Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Behold, the phoenix rises!

I kept putting off the laptop rebuild. It’s a big hassle, you know? Saving off the data, getting all the software installation materials together, doing without the laptop for three days

But finally I had no choice. After years of mistreatment, the old Dell just wasn’t what she used to be. Bogged down with unnecessary software, loaded with remnants of long-ago uninstalled programs, starting up with eleventy-twelve applications trying to put something into the virtual memory.

Then Friday, it wouldn’t let me have two applications open at once. “YOUR SYSTEM IS LOW ON VIRTUAL MEMORY!” it screamed. “GAH! I CAN’T DEAL WITH ALL THIS!”

Oh, meh.

So. In case you’re wondering where I am or where I’ve been…I’ve been tenderly nursing my laptop through a phoenix-like rebirth. In a fiery blaze of glory, we wiped everything clean. What was old is made new again, what was wrinkled and hobbled is fresh and crisp, what was slow is fast, what was crippled is again moving freely…

And now, I have a fresh-faced youthful laptop, a newborn infant machine.

…with absolutely no idea what it is supposed to be doing here, in this world.


Right! OK! Back to reloading software…because nothing says “fun use of my time” like sitting around waiting for the status bar to fill so I can click ‘next’...

…see y’all in a couple days…hopefully…if I haven’t been buried beneath a mountain of CD keys and activation alerts…

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fear no bug

Last night as we walked up to the front door, I saw the biggest, nastiest, ugliest roach, ever!, clinging to the doorframe.

Oh, EW! To be honest, I’ve been waiting for this. The house right next door is foreclosed and vacant, which means that leaves and other debris that blows up in piles in the front and back yards stays put. Dark, moist, and undisturbed piles of good roach eats and shelter. You might as well hang out a sign that says, “Roach Party House and Maternity Ward!”

And now they’re checking out the scene Uptown. Great. Just great.

“Hold up there, Captain Adventure,” I said matter-of-factly. “Let mommy get the bug first.”

He looked at me oddly. Huh?

“See? See the bug? See the big bug? Oooooh, he’s a BIG guy, huh?” I point out the roach from a safe distance, keeping one eye on it and the other one seeking out something I can use to prod it away from my door…or squash it. Or knock it off the door so I can stomp it. You know, because I am all about the zen, and embracing nature and all.

For a split second, Captain Adventure stared at the roach. For a split second, I thought he was taken aback by the size and fierce appearance of this very large American cockroach.

For a fleeting instant, I thought he was, you know, alarmed by the thing.

Uh-huh. Yeah. Right. This is the kid who once, in the two minutes between when I left him peacefully watching Dora the Explorer to rotate the laundry, grabbed a tube of Go-Gurt and the biggest kitchen knife I own and began calmly whacking the blade of the knife down on the tube of Go-Gurt (and, by the way, the kitchen floor), centimeters from the sweet little fingers holding the tube.

“Ooooh! Bug!” he yelled, and grabbed for the critter. Yeah, not so much with the ‘alarmed’ thing.

I have never seen a roach move that fast, people. I mean, I once found a whole nest of them when I flipped over some trash in our backyard (yeah, lost about two years off my life from pure startle-value there) and something like two thousand roaches managed to do a disappearing act in about three seconds…but yet they had nothing on Arnie the Cockroach.

Arnie was bookin’. And by the way he moved, I think I’m right about the house next door: he made for the shrub right in front of the vacant house, like a bee zipping home to the hive. Across a good thirty feet of lawn, zzzzzzzip!!!!! Scurrying, hoping, taking short buzzing flights.

And Captain Adventure was hot on his leathery heels, down on all fours (which thankfully slowed him down a good bit), hopping along behind the roach, his hands shooting out like a snake’s tongue trying to catch him. zzzzzzot! zzzzzot! zzzzzzot!

Thank $DEITY cockroaches are built for speed, otherwise I’m afraid I might have been trying to get a cockroach out of my son’s mouth (ooooh, maybe it’s chocolate candy! Let’s try it and find out!), and as I am already operating on maybe six months of life left to me from all the other times he’s shaved a year or ten off my life by one crazy / disgusting means or another, I’d really like to avoid such things.

Otherwise, I’m going to be in the negative on remaining lifespan. And I’m pretty sure the Devil doesn’t want my soul, so I’m screwed on being able to bargain my way out of that pickle.

So I was right behind him squealing, “No-no, honey! Leave the bug alone! Don’t squash the poor bug! Captain Adventure! Stop! Let him go! Ack! Argh! Gah!!!”

In the end, Arnie the Cockroach was safe and Captain Adventure was on hands and knees peering under the shrubs of the empty house while I grabbed him to prevent him from plunging head-first into them after the bug (and a few thousand of his peers, no doubt).

“Uh-oh!” he declared, peering into the Roach Bar and Grill dim tangles of bushes. “Where bug go, mommy?”

“I…I think he went home, sweetheart,” I gasped, torn between laughing and crying…and also, by the way, feeling an intense need for a shower as I wondered just how many cockroaches could be living under a bush that size…oh crap…now I need another shower… “No, no…let’s not go in there after him, buddy. I think he’s scared. Let’s leave him alone…”

“Ooooooh…bye-bye, Bug!” he bellowed into the shrubs. “BYE-BYE, BUG!!!”

“OK, yes, I think he (and people in FLORIDA, for Pete’s sake) heard you, honey…”

I herded my son back into the house, pondering the cockroach. Heh. Now there’s a bug with a tale to tell his grandchildren, huh?

I envisioned him staggering up to the bar in the Roach Steakhouse Saloon [Music Nightly!] and gasping out, “Bartender! Black Flag, and make it a double! OoooOOOOoooo, what a day I’ve had, you wouldn’t believe it! Hopping! Grabbing! Shrieking female Giant, with those things, those shoes, on her tarsus…!” he slams his double shot and waves the glass at the bartender, who refills it with horrified eyes. “And a Giant nymph, so fast…by the Colony, I’ve never seen such a fearless, fast-moving nymph in all my days…!”

All the little cockroach nymphs gasp, and their mothers gather them up under their wings murmuring, “There, there, little ones – there are no Giants here, they don’t like damp, dark places…shhhhh…” and glaring at Arnie.

One of the father’s sidles up to him and nudges at him, antennae quivering angrily.

“Dude, there are nymphs here. You wanna indulge your thrill issues and go out there with the Giants and all, that’s fine – but don’t come in here yelling about Giants and Giant Nymphs chasing people, right? Not cool, dude, not. cool.

But Arnie, still rattled, merely takes a long pull of his second Black Flag, stares back at the other bug and repeats, “Never…never seen…fast-moving Giant nymph…musta been eighty wing-flights high and…and…leaves and thorns, man, it was all…ew, ya know? Just ew…and the Female, it had those shoe-things, on the ends of its …they squash us with those, you know? I saw it happen, once…this guy I knew, we were Out There? Yeah, one minute he’s just chewing on some stuff around the bottom of one of those big smelly-boxes and then WHAM! Giant tarsus with a shoe-thing on it, outta nowhere…”

“Mommy, I’m scared!” a little nymph whimpers.

“Awwright, buddy, let’s get you out of here,” the bartender declares, gesturing to the gathering irate fathers meaningfully.

Three sturdy bugs get twelve hands under Arnie’s wings and lift him out of the bar, still clutching his Black Flag and staring off into the distance.

“Fastest. Nymph. EVER! Never seen a Giant so fast…never…so fast! Sooooooo faaaaaassssst…” his voice trails into silence as the fathers move him well out into the street, well beyond the door.

And all the cockroaches in the restaurant peer in nervous silence out into the ominous light beyond the cool dark safety of the bushes…where there be Giants…and Shoes…and fast-moving Giant Nymphs…


The Simple Dollar had a piece about Cheap Supper Night: Hacking One Meal a Week to Save Money.

The concept is simple, and old as the hills. Just about any long-time LBYMer will know about it in one form or another…most of us practice it in a way that is as automatic as breathing. The idea in a nutshell is that you replace one “orchestrated” (read as, ‘I specifically bought things for this menu tonight’) meal with a super-cheap one. Even if you’re already eating cheap, this one meal is to really kick the cheap up a notch and be as close to free as you can get, without getting arrested.

Now, my first moment of taken-aback-ness came when Trent informed me that the book he’s reading right now calls it a ‘soup and bread night,’ and claims that since it’s only one meal it’s going to be OK to focus on cheap over taste.

Uh…really? Cheap over taste, huh? Welllllll…oooookay…but, um, guys…you do know that “cheap” and “bland” are not like, you know, “hand” and “glove,” right…?

And then I had a real giggle-snort when Trent enthusiastically said, The single best method I’ve found for creating a cheap supper night is to check the grocery store flyer before I go to the grocery store. Almost every grocery store has an exceptional produce deal or two for the week that you can use to center your meal around. At our local grocery, there’s usually some form of fresh vegetable on sale for as low as $0.29 a pound and usually a fruit near that level as well. A pound of a particular vegetable forms the backbone of a very healthy meal.

Heh. Rookies. Gotta love ‘em.

I know, that’s not fair. There are lots of ways to go about the uber-cheap meal…and making that one meal around the cheapest thing in the supermarket is certainly one way to do it. This is one of those philosophical differences, and I am about to share my own personal faith with y’all, you lucky, lucky things!

