April 29, 2010

Year of the Snake

Supposedly, according to the Chinese this is the Year of the Tiger. After the things I've experienced in the last few weeks I'm considering putting in a call to the Chinese government to discuss with them the possibility that there might have been a mistake. Surely it is the Year of the Snake.

This revelation hasn't come upon me suddenly, but only after an accumulation of various incidents that began with a casual Facebook post and ended up... well, I'll get to that in a minute.

About four weeks ago I was sitting in my office and during my post-lunch what-should-I-do-next motivational regrouping I checked my Facebook account and noticed that one of the people at my son's daycare posted the following on her status: OH MY GOSH!!!!!! I almost just got bit by a snake! Everybody be careful.

So I sit there for a moment and contemplate the urge I'm feeling to call the daycare and start screaming questions like WHERE IS MY SON and WHY ARE THERE SNAKES AT DAYCARE and THIS IS MORE PROOF THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL AND THAT WE'RE LIVING IN A TROPICAL NIGHTMARE FILLED WITH DANGER AND DEATH AT EVERY TURN! But then I managed to not do any of that and went on to do some really important stuff like look at knitting patterns and blogs work.

Another couple of weeks go by and I have to show some houses to a new client. I live in the country, so I'm accustomed to going out and tromping in the woods and being careful where I step and all that. Occasionally I do what I call "city real estate" and show houses in a subdivision. It's a nice change because I don't have to worry about ticks and snakes and people playing banjos.

I showed three or four houses, the last of which was the best and I thought this could possibly be the one they would decide was right for them. We finished touring the house and went out the garage and their very tall son reached up to pull the garage door down and, unbelievably, winding its way toward him was a ginormous black snake on the garage door.

Calmly he said, "Uh, there's a snake on the garage door."

I said, "Whoa. Yeah.  Hrm.  Well, you know it's spring.  They're starting to warm up and come back to life.  Welcome to country life."  I looked around at house after house that all looked the same in this cookie cutter subdivision and rolled my eyes at myself.

There's really no good way to put a marketing spin on a snake crawling across the garage door that you're holding onto.

So, we did all we could do which was basically slam the garage door onto the snake which then proceeded to wiggle its way out, but into the garage. I called the agent who listed the house and told her what had happened. She asked me if the snake was in the house.  I said, "Well, I don't know... I didn't go back in and look."  Probably she will never let me show one of her houses again because the time before locking a snake in her house I accidentally locked some of her renters out of a house. (How was I supposed to know they didn't have a key to their own house?)

I finally recovered from that episode and it was nearly forgotten for a while. Last weekend the weather was wonderful and I spent a lot of time out on the screened porch and daydreamed and watched neighbors walk by and birds swoop in and out of view. Rob and Julius spent time on the street practicing on the bike with no training wheels. They'd go down the street for a while and eventually appear back with Julius pedaling furiously and Rob huffing and puffing behind him.

Once they returned with them both walking and I was certain they'd probably been in an accident. They looked rushed and walked with purpose. As they got closer I noticed Rob had something in his hands and finally could make out that it was a very long snake. Nothing I wanted to see, that's for sure, but the boys insisted.  This is the thing about living with a man and two boys... they like all this stuff.  Nobody wants to talk to me about crafts, but they are all over it if it has scales or monster truck wheels.

Wound around Rob's arm was an electric green grass snake. And even I had to admit it was a wonder among snakes. It was sleek and elegant looking and the most brilliant color I've ever seen in nature. They found it when it had lunged out of the trees by the road and snapped up a spider to eat. We looked at it a while, got pictures of it, got pooped on by it and then the boys took it back out to the trees and let it go.

All day long, no matter what topic I brought up, all the boys would talk about was the snake and how they wished they could keep it and why can't they have a pet snake and why aren't there more cool snakes in the yard and why can't I take it to school and let's show grandma and let's go back and look for it again and on and on.

But even then it really wasn't until tonight that I decided we're really in for some kind of reptilian adventures this summer.  I called my mom on the phone to tell her that Tristan was ready for their fun day tomorrow. The sitter is out and Tristan and Mom will be hitting all the carport sales. He came up to me while I was doing the dishes tonight and wanted to know if Grandma had a car seat. He's quite concerned that she come prepared for tomorrow.

She answered the phone a little breathless. I knew she would be outside doing yard work because that's what she always does when spring comes around.

"What are you doing," I asked.

"I just killed a copperhead," she panted.

