December 27, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is a Toilet that Flushes

All I wanted for Christmas this year was a toilet that flushed.  Well, technically our toilet flushes, but then the water (and other stuff in the toilet) swirls madly around in a circle, threatens to overflow and then subsides with no beneficial result. All that happens is I have to go lie down for a while with a cold compress on my forehead. And when I do that it's like an open invitation for my boys to jump up and down on top of me as if I were a trampoline. I don't know why they do that.  It's not like a my abdominal muscles have particularly good rebounding capabilities.  I'm not even sure they did when I was in my 20's.

But back to my toilet, which stopped working somewhere around last Monday (one week ago) all our plumbing stopped up. I became suspicious when I was taking a shower and kept hearing a "BLUB... BLUB... BLUB..." coming from the toilet. One's toilet shouldn't blow bubbles. If yours starts doing that I recommend just moving to a hotel for a week while you try to get it fixed.

The plumber finally came out but said he only had 100 feet of line to run through the pipes to look for stoppages. For our lines he needed a 200 foot line to get all the way to where we connect to the city sewer lines at the street. As we'd have to drive 80 miles round trip to rent a longer line, the only other remedy was to dig a hole in our yard, open up the sewer line and run the line in two stages.

If you don't understand plumbing, let me be very clear what this means -- it means that someone has to dig a hole in our yard, crack open the sewer line which is filled with human waste matter and clear the whole thing out. Said person was NOT the plumber who is an old man on the verge of retiring. He doesn't do that anymore. What he does is coach the homeowner on how to do it, the homeowner in this case not being me, but my long-suffering husband who calls me late in the day and says he's spent the afternoon gagging in a cesspool with our contractor's 17-year-old son/helper who, I forgot to mention in my last post, happened to come up to the glass kitchen door the other day while I was parading around in my underwear. I'm not sure who was more shocked and embarrassed -- me or him.

So, on Christmas Eve the plumber had unhooked our toilet from the sewer line so it drains out into the yard. And then there was a hole in the sewer line halfway between our house and the street. And the plumber said he would come back and hook us back up that afternoon. What a relief.

Except he never came back.

The saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention." This is true and thus, on Christmas Eve, was born to us The Bucket Loo which we have been using for what feels like about 85 days.

And after 85 days I can say you get used to just about anything.

However, one's guests do not. We canceled Christmas dinner (succulent turkey with homemade stuffing and all the goodies) as nobody wanted to use our bucket for their business.  Who can blame them.

The good news is our floor in the living room is back. And the pissed off poltergeist who has been punishing us for ripping the floor out has gone away and given us back our toilet flushability. Hoorah!

Remarkably, I spent little time mentioning the aforementioned hardship. After whining about it for about 45 seconds I realized there were people in the world who didn't have a bathroom, yay verily didn't even have a HOUSE for heaven's sake. I thought about all the people living under bridges in the cold. I thought about all the people who don't even have family to reject them over a stupid bucket in the first place. I thought about all the people who didn't have food to even contemplate having Christmas dinner to cancel. Every time I went into that bathroom I smiled and sent upward a little note of thanks for all that I do have.

It seems strange that my mantra over the holidays was, "Thank you for blessing me with plumbing that can break." Yet that's what it was. And it felt so good to smile and genuinely mean it as it would have been so easy to be cranky and bitter about it.

Wherever you were on Christmas, I hope you had a calm, lovely and blessed holiday.

December 22, 2009

Where's Wendy?

True to form, I've been having various and sundry adventures. None of them were adventures of my own choosing.  Had they been of my own choosing I would be reporting back that I have been sitting at a beachside cafe with a hot cup of tea and a book or some knitting and copious amounts of exotic fingerfoods and nothing but the roar of the ocean coming at me as the tide rolls in.

But no.

The reality of my adventures involve, first, a road trip of necessity with my mother (and as you know any trip with my mother never fails to deliver on material). This was quickly followed by my living room disappearing and simultaneously my family of four being unable to use the one tiny little bathroom that we value so much. And neither of those have anything to do with one another except that they are both making me crazy. For some reason I am taking it very personal which has the side effect of annoying my husband who keeps asking me, "What is wrong with you?"

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The road trip story will come later because the urgent matter is the fact that my living room has gone AWOL.

It all started about ten years ago when we first remodeled a house I have owned since I was 18. (The benefits of having a nagging mom who was a Realtor and understood and imparted the wisdom that owning is better than renting.)  Said house is quaint and old and had been pretty much destroyed by renters while I was gone for a few years. In an effort to encourage us to move back my mom said, "little bit of wiring, little bit of sheetrock and you've got a brand new house." About $40,000 later, we did have a nearly-new house except for the fact that we all pretended there was nothing wrong with our floors because we didn't want to deal with it at the time.

And at that time being kid-free, we chose a nice off-white wall-to-wall carpet. At the time it was a reasonable thing to do as we figured we'd be childfree humans for all eternity. Two babies and one puking dog later our carpet is hideous and we've decided to pull it out and put down some hardwood flooring.

Have I mentioned that my husband is a perfectionist? He absolutely cannot do anything merely "adequately". It must be done absolutely the best proper way, high quality and for long-lasting benefit. I simultaneously admire and loathe him for this quality. I can say this about him now because he is nowhere near a computer as he's currently somewhere under our house and has been for days.

The first day I came home it wasn't too alarming. There was nothing in the living room and the carpet was gone. We did a joyful carpet-free dance and the kids spent the evening in the living room running up and down and shouting "Hoooo Hoooo Hoooooo" so they could hear the echo off the empty room.

The second day I came home and there was particle board blocking the two doors to the living room and the entire house smelled like chemical outgassing from the glue. We were now officially living in about 600 square feet with no place to hang out except our bedroom. Four of us spent the evening piled up in our bed playing and watching television. It was cool.

The third day our living room floor went away. Underneath that were support beams, some good, some not. In some places there was a building mystery -- walls that were held up by nothing but air or a miracle of God. Our contractor puzzled over that one for quite a while. Again that night we played in our bedroom, laid out blankets on the floor to have picnic dinners. After dinner, we piled up in the bed again and made balloon animals. All these things we'd never have done had our lives been normal. It was cool.

The next day not only was our floor still gone, but the joists and all the support beams were gone. I stood in my driveway peering in through the living room window and sighed. They promise our floor will be done by Christmas when company is coming over. We are supposed to be making a turkey. We've not bought it yet and started thawing it. Our furniture is on our back porch. We have little trails going through the kitchen because there's no place to put all the stuff that was in our living room. We've run out of restaurants to eat at because there's so much stuff in the kitchen now that we don't want to cook.

While in the kitchen I kept seeing a workman go by with a wheelbarrow.  The first few times I didn't think much of it.  The kids were running amuck with all the excitement.  I spent most of my time taking big deep breathes of chemical outgassing and trying to calm my nerves. After about the 50th time the wheelbarrow passed by I put on my shoes and went around the house to the living room and discovered my husband standing in what used to be our living room with a shovel.

"We're excavating, honey!"

Apparently it would be beneficial to have 16 inches of clearance between the dirt and the beginning of the living room floor so there was my husband digging it up and putting the dirt into five-gallon buckets that were being hauled away by the gangly teenage sons of our contractor. What remained of my living room hung out in a surreal vision of normality (sheetrock, trim, curtain rods, ceiling fans, light switches) suspended several feet in the air above nothing. I breathed in the loamy scent of earth, smiled grimly and said, "I never did mind about the little things."

That same day our bathtub stopped draining in a hostile act that said to me that our house is really pissed off about being violated. And the toilet won't flush. And the plumber won't return my call and it looks like I will have to start dropping my mother's name because he always will make a house call for Kitty.

That night there was less cuddling on the bed, the children found some noisy alien laser blasters and like an idiot I actually replaced the batteries for them which necessitated me having to hide the guns from them while they weren't looking. From under a pillow my husband muttered, "I don't know what you were thinking putting batteries in those." I explained that, for once, I was trying to be a nice. He asked me to stop, so I did.

Which brings us to where we are now. I came to work in the clothes I wore yesterday and showered here. The boys go to the bathroom in the bushes behind our house and we're still no thawing a turkey. Tonight is the cub scout Christmas party potluck for which I must cook something in a kitchen that has every surface covered with stuff from the living room, books, electronics, pictures, too much of everything. My office has a kitchen but the oven element is not working and so I'm just sitting here rocking back and forth moaning in a modified fetal position so I can still type.

If I made new year's resolutions, my resolution for 2010 would definitely be "fix or get rid of all things that are broken" and in conjunction with that "get rid of stuff". My new rule will be that I should be able to reasonably fit two rooms of stuff in one room and still function. This is vital to my sanity because when the living room is done, I have heard rumors that a certain person wants to start on the kitchen...

