during NaNoWriMo (and a nasty cold snap). After all the sympathy and good wishes from others in our area forum, someone piped up, "You are going to put this in your novel, right?" His instant response ("Of course!") made me laugh out loud.

Anyway, here's what's been happening to us lately. It's got the makings of a good story. (By the way, some of the back story is here. More of it is here.)

In this story, the villain is the blizzard. Tuesday evening, we had no idea what was coming. The Man (TM) had gotten a two-night temp job for Wed. and Thur., and my folks would be arriving Friday. The kids had one more day of school, and they were pretty excited about it. Then our neighbor (wonderful woman) called and warned us that we were supposed to get "a foot or two" of snow the next day, not just the small flurries we'd heard about. But she would still try to watch the Punkin while TM and I went shopping. No problem, probably.

Usually, it's pretty dry around here, but every few years we get a huge storm and can't get out of the house for a day or two. After that, things start melting and everything goes back to normal, so even now, we didn't sweat it much. Wednesday morning, the snow started by 7 a.m., but it hadn't started really piling up, so TM took the kids to school as usual.

By noon, the snow was definitely piling up and the visibility was getting low. I checked the school's Web site, which said something like "We will be open as usual today, but we recommend that you come get your kids NOW." TM was out the door in no time. Two and a half hours later, he and the kids arrived home again, shaking. "We survived!" was all TM had to say. The roads were completely covered, in many cases gone without a trace.

The snow kept falling all day. We didn't get to the store, needless to say. Our neighbor's husband totalled their car in a town 30 miles away and didn't know when he'd be able to get home. She was panicking about being alone with their two little kids, snowed in, indefinitely. I don't think it helped her when we pointed out that not even burglars would be out in that weather. TM didn't have to go to work that night, either, which was fine with me.

I was still pretty optimistic about the chances of our Christmas plans working out. Thursday was sunny, and by noon, the snow was melting off our roof. We spent the day cleaning the house and didn't pay much attention to the situation. That afternoon, the roads were clear, and our neighbors were reunited. By that evening, every driveway in the neighborhood (except ours) was clear, and people were driving around. I checked online and discovered that the airport would be open at noon today. I thought that was good news.

My mom called last night at 11 and said their flight was cancelled because it had been scheduled to land just minutes before the airport opened. All other flights were booked, of course, until The Day itself. So instead of them arriving this afternoon and getting to spend holiday leadup time playing, reading, baking, singing, and generally enjoying the time with us and our boys, they will be arriving Monday afternoon, missing #1 Son by a couple days and present-opening time by who knows how many hours.

Did you ever see Rocketship X-M (the MST3K version, especially)? You know the part where they discover the ship is nearly out of fuel and they won't be able to land? (Oh, now I've blown it all for you; sorry.) With the phone up to my ear last night, hearing my mom tell me the news, I heard Crow T. Robot say cynically, "This ought to test Lloyd's sunny disposition..." And it did.

So now the challenge is to keep ourselves occupied until then. They'll only be able to stay a couple of days now; that's the price of being working grandparents of kids in 3 states. (Oh yeah, and having a life, too.) There aren't enough vacation days to go around. I think we'll be able to amuse the little guys for a few hours with just their "Santa" presents, I told my mom. We'll wait to open other stuff when you arrive.

That's what I said. But you know how things haven't been getting to the stores, post offices, etc., for a few days? Because of this blizzard, you know. Well, yeah. We took all the kids shopping tonight; thought they could buy each other presents and we could pick up some things, too. TM went out later to get the Santa gifts, or so we thought. Turns out there's not much in the stores. Especially the one by our house-- apparently a couple of their delivery trucks slid off the roads and were completely destroyed, so there will be no more toys for Christmas. We (i.e., TM) could try again tomorrow, except his job got rescheduled for all day tomorrow, and that's all the time we have left. We keep the Sabbath in part by not shopping (making other people work) on Sundays. The clock is ticking...

All righty then. Now, if this were a story, how would I work out these plot complications? How would you do it?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday 13: Windows of Heaven Edition

Thirteen Christmas Blessings at Scone's House
  1. Friends #1: Kory O sent chocolate and the book Pirateology.
  2. Friends #2: Maryanne took me running errands and out to lunch, then took me with her to a discount store and handed me a wad of cash to spend. Mwah! Thanks!
  3. Friends #3: Some Secret Santa left a big box of presents for each of us.
  4. Neighbors #1: Neighbor with a cookie business gave us a gift tin of yummy treats.
  5. Neighbors #2: Families from church have brought us food and goodies, and have called to check on us during the blizzard.
  6. Family #1: When my folks heard we were out of money at the holidays, they sent enough money to cover our bills for the month and buy presents for the kids.
  7. Family #2: When Youngest Sis and her husband heard same, they added a bunch of money to the pot. BIL is still in school, too.
  8. Family #3: Even before Little Sis and her husband heard, they sent us a pile of presents and a big gift card to a local store. After they heard, they decided they didn't need many presents themselves and sent us another huge amount of money. This BIL is in post-grad for med school. (I can't even think about this without tearing up.)
  9. Family-in-law: The Man's folks are sending (in addition to the usual pile of presents) several hundred bucks with the strict injunction that we spend it only on Christmas. We lay on the bed and giggled this afternoon as we planned how to spend it.
  10. Your guess is as good as mine: Some unidentified but kind-hearted soul sent us an additional several hundred bucks on a gift card. Whoever you are, THANK YOU!!!
  11. Acts of God #1: The blizzard. For us, it's been a good thing. We are all safe and warm and well stocked with food. It has given us the chance to spend time together and to get the house ready for my parents' visit this weekend.
  12. Acts of God #2: The melting of the snow. This afternoon, we heard and saw the drip, drip of snow melting off the roof. The highways and roads are open again, and I'm hopeful they'll be able to get planes through tomorrow. At least from Las Vegas.
  13. Acts of God #3-3,000,000: Everything, just everything. I am so blessed. Heavenly Father has really opened the windows of heaven for us, and I am so thankful.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. Local Girl

2. Beth

3. The Gatekeeper

4. Amy

5. Norma

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Meme from Kailani: 6 Weird Things About Me

OK, I've been offline for a bit while Blogger thought about upgrading me to the beta, but I'm back now, and I'm finally getting around to the meme Kailani tagged me with last week. Here are

The Rules:

Each player of this game starts with the “6 weird things about you”. People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says “you are tagged” in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

Well, gosh, I dunno. Weird, huh? The more I thought about this, the more I realized that I'm not all that different from other people in various ways. Maybe the collection of individual weirdnesses make me unique. Maybe I'm just really boring. But here goes.

  1. My eyes are usually light blue, but they turn green under certain stressful conditions.
  2. My skin likes to grow random stuff as often as possible: moles, skin tags, granulomas, etc. Yuck.
  3. I've often been called cold and unemotional-- as well as hysterical and over-emotional. Hmm. I am what I am.
  4. I lived near the Canadian border for a year, but never got around to crossing it. Ditto the English Channel, two years.
  5. I'm totally ruthless about turning my back on the past, much to the chagrin of ex-boyfriends/friends/husbands/etc around the world. When I've had enough, I'm outta there.
  6. I've been blogging for nearly 2 years now and haven't become mega-popular, but neither have I given up and taken months off or quit entirely. I just keep plodding along. Slow and steady, that's me.

[Edited 12/20: Sorry, I forgot to tag people. How about Jen, Renee, TM, Kory O, Purple Elephant, and anyone else who's still out there and might happen to drop by. There may be one of you. Still looking for my soapbox... And apologies to anyone who's already done this. Feel free to ignore me anytime.]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holiday Fun

This one's for you, Kailani: a white Christmas! See, you can have one after all!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Well, Schiess

Heilige Rechtschreibung! Who out there knew that the German speaking peoples of the world had totally revamped their rules for spelling their language ten years ago? And you didn't tell me? Granted, it didn't take total effect until last year, but Heilige Ludwig in Neuschwanstein, it's throwing me for a loop. That's what I get for reading Wikipedia.

