Friday, December 30, 2005

so true, so true

allme
it's all about me. deal with it.


Who's Your Happy Bunny?
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Uppity Up-Up-Up


The Child Development Experts™ from BabyCenter tell me that, at seventeen months (week 1), my Captain Adventure is likely to be getting into climbing.

“By now she may be able to climb up a set of stairs, turn around at the top and sit, then scoot her way back down again. Some more cautious toddlers may like climbing up the stairs but will call for help to get back down.”

Well, yes. Although the way Captain Adventure does things is more like this: escape through a crack no bigger than a flea in any gate or doorway, run for the stairs, clamber up same with the speed and agility of a mountain goat (giggling all the way), stand up at the top, do a little victory dance, and then start back down head first on the assumption that before anything really bad can happen, Mommy will use her Olympic-like reflexes to catch me.

He also likes to climb up on the sofa, do the same little dance, and then shinny out onto the arm or back of the sofa and bounce – casting coy glances over his shoulder to make sure that Mommy is having the appropriate fit of apoplexy over his performance.

Boys. Oy.

I’ve never been fond of the Climbing Phase. Terrible Twos (and Snotty Sixes) are annoying, but you get through them in one piece (physically, anyway – mentally is another story). But the Climbing Phase that toddlers go through is hell.

It was during this phase that Danger Mouse plummeted off the clatter bridge part of our brand new, super-deluxe, dual-slide, three-swing-and-a-sandbox, made-for-four-kids Playnation set in our backyard. I helped her up the ladder, expecting that she would stand there at the top for a moment before deciding whether to try the bridge or the slide.

Nope. Ran, hell bent for election, right onto the clatter bridge. And of course, being a clatter bridge, it shifted. She fell right through the gap between the swaying bridge and the railing and belly flopped on the ground below.

You know that thing you see the Olympic gymnasts do on the parallel bars, where they somehow shoot themselves feet-first between the upper and lower bars?

I did that.

As Dog is my witness, and I have no idea how, I did that.

Eight months pregnant, weighing in at an awkwardly-placed 185, I shot myself right between the upper rail of the tower and the upper railing of the bridge - swoosh! Landed with a thud that registered about a 7.3 on the local Richter scales and a shriek that is probably still revolving in space above the Central Valley.

If I had paused to think about things, I probably would have used the ladder. But I was pretty sure Danger Mouse was either dead or, at the very least, missing her nose. So I just got down off that thing the fastest way possible.

She was neither dead nor face-flattened. In point of fact, she kind of bounced and was more scared than hurt. So we lay on the sofa and cried together for a little bit, and I swore that none of my kids would ever be permitted to play on that damned thing again.

About an hour later, she was using kitchen chairs as ladders to the kitchen table, and trying to stretch from there to the counters (a mere three foot span or so) to score crackers.

Toddlers. Oy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Knitting under the influence


Let’s see. How to describe this problem?

OK, so, when you’re making a sock, there is a certain amount of math involved. This is not esoteric math. It isn’t calculus or geometry or any of the other “evil” math art-sciences.

It’s pretty straightforward. You cast on, say, 44 stitches. You work however many inches in a rib pattern. You work however many inches in stockinet or rib or whatever until it is as long as you want. Then, you do the heel.

This is where the math comes in. Not hard math. It’s easy math. Take the ‘X’ stitches you have and divide by 2 – in this case, 44/2 = 22. OK. So far, so good. Then you work (X/2)-2 rows (which here means 20) back and forth on the heel flap. With me so far? This isn’t hard math, right? This is easy math. This isn’t like one of those monster formulas NASA uses to figure the trajectory that will plop a robot on Mars, right?

Right.

After you do the 20 rows, you then turn the heel. You take your stitches and divide by 3. If you can’t divide by 3, you get within spitting distance and put the extra one(s) in the middle. So. I’ve got 22, I can’t divide by 3, so I do 7-8-7. Right? Got it? Not hard.

Then. You knit the first two groups (7 + 8 = 15), knit the next two together and turn the work. Purl across those same 15 stitches, purl two together, turn the work. Knit to the little gap, knit 2 together, turn the work. Lather, rinse, repeat, until you’ve used up all the ‘extra’ stitches on the ends and behold – you have a heel.

(I know, non-sock-knitters, I’ve just issued forth some weird blather in Swahili. Trust me. It isn’t rocket science or anything resembling it.)

So. Last night I went about this basic maneuver and…well…um…I ended up with something…

Well…

Let’s just say…it ain’t no heel.

It looks more like a boil poking out from an otherwise lovely straight tube. I’m not sure, but it looks like I was throwing an extra stitch (or two) into the mix before I turned each time.

I have no idea what I did wrong, but I’m pretty sure the chardonnay had something to do with it.

Also, it is definitely not a heel. It is Just Plain Wrong.

**sigh**

Oh well. I knew knitting under the influence would bring me to grief. I’m just going to be grateful I wasn’t working on some astonishingly elegant piece of dainty lace, tear out whatever this Not A Heel thing is, and move on.

Under the influence of caffeine, this time, which has never done my knitting a bit of harm.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I am NOT freaking out!!!!!


OK, maybe just a little bit.