"That's so gross."

"Well, it almost got me."  I could hear her walking as we talked on the phone.  "I saved it for Julius so he could see it."

"Oh, great because that's what I like him to see is a snake with a big bloody neck gash." I assumed she had wacked off his head with a hoe or shovel because that's how most people do it around here.

Then she said, "Oh no."


"I left it here on the rock so Julius could see it and it's moved..."

Oh why can't she just do things normally like most moms -- like throw her tools to the ground and run screaming into the house or maybe just dance around in a panic until the snake slithers off terrified into the underbrush.

"Seriously? Are you sure you killed it? Did you cut its head off?"

"No, I smashed it with a rock. Well, I had to do it twice.  The first time I threw a big rock on it and it didn't kill it so I had to get another rock and hit it in the head again."

"How do you know you didn't just knock it unconscious?"

"Because I smashed it's head."

"Listen... I read about a guy today who got shot through the eye into his brain and also shot in his jaw and he wasn't supposed to live, but he did. That's way worse than some lady throwing a rock on your head."

She thought about it for a minute. "No, he's dead. He's here just next to the rock.  I'll put him back on the rock and leave him and if he's still there in the morning, then he was dead, see?"

"Yeah, and if he's not there he's probably lying in wait for you, hoping he will have better luck next time."

And so, at another mother-daughter impasse, we said our goodbyes. There was nothing left to say about it until tomorrow morning when she walks across the dew-covered yard to see if there is still a dead snake lying on a rock.

I never thought I'd find myself saying I hope a snake is there when she comes back.

April 22, 2010

How NOT to Clean Your Bathtub

I have a great system for maintaining my tub/shower between weekend cleanings. After the last person gets out of the shower, but before the shower dries, I spray the entire shower and tub with Clorox Clean-Up. Since I've started this system I haven't had to scrub any mildew and soap scum out of the shower and my back and knees feel a lot better.  (Nevermind that I might be giving myself cancer from the chemicals or destroying the earth's precious biodiversity, but at least my shower isn't gross.)

This method, however, doesn't really work when you put two muddy, pollen-covered boys into a tub full of water. You still have to scrub the tub afterward since it pretty much turns the tub brown from that one bathing incident.

So, that Saturday, I had the brilliant idea that I was going to utilize local slave labor to clean the tub. I yelled out the bathroom door, "Hey boys! I have something cool for you to try!" Unsuspecting innocents that they are, they came running in bright-eyed and enthusiastic.

"Hey, how about you guys get in the tub and I'll turn the shower on and you can play in the water for a while. Oh, and scrub the tub while you're at it.  I'll get you the cleaning stuff!"

They clapped their hands together and pulled off all their clothes and jumped into the tub and wiggled and jivved under the shower water. They experimented with the various settings on the shower (from slo-mo to "aqua cannon") while I got rags and pulled out the non-slip mat so they could clean everywhere.

The quandary was what to use for cleaning supplies. I didn't want anything harsh on their skin, but I needed something with more oompf than water to get things sparkling white. I couldn't find baking soda anywhere in the house. Then I had this brilliant idea to use washing powder. It suds, it's a powder, so it might be slightly abrasive. I thought it was a perfect plan.

I took a big scoop in and sprinkled it around the tub and told them to rub it it all around. Then I went back into the kitchen where Rob was cooking to tell him just how brilliant I was. After I told him what I did he said, "That's really a bad idea."

"Why? No, it's brilliant."

"No, it's dangerous."

The man was trying to keep me down. "How is that dangerous?"

"Laundry soap is really, really slippery."

Just then we heard a loud crash in the bathroom and I ran down the hall to see who had fallen. Julius was lying in the bottom of the shower flopping around like a fish that had found his way into the bottom of a fishing boat.

"I can't get up," he yelled.

"Don't move, don't move. Just lie there a second and let me figure this out."

About that time Tristan started screaming, "IT BURRRRNS, IT'S BURNING MEEEEEE."

He tried to get up to show me where it was burning him and fell on top of Julius.  I tried to pick him up and couldn't hang on to him because he was so slippery.  Julius started flopping some more.  Tristan kept crying.

"Okay, okay, lemme rinse you!" Finally I got him just unslippery enough that he could stand upright if he didn't move much. I rubbed him down and got all the detergent off of him, THEN realized how stupid this was beyond the slipperiness because of Tristan's chronic exczema.

