Saturday, February 28, 2009

good news in the news?

Ah, Saturday at midday. On our current schedule, it involves just coming in the house after swim classes a little after noon and dropping the assorted bags of towels, wet bathing suits and library books in the hallway (the library trip often gets squeezed in between classes since it's in the same area). Then it's a mad dash of lunch-making, drink-getting, table-setting, and tear-wiping (oh, the typical drama of two very tired toddlers!), before the lunch/story/nap routine. But, right in the middle of it all, there's the very small window of time when all three children are gorging on sandwiches and I can sit down and actually enjoy a quick bite myself. Today that meant a turkey and cheddar bagel sandwich with a tall glass of ice-cold Tang (if it's good enough for astronauts, it's certainly good enough for me), and as I was putting the finishing touches on my lunch plate, I had a glimmer of hope. Oh, how wonderfully fantastic it would be if the mail had already come and I had the latest Time magazine waiting for me only a step outside my front door. I could sit down and inhale this sandwich in 6 minutes, but have a brand-new magazine to read in that time. Joy of joys, I could see it peeking out from under the mailbox cover as I opened the door. A perfect lunch was in the cards.

Now, Time is up there with NPR for me, only in print and concentrated on Saturdays and Sundays. I'll look through it occasionally throughout the week, but I hit all the most interesting articles and features in the first two or three times I pick it up over the weekend. I have to admit that I read the more fun and entertaining articles and essays before tackling the heavier stuff, and I often find myself struggling to read the more despair-filled articles, whether it be on our dismal economic situation or pain and strife elsewhere in the world. Especially during my speed-lunch, I want to read things that are short, entertaining or at the very least, not horribly depressing.

Imagine my surprise, when I instead turned to an article that actually was... dare I say it... uplifting? An article focusing on business that didn't carry the major themes of greed, dishonesty and shady practices? A focus instead on the actions of a major pharmaceutical company that is making humane choices at the expense of its financial growth? Come again?

Yes, it's true, and you just have to read about what Novartis has been doing in the quest for malaria prevention around the world. In the print article, above the title is a heading: Corporate Conscience--a phrase I would have considered an absolute oxymoron before, but now have evidence to prove that it's not impossible.

Shocked and awed in a good way,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I cheated

We've had a relationship of sorts for about 9 years now. I'll always remember how I felt when I saw him for the first time-- so excited and terrified and intimidated all at the same time. He looked exactly as I expected, and I had to instantly trust in him completely. While he has mildly disappointed me a few times, in the long run he has been just perfect. But now, I have cheated and I am paying the price.

I cheated on my hairdresser. Oh please don't preach to me... I was of sound mind, and I had very understandable reasons. When I first started to go to my guy, it was just for eyebrow waxes, and he was at a small local salon in the college town where I worked. He was more expensive than a haircut at a chain, but from the beginning, it was obvious that this guy knew what he was doing. He looked and acted the part perfectly-- before there were any beauty salon reality shows, he defined what the contestants should be. Oh yes, he's loud and brash and as gay as they come, and he's crazy-thin and has sported some fantastic dos over the years-- mohawks, twists, you name it. But... he decided that the little college town place was not a fit for him, and made some moves (out to the West Coast, even, but came back, thankfully!), finally settling in a high-end mall salon in a neighboring county. His prices have skyrocketed, and it's a bit of a hike to get out to see him. Even though I was averaging only about 2 haircuts a year in the last few years, I still couldn't fit those bills into the budget. So, after my last really short (awesome!) haircut with him last year, I figured I'd have to find an alternative once it grew out.

And boy did it ever grow out. I've been HATING the way it looked, and I've been avoiding mirrors even more than usual lately. So. Yesterday I decided that it was time to bite the bullet, and since lovely hubby had taken the day off to be with the little ones while I accompanied JAM's class on a field trip, it seemed to be the perfect time to lighten the hair load. After the field trip, I headed over to the shopping center down the road and walked in blindly to one of those chain places, let's just call it Bare Nuttery for the sake of this post, and I began the saga with the words, "I'd like a haircut, please." When asked if I wanted to request anyone, I said somewhat pitifully, "No thank you, I don't know anybody." I was assigned the next person on the sticky note list on the desk. I tried not to think bad thoughts that her name just happened to be the name of a country whose leaders quite possibly would like to blow the US of the globe. Whatever.

I can assume all the blame, really, since I never seem to be able to articulate myself very well when it comes to haircuts. But, the thing is, for the last 9 years, I've been able to say just a few words and my dear Marcus would understand, or if he didn't, he would convince me that he had the perfect idea in mind, and I'd feel confident sitting back and letting him cut away. I didn't have so much confidence yesterday... but she was nice and polite and seemed to pay very close attention to what she was doing. No matter that after she finished cutting and drying my hair, you know when you're basically at the finish line, she picked the scissors back up and went back to cutting A LOT more... she explained at the end, kind of offhandedly, "This looks better-- it was all uneven before so I cut some more." Oh. When you finished the haircut it was all uneven, so you went back to it. I guess that's commendable, right?

Well, it's not the end of the world, but I realized today that while it's great to spend 1/3 of what I used to on a haircut, I think I'm left with only 1/3 of the satisfaction in the end. With this economy, I figure that I'm not the only one walking around with a mediocre haircut.