In my humble opinion (uhhh…your what opinion, there, Tama?) (shut up, can’t you see I’m pontificating over here?), the rest of your meals should be around those items, while the ‘backbone’ of your super-cheap meal should be something that otherwise might hit the trash bin.

For example. Let’s say I’m going to make soup. First, I need stock, which I’ll make with ‘throwaway’ stuff. The tops of celery, the limp carrots, shoot, even carrot tops can add flavor to a stock. All stuff you usually would toss, right? Take the oldest onion you’ve got out of the crisper, caramelize it in a bit of oil, add everything else. If you’re a meat-eater, save up those bits of meat you usually let go, the tiny shreds clinging to bones, the slightly burnt bits, even the skins we don’t eat anymore because we are conscious of the whole fat-thing. Cool the stock and skim the fat right off the top…but keep some of that intense flavor in the liquid, yes?

Personally, I don’t throw away very much meat. If I’ve got some ‘good’ chicken, but not enough for a soup or casserole, I dice it and stick in the freezer. Give me a couple whole roasted chickens, and there will be enough for a meal in there.

One to two cups of cooked beast, a little butter, a little flour, a cup of milk and a cup of water (or wine, if I happen to have some open) and whatever veggies (fresh, frozen or canned, this isn’t the time for pride, folks) and viola. It’s a casserole! Otherwise entitled, How to feed six people until they are stuffed on less than one cup of meat, OTHER than paying $30 at McDonalds.

That’s where the backbone of my “cheap” meals comes from – the stuff that otherwise might have been merely a snack, or {horror!} thrown away.

And let’s say I don’t have enough leftovers and other oddbits to make a traditional meal for cheap-eats night (which is almost always one of those ‘extemporaneous’ deals anyway, since I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to have in advance). That’s fine. Do I have eggs, milk, flour and shortening? Then there’s always quiche – I can whip out something with nothing more than some eggs, milk and maybe an onion. Give me some herbs and I can really go to town with it.

I can make the infamous Breakfast For Dinner, churn out some waffles or maybe a Dutch-style baked apple pancake for the family to share.

Shoot…I could even make a big batch of oatmeal, set out bowls with raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, the nutmeg grinder and the honey. Of course, most of the Denizens will set up yowls of dismay because they are changelings, because obviously no child of MINE could possibly dislike OATMEAL, one of the most basic of Inherent Goods in the Cheap Eats Catalog, for crap’s sake aren’t normal, not even one bit all that fond of me oatmeal.

(Seriously…I don’t get this. They all loved oatmeal when they were babies. They loved it when they were toddlers. And then suddenly, around age three-ish…wham. “I don’t liiiiike thiiiiiiis!!” Only Boo Bug still likes it.) (Hmm…come to think of it…she’s also the only kid of mine who has my blue eyes! Coincidence?! I think not!!!)

The one thing I do not do is make special purchases, no matter how cheap they may be in the weekly circular, for my cheap-eats night. I might plan other meals around the circular specials, regular meals…but my cheap-eats are all about preventing food from going to waste.

Oh. And ‘bland’? “It’s OK to be bland just one meal a week”? Excuse me, but do you have SPICES on your world?!

Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it has to be zzzzzz. C’mon. You’ve probably got an impressive arsenal of herbs at your disposal (they came with the cute display thingee) (yes way, you’re supposed to cook with and eat them…geesh…). You’ve got salt and pepper, right? Maybe some oregano, oooh, even rosemary! Tangy, bright rosemary! Hey-hey-hey, how about this: Got some lemon juice in the fridge?

Take your basic boring-bland soup and throw in a crazy twist like that on your palate. Cook your rice with broth instead of water! Go really nuts and stir in some Parmesan. Lookout, it’s a WILD THING COOKIN’!!!

The flavor is already right there, in your kitchen! You’ve just got to let it out!

There is a world of good tastes out there, and a delicious meal does not necessarily require “special” ingredients. Spice it up, make it spicy or savory or zesty. A little vinegar, a little honey. Try adding diced potatoes to your quiche, or sprinkle a simple slice of bread with some cheese…maybe even an assortment of cheeses! I have one tablespoon each of five different things, let’s mix them and see what happens!

It doesn’t have to cost an extra nickel at the supermarket, or be the ‘bland but tolerated in the interests of frugality’ meal of the week. And while I am completely against eating uber-cheap and sacrificing nutrition all the You know what? Having waffles one night a week instead of a carefully balanced orchestra of nutritional values is not going to kill me or my kids. Shoot, I’d rather they had my homemade waffles (with the sneaky quarter cup of wheat germ, unbleached flour and real maple syrup) then a kid’s meal from a burger joint, any day of the week.

And that is that. End of pontification, y’all.

May your own cheap-eats be healthy, cheap and oh-so-delicious.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Making it work

I wake up each morning to a to do list that looks like a copy of War and Peace, written long and narrow on a 4x9” pad.

Naturally, I go to bed each night keenly aware that I did not get through “enough” of my list. I spend a lot of time reassuring myself that hey – it is what it is.

You can do what you can do. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’ll all still be there tomorrow.

And the next day, and the next day, and the next day…

I frequently find myself overwhelmed, in spite of my good intentions to let it be and go with the flow. I find myself angry about my own inability to keep my house clean, my car sparkling, my files organized, my kids neat and tidy (ha! yeah, that right there would probably take three full-time nannies…), my stock portfolio balanced (and makin’ money wouldn’t suck, either) and so forth and so on and on and on.

I’m not a Perfectionist (lord knows), but I do have Standards and I am not happy when I do not keep at least within spitting distance of them.

And I’m not. I’m not at all. I’m going through my days lately feeling as though, every minute of the day, I’m choosing which fingers I’m going to cut off.

It’s not a very fun way to live, you know? And I’m getting preeeeeety stressed out and upset about it. I keep trying to be at peace with It All, and failing, and then getting upset because I’m not able to not be upset, because I can’t find my hakuna matata, because I’m supposed to be more zen than this…ARGH! Why can’t I just Do It All?!

The DailyOm smacked me upside the head today with some observations in Life As It Is: Making Life Work For You : Like the president of a large organization, we must first realize that we cannot do every job ourselves. The first step to sanity is learning how to delegate some of the responsibility to other people, whether by paying someone to clean our house or trading childcare duties with another parent.

Now, there’s nothing here I haven’t read before. Shoot, there’s nothing here I haven’t preached before.

It’s just that, somehow, I don’t expect them to apply to me.

I have some weird notion that I am better, stronger, faster. I’m Fantasy Super Mom, ta-dun-DAH! Watch as I effortlessly go through my day, cape streaming in the breeze! I make it look easy, don’t I?!

Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m the first to tell anybody else that they need to go easy on themselves, and delegate, get themselves some help, for Pete’s sake!

You can only do what you can do (I tell everybody else). And if you can’t do it, but it needs to be done…you either need to let something else go, or you need help (I go on, wisely).

You need to delegate (I enunciate clearly, possibly tapping a finger meaningfully on the table with each syllable: del{tap}-uh{tap}-gate{tap}).

But for me? Ooooooooh no. Impossible. Quite out of the question. I can totally handle it. I just need to try harder.

Sigh. I really am not that bright, you know?

There is simply no way I can handle all the things I think I can handle. I’d need two, possibly three of me to take care of all the various things I have on my plate.

I need to del{tap}-uh{tap}-gate{tap}.

I’ve been thinking about hiring a maid service for a while now. Whenever I find myself thinking that I need to do something about All This, that’s the one thing that jumps out at me as being the thing that would give me the most bang for my buck. If I could scratch sanitizing three bathrooms, vacuuming five bedrooms, three common areas and a flight of stairs, then washing the five bedrooms floors AND two of those three common areas, and keeping the surface dust under control off my list…well.

I think I might just have a prayer with all that other stuff.

Of course, every time I start thinking about maybe actually picking up the phone and calling around for some quotes, Fantasy Super Mom yells, “NO! We can handle it! You’re being reckless and stupid! Waste of money! If you weren’t so lazy, we could get it all done! LESS BITCHING, MORE DOING!” And she bullies me into taking my hand away from the phone.

So I take one for the team and keep on trying and things fall to the floor and smash into a million pieces but, undaunted!, I keep trying and trying and trying…and failing, and failing, and failing…and getting more and more and more stressed out…more and more and more unhappy…less and less and less at peace with my life…

I keep thinking that something’s gotta give, but refusing to recognize that what has to give is me.

I’ve taken on too damned much, and it is up to me to let some stuff go.

Funny how sometimes, a random email from a service I can’t even remember signing up for will hit you right in the gut and make you sit down and focus on your breathing for a minute.

I’ve got to give up something. I’ve gone over my impossible list a dozen times, arguing with myself about the pros and cons of various options. Fantasy Super Mom keeps insisting that we can do it all! while Dark Me is half-hoping we just go to bed tonight and never wake up because this is hopeless…logic says giving up the fruits of a measly two hours of work each week to a maid service surely trumps giving up ten hours of billable time to clean it ourselves…emotion says that a good wife and mother could so totally make this work, somehow, without having to give up anything

…but obviously, I can’t make it work and can’t do Everything myself, this is why we’re having this conversation with ourselves, and by the way it is getting creepy the way we’re calling ourselves ‘we’…

From the article again: Accepting the adjustments needed to make our lives work is an essential ingredient to being at peace with our situation.