So, after nearly knocking one child unconscious and giving the other one chemical burns I got them both out of the tub, dried off and dressed. They looked relaxed, recovered and we all stood and admired their handiwork. The tub was perfectly clean and fresh.

As we walked out of the bathroom and turned out the light, Julius said, "That was fun. We should do that again."

I said, "Oh no, definitely not."

And Tristan said, "Yeah, das bad idea."

[photo by Tricky]

April 19, 2010

A Recipe from Tristan

Here is a recipe Tristan made up over the weekend and I thought I would share it with you in case you'd enjoy it.  He certainly does.


1 cucumber, peeled and cut into thin strips (like McDonald's fries), seeds removed

Put ginormous handful of cucumber slices on a plate.
Put liberal dollop of ketchup on same plate.
Dip "cucumber fries" into ketchup and enjoy.

(I shudder every time I see the image in my mind, but he sure likes them...)

April 15, 2010

Thanks for Outing Me, Netflix

My mom moved from a roomy three bedroom house and downsized to a 192 square foot cabin because... well, because she's my mom and She Has Ideas.

She's also very frugal and doesn't like to spend money on certain luxuries like a television, and yet she is totally addicted to movies.  I keep telling her she needs to get Netflix and then she can get all the movies she wants and it will be cheaper than cable. And besides, she hates the cable company.  But that's another whole story.

Finally, after nagging her a very long time, I tell her she should at least try the streaming videos from Netflix over the computer and I tell her she can try it out on my account for a while and see how she likes it. I wasn't particularly worried about her snooping around in my stuff because she's not really that computer savvy and, besides, the worst thing you can say about the movies I watch is that they are stupid and violent and not good for much else but taking your mind off work.

So, I was very surprised when I got a call from my mother one random day during which she asked me why I had so much "gay and lesbian stuff" on my Netflix account.

"What do you mean 'gay and lesbian stuff'?" I quickly began thumbing through my mental files to remember if I had rented any "gay and lesbian stuff" from Netflix, but couldn't think of anything except "Three to Tango" which is an awesome movie, but not really what I would call "gay and lesbian stuff".

"Well, you know... it says right here on the front page, 'Wendy, you'll really like these movies from Gay and Lesbian...'"

"It says that? No it doesn't say that. Are you kidding me?"  (I knew she wouldn't be kidding me. That's not something my mother would joke about.)

"I'm telling you it says right here that you would like all this gay and lesbian stuff."

"Mother, I have no idea what you're talking about.  Netflix recommends stuff all the time and they're just going through categories or something. It's not a big gay conspiracy."

"Well, you need to look at this. Are you sure there's not something you want to tell me?"

I sighed. "No mom, there's nothing I want to tell you."

What I really wanted to say (but didn't) was, "Even if there was something I wanted to tell you I wouldn't tell you because you'd be berzerk about it just like you are right now. And by the way, I want my Netflix password back."

"Really? Are you sure?"

I sighed again. "Yes, I'm sure, Mom."

She asked, "Would you tell me if there was?"


"Uh, no. Absolutely not."  Seriously, I can't lie to my mom.

"Oh, Wendy."

"Okay, I'm hanging up now."

You know, of course, the first thing I did was go log into my Netflix account and find out what the heck was going on and sure enough in big bold letters was something like WENDY YOU WILL LOVE THESE SELECTIONS FROM GAY AND LESBIAN.

After digging around a bit I found where you can select a place to tell them to make recommendations to you and sure enough, Gay and Lesbian was selected along with Horror films (which I don't like at all) and a couple others that were not things I normally watch.

However, I do like keeping an open mind, so I'm off to go rewatch "Three to Tango" (which I highly recommend) and whatever else Netflix thinks I should watch to broaden my horizons. But not those horror flix.  You have to draw the line somewhere.

April 13, 2010

Early-Onset Schizophrenia

I was down the hallway when I heard Tristan's "crazy voice".  It's a voice he uses when he likes to be silly or when he is imitating a monster or a superhero.  It's gravelly, fast and slightly lower than his normal voice.

He said, "Stop making me do that. Stop making me do that. Julius, stop making me do that."

One of Julius's hobbies is trying to get Tristan to do things that will either 1) annoy me or 2) get Tristan in trouble.  I slowed down and tiptoed down the rest of the hallway and eased my head around the corner to catch them in the act.

Tristan was sitting on the arm of the couch (a no-no in our house). Again he said, "Stop making me do that, Julius."

