Monday, December 31, 2007

Cats and Dogs

Boo Bug just came up to me and announced, “Mommy, I think I’ve changed my mind about the pet thing.”

Hmm. OK. The children have started the time-honored tradition of hassling me about getting a pet. We are currently, and have been for many years now, pet-free around the Den; we had two cats, back in the day, but one died of renal failure and the other found a new home with a friend shortly afterward, and ever since we’ve enjoyed clear sinuses and the ability to go off for a weekend without worrying about litter box levels.

As all the children put in demands for assorted furry varmints, Boo Bug has been saying she wants to get a puppy. This is laughable, because Boo Bug is terrified of dogs.

I don’t mean that she’s a little nervous around them or like that. I mean, she is so frightened of them that she will go all primal-ape-like-screaming when one is spotted walking with its owner on the sidewalk across the street.

She does the same thing to a slightly lesser degree with cats. And squirrels. And anything else with fur. I have no idea why. It can be a Chihuahua, she will act like it is a rabid, ravenous wolf about to spring upon her. Even cute little fuzzy puppies set her off. And Lord forbid it is actually a big dog. It doesn’t matter if the dog is in the backyard and she’s in the house, she will be a ball of anxiety until we leave. She came to me sobbing and sniffling because there was a cat in a house we visited and {OH THE HORROR!} it looked at her.

Ya. Pretty sure it was about to ::SPRING!!::. That was a close shave, there. Whew.

Well-intentioned people have tried to “snap her out of it” by introducing her to their friendly pups. Yeah. Ha ha. Hey, did you know that if a child-friendly dog is confronted by a child who is screaming in a pitch that can shatter glass, kicking and flailing her arms wildly, the dog will start to bark? I don’t care what dog it is, it will start barking. It’s probably just trying to be heard, and likely saying, “Dude, what’s the matter with the kid?” but the barking then makes her scream and cry harder and it all goes downhill from there.

A dog that has (according to the owner) “never even growled” at anyone once took a snap at her when she went into her meltdown. I don’t blame the dog, either. I blame my friends for thinking it would be a good idea to just get the kid away from her mom (who is obviously somehow making her this way) and introduce her to this sweet little Terrier.

Could have killed them. Seriously. Thanks for helping with the phobia, there. That’s great.

ANYWAY. Yeah, so you can imagine how seriously I’ve taken her ‘I want a puppy’ thing.

So she just came up to me and said, quite seriously, that she had changed her mind about the pet thing. And then she came up with this gem, which I give to you straight from the Bug herself:

“I think we should get a cat because a cat is like an animal that, you know, a cat is…well, if you went to DISNEYLAND with people who are allergic to them, to cats I mean, well! If you did that, the cat could stay here and relax on your chair and purr, aaaaaaand…sit there…on your chair…like that. {pause} But you’d need a basket for it. {pause} For the yarn I mean. {pause} Because you know how cats are, with yarn. But I think a cat would be a very good pet. For Disneyland and also because they like yarn and they like fires. So it would be a better pet than a puppy. I think.”

{blink, blink}

Uhhhhhhhh, okay.

Sure. We’ll think about a cat.

Just as soon as I have time to deal with the litter box maintenance. Which should happen right after I finish the laundry. And hey! Look what I found: A handy guide for catching up on dirty laundry!

Friday, December 28, 2007

And news shoots across the bow…

Well, as I expected, we’re skidding into 2008 sideways, covered in drywall dust and gasping, “@*&^&@, whadda ride!!”

Also as expected, the Den has been full of visitors, people coming and going and coughs and colds (my sinuses are at war with me – I have actually broken down and bought Afrin, which I hate using due to the rebound-effect it can sometimes have but I AM DESPERATE HERE).

There was a great deal of last-second Christmas knitting, because I have trouble telling people to bug off, I’m knitting until I am down to the wire, at which point I become completely irrational and will not only tell them to bug off, but to bug the @*^&@ off, can’t you see I’m KNITTING SOMETHING WITH LOVE IN THE STITCHES, @*^&@^ IT?!

Peace love and joy, expressed in wool. Now with more cursing.

Next year, I swear to Dog, I am going to start my Christmas knitting early. Like, now.


Christmas was fun, and also I got to answer the question: What happens if everybody – as in, all but three of the expected contingent – shows up an hour and fifteen minutes before you expect them for Christmas dinner?

The answer is, neither you nor your spouse get a shower, you go through the party with an absolutely disgusting kitchen floor and floury jeans, and also you might have to simply throw away the dinner roll dough you now can’t finish kneading and shaping because every available surface is suddenly covered in purses, bags and coolers. And someone has already helpfully put your oiled bowl in the sink with soapy water “to soak”.

Also, putting on scented antiperspirant and a fresh shirt is not going to fix that little BO problem you were intending to fix with hot water and soap. This is an important little detail that those of you who may be suffering from mostly-in-the-sinuses colds might not realize on your own, so I pass the information along as a public service.

Febreze might work, though. I’ll let y’all know the next time I have occasion to test the theory.

We are hosting a kind of…extended sleepover party, for the kids of some friends, over New Years. The first arrivals are tomorrow, with a few more dribbling in between Sunday and Monday. Oddly, the most local invitees are the least likely to be coming over, largely because their parents think we might be the dangerous kind of crazy their offspring are a little young and/or nervous for the overnight thing.

We will have anywhere from a mere eight (including our own Denizens) up to fourteen children running through the house hyped up on soda, popcorn, video games and self-frosted cookies. FOR FOUR DAYS.