Hello, is that a Clue Gun you’re holding? :POW!: Right in the kisser!

I don’t have to like it…but I do have to do it. I have to make adjustments, adjustments that will let me feel at peace with the life I’m living. If I don’t…I suspect I’m going to be on the news one of these nights. “Crazy woman runs into oncoming traffic stark-nekkid and screaming, ‘So…much…DUSTING!!!!!!’, film at eleven!”

Once I get over myself and make the adjustment, things will be better.

I just have to let go. Accept that I am not Fantasy Super Mom, and I can’t do Everything.

…admit that I need help…

paid help…

…to take care of some of the most basic aspects of running a household…


Right. OK. This is me, getting over myself so that I can get back to being myself. I don’t like giving up my delusions of super-hero-ness, but hey. I also don’t like being a stressed out bundle of Crazy.

It’s time to start calling for house cleaning quotes, delegate that vast and unpleasant time-sink off my plate and see if it doesn’t give me some sanity back.

…I wonder if they could start, you know, tonight

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's a kind of magic...

We went to Disneyland Sunday – the day after Captain Adventure was almost eaten by sharks when he plunged into 30 foot icy-cold waters off the coast of Alaska jumped into the pool.

You can imagine how calm and rational I was by then. Ahem. Yeah, I’d come up with at least sixteen THOUSAND ways he could be maimed or killed at the park – most of them involving a fast-running autistic kid and moving rides.

As we parked in the structure, my husband (probably sick of me and my constant “WAIT! What if he ends up {ridiculously improbable tragic end}?!”) suddenly said, “Hey. Do you suppose they have some kind of sticker or something we could put on him?”

I married a brilliant man, people.

Disney is big with the stickers and buttons. Birthdays, anniversaries, first visits – if you’re having An Event of any kind that you are celebrating at Disneyland, go to City Hall and ask. They probably have a button, and the cast members are always watching for them, and they will respond with appropriate congratulations, salutations, and if they have any “perks” they can offer, they frequently will.

So I went into City Hall to see if they had, you know, some subtle button or sticker we could staple, sew, hot-glue and otherwise attach to his little body. Maybe a battery-powered neon one that flashed something like, “I AM AN OVER-STIMULATED AUTISTIC CHLD! IF I’M RUNNING AND GIGGLING AND THERE ISN’T A PARENT BEING DRAGGED BEHIND ME CLUTCHING THE OTHER END OF MY BUDDY HARNESS, GRAB ME! REWARD FOR CAPTURE!”

Subtlety personified, that’s me.

So I walked up to the desk and sputtered out something about my son and he’s autistic, well, he’s…he’s not, you know…well. Yes. He’s autistic. Technically it’s PDD-NOS, ha-ha, which is, you know, not AUTISM-autism, but…yeah. Well. Anyway! We were wondering if you had, you know, some official button or something…because we know your cast members are trained in special needs kids, and we’re just kind of concerned that, if he gets away from us and all…

Did I mention that I am oh-so-smooth, too?

“I understand completely,” the perky young lady said cheerfully. “So, would you like to have me designate your stroller a wheelchair?”

{blink-blink} “Uh, well, he can walk and everything, he’s not disabled, he’s just…”

“Can he stand in lines? Wait his turn patiently and so forth?”

“Uh, well…not really. Sort of. If they’re really short.” (This, of course, means ‘no, he can totally NOT handle standing in lines,’ which he can’t – he generally doesn’t get to go on more than one or maybe two rides over a twelve hour period in the park, because he can’t handle something as simple as even a thirty minute wait in a line.)

“Does he handle crowds well?”

“Um…sort of? They don’t scare him or anything, usually, but he does get flustered. And lost easily, too.”

“What’s his name? How old is he?” she asked kindly, pen poised.

“Uh…Captain Adventure, and he’s four…”

“Hi, Captain Adventure! Hey buddy! Are you four? Are you a big boy, four years old? Are you going to have fun today?”

He stared at her left ear for a second, then dropped his gaze down, put his hands in front of his face and began wriggling his fingers frantically, humming loudly and swinging his head back and forth. Nice. Thanks, kid. ‘Oh, he’s not, you know AUTISTIC-autistic’, sure, right, Crazy Denial Lady…

“Ooooookay! Let’s get you out to the fun, Captain Adventure!” she enthused, then looked back to me. “How many in your party? Six? Good, that’s the max for the card, ha ha! Just for today? OK. Here’s your pass, and here’s the description of where you enter the rides. Show this to the first cast member you see at any attraction, and they can direct you. Some attractions you will go up the exit ramp, some you will have to wait through the line BUT you do NOT have to park your stroller.”

“You mean…we can…” We can wait in a line with him lashed to buckled in his stroller?! Instead of having to PHYSICALLY HOLD HIM, in our arms, the whole time?! Holy crap, that alone was…it was just…{sob!} I’so’happy…!

“Absolutely! We want you all to have the best day possible here! Now, if any cast members have any questions, they can call us here. If you encounter any difficulties at all, see the nearest cast member for assistance.”

So we went forth with our card declaring our stroller to be a wheelchair (the stamp actually has an icon of a stroller, an ‘=’, and a wheelchair icon!)…and the difference in our day with him was staggering.

For some of the rides, usually ones with very narrow and/or twisty line queues (the worst kind for Mr. Man!), our access was up the exit ramp. At the end of the ramp, we were greeted by a ride attendant who checked our card and queued us up right there. The area itself was quieter than the main line. Not nearly the same crush of people, not so many voices talking-talking-talking, fewer people trying to engage that adorable little boy in conversation. The cast members were brilliant at handling him, quick to take stock and know just how much interaction was perfect…quicker still to back right off if he showed signs of distress.

And, most importantly, while we waited our turn, he could clearly see the ride we were about to board. We were in the right place! There it was! The boats! The cars! The elephants!

Usually, theme park lines are hell for him. He’s very linear in his reasoning, with very little ability to think either ahead OR behind. He really struggles with the concept of “we must do this first for a while, and then we get to do that.”

Even if we make him do it, so he realizes that “ooooooh, I see, I AM going on the ride!”, it doesn’t necessarily “take” until we’ve done it a whack of times.

Just because it worked out that once doesn’t mean it will work out this time. And even then, it doesn’t automatically transfer to other situations, even extremely similar ones. Just because it worked out on Autopia does not mean he will understand the same concept holds true on Peter Pan. Nope, you have to start all over with it, with the explaining, the demonstrating, the walking him up and down the line so he can see where it starts and where it ends, responding to his increasingly anxious questioning (“Go dat way? Cars? Mommy? DO CARS? MOMMY! GO DAT WAY! NO! DAT WAY! CARS!!!!!!”), physically restraining him when he finally :pops!: and makes a break for it…sigh

It’s loads of fun. No really.

This is also why I have gone on King Triton’s Carousel so many times that, were it an airline, I’d have enough miles for a first class roundtrip ticket to Hawaii with eight days, seven nights in a five star hotel. He likes it well enough, there’s no line…SOLD!

But under this system, he was far more calm and patient. Nobody was jostling him, there weren’t hundreds or thousands of people crushing in on him, he could plainly see that he was getting what he was expecting to get. Oh, I have to wait my turn? Um…OK…I’d rather not, but OK…the waits were also far shorter than the standard line queue, well within his twenty minute max before meltdowns start no matter how hard we try to head them off.

He went on more rides Sunday than in his whole life before that.

And as we went, he began to laugh, to smile, to cheer, to engage with his surroundings. No more staring at his feet, or his hands. No more shaking his head wildly from side to side. No more random screaming and kicking.

And then…he began to talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. He was so excited by all the wonderful things around him that he just had to share!

“Ride boat today? Good job, mommy!”


“’Ee go TRAIN! CHOO-CHOO! Ee go train an’ RED an’ fast! Good job, Daddy!!!”

It wasn’t until the next day that how great a gift this was to us really hit me. At the time I was just happy that he had a good time, that for once neither he nor his long-suffering sisters had to endure a rotten series of disappointments. And that I had been spared the extreme low-back pain a day of holding a 45 pound kid in your arms as he fights to get down so he can bolt for the front of the ride through line after long, weary line will bring on.

That made me real happy.

The next morning, he ran downstairs, jumped into my lap with a huge grin and great excitement.

“Mommy! Sing! Sing Birdie Sing!” he hollered, and then helpfully started things off for me: “En dah eeki-eeki-eeki OOM! En dah eeki-eeki-eeki-eeki OOM! Birdies sing tweet-tweet-tweet, foh-whors OOM…EN DAH EEKI-EEKI-OOOOOOOM!!!!” (Don’t recognize it? Try this, but watch out! It not only plays a song, it’s a song with the brain-worm virus embedded in it!!)

As he continued to babble about the red bird and the blue bird and the airplane ride and the boat ride and the tigers and the fish and and and…I suddenly realized that I was hearing new words.

And…not only new words…OH MY GAWD, he was offering conversation. Real, back-n-forth conversation. Not just one word blurts, not only responses to questions with no further exploration unless prodded.

He continued trains of thoughts. He wanted to talk about how FIRST a bird did THIS, and THEN another bird did THAT. The train went HERE, then THERE. And Daddy went THAT way, with Boo Bug, and then Danger Mouse had ice cream! With chocolate!