I have now been home with the kids for two years. It has been wonderful. It has been fabulous to enjoy this time with my children. I will treasure this time in my heart for ever and ever.

And, I am so excited to be going back to work that I can hardly sleep at night.

At the same time, I’m spoilt for choice. I have one job offer on the table. I have keen interest from another source. I have agencies already courting me, and I haven’t even officially thrown my resume into the ring…they just heard through mutual friends that I was thinking about it. I have an opportunity to start my own consulting business and be plenty busy right out the gate.

So many options! And, bonus, none of them suck. But still…which one is best? Consulting solo, no benefits, no security at all, but the potential for making the best balance between bucks and being able to give myself the afternoon off to go to a school assembly? Or working for Da Man as an FTE, for less pay but with paid vacation, 401k matching and health benefits (which I don’t need at the moment, but who knows what tomorrow may bring?)? Or maybe going back to consulting, with the higher paycheck, lower security, few or no benefits and the glorious frenzy of the week or two between projects?

Choices, choices, choices.

Meanwhile, a little voice inside my head is screaming that I am nowhere near ready to be starting this.

My work clothes are a disgrace. My house is so utterly disorganized that I am ashamed to have people over. If they ask me for a paperclip, I’m sunk. I know I have at least two gross of them, but where…um…that’s another matter altogether. I can’t find anything. Tupperware? An entire bank of cupboards dedicated to it, but whether or not a fitting lid or the ‘right’ shape/size can be found is another matter.

How in the world, says the little voice, do you expect us to go to work with such utter chaos reigning in our Tupperware cupboards?! Not to mention the unmentionable state of the built-ins, the closets, the lack of clean underwear and the fact that I have had laundry stacked four feet high on my dresser for approximately the last six months and there is no end in sight and besides all that I have a few dozen other little items of chaos to discuss and…!

I tell the voice to Shut. Up.

I tell it that I have at least one full week of childcare before I’m likely to be galloping out for even an official interview. I tell it that in one week of childcare, I will be more than able to clean up my house, get myself some decent clothing to wear to work and figure out what to do about my hair. Yes, little voice, we do rather resemble a drowned rat. We are also a bit fluffy around the midsection. However, we do not currently frighten children – even those that aren’t our own. So suck it up, and walk it off.

But it doesn’t shut up, or walk off.

It just moves on to fretting about other things. It chatters worse than my four year old, who is currently in the middle of a big time Chatterbox phase.

So hey, if we’re going to start up our own business, well, you remember last time? The way it got to be so damned 24/7 that we were working while on vacation in Mendocino? And the way that clients were over all days of the week because you don’t know how to set limits, especially when you’re being paid handsomely not to do so?

Then again, if we go contract, we’ve got the whole problem of the clients wanting to own us for the duration of the project. They get all pissy if you want to take a Friday off so you can go to a school assembly and so forth. Not to mention that then they do That Thing, where they refuse to either confirm or deny a contract extension and blah blah blah. And then there’s that period between, when you worry like crazy because you haven’t gotten anything yet…and you never dare spend any of the money you make, because You Never Know…

Of course (the voice continues, in spite of my pointed staring at the clock, which is usually saying something like 2:13 a.m. during this conversation), if we take the FTE thing, well! We’re talking a minimum of $25,000 less per year in our pocket! Which considering the high cost of daycare really, really sucks! So maybe we’d want to go contract after all…

Shut.Up.Shut.Up.Shut.Up.

It is as though my brain has turned into a frantic rodent, panting along on a wheel trying to get away from inner demons – keenly aware that it isn’t getting anywhere, but determined to keep trying.

All that clawing is actually causing me to walk into walls due to sleep deprivation worse than anything I ever suffered after the birth of a child. We will not go into the effect this has on my love life, as it crosses well over into the TMI zone. Suffice to say that I think my husband may actually turn to 900 numbers (and worse, I’m not sure I’d blame him!) if I don’t quit trying to debate the relative merits of one form of income generation over another with him in those precious moments between when all the kids are in bed and when we have to get out of bed to deal with one or all of them again. He’d really rather be talking about something…uh…else, right about then.

Also, I am breaking out like a teenager about to go to the prom. If this keeps up, I will feel impelled to spend one of those precious ‘childcare before working’ days at a spa begging the esthetician to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!!!!!!!

Not that this would be a bad thing, necessarily. I could get my eyebrows mowed while I’m at it. I think a mowing would be required before a waxing could be attempted. Like I said. I’ve been home with the kids for two years.

BUT I’M NOT FREAKING OUT!!!!!!

I’m just…pondering the imponderables.

Repeatedly.

All night.

**sigh**

Thank $DEITY for Knitting and Chardonnay. I just finished a lovely pair of lace socks today (I’ll put up pictures once I’ve found the sync cable for the digital camera – see note regarding state of the house and inability to find crap therein above, but here’s someone else’s ) work in a more sensible color), in hot (whooooo-eeeee, are they ever PINK!) pink because that’s what our babysitter said she wanted, and am about to cast on a pair for my Eldest in the same color because she says she wants a pair.

Also, I have decided after many, many sips thereof, that I rather like the Black Swan chardonnay. It is very tasty, and gets more so the more one sips.