It is going to be a very interesting party. But a lot of fun, too. Except for the part where I lose my mind and start trying to knit with uncooked spaghetti.

Until the spaghetti starts to look like a good idea, I am knitting a nice, peaceful pair of men’s socks in Schaefer Anne, because I don’t care how chaotic it gets around here, I am not going to mess up a pair of socks (she said confidently, thus inviting all manner of disaster to befall her socks):

A Nice Peaceful Sock

And oh, what’s that purple-ish thing in the background there, on the right?

Future Shawl

It’s a skein of Claudia Silk Lace 20/2 – 100% silk, hand-dyed, in Purple Earth. I’m fixated on the Pacific Northwest Shawl for this, and am looking forward to starting it. Even though I have a somewhat less than stellar track record with lace knitting.

Never let it be said that I allow such things as past performance to influence my hopes for future returns.

As spotty as my posting has been this last week, I don’t really expect it will be any better until into 2008. So! I hope your winter observances have been merry and bright, and that 2008 finds you healthy, happy and looking forward to the challenges to come.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go sink-defrost a big old turkey for tomorrow night, when I should have twelve (or possibly fifteen) people here for dinner…

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rhetorical question du jour



Why is it that my children cannot go five freakin’ seconds without needing something?

I wanted to take a shower. My first shower in three days. Is that so hard a thing to want? A shower? Just one? So I put on a Dora DVD for Dora’s #1 Fan (a.k.a. Captain Adventure, who has actually run up and kissed the screen when Dora came on), and set the other three down with video games and ran like mad for the shower.

About eight seconds into my shower, someone is banging on the bathroom door.

“WHAT?!” I shrieked. (In the most loving way possible, I assure you.)

“Murphle mumble barrifa butt!”

“Whaaaaat?” I can’t even tell which one it is…


Inside head: @*^&@!!! I mean @*^&@ and @*^@& and %%%%% and @*^&!



So I turned off the water, got out of the shower, turned off the bathroom fan and said again, “What?!”

“Mommy, my game is paused.”

(So is mommy’s brain. What the hell is she babbling about? And what the double hell does she expect me to do about it right immediately now?!)

Having run my first eleven responses through the “should I actually use those precise words when speaking to one of my children” filter and come up dry, I finally managed to say, “Honey. I.

“Oh.” Philosophical silence from Boo Bug. “But, my game is paused.”

You know…my children are not disabled. They have no mental or physical defects that render them incapable of restarting a paused game. Shoot, this particular child has two older siblings, right next to her, who are fully capable of hitting the ‘pause’ key again and restarting the flibberity-gibbery game.

But no.

She must come all the way upstairs to report the issue to tech support.

Jeez louise.

Fortunately, children heal quickly. So I’m sure the blisters on her little ears will be gone by morning…

Monday, December 17, 2007

Only I could do this

People. Do not try this at home. I’m serious – this takes a trained professional. Not that I am actually trained, but I am experienced, which makes up for years and years of professional training.

Because my head is cracked, I get all kinds of crazy ideas leaking into my brain. Yesterday, I decided that what I wanted to do was bake.

It was one of those deals that seems perfectly reasonable when you start off and then suddenly you realize that you are, in fact, a lunatic and probably need some kind of intervention.

So I started off the day by noticing that we needed more bread. I had my niece and nephew staying with us this weekend, so we had managed to pretty much chew through two loaves of bread in about the first eighteen seconds they were here.

Making your own bread has a perilous pitfall attached, which I like to call the “what else can I do while I’ve got these ovens on?” syndrome. Generally speaking if we are out of bread, we are also out of cookies.

Sure enough, the cookie jar was empty (having six children around will do that) (seven, if you count the husband) (and really…we should). So I took out two sticks of butter to soften while I began tossing flour and stuff into the KitchenAid bowl. The KitchenAid is next to the fruit bowl, and in the fruit bowl I noticed a pair of overripe bananas. (Daylight come and we wanna go hooooome…)

OBVIOUSLY, I need to do “something” with the bananas. OBVIOUSLY, I need to make banana bread. (Another stick and a half of butter hits the counter.)

When I opened the cupboard for the honey to feed the yeast in my bread, a can of pumpkin fell on my head. @*^&@ can of pumpkin. I’m so sick of this can falling out of there…and also that evaporated milk I found during the last cupboard purge is almost expired…I’m gonna make me a pie.

Those of you keeping track at home will note that I have now got the following projects going:

Minding six children – two of them toddlers who like Christmas ornaments. FOR LUNCH.
Sandwich bread
Chocolate chip cookies
Banana bread
Pumpkin pie

As I was making the pie, I got this demon-inspired great idea.

I always make the same kind of cookies. They are always either chocolate chip, oatmeal, or snickerdoodles – drop cookies, spoon up the dough and drop ‘em on the sheet, bake and you’re done.

But I never do refrigerator cookies. You know, the kind where you put the dough in the fridge for a few years and then roll it out and cut it into shapes or whatever?

You know what would be fun?

Well. Buying them at the store. THAT might be fun. There’s this bakery on Market Street right by the Montgomery BART station in San Francisco that makes these awesome butter cookies…see, THAT might be fun. Daytrip into the city, a little shopping, a little dim-sum, and then going into that bakery (the name of which escapes me) for a dozen (or so) of those delicious, buttery sugar cookies with their happy little colored sugar decorations.

But deciding to go ahead and change my mind and make spiced refrigerator cookies turned out to be one of the less fun things I did this weekend.