December 7, 2009

You'll Be Happy to Know... Tori Fixed the Moon

The other day we were driving home from daycare and came around the corner to see the big, fat moon perched high in the sky. Full enough to call it a full moon and early enough in the evening that it looked enormous overhead. I pointed it out to Tristan.

From the back seat he yells, "The moon! The moon! It all fixed!"

My child is astute -- I had no idea there was even something wrong with the moon. "Was it broken?"

"Uh huh."

"What was wrong with the moon?"


I've been working on him lately to improvise and elaborate. At night he practices by telling us bedtime stories which always go like this:

"One time there was bad Spiderman. He was sticky. He shoot web and it was sticky. Don't touch him. He sticky."

That's the entire story. However, considering it's taken us nearly three years to get him to say that much, I think he's doing great.

But back to the important matter of the broken moon...

I tried another avenue. "Who fixed the moon, Tristan?"

"Ummm... Tori."

"Really? Tori fixed the moon?"

"Uh huh."

"How did she do that?"

"Big wadder."

"Wow, that would have to be a really big ladder."

"Wiwwy big wadder. Tori stwong. She have big muscles."

* * *

On a related note of celestial importance, there is also the matter of something being wrong with the rain.

It was raining the other morning when we were on our way through town. We passed by Wal-Mart which is a very exciting thing because Tristan knows there are toys in there and he's a big stimulator of the economy in that way. (Nobody can accuse us of not being patriotic in a recession.)

The rain was pouring down and as we passed by the parking lot I heard a huge gasp from the back seat.




Tori hasn't gotten around to fixing that problem yet, I guess.

December 6, 2009

Now and Again, I'm Very Unfunny

Every now and then I have something very unfunny to say.  You can read the latest unfunny item (Jesus Goes to GT) over at my unfunny blog.

December 4, 2009

Domestic Chastising

My husband and I banter a lot. Some of it is amusing. Some of it is definitely NOT amusing.  (Those are the times when I'm always right and he's always wrong and just won't see that he's wrong.)

We sit about 15 feet from each other and sometimes instead of actually talking to each other we just send email. We're just tech-trendy that way.

I recently sent him an obnoxious email outlining what I perceived as a shortfall in one of his particular obligations. It was sarcastic and annoying to be certain.

This is the response I got back by email:

Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 10:54 AM
Subject: Re: Fw: Land For Mrs. Whats-her-name
Careful, I understand the 2006 Elfin High Council passed referendum #10232-a which states "The frequent use of sarcasm is grounds for coal consideration". Certainly you must be close to your quota for the year. 

Sometimes I forget how cute he is.

November 30, 2009

The Motivational Speech that Wasn't

I love football movies.  I'm not a big fan of football, but I try to learn a bit about the game and watch with my husband sometimes just to be a good sport (no pun intended). However, I do love football movies and have watched just about every one that has ever been made.

The reason I love football movies is because, without fail, a football movie generally starts with an underdog, reveals said underdog's potential, creates a crisis to threaten underdog's success, then rallies the team via a great motivational speech by the coach who inspires the team to victory.

It's good. Formulaic, but so tasty and good.

I was raised in a "can-do" environment. The easiest way to get my mom to do something is to tell her she can't and she is compelled to prove you wrong. We were raised to believe we really could do anything we wanted to. My mother fostered in us the idea that we are limited only by the restrictions we put on ourselves which is a result of a weakness of the mind -- basically self-limiting dialogue such as "I can't" or "I'm not smart enough" or "I'm not graceful enough" or "That's a boy activity", etc. In our family you get called on it, challenged on it. My family does not allow its members to take the easy way out.

Probably to someone outside the family this sounds really horrible, but I've always considered it one of the greatest gifts my mother could give us. She considers adversity an opportunity to demonstrate her strength of will and her ability to solve problems. And sometimes I think that is really when she is at her best. Some people are just like that.

Because I admire those things about her and because I've reaped the benefit of this philosophy in my own life, it's an idea I want to pass on to my kids. They will be a step ahead of the crowd if they have good self-esteem, high confidence and some above-average problem-solving skills. In our day-to-day life I try to find opportunities to foster these skills.

The other day we were waiting in the Sonic drive-thru. Julius noticed a cool pen that was lying on the ground next to the building just a few feet away. He pointed it out to me.

I said, "Do you want to go get it? If you get it we can give it back to the lady at the drive-through."

"No. I don't think so."

"Why? You don't have to talk to her. I'll just give it to her and tell her we found it. Go on, do it."

"No. I think the police would see me and I'd get in trouble."

"For getting a pen off the sidewalk? No, that won't get you in trouble. You'd be trying to do something nice."

"Definitely I'm not doing it."

"Oh. Well, okay then.  I'm about to move up. Are you SURE you don't want to do it? I don't want you to be filled with regret once the opportunity passes..." Oh, I was so hoping he'd just do it. He's such a nervous guy sometimes.

"No, go ahead."

"Okay, but remember how proud you felt when you faced your fears at the water park. Remember how happy you were about that?"


"But you still don't want to go get the pen? Despite the fact that it would certainly be a good deed for someone and demonstrate how you would go out of your way to help a fellow human? Because, really, I don't want you to get stuck in a rut of mediocrity and apathy. The landscape is already crowded with people who don't care and don't make an effort to make the world a better place. We don't need to be another one of those people. Right?"


"So, think of the pen as a symbol of breaking free from focusing on the self and use it as an exercise to focus on others. And then we can tell your dad all about what a cool good deed you did, flinging yourself out of the car to save that lonely pen on the sidewalk."

"Um... no."


We sat in silence for another moment and the car ahead of us pulled away from the drive-thru window.

"Last chance. You sure?"

"I'm sure."

So, yeah, I have to work on my motivational speaking a little bit. Well, maybe a lot.

November 25, 2009

Rooting for the Home Team

My husband is a 49ers fan, therefore, by default, I am also a 49ers fan. This also means that during childrearing on Sundays during football season we diligently train our children to root for my husband's "home team".  Considering their wins during the last few years, it takes special courage and effort to be a fan of the 49ers.

On Sunday we were sitting around watching the game. Tristan seems particularly interested in football and without any prompting from us he'd periodically scream out, "GO GO GO".  Not always for the right team, but he was getting the idea, anyway.

I decided to team him to yell, "GO NINERS" because I thought it would amuse his dad. We practiced yelling that and "DEFENSE DEFENSE" with Tristan periodically shaking his fist at the television.

While having nachos there was one particularly tough play during which I was yelling, "Go Niners!"  I said, "Say it with me, Tristan... go niners!"

He put down his chip and, staring at the TV said, "It's not helping."

True, but we've been rooting for the home team too long to give up now!

November 23, 2009

How We React to Adversity and Danger

Last night we were all sitting in the living room watching the new Star Trek movie.  Our family rule with PG-13 movies is that Rob and I watch them first to preview them, then if they are okay with just a couple of bad parts we just diligently cover eyes and fast forward.  Frequently all the boys care about are the zooming space ships and stuff blowing up. Oh, and monsters.  They love monsters.

There is a great monster chase scene in Star Trek. Kirk is racing across ice fields from first a Big Furry Baddy quickly followed by Ginormous Slimey Baddy.  During these scenes we frequently yell at the television to encourage to protagonist to "run faster" or "jump higher" or whatever advice seems appropriate at the time.

In this case I was admiring what a good decision it was that he run away as fast as he could.
Me: I'd run, too, if that thing were chasing me.  How about you, Dad?
Rob: I'd run, definitely.
Me: What about you, Julius?
Julius: Oh yeah, I'd run.
Me: What about you, Tristan?
Tristan: I'd punch him in the penis!
I'm still trying to decide whether that makes him a whole lot braver than the rest of the family or just less smart.

November 18, 2009

Chivalry Isn't Dead, It's Just Been Sent Home with a Note to Its Parents

At my son's school they have a system of discipline that involves cards of some sort that the kids pull when they have been acting out. At cards two or three you start losing your recess time and around the fifth time (in one day) you have to go pull a card you get sent to the office.

We've been having an interesting time with the card pulling situation. In kindergarten Julius never pulled cards. For some reason in first grade he averages about three per week.  We have been puzzled by this and the nearest we can make out is that he's just not being kept busy enough and so he will dig through his backpack and look for stuff or go look out the window or stand in line at the pencil sharpener (only two people allowed at a time) or whatever and then he gets in trouble for "not staying on task" or "not following instructions".

The other day he came home and told me right away that he pulled a card and said, "But I can explain. You have to hear the story..."

Apparently he was at the pencil sharpener and a little girl came up and needed to sharpen her pencil. He, being a gentleman, offered to sharpen the girl's pencil for her. He claims that socializing at the pencil sharpener is what got him in trouble.

"All I did was ask her if she wanted me to sharpen her pencil!"

"Well, you were talking and that's probably why you got in trouble. I know you were trying to do something nice and that was awesome how much of a gentleman you were, but you also have to remember to follow the teacher's rules or take the consequences."