So. I’m going to casht ohn a few shtiches onto these, uh, sharp-pointy-thingees here and do a few rounds of shtockinette-shtish.

That oughta settle me down, yessiree, that oughta about do it…

(Tune in tomorrow, for the hung over rant about why one should never try to knit socks while high on imported chardonnay…)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Be It Herewith Resolved…


I don’t “do” Resolutions. Just paint me red and call me a rebel, but I just can’t get into the whole Resolution thing, even casually.

I think it stems from my having a somewhat casual attitude toward the “calendar year”. While I can hardly just disregard it altogether (thank you, Mr. IRS, for forcing me to make a long series of nonsensical numbers, such as “by 4/15/2006 I must account for all dollars earned from 1/1/2005 through 12/31/2005”, a major part of my life), in terms of my overall life direction…I just can’t really get all that charged up about January 1 as a Catalyst for Change, personally.

I have even developed a kind of disdain for the Resolution thing. Year after year, the same people make the same promises – they’re going to lose weight, search for love, move up, move out, change their hair, stop smoking, blah blah blah.

And by February…what Resolution? Oh, yeah, that, ha ha, well, um, I’m just having this one Texas-sized Coldstone sundae and a cigarette, and then I swear

Uh-huh.

There’s just something about those New Year Resolutions. They’re throw-away promises, which perturbs me.

And yet, every year, people start asking me around Thanksgiving if I’ve got any “good” resolutions for this coming year. I then get away with making vague muttering noises until this very week, this week right here, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It is now that people begin to start pestering about it with the zeal of the recently converted.

“I’m resolving that this year, I’m giving up having wild sex with strangers while my husband is at work! How about you, you got any good ones this year?”

And then they wait, with breathless anticipation, for me to declare my intention of giving up my international lottery scams, my meth cooking, my beating of the children or my four-skein-a-week yarn habit (never! NEVER!!!!)

In years past, I’ve trotted out either something utterly banal or something intensely disgusting, depending on the persistence of the asker.

Which those of you who meet up with me in person during this whole New Year week might want to bear in mind: if you keep pestering me about NO REALLY what resolutions I intend to press to my bosom this year, I’m seriously going to tell you all about how I intend to resist becoming an Olympic-class nose picker this allergy season, because I tell you what, last spring (and some of the early summer, too!) I spent three or more hours per day with my index finger, this index finger right here, recently used to arrange the cruditĂ©s on the platter, shoved about two inches up my sinus cavity trying to dig out the gravel I was pretty sure had gotten stuck in there.

You have been warned.

The awful truth is, I don’t have any ‘real’ resolutions. I didn’t have any last year, and I don’t have any resolutions this year, either.

I have goals. I have dreams and wishes and good things I want to do more of and bad habits that need breaking.

But they have nothing to do with January 1, 2006.

So, this year, I resolve to have no ‘real’ resolutions.

Wait.

Did I just make a Resolution…?

Monday, December 19, 2005

More proof just in: I’m a rotten parent


I am informed of this little gem of parental wisdom this morning:

“Validate your child's emotions.
Instead of saying, "There's no reason to get so upset," if your child gets mad and throws a tantrum because he's unable to put together a puzzle, acknowledge how natural his reaction is. Say, "It's really frustrating when you can't finish a puzzle, isn't it?" Telling him his reactions are inappropriate or excessive will make him feel as if he should muzzle them.”

Oops. I had this wild idea that muzzling inappropriate or excessive reactions was a very valuable social skill.

So, the next time I’m in WalMart and some jackass parks his cart sideways across the aisle, I will demand validation of my emotions instead of condemnation when I accelerate to ramming speed and take his self-absorbed butt out. That is precisely what I would do if I didn’t muzzle my reactions a bit. But my mother, being a rotten parent as well, taught me to temper my natural anger and normal violence, and to respond with a wholly unnatural politeness: “Pardon me, can I just squeeze past?”

OK, OK, I’m only half serious. There is a big difference between a two year old throwing a tizzy fit and, say, a six year old doing so. A two year old doesn’t understand his own problem, half the time.

I’ve seen my toddler-aged kids go from bumbling happily around the room playing with blocks to lying on the floor shrieking and kicking in a matter of seconds, and for no apparent reason. With their language skills so limited, they have no way of articulating what’s bugging them so; more than half the time, I suspect that even if they had the vocabulary, they still couldn’t really say what just happened to them, emotionally.

More than half the time, I can’t either. I can’t explain why I feel such tremendous bursts of rage sometimes over what really are very minor little things. Getting cut off while driving, dropping a stitch while knitting, having apple juice splash all over the floor, or starting to pull into a parking spot only to discover that some inconsiderate jackass has left their cart in the middle of it.

It’s so…nothing. So minor. So…not worth the bother. And yet, sometimes, I feel such a surge of fury over such things that I’m shaking with the desire to beat the holy crap out of someone over it. I’ll often have to walk away from the situation for a minute to put a muzzle on my reaction before returning to the problem at hand, lest I do something stupid and/or violent.