And then, after a solemn, contemplative pause, “Mommy…I like-it chocolate ice cream, too! Yeah. Chocolate ice cream yummy.

Oh. My. Gawd. I’ve seen bare hints of that kind of language skill from him…but this was a flood.

I don’t know if it will stick. I don’t know if a switch has been permanently thrown and the ‘conversation’ neurons are getting some more juice in that little noggin of his, or if this will fade as time passes and the excitement wears off.

But right now, he’s saying new things, and saying them in new ways. Good things, good ways. And I truly believe the positive stimulation he had at the park this time around is a big part of why.

Disney Magic at its finest, people.

It isn’t in the rides, or the buildings; it isn’t sprinkled on the food or gassed into the air. That magic comes from the people, the cast members, who went out of their way to be kind and accommodating, quietly and expertly enabling him to have an experience I didn’t think he could possibly have. They opened a new door in his mind. Whether it stays open or not, I’m so grateful I could just hug them, each and every one.

Thanks, guys. All of you. You really went above and beyond for us, provided a level of service that was beyond first-rate…even though we’re “just”, well, us. Nothin’ special here, but you made us feel like we were incredibly important, worth extra effort, that our good time was valuable beyond reason.

You can’t know what it meant to me, to see my little guy have such a good time, to watch him taking in those sights and sounds and sensations, to have a full day with him that didn’t involve constantly dealing with (and resisting the urge to smack the daylights out of) irritated strangers sick of his antics.

Thanks for understanding and accepting him, letting him be him and adjusting your world a little bit so he could still enjoy it.

But most of all, thanks for giving him so danged much to talk about that he just couldn’t keep it inside anymore. Those garbled new words and phrases mean the world to us, they really do.

May the magic you’ve given return to each and every one of you, three-fold.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Taking What If Boulevard to Crazyville

I could have become a mother of three this weekend. It was neither a soap-opera worthy close thing, nor a distant possibility that I laugh to even consider.

It was, in fact, way too close for comfort.

Saturday we went to a family reunion party in Burbank. As the day wound down, we hauled our waterlogged children out of the pool and began the process of getting everybody into dry clothes, collecting our scattered belongings, finding stray socks and so forth.

My husband took a protesting Captain Adventure off to change out of his swim diaper and back into his dry clothes and regular old Pull-Ups. Captain Adventure didn’t want to go. He wasn’t ready. He didn’t want to leave the glorious fun of the pool, where he had been bobbing with daddy in a bodysuit-style flotation device for a couple hours.

As Daddy bore him off to be changed into dry clothes for the ride back to the hotel, I began packing our damp towels and endless etceteras into the canvas bags we’d brought for them. Suddenly, I saw my son, his little bare feet thumping against the pavement, giggling, his eyes snapping and sparkling with mischief. Oh, for crap’s sake. Got away from Daddy and headed back for the pool, huh? I looked up ready to give Daddy a teasing, “Rookie!” Daddy doesn’t wrangle him as much as I do. Daddy seems to think he can say, “No!” and have it, ha-ha!, mean something to the boy.

But…there was no Daddy. No Daddy in hot pursuit, nobody coming after him, nobody close at hand as he threw himself with all his might toward the water.

“WHOA!” I barked. “Captain Adventure, wait! Stop! Hold up, kiddo! STOP!”

No. NO! He had been heading for the shallow end, for the steps…now, trying to avoid being stopped, he was racing toward the deep end.

With me hot on his heels and capture imminent, he veered again…straight off the edge, into the pool, taking a huge flying leap into the deeper blue water of the deep end of it, hitting with a splash and sinking like a brick.

Naturally, I went in after him and had him out in less time than it takes to type “had him out.”

Well. OK. It took a little longer than that. Maybe thirty seconds from the time my (ahem) fully-clothed body hit the water to when I was standing on the solid ground with my still-alive baby in my arms…squirming and protesting and demanding to go back dere! Go POOL! Go wah-tah!

Thirty seconds…a thousand years worth of terrifying observations and realizations. When he sank instead of bobbing to the surface the way he did when the now-absent Daddy and Floatation Suit combined to protect him, he panicked…and YELLED. An explosion of bubbles around me as I grabbed for him told me that he was a split second away from sucking in a double lungful of water. The brief struggle to get his head out of the water, my tennis shoes making damned poor flippers. The sudden realization that I couldn’t touch bottom where we were, it was too deep. I had to swim to the side, CHRIST, that kid had really jumped off the edge, we were almost halfway across the pool!

…stupid tennis shoes!...helLO, could somebody PLEASE realize we’re in trouble and haul this kid OUT of this @*^&@ing pool…!!!!!!

But then we were out and wrapped in towels and people are laughing and spreading the news like wildfire (“Oh yes he DID! And his mom just JUMPED right in after him, just like that, clothes and all! I think she was still wearing her watch and had her cell phone in her back pocket, too!”) (By about the tenth telling, I had jumped into the pool wearing a 100% silk Armani suit with a Blackberry and a $4,000 laptop on my person, ruining my fine Italian-leather shoes in the bargain) (just for the record: t-shirt, shorts, tennis shoes, watch – that’s it) (not that I wouldn’t have jumped in with all the above still on me under the circumstances, but, well…just sayin’…only my watch was in any kind of peril) Daddy was saying something about ‘set him down, just for a second while I…’ and I’m being very firm with myself: Thou shalt NOT go all hysterical here, it was NOT an epic life-and-death struggle, he is FINE and you are FINE and that is all, period, the end.

I held my boy for a forever-while while he protested and complained and asked, again and again, to go back in the pool. (Sigh.) I stroked his back and hummed to him…listening. Listening to the sound of his voice (any weird burrs or buzzes? any sign that water is still hitting his cords?), listening to his breathing (deep cough? odd vibrations? good, deep breaths?) and taking a terrible journey down What If Boulevard.

What If I hadn’t been Right There? What If I’d wandered off, looking for socks and shoes and bags of yarn?

What If he had plunged into that pool, full of splashing, fun-loving cousins? Of course you think, Well, they would have pulled him out, almost as fast as YOU did!…but…they’re playing. They’re splashing. They’re having fun. He’s been in the pool for hours with Daddy, his jumping into the pool so confidently isn’t exactly like a newly-minted toddler falling into it.

What If…nobody had realized he needed help until after he’d sucked water into both of his lungs.

What If…what if he had…drowned. Down there. Alone, not understanding what went wrong, why the fun-water had hurt him like that…

…what if…what if he still…what if he had aspirated water, what if he died in the night tonight…what if what if what if what if what if…

Stay cool, Tama, I kept telling myself. Don’t you DARE start going all drama-queen right now…

But I wanted to scream. The family is relieved, and laughing, teasing me as I stand there dripping, my clothes a ruin, my hair even worse. “Keeps ya busy, huh mom?!” an uncle bellows, clapping a friendly hand on my shoulder. For a second, I about hated him. IDIOT!

Ah, yes, this is what we call “misdirected emotion”…see, you’re upset and emotional because the adrenaline is running its course, and now that it’s over you’re catastrophizing an event that really, now, wasn’t all THAT bad, and furthermore…

Shut up, Self. Just…shut up.

I’m holding my boy, my very-alive boy, trying to make a u-turn on What If Boulevard. It’s one of those roads that stretches on and on and on forever, with a million twists and turns and branches that go to all kinds of endings…good, bad and indifferent.

But seems like every intersection has a big “NO U-TURN ALLOWED” sign on it.

I’m not allowed to turn around and go back to Real Life and leave it at that just yet. I have to go a little further, and worry about not just this event, but a thousand others that ‘almost’ happened or ‘might’ have happened or ‘could happen yet.’

Yeah. I’m catastrophizing.

I never used to do that, you know? Really. I didn’t. I took Life as it came, with all the ups and downs and weird stuff and close calls and clever saves. I didn’t worry about ‘what if I hadn’t’ or ‘what if they had’ stuff.

Things were what they were, period. You laughed your relief or cried your grief, learned something (maybe), and then you picked up and moved on.

You didn’t take a sudden turn onto What If Boulevard and find yourself headed to Crazyville, passing street after street saying “ONE WAY ONLY!” with no hint of what State it might be heading for, each turnoff bearing that dreadful sign: NO U-TURN ALLOWED.

And then…I had children. And suddenly, I find myself driving down What If Boulevard all the damned time. Even when I realize I’m doing it, even when I’m trying like crazy to turn off this damned road and find my way back to What Is Street…I’m stuck for a while. I’m stuck until it runs its course, until I finally get to the end of the main drag and the restrictions loosen and Life says, “OK. Now you can go ahead and get back to where you were.”

Hopefully, I get there before I reach Crazyville. When you find yourself in Crazyville, well. No matter where you’d like to go…you can’t get there, from here.

I’m always afraid that, if I end up in Crazyville, my kids will end up encased in plastic bubbles inside the Den, never allowed to leave, never allowed to live, or risk, or try…for fear they might fail…fail utterly, tragically, messily…

Intellectually, you know that it would be no kind of life. It would be a living hell, a nightmare, an endless horror. The things that make our lives sweetest, that give us the keenest pleasures and sensation of Being Alive don’t usually come without that terrible risk. I suppose it could even be argued that we need a certain amount of failure, a few bumps and bruises and face-plants-in-public under our belts, to give us something to compare our successes to and say, “Yes. Like this. Not like that, no. Like this.”