And what about the little girl in the story?

Julius says, "She really did want me to sharpen her pencil for her."

Yeah, score one for the red-headed cutie with the dimple!

November 16, 2009

A Day in the Life...

Here is a cross section of one of my days from last week.  I would describe this day as fairly typical.

The frantic hollering begins as I try to get two kids and myself ready to be out of the driveway in half an hour. This doesn't even include breakfast as both my kids get fed breakfast at their destination.

Tristan hides behind bed so I can't find him to put his clothes on.  Within moments he is found and begins screaming as I drag him out by one foot. This would be hilarious if it were anyone else's son.

Julius claims he has nothing to wear. I ask him how he can say that when all four drawers are crammed to the top with clothing items. He says none of the clothes are cool enough. I ask him how cool it will be when I drop him off in just his underwear.

Julius manages to find something to wear.

Beaming proudly, I am thrilled we are on schedule as I load everyone and everything into the car. That's when I realized the car has the first icing over of the season. Also, my oldest son doesn't have on his jacket. While I'm putting Tristan in the car seat I hear a big THUMP and realize that the noise is Julius smashing a rock down on my windshield to break the ice. I'd like to say that I calmly explained to him using simple physics what a bad choice that was and the ensuing consequences, but that's not the way it happened.

We make it out of the driveway, sullen and joyless with Tristan repeating over and over, "Joowus, make bad choice..."

Tristan dropped off at daycare. Typical day consists of him clinging to me and screaming, "Don't weave me, Mommy!" That day he discovered his friend Carson was there and hugged my leg and said, "Bye bye Mommy!" summarily dismissing me in favor of his friends. Huh.

Mom calls with a frantic, "WHERE ARE YOU?" I tell her and she said there is a big accident on the mountain south of me and she wanted to be sure I wasn't in that accident. She calls Rob to make sure he is okay. (He is.)

Nearly perfect cup of tea. Perfect would be half-n-half instead of milk.

Found out Donald Harington died. He was my favorite art history professor in college and I love his books. He's not very well-known, but has a strong cult following among fans. Decided to plan pilgrimage to Drakes Creek.

Meeting with clients to plan strategy for next door neighbor property acquisition. First time I had been back to their house since oil and gas well started going in next door. How can progress be so great and also suck so bad?

Realize my hair has static cling. Very annoying and I can't make it stop.

House showing. Owner changed locks and forgot to tell me. Key doesn't work. Customer has really nice booty packaging.

Awesome husband brings me authentic mexican food from Reyes Market who just started making lunch recently. Too much cilantro. I hate cilantro. Next time it will be perfect without it. Yum.

Ate too much. Can't stay awake. Spend some time contemplating purchasing tickets to new powerball lottery so I can retire. You can't win if you don't play, right?

Decide to pick up Julius at school instead of letting him ride the bus because Rob has showings and won't be there to meet him. While waiting for him to get out of school I call my 3:10 appointment to confirm she will be meeting me and get yelled at by someone who claims to be her husband and wants to know what business I have calling her. I hang up on him. He calls me back. He demands to know who I am and what I want. I refuse to tell him in case he's an abusive crazy person that she is trying to get away from. He yells again that he is her husband and says she has been in an accident. I apologize, but am still suspicious. I tell him I'm sorry and hope she is better soon and I will call back later.

Julius is in the car and Rob is on the phone telling me not to go meet the clients because they might be crazy killers. (Based on my previous experience I know this could possibly be true.) I told him I would only go with him if it were the lady I talked to on the phone and would not go if her crazy screaming husband were there.

Waiting on client. Get a bad feeling that the husband was telling the truth. Call my mom who says I should call back and apologize and try to find out more. I call my nephew with the sheriff's department to ask about the accident this morning and see if he knows who it was. He doesn't. Called first responder friend who recommended I call a state trooper. Call state trooper friend and ask if he worked the accident my mom called about this morning. He did. Asked if one of the victims was named Karena. It was. I'm an idiot.

Julius is hungry. My wallet is in the other car. We scrounge enough change to get him a burrito and a drink. Head out to woods to get a picture.

Call babysitter when I realize I won't make it back in time. Ask her if it's okay if I can be late today. She says it's okay.

Rob calls to say he will pick up Tristan and take him on showing with him. Yay!

Julius and I practice our Scottish accents. He's great at it. I'm not.

Julius and I are winding our way through woods trying to find the property. I told him we were looking for "Midget Road" and he spit Pepsi onto the dash of the car. He thought I was making a joke. I wasn't. He asked why it was called Midget Road. No idea. He says he thinks it must be because it's a small road. Turns out there was a mailbox later we passed that said "Clifton Midgett".  County Judge's office spelled the road wrong. Figures.

Back out on the pavement. Flat tire. I know the theory of changing a flat tire but have never actually done it. Husband is not available. I begin to look for tools to change tire. Can't find them. Call friend who tells me to look in the door. Sure enough, secret compartment! Tricky automakers!

Call babysitter to tell her God was looking out for her by sending Rob to pick up my son. She agreed.

Begin the tire changing process.

Two deputies show up, courtesy of my mom who can't leave well enough alone. They pull up behind me while my butt is sticking up in the air and I'm looking under the car trying to figure out where the jack is supposed to go. Deputies take over tire changing process.

After much discussion as to why my car has a scissor jack instead of a bottle jack, vehicle falls off jack and starts to roll toward me and oldest son. One officer jumps behind vehicle as if he is superhuman and can fend it off with his body weight. I scream and tell Julius to RUN RUN RUN. Julius freezes and says, "What? What?" I knock him into the ditch with my superhuman-adrenalized-mom-strength. Brake drum lands partly on flat tire, partly in dirt. That can't be good. We all sit and stare and breathe heavy for about five minutes.

I tell Julius to go sit over by the fence out of the way. He doesn't want to do it because he's afraid he will be eaten by wolves. Go mighty cub scout.

Husband arrives to change tire because it still hasn't been changed at this point. Tristan hugs police car then runs screaming through pitch black night down the highway. I tackle him and drag him back to the car and put him in the car seat. Rob says to take him on home and he will follow later. I'm freaking out because I have a city council meeting in an hour.

Finally arrive back home and realize I don't have a house key because I'm using the spare set of keys. Have to pee really bad.

Rob arrives to let me into house in time to brush teeth, hair, brush off clothes from laying under the car, do some council paperwork. Find missing check crunched up in the bottom of an envelope. Money! Woot!

Make it to council meeting with a few minutes to spare. Everyone asks me if I found the missing check and have to make the embarrassing admission that it was there all along.

Home finally. Kids are all in bed. House is quiet. The only fix for a quiet house is a really loud video game in which I kill a lot of slimy mutants and save the universe. Which I do, until I end up falling over in a narcoleptic heap on the carpet in front of the TV.

In bed for real during which I have some strange and lucid dreams that I can't remember now. But they are almost always fabulous and satisfying and amusing.

And in the morning we start all over again. Yet another "typical" day in my life. And like my dreams almost always fabulous and satisfying and amusing -- even on the bad days.

November 12, 2009

My 6-Year-Old Son is a Citizen of the Self-Diagnosing Hypochondriac Nation

I was pulling out of the driveway to take Julius to school when he declares that he is allergic to paper carpet.

Me: What's paper carpet?

Him: Well, you know, the leather carpet.

Me: I don't understand.

Him: The carpet in our house. I think I'm allergic to it. That's why I'm coughing so much.

Me: I think you might be right. You know we're getting rid of the carpet, right?

Him: Yeah, and I'm glad.

We rode in silence for a while. From the back seat he said, "Mom, I think I need some Omnaris."

Me: Some what??

Him: Some Omnaris. It's a nose spray. When you use it it helps reduce your nasal allergy symptoms.

Me: Oh. Okay. Well, how about we get rid of the carpet first and see if that helps. And then if it doesn't help I'll take you to the allergy doctor. Sound good?

Him: Sounds good.
Just say "no" to pharamaceutical commercials.

November 9, 2009

Monday Montage

I always fall back on the Monday Montage when the week has been full of marginally interesting things, but nothing that is worthy of a whole post. Actually, there was one small moment that could possibly be an entire post but I'm not sure I want to put myself or the other person through the humiliation of writing about it, so I'll just stick it into the montage and you can figure out which horrible moment in time that was. I'm sure it will be pretty obvious.

* * *

Late last week I was in the bottom of a "holler" with a snake, a lot of briars and a creek. My boots are brown boys' steel toed work boots with neon pink hawaiian print laces. They are waterproof which came in very handy that day. I was standing in a creek wondering how I could have let myself get so out of shape and marveling at how going DOWN the hill could possibly be worse than going up. My boots are also high topped and I appreciated that as I was standing next to a small ankle height little rock cave and wondered what was in there that could be coming out to get me at any moment.