So I can readily understand my toddler getting screaming-and-kicking angry over, say, the red block not being blue, or the wrong song singing forth from the little plastic phone, or not being able to recreate The Thinker out of tinker toys due to manual dexterity issues.

But I still personally think that part of our job is to teach our children how to control themselves. And sometimes, damn it, your reaction is inappropriate and/or excessive. It’s part of my job to point this out, and to help you find a better way to deal with the things that irk you.

Because honestly – ramming the bastard in WalMart may be gratifying in the very short-term, but in the long run? Assault and battery charges, jail time, community service…it just ain’t worth it, kid.

Trust me on this one.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Such good kids


Yesterday morning, I cracked open the last gallon of milk when making my second mocha of the day and realized Something Was Amiss.

It was a slight odor. A very slight odor. So slight that I debated with myself for a moment as to whether or not so slight an odor was really something to worry about – after all, I said to myself, I’m going to be putting it in the microwave for two whole minutes and then steaming it, how much bacteria could possibly survive that?!

Then I called to mind my condition last Friday, when I woke up at 2:00 in the morning shivering, sweating, and keenly aware that my intestinal tract was about to explode out of my body in every direction at once, marched to the sink and dumped the entire gallon of milk down it.

I made my mocha with the bare scrapings of whole milk that was supposed to be for the baby (eh, a sippy cup of juice instead won’t kill him this once, whereas an under-caffeinated mother just might) and a generous dollop of heavy cream and faced the brutal reality that {gulp} I had to go to the supermarket.

With…children.

With…three…children.

Oh, mercy. Worst of all, the very thought turned what should have been a very luxurious mocha (heavy whipping cream rocks in a mocha!!!) to ashes in my mouth. I began struggling to find a way around going with the kids in tow…

…I thought about waiting until my husband got home – but I knew full well he wouldn’t be home before 7:30 at the earliest, and possibly even later.

…I thought about waiting until I had dropped Danger Mouse and Boo Bug off at school – but then Captain Adventure is already about half an hour past his desired nap time and taking him to the supermarket would be remarkably foolish. Might as well take hatpins to poke him with while I’m at it. He’ll be shrieking and screaming before we even get out of the van – worse, he’ll then refuse to nap for the rest of the day, collapse at 5:30, get up again at 7:00 and want to stay up all freakin’ night. Not worth it.

…I thought about lying down on the sofa for a good long cry, but realized it would probably give me a headache and besides – first I’d have to clean off the sofa, which would undoubtedly mean pulling out the vacuum cleaner and then naturally I’d end up doing the whole freakin’ room just ‘cause and what would that solve? Nothing!!

No. It was either “do without milk until tomorrow” (which also means doing without bread, rolls, muffins, waffles, the sugar cookies I wanted to make today and {gasp, shock, HORROR} my afternoon, early evening and crack-of-dawn tomorrow coffees!), or…suck it up and be a woman about it. Get ‘er done. Do the necessary. Shoulders back, chin up, hair contained, makeup on and heerrrrrrrrrre we go! Big smiles everyone!!

So I loaded up the four Denizens and headed out into the dense fog. After dropping off Eldest, I informed the remaining Denizens (brightly) that we were going to the supermarket.

“Hooray!” they shouted, in the way they do when anything different is announced.

Yeah, great, whoopee. I reminded them that, if they were super-duper amazingly good, they would be permitted to select a Treat from the candy aisle.

“HOORAY!!!!!” they shouted with real feeling, and began assuring their best-best-bestest of behavior.

It didn’t start out well. The only “car” shopping cart I could find was soaking wet from having been left out last night, and it was damned cold outside. My children were sniffling and whining and grousing about their sore noses and hands (how many mittens have I made for them?! and where are they?!) as I wandered around like a member of the Lost Tribe searching for one of the at least five of those stupid car-shaped carts I know the supermarket has in its arsenal.

Nope. Not one, other than the soaking wet one – which got snagged by a dad who simply plopped his Princess in there without regard for the fact that she was going to be drenched. She screamed and wailed all the way through the store, but refused to get out of the car – even though she was being put through the Chinese water torture routine. Drip-shriek, drip-shriek, drip-shriek.

I grabbed the only three seater left, the less-desirable bench seat model. I expected whining. I got…giggling. The girls were charmed because they got to sit facing their baby brother, and he was equally charmed to be flirting with them the entire time.

Let me say that again.

My two daughters found it absolutely the most charming thing in the world that they got to sit and stare at their baby brother for the duration of the shopping trip, and he was vastly entertained, the entire time, by playing ‘look-away’ (a variation of peek-a-boo, where one turns one’s head coquettishly to the side for a moment, then suddenly whips it around to grin at one’s partner).

Hooooooookay. I am not questioning, I am just burning incense to the God of Short Attention Spans in thanks that, for thirty minutes, my children managed to mostly entertain themselves with something as simple as that. Oh, and the fact that we made train noises while in motion. That was also tremendous fun (for them – me, I got a bit winded trying to make the chugga-chugga noises while pushing 100+ pounds of toddler/preschooler/kindergarten plus all the groceries).

The whining did not begin until we hit the produce section – which happened to also be the very last stop on our little adventure. And the whining stopped the instant they were reminded that they had to be super-duper good to get their Treat.