When the time came and the dough was ‘thoroughly chilled’, I dutifully began using my small ice cream scoop (a.k.a., my coffee scoop) to scoop out perfect little balls of dough, which I then rubbed to smoothness between my hands, dropped onto my parchment-lined cookie sheet (geesh, these things are high-maintenance to make) and then squashed into a circle with a glass.

I hadn’t even gotten the first sheet done when I was already saying to myself, “Oh yeah. THIS is why I only do drop-style cookies…”

But it was on the second sheet that I proved once again, that I am without equal in the Stupid Injuries category.

I was pushing down on the glass to squash the cookie, and I felt a little ‘pop’ in my right index finger. Just a little pop. And I said, “Ow”, but without any real feeling because it was more of a ‘ow?’ than an ‘ow!’.

A few cookies further in I said, “Wait, OW. What the…” and I looked at my finger.

It was turning purple and swelling vigorously.

I said…well, I said a few more choice words. And I stood there and watched my finger swell. It was swelling that fast, I could actually see it inflating like a balloon. And it was turning the most intriguing shade of purple.


I could…pack up the kids on that overcast Sunday, drive their still-hyper-from-yesterday’s-party butts (I do believe that my niece actually drank cookie frosting, straight from the tube) to the ER with me, and then we could all sit and wait and wait and wait and wait for someone to look at my obviously not going to kill me finger so they could tell me to take an Advil and put some ice on it.

Or I could call my husband’s cell phone and leave a message, so that when he got off stage at the Dickens Fair and immediately checked for messages IN CASE because he is so doting a mate (snort!) (seriously, I would be better off calling one of my girlfriends who also work that fair), and then he could Rush Home so that I could take my finger to the ER and wait alone and wait alone and wait alone and wait alone until someone got a second to look at my obviously not going to kill me finger so they could tell me to take an Advil and put some ice on it.

I knew I’d be waiting forever, because going to the ER with a non-life-threatening emergency is exactly the same as putting strychnine into the water supply. It actually causes heart attacks, major appendage amputations caused by freak gardening accidents, and other horrible things to happen to people within a fifty mile radius of the hospital.

I’m serious.

I have documented proof.

SO! In keeping with my mission statement to do whatever fool thing I want as long as I don’t hurt anybody, I decided to nobly stay away from the ER, take some Vicodin and perhaps a lemon-drop martini or two Advil, put ice on it, and worry myself sick for a while in the comfort of my own home.

So I did.

It raged up like a balloon…and then just as swiftly deflated (perhaps my skin has holes in it?). Last night before bed, I had some angry purple streaks and a very touch-tender underside on that finger.

This morning, I have what looks like a three or four day old burn (!) and it only hurts when I poke at it good and hard.

You know, to see if it still hurts? C’mon, doesn’t everybody do that?!


I think I am the only person I know who has ever sprained a finger while making sugar-spice cookies.

It is a talent, a (fortunately) rare talent.

…and then people wonder why I do NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, want to own an electric carving knife…

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Medical Terms, Explained

“You may feel a little pressure.”
I am about to attempt to examine your tonsils from Way Down Here.

“Deep breath, now.”
This is really going to hurt.

“Little more pressure…”
…yer tonsils look good but now I need to check the patterns inside yer brain-case…

“Bear with me…”
Dude, I have never seen this many spiderwebs in a brain-case before, I’ve got to get extra pictures of this or they’ll never believe me at the next staff meeting!

“Just a few more minutes and then we’ll be done.”
We have a bet about who can keep a full-bladdered patient on the table longest without having to call Janitorial, and I’m twenty-seven minutes behind the leader.

“OK, we’re all done! Your doctor should have the results for you in a few days! Have a Merry Christmas!”
I know you are about to ask me if I saw “anything” and I am not allowed to answer that because I am not a doctor – if I saw a Jeep Wrangler in there, I’m not going to twitch an eyelash in response, so I am going to use my most cheerful tone of voice, throw a holiday greeting into the mix to mellow you out a bit and then I will run for the door as if a pack of slavering wolves is at my heels, because in spite of the impression I am currently giving that I don’t fear you, you are in fact terrifying the crap out of me right now OK BYE!

In addition to having had a few medical expressions explained, you now know WAY MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO KNOW about my day today.

I find it particularly sad that someone like me, who really (and I mean really) loves Goode Foode keeps having digestive-tract issues that force me to be circumspect about how much I eat, of what kinds of foods. Although this newest thing is pure volume – it could be water, if I fill my stomach up?

Stomach Cramps of the Gods +10. It doesn’t last particularly long, about half an hour (which seems like FIVE DAYS AND NIGHTS), and goes away as suddenly as it hits (mid-bite to mid-groan), can mostly but not completely be avoided by not eating too much, and leaves my entire abdomen somewhat sore for roughly twenty-four hours.

We learned last week that if someone (say, a doctor) pushes on my stomach, even when there hasn’t been an “episode” for days and days, it hurts.

It hurts a lot.

The only thing that hurts more is if that someone then lets the pressure off suddenly.

Yeah. That was exciting, that discovery.

It started the day before Thanksgiving (nice timing, body, thanks for that) and gave me just enough time off to start thinking that maybe it was a virus (you know, that famous ‘intense like-labor-only-they-don’t-come-and-go-nor-do-you-get-a-baby-out-of-the-deal stomach cramps but no nausea/vomiting/anything else upon eating that goes away in half an hour and leaves your entire abdomen feeling like someone hit you with the business end of a croquet mallet’ virus), and then gave me a good hard body-slamming right when I had decided that FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I wasn’t in the mood for an ultrasound anyway so let’s call the whole thing off.