On top of that I was late to an appointment and when I got to the top of the hill (about 400 feet straight up) I wanted to lie down on the deck of the cabin and die, but my clients were there and I thought it would be unprofessional. The Mrs noticed I was bleeding down my arm and insisted she take me into the house to dress my wound. Honestly, it wasn't that bad.

I went to my next appointment with leaves in my hair, a scabby arm and those little fuzzy hitchhikers that stick to your clothes. I look like I'd been rolled down the hill by angry Ozark elves.

And this is not even the humiliating part of the story.

* * *

My youngest son turns three today.  I'm the mother of a three year old and a six year old. My mother wants me to have a girl. I have declined, but sometimes wonder what I'm missing.

I'm way too tired to have three kids.

* * *

Yesterday my oldest son came running into the house bawling his head off because a little boy next door threw a rock and hit him in the back of the head, allegedly on purpose. Sure enough, there was a big knot on the back of his head.

I got my shoes on and went out the door and as soon as the little kid saw me he got a terrified look on his face and high-tailed it to his house and went inside. As I was sitting there debating how I should handle the whole matter, a man with sideways feet came walking down my driveway asking me if I would take a survey for the Census Bureau. He had an official looking badge and everything. I hope it wasn't fake. If it was fake then some freakish stalker knows I'm Scotch-Irish by birth. Of course, you can pretty much figure that out by looking at me.

The good news is he kept me from causing a ruckus next door. I'm still trying to figure out how to handle that situation. My mother's response was her standard answer which is "nip it in the bud."

* * *

Last week a person I have known for many years happened to be in the parking lot at my office when I arrived. She was waiting for someone and they were leaving one car at my office while they shared a ride to a nearby town. We chatted for a moment and just before she left she did a whirl around with her arms out saying, "By the way, do you notice anything different?"

Well, there I was on the spot.  I gave her a thorough looking over, but frankly, didn't have a clue as to what could possibly be different. I said, "Gosh, tell me, I'm sorry I don't know."

She says, "I've lost 40 pounds!"

So, I have no idea how I can possibly not notice 40 missing pounds. Although, I think the reason I didn't notice is because they left her and got on me somehow. Or maybe it's just because she's deceptively pear-shaped and it's hard to notice weightloss on that type of person.

File that one under "Awkward". Or maybe "Really, Really Awkward."

* * *

About two minutes ago I had a long conversation with Julius about the difference between Little Bo Peep and Mary. The basic jist after a very long analysis is that Mary is a much better shepherdess than Bo Peep. Right after that conversation he claimed he can read people's minds from Arkansas to California and to the east all the way to the Washington Monument. I hope not, because Christmas is coming up and that will just piss me off.

* * *

Rob and I just had our ninth anniversary.  I refer this as our "contract renewal period". I decided to go ahead and renew him for another year.

If you're a person who has a problem with committment, try this method.  It's not too hard to be married for a year.  We've been married for a year nine times now. In a row.


November 2, 2009

How You Know a Girl Likes You

I picked up Tristan at daycare. We sat in the car a moment waiting for a dad to move out of the way of our car so I didn't plow over him and his adorable baby daughter.

Tristan says, "Dat's Candy. I wike her and she wikes me."

"Yeah? That's nice."

"She wikes me and she wikes Twevor."

I always try to make conversation with Tristan because he likes to talk and for a long time didn't really have anything much to say. It's been fun lately because we can actually have a two-way conversation. Good times.

"So, she is your friend then?"

"Yes, she wikes me cause she wicked my hand."

This is a new thing, I guess.  When I was a kid you know a girl liked you when she punched you. But now it's looking like a girl likes you if she licks your hand.

"She licked your hand? And that's how you know she likes you?" (It's always good to clarify.)

"Uh huh. She wikes me. She wicked my hand. Das how she wikes me."

October 29, 2009

It's Exciting Driving the Getaway Car (Until You Get Caught)

It's been raining. And raining. Oh, and then on top of that rain we got some more rain. These are the times when you realize size is a relative thing. Some people think 3-5 inches is small and complain about it. But when it comes to rain it's not that small, especially when you get that much several times in a week.

I'm intrepid when it comes to my job. I'll drive through the mud. I'll walk over snakes, through spider webs. I've climbed down cliffs, up over boulders. I've walked into dark caves, meth houses, dank basements with standing water. I've driven in cars with people who turned out to be thieves, sex offenders and murder victims. (Okay, that last part I didn't know in advance and wouldn't have gone anywhere near them had I known.) I've driven in cars with people who wouldn't even speak much beyond a yes or no when asked. (The dark caves were less unsettling than those people.) I've utilized first aid advice. I've walked three miles to get to a house in the woods where my car wouldn't go. Sometimes I have to wear orange so people don't shoot me.

Country real estate is a daring adventure. Sometimes great, sometimes horrible, but almost always memorable.

Last week a client of mine drove in from way up north of here. He came in on one of the days it was raining. Not just drizzling, but the kind of rain that pummels you when you walk in it. The kind where you have to turn the wipers on high and hope nothing runs out in front of you or that the road doesn't twist in a way in which you least expect it.

He arrived smelling of wet dog. He'd been living out of his van for several days, he and Princess the golden retriever. He was raring to go and I was pleased to see that he was leaving Princess behind to rest because "the rain is freaking her out". I don't much care for dogs and I like wet dogs even less.

The first house we went to had a gate at the end of the driveway. In gentlemanly form, Mr. Granger hopped out of the car and opened the gate (with great difficulty and while standing in a puddle) and held it aside while I drove through. When he got back in the car he volleyed forth with a stream of obscenities about the horrible way the gate fastener was hooked up and how he'd just put on his last pair of dry shoes and now look at him. I sighed. I'm not keen on the potty mouth. However, I made some sympathetic noises and kept on driving.

We looked at several houses that day for many, many hours. The county in which I live is about 42 miles across at its broadest. So, that means if I'm showing property on both sides of the county I'm in the car with total strangers for a good deal of the day driving back and forth. You learn a lot about people during that time. Fortunately for me, Mr. Granger was a talker so I didn't have to do much to entertain him.

Talk turned to alcohol, although I can't for the life of me remember how we got on that subject. We live in a dry county and Mr. Granger seemed definitely dismayed when he learned that one cannot buy alcohol nearby. I told him it was only about 15 miles from my office to the liquor store. That revelation didn't seem to make him feel any better. Once he discovered the distance to alcohol he seemed to dwell on the fact that we had a serious lack of it.

At the second-to-last house we stomped around in the water all around the perimeter of this cabin and couldn't get inside. The keybox that was supposed to be there was not there and we settled on peering into the windows like naughty little children who have been forbidden to go inside. He heaved a big sigh.

"Will this rain never stop?"

I nodded. "This is not really typical weather for us. We've been getting a lot of rain lately."

"It's really starting to get to me. It's been raining ever since I left home."

As intrepid as I am, I hate showing real estate in the rain. It's not because I don't like getting wet and cold. It's not because I have to drive around with people who smell like wet dogs. It's simply because looking at houses in the rain makes people sad and sad people don't buy houses. They go home and pull the covers over their heads, don't answer the phone and watch a lot of daytime talk shows.

At the last house, we were able to get inside and we roamed through the half-empty weekend house of strangers. I was in one room and I heard him open the fridge.

"Hey, the fridge is stocked! They've got good beer, too!"

From the other room I cringe and say, "Really? How about that."

"Boy, I'd sure like a cold one right about now."

Trying to change the subject I yell back, "Hey, I found the back porch. This is really nice. You should see this."

The fridge door slams shut and Mr. Granger appears by my side. We stand at the porch railing looking out at the trees loaded with fall color. Moments later we walk back into the house. Mr. Granger is smacking his lips.

"I'm sure tempted to just leave a couple of bucks in the fridge for them and take a beer..."

I responded with a witty and effective, "Uhhh...."

"Then they'd probably be all mad because they'd think they were stocked up and then the beer would be gone."

"Yeah, that wouldn't be too good."

Eventually, to my relief, we were back in the car and weaving our way out of the hills through creek beds and over muddy dirt roads. We hit pavement and I drove as fast as the weather would allow.

About seven miles from town Mr. Granger yells, "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?" I slammed the brakes on and started slowing down. "I know that's not a grapefruit tree, but that's the first thing I thought of when I saw it. What WAS that??"


"I bet that was a pear tree. If it was it was the biggest goddamn pear tree I've ever seen in my life. I just can't believe it!"

"Do you want me to go back?" I am a tour guide as well as a Realtor.

"If it's not any trouble, yes. I'd love to get a picture of that."

I said, "No problem at all," then swung around in a nearby driveway. I dropped him off at the pear tree with the most ginormous pieces of fruit you've ever seen in your life. I told Mr. Granger I would turn around and pick him up in a moment when I was headed in the right direction. He ambled off toward the tree, camera in hand.