We got to the checkout line, and I let them out to choose their treats. This being a weighty matter demanding much careful thought, consideration and debate, I was all but completely unloaded by the time they returned with their decisions: white chocolate Reese’s and candy-coated Hershey Kisses, which they placed on the belt with due solemnity before hopping back onto the bench. They know the drill: they have chosen the Treat, but it can still be lost!! Super Duper Goodness must be maintained until everyone is buckled into their seats in the van and we’re ready to go. Then and only then will the Treat be given out, with mommy’s undying gratitude that you did not humiliate her in front of the masses.

It was at this point that I realized that I have some pretty extraordinarily good kids.

I realized this because of the other children around us.

Princess was still screaming. Any time her father tried to appease her, she kicked him. The child in front of us went into a tizzy fit when his mother pried the package of cookies out of his hand – just for a second, sweetie! – so the cashier could swipe them. There were a pair of twins we had encountered a couple times who were so amazingly bratty that I honestly think I might have used duct tape over their mouths had they been mine. Four years old (or so), and their mother was their personal slave. They demanded potato chips, and first she said ‘absolutely not’, then ‘no’ (more in a ‘please don’t ask me to do this’ than an actual ‘no, end of discussion’ way), then ‘wellllll…’, and then they were popped into the cart. Immediately, they began demanding to be allowed to eat the chips while they shopped, and I’m pretty sure the conversation went the same way. Absolutely not {SHRIEK!} No {WAIL!} Wellllll {holding breath until faces turn purple} OK, but just this once…

I looked at my three children. They were giggling and goofing off, but they were staying seated (as commanded), weren’t hitting each other, weren’t hollering and yelling about wanting their Treat, NOW!, weren’t being little brats.

Damn, but I do love my kids.

Now, if I can just hold onto this feeling for those times when they’re all running amuck in the house on these cold, rainy days screaming and shrieking and throwing things down the stairs…

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just call me Santa


The Yarn Harlot listed off all the projects she thinks she’s going to get done by Christmas and their current state in her blog today.

Ha! I am so all over this thing! I have:

Five faceclothes like these, one fully knit, one that just needs its ends run in, and three still yarn. They take about two hours apiece to make, so I figure I’m golden. I can finish one per day, easy, just while sitting in the pickup lane waiting for one kid or another to go in / come out of school. That’s only six hours of knitting left to go on this gift…

One pair of socks which are still yarn and which have been giving me fits. Something is wrong with this yarn. I’m serious. I don’t understand it. I take the yarn, I put it on the needle. I need the gauge. It hits gauge dead-center-right-spot-on-couldn’t-be-any-closer-than-that. My gauge is so precisely dead-on that NASA is phoning to compliment me on my engineering skills.

Yet when I cast on the correct number of stitches per the pattern I have used at least nine times in the past – I get socks that look like they were designed for someone suffering from elephantitis.

Anyway, those should take only about 20 hours (or so) of intense don’t-bother-me-I’m-knitting knitting. Hmm. Maybe I could make them ankle socks instead of boot socks…

Three pairs of mittens with matching hats for the girls – still yarn. Well, um, technically, it isn’t even yarn yet, because I haven’t gotten the yarn yet. But, undaunted, I leave them on the list. After all, I can whump out a pair of mitten in less than an hour, especially to fit a tiny little four year old.

One pair of lacy pink socks for the babysitter. I have no idea how long they will take, because I have never done such an intricate lace pattern on socks. I’m assuming somewhat more than ‘about 20’ but somewhere less than ‘the rest of my life.’

And, a scarf for a friend. Still yarn. Yarn which, again, I haven’t received yet. C’mon, UPS, don’t fail me now!! And then, about, oh, eight hours later, I should have her gift together.

Let’s see. {counts on fingers} I make that to be {counts again on fingers}, oh, let’s call it…sixty hours of knitting left to have all my Christmas presents done. There being ten days left, that’s only six hours a day of knitting I need to get done.

And, being for the next week (or two) a SAHM with absolutely nothing to do but sit on my butt eating bon-bons and watching Days of our Lives (is that even still aired?), I should be well able to get that, right?

Absolutely. Just like last year, when everybody got what they really wanted for Christmas.
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Gift cards.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mommmmmmmeeeeeeeeeee!


Some days, for whatever reason, my children are just High Maintenance.

Most days, they’re on the moderate side, attention-demands-wise. They want cuddles, they want to tell me lengthy stories, that kind of thing. No big. And of course, around meal and snack times, they tend to hit me with about six hundred action-related questions per second: can I have juice? Cookies? Candy? A pretzel? Oranges? Bananas? What about my juice?

And some days, I almost wouldn’t even know they were here. Those days are rare. But they do happen. They go up into their rooms and play, all day, and I hear next to nothing from them.

That, however, was not today.

Today was a High Maintenance kind of day. I suspect it is because I am actually trying to do things today. I have a lot of ducks to get in a row today. I have a lot of paperwork I’m trying to do today. I’ve got a task list, and none of it is time-insensitive.

So naturally, every eight seconds: “MOMMMMMEEEEEEEE!!!!!!”