So I ate a bagel to fortify myself for the phone call to cancel, and then as I was lying on my bed waiting for the hycosamine tablet to finish dissolving under my tongue (yuck) decided that maybe just for the sake of science I’d go ahead and keep the appointment anyway.


Righty-o. And now, I have to go help Eldest get ready for her performance tonight. She (and her entire class, AND the second graders) are singing holiday songs.

I am bringing my knitting.

But not my earplugs, because that would be sensible tacky.

Who the heck is Billy Mays?

“HI! BILLY MAYS HERE FOR {oddly compelling product which may or may not work as advertised but by gum it surely does get the job done under their carefully controlled conditions}!”

The first time I remember seeing HI BILLY MAYS HERE, it was for OxiClean. And I didn’t really bother to stop and ponder the all-important question of who the heck IS Billy Mays, anyway then.

As the years rolled by and HI BILLY MAYS HERE kept entering my life hawking various As Seen On TV products, I began to find myself accepting that Billy Mays is somebody I know.

You know, in that way that you feel you know people you have actually either never actually met in real life or have met in the briefest possible of ways but have read/seen/listen to everything they’ve ever written/performed/recorded and therefore feel you have some kind of intimate knowledge of them as if you were best friends forever.

Which I actually had happen once when I met another blogger face to face after years of Internet communication and when she walked in it was like, ‘Oh hi, how are you’ and then we proceeded to just sit and chat as if we had been meeting in coffee shops for years and years and years and it was very weird to stop and think, I have never met this person IN PERSON before, ever because I do feel as though I know her.


Where the heck was I? Oh yeah. HI BILLY MAYS HERE is a person like that. I have this vague idea that I know who he is.

He’s, like, I don’t know. A football player or something? Or maybe he was…that guy. You know? The guy? Who did that…thing?

Yeah. Him.

Well today I opened up a package of Hercules Hooks (love them, by the way – this was the first time I’ve actually used them and they work great!) and there was Billy Mays smirking at me from the packaging and I thought, Oh, there’s Billy Mays. That guy, who did that thing, and now he sells OxiClean. And Hercules Hooks, apparently.

And then I thought, Wait.

Who the heck IS Billy Mays?!

So I looked him up.

The Internet is a wonderful thing.

Do you know who the heck Billy Mays is?!

He is…



That’s it.

Billy Mays, who says his name with such confidence because obviously, like Joe DiMaggio, you just know who he is…is a salesman.

Nothing more, nothing less.

And I have to say ‘nothing less’ because people, that is impressive. Think about it. There are not many folks out there who command that kind of name recognition, without having actually saved kittens from a burning building, or pulled off a 400 yard touchdown in the last twenty seconds to save the Miami Dolphins from defeat.

I wonder if perhaps I could build my own empire selling stuff, if I could just learn to say my name that confidently.

HI, TAMA HERE FOR LINT FUZZ! Yes that’s right, new improved lint fuzz! It can be used to insulate your house, just stuff into cracks for winter comfort! Or you can use it to steady that rocky table…stuff New Improved Lint Fuzz under one leg and presto! Steady table, perfect for your afternoon coffee! The uses for Lint Fuzz are limitless – ball them up and toss them on the floor for cat toys! Tell the children they are trash and they will play with them for hours! Avoid vacuuming forever simply by sucking them up into your vacuum hose, guaranteed to destroy even the most expensive brands of vacuum, thus excusing you from that pesky chore FOREVER!

Yes that’s right – lint fuzz! Supplies are not a bit limited, so please! CALL TODAY, OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY!

(What do y’all think? Should I be calling HSN on this baby?)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A moment of cursing

I am a gentle person, really. Live and let live, that’s my motto. I try not to judge other people (shut up, I do too try), and I try to accept that other people have other views. Other positions. That they come from different backgrounds, and that what I consider to be absolutely unquestionably the right or wrong ways to handle things may not be viewed the same way by others.

I do not tend to fling ill-wishes and other invectives at other people, is what I’m trying to get at here.

That said. My Irish is up, and it just can’t be stilled.

I don’t curse often. But when I do?

I really mean it.

May a curse follow those who broke into the home of my friend, the dear one who takes such good care of my children, who does so much good for all her life touches, who works so hard to keep her family fed and clothed and warm.

May the feet that kicked in the door wither into uselessness, that we may know them by their limps.

May disease and blight afflict every part of them which touched her things, her few and precious heirlooms, her little children’s jewelry…and even their tiny lost teeth. From the eyes that gazed with greed to the hands that seized to what lies beneath the pockets they likely stuffed them into, let them be afflicted and pained and useless.

May the hand that took their Christmas and birthday presents shake, unable to hold cup to drink or bowl to eat.

Bad cess, bad cess, bad cess, let it follow them now and always, until they find shame and amend what they have done.



(We are looking after her. She is one of our own, and we will not allow her Christmas and that of her children to be ruined by these…unspeakable…PAH! There will be presents and there will be new doors and if these people ARE caught they’d better pray to GOD it is by the police and not us. Do not @*^&@ with the Celts – or our kin, or our kith. ‘Using our words’ is all well and good, but personally I don’t think I’d pass up the opportunity to take a hurley to the lot of them!)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Things that sound cooler than they really are

“The Autumn Dishes”.