Sorry. Back to your regularly scheduled whatever.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday Wishlist

The Man (TM) and I were surfing the Net one night for some cool things I might want for Christmas-- in ten years or so when we actually have some money. I was going to post it here, but somehow it disappeared. Well, it wasn't realistic anyway. So here I go again:

Making a List (The Wishes)
  1. Nice digital camera
  2. New wardrobe for entire family
  3. Subscription to Ethel M's year of chocolate
  4. Replacements for the bucket of jewelry the TSA guy in Vegas stole
  5. A second honeymoon
  6. Brand-new computer
  7. TM to graduate!
  8. Job with a good salary
  9. Health insurance
  10. Book contract
  11. New house

Checking It Twice (More Realistic)
  1. Get the year's worth of film developed (i.e., $$)
  2. Couple of outfits that are less than 10 years old for me, couple pairs of pants for TM
  3. A pound or two of decent chocolate
  4. Reset the stone back into TM's wedding ring (i.e., $$)
  5. A babysitter maybe once a month so TM and I can go out sometimes
  6. Replace bulb in my dad's laptop he's been loaning me (again, $$)
  7. TM to pass all his classes
  8. Just enough money to pay our medical bills
  9. Get this dang-blasted cavity filled; it's killing me! (Once again, $$$$)
  10. Just to finish the halfway decent novels I've started writing (there are two)
  11. Insulation or at least heavy curtains in the punkins' bedroom; repairing the electrical wiring in the master bedroom would be a treat, too.
I may let you know if I get anything off the second list this year. At least #10 I can do something about. And lest you think I'm wallowing in self-pity again, here is a list of some things I do have that I'm thankful for.
  1. Tons of memories (and photos) of my adventures from past years
  2. Warm clothes for the kids in this Arctic weather
  3. A neighbor who brings me Hershey's chocolate just because
  4. A husband who thinks I'm beautiful no matter what I wear
  5. Plans to marry my husband all over again
  6. Parents who'll lend me a laptop for over a year
  7. A college education, and children who value the concept
  8. The ability to still make a little money here and there
  9. A LOT less stress than when I was employed
  10. Local library with thousands of books I haven't read yet
  11. A roof over my head-- and my children's. The value of that alone is beyond measure.
So life is still good. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I just have a few more thoughts about yesterday's post and life in general. So here I go, in case anyone's still out there. (I'd link to the people I mean, but they tend to have deleted or otherwise abandoned their blogs lately. That's a whole other post that will require a soapbox and a bit more energy than I've got today, so this is what you get for now.)

I tend to be pretty proud of myself for keeping at this whole "write a novel in a month" thing, you know, just a couple thousand words a day and eventually you're there. My progress bars show constant, unspectacular progress from day 1 to day 30 when I finally crossed the finish line with 12 whole hours to go. (Woohoo!)

On the other hand, The Man (TM) also signed up for NaNo this year. He sat at about 1500 words for half the month. Then he got up to a few thousand. Then he seemed to give up (well, OK, and had the flu for Thanksgiving break). But this week, he threw it into gear and was up to 22,000 words by Wednesday. So, only 28,000 more to go in 48 hours. Well, I'll tell you what: He put on a burst of speed and made up all that ground and an extra 2,000 to boot. (I have to say I am really proud of him.)

But all this reminded me of the year I was 11, when a kind, well-meaning teacher wrote a poem for all the girls in my church class. In it, she tried to emphasize the strengths of each girl with the intent, I'm sure, of helping us feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, she had no tact. So, she described one girl as "the pretty one" and another as "the happy one" and so on. Guess what I was. That's right, "the steady one"; the one who always kept at a task until it was done but didn't (apparently) have much else to recommend her. I was an ugly, fat, bespectacled creature, it's true. And very shy, with untreated depression. But I did not feel flattered by this poetic description of my strong point, as you might guess.

But looking at myself now, I know that she was right. I would never be "the pretty one" or "the happy one" or even "the friendly one" but I've remained steady all these years. Yay me. It may be my saving grace during these lean times, though. Yay me.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I Did It Again

That's right, another year of NaNo over and done. Hallelujah!

Monday, November 27, 2006

When I'm Sixty-Four

For a reason that eludes me at the moment, but may have existed at one time, the lyrics to the Beatles' song "When I'm 64" have been running through my head for a couple weeks now. The part that always gets my attention is this:

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave
Yesterday I remembered that in the summer of '94, I stayed in a castle on the Isle of Wight. It was just perfect (aside from the jerk I was with). I'd settle for a cottage now. But honestly, even a movie about the Isle of Wight is too dear these days, even with scrimping and saving.

Maybe I can afford it again when I'm 64. But I'll drop-kick the kid who names his son Chuck, just so you know.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Things to Be Thankful For

High on my list of blessings this week is our neighbors a couple doors to the west, the B's. They are lovely people anyway, and they have daughters just a little younger than our sons. On Tuesday morning, the kids were supposed to have a play date, but The Man (TM) had gotten the flu overnight, and I realized at breakfast that it was upon me as well. So when sweet neighbor B1 called to see when Punkin would be over, we had to say, well, not this week.

So she made us a big pot of chicken soup. From scratch. And brownies. And cookies that looked like turkeys. She threw all this and some breakfast things into a box and brought it over to us. "Get well soon," she said. I about cried as I took it from her. She returned a little later with some stuffing and cranberry sauce for our Thanksgiving dinner. "We're not cooking this year," she said. This time, I really did cry.

Wednesday evening, her husband B2 called to see how we were doing. Fortunately, TM's (104-degree) fever had broken the night before, and he was up and around. I was still on my way down, but we were managing. "Have you guys eaten yet? We have some extra lasagne," he told TM. We had eaten, but about an hour later, he was at our door with a big dish of lasagne, a plate of pumpkin bars (with cream cheese frosting--yum!), and a totally geeky book that he thought TM would like. (He loves it!)

Today (still up on Thanksgiving night) I'm thankful for such kind and generous people in my life.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Casino Fatale

Umm, sure. Last time I was Death. Must've changed my favorite color or something.

You are The Tower

Ambition, fighting, war, courage. Destruction, danger, fall, ruin.

The Tower represents war, destruction, but also spiritual renewal. Plans are disrupted. Your views and ideas will change as a result.

The Tower is a card about war, a war between the structures of lies and the lightning flash of truth. The Tower stands for "false concepts and institutions that we take for real." You have been shaken up; blinded by a shocking revelation. It sometimes takes that to see a truth that one refuses to see. Or to bring down beliefs that are so well constructed. What's most important to remember is that the tearing down of this structure, however painful, makes room for something new to be built.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What's Up Here?

I've been looking around the blogosphere, or rather, the Blogger-sphere, and it seems that my blog is the only one that's refusing to load. Here I was ready to blame it on the servers, but no. It's me, somehow. Or my code. Which hasn't changed since last time I saw this thing. So what's the matter here, anyway?

Don't make me put on my combat boots and come over there, Blogger. I'll kick your *.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Note to My Sweetheart

I really don't mind losing the extra minute of sleep; you can come into the bedroom and get your glasses before leaving the house. Really. Hope you and the kids are safe out there today...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Not a Casualty Yet

Still busily trying to catch up on my NaNo novel (see my sidebar for status) while playing the role of the college widow (is there such a term? maybe just engineering widow) and managing the house and the kids mostly by myself while The Man (TM) tries to pass his classes. Oy.

But in honor of Veterans' Day and all the veterans in my life, including TM and his dad and most of the cast of my novel, I give you selections from Tom Lehrer's brilliant and pertinent song

It Makes a Fellow Proud To Be a Soldier
After Johnny got through basic training, he
Was a soldier through and through when he was done.
Its effects were so well rooted,
That the next day he saluted
A Good Humor man, an usher, and a nun.
Our old mess sergeant's taste buds had been shot off in the war.
But his savory collations add to our esprit de corps.
To think of all the marvelous ways
They're using plastics nowadays.
It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier!
(Full lyrics and comical commentary by Lehrer here.)

Hey, I even have a medal around here somewhere I received for some old military service or another. I used to wear it as an earring. Nowadays it doesn't go with anything I own. At ease.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And Now, the Weather

What the heck? It's getting on for the middle of November and we've got sunshine, blue skies, and 78 degrees out. I repeat, what the--?

Oh yeah, it had to get that hot so it can snow on Friday. Of course. Never mind. As you were.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What Are Words For?

So, I'm coming to the end of the fourth day of Nano, and I'm only about halfway to where I should be by now. (OK, that's an improvement over where I was a couple days ago.) It's a real shame I can't throw the 600 or so words I've written in this distracting blog into my official wordcount. So that means I need to buckle even further down and get my brain in gear. Ouch. That hurts.

What are you guys up to this November?