He noticed me in the doorway and grinned really big.  I looked around the room and Julius was no where in sight.  I yelled, "Julius, where are you??"

"Back here!" He was in the bedroom, nowhere near Tristan.

Three is a little early to start hearing "the voices".  I hope it's a phase and not early-onset schizophrenia.

April 6, 2010

Always Read the Fine Print on the Contract

Sunday was a bright, sunshiney day, warm and perfect. We have a large yard which stretches out in a green span of clover and tiny flowers before the hot summer starts and the clover gives way to the more pedestrian grasses that most people have for a lawn.

In a yard this size it's great fun to hide things for the kids to find over the Easter weekend. We hold their baskets for them so they can run free and we make the offer to carry the baskets not to lighten their load, but so we can secretly drop eggs out of it for them to refind.  This is the first year that our oldest son has figured out that he's finding the same eggs three or four times and finally pleaded with me, "Maaaaaahhhhm, stop dropping the eggs!"  Busted!

My husband keeps telling me we have very few years left of this sort of pagan madness, but I came up with several ways that we can keep the fun going. While we stuffed candy into eggs I regaled him with stories of sleepover scavenger hunts and geocaching and cryptic notes that lead to a smorgasbord of stuff boys like... electronics, cars, movie tickets. He scoffed at me and said, "No boys want to go out hunting for stuff in the woods with their friend's mom."

Is this true? Am I that uncool?

So I showed him. I ate about half a bag of Hershey's chocolate cherry kisses. Heck yeah, I showed him.

That afternoon my husband went out to massacre the clover with the riding lawn mower and possibly several plastic eggs that the kids never found. I launched into a food-making episode that looks like cooking but is really just some kind of random firing of neurons that makes me put certain foods together that sometimes work out (chicken cauliflower indian stir fry) and sometimes doesn't (cinnamon beef).

While I was cooking the boys ran between the bathroom and the front door doing something, but I wasn't really sure what. I suspected they were making easter egg water bombs but they were quiet and nobody was crying, so I figure it would probably be just fine.

Below is a list of facts I didn't realize at the time:
  1. When you mow clover it's very wet and clumpy.
  2. Wet clover sticks to boys.
  3. When wet clover dries it stops sticking to boys and becomes subject to gravity, thereby falling to a freshly swept floor.
  4. Three year old boys in particular don't understand about the physics of water and the waste of natural resources and how if you are done with the water you are supposed to shut it off.
  5. Seven year olds are really crummy babysitters.
At some point the dinner was nearly prepared and I told Julius to go sign to his loudly-mowing father that it was time to eat. I spent a moment or two showing him the sign for "eat" and "now" and after properly executing them, Dad shuts the mower off.

That's when I hear the water running and become irritated because the boys have left water running in the bathroom. I couldn't put down what I was doing as I was putting the magical finishing touches on the dinner. Rob walks in and I tell him the boys left water running in the bathroom and could he please take them in there and explain to them how many different ways that's Not a Good Thing.

About 30 seconds later I heard the most horrible, barbaric bellow that sounded like a grizzly bear getting a bikini wax. I dropped the spatula into the pan with the food and ran to the bathroom to see everyone standing there in horror as we all realized that the water had been running for a very long time and that the sink stopper was closed.

You can now add these facts to things I didn't notice prior to that Sunday afternoon:
  1. I can't hear water running while my husband is mowing.
  2. Our bathroom sink doesn't have one of those emergency overflow valves.
  3. Three year olds don't understand that water that can't go DOWN the sink goes OVER the sink.
About eight towels later we had 525 gallons of water soaked up from the floor and the carpet in the hallway. And at about 2 a.m. when I had to pee and nobody had gotten out a new roll of toilet paper when they used the last bit I noticed that about eight rolls of bathroom tissue were competely soaked and bloated as well.

In Genesis Chapter 9 the story goes that after God flooded the earth and transformed Noah from a bipolar pariah (to his neighbors) to a legendary hero (had anyone lived to notice back then) he spoke a promise to humankind that he would never make another flood. The symbol of that promise is the rainbow.

The promise, if you read the fine print, apparently only covers worldwide flood-borne catastrophes that destroy all flesh. It does not, however, cover New Orleans during a hurricane or my bathroom when occupied by an unattended three year old.

The good news is that dinner was awesome. Even though I cooked it.  Except Rob did end up throwing up in our still-damp bathroom twice but I think it was completely unrelated.

I hope.