Doesn’t that sound just ever-so Hamptons?

Ya, well.

The “Autumn Dishes” were purchased a few years ago at Linens-n-Things, because I needed more dishes.

I had twelve place settings in the blue and white not-China-but-much-nicer-than-Target-brand (also known as, ‘the winter dishes’). It’s a lovely Noritake that we got as wedding gifts, and for many years they were more than sufficient. But then, we expanded from a ‘couple’ to a ‘family’ and then continued expanding and suddenly I was having Thanksgiving at my Den with 20 (or so) people expected and I needed more dishes.

So I bought eight place settings of this brown stuff (‘The Autumn Dishes’) I liked just fine out of the 50% off bin at Linens-n-Things and said, “There. Now I have plenty of dishes.” (I had twenty place settings total , and twenty-four people coming over that Thanksgiving. Let it never be claimed that I have conquered basic mathematics.)

There were two small things wrong with my plan. One was that this set of dishes have no cereal bowls – you may think this a small thing, but in a house of four full-time children and four to six ‘part-time’ kids who drift through for stays varying from a day to a week or occasionally even more…even the twelve that we have in the blue-and-white-not-China is not enough.

Sometimes, I think twelve dozen would not be enough, but that is usually on those days when I have run the dishwasher more than three times already and find myself short on dinner plates. And also the thought general precedes a medical need for a martini of some sort, because, well. See comment regarding ‘run the dishwasher more than three times already’, above.

Anyway, the set came not with cereal bowls, but STEW BOWLS. Gigantic bowls. Lumberjacks look at these bowls and say, “Damn, girl, them’s some big bowls ya got there…”

They’re large.

As are the plates. The bread plates must be 8” around, and the dinner plates are so large that the cupboard doesn’t close properly around them.

This is a case of buyer does not have good spatial awareness.

And also buyer was looking more at the price and not really thinking through the whole ‘and then I take them home and put them in the cupboard, where?’ part of the transaction

The Christmas dishes, which are beyond cheap and have snowmen on them (I know. I cringe, too.) were purchased in a moment of extreme silliness. There are eight place settings, which is not enough to get us through even one (1) day around here.

But I’m not buying more of them because, really.


Do I need to say more?


The white dishes are probably the best dishware purchase I ever made. There I was, wandering through Gottschalks after Christmas. If memory serves (which is not a given), two Denizens were attending ballet lessons in the mall and Boo Bug was snoozing in the Snugli.

And there they were, a set of twenty-four place settings, dinner and bread plates, cereal bowls, soup bowls, coffee cups and saucers, serving bowl and platter, creamer and sugar dish AND a coffee pot, for $60 – 75% off.


The white set is like you’ve seen in a thousand restaurants. A basic pattern, almost not even there, standard sized plates and bowls…Basic-Basic ‘country white’ plates.

Otherwise known as, ‘the spring dishes’.

So in this manner, I have acquired ‘seasonal dishware’.

Which sounds ever-so-Hamptons, but isn’t really.

We use the blue and white set (nice soup bowls, everything else ‘normal’ sized) from January through the end of March. Then we put those away and use the white dishes exclusively (they’ve always been handy, in case of company or dishwasher-related laziness) until September, when we trot out those lumberjack-sized “Autumn Dishes” (again using the white set for our cereal bowls) (and to pad out the dinner plates and such because really, eight place settings is not enough around here, especially when the holidays begin pressing in on us).

And then, as we are cleaning up after Thanksgiving, we drag out the snowmen and the children go nuts and we listen to them shriek and giggling about them until New Years.

At which point we gratefully return them to the boxes and bring out the not-China and start the whole thing again.

But it sounds so cool, doesn’t it? “Yes, I was just saying to my husband as we were putting away the Autumn Dishes…”

“…grab me a cold one outta that cooler, will ya, babe? I’m breaking a danged sweat movin’ all these dad-gummed boxes here…”

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Would it be wrong…?

I suppose if I were to buy the new sheets the kids desperately need (I am ashamed – if y’all could see how threadbare they are right now…you might call CPS on me) (their comforters also have holes, and they’ve been pulling the stuffing out of them), wrap them up and put them under the tree…that would be kind of a sucky Christmas present?

Are you sure? Even if they had princesses on them?


I suppose that also means that wrapping up the new bathroom towels would be…?

All right, all right. It was just a thought.


Thursday, December 06, 2007


I have twenty minutes of quiet. Twenty. Twenty minutes before the noise starts again, twenty minutes until the weight of ‘have to’ descends back on me.

Right now, I have a clamoring of ought to, but the have to column is empty until 2:00.

I have been cleaning all morning, shoveling out the filth from the children’s bedrooms, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning the new bathroom fixtures, handling random bits of paper with notes scrawled on them. Buy this, fix that, bring a plate of cookies here, and we would appreciate it if you could help us with…

I have calls to make and bills to pay. The laundry needs rotating. I still need to put away the autumn dishes, and put the soup ingredients into the crockpot for dinner tonight.

I have Christmas knitting to do.

I have dozens of things I ought to do.

But it’s so quiet right now. Nobody is interrupting me with endless cries of ‘mommy’ or ‘honey’ or ‘excuse me, ma’am, could you please come look at this, it’s gonna need a $2,000 part to fix…’ No appliances are beeping, or timers chiming, or alarms reminding me that I have eight minutes to get from here to there.

Hard to work up ambition enough to do what I merely ought to do.