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Race Is On

...And I've already been beaten by a six-year-old! Well, not exactly. I've got about 1500 words to show for the 2 days I've been at work on this year's novel (which, yes, is less than one day's quota, dangit). But Pirate Boy wrote a book this morning before lunch. Illustrated it and bound it in a lovely green cover, too. He said it would have been longer, if he hadn't hurt his finger. Talk about shame. So I've got to somehow capture the fire again and get moving. My word count icon is in the sidebar, if you want to see how I'm doing at any given moment. Don't laugh. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What Is It With Me, Today?

See what I mean? I told you I had a long way to go.

discover your jack-o-lantern face @ quiz me

Thanks, Carmen.

High in Education

Now I begin to understand why we (in the U.S.) fall so short on college graduates...your sanity or your education? And of course "involuntary withdrawals" is another one of those phrases that raises my hackles. Seriously, kicking people out of school because they have, say, a nervous breakdown? Who are these people and who left them in charge?

Which reminds me, I can almost see this scenario playing out in a "historically black college" with students claiming the new president wasn't "black enough" (almost), but it gives me the willies to think about. And let's not even approach the idea that the leader of, say, Bryn Mawr might not be "female enough" to suit the student body. Whose decision is this, anyway? And what happened to diversity?

Long and Winding Road

I really thought I was doing OK with our straitened situation lately. I've been learning to make a variety of good meals with the same limited supply of food and keep the kids from complaining. I've learned not to whine myself even when I don't have chocolate in the house. I kept most of my misery to myself when I was out of pain medication. I keep going even when there's no money in the bank, little food in the fridge, and a severe lack of energy in my body.

But apparently there's something here that I still need to learn. I must have sighed just a little when I went to the fridge yesterday and found there was only one gallon of milk left to last us until Friday lunchtime. I must have had the fleeting thought that it would be hard to make that little bit of milk stretch so long among so many growing boys. But I had already resolved cheerfully to make the best of it (honest) by the time I got the lid off and discovered that, despite its expiration date, it had already gone bad.

I didn't cry, but I know I sighed then. I have so far to go still.


Aha, Renee found the lyrics for me. What the heck? It's... The Llama Song.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nails on a Chalkboard

Just in the last 5 minutes that I've been logged on and reading a couple of articles on the net, I've wanted to claw my own eyes out twice because of things people wanting to sound "expert" have written. These fall under the heading Don't Use Unless You Want to Sound Like a Pretentious Git (and Have an Editor Kill You With a Blue Pencil):
  • Talking about selling a house at a "high price point" -- I will kill you unless you stop after "price." Get the point?
  • Advising a job applicant to include a skill summary so that the reader knows immediately their "value proposition." Dear heavens, who invented that pointless, jargony phrase? They are at the top of my list of people to visit with eggs tonight.
OK, that's all for now. I'm going to have a lie-down. After I brush the bad taste out of my mouth.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Saturday Evening News

Got together with one of my former coworkers today for lunch and had a great chat about the antics at the old place and various children we know and love. Misery shared and laughed at is misery negated, almost.

When I came home 2 hours later, the rest of the family was almost exactly as I'd left them, except The Man (TM) had switched which Web comic he was looking at. So I booted him out to run some errands and spent the next couple hours carving pumpkins with the kids. All 3 of them. Turned out nice.

We were going to work on Halloween costumes, too, but the boys couldn't decide (simultaneously) whether they really wanted to be a train (which I think would be fun and an easy and cheap costume for all 3), so we let it go for the moment. If nothing else, we have 3 pirate hats, some swords, and other miscellany lying around. I get to take all 3 of them trick-or-treating on Tuesday and hope our house doesn't get egged because no one will be home to hand out candy for a while. So I can't be everywhere at once.

Which reminds me, today, TM was talking to Punkin Boy about what a big boy he's getting to be-- "so big and strong" sort of thing. Punkin Boy vehemently denied this. "I'm not strong," he said. "Is Daddy strong?" TM asked. No, Punkin Boy answered, Mama is strong. As I lay curled up in a ball of pain on my bed, I whispered with tears in my eyes, "Thanks, baby. You just made it all worthwhile."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halloween Fun

Dudes. My dad sent this link to a fun little site for kids and anyone else with a lot of time on their hands. The boys have been carving pumpkin faces all day. This weekend we'll be doing it for real, and I've actually gotten some ideas. Check it out.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pyrrhic Victory, with Pumpkins and Pizza

After weeks of (virtual) yelling, screaming, name-calling, hair-pulling, and outright threats (mostly one-sided), #1 Son's birthday weekend is ours (as specified anyway in the court document governing parental visitation), and the entirety of Mother's Day weekend belongs to Mommy Dearest. Which is fine. The split weekends are a hassle and really ought to be easily dealt with. By rational people. I'm sure this conflict will come back to bite us someday, since The Man stuck to the legal document as always and consequently Miss Thing didn't immediately get everything she demanded. Proof positive that he is evil and she is mistreated, of course. And then there was her "Why don't you just give me what I want instead of prolonging this conflict, which is hurting our son?!" This was after she threatened to kidnap the boy instead of abiding by the visitation doc. Because Mommy is always right.

But I'm not bitter. What I am is thrilled that we get to have a whole weekend to celebrate with our boy. I am making him a cake that I hope will look like a Moglin (at his request), and we'll be visiting the local pumpkin patch in the afternoon and eating homemade pizza for dinner. His little brothers are just as excited as he is; it should be fun. And it won't be interrupted by invaders from Hell. I'm so happy.

But at the back of my mind, I worry. These conflicts do bother #1 Son, and he doesn't know or care who's in the right, he just doesn't like confrontation. At some point this week, The Man asked which way he'd like to deal with the conflict, and he said basically "Give Mommy her way." I'm not sure whether that's because he really wanted to spend his birthday with her (hey, it would make up for a few years ago when she was supposed to take him for the birthday and never showed up) or whether he just can't stand her screaming. Doesn't matter, I suppose.

We were reading Matthew 5 (the Sermon on the Mount) tonight for family scripture study, and the latter half of the chapter really hit home. You know, the part about turning the other cheek and loving your enemies. "Agree with your adversary quickly" lest she take you to court and tell all sorts of slanderous lies about you and make your life way worse than it was before. Totally there. ("Good idea, O Lord." "Course it's a good idea!") Yeah.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Everyone's a Critic

I happened across this travel article on today and was browsing through it 'cause boy, I need a vacation. It's all about beach resorts, and just looking at the pictures (instead of the snow on the ground outside) was very relaxing. As I reached the end of the "Pacific Coast" section, a comment caught my eye. It was about the Turtle Bay Resort (which was a Hilton when I spent my wedding night there). In the very first sentence, the writer says, "Turtle Bay Resort may underwhelm you as you enter the... uninspired grounds." I'm sorry, things may have changed since I was there last, but HUH? Take a look at the photos and see whether you're inspired or underwhelmed. I fully plan to be inspired as I go to bed now and reflect on the memories of eating guava cake for breakfast on the lanai with my sweetheart as I watched the waves break and felt the soft ocean breeze. I didn't pay any $900 a night, either. Who writes this stuff?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Semi-Random Jots

Several things today. I was going to post yesterday when we got the first snowfall of the season. Which was, of course, right after one of the warmest few days since August. It's supposed to be back up to 60 tomorrow. This is just typical. What's weird is that it didn't snow in September this year.

Second, I've got my appeal to Social Security nearly finished. I was trying to work on it earlier while getting the kids ready for bed because the SS servers go down at night. But that's sort of like trying to juggle two pitbulls and a chainsaw. They'd never accept that I'm disabled if they knew about that...

Which reminds me, it's miraculous that Punkin Boy is even in bed by now. He's been sleeping until 9-ish every morning lately, which is great, but then he's been staying up till 11 or midnight, and that I can't handle. For one thing, I never get anything done. I was doing so well on finishing my novel, and then this started and all I've been able to do is sit with this 40-pound "baby chick" on my lap (this is his self-label) and read him the same book over and over. It is not a very good book. I guess I shouldn't complain at all. It's taken him 3 years to develop an affection for me; he was best friends with his daddy from the womb, but he only recently acknowledged my existence. So I ought to be grateful.

As for the other kids, dangit all but I want to compare them. I want to be so proud of my Pirate Boy, who uses terms like "syllabification" and "commutative property" in casual conversation and, when he runs out of homework, writes up quizzes and gives lectures about the material he's been learning in school. #1 Son calls him "The Brain" already.