She took my toy.
She hit me.
She’s in front of the TV.
She’s sitting on the table.
She’s got my paper.
Captain Adventure got out of the playroom!
Captain Adventure is on the stairs!
Oops – Captain Adventure just fell over backwards and hit his head and there’s BLOOD coming out!!!!
Can I have some juice?
Can I have cookies?
Can I have pizza?
Mommy – mommy – mommy – mommy – mommy – mommy – mommy - !

“Look,” I say, in my best Reasonable Adult voice. “I’m kind of busy right now. I need to finish what I’m doing. Can you guys go into the playroom and play until lunchtime?”

“OK,” they reply, in their best Reasonable Kid voice.

Five seconds later, someone has hit someone else over the head with the Ming vase, and all hell has broken loose. And I have so far filled in three (3) of the approximately seventeen thousand (17,000) boxes on each of the fourteen (14) forms I’m trying to get filled out today.

**sigh**

On the bright side – the Snooty Center has welcomed both of my youngest children with open arms. Sure, maybe it’s just all good PR, but they seemed very happy to see all of us again. Captain Adventure was delighted with the toddler room (which will last until he realizes that it means Mommy is {gasp} going away, which will end his love affair with it immediately) and Boo Bug had to be physically torn away from her new classroom and cried all the way home because it was “cooler” than her current preschool.

Hmm. I wonder if they could start, you know, like, um, how about tomorrow? Does tomorrow work for you guys…?

(Anyone wishing to take bets as to whether I will spend the entire first day of so-called freedom sniffing into a Kleenex may do so, just don’t do it in front of me. I like to pretend I’m a big tough old ‘suck it up and walk it off’ kind of mommy.)

Childcare Snobbery


So. Due primarily to what I like to call ‘cash flow issues’ (because it sounds so much more dignified than “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!”) and secondarily to the fact that I’m just really-really ready to do so, I’ve been pondering going back to work.

Which means I need to find childcare for my Precious Poopsies.

Ah, yes. Childcare. Such fun! Such excitement!

Such a pain in the ass.

So I’m looking for someplace to place Captain Adventure and Boo Bug – the older two are covered through their current school. And naturally, I don’t want to put them just anywhere with just anybody.

Oh no.

I called around, I checked out programs and facilities, and what have I about 98% settled on?

The number one most expensive option in town. The one that is anywhere from $100 to $200 a week more than other available options.

Of course I have. Apparently, I feel that we are just ever-too hot of shots to send our children anywhere but the snootiest, second-most granola option in town (the single most granola option is actually cheaper, but I have concerns that they are too weird a combination of granola and military school).

I have two compelling reasons. The first is past experience. It’s where we sent all three of the girls in years past, and we have never been anything but happy with them. They’re clean, well-run, have good discipline without being militaristic about things, provide good food and keep the kids (reasonably) clean throughout the day. Also, there isn’t a TV anywhere to be found in the center – I have to admit, I got kind of pissy about finding my kids had been watching video tapes for three or four hours a day. What are they supposed to do when they get home, for Pete’s sake?!

The other is that this center has a full kindergarten on site. So instead of having to deal with freaky transportation issues for the weird half-day schedule of the public school’s kindergarten, I can just drop her off at the center when that time all-too-soon comes. Her classroom runs the kindergarten program in the morning, and then goes seamlessly on to standard daycare arts and crafts, and all the other catch phrases that basically mean “they go play”.

I thought about a nanny, but I still have nightmares from the last time we had one. Lord. First of all, relying on just one person to provide childcare for four children is kind of psycho. Secondly, there is nothing the state of California hates more than an Employer. Employers must be punished at any and all opportunity. Those bureaucratic donkeys still send me the occasional nastygram about some tax or other they think I should be paying, and she’s been gone from our lives for four years. And third, I have never once found one who didn’t have one, two or even three of her own kids she wants to drag along. Even when I put the ‘no other children, please’ requirement right in the ad – still the mothers would call. They always expressed surprise that their kids were part of the ‘no other children’ requirement. “But they’re not other children – they’re mine!” they would explain.

Yes. And now, you’ve brought your kids into my house (which event I’m not really insured for), and they are tearing my house apart because kids are always monsters to their own mothers, and they are terrorizing my kids, and you are both distracted and trying to watch five to eight children all by yourself. Plus, how the heck are you going to take my older kids to and from school, given that even my big old van can only transport four kids at a time?!

**sigh**

Anyway. Yes. I have become a Childcare Snob. I think I’ve talked myself into it. They’re going to the expensive option. Because then, I will be able to go to work without worrying about Things.

That right there is worth every dime.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

D’oh!!


Have you ever messed something up? Made a fiscal error that made you want to slam your head on the desk? Forgotten to pay a bill, or overpaid a bill (I did once write $250 when I meant to write $25), or maybe clicked on ‘Buy It Now’ on eBay and, only after having signed off in blood that yes, you did want to buy that, realized that no, actually, you didn’t?

Take heart. As with most miseries, embarrassments, and other viciously nasty things that we can do to ourselves, there is someone out there who has it worse than you. Case in point for today: Mizuho Securities, who today managed the astonishing feat of accidentally screwing up a little stock order.