It is raining outside, cold and gray and wet. The water is running along the outside of the house, which is making small, surprised noises to find itself covered with the stuff. It’s been a long time since water came from above, filled its gutters and slickened the tiles of its roof.

No point in washing the hall tiles, then. They’ll just be covered in a sheen of muddy water, in an hour’s time.

…thank goodness…

Have I done this before?

Because it just familiar, somehow…I herewith decree that the ban on BOTH major parties is still in effect, and all Republicans AND Democrats can go the @*^&@ home, right now, because they are FIRED. All of 'em!

Also, I am owed approximately $1,276,027,006,775 in fines for people calling my city {shudder} Frisco. On the plus side, it might be just enough to help shore up our failing school system, eh?

So pay up. $25 per offense, people, let's have it...

I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Too much fun and excitement

And then we take a moment to look at 2007! Just how bad a year was 2007? Well, let’s see. We have lost $157,594.29 in net worth since this time last year, how does that sound?

Eh, it’s not actually as bad as it sounds. I mean, it is – but yet, it isn’t. We didn’t add $157,594.29 in new debt, for example. That would be bad. It’s actually a combination of using saved cash for the remodeling project, the minivan loan, a new loan to pay for the “SURPRISE!” $9,000 in the kids bathroom (which looks fabulous) (as it damn well should, for nine thousand unexpected dollars!)…and the single biggest line item, the real estate “sag” out here, which has shaved a solid $70,000 off the average home price in our neighborhood.

I feel so very, very sorry for our neighbors who bought just last year. Those of us who have been here five years or more, we’re still in the black. The newer folks? Not so much. A few are in a real pickle, like the folks who bought into the McMansions a couple miles up the road. Paid $1.2M, can’t sell it for $850,000 even with the furniture thrown in for good measure. Ouch.

I’m trying very hard not to think too much about All This right now. I have lots and lots of other fish to fry, right smack in the middle of the holiday season.

Naturally, because I am trying to just leave it alone, I can think of almost nothing else.

I’ve got so many thoughts and ideas and notions and ponderings going on inside my head that it’s a wonder I get any sleep at all.

Every time I start fussing with the budget, I find myself torn between two opposite ways of handling the whole mess.

I can take the easy (lazy) way, the way I’ve been handling things for the last few years. When something jumps up in front of me, I do what I have to do to deal with it…and then I go back to the autopilot. Autopilot saving, autopilot spending. As long as I’m not spending more than I’ve transferred into the checking account, full speed ahead!!

Or, I can try to sharpen my focus and stay the course and all those other gung-ho phrases, really knuckle down and stick with it and work to position ourselves for an early and active retirement. That path involves a lot of deferred gratification, which can be annoying. It involves thinking things through, even small things like new sheets for the bed or whether I can make do with my old tennis shoes for another month – after all, it isn’t raining right now, so holes in the soles aren’t THAT big a deal, right?

Or, I could even try a combination of the two; make it a challenge each year like the knitting from our stashes last year. From January through September, take the living below your means challenge and see how far I can get; then lighten up through the holidays, relax and be merry knowing that I’ve paid down $X on the mortgage, and added $Y to our portfolio.

To be honest, I’m rather charmed by that idea. It adds a layer of fun to what is, come right down to it, not fun at all.

Telling yourself, “No, you don’t need that” repeatedly gets old in a hurry, and when there is no End Date stamped on the whole deal it is downright onerous.

But to say, “OK, maybe we’ll get that…in October, when we’re off the Challenge…” is easier. It isn’t no, it’s not right now.

And isn’t it ironic that something like a cute t-shirt can seem more important than your financial independence? Or that you’d rather have a latte right now than retire ten years sooner?

If you held up two envelopes and said, “This one has a $25 gift certificate to Sears, and this one has three months worth of your salary! Which one do you want?”, most people would choose the salary, right?

But time and again, we will pass that envelope over for the purchase at Sears – because it isn’t that easy, or that direct, or that…right in front of us.

I honestly have no idea what I could accomplish in nine months. If I took from January 1 through September 30 and really challenged myself, what could I get done? Could I pay off that entire $9,000? Or even more?

I really don’t know.

Right now, I don’t even know if I’m going to find out.

Because I’m trying not to think about it until after the holidays.

Except for the part where I make sure at least some of the holiday spending includes stocking up the freezer and the pantry against nine months worth of full-body-contact-sport style living below your means…

Monday, December 03, 2007

The bus the bus the bus the bus the bus

Let it herewith be known that the Special Needs Preschool has A BUS.

The kids? They can take the bus. The bus? It is free. The bus! Bus! The Bus! Have I heard, have you heard, has EVERYBODY HEARD…about The Bus?

Of the roughly thirty kids in the program at this school (no, not all in one classroom – there are six classrooms), about 27 of them take The Bus. The Bus picks them up outside their homes, transports them to preschool whilst parents (presumably) loll about in the pajamas eating bon-bons and watching Oprah, and then transports them home again.

The other three preschoolers, denied the splendor that is The Bus, have to be taxied to school by their crummy, boring and properly-clothed parents in their Not The Bus vehicles.

I have been told about The Bus, in exhaustive detail, at least five times now, by four different people.

They are wonderful, caring people who wish to ensure that I have heard about, you know, The Bus. Because the bus is a marvelous time-saving device, and also it can be very good for the children because it provides yet one more layer of school-related ‘predictable transition’, which is code for “helps settle their little butts down, because the bus means that they are about to be in school where there are rules and so they must begin to think about acting like civilized human beings rather than little animals who defecate on the kitchen floor and then run laughing like maniacs throughout the house while their mothers chase them with hastily snatched wipes yelping, ‘Wait, there’s still poop on your butt!!!’”.