This is the same #1 Son who doesn't bother doing his homework. He tells us every night that he's done with it, and we say, "Do you understand the consequences to you if you are lying?" and he says yes, and then we get yet another note from a teacher saying, "Your child's grade in my class has slipped to C- or below..." Today, it was from a teacher with whom he has several subjects, explaining why he is doing poorly in history, spelling/vocabulary, and reading. Reading, for heaven's sake! His best subject! This is the "make or break" subject for this grade, and he doesn't bother to do the work. What the heck is up with this?

The teachers are always so professional in their wording. Words like "distracted" and "disorganized" come up a lot. The one from the science teacher was pretty interesting-- "#1 Son was unhappy with a critical comment, began crying and hid under his desk." Oh come on. He's turning 12 this week and is acting like a 6-year-old. Except that Pirate Boy never does that. What the heck?

And before you start worrying too much, dear readers, I don't make these comparisons or comments (most of them) out loud. This blog is the place where I can get my worries out and maybe hear some advice (if any of you have any to share) about what on earth to do to help this kid whose DNA is half damaged and who has a lot of stress to deal with. (Yes, I do secretly exult over the superiority of my genetics. All other things being equal, my kid ROCKS!) We give him rules, have standards, love him, give him space, rein him in, expect his best, even threaten when necessary. (Currently, he must raise all his grades to a C or better before Christmas break, or he will be removed from the school he's in. This threat made him cry. We'll see if it motivates him to actually do the work.) What do we do next?

Friday, October 13, 2006

All in the Family

Or maybe I should title this one "It's All About Me." As a spinoff of the trend of Googling oneself (and don't say you've never done it), I recently tried to "Wiki" myself-- that is, input my name into the Wikipedia search box to see what comes up. My name produces 17 hits, the first of which is Killer Klowns from Outer Space. (Second is Angie Dickinson, which is of course, not my name or anything like it. What the heck?)

This started because I discovered that my cousin has a Wikipedia entry. No, not Donovan, the cousin I usually brag about, but one I've been a lot closer to. Last I heard, Ryan was a ska promoter in Phoenix, but apparently he's moved up in the art scene in the past few years. It's his birthday this weekend and I was thinking of him, so I decided to finally dig up the New Times article his dad mentioned. Turns out he's got a much bigger Wiki entry than Donovan. Hmmm. On the other hand, Donovan's got an IMDB entry. Yes, there's some Wiki envy here.

You get the feeling I come from kind of an accomplished family. No joke. My little sisters form the backup group for a folk singer whose name is not on the tip of my tongue so I can't link to him. I'm not completely incompetent myself; the first Google hit you get when searching on my name is in fact a reference to me. As are 3 of the next 10 hits. Not too bad. Donovan became the host of a super-popular TV show at age 24. I really can't touch that. Then there's Ryan. In the last few years, he's become a punk/thrash frontman, a talk-show host, a comedian, a performance artist, and half a dozen other things. And just a few months ago, he put on a new suit, said goodbye to the scene, and headed off to be a missionary in Oregon. He was 19 years old.

Dudes. I am running so behind.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Love My Social Worker

(How sick is it that I even have a social worker? Argh! But fortunately, it's not turning out to be such a bad thing after all. Geez. )

Yes, Darci the S.W. came by today. First, she came by while I was at my writers group (which happened to be in Cheyenne this morning--brrr!) and left her card. That was pretty cool, I thought. If she really thought she'd catch us at something, she wouldn't warn us like that. So I came in and fed Punkin Boy ('cause yes, I do that) and had some lunch too. Then I straightened up a bit.

While I was finishing up the dishes, Darci came by again. She looked apologetic. "Let me guess," I said. "You got another crazy phone call." Apparently. Claiming we don't feed any of our kids anything, even banana bread. She explained that she had to investigate and had talked to the kids yesterday. They seemed fine, she said (thank you very much), and asked if it would be too much trouble for me to let her look in my kitchen at the food I claim to have. Oh sure, come on in.

Sorry for the mess, I said, I've been working. (Yay, I had another project, but yech, the state of my house!) This time, she said it wasn't so bad, so I felt better. I explained about the church welfare system and mentioned that I had multiple cuts of meat in the freezer and fresh veggies and fruits in the fridge. "Mind if I look?" Darci said. Nah, go ahead. She seemed really impressed and amazed. But she believed me. That felt good, like my sanity had been restored.

We talked for a while about the situation and how sometimes #1 Son likes to exaggerate slightly to set his "mommy" off on one of her rampages. He thinks it's funny (*Jack*), and it would be if it didn't affect our family like it does. She is quite amazingly insane and wants no truck with reality if it means agreeing with me or The Man (TM). (She's still going on about how he's trying to steal her time with her baby, when in reality it's her threatening to kidnap him when he's supposed to be here with his father. Sheesh.)

So anyway, Darci and I had a very nice chat. We talked about how skinny #1 Son is and how skinny his dad was when he was younger. How he eats more than I do, and I certainly don't weigh 75 pounds. Dang fast metabolism. How sweet Pirate Boy is and how he loves to talk about his pirate crew to anyone who'll listen. And how healthy all the boys seem to be and how she'll just be closing out this incident and making a note in case of future psycho phone calls.

YES! I love my social worker.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


After all the psychosis surrounding our kids' eating habits lately, I've been a little more, let's face it, self-conscious about the dinners I serve and so on. So last night, as we sat around the dinner table eating big plates of spaghetti florentine, I joked to #1 Son, "So, are you getting fed lately?" It was only half a joke, really, but he laughed. Today I had a lavish dinner including a glazed ham and baked potatoes with the works, on the table ready to eat by 5:30, which was when I expected The Man (TM) and the older kids to walk in the door from school. TM has to leave again by 6:30, so I try to serve the meals so as to have as much relaxation and "family" time as possible on our hurried days.

Well, by 6:00, when TM hadn't shown up, I had started to get worried and Punkin Boy had started to get really hungry. I decided to put the meat and potatoes on TM's plate and pour the milk, so he'd be all ready to eat when he walked in. A few minutes later, I gave in and served Punkin too. And then I seriously started praying. At 6:15, the garage door opened and our missing boys arrived, #1 Son sporting a splint on his right hand. Oh good. There was very little time for explanation, but I gathered that the finger that we had thought yesterday was only jammed actually has a fracture, and the missing time was spent in the urgent care clinic. TM got the X-rays on a CD-ROM, which was kind of a relief because at least we had evidence that it wasn't any worse.

I was already formulating an email to Hell when someone brought up the subject of dinner (yes, here it is, still somewhat warm, miraculously) and how someone still thinks they don't eat. And TM asked, "Did CPS stop by today?" Ummmm, no. Should they? Apparently, they said they might. When did they say this? Oh, when they were giving our kids the third degree in the vice principal's office today after receiving yet another call from "a concerned citizen." Saying things to our kids like, "Tell the truth; we know you're not getting any food at home." Dear heavens.

Dorothy has dealt with this crud before, so she knows how awful it can be. I'm glad I'm not the only one this stuff happens to. Fortunately, our kids know the difference between "We get food" and "We don't get food" and they stuck to their guns, according to their accounts. Geez. How do you fight this garbage? We've already shown a social worker the inside of our pantry. We've explained that we get our food for free from our church welfare system, wonderful thing that it is, and we will continue to do so until we get back on our feet financially. As amazing as it may sound, it's true. And having obtained as much food as we want (because yes, that's how it works), why would we refuse to feed it to our children? Only a lunatic could believe that.

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's Not Really Funny

It's finally happening. #1 Son is starting to question his mother's sanity. He came to me a couple days ago and asked, "Why does my mom think all these weird things are true, when everybody tells her they're not?" Good question, kid. Not that I can answer it for him. My best strategy in this case is a sort of Socratic approach. But mostly I keep quiet and let him talk. "I tell her I eat a lot, and she thinks I'm starving!" I know. Sigh. "And remember when she thought I had a concussion?" Yes. Sigh.

He eventually decides that she just isn't understanding what's being said to her, and that maybe he shouldn't make things so complex when he talks to her. "I'll use very small words," he says with a grin.

OK, now I've gotta go stick my face under a pillow and LAUGH.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thursday 13: Big Screen Edition

Thirteen of SCONE's Favorite Movies
(in no particular order after #1)
  1. Pirates of the Caribbean (Curse of the Black Pearl)
  2. The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson

What are your favorites?

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Why are people so crazy? I'd just really like to know. Like f'r'instance the board of our homeowners' ("community") association (also abbreviated Comm'y Ass.), which functions like the headquarters of the SS for our small, impoverished neighborhood-- putting the fear of Hitler into the masses. You get marginally comfortable for a while, then you get a summons (i.e., a threat) for a crime you're pretty sure you didn't commit and don't think is really a crime anyway.