Emotionally…right at the moment…well. How bad would it be, really? For Captain Adventure, I mean. I could make the bubble really big, and maybe paint trains on it…? Shoot, if I made it big enough, I could even give him a train set to play with inside the bubble.

As long as it was soft rubber, so he couldn’t hurt himself with it. Oh. And sanitized, so he can’t get typhoid and die or anything. No small parts, either, ‘cause he might choke. And…

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tofutsies swirl!

I realized a little bit ago that I really didn’t feel like doing any housework right now I never took pictures of the socks I’m working on right now!

These are the Uptown Book Socks from Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave , in Tofutsies. This is the first time I’ve used this yarn, and I have to say…I like it.

socks in progress

It feels…clean.

I know. That’s a downright weird thing to say. You came here expecting something else?! This is a house where children come home from school with baggies full of their friends’ pets’ hair saying, “Mommy, I told so-and-so that you could make yarn with her {cat, dog, ferret, hamster, parakeet}’s fur – so here it is! Could you make her a scarf like Hannah Montana’s?”

Normal is so long ago I have trouble remembering what it looks like.

ANYWAY. What I mean by that is, as I’m knitting with them, they don’t make my hands sweat (kind of important right now – it’s over 104 outside, and true to form my bedroom has heated up to approximately six million 85-ish), and in fact…they feel the opposite. They feel almost like they’re washing my hands as I knit. They feel as though the yarn is actually wicking moisture and impurities away from them.

It’s probably the cotton. I’m not used to knitting with cotton at all, and this yarn is 22.5% cotton.

Also…HA! I just looked at the label to double check the yarn content, and what do I see?

Chitin is fiber from shrimp and crab shells! It’s naturally antibacterial!


(Ohmygawd, I am so easily amused…)

So the fiber content is 50% superwash wool, 25% Soysilk fibers, 22.5% cotton, and 2.5% Purell Chitin.

I had already finished one at some point, before I got distracted and wandered away from them. Look! It’s a Tofutsies Swirl!!


Is that not a peculiar pool effect there?! It wraps all the way around the foot, like a two-flavor soft serve ice cream swirl!

I’m glad I find it kinda charming, otherwise it might be giving me conniptions right now.

Finished sock

I turned the heel of the second start last night and started on the gussets, so hopefully I’ll have it done soon. If I can just keep neglecting the housework scraping a few moments here and there out of my incredibly busy domestic schedule, I might even finish it before the weekend.

Not, mind you, that I’m going to want to wear hand-knit socks for a while. I don’t even want to be wearing shoes right now. I’ve gone as minimal on the clothing as possible for someone who has to keep running out of the house for one stupid thing or another.

People…you are so glad I don’t have a web-cam in here.


Adulthood: It ain’t as advertised

You know, when I was a kid I could hardly wait to be a grownup. I envisioned a world of complete freedom, where I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted!

Heh. Heh. Ha. Ha. HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! {snicker…snivel…}

Yeah. That’s exactly how it turned out! Also, I have a pet unicorn! And a talking pig named Henry! And a mazillion dollars!!

Oh wait…no, I don’t!

Unfortunately, along with that Big Person ability to decide my own destiny (or at least what I was going to eat for dinner) came maturity.

I got mine as a byproduct of my master’s degree. That’s right! I have an MS in Stupid Mistakes, from the School of Hard Knocks? Yeah, and the thing is, when you’re taking the coursework in Stupid Mistakes, well, there’s all these Maturity units that are just sort of, you know, along for the ride and junk.

Use ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, I always say…so I’ve got a minor in Maturity and damned if it doesn’t keep coming in handy.

When you find yourself suffering from a case of Maturity, you have this way of understanding that there are consequences for things, and that while something might sound or even feel good right now, it isn’t necessarily a good idea.

I learned that the morning after that night-class in pounding back sweet-mix martinis while shrieking and giggling with a bunch of gossipy girlfriends. Hmm. My head still aches a bit, come to think of it…and I think I may have gotten married to that cute Norwegian busboy. Or was he a tennis pro? Built like one, if he wasn’t…anyway, yeah. The Maturity part of the units was about how actions have consequences.

Sometimes not-so-fun ones.

Anyway-anyway…yeah. So I’ve got the grownup ability to twiddle with the electronics in the house, or play video games all day, or drink a six-pack of soda, or ALL KINDS OF COOL FUN STUFF…but now I know why my mom always said, “NO! Now, go clean your room!!”

And worse…I agree with her.

GAH! Is there no end to the horror?!

…sometimes, it feels as though there is a very disappointed kid living inside my head.

A kid who, right now, would really like to turn up the air conditioner. Just a little. Say, oh, nothing much…twenty degrees cooler? OK, fifteen. Ten? Please?! I’ll be your best friiiiiiend…!

The Den has a problem with air circulation. It’s one of those houses where one room (say, my bedroom, where my office is) is a good twenty or even thirty degrees hotter than another (like, the living room – north side of the house, under the shade of a big tree).

In the winter, this room is heaven.

In the summer, it’s hell. But also where all my files are, where the printer lives, where my LAN wire plugs in…sigh

That inner child that was so looking forward to being a fully independent grownup is pretty pissed off right about now. She’s been bitching all day long about the heat, and I don’t blame her one bit. It is hot today. It’s hot in here, it’s hot out there, it’s hot beyond belief in the vehicles…I think I lost five pounds in sweat just walking from the car to the preschool classroom to get Captain Adventure this afternoon!

Unfortunately, Adult Me knows a little something about the air conditioner as pertains to this particular room, and it is this: Bringing the temperature down in here by any significant amount is a costly proposition. The problem is not only in the air circulation (which I’m already battling for all I’m worth with fans, to ‘eh’ effect), but a far more powerful thing: The sun.

As always, the sun rises at the left corner of my bedroom, and progresses throughout the day, slowly and with great determination, from left to right, lingering on the back wall of the master bathroom until he slowly, sloooooowly sinks behind the hills…

In the dog days of summer, when the overnight low is still in the 70s or even 80s and the daytime highs soar up into the hundreds, what is a loving day-long smile in the winter becomes a searing leer. “Yeah, you want some? Here it is, sucka! Oh-oh, you were complaining about how cold it was last month? HERE’S SOME HEAT FOR YA!!!! BWA-HAHAHAHAHA!!!!”

Trying to overpower the sun with your air conditioner? Eh, not gonna end well. Just sayin’.

Darn that Mother Nature! Always showing off with the ‘I am stronger than you!’ thing!!

If I want it to be cool in this room, well, I can do that. I have the technology! I have the power of thermostat control! I just have to be willing to accept two things: One is that there will be ice cubes forming on the piano in the living room.

I might be willing to accept that…but the other thing? A PG&E bill that can easily blow past $500 a month. Shoot, if I really wanted to be super-comfortable, that $500 might be merely the kindling used by PG&E to power the super-computer necessary to calculate the actual bill.

True story, I had a neighbor tell me last year that her bill was over seven hundred dollars during the summer months. MONTHS! Plural! $700! OVER. SEVEN. HUNDRED. DOLLARS.

This just in: The consequence of hearing that kind of story may well be a trip to the ER to have your heart restarted!

I just stared at her. Like a bird facing a snake. Can’t…move…gasp!...can’t…BREATHE…!

Obviously, Adult Me feels this is too much to spend to be cool during the day. Adult Me suggests that Little Me change into a pair of shorts and a halter top or something. It’s not like we have a web-cam going, where the boss is going to unexpectedly wire in and think I’ve been eaten by some kind of cave-dwelling slug when he sees a vast expanse of rolling moon-white mommy-belly peeking out from between them!

(I know. That was not a visual you particularly needed. Sorry about that…)

Adult Me also knows that this is a relatively short period of suffering. Give it another month, and it’ll be bearable. As the nights start cooling off, we’ll open up the windows first thing in the morning and set a fan in the window to suck the cold air into the room…if we can get it down to 70-something first thing and then slam all the blinds shut before the sun’s rays actually hit the windows, it will stay at least bearable in here.

And a month after that, the air conditioner will be off and, in the mornings, Little Me will be whining about ‘can’t we turn the heater on, just for a little while?!’

Adult Me points out that we can have a whole lot of fun on the $250 each month we aren’t spending on even a minimal bump in comfort.

Adult Me mentions that after all…we’re all “into” the whole nature-thing, right? Observing and appreciating seasons, trying to enjoy the Now a bit, embracing the whole ‘circle of Life’ thing…right? C’mon…right?!

Then Adult Me sighs, closes her eyes, shakes her head and says…

“OK. You can go downstairs and get another soda and a couple cookies for snack. Or a bowl of ice cream.”

{BAM!} Tama-shaped hole in the air up here…and a phantom voice shrieking after me as I pelt at full speed down the stairs…“…but not both! Are you listening to me?! NOT. BOTH!!!!”

“Wha? You say something? Sorry…can’t hear you…chewing ice-cream-cookie-sandwich-float…!”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Under the bed should always be the first place you look...

“Moooooooom!!! Mommy? Mommy! MOM-EEEEE!”


“Where’s my green shirt?!”

“…in your shirt drawer…?”

“No, not that one! The other one!!”

“Excuse me – did I ask you to take care of this yesterday?”

“But where is it?!”