I turned the car around then pulled up again next to the tree in time to see Mr. Granger loading his coat up with pears off the ground. I looked over at the house to see if anyone was looking out the window. I sat there for a moment doing the internal "why me" whine that I do when things don't go as smoothly as I like. Then I contemplated the pros and cons of having a big logo with my name and phone number on the side of my car. I mentally added "conspicuous while committing crimes" to the con side of the list.

After a final glance to see if anyone was coming out of the house with a shotgun I see Mr. Granger stand up and start running full speed toward my vehicle, his hands full of fruit. He gets to the door and yanks on the handle only to find the door locked. (My doors lock automatically when the car is in drive.) He looks alarmed and I had to stifle a laugh. I unlocked the door and managed to squeak out an "oh, sorry" without giggling nervously.

I slam on the gas and speed off away from the scene of Mr. Granger's fruit thievery and was thanking my lucky stars that at least he only took fruit off the ground and not from the tree. I ruminated a while about how that would play out in court for me. Would that be a lesser charge? Could I just get probation and maybe some community service?

I sighed and then heard Mr. Granger moan an ecstatic, "Mmmm ohhhh!" I nearly whipped the car onto the shoulder accidentally as I looked over to see what he was doing. One ginormous pear was at his mouth. His eyes were closed and he started chewing. "Mmm ummmm, this takes me back to my childhood! Wow, what memories."

Yeah, for you and me both, Mr. Granger. For you and me both.

October 19, 2009

Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Episode Three

You can call off the search and rescue teams, I'm still here. Thanks, Sproglet, for checking in on me. I have no particular excuses other than life in general has been keeping me from writing -- the writing that I love to do and would do all day long if I was master of my own time and space.

Today was my first day back at work in quite a few days. I've been sick and have had in-laws visiting. Since we are short-handed at work and Rob was out much of the week before I had moved to the front office where I could see the door. Now I'm in the habit of working here and my own desk is a mess and so here I sit.

The last few days Rob has been complaining that I'm no longer working in the same office he's in.  This is what we've done for the last 800 9 years for better or for worse. We like it in addition to it being a habit. We wear the habit like a nice pair of broken slippers, slippers that sometimes end up with an annoying rock inside it that has to be shaken out.

For example, a little bit of shaking has to occur when your husband accuses you of being "one of those embarrassing moms". Pshaw, yeah, seriously.  Me?  Surely not.

I like to crochet and knit. I will be the first to admit that sometimes crocheted things can be really cheesy if not done well. I know this first hand because when I was 8 or 9 years old I had a vest and matching hat made out of yarn and beer cans that my grandmother made for me. Being that young I thought they were really cool and wore them all the time. I had one of those mothers who apparently didn't care what her daughter was dressed in.  (Or worse, maybe she thought they were cool, too. Now that I think about it, that wouldn't surprise me.)

I recently ran across a tiny little crochet doo-dad that would make a really fun gift for Halloween. My brilliant idea was to make 20 or so of these for the kids in Julius's class. Because what kid doesn't want a crocheted fake candy corn, right? According to my husband, the answer to that rhetorical question is, "None of them."

And so right after I went skipping like an excited spring lamb into his office (which is usually OUR office) and asking him to check his email right away because I had something to show him, we had the following conversation.

Me: Go check your email right away. This is so cool.

Him: What is that?

Me: It's candy corn! Isn't it cute?

Him: Why are you sending this to me?

Me: Don't you read my email? I said at the top why I am sending it to you.

Him: You're standing right next to me.

Me: Okay, well anyway, I thought I'd make some of those for J's class for Halloween. What do you think?

Him: Um, no. If you want to be one of those really embarrassing moms, yeah.

Me: What do you mean?

Him: Crocheted candy corn? Nobody wants crocheted candy corn. Why don't you make them something really cool like the ghost?

Me: I don't want to make a ghost. I like the candy corn. It's cute. How can you not think this is cute?

Him: It's really easy. Look, I'm just trying to help you be one of the COOL moms. Do the ghost. Or the pumpkin. The candy corn is a triangle. The kids are going to say, "Why is this lady giving me a crocheted triangle?"

Me: It's not a triangle, it's candy corn.

Him: Kids are not nostalgic. They're six. Do the ghost. Or the pumpkin.
About 10 minutes later I walk past the door to the office and see him waving me in. He's got a funny look on his face. It turns out he has my mother on the speaker phone. He explains to her the situation and insists in a smug kind of way that she tell us her opinion. He does this because he is certain she will agree with him.

My mother, because of her religious convictions doesn't want me to do the ghost. I asked her, ghost aside, which is more cool, the pumpkin or the candy corn?

She says, "Honey, I'm afraid I have to agree with your husband. The pumpkin does sound cuter."

I said, "I knew you would agree with him. You two are just alike. That's why you don't get along, because you're just exactly alike."

Both of them were yukking it up mightily. Ironic since they never agree on anything unless it's to disagree with me. Mom mentioned it takes the two of them to gang up on me to keep me in line.

I said, "Well, fine then. Just remember the next time you two are fighting and want me to referee -- just remember I think you both deserve each other."

And now it's time for an opinion poll. Let me put you on the speaker phone with my mom and Rob. Here you go:

October 8, 2009

Against My Better Judgement I Drove On

After the Fleisingheimer Fiasco I went back to my office and sat working quietly and diligently trying to catch up on all the stuff I have to do now that it's just the two of us in the office. I frequently work with the lights off. I don't know why, it's just what I do. So I'm sitting in the dim light at my computer when the door bursts open and a large man with rolled up pants and rubber boots emerges into the foyer and turns to look at me.

I glance over the top of my monitor and raise my eyebrows at him and am about to greet him when he bellows, "Wanna go 4-wheelin???"

My first thought was, "Oh hell no." A 6'5" man wearing rubber boots who is at least halfway to 500 pounds and fills up my entire doorway blocking what little light is left coming into the room is not who I'm going to jump on the back of at ATV with, especially without a hello first.  Well, maybe if it were Brad Pitt.

My alarmed look said more than I really needed to say and he started laughing and said, "I'm Doyle."

Doyle turns out to be a fella I've been talking to on the phone for about three months. He has a whole heap of land to sell up on a nearby mountain. He's been promising to meet me up there for a look-see and we've just not been able to hook up. And there, suddenly he is, rubber boots and all.

He explains that he and the family are on the way up to the land and while he realizes it's short notice he thinks it would be awesome if we could meet up there today. We made the arrangements, I got directions and as he started to walk out the door he turned and said, "Oh, I almost forgot. There's a big mud hole up there in the road. It looks really bad, but it looks worse than it is.  I got stuck up there about a week ago but I made the mistake of slowing down. If you just keep driving and hit it steady and push on through you'll be okay." And with that he was out the door.

I called my husband to do a little marital negotiating. I explained to him how I didn't want to drive through a big mud hole based on what had happened the last time I drove through a mud hole on River Road. That time I eased into a giant puddle that was in a built-up railroad bed that had been converted to a road. What looked like a shallow puddle ended up turning into a bottomless pit of tire-sucking mud and only by the grace of God am I here to tell about it. Muddy water ended up over the top of my side mirrors, and this is no exaggeration. I was certain I would die there and that one day, thousands of years from now, students of archaeology would be theorizing about me and the subsequent extinction of mankind. They'd call me Lucy of the Arkansas Mud Pits and forensic artists would do a rendering of me for the Smithsonian.

We agreed to go up as a family after Julius got out of school. It would be a fun and fabulous time and give the boys a chance to get out into the woods and explore nature. Best of all I wouldn't have to drive.

About 15 minutes later I remembered I had a city council meeting that night and had to leave right away or I'd never make it back. I had to go solo.

One of the reasons I drive the behemoth vehicle that I drive is that I'm frequently called to negotiate some rough Ozark territory. After a $2200 repair on the last car we had due to hitting a rock because our clearance was too low on the Trailblazer, we decided our next vehicle would have the highest clearance possible and settled on a baby Hummer (H3). While I occasionally dabble in political correctness and green-living, I don't fool around when it comes to what I drive. Where I go is not where you want to get stranded with no cell service.

I send Doyle a text message telling him I was coming up early and to watch for me. I found all the little turn offs, many unmarked. I drove and drove and drove and finally the road narrowed down to a single-lane grassy track through the woods. I drove and drove some more and finally I made it to the mud hole.

This is when I realize the term "mud hole" is relative. A mud hole can be a little wet spot in the yard big enough for one kid to stomp his feet in. Or it can look like a giant tarpit that stretches the entire width of the road and extend for about four car lengths. If I was looking at the first one there wouldn't be a story to write here.

I idled in the road for a while looking at the pit before me. I heard Doyle's words echo in my mind, "If you just drive through and don't slow down you'll be okay." I step out of the car and walk to the pit to get a closer look. I can tell where the last vehicle made its path and since Doyle seems like he knows what he's talking about that seemed the most sensible way to go. The ruts were at least two feet deep.