Not, uh, that this has ever happened to me, you understand. I’m just saying, is all.


Yes, The Bus is, indeed, a mighty thing.

We can’t use The Bus, however.

It is, you see, an issue of timing.

With the Kindertime program, my day is considerably simplified – but it is still lacking in the part where I sit around eating bon-bons and watching Oprah Money Hour.

While Captain Adventure could take the bus TO school, the part where he is taken BACK HOME is problematic. You see, he gets out of preschool at 3:00; at 3:00, I am already sitting in Homer the Odyssey in the parking lot at school, where I have been since shortly after 2:00. BECAUSE, Danger Mouse gets out at 2:20 and I am to pick up Boo Bug “before the school-age children arrive” because this is when Kindertime ends and Daycare begins and she is not in Daycare, she is in Kindertime.

By the time I’ve gotten those two, it’s at least 2:30, and often 2:40. Now I’ve got anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes before Eldest gets out at 2:55. Not really enough time to go home…so, we just stay there and wait…and wait…and wait…because Eldest takes about fifteen hours minutes to get from her classroom

to the parking lot.

The earliest I could reliably be home to greet Captain Adventure as he descends from {angels singing} The Bus {/angels singing} is 3:30.

SOMETIMES, I’m home by 3:15. SOMETIMES, it’s almost 4:00. IT JUST DEPENDS, on everything from how long it takes Eldest to walk out from her classroom to which teacher caught me to talk about what horrible/splendid thing one of my kids did to getting stuck in traffic because some idiot must turn left out of the parking lot (though warned with stern ‘RIGHT TURN ONLY: CVC # 28672867286728671!!!!!!’ signs in not one, not two, but THREE places around the driveway) and cannot understand that until THEY move, the INTERSECTION IS BLOCKED.

See, it’s like that whole ‘circle of life’ kind of thing. Cars go into the driveway, around the pickup lane, and then out. Ergo, if the cars going into the driveway are blocking the intersection because the lane isn’t moving, and you’re sitting at the FRONT of the lane waiting for them to move…we can see the problem? Oh, we can’t? OK. We’ll all wait for it to dawn on you…because we have no choice…

Now, while it is entirely probable that at worst I would be skidding into the court just as the bus driver was coming back from having beaten on my door in a state of perplexity (“What kind of mother isn’t home to meet The Bus?!”)…it is also possible that fairly regularly we would miss The Bus entirely and I would have to drive back to the school for a sound scolding about the importance of The Bus and its time and that I should never, ever stand The Bus up like that again.

See, I just don’t want that kind of stress in my life.

It’s easier to park in the parking lot, pick up the first two, let them watch cartoons in the van for half an hour (forty minutes) while I knit and wait and wait and knit, and then we all walk over en masse to pick up Captain Adventure and yell across the quad at Eldest to hurry up, we’re not getting any younger over here!

Well, what would be easier would be if all four of them could take a bus. You know, I walk them out to the corner and the bus comes along and I hug them and they get on the bus and some hours later, I walk back out to the corner and here comes the bus and there is more hugging and perhaps we all sing a chorus of Kum Ba Yah and then we have snack.

Glory, hallelujah.

But, no. First of all, it would set me back $405 a school year for the older three Denizens – IF a bus were available to them. But it isn’t. Because you have to live 1.2 miles from the school to be on the route, and guess what?

We live 1.1 miles from the school.


I surely do hope they’re done telling me about The Bus now. Because it is starting to depress me. Especially when you can’t do it just one way. If he can’t take it both ways, well, forget it. But! He should take it both ways! Because The Bus?



In other news, the Yarn Monster is alive and well. While trying to pen this, he has given me three skeins of acrylic, one of Brown Sheep worsted, one of Cheryl Oberle’s Dancing and kept for himself a Lorna’s Laces and a ball of raw silk.

Little monster.

Oh crap. Now he’s after the sock yarns.

OK, so, uh, later!!

Get outta that Schaefer Anne, you little twerp…!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Irish Diamond II

Finished Friday: The Irish Diamond Shawl from Cheryl Oberle’s Folk Shawls.

Irish Diamond II

This is the second time I’ve made this shawl. The first time, I used a baby alpaca sportweight. That one turned out very soft and warm, but a little…overly delicate? Kind of stretchy-bouncy? It’s better suited for using as a blanket than a shawl, really. If you try to wear it and walk around, it’s just not built for endurance.

This time, for the sake of extreme novelty, I used the yarn called for: Harrisville Designs Shetland, in dove gray. I know, this is a tremendous departure from my usual method of deciding that on the whole I think there should be no problem substituting this Aran-weight alpaca for that fingering-weight silk.

I think this is a great yarn for this purpose: Being wool, it is warm for its weight. It is a crisp-handed two-ply, so the lace shows up brilliantly. Given the well-documented struggles your faithful correspondent has suffered trying to do lace, I have to say that this is a great yarn to use – it isn’t too “drifty-lacy” or “fluffy”, so you can clearly see what you’re doing at all times.

That said, even after a thorough washing it is not a particularly soft and luscious yarn. It is old-school wool, a bit scratchy and definitely not something you’d want to use for things intended for right against the skin.