“Have I not been saying for THREE DAYS to know where your First Day Of School clothes were?!”

“But I can’t FIND it!”

“Honestly! What IS it with you kids?! I talk and talk and talk and do you listen? NO. GET DOWN OFFA THAT! Look under the…put the cat down, she’s not going to school today!...look under the…DOWN! Captain Adventure! Get DOWN!...try un-…what did I JUST SAY?! Boo Bug, I’m not saying it again: Put that cat down, right NOW! She is NOT coming to school with us and That! Is! Final!...BED! ARGH! Eldest! ELDEST! Get your brother OFF of there! TRY UNDER YOUR BED!!!!”

{sound of four children all trying ask Mommy something from different rooms at the same time while Daddy is yelling something about the seats in the van and the state of the lawn from the driveway}

{…distantly…barely audible above the din} “…it’s wet!...”


“IT’S WET!!!”

“What’s WET?!”


“You found it? Where was it?” …wait…I don’t want to know…



“Pick something else, then!”

{howls of dismay...stomping…door slamming…drawer slamming…more stomping…}

{four children still trying to ask Mommy something at the same time from the far-flung reaches of the Den…Daddy still blathering on about the damned lawn…or something to do with email, maybe he’s moved on…}

Time check…!YES!

“FRONT DOOR!!!!!!!!”

Let the glad tidings ring forth – it is time for them to assemble at the Front Door, the Portal to the Outside World, where lies the First Day Of School, HUZZAH!!!!!!

Three silly sisters…

silly sisters

…and one slightly puzzled brother…

school what?

…plus one daddy who would really rather be doing Anything Else…

I coulda joined the Army

(Does this expression not totally say, “I should have joined the Army…I could be in a nice, safe warzone somewhere but noooooooo…”?)

…are loading themselves into the van to face the mayhem that is The First Day Of School.

Meanwhile, the cat…really doesn’t care…she’s just grateful for a little peace and @*^&@ing quiet

doesn't care

Smart cat.

Monday, August 11, 2008

This is me right now, when it comes to my Personal Time Off. See, I’m supposed to get one weekend every two months O-F-F, off. No cooking, cleaning, bill-paying, Denizen-wrangling, or listening to Denizen noise. Usually, I physically leave the house.

I have a KOA card, people, and I am not afraid to USE it!

I have a curious need for utter solitude. Weird, for a person who wanted All These Kids, but there it is. I need to have a certain amount of time alone, without the fuss and bother and noise and Responsibilities of being a wife, mother, Den C{E/F/O}O and Citizen of the World.

Without it, there comes a point where I am just losing my @*^&@. I become short-tempered, highly distracted, unable to deal, and otherwise a mess. It’s like…it’s like my BS filter gets full, and if I can’t get away long enough to give it a good rinse and wring, the BS backs up into my psyche and gums up the works.

And for the last eight months……fail…fail…fail…

The campground I was going to stay in was too close to a major wildfire. I couldn’t leave because something came up for the husband. I didn’t have budget enough for a tank of gas, let alone a campsite or hotel room. The Den was under construction and needed my two willing hands to keep things moving on schedule. Somebody got married on “my” weekend.

That’s OK (I said), I’ll just take next weekend. Some girlfriends are getting together for tea in Santa Cruz and I already said I couldn’t because of X, Y and Z…but you know what? To Fallen Babylon with X, Y and Z! I’ll just go ahead and go anyway! So there! Nyah!!!

…I’ll just take my tent and my KOA card, and I’ll find someplace to crash nearby. That’s what I’ll do. Uh-huh, that’s right, they almost always hold a couple walk-in sites back…

So it shouldn’t have surprised me when I woke up Friday with a miserable headache and blocked up sinuses…which I was convinced was allergies because I didn’t feel, you know, sick. Just miserable. “Something” was bothering me. Since I have had precisely zero allergic reaction to Dharma so far, I began saying, “Well, here it is! Took a while to get here, but here’s where I start with the cat dander rhinitis thing!”

I didn’t feel all that bad Saturday morning so I hopped in the car and started driving only to realize that actually, I didn’t feel all that sociable. So I puttered out into the Gold Country for a quick drive in the aloneness, felt just well enough to stop in Sonora – where I was brutally attacked by the By Hand Yarn store and barely escaped with my life – before heading back home and falling face-first into bed with an epic case of common cold.

Sigh. I am so glad I didn’t tell the girls I was going to come on down. That little voice that told me, “Don’t do it! Many a slip ‘tween cup and lip, sweetheart! If it works out, you can call them on the way and meet them somewhere down there! Don’t worry about tea reservations, you should just skip that part anyway, the black tea you insist on ordering always makes you gassy!!” can be sooooo wise, sometimes!

I woke up the next morning to discover four things.

First, my cold was brutal. BRU-TAL. Pounding head, aching body, throbbing sinuses, racking cough. Nice. I swallowed enough pills to choke a horse yesterday trying to keep myself on this side of the dirt.

Two: The aforementioned vicious yarn store had left a few marks.

yarn score

Two of my favorite words were at work here, folks: On. Sale. The Rowan book was on clearance, and the baby blanket pattern was only a quarter! Eeeee!

The yellow-orange variegated sock yarn is Austermann Step Duett, a wool/nylon blend imbued with aloe vera and jojoba oil. It’s supposed to last through about 40 washings, and I’ve heard it feels really nice on your hands while you’re knitting. Sweet!

The pink is Dream In Color “Baby”, a lace-weight Merino superwash, spun and hand-dyed here in the good old US of A. The color is called “Cool Fire,” and I’m trying to decide if I want to make something simple from it alone, or use it as a darker border to a lighter pink or white girl’s sweater.

The last one is Cascade Heritage, hand painted sock yarn in the ‘Isle of Skye’ colorway.

As I stumbled back recovering from the shock of these horribly disfiguring injuries…I tripped over Thing Three: The vast amount of crap in my bedroom. I didn’t think to take pictures before I started, so you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you…it was preeeeety bad in here.

Basically, what had happened was this. We tore out the linen cupboards in the hallway and dumped everything in them on the floor in here. Then we took out everything in the three (3) kids closets and dressers, and dumped that on the floor in here.

Many things have come in. Not nearly enough has gone back out.

With all the Chaos going on, the shelves got wildly out of control, with books spilling everywhere with no regard for Proper Placement, yarn peeking out of drawers and falling out of baskets…mass hysteria!

My bedroom really, really needed a thorough straightening up.

Which it got.

Clean room

It took me all freaking day and into the night to get it to this point. But we can now walk across the room without fearing for our lives, and that is a Good Thing. Even better, the stuff wasn’t just shoved out of sight – it is actually put away.

I know where everything is, right down to the last no-longer-missing stitch marker.

Which made me realize Thing Four: Sometimes, when your plans go all to hell, it isn’t really such a bad thing.

Sure, I could have done without the cold. But for less than the cost of a campsite, a KOA tent campsite, which is about the cheapest way to spend a night away from home and still have a flush toilet and hot shower available, I got three skeins of yarn each representing a good thirty or forty hours of entertainment AND two pattern books loaded with inspiration and motivation.

This morning, I woke up with the same pounding head, sore throat, NEW TODAY! upset stomach, and charming (constant) cough, sure…but I woke up in a neat, orderly room, able to reach out and grab whatever popped to mind. Did I want to do that sweet little cardigan in that one book, using maybe that soft port-wine-red Italian wool and a pair of #7 needles? I know right where they are. Need a piece of tape, or a Post-It note, or perhaps a working pen? Right here. Camera? Battery charger for same? Portable drive to get the pictures off it?

Here, here and here.

Sudafed Severe Cold and Cough? Imodium? Throat lozenges?

Here, here, and {hak-COUGH!} here.

Might not have gone down the way I’d hoped, but it went down good nonetheless.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put a meatloaf in the oven (excitement!) and work on finishing a pair of socks (fun!) (see? fun and excitement! TOGETHER AT LAST!!) I found buried somewhere between the Mesolithic and Neolithic strata in here.

One is already finished, and the other one is all the way to the heel flap! It’s Tofutsies ‘Two Step’, being worked into a pair of Uptown Boot Socks from Interweave’s Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs

The pattern of which I was able to find right away, because I knew right where to look.

…cleaning might not be fun to do, but it sure makes for easier livin’ when it’s done…

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Happiness is a finished project

Creatures of the Reef is finished.

I had my groovy blocking wires for the top (cleaning out the garage: it's a good thing). This is the first time I’ve actually used them, and overall I really did like them…although I wish they were longer. I used both the thin wires I had in the kit (I don’t remember when or where I got it, actually), and they still weren’t long enough for the entire top.


I tried to drape it on the harp but she kept shrugging it off. So I hung it on the wire storage cubes that are still in the bedroom, even though the remodeling project was finished two weeks ago and really…we need to get this crap out of here and…uh…wherever it is going to end up living. (I foresee a very long posting to Freecycle pretty soon…)

Hanging Out

This has been a really fun project. The patterns are interesting, but not so hard they make you cry. The designer has even made things extra-easy for you by suggesting you put stitch markers at the beginnings of each pattern repeat. It’s like the ‘to save time, check gauge’ thing – sometimes you don’t want to “waste” time doing the gauge swatch, and sometimes I didn’t want to “waste” time placing and otherwise futzing around with markers, but they were in fact huge time-savers in the end.