We got one today. It says that we must restore our yard to lush green health in the next week or face a severe penalty. Sorry, could you repeat that? You want us to replace our grass in mid-October for why? And how do you propose we do this? Not your problem, I see. Gah!

And then there's the usual psycho up to her antics again. Dear heavens, I wish she'd get the natural consequences of her actions, just once. At the very least, being that stupid and/or crazy ought to be severely painful. She ought to feel like I do all the time. Gah.

[Updated about an hour later: I should give an example besides what The Man blogged about in that link, for those who don't feel like clicking. She calls up to yell at The Man because they haven't reached an agreement on changing visitation for this month or something. Any excuse really. Then she talks to #1 Son, who didn't do his homework this weekend because, well, she had to take him to a hockey game. And a football game. He came home sounding like Janis Joplin, with no homework done. So tonight she yells at him about it because gee, it wasn't her fault, scheduling his every waking hour of visitation with fun-fun-fun stuff because otherwise he might not like her or something. So she asks if he's done with his homework for tonight. He says no. He also says (looking for a way to distract her?) that his dad had threatened that he wouldn't get dinner if he didn't do his homework as soon as he got home tonight. Well, he did go straight in and do it, and he did get dinner. He got seconds. But Miss Thing springs to the conclusion that we're starving her baby! Haven't we been over this before? So the yelling continues. And so on.

Did I mention that it's because of this psycho person that we can't get out of this psycho "community"? Gah.]

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Joey O. has arrived in good condition (at a whopping 10 pounds) and didn't kill anybody in the process. Congratulations to Kory O. and the whole family.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thank You Very Much

Science has now proven what many of us parents already knew to be true about kids and their viewing habits as related to academic performance. (And after all, that's where my priorities lie, not indulging their desires to vegetate, much as I sympathize.) Check out the story on

To recap:
  1. No TV on school nights.
  2. No TV in your room.
  3. No R-rated movies, period.

Cool. Thanks.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


Tonight I'm feeling motherly. The Man (TM) was gone most of the day on errands and things, taking one or the other of the little boys with him and leaving the other with me. (#1 Son is off with Mommy this weekend.) So I've had a lot of mom practice today. When TM came home at dinner time with Pirate Boy, the little guy went straight to his room to lie down, so I didn't see him for a while. Eventually, I heard him sniffling and went to check on him, though he was reportedly "taking a nap."

Ack! What is going on? My precious Pirate Boy looks like he's been beaten in the face repeatedly and is having a really hard time breathing. What the ----?! Poor little guy croaks out that he is probably allergic to cats and wonders aloud if we have any medicine. Poor little sweetie. Fortunately, we did have a couple of doses of children's Benadryl left, and I soaked a washcloth in cold water for him to put on his poor puffy purple eyes. He tells me that's what "the lady" did, too.

Oh yes, the lady friend of Daddy's that you guys spent 2-3 hours with this afternoon instead of coming home after your errand, or at least after you started getting sick. I'm not even going to mention "without calling home." I'm not. She's an old professional contact of Daddy's, after all. Shut up, I know it's Saturday and he's not working.

Anyway, Punkin Boy was also feeling a little needy today; he was up last night until nearly 11 and then up again by 7 a.m. with his brother. Dang, what do you eat, spark plugs? And he was up until after 9 again tonight, with no nap. But fussy and whiny and wanting Daddy when he wasn't home and wanting to be read the same book 100 times. Well, that's pretty standard, really.

But my thoughts keep straying to my good friend Kory O, who was supposed to have her baby this week, or that was the intent of scheduling labor induction on Thursday afternoon. She's my age, having her first baby, and he's a whopper (not unlike my Punkin Boy, whom I had by c-section thank-you-very-much). Now, I've had a couple of inductions myself, so I know that they take a good long time, even when they go well. But dangit, it's Saturday night, and I still haven't heard anything. I'm worried.

OK, let's think about what we know about having labor induced. First, when you show up at the hospital at the time they scheduled you for, they inevitably send you home because somebody else is already in labor and after all, you can wait. Even if you can't, you can. Go home and wait another day or two. (With my first, I had to wait from Friday until Monday. Those punks.) Eventually, though, they will let you in and the real fun begins.

So let's see, maybe she didn't get in until Friday afternoon... OK, then they take a year putting in all the IV needles because at 9 months along, you're swollen like a beach ball and you have no veins near the surface. The ones they do find either roll over or burst, turning you a lovely shade of black in no time. That kills a couple hours. Then they start the pitocin drip.

For a while it seems nothing is happening, but you start to get a little irritable. More irritable. If you're me, your husband develops a nasty case of the hiccups that nothing-- including a trip to the emergency room-- will cure. This will make you homicidal within another two hours. You will banish him for a while, then get lonely and scared and call him back. Then the cycle will repeat. Occasionally, a nurse will appear to check your vital signs. This will irritate you more.

You may try to listen to music, do crosswords, or read. Everything will irritate you in short order, and you will fling it aside and pace around the room, if there's space. You will start feeling like you're having menstrual cramps and think "Now we're getting somewhere." But you're not. Trust me; you'll be able to sleep through these, no problem. And you do.

No, it's not until about 1 p.m. of the second day that things get interesting-- again, if you're me, but I hear this isn't uncommon. At some point, you enter what my childbirth-class teacher called "the speeding car." Suddenly, there it is, full-blown labor, and it takes your breath away. Things after that get a little blurry, but you will start crying out for the drugs. If you're me, you do the tame stuff, the analgesics that last for a couple hours maybe. They might even knock you out. If you're Kory, you're wily enough to have asked for an epidural right up front. No messing around, just make the pain stop. I am a little leery about epidurals, but I won't tell the horror stories here.

The rest depends a lot on mother and baby and a little on the doctor and hospital. I never did dilate enough to deliver a full-size baby, and finally, about 28 hours into the process, the doc suggested maybe I might consider a c-section. Yay. That would be about... now, if Kory had to start a day later than she was scheduled. So I guess I don't have to worry too much unless I don't hear from them tomorrow. I'm sure they'll call. Or email. Or something.

I worry. They have no relatives in the area, and nobody will be arriving to help, even if things go awry-- his family lives half a world away, her parents are in the next world. Her brother and his wife just had a baby a week or two ago-- with Downs Syndrome and a heart defect. They have enough to deal with. So I worry. Ten years ago, I'd have been there for her, with her. But now all I can do is worry and pray and write about it. Did I mention worry? Aye.

On the up side, Pirate Boy is feeling better and can actually breathe enough to sleep tonight. Well, that's a relief.

So I'm a Druggie or Something

I am seriously considering getting a new doctor. It's a shame, really, because this guy seems to know his stuff and trust me to give him accurate information. But his assistant is an idiot. Normally, that doesn't affect me too much, and I've been willing to cope with it to have a good doc who can deliver. But recently, during the disability evaluation, a woman from the Social Security office called about a note that was in my medical file. "Are you employed? Because it says here that you've been checking your blood pressure at work." Um, no. Not employed. No work. Can't work, remember? Maybe it's a reference to my blood pressure being high because of my work a year ago? She sounded extremely dubious, and I don't blame her. What the heck? I'm thinking it was a note meant for someone else's file and it got put in mine by mistake.

But then there was my latest adventure, and I'm ready to commit bodily damage on the dimwits who work at that clinic. It started when I noticed that I was getting a little low on my pain meds and decided to call for a new prescription. (Percocet requires a new paper prescription written every time you get a new supply, it being a mind-altering drug and all.) This was last week-- i.e., the third week of September-- remember that.

I guess the trouble started because I needed the new script to be the same strength as I'd been using for a long time instead of the new one the doc had given me the last time I was in. (My discount plan doesn't cover it, so it costs an arm, a leg, and most of the small intestine.) I called and explained the situation and specified the strength and dosage that I needed. The doc's assistant (Idiot Girl) called back and said I could pick up the paper. Great, I said. The Man (TM) picked it up and fortunately brought it home before stopping at the pharmacy. "Um, this is only for half the amount I need," I muttered. It being Friday evening, I had to wait until Monday to call back and ask them to correct the mistake.

So Monday morning I called, thankful that I still had a couple days' worth of pills left. The person who took my call apologized, but the doc wouldn't be in again until Tuesday. OK, fine. Except of course that TM doesn't have a free minute on Tuesdays (or Thursdays) while the clinic is open and will be unable to get it until Wednesday. Well, fortunately, I had enough meds left to survive that long.