I tried to call Rob to describe what I was looking at and to get some last minute advice. I have always considered driving in the mud to be a manly pursuit and an art form that one can perfect over time with the help of testosterone and some hard-coding in the male DNA. I have no interest in getting better at it and would prefer to let my husband do this bit of dirty work.

And yet there I was with no cell service. With the prospect of a juicy listing ahead of me, and against my better judgement and screaming intuition, I drove on. About a car length in I bogged down a bit and my tail end boogied back and forth and the car complained vehemently but finally I got to the other side. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath, sacrifice a goat to God and then kept on going. Doyle said there were three of these to maneuver through.

The second one was more manageable. I decided I was born for this and asked myself, "Who needs a guy when you're this much of a stud?"

The answer came moments later when I tried to traverse the third pit and got stuck. I spent a few minutes trying to get unstuck. There are two magic buttons on the dashboard that are supposed to be some kind of help when you're in a bad spot. However, I couldn't remember what the buttons do. They either slow the wheels down or speed them up or maybe they turn the wheels sideways and the vehicle turns into a hovercar. I'm not sure. Despite not knowing what they do I pressed them and tried again. The first one seemed to do nothing. The second one made a big grinding noise.

I took off my sandals and pulled on my massive steel-toed work boots with the neon pink bootlaces. Out the door I went with the car still running. Mosquitoes buzzed around my head. The car was into the mud about 1/2 of the way up the tire. The treads were completely filled with mud. I looked around for stuff to put under the tires. The place was remarkably free of stuff I could carry. I tossed one small log into the pit and it disappeared ineffectually. I went back to the car, which was still running, and pulled on the door handle which was locked. Because being stuck in 2 feet of mud, alone, with no cell signal is not nearly challenging enough. Fortunately, the back door was open, so my panic and bitterness was short-lived.

I got my useless phone, turned off the car and started walking toward where I knew Doyle would be. It wasn't far. Fifteen seconds later I heard what sounded like a lawnmower coming toward me and around the corner zipped what looked like a redneck golf cart filled with Doyle, his wife and five children. They raced into the mud, fishtailed through and shot out the other side coming right at me.

Doyle slamed on the brakes right in front of me. He grinned, "I'm a little disappointed in your car. I thought surely you could make it in that." I explained that perhaps a better driver could. I relayed the whole story to him including the part about the two mysterious buttons and he laughed heartily about that. He said, "I guess you better learn what those buttons do after this." He told me to get in and he'd give me the tour and then he'd help me get the car out of the mud. He said if nothing else the Polaris could pull me out. I doubted it sincerely as he slammed on the gas and we dove into the pit.

The Polaris has no windshield or sides. It has a rollbar which I clung to for dear life as we tipped at a 45 degree angle in the mud puddle. I was certain Doyle would dump me out the side. Over the screaming engine he yells, "I'm sorry if I spray you with mud. I'll try hard not to." I wanted to say, "Just try not to kill me and that will be just fine." (I didn't.)

I have to pause for a moment to tell you about the wonders of the Polaris. We drove through mud holes that came up to the bottom of the vehicle. We drove across creek beds, fallen trees, up near-vertical embankments, down gravity-defying mountain slopes. Not once did the Polaris fail to measure up. The only complaint I have at all was the lack of windshield. I had to wipe spiders, inchworms and a few other unidentifiable creepy-crawlies off me about every 6 feet. That part was maddening, but beyond that I was impressed and have now moved the unaffordable Polaris to the top of my wish list where it will sit until the day I die because I'm too busy paying for my children's college educations.

Doyle drove me all over the gazillion acres. Three adults and five children in one little all-terrain vehicle. I didn't think it was possible. We had a grand time, except for the snake I nearly stepped on and the one time Doyle drove all the way up to the edge of the creek embankment and I was certain he'd send us tumbling ass-over-teakettle into the canyon below.

Over hill and dale we made our way back to the awaiting, entrenched, bundle of disappointment I call my ride. I surmised to Doyle that he could probably get the vehicle out of the pit since I'm not a very good driver when it comes to mud. He managed to agree with me without making me feel too bad about it. It's good to know your strengths and weaknesses so that when you're faced with one and someone else agrees with you that it really is a weakness, you don't feel too bad about it. It saves wasting a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself.

I lurked in the woods out of way in case Doyle came sliding out of the mud pit toward me. I strategically placed a few trees in the way to avoid mishap. He slipped, he slid, he revved, he rocked, he rolled and in reverse he finally extracted my car from the pit. I applauded. My vehicle had redeemed itself. I had blamed it for my shortcomings and would have to make amends.

Doyle and family promised to follow me in the Polaris until I'd gotten through the other two mud pits. Again, number 2 was no match for even my pathetic skills. Back to the first one I made it through only halfway again and got stuck. I sat for a moment, stressed and angry. I growled at the steering wheel in frustration as if that would help. I glanced in the rear view mirror to see Doyle round the corner in the Polaris. He slowed down and stopped, waiting to see what I would do.

"I'll be damned if I'm gonna ask him to help me again when I know this car can get out of here." I recalled what I'd seen him do and put aside my fear that I'd break Rob's car if I pushed it too hard. I would not be defeated by 864 cubic feet of mud.

I drove forward, I rocked backward. Back and forth, forth and back. I could feel progress being made and then suddenly I shot forward straight for a tree. At the last moment I swerved and the car bunny-hopped out of the mud onto the grass. Diagonal, but out. I jumped out of the car and looked back at Doyle and his family sitting in the Polaris. I cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled, "Sorry, but I have to do a victory dance now!" and proceeded to an embarrassing rendition of something that looks similar to the Bruins mascot victory dance.

I hopped back into the car and sped off for my meeting which I would barely make. The windows were down and as my heartbeat calmed to its normal pace I glanced around the car realizing it was full of splattered mud. As soon as I got into signal range I called home.

"I owe you five dollars, honey."

Suspicious, he asked what for.

"To wash the car. It's... a little muddy."

"I don't think so. You better just go wash it yourself. What did you do to my car??"

"Well, I got a little bit stuck, but it's okay, Doyle got me out."

Big pause. "Who's Doyle?"

I laughed. "That's a long story. I'll tell you when you get home."

I drove on, scratched my itchy ear and realized there was even mud there. Mud in my ear. Imagine!

October 2, 2009

I Didn't Think I Could Fit Both Feet Into My Mouth, and Yet There They Were

In my line of work I am frequently called to get into people's private financial affairs whether I want to or not. Some days I compare it to being a proctologist -- it can be interesting and fascinating, it's rewarding to be helpful, but some days it's also just a dark and uncomfortable place to be. But, you know, somebody's gotta do it.

So there I am sitting at Mr. and Mrs. Fleisingheimer's dining room table which looks a lot like my dining room table with its bits of paint and dried glue from the kids, except their dining room table was remarkably free of half-folded laundry.

Mr. and Mrs. F were perusing the docs laid out before them and there I was poised with my notary stamp ready to seal the deal for them. My stamp glinted in the sunlight streaming through the fabulous floor-to-ceiling windows.

Mrs. F broke the silence by saying, "My name isn't on this application." This small but astute observation sent us down a twisting and turning path through a forest of pointy brambles and spiderwebs across the face.

Mr. F's response was, "Don't worry about it because your name is on the mortgage."  Without going into a lot of personal details, I can just say that this was not the best answer. The best answer would have been, "Yes, dear." An equally good answer would have been, "How can we modify these documents to your satisfaction?" Another good response would have been, "Can I get you a martini, sweetheart?"

But, no, that's not really how it all went down and I sat there for 15 minutes unable to avoid witnessing an uncomfortable marital negotiation from my ringside seat. I stared at my glinting self-inking stamp and wished I had something to stamp. Or that I was someplace else.

After a lengthy phone call to various financial wizards it was determined there were reasons why Mrs. F wasn't on the loan application. All of the reasons were normal, nothing heinous or terrible, just the facts of financial life when one spouse makes most of the money. And in my job I am also frequently called to help educate people about financial matters related to credit, loans and home-buying and this tendency to advise and educate is also, apparently, my Achilles heel. At least that day.

I say to Mrs. F as we are about the resume signing paperwork, "Do you work?" I know when the words go out of my mouth that this was the wrong way to word the question to a stay-at-home-mom.

I was immensely relieved when she didn't go reactionary on me and set me straight about the definition of work. She simply glanced over at me and said, "No." I heaved a heavy internal sigh of relief.

Too soon, of course.  She set down her pen and looked over at me with pursed lips and said, "Of course I work. I work very hard."

Fully-prepared to engage in some frantic backpedaling, I apologized and said, "I should have worded that better. Of course you work. What I meant to say was, 'Do you have a quantifiable income other than the obvious value you provide your family by working inside the home?'"

She said, "No, I don't have a job that makes money."

Like a blind, nervous cow who can't see the quicksand in front of her, I plowed ahead knowing that surely soon I would be out of this mess and could get on with the business at hand. I thought it would help to lighten up with a little joking. I said, "Well, see now, you just need to allot Mrs. F an allowance for all that hard work she does."