Blocking has done wonders for the clarity of the patterns.

Crabs and seahorses…



My personal favorite part to knit, though, was up here at the top:


This was just plain fun to do, and a stitch I’d never done before. On the odd row, you did a yarn-over thing: yo, k1, yo twice, k1, yo THREE times, k1, yo twice again, k1, yo, k1.

Then on the even row, you knit those k1 and just dropped the yarn-overs. It was just fun, you know? Whip-over! Knit one. Whip-over, whip-over! Knit one.

OK. So. Yeah. I’m easily entertained.

But I’m very pleased with the shawl. It was fun to knit, the instructions were easy to follow, it was a relatively fast knit (time available for knitting was scarce, otherwise I wouldn’t be surprised if I could actually have done this shawl in a much shorter amount of time), and it turned out beautifully.

I’m also very happy with the Knit Picks yarn. This shawl took two hanks of Knit Picks Shadow, in Snorkel. At $2.99 a hank, YES THAT’S RIGHT, this cost me $5.98 for the yarn. I paid more for the pattern than the yarn…how often do we get to say that?! The dye was nice and even, the yarn itself is of perfectly decent quality, and the end result is light, airy and warm-like-wool.

I’ve still got a fair amount left of the second hank, too – enough for a small lacy scarf, possibly.

Friday, August 08, 2008


The Creatures of the Reef shawl is in the washer for its soak…blocking soon…can’t wait…!!!!

(Um, by the way…I have one of those ultra-fancy front-loading washers with the ‘hand wash silk’ setting? Just in case you’re yelling, “ACK! No! Don’t put your LACE in the WASHING MACHINE!!!!” Just one of fourteen-loads-a-week worth of reasons I lurrrrrve this new washer - I've been able to just toss even my finest silk lace knitting in there to wash and soak before blocking, and it has NEVER felted, shredded, mangled or otherwise eaten it!) (whiiiiiich is actually a problem, if you WANT to felt...I have to use several old towels and put it through, like, 40,000 times to get the job done...fortunately, I'm not all that fond of felting...there...I said's true...I'm an old fashioned knitting-should-look-like-knitting type! If I wanted an Army blanket look for my purse, darn it, I'll buy an Army blanket, cut it up and use THAT.) (I'm babbling. I'm so excited. I can't wait to see this shawl all blocked...squeeeeee!)

…but at least I think I know WHEN it happened…

I still don’t know how I did it, but I think I at least know when I lost that post.

SEE, the thing is…I bought the domain Right now it’s nothing but a blank page where Blogger redirects my denofchaos.blogspot stuff, right?

But because I never learn like to tinker with stuff which already works, thus repeatedly “fixing” what ain’t broke and then being surprised when I BREAK IT, I’m screwing up around with building a wicked cool website.

And by “wicked cool” I of course mean “lame like a fifth grade project.”

Now, obviously, being an experienced mistake-maker IT person, I’m working in what we in the business call a “development environment” – in this case, I’m building a website that “publishes” to my home network rather than the Internet. It works the same as the website will (eventually) (maybe), but for right now only people physically on my home network can see it. (You aren’t missing anything. Seriously.)

It lets me test how things are working (or, mostly, not working), play with looking at it in different browsers and stuff like that, and get the whole thing the way I really, really want it before I expose my lack of skill to the whole world put it out there for real.

It’s a nervous habit developed over the course of making so many embarrassing and very public mistakes that I’ve been tempted to change my name and flee to Texas at least six times a year since 1987 almost twenty years experience with computer-stuff.

OH MY GAWD. It’s not “almost” twenty years. It’s twenty one years. And that’s not counting the work I did before I broke into compu-tating…three years of secretarial and accounting work…GAH!

…my computer experience is old enough to drink…{has a moment of wondering how that much time went by so fast, and why she stills feels like she’s 18 and just starting into the World of the Working…} {except for the aches and pains and a tendency to say things to the office pups like, “You know, back in the day we didn’t have no stinkin’ Google! That’s right, you had to KNOW STUFF, right from inside your head! And if you didn’t know it? You hadda look it up in a book! One of those paper-things with indexes! That’s right! You kids today, you have No Idea how good you’ve got it!”}

Ahem. Anyway. Eventually, I will migrate it to “production,” which would be the actual DenOfChaos site. And then you can all laugh really, really hard at what a bottom-of-class web developer I am. (It is not my forte. Seriously.)

Clear as mud? Good.

Here’s what I think I must have done: I was twiddling with settings the other night (when, by the way, I really should have been going to bed – one should never code while drowsy), testing how long it would take for things to upload and stuff and mucking around with dividing up pages…in other words, I was touching the actual website.

Not Blogger. I must have done something that caused that post to vanish. I’m still not sure how, though. It would seem to me that if I had done something to kill one post, I would have killed all of them.

But I didn’t. Just the most recent one. Argh. OK, I’m still making myself crazy. This is another thing about people who are “into” computers: We know just enough to think we understand what ‘should’ or ‘should not’ cause certain things to happen.

Then, when something happens that ‘should not’ happen, we can’t sleep at night until we figure out why that happened.

This is where a more experienced web person would be all, “Well, duh, Tama, you flibber-gersted the whicha-what! You can’t do that, you have to whangle-blam it!”

Which is exactly what I do to novice database people (“Well, dude, you can’t just upload the data, you need to parse it first, get your diagrams, split your tables so you have best-possible normalization, bing the flam-flim and zing the hoobitz-wha! Geesh, everybody knows that!”), so, you know…it’s that karma thing again.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Technical Difficulties Take II

Guys, I swear to DOG…I’m about to give up on modern living. Seriously. I’m going to buy a cabin in the wilderness and live off the land by my wits alone

…uh…wait…maaaaaaybe not such a great idea…

ANYWAY. This morning, I went to see the dentist. It was a Grand and Glorious day BECAUSE! {trumpet fanfare!} I was finally getting the crown over the gaping hole where Tooth Number Three used to be.

It’s been 436 days since Tooth #3 was extracted. I am really ready to have a crown put on. It’s taken forever because we’re doing an implant rather than a bridge, which is going to be awesome and all…eventually. We had to wait for bone grafts to take and then we had to wait for the implant thingee to set in the new bone…wait wait wait.

Finally, last week, we took the impressions and my new crown was in and I went in to get the crown fixed into place and dudes – I was thinking steak for lunch, you know?

But. My run of technological impairment continues – the new crown doesn’t frakin’ fit.

An implant crown, it turns out, is a trickier deal than a mere stub-of-tooth crown. (When you have a root canal, for example, they’ll basically grind away 95% of your enamel and leave you with a little ‘post’ in the middle – that’s what the crown goes on.) The implant post is basically a screw. And the implant-crown has screw threads in the middle of it. (I am way simplifying here. The dentist used lots of big words like ‘abutment’ and ‘lateral’ and ‘bobba-something-or-other’.)

If the crown doesn’t screw down such that it is turned the right way…it won’t work.

Guess what? The crown the lab sent the dentist? Didn’t align right.


Also, my cell phone range TWICE while I was in the chair. I think it has a setting somewhere that only allows it to ring in meetings, church, and medical offices.

The good news is, the phone calls were to inform me that the laptop is (allegedly) imaged and ready to go, and I should have it in my hot little hands tonight.

Which is great!

But. (You knew there’d be a but, right?) But, I still don’t have my remote access credentials. Which means that I still have to call the help desk and ask about them, and see if I can bully them into giving me a temporary ID and password, and you know what?

That cabin is starting to sound awfully good again…

Short Term Memory Loss Strikes Again (repost)

[Thanks, ellipsisknits!]

One of the (many) things that irritate me when I go forth among my fellow creatures is the way we can forget things we’ve learned almost instantly.

A few months ago, right before the end of the school year, one of the fathers pulled up to the curb in a shiny almost-new Navigator. He was so danged proud of that vehicle, it could almost bring a tear to your eye, truly.

He boasted about the deal he’d gotten on it, wrangling thousands off the sticker and getting this awesome loan rate and so forth and so on. Seriously, folks, you don’t see that kind of interest rate on a used car, no sir, that was his mad skilz at work, there…plush seats and surround sound…it was a road master on that commute, let-me-tell-you…

Beautiful vehicle, but at the time I remember looking at it and thinking, Hmmm.

I have a little experience under my belt with large vehicles, and I tell you what: Filling up the tank on the old full-sized van was painful enough when we bought her in 1997 – when gas was $1.37 a gallon. (Let’s just pause a second to think about that, shall we? Of course, I also remember when I paid $0.89 a gallon to fill up the TWO FULL-SIZED TANKS on the full-sized van I owned before that one…dang…now I feel OLD…)

So I looked at that shiny almost-new Navigator and thought, Whoa. 35 gallon tank, 12 miles to the gallon, gas heading over four bucks any second now…that sucker’s gonna bleed you dry, son!

A few days ago, we ran into him in the gym parking lot. I was unloading the girls from Homer the Odyssey, and he was…folding down the seat of the Hyundai Accent so Junior could get out. Whoa, how the mighty have fallen...!

“Hey, got yourself a commuter, huh?” I called out as our children ran screaming to each other. A lot of us do that out here, have one BIG vehicle for the family and a little one for the commuting. In fact, here in the Den we have the Odyssey for family-driving, and a Civic for anytime we’ve got fewer than four people heading out.