On Wednesday, TM being worried about me, he took the script directly to the pharmacy and had it filled. When he brought it home, I took one look and screamed. It was twice the dose it should have been, so it cost well over $150. Money, I need not add, that we couldn't spare. Dear heavens, how hard is this? How many times did I specify what strength and dosage I needed? (Yes, I was in full "critical Mom" mode.) OK, the clinic's still open, let's see if we can get this fixed today. I called and left yet another message but again had to wait for Idiot Girl to call back and tell me it was ready.

Well, she didn't call on Wednesday. Thursday morning, her bright but dim voice came over the line, "We've got it right this time. Sorry for the inconvenience." Inconvenience? Really? I have exactly one more pill left-- that's 6 hours' worth-- no car, and no way to get this thing filled today. And in fact, no way to get it filled tomorrow until late afternoon. So, in fact, I faced nearly 24 hours of not just unmitigated pain but (what I didn't know) the excruciating torment of opiate withdrawal. Oooh, inconvenient, that.

By 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the Percocet had worn off and my muscles were seizing up. I took a large dose of ibuprofen, but it had no effect. By midnight, my every nerve felt as if it were on fire. I couldn't sleep, but at some point, the pain overwhelmed me and I passed out. It also woke me a bit later. I repeated this cycle several times before morning. When TM and the older kids left for school, I was having a hard time breathing because it hurt too much to move even that little bit. I couldn't even croak out, "Only 9 more hours." I wanted to blog about it; my brain was still alert enough to find the situation interesting, but I physically couldn't do even that much.

Punkin Boy was pretty good, and didn't jump on me or head-butt me or anything, and that helped a lot. Still, it was a marathon. And I was just wondering whether I could make it through that last 2 hours, when miracle of miracles, the garage door opened and in rushed TM with a pharmacy bag in his hand. He looked like nothing less than an angel of mercy bringing deliverance to a tormented soul. It took a while for the effects of the withdrawal to leave me, but much of the pain took a most welcome powder and I was able to smile again.

I'm feeling better, but I'm still looking for a new doc.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In Security

I had this post all planned out in my head last night. I was going to write it up during the day, but then I thought it might be tricky accomplishing that with a preschooler hanging off my elbow or stepping on my shoulders. So I put it off. Naturally, by tonight, I am brain dead and glassy-eyed and can only vaguely remember the topic, which was The Response from the Social Security People to my Disability Application.

When The Man (TM) handed me the envelope and said, "Social Security sends their love," I had the sinking feeling that they had rejected my claim. I didn't want to open it. But I didn't want anyone else to open it, either. So I waited until after dinner (like my appetite wasn't already ruined), popped it open, and scanned down through the bureaucratese to the good stuff. Yep, they rejected me, all right.

Now, I wasn't really surprised and I wasn't really being negative about the situation. TM had thought I was, but then he talked to a bunch of people at school and around town about it, and they all agreed that everyone gets rejected the first time; some even said it takes an average of three tries before you get accepted-- unless you hire a lawyer for your appeal. Then it's almost automatic.

I think it's important to note that in general my esteem for various government agencies is a lot higher on average than most people's simply because I've worked for and with them. (This will come up again later.) But boy, my respect for the SS people just sank.

I remember part of my rant (and believe me, it was going to be a rant-- and probably still is) involved my first reaction to their pronouncement-- specifically, the words "Are you stupid, or just evil?"

Well, my first reaction, after I stopped laughing enough to breathe. Because although they did accept my statement that I can no longer do the job I worked at most recently (i.e., magazine editor), I should easily be able to return to my previous career as an intelligence analyst! Oh, of course! Without the ability to sit or stand very long and with my mind constantly clouded by the pain medicine... sure, involve me in our country's security, have me writing reports that our president will use to determine whether to choose peace or war... sure.

OK, some of you out there are cynically nodding to yourselves and going, yeah, I always knew that was what went on there... except it doesn't. If I even applied to get my old job back, even provided that I had a chance of moving back to the suburban D.C. area, they'd take one look at my test scores and laugh me out of town. Seriously. I'm still laughing, and it's not even funny. (But that link is. Click it and weep.)

OK, so here's the deal. They tell me I have 60 days from receipt of this letter (and they know when I got it, of course) to ask in writing for a hearing in court. Then I have to sign form xyz-590/3 etcetera, etcetera. Then I have to complete an appeal form telling more about my medical condition since I filed my claim. THEN, a judge will inform me (by the ever-trusty US Postal Service) when my appeal hearing will be. It is bound to be impossible to make. They feel the need to tell me, however, in BIG BOLD PRINT that it is important to go to the hearing. 'Cause I'm stupid or something.

Only, apparently, I'm not. This was their reasoning behind denying my claim. And I quote:
"Although these conditions may cause you concern, a recent exam showed that you are able to think, reason, communicate, remember and follow instructions, and act in your own best interest."
Because any condition short of Terri Schiavo's is not the same as, or anywhere near as bad as, being disabled. I begin to sense a plan here. A plan to save Social Security. The means are simple: Never pay out any claims again! Mwahahahahaha!

No, seriously. I'm starting to get the feeling that the answer to my earlier question is the second option. But then TM picks up the letter from where I've dropped it in my gales and convulsions of laughter. He starts reading about the hearing stuff. "You have the right to an attorney... if you cannot afford an attorney... groups who can help... Wait. If you hire an attorney, we will withhold 25 percent of your benefits." Uh huh. And this is because what? Oh yes, because if you hire a lawyer, you're almost certain to win the appeal, and therefore....

I think we have our answer to the earlier question: evil.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Talkin' 'bout Pirates

Well, our pirate household enjoyed Talk Like a Pirate Day. Pirate Boy was particularly good and only said "Shiver me timbers!" when he was on the playground and not in the classroom. It was one of our long and painful days, so I had to use the threat of keelhauling to get the little pirates to go to bed, but they didn't make me follow through.

After that, I turned to the most appropriate entertainment I could think of, and fired up the Pirates! game. It's got great atmosphere any old time. But do you know what it does on September 19?

It talks like a pirate, of course.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Backward Glance

This week has been a time to stop and look back for many people. I let my mind wander back 5 years to my thoughts and feelings as the world got a little more dangerous, a little crueler. I didn't dwell too long on my feelings relief and accompanying guilt, but maybe I should. Maybe I will sometime.

This week (in fact, today) marks another disconcerting anniversary: I've officially been out of work for 1 year. For a whole year now, my family has been living on donations, student loans, temp jobs, and whatever else we can scrounge. I don't like it. I especially don't like it now that the disability determination people are looking askance at my claim that I can't work enough to support our family, and our bank is sending notices that gee, a few days ago we didn't have any money at all in our account (wouldn't it have been nice to know at the time-- no, they slam us with half a dozen fees and then send the "please deposit..." note).

Sorry. I know it's my fault for not having enough money in the account in the first place. It's supposed to be there, and it would have been there but somehow that phone call to the VA didn't get made this month and gee, there goes a thousand dollars we really needed. Aaauugh! Waaaah...

OK, stop. I'm moaning and complaining again. It's back to the desperate scrabble for us, but it's really amazing that we're still living indoors and keeping our children fed and clothed. In fact, it's a miracle. And for that miracle and all the others, I am grateful.

And... tomorrow is another anniversary-- this one of a much different type. Tomorrow is the birthday of my sweetheart husband. We're growing old together, and it feels pretty good.

And hey, on Tuesday, I get to talk like a pirate. Heh.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


It's time...

9/11 Tribute: Jeffrey Earle LeVeen

Jeffrey Earle LeVeen, killed at age 55 on September 11, 2001. This is what I started from: a name and a photo. Well, just a name first. And I wondered what else I could learn about him by searching the Web. Quite a bit, it turns out. This was a man who truly lived.

Jeff LeVeen, a partner and senior vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald, enjoyed his financial and career success, reporting for work at the WTC by 7:30 most mornings. He loved to play golf and had won many trophies in various tournaments. But most of all, he reveled in his roles as a husband, father, friend, brother, and colleague. He was full of life and love and shared those abundantly with others in his life. You can find some tributes here. (I hope. The link wasn't working when I tried it tonight.)

Here's a quote from my favorite article about this energetic man who thoroughly enjoyed life:

By day, Jeff LeVeen of Plandome, N.Y., was a chieftain in the financial world, a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, an Ivy Leaguer and the owner of two well-appointed homes and a golf handicap of 3. By night, he was a rock groupie who attended nearly a dozen Dave Matthews concerts a year.