What They Meant To Do: SELL one (1) share of J-Com for six hundred and ten thousand (610,000) yen (which, the article helpfully tells me, is the equivalent of a little over 5,000 of our American smackers).

What They Accidentally Did: SOLD six hundred and ten thousand (610,000) shares for one (1) yen – less than $0.01.

They estimate that this little ‘oops, my bad’ is going to cost them about two hundred twenty five million bucks ($225,000,000).

And suddenly, I feel so much better about that time I bought a VCR/DVD player for $400, only to see the price on it drop by almost $200 a few days after I discarded the receipt…

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Keeping me humble


Sometimes, I really do believe that I am “all that”. I congratulate myself on being so frugal. I pat myself on the back for not rushing out and overspending during the holidays. I gloat over successfully avoiding the snack aisle at the supermarket, for staying within budget at the mall, for not rushing out to buy a new Treo just because I’ve thought about the possibility of maybe going back to work someday, or for resisting the urge to buy myself a venti mocha between Child Retrieval Expeditions out of sheer boredom and irritation.

Good job, I say to myself. Atta girl, I crow. You sure have come a long way since your spendthrift days, honey – what an amazing example of Conscientious Consumerism you are!!

Then…I visit a yarn store. Online or in person, it doesn’t matter. I lose all sense of budget when in the presence of yarn, knitting tools, and pattern books.

Here is what I needed from KnitPicks today:

1. A few packages of blocking pins, to block That Damned Shawl, which is within a mere ten hours (or so) of being finished and will require at least two hundred of the things to block.

2. Two skeins of wool: one black, and one white, for a scarf I promised I’d make a friend about six hundred years ago. Because the only black and white yarn I have in my stash turns out to be cashmere / alpaca suitable only for framing – not scarf making.

Here is what I’ve bought from KnitPicks today:

1. A ‘sampler kit’ of their Simple Stripes sock yarn.

2. And, why not, a sampler kit of their Dancing sock yarn line, too. After all (she said, beginning the strange logic that makes such spontaneous purchases “OK” in her little world), when you’re knitting socks for small children, well, shoot! I can probably get two or even three pairs of socks for them with the same amount of yarn I’d use for one pair of adult socks! So I’m saving money, because at this rate each pair of socks will cost less than two dollars, and you just can’t get Good Wool Socks™ for that kind of price, suuuuuuure, you can get the WalMart acrylic crap for less but Good Wool Socks™? No way. Those suckers can be $5, $7, even $12 a pair!!

3. A cute little book for hats, gloves, mittens and so forth. Because one can never have enough of these books, especially when one is vowing that next year, everybody one loves is going to get something handknit to express that yes – I loved them enough to spend Lord knows how many hours putting in the 34,000 stitches required to make a pair of handknit socks. (Oy.)

Which reminds me: don’t expect many posts between now and Christmas. I will be busy freaking out about whether or not my {brother, sister in law, nephews, nieces, postman} would be terribly offended and think I don’t love him/her at all if I don’t inflict a Peruvian-style head snuggler on him/her and trying to finish an entire year’s worth of knitting in the next 17 days. Ho ho ho, and pass the bandaids because I’m wearing the skin right off my fingers with all this knitting.

4. Oh yeah. The black and white yarn I need for the promised scarf. Saaaaaaaay, I kind of like this forest green, too. Maybe just, say, a skein or two of that while we’re at it, and one of the cocoa and just one more in the ‘natural’, so then I can make a Fair Isle hat, maybe even two of them!…

5. And blocking pins. 200 blocking pins, with BIG FLOWER HEADS on them so that it will be harder to miss one when picking them out, hence avoiding the Incident We Will Not Mention involving a blocking pin that ‘somehow’, ‘mysteriously’, ended up lurking in the folds of the playroom sofa.

6. Oooooooh! Check it out! A retractable, craft-sized measuring tape. I always need a measuring tape, because no matter how many I own, I can never find one when I need it. Ever. And retractable means that even if Captain Adventure does go digging through my craft bag and pulls it out, he won’t be able to hang himself with it the way he can with my regular plastic one.

The total of cost of what I actually needed: about $10.

Total final bill: $121.39

**sigh**

Of course, I immediately head into the Land of Rationalization. Average sock yarn, I remind myself, costs about $6-12 per ball, and you need two balls for a pair of socks, which makes this a tremendous bargain price for darned decent yarn. The socks I just finished for my husband cost me $15 for the pair, $7.50 for each ball. (The ones on the far left. Oh. My. Dog. And he wore them to his company Christmas party. That’s the kind of husband I have. With dress slacks and a BRIGHT PURPLE tie, no less – now you know why I adore him so.) So, see, what I’m getting at is, for 16 balls of sock yarn for a ‘mere’ $40 is actually saving money! It makes perfect sense! It’s logical! It’s even good monetary policy!!

On Jupiter, anyway, which is where I teach yoga, churn out endless perfect soufflés for my incessant dinner parties, and am worshipped as a Deity-Queen.

I think what truly amazes me is that I can get this yarn store effect even when I’m sitting in my kitchen. I mean, it’s one thing to walk into a physical yarn store and be overwhelmed by all the beguiling textures and the scent of wool and the warm tactile delight of the bamboo knitting needles. I can understand that.