“Yeah, well, I had to get rid of the Navigator,” he muttered. “You wouldn’t believe it…I got my gas card bill that first month, you know? It was over $2,000. TWO THOUSAND BUCKS, man!”

“No way.”

“Swear. It didn’t get any better, either. So I took my wife’s car to work and she took the Navigator, but even that, damn, she was filling it up every week, right? So it’s still over $600, you know? So we ended up just, you know, parking it. And then we talked about it and I took it back. And we traded it for this thing.”


“Yeah. Most expensive @*^&@ing Hyundai in the world right here – I owe $35,000 for this piece of @*^&@.”

Whoa. I bought a used Hyundai Accent about five years ago for $5,000. The idea of owing that much on a used Accent about gave me stomach cramps. My Hyundai sure was easy on the gas, though – I regularly got over 40 MPG in that little thing. Manual transmission, power nothing (which got rough, actually – you take power steering for granted until you’re doing a two hour daily stop-n-go commute without it for a few months), barest boned vehicle Hyundai had on the market. It’s sole luxury was air conditioning.

While I was smiling softly to myself remembering my little bright red commute-buddy (long since donated to Habitat for Humanity, when the need for a second “commute” car vanished), he was exhibiting his stunning (and yet all-too-common) inability to remember What Had Gone Before.

“And now gas is coming down,” he went on. “Damned if it isn’t coming down. I probably could’ve kept that Navigator, you know? Or at least gotten a lot more for it…we tried to sell it ourselves, you know, but nobody would even look at it. Bet if we tried to sell it today, we could’ve gotten something for it.”

My first impulse was to say that no, no they couldn’t have sold it now. People aren’t that short-sighted. Gas prices dropping from $4.60 to $4.25 isn’t going to be enough to make people say, “Oooooh, it’s over! Let’s rush out and buy a new SUV!”

But as I thought about it…he’s probably right. He probably could find a buyer for the Navigator more easily right now than he could have last month, when gas was, you know, forty cents higher.

The short-term memory loss humans exhibit on a daily basis is stunning, especially when we’re used to things being one way (gas is more or less affordable) and then they suddenly change (holy crap, I can’t afford to drive to the supermarket!), and then they give a slight hint that they might consider going back to the way they were (I still can’t afford to drive to the supermarket BUT! I am a dime closer to being able to! Let the good times roll!!!!).

Maybe this is just a symptom of my career choice…but I can’t help noticing trends. Gas prices spike and fall all the time…but overall, they trend up. Here. Let me show you a chart…

Gas Prices

(Source data from Energy Information Administration website.)

This shows the average price for a gallon of rot-gut regular in California from January 1995 to present. It spikes…and sags a bit…spikes again…sags again…but what does it do overall?

Goes. Up.

That trend will reverse only when we don’t care any more – when supply outstrips demand, not just here in the US but globally.

I expect the devil will need ice skates right around then. Just sayin’.

And by the way – this same conversation has gone on every six months since I was a kid. Gas spikes in summer OH MY GAWD END OF THE WORLD and sags in winter whew about time those @*&^ politicians DID something about this!, and spikes again (!!!) and sags again (…).

But. Do we ever, you know, learn? Do we say to ourselves, “Gee, you know what? When I first started driving, gas was under a buck a gallon…and now it’s over $4. Hmm, what does this say to me, hmm, thinking…thinking…”?

Oh, no. We’re like ducks. We wake up in a brand new world, each and every day. Gas goes up, we run screaming that the sky is falling. Gas goes down, we run around screaming that we so totally should’ve gotten that Subdivision with the moon roof and the triple-play sound system, ARGH!

Give it six months. Same person will be saying, “Yeah, sure am glad I didn’t get that Subdivision, seeing as how gas prices have shot up like they have…”

Gas prices coming down? When did that ever happen? No, they go up and only up…wait! They came down! ARGH! I shoulda gotten that Subdivision!!

I love my fellow man, I really do. I just sometimes wish we could, you know…think about tomorrow with what we learned yesterday in mind, and act accordingly today.

…sure might make that tomorrow a ton better than today, ya know?...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Technical Difficulties Day

I’m not sure what happened here. I posted something a while ago, and it’s gone. It was even in the blog-reader, but now it’s gone. I didn’t delete it…I didn’t have nekkid people in it…but when I came back to check something else, it was gone.

It’s probably karma, people. I’ve had many times when somebody has posted something about Blogger “eating” their post and thought, Hmm, wonder what they did, because obviously posts don’t just disappear

Yeah. Well.

It just disappeared.


You know…it does just sort of fit with the day I’m having, though. It is apparently Technical Difficulty Day.

The laptop I was supposed to get from a client two months ago is still being imaged. Again. The Keystone Kop process here would be a lot funnier if it weren’t keeping cash from flowing my way. Let’s just say this laptop has an awful lot of miles on it, for a machine that has not yet produced a jot of work.

The desktop I just bought is making a weird noise that sounds like an off-balance fan (but what do I know). I am amazingly disinclined to open it up and look into the noise.

Also, I’m back into a business I got out of a few years ago: Fixing stuff that should never have happened. I’d managed to forget just how wrong a database can be. Microsoft Access has this way of making people think they know what they’re doing. I summon The Wizard! SHAZAM! Look, ma, Wizard and I made a database!!

Sometimes, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Especially when someone shows me the saddest excuse for a database – one table, fifty fields wide, and one form with more check boxes than could ever make sense – and then tells me they paid $600 for this thing.

SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS?! For somebody to summon The Wizard and mess up your record keeping beyond all hope?! Holy crap, dude…you get the tar, I’ll get the feathers, we’ll meet up at Andy’s Bait, Tackle and Access Database Shoppe…

Furthermore. People are insisting on texting me expecting INSTANT RESPONSE even though I don’t do texting and discovered today that my phone doesn’t beep or vibrate or anything else when a new text message comes through…it just puts a message on the screen that I have a new text.

I feel like those cell phone commercials: “Beep! Hi, yeah, this is my Treo! And even though you message me like sixty times! about that way {cool, important, urgent, time-sensitive} thing, I’m not gonna get this message – because I am a Texting Moron and have neither the knowledge nor the inclination to figure out how to make my phone go BEEP when I get a new text!”

When I saw the silent screen telling me I had new text messages, I hit the wrong @*^&@ing button, and it took me back to the phone. @*^&@. Where’s messaging…where’s messaging…and then I floundered around looking for ‘text messages’, which are not under ‘text’ but ‘messaging’…which to me means instant messaging so I’m expecting that to be AOL or Yahoo or Windows messaging services.

So I ignored that section for quite a while before I look there in case. Oh. Whaddya know. Three new text messages…on a related note, I now understand why people text in code – U only gt 160 chars ea msg! :(

The bank tells me I didn’t endorse a check, so they’re returning it. I did endorse the check, though. They cannot tell me why they thought I hadn’t, seeing as how my signature is RIGHT THERE ON IT. Nothing says Happy like having a deposit delayed an extra six days, right?

The school just informed me today that in order for the bus to pick Captain Adventure up from his new preschool to attend his special needs classes, I need to talk to his teacher and get an amendment to his IEP.

And she is, naturally, not available until the first day of school.

Oh. And. They’re very sorry about this but…it usually takes several weeks to put through the change.

Oh. And also, they will need forty-seven different kinds of authorization, a few notarized statements, and a full FBI background check on the entire teaching staff at the other preschool. (I made that last one up.)

It’s going to be a bumpy first few weeks of school. I am honestly not sure how it will actually work; Captain Adventure is a pretty easy going guy all things considered, but I suspect that if I pick him up from Preschool 1 (oh joy! The Woman is here! Attend my every whim, Woman!), and then try to immediately drop him off at Preschool 2 (whaaaaa? THIS is not my whim!)…there may be Trouble.

And then? Blogger ate my post.

You know what? There is a message in all of this. And that message is, “Go to bed, Tama, before you really @*^&@ things up.”

I can take a subtle hint, people.

Good night!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I need to quit reading knit-blogs

Stupid Franklin. I go to read his blog and see his stuff, and where does he send me?

Twist Collective.

Gah! This is like something the Yarn Harlot would do, you know? With the Tempty Ways thing? I loooooove cables, and this issue is full of them. And the Livia socks are charming me. They're so squiggly!


That's it. I'm going downstairs to finish the Creatures shawl...{grouse, grumble, stomp}

(Some of those things are gorgeous, though. If I were a little more flush...I'd be adding a few more pages to my crazy knitting binders tonight!)

Something is wrong with this picture

Something is not quite right here in the Den. The other night I went down the hall to make sure the girls hadn’t been abducted by aliens say goodnight to the kids, and…well, here’s what I found:

The cat:

Cat on Bed

The child:

Child in Closet

Now, I know the cat sees nothing wrong here, but hey – humans? Help me out here. Should not the CHILD be in the BED?!

Eldest tells me that she often sleeps in the closet (!) because, AND I QUOTE, “Dharma likes to sleep across the bed, and it bothers her when I move.”

Oh. Well. Gee whiz. Wouldn’t want to bother the cat. Heaven forbid. After all, sleeping all day on my bed must be absolutely exhausting for her. Good gracious, yes. Absolutely, the child should be sleeping in her closet so as not to discomfit the cat.


And then people wonder why I’m a little…twitchy…