His wife Christine called him "the most positive person I ever met." When the time came to find individual pictures of him for the memorial Mass at St. Mary's in Manhasset, Christine faced a difficulty that typified her husband's life: He was almost never photographed alone.

"All our photos showed him with his arm around the kids or they had their arms around him. He was never alone," she said. "That's the kind of man he was."

This beautiful couple had five children, Jeff Jr., Betsy, Andrew, Katie, and Meg, who were their father's proudest achievement.

Jeff LeVeen, it's a privilege to have met you. See you after the show.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Up All Night

I don't even want to be typing this here. I want to be in bed. Asleep. Preferrably with my sweet husband, but he's working tonight. And I can't sleep.

You see, I heard a cough.

#1 Son has insomnia these days. He says it's been going on for a while. He came out of his room at 10:30 last night complaining of being unable to sleep, and I pointed out that perhaps if he changed from his school uniform into some pajamas and laid down in a reasonably made bed, he might feel differently. He just blinked at me. And twitched.

He does that a lot. Just looks at you, blinking uncomprehendingly. Sometimes it's almost a R.E.M. sort of movement, quick, jerky, back and forth. I think sometimes it's an effect of the redirection therapy he had a couple years back to deal with the trauma of being molested. This is a kid with a lot of repressed issues, I totally know that. I just worry that he doesn't have the coping strategies to deal with the onset of puberty and the realization of what really happened to him that will probably accompany those changes. I worry a lot.

I want to be able to just trust that everything will be OK, but there's no telling, there's just none. I want to bury my head under a pillow and hope it all goes away. I want to call up RAINN and spill my guts: "Help, I'm an adult survivor of multiple sexual assaults, two of them in the same fricking WEEK so my mom thought I was just reacting to the date rape and didn't believe me about my brother, so she didn't tell my dad so he couldn't tell HER he'd caught the little bastard at it before with my sisters and we could have gotten HELP and he could have been STOPPED before he went on to victimize kids in other states and even other countries and maybe I wouldn't have quite so many nightmares now that my stepson has been molested at his own mother's house by a kid who shouldn't even be his stepbrother except that people are so STUPID and now he's having to deal with this stupid stupid STUPID family-solidarity thing where the criminal is accepted and idolized and is his main role model of how to be a teenage boy so now he bashes his head against walls and screams that he doesn't want to be a teenager and he sleeps only 15 feet from my precious little angels and I can't just lock him in his room and I can't stay up forever, I have to sleep sometime and I want to trust him but the only way to really know whether I can is to catch him in the act of violating that trust and my little babies and at that point it will be too late for us all and what if I did catch him and go berserk and rip his throat out or smash his head in or throw him down the stairs, it's not his fault, it's HERS and it's the OTHER one's and oh just please please HELP....." I want to vomit.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Little Cheering Up

For those of you who, like me, could use a good laugh right now, I give you two:

Geoffrey Chaucer meets the Dread Pirate Roberts

Star Trek Inspirational Posters

(That last one's for you, Julia. Especially page 2.)

Oh, the Humanity!

I mentioned recently that we've had mice in our house again, which is something that I truly hate. When I shop for mouse-control, I go to the "whack 'em" or "poison 'em" section and load up. The Man, always on the lookout for something new, brought home one of those supposedly "humane" mouse traps-- you know, the catch-and-release kind that's basically a box with a one-way door.

Now aside from not wanting to deal with what to do with a live mouse (where on earth do you release the little boogers, and won't they just come back into a house, although possibly not yours?), I also don't want the guilt triggered by their anguished little squeaks from under my sink. Among other things.

It turns that these traps aren't as humane as all that. I'm not sure how it happened, but when we checked our trap a couple nights ago (upon hearing scritching and squeaking in the kitchen), we discovered three mice in it: two live and one dead. So very dead as to render it nearly a plurality. At least one of the other mice in the trap seemed terribly distraught about this turn of events. I think the other one might have given up or possibly had a heart attack. Maybe it was playing possum.

In any case, being buried alive doesn't strike me as a very humane fate. I think I'll skip it from now on.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Carpool Tunnel Vision

Warning: deep chasm of self-pity ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

There, I warned you. For anyone who's still reading, here's my rant.

When The Man came home on Friday with (finally!) the school's list of parents who want to carpool, I was overjoyed because it was about 11 pages long. Surely, someone on that list must live within 10 minutes of our house and have fewer than 3 children. Surely. Someone must.

It turned out that 3 families had listed the same neighborhood school we did. (If you'll recall, this is the ultra super-duper classical/Core Knowledge charter school in the next town; it has a waiting list a mile long and then you only get in by lottery.) Well, 3 wasn't many, but it was something, so we called. The first number had been disconnected. The second turned out to belong to a business. The third, we got an answering machine, and I don't think the people ever called back.

So we branched out a little. We had already talked to some families we knew in town, but they already had carpools worked out. We started calling families from other areas of town, randomly-- somehow there just weren't that many. Saturday morning, we managed to get hold of one (yes, exactly one) family with 2 kids who didn't already have a carpool arranged. We set up a meeting with them for Monday, and everything seemed to be working out fine. Yes, they lived on the other side of town and their older kid had to be at school earlier than everyone else, but it was worth it to know that our boys would be able to get home from school.

This morning, The Man drove over to their place, picked up their kids, and got everyone to school on time (I think). The other kids' mom was scheduled to collect the kids after school and bring them home. Our place is on their way back to their house, so it shouldn't be a problem, and I was anxiously looking forward to seeing the boys after their big "first day of school" this afternoon.

Well, I waited. And I waited. And the longer I waited, the more anxious I got. School ended at 2:45; I figured they might not get away until 3:00. So 3:30 would be a reasonable time to see them home. But 3:45 came and went. And 4:00 came... Nobody had called, so I was sure everything was fine. I mean, this isn't your standard kidnapping method, certainly. It was just... odd.

When the boys finally walked in the door, I was so relieved I almost didn't notice the two plastic bags in Pirate Boy's hand. The car that had dropped them off had already left, and I didn't ask any question about the ride. We spent several minutes going over the excitements of the day, including not making too big a deal about the fact that my shy little boy had apparently had trouble getting permission to go to the bathroom (twice-- sigh) during class. First day of school is so overwhelming.

Well, we were all sorted and I managed to keep everything under control and even fix dinner before The Man got home. (I haven't even mentioned how cranky Punkin Boy was after getting up at 6 a.m. and having no nap-- or how cranky I was about it either.) Just as we were sitting down to dinner, the phone rang. It was our carpool people saying that they just couldn't take the stress of driving our boys around or the inconvenience of having to drive the extra, what, 5 minutes total out of their way, and did we know that our Pirate Boy had peed his pants? They hated to be a bother, but they thought we should start looking for a new carpool. I wanted to reach through the phone and strangle someone.

The Man, ever calm, took it in stride and after dinner took up the carpool list again. There was one number we hadn't tried yet, so he called it. The number had been disconnected, so he tried the new one. Had to leave a message, then he had to leave. (On Tuesday/Thursday, he gets to come home long enough to eat dinner with the family for about a half hour during his 14-hour school day.) On his way out, he mentioned that he will be home late (as compared to the usual 9:30 p.m.) because he has to go get some help from the study group at the dorm. Absolutely must. Tonight. I wouldn't want to be here, either.

Fortunately, I'm not a suspicious or jealous wife. Just desperately upset and hormonal. So I shuffled the boys through baths and jammies and "what-did-you-think-you-were-doing-soaking-the-entire-bathroom?!" and so on. During this process, our last best hope for transportation returned TM's call and said, "No, sorry, we live in YZ Town now." Sigh.

I had managed to get the little punkins into bed and we were just doing our nightly ritual of prayers and songs when the phone rang again. It was the Carpool Poopers. The husband said his wife would kill him if he didn't just come out and say they wouldn't be driving with us again, ever. Sorry for the inconvenience and all. Sure.

So I end up sitting on the end of the boys' bed just sobbing for all I'm worth. After all we've gone through to get these kids into the best school possible, after the fights with Satan, after all these years of juggling schooling for The Man, after the confusion that almost left Pirate Boy without a school to go to this year... (I didn't mention that, did I? I thought "all's well that end's well"; ha!) After all the sacrifices for our family's well-being, we're being beaten down yet again. I hate that.