I remembered this shawl pattern as being very challenging the last time, so I’m a little surprised to report that it went super-fast, and without any major tribulations. I ended up only using half the yarn I bought, so hey! I could make another one!

Uh, later. Maybe. Because! It is one of the sneaky ones – you cast on a small number of stitches, and then increase by eight stitches per right-side row until suddenly, you’ve got some obscene number of stitches and each row is taking half an hour or more and this is usually when the children get extremely needy and then somebody plays with your row counter in the middle of row 133 while you’re changing a diaper and you come back all distracted and think you’re on 147 and don’t realize the problem until two rows further on and it just doesn’t end well.

When I decided to cast off, it was 9:00 Thursday night. By the time I finally pulled the last loop off the needles (with a few interruptions from kids demanding ‘drinks’ [pronounced, “We don’t want to go to bed, we’d rather hang here with you”] and suddenly realizing I hadn’t started the dishwasher…or, er, filled it up yet), it was 11:30. Keeping in mind that I get up at 5:00 in the morning, every morning including Sunday – you can imagine what state I was in by this time.

But it was worth it – I washed and blocked it Friday and it spent the day lounging around on my bed drying, and then I picked it up and draped it over my bedframe and it looked positively elegant.


And now, I’m moving on to a cabled scarf. Only at Christmas, people, only at Christmas…


Rockin’ along

Well, the living room furniture is ordered and will arrive at some point in the not really near future – the cool thing about custom furniture is that you can pick exactly what fabric and wood and trim and whatnot you want. The downside is, they then have to make it. And they aren’t sitting around reading trashy novels and longing for someone to please order something so they can get to work. You have to get in line and wait your turn.

So, it will probably be February-ish before the new furniture arrives. At which point we will have actual seating in our living room for the first time since the cats ensured the early demise of the furniture we had gotten from my mother-in-law six years ago.

They never came closer to being declawed. I am actually extremely against declawing (the very idea makes me go all squirmy and also makes my toes curl up in empathetic pain), but people – I came within inches of throwing both of those confounded animals into carriers, dragging them to the vet and screaming, “I WANT THOSE CLAWS GONE, DO YOU HEAR ME?! GONE!!!!”

Having hundreds of dollars worth of upholstery ruined by animals who are expressing their displeasure with you for $DEITY only knows what (pissy little brats!) will do that to you. And then they get into your lap and get all snuggly and purr-y and make with the kneading you with the slow-eye-squeeze-of-adoration all lovey-dovey and…I forget, what was I ranting about…?

Stupid cats.

I miss them so much.

In other news, I have just this morning saved myself some furniture-money, which makes me very happy.

The chair I had wanted for our bedroom turned out to be too big for the space (even though I had thought it was about the most petite chair I’d seen in the ‘comfy chair’ category – I mean, if you want to talk glorified dining room chair, well shoot, you’ve got smaller options), for which I was secretly glad. I had begun thinking to myself that while I did really love the chair, I didn’t think I eighteen HUNDRED dollars loved the chair.

I might have $900 loved the chair (which was the price on the chair I sat in) (which was apparently upholstered in plastic supermarket bags or something, because any fabric she showed me added at least $600 to the price and she never did seem able to find something that was comparable to the $900 price on the floor model) (GO FIGURE)…but $1,800 was giving me a severe case of squinchy-up-face.

I mean, it would in any case. That’s a lot of money for a place to put your butt. But, as we are skidding sideways into the end of the project, hey! I bet you guys have never heard this before from somebody who is remodeling any part of their house, even a linen cupboard! It is costing more than we had budgeted!

The kids’ bathroom absolutely killed us dead. That $8,000 is literally $7,500 more than I had budgeted for that space (tile, and paint, that was the extent of it before mold and dry rot happened). New refrigerator? Later. New range? Later. Kitchen island? WAY later. Backyard landscaping? Oh crap. Uh…well, how does…LATER sound?!

We’re in the phase now where every single “oh, and…” item is setting me off like a firehouse bell. My clothes iron broke last week, and the way I flipped out you would have thought it was a $12,000, diamond-encrusted thing of beauty. I have wished an early demise on that iron for years because I want something lighter and with better heat / steam control – but once it actually died (in a glorious deluge of water, from a cracked water tank) and I could honorably go out and buy the $100 model I’ve been wanting…OH, THE DRAMA! THE ANGST! I DON’T WANNA SPENT A HUNNERD BUCKS ON THAT STUPID THING RIGHT NOW!!!

Even things like “honey, I’ve got to go get $40 in brackets for the shelves” can make me start ranting and raving – so when we measured the space and said, ‘Oh, uh, that chair would totally block the bathroom door…’ I said, “OH! DARN THE LUCK! OK, so, thanks for stopping by, we’ll think about this and call you OK! Buh-bye now, buh-bye!”, shoved her out the door and locked it behind her.

Privately, I was thinking that I could simply keep cruising the consignment, thrift and even antique stores until I stumbled across something ‘shabby chic’ to stuff into that corner. And I dragged this old rocking chair of mine up from the playroom purely to see how a chair, any chair, would actually work in this corner and then I decided that, you know what?

It rocks

I like this chair. I like this chair, in this corner, right here. It is comfy. Oh, maybe someday I’ll buy myself a new glide rocker that “matches”, but for now…it makes me happy. Granted, I’m going to need to do something about a table in here (that folding tray is actually a bit unsteady and awkward to use), but I don’t think I need a new (or new-to-me) chair.

This one will do nicely.

And it isn’t costing me a dime.

It just doesn’t get more perfect than that.