Mr. F straightened up in his seat and squinted at me, saying, "What do you mean an allowance? She has control of all the money."

Mrs. F, if possible to look more irritated, looked more irritated and said, "We don't like that word 'allowance'."

"Mm. Well then, yeah. Okay."

We sat looking awkwardly at each other for about 5 seconds which seemed more like about 5 hours and then I shoved more papers at them to sign. Note to self: No more joking. Ever.

Finally we came to the end and surprisingly they were cordial, enthusiastically thanked me for my time and all those niceties you do when you're saying your goodbyes. Handshaking, small talk, smiling, offers to do more business in the future. A small miracle in the opinion of one who is frequently a big social bungler.

As I pulled out of the driveway, the gravel crunched beneath the tires of my vehicle. I stopped at the end of the drive and looked both ways up and down the highway. All clear. I turned east and headed back toward the office to see what other adventures I could get into. Little did I know one was coming just three hours in my future.

September 28, 2009

Pancakes in the Nude

The following conversation took place between my mom and Tristan while we were on a short road trip over the weekend.  I can't remember exactly how the conversation got started but we were talking about cooking or food or life or who knows what.

Mom: Tristan, you have to learn how to cook.
Tristan: No!
Mom: Well, then you will have to get married so your wife can cook for you.
Tristan: I not getting married.
Mom: If you can't cook and you're not married how will you feed yourself?
Tristan: I no know.
Mom: You really need to learn to cook.
Tristan: No.
Mom: If you don't know how to cook you will have to take your pajamas off and go out to a restaurant to get pancakes for your breakfast.
Tristan: I not going restaurant naked!!

September 25, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

Tristan's speech is improving so much these days. It's really delightful to be able to have some almost-regular conversations with him. The other day he woke up and found me sitting on the couch, settled into my arms and we chatted about various important topics of life such as Spiderman's webs being sticky, Julius going to school and, once again, how my bra is constructed.

He is becoming increasingly aware of all the things around him and what they mean and what relevance they have on his life. This is one of my favorite times of the boys' lives when conversations start to happen and you can really TALK and communicate on a get-to-know-you level.  I love it.

Well, I mostly love it.

When I don't love it is when we are in a crowded Wal-Mart and we pass a big toilet paper display and Tristan says in his very loud, high-pitched voice, "DAT TOILET PAPER. YOU WIPE YOU BOTTOM, MOMMY, WIT DAT TOILET PAPER?"

I veer off quickly around the corner with the basket as he's waving his hands at the TP display and hiss under my breath, "Yes, toilet paper is for wiping bottoms. Very good, very good. Uh huh. Let's use a quiet voice now."


Oh, for the love of Pete. I'm not sure why I bother. Maybe because I don't want to talk about wiping my bottom with a whole bunch of other strangers standing next to the dairy aisle. Am I silly for thinking that's wrong?

The other time it becomes a problem is when the child likes to repeat the things you say.  This is something I've already been aware of because I have one older child, but as I'm creeping up on middle age I sometimes forget things.

In the toy section I wanted an excuse to hasten the process of selecting a toy. We had it narrowed down to 2-3 toys to choose from but he just kept insisting he needed all of them. Finally I said, "Look, you need to just pick one or we're leaving because Mommy has to go potty."  That seemed like a reasonable excuse for urgency.


A man passing by with his basket glanced over at me to see if I was mortified. Resigned was really the word I would have chosen, so he had the decency to be completely embarrassed on my behalf. He scurried quickly away and disappeared as I waved to his retreating back.

"Yeah, okay, Tristan. You don't have to yell about Mom needing to go potty."


"Because it's private."


"Okay, we're really going now. Pick a toy, pick, pick, pick or I will pick for you or better yet we'll just leave with NO toy. I recommend you pick something right now."

And, smartly, he picked one and off I raced with one hand on the basket, the other waving around trying to distract him from looking around in case he saw more toilet paper or any other products that could somehow be turned into a loud conversation about my personal care habits.

September 21, 2009

The Abuse Continues

My boys are going to the dark side. More and more they act like their father, talk like their father, throw temper tantrums like their father, and want to do things with their dad more often than me.

The other night I was tucking our youngest to bed, smoothing his hair with tickly mommy fingers, straightening the covers and that sort of usual nite-nite stuff.

Frequently he will hug my arm to his chest and nuzzle my hand with his face and say, "Stay, Mommy." It's so cute and heartmelting.

But this latest night was different. He looked up and me and said, "Daddy read me story."

"You want Daddy to read you a story?"

He nodded, "You go get him."

"Oh. Okay, sure. Will you love me forever then?"

He nodded and said, "Yes, just go."

"Oh, you want Daddy right now?"

"You just go. Get me Daddy. Him read me story right now."

His dad doesn't actually read him books. He tells really cute stories about various super heroes knocking on our front door and asking if Tristan can come out and do good deeds to save the world. It's very entertaining and they only last a few minutes long and Tristan will make him tell about eight of them in a row and then cries like the world is ending when he stops.

* * *

However, while Dad is fun, mom is the one they generally come to when they are upset or want some snuggling and loving up.

Last night I had a dream that a big race horse was in bed with me trying to eat my chicken noodle soup. When I woke up at 4:44AM I realized what I thought was a large soup-slurping thoroughbred was actually two boys -- one at my side pushing me to the edge of the bed, one at the end of the bed knocking my feet off so that I was only touching the bed from the knees up and with one arm dangling over the side.

As I lay there trying to figure out if I should kick them all out, move to the couch or just get up and do something productive I realized that Tristan had managed to wet the bed through his overnight pants. All over me. Not his DAD who is the fun one, but all over his mom and mom's side of the bed.  And then after I cleaned everything up had the nerve to ask me for a drink before going back to bed.

My response was, "I don't think so." And then I realized being only two he probably doesn't really get the art of snarkiness.  Although, I'm in no big hurry because once they figure it out then they start using it on you in retaliation.

I'm rethinking my mom's whole fly swatter thing.

September 18, 2009

Some Firsts

Julius lost his first tooth this week. It's been a long and grotesque week with him showing me the progress of the wiggling tooth each morning and night. "Look how loose it is, Mom!" He'd hop around me, then open his mouth and waggle the tooth around with his tongue until I felt a little queasy around the edges and beg him to please stop. He'd race away yelling, "Look at my tooth, Dad!"

He finally lost it on Tuesday after getting punched in the mouth on the bus by a scrappy little Kindergarten kid who is obviously well-versed on the story of David and Goliath, that inspiring tale of a small but lion-hearted man going against a foe umpteen times his size despite that being a really insane decision.

Unfortunately, my son's modern day version of that bible tale turned out pretty much like the traditional version only in our case, David got suspended from the bus for a few days and Goliath lost his first baby tooth and still sports a big bite mark on his thigh several days later.

I've been trying to focus on the really important things about this learning experience like how proud I am of my son for not just beating the little guy to a pulp when he could have, how he showed Gandhi-like tolerance, restraint and buoyant good-nature despite David's repeated attempts to pick a fight. All of these things are fabulous qualities I admire about my son and have complimented him on when I'm not being distracted by the unfortunate, nagging thought that my son got his ass kicked by a Kindergarten kid half his size.

Yeah, I'm shallow.

So, we've been struggling with these many issues -- how to handle someone trying to pick a fight, what are good and bad choices in those cases. We've talked about self-defense, self-esteem, consequences of action and non-action. This is something we've assumed was going to happen eventually because Julius is a little different. He is generally well-liked and charming, but he still talks different because of his respiratory condition. He's the big, quiet boy who whispers. In the world of rough and tumble boys, that's a defect, a weakness, a testing ground. No matter how much I don't like it, in the world we live in this is the reality of life.

The realization I'm coming to is that the proving ground for all of us is not how we handle ourselves in this fight. The real proving ground is how we handle ourselves outside the fight. How do we react during what comes after? Do we learn anything from it? Do we let it change us for the better or worse?  Does it rule us? How is our self-esteem? How is our outlook on life? Are we afraid? Are we bitter?

I can tell you that Julius did well. His parents, however, could have done far better.

The day after the bus fight I walked to the stop to meet Julius so the driver could see he had an engaged and concerned mom. It turns out I know him and went to school with his son who was a popular basketball player. His wife is my mom's hairdresser. He waved to me as he pulled away. I phoned Mom that night to tell her Mr. Stemple is Julius's bus driver.

"He hates redheads," she said.

"Uh, okay. Why? How can you hate a redhead?"

"I don't know. He does though. Always has. For years Donelda has been wanting to put a red rinse on her hair and he absolutely forbids her to. She's the one who told me he hates redheads."

"Well, that's unfortunate since Julius and I both have red hair."