But right now I’m sitting in my kitchen smelling my oven as it goes through the cleaning cycle. It is not a ‘sexy, buy-it-now’ kind of smell. I’m listening to my children quarreling over the doll clothes, and the drone of the dish washer.

And yet…even online…I am overwhelmed by the colors, the textures, the wild-eyed glinting of Future Projects. I think of all the people who have ever said they thought a pair of socks I’ve made were ‘cool’ or ‘interesting’ (which I intellectually know actually means, “geez, were ya completely stoned when you cast those suckers on?!”, but which somehow gets translated in my Knitter Brain as meaning, “will you please make a pair just like that for me ASAP?”)

Oh well. Napoleon had his Waterloo. Me, I’ve got wool. And knitting needles. And pattern books. And an endless supply of people I love, who need to be wrapped in handmade whatnots.

There are worse addictions out there. Now. About those stocking-stuffer mittens I was working on…

Friday, December 02, 2005

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Poisonous, yet ever-so-tasty…


OK, now, here’s one that boggles my mind. And I personally feel that’s saying something, because I’m not what can be called an “alarmist” when it comes to such things. I’m not that into the whole organic thing – shoot, anybody who eats at McDonalds (not that I do) (“Yes, I’d like a Big Mac, small fries extra salt, and a chocolate shake, please…”) (GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN!!!!!) can hardly claim they give a whoop-tee-doo about what’s going into their body.

But this truly does cause my brain to freeze up and go, “HUH?!”

Apparently, the Gummint feels it’s perfectly OK to inject methyl bromide into our strawberry, tomato and so forth fields because otherwise {gasp! horror!} we wouldn’t have a nice, big crop of same. Here in California, an otherwise touchy-feely-organic-Independent/Democratic-tree-hugging-granola-crunching kind of state, we apparently use a whopping 30% of the total national methyl bromide for our damned (yet ever-so-loved, juicy, large, can’t-have-summer-without-em) strawberries.

Let’s see. We know that this stuff is a nasty ozone thief. Class 1, mind you. Not the mere Class 2 for this stuff. Oh no. It’s a major public enemy here. Per the Montreal Protocol treaty (signed by 183 of us World Power types), we were supposed to have fully phased out the use of it by 2005 (oh wait, hey, that’s NOW!).

Never mind that 182 other countries have signed the international Montreal Protocol stating that this stuff is bad news and needs to go bye-bye. Never mind that we also know it is a damned poison, which causes the following list of nastiness:

redness and pain of the skin
blisters
burning of the eyes, mouth and nose
nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
kidney problems
cough
chest tightness
fluid in the lungs
dizziness
headache
confusion
lack of energy
seizures
coma
low blood pressure
rapid heart rate


Hey, don’t worry about that stuff. We need to keep our perspective. We need to keep our eyes on the prize. We’re talking about our summer bumper crop of strawberries, here!!

And gee whiz, the farmers would just be hurt ever-so-bad if we made them do without it. Not to mention that strawberries would become more expensive, which would probably cripple the American consumer. Imagine! Fourth of July parties, with no strawberries!

OK, I do actually have every sympathy for the growers. As a raging capitalist pig, I don’t like to see anybody’s business harmed. And I know the angst of seeing your strawberries consumed by the damned snails and maggots, because guess what happened to my entire strawberry crop last year? Yes, that’s right! The snails had a feast. A big feast. And we got precisely one (1) strawberry, which one of my children picked while it was still green. Swell.

And I have every sympathy for myself, because I’m both too cheap and too poor to pay for a $6.00 basket of tiny, worm-ridden “organic” strawberries (God, you’d think someone at the supermarket would weed those suckers out!). My personal strawberry crops being fairly pathetic year after year, I’m pretty sure that the lack of these huge crops would probably mean we’ll be doing without strawberries in large part.

But hey, know what? I can live without them. I really can. I’m about 99% certain that nobody has ever laid down and died because they couldn’t have a strawberry. Especially when having them means I’m giving a wink and nod to the massive use of a chemical that has been proven – not just suspected, not something that once gave your auntie a big old headache so we’re sure it’s got to be evil, not something we must fight purely on the basis that it is produced by MassiveEvilCorp.com – but proven by anybody who cared to take a close look at it (even the MassiveEvilCorp.com researchers!), to be an earth-destroying, person-harming gaseous ball of nasty.

That’s a line we just shouldn’t cross.

Shame on the Gummint for winking at it, for making excuses and telling all these other concerned world citizens that it’s just bad business to do away with it.

Shame on the farmers for continuing to use it – sure, it’s profitable. So is selling crack. Both are controlled substances that cause real, permanent harm to human beings. In fact, I’d argue that this stuff is worse than crack: not only does it harm the human beings, but all the birds and bees and fishes and trees as well.

And shame on us, too, for paying more attention to the price of a basket of strawberries or tomatoes than what is done to make them “affordable.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’m off to research how I can terminate snails and slugs in my (alleged) strawberry beds without the use of pellets my kids will consider a fun addition to their afternoon playtime in the backyard.