Sniffle. Thanks for listening. I feel better now. Carpool-less, but better.

Monday, September 04, 2006

In Memoriam

In honor of his Crikey-ness, the Croc Hunter, who died earlier today, I am playing Adventure Quest tonight. Specifically, I am visiting the Frogzard Hunter, who was modeled after Steve Irwin and is mildly entertaining in a similarly fun way. Go check him out if you can get on the server. Just don't tell him how badly drawn his pants are.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nick of Time

With back-to-school day right around the corner, we've been trying to get #1 Son to read up on some of the classics that he might encounter in school (e.g., Greek and Roman history and mythology) or that he might just enjoy for their content (e.g., Frankenstein). But he hasn't seemed terribly excited about them, calling the latter book "boring." Now, knowing the book and being the irritatingly dedicated problem-solvers that we are, The Man and I decided to quiz him on the content to see whether he was having comprehension problems despite the boy's assertion that he does totally understand, it's just really dull.

[TM reads a passage from the explorer's narrative, which mentions sending a letter on a merchantman headed the right way.]
#1 Son looks bored.
I ask: "So, what's a merchantman?"
#1 Son: "Umm... a man who's a merchant?"
Me: "Hmmm, no." But I have to admit it's a reasonably logical deduction. Turning to Pirate Boy, we pose the question again: "What's a merchantman"?
Pirate Boy: "It's a type of ship!" Of course.

So the conversation went on like this and we determined that yes, #1 Son was having some comprehension issues that could probably be resolved by the judicious use of a dictionary. Or they could if he realized that he doesn't understand the words. School is starting up none too soon, I'm afraid. In another recent episode, #1 Son kept insisting that 6 + 6 = 14 and got irate when I suggested he might want a slight review before classes begin.

On a similar topic, Pirate Boy informed #1 Son and me the other day that "in the War of 1812, the British were trying to gain control of the Mississippi River, so Jean Lafitte and I helped the Americans defeat them." There was something about the comparative casualty rate and a letter he'd sent to the British commander. He ended with a knowing nod: "Then the British retreated."

Dear heavens, school is starting none too soon... I wonder if they cover the War of 1812 in 1st grade?


So in a fit of curiosity a while back, I signed up for one of those "find your old school friends" services online-- just the free kind, 'cause I'm not that crazy. But of course most of the people I care about talking to again aren't listed on those things, or I already know how to get in touch with them, so I'd kind of forgotten about it.

However... this evening I got a notice that someone from my past was interested in getting in touch with me. This is a girl I hung out with in my old neighborhood (4th-8th grade), which I have to tell you, wasn't a very nice one. The neighborhood, I meant, but it's true of the girl too. There are those who would have called her family "white trash"; I didn't know what the term meant.

I could mention that she's now a single mom of teenagers and living in North Carolina, cleaning stuff for a living. So probably she hasn't really changed much, although I'm admittedly biased. I remember her laughing uproariously at her older brother's fart jokes. I remember the plaid shirts she used to wear before grunge had made them cool. I remember her stringy red hair and freckles, sometimes under a cowboy hat. Her wide grin, her brassy voice-- usually making a rude comment disguised as humor.

My mixed feelings about whether to reply to her note are curious to me. The years I spent in that place were not mostly happy ones, and the fact that I hung out with people I didn't like or respect embarrasses me. The fact that they feel good about having had me for a friend is nice, and I really want to be a friend to people... love thy neighbor and all that. So I guess I'm having a hard time accepting that I don't love my neighbor when she makes my skin crawl. Must work on that.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thursday 13: End of Summer

Thirteen Things about THIS WEEK
  1. The lateness of this 13 says a lot, doesn't it?
  2. It's the last week of the kids' summer break.
  3. The return will come none too soon.
  4. We still don't have a way to get them home after school.
  5. I'm apparently the only one who cares.
  6. I've only had one migraine so far this week.
  7. The migraine medication my doc gave me actually works... eventually.
  8. The new dosage of Percocet he gave me isn't covered by my "discount card"-- to the tune of $129 a bottle.
  9. It's darn good we got that check, isn't it?
  10. I still haven't sent Caty's birthday present-- she turned 1 on the 17th!
  11. Isn't she cute?
    Posted by Picasa
  12. We discovered mice and centipedes in our house this week.
  13. They came in to get out of the rain-- yay, we got rain!!!

    Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Back-to-School Whine

The Man went back to school this week (after nearly two weeks off--woohoo!), in case you were wondering where I've been. (That, and I was plagued by another round of migraines and started some new blood-pressure medicine. Oy.)

Because TM is in school full-time, I've been home all day, every day, with all the kids. Under some circumstances that wouldn't be impossible to deal with. In fact, I suspect that most moms do not get so stressed by their children that they begin their days by threatening homicide. But I have to be different. Or rather, my kids do.

So they cannot simply walk on the floor (even when it's clear of toys and trash); oh no, they must run and jump and fling themselves on the furniture, preferably head down so that their little necks look like they will surely snap. Of course. And they cannot simply talk to people who are standing within 5 feet of them in a room less than 10 feet square. Oh no. They must yell at volumes calculated to carry in a baseball stadium-- during the World Series. And when they get really excited they must utter sudden and piercing shrieks over and over like a flock of possessed gulls.

This is when they're on their good behavior, mind you. Today they... weren't. It's been building up all week-- Monday, they were pretty good (Monday is also a short day), Tuesday, it was quite a bit harder (TM is gone for about 12 hours on Tues/Thurs and I'm still coping with crippling pain and coma-inducing medications). Today was the worst. After TM came home, I'd wanted to just crawl into a corner and cry, but instead I had to help keep the monkeys under control while he very kindly fixed dinner. And it almost wasn't enough.

After dinner, I did go crawl under a blanket and shake violently from the stress, but the animals found me anyway. While their dad was on the phone trying to persuade his brother to move in with us, the kids swarmed over my bed, sat on me, and whacked me with books to indicate that it was story time. But I couldn't even do that. I, who used to study Chinese and Russian simultaneously in the middle of the night with my eyes shut, couldn't even open my eyes and read Go, Dog. Go!

I wanted to be back on my feet before time to tuck the little brigands in, but I simply couldn't move. And within minutes, there were violent screams and wails from their end of the house. Apparently TM had had a bad day too. I managed to pry myself out of bed and totter on pain-pierced feet down the hall, collapsing across the end of the littler pirates' bed. I pulled the door shut and announced, "We are all going to sleep now." Oh, how they fussed! I just laid there. The Punkin jumped and bounced and turned acrobatic flips off the walls and onto his brother's head. I moved him over but otherwise just laid there. He howled and complained. "We are going to sleep now," I repeated. And in only 30 minutes, both of the little pirates were unconscious. Truly a miracle. One week down, 14 more to go-- this semester.

And now, really, I am going to sleep too.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's Alive!

I've been reading an interesting book lately, in between chasing children and weeping uncontrollably. It's called The Monsters: Mary Shelley & the Curse of Frankenstein. The Man brings home all sorts of bizarro stuff from the library, and being a half-comatose invalid, I basically take what I can get and read it all. Some of it's bad. Some of it's good. This book is fascinating.

Mostly I say that because of the research that obviously went into it. Now, the people who wrote this book, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, were consummate professionals at researching biographies by the time they got to this one. The "Also by" page lists another 18 nonfiction titles to their credit. Their specialty seems to be analysis and interpretation of the facts, not mere reporting of each one. Their skill at this impressed me, and as many of you know, that's not easy to do.

But about the story. As you've guessed, the book traces the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of the novel Frankenstein, but it goes so far beyond that that you may forget who this "Mary" person is they mention from time to time. Her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, is obviously a major factor in her life, but long before he arrives on the scene, we experience the stories of Mary's parents, who were also important and well-known in the literary and philosophical circles of late 18th-century Britain. As the book progresses, we learn in great detail how deep Lord Byron's involvement reached in the Shelleys' life (along with some fascinating tales of his personal habits and character).

We watch the heartbreak of women who, in the attempt to live according to their principles, lose parents, children, husbands, lovers, fortunes, reputations, homes, health, hope, and happiness. I was fascinated to note how pivotal in the saga was Mary's stepsister Claire, who seems to have had less strength of character and intellect than nearly everyone, yet seems to destroy nearly everything she touches. Maybe I'm overanalyzing things. Anyway, it's a fascinating read. If you happen across this book and have a couple extra days lying around, pick it up. Read it. Devour it. Ponder it. But for heaven's sake don't let it near your kids.