"Isn't it though." I could sense her working on her latest conspiracy that somehow it was all orchestrated by the bus driver -- a big plot to get the redheaded kids beat up at school.

Supposedly that day the kids were supposed to be separated to avoid further incident. Julius got off the bus, head hanging low.  I put my arm around him and tried to bend down to see the expression on his face. To my surprise he had a funny smirk there like he was trying to keep from grinning or laughing.

"What?" I demanded.

From his pocket he whipped out a plastic baggie containing a tiny little tooth and showed me his big toothless grin.

"Wow! It's out already??"

He nodded, "It just fell out today!"

"Maybe getting punched in the mouth helped." (I'm shallow AND insensitive. I look at it like seeing the glass half full.)

"Maybe so." He gave me another gappy-toothed grin.

Later in the day there was some speculation on the true identity of the Tooth Fairy. After last year's long and agonizing debate about Santa Claus, I wasn't looking forward to the eventual murder of another fake cultural icon. Julius said he thought his dad was really the Tooth Fairy. I walked in about that time and said, "That's silly. Can you imagine how preposterous your dad would look in a tutu?"

Julius laughed.

I went on. "In fact, if anyone in this household would be wearing a tutu, it would be me."  I did the spokesmodel motion down the sides of my body and executed a snappy turn so they could see all sides of me.

Julius laughed again and said, "You're too fat to wear a tutu."

I gasped in mock horror (while hiding that I was truly slightly horrified) and said, "Get out. I could totally wear a tutu."

He rolled his eyes and said, "Mom, seriously, where would you find a tutu that big?"

He's so grounded. I hope the Tooth Fairy brings him a big ole hunk of coal.

September 15, 2009

Why Some Mommys Get Tired

My son, the toddler vegetarian will currently only eat rice, broccoli and yogurt but only if the yogurt doesn't have chunks of fruit in it. Occasionally he will share some lettuce with the guinea pigs by yanking it out of their mouths and stuffing it into his own. Otherwise, on his own salad he likes Greek vinaigrette dressing. As time goes by his eating habits begin to look more and more like mine and my husband is starting to blame me for that.

As I write this he serenades me with an electronic piano that Grandma got the boys. He plays it with his feet.

Over the past week or so he has been very forthcoming with the fashion and personal care advice. He started by offering suggestions about the size of my bust. He's also has some very keen advice about the condition of my skin. He insists on having long conversations about what I'm wearing and why, in addition to make-up tips.

His current fixation is on the underwires in my bra (which he refers to as a "brav"). Every morning he says, "Dat you brav? Why you wear dat?"

"Because girls wear bras when they go out of the house."
"Why come?"
"Uh... well, because... uh, that's what they do."
"Why come?"
"It's a common practice in our Western culture that women wear bras because it's more socially appropriate although some feminists feel that it represses women."  I paused and glanced carefully over at him hoping that would be a conversation stopper.
"You take it off."
"No, definitely not."
"Why come?"
"Well, sometimes women also wear bras for the safety and welfare of their community. It's just better this way. Trust me."
I rarely wear dresses. Last Sunday I was invited to attend church by a friend and broke out the one trusty dress I feel comfortable wearing. This sent Tristan into a tailspin. He followed me around the house quizzing me.
"Wass dat?"
"It's a dress."
"Dat dress?"
"You wear dat dress?"
He then proceeds to crawl under the dress and look around and just generally hang out there like he's in a tent at the side of Walden Pond contemplating whatever it is that breast-fixated toddler vegetarians contemplate.

After an exhausting conversation about why I suddenly need to wear a dress when all his life I've only been wearing pants, we move on to the subject of makeup which I also rarely wear.
"Wass dat on you eyes?"
"It's mascara."
"Why you put dat on you eyes?"
"Because it makes Mommy's eyes look pretty. Does it make my eyes look pretty?"
"Oh. Well... I think it does. It makes my lashes looking longer and fuller. Most people think longer, fuller lashes are attractive."
"Why come?"
"Because television tells them it's better. Except even if I didn't watch TV I would think it looked better."
"You put dat on you eyewashes?"
"Dat make you eyes look pretty?"
"Yeah, that's the whole idea."
"Why come?"
"Oh Tristan. Just because. Just, well, just because. Why don't you go see Daddy for a minute?"
"Why come?"
"Because Mommy's brain is tired."
"Oh. Why come you brain is tired?"
That went on for about another half hour with me hinting at various compelling reasons why he should go somewhere else in the house and talk to someone else for a while. Finally he went off to see Julius and they promptly got into a shoving and screaming match and came running to me crying about how unfairly they both are treated by the other.

I pointed to something over their heads and yelled, "OH MY GOSH!" and when they turned I shut the bathroom door and locked it, slid down the wall and pulled my knees up to my chest and contemplated how much I need a pedicure while the two of them threw themselves at the door screaming, "MOM LET US IN, LET US IN!" Two brothers united in a common cause.

On the other side of the bathroom I spied a magazine I hadn't yet read and scooted over to it, thumbing leisurely through the pages. The door bowed ominously. The door latch rattled angrily. I could sense a 37-pound toddler hanging off of it like the monkey bars. I wondered how long it would hold and if it would come apart before their dad realized that I was trapped in the castle with raging Attila the Hun and Mini-Hun threatening to break through the stronghold.

I flipped passed an article about how I should walk more (because who needs to be reminded of that when the barbarians are at the gate?) and settled on an article about how I could have dazzling eyes like the movie stars.

Suddenly on the other side of the door I hear their father bellow at them to stop hanging on the door and wait for me to get out. They whine, but scatter to various corners of the house and I hear him walk up to the door and say, "You okay in there?"

"Just fine," I say, peering closer to see how in the world they do that eyeliner magic.

I grin and turn another page.

September 14, 2009

STSS: Up for Adoption

Due to current (and long standing) time constraints, I'm not able to keep up with my beloved Small Town Snapshot Sunday meme.  I would love to find a good home for it if there is someone out there who would be dedicated to it weekly.

Leave comments here if you'd like to adopt it and give it a great home.

While I love that meme, I'm also trying to get more realistic about what I can actually accomplish so the main part of this blog (and my other blogs) don't suffer. Quality, not quantity, right??

September 11, 2009

A Thoughtful Offer

I was down at the Chamber of Commerce office dropping off some marketing material and other goodies for the nice lady there to give out in the packets she sends to people who make inquiries.

I sat in there for a while and we chatted about goings-on in town. Just as we were about to wrap things up an older gentleman (not OLD, just older than me) came swooping into the room. The door flew wide open nearly hitting the wall and he paused dramatically in the doorway and surveyed all that was in the room before he fianlly entered.

Donna, the Chamber of Commerce lady, seemed to know him. I could tell by looking at him that he was "from off" (i.e. not from here, not a native of the area). His hair was grayish and a little wild. He was smartly dressed and had boatloads of charisma at his disposal. He started immediately disposing of it all around the room. Some of it got on me.

After a short time, Donna introduced me and when he discovered I was a Realtor he immediately launched into a story about this piece of property in Kansas City that would make us all rich if only I could find an investor to purchase it. And then he spun the tale about various ways we could turn all this into our advantage, most of which sounded suspicious and not entirely legal.

Talking to him was a bit like wallowing around in quicksand, but a quicksand that is a really lovely shade of lavendar or delicate rose pink and perhaps smells a little like warm apples with cinnamon. I could sense the danger, but didn't really care.  I could see, though, that if I were ever going to get out of there I'd have to come up with some dire excuse like "Oh, I forgot my house is on fire..." or maybe "oops, I'm incontinent!"

Eventually I extracted myself and headed to my car. To my dismay he was behind me and seemed to be not just leaving at the same time as me, but actually following me. I stopped before I got to the car and turned around. He started talking about parties he goes to and muckety-muck politicians and celebrities who sometimes attend. He mentioned one party in which he was the escort of a very rich and classy woman. And when he said "escort" I assumed he meant "date" because I'm a silly, naive sort of girl.

He continued, "I do that sometimes, act as an escort to these woman who need someone to attend parties or dinners or whatever with them. Upscale endeavors where looks are important and discretion is required."

I thought about this for a moment wondering why he was telling me all this since I'm about the last person in the world who attends any upscale endeavor where looks are important and discretion is required.

And then he added, "I'd offer these services to you, of course, if you ever had need of them."

"Oh," I said, it suddenly all becoming clear to me. "Er, well, thank you. That's a very thoughtful offer, but no, definitely not. I'm sure my husband would not be too keen on that."

"You're married then."

"Oh yes, quite married, thank you."

"Well, please do keep considering the other offer of selling that property. I hope you can find someone for it. And tune in to my radio show. There's the number on my van..."

He waved his arm to a hand-painted hippie wagon that made me forget his creepy offer and made me smile at his eccentric ways, his free spirit, his energy and his determination to be himself in a community where that sort of behavior frequently goes unrewarded.

I waved and watch him go, leaving a trail of dust in his wake.