(And yes, I'm breaking the bloggy golden rule, and will not be providing any pictures... there's a reason that my profile pic never changes... I am not a fan of photos of myself. Ever.)

Grateful that I don't have a mullet,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

a picture may be worth a thousand words, but I'm still going to talk

So, if you ever are really bored enough to look over on my sidebar, you'll see my little mini-reviews of the books I've read and the movies I've seen. The books vastly outnumber the movies, but this whole bloggy thing is really just an exercise in record-keeping for me-- memories, experiences, emotions and such. If you read that, you'll know that I skipped the Oscars the other night and opted to watch The Dark Knight instead because it was due back at the library the next day. Lovely hubby had already seen it, so he sat next to me on the couch and did our taxes while I sat for the 2 hours or so on the edge of my seat. Man, that was one intense movie. And the whole huge media buzz about Heath Ledger's performance? Totally deserving. He was beyond incredible. Simultaneously amazed me and freaked me out.

Now, fast forward one day, and this is where the picture comes into play. I'm running short on time this morning before I get to go jaunting off with JAM's class on a field trip, so I'm going to ask that you head over to lovely hubby's blog to hear the rest of the story, and I promise this is where the picture comes into play...

Shamelessly plugging my husband's blog,

Monday, February 23, 2009

watch your mouth

There are things that I say that come back to haunt me-- the slipped 'Dammit!' that has plagued me with 2 out of my 3 children so far. (Don't worry, I'm thinking it's safe to say that I will be 3 for 3 once Pudge goes beyond his favorite words of "NO!" and "Move!") But sometimes it's funnier when the more innocuous things get said back by the little ones. I have a little habit of saying "Oh, it's so hard to be <insert whining child's name here>" when the woe-is-me factor skyrockets. Well, our little Red sure seems to have taken to this phrase. Last night I was giving Red and Pudge a bath, which I have to admit just makes me grumpy (its usually lovely hubby's job, but he was having a literal pain in the neck, so I took it on). Well, I was feeling really frustrated about saying things over and over in a nice way and being met with no obedient children in sight for what felt like the entire weekend. In the moment, it was a dual-splashing thing that wasn't that big of a deal, but I was telling them to stop and trying to get them involved in other non-getting-Mommy-soaked activities, to no avail. So, what's a mom left to do... I yelled, "STOP SPLASHING!" and lo and behold, the water stopped flying.

Lovely hubby walked in at that point, and in my self-pitying whine, I lamented, "Why is it that no one listens to me unless I yell?!" And, to up the drama factor a few more notches, I laid my head down on the edge of the tub for a moment. It was then that insightful little Red piped up.

"Is it hard to be Mommy?"

Awesome. Perfect timing, priceless delivery. I think the sarcasm factor went right over her head and she was shooting straight from the hip with sincere empathy. I'm an awful mom, but somehow these kids are turning out alright.

Apparently, as lovely hubby was snuggling with her in their pre-bedtime routine a little while later, she wanted a little empathy for herself as well. The poor girl has been nursing a cold for what seems like 5 years, and just when we thought she was getting better, the faucet nose and TB ward cough came back with a vengeance. So, as she was hacking away and dripping like crazy in her bed, she turned to her loving father and said, "It's hard to be Red." (Of course, she wouldn't refer to herself with our bloggy name for her, but you get the picture, I'm sure...) She never ceases to crack us up.

Still waiting for my title as Mom of the Year,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

this week's guffaws

Oh my. My dear friend Bin either has the best nose for funny stuff on the web, or she's got some seriously connected peeps who send her the good stuff, which she promptly emails my way. Either way, she has provided the fodder for this week's guffaws, and I have to say that I have looked at this website several times this week-- at the same stuff each and every time-- and I have laughed uncontrollably again and again. This parody site apparently uses real images from the government's how-to-get-ready-for-terrorist-attacks-and-other-fun-stuff, but puts their own spin on the ridiculous graphics. Here are some highlights, complete with their hysterical explanations, with my personal two favorites at the end:

If you spot terrorism, blow your anti-terrorism whistle. If you are Vin Diesel, yell really loud.

If you spot a terrorist arrow, pin it against the wall with your shoulder.

Your telephone may be a practicing physician. Look for a phone with no numbers on it.

After exposure to radiation it is important to consider that you may have mutated to gigantic dimensions: watch your head.

If you see colors in the sky, grasp your throat and pretend to choke yourself. Girls go for that.

Be on the lookout for terrorists with pinkeye and leprosy. Also, they tend to rub their hands together manically.

Michael Jackson is a terrorist. If you spot this smooth criminal with scary eyes, run away now.

And if you still have any laughter left unlaughed, feel free to head over to one of the many blogs that I have found and enjoy. Michelle at Honest and Truly really cracked me up the other day with this post-- the video is priceless.
Laughing until I pee just a little bit,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

a little happiness

Lovely hubby did our weekly Costco shopping this afternoon (can you say 5 gallons of milk a week?!), and he came home with a little surprise for me. Literally. I am currently typing these words on my very own netbook-- a mini-laptop, smaller in both cost and form. My man-hand fingers actually aren't having a difficult time at all adjusting to the miniature keyboard, although they are crying out for the purchase of a wireless mouse because the touchpad is more of a challenge. Most importantly, my screen for blogger is fitting just fine on the little monitor. Other windows are a bit more work to navigate, but since this is where I spend a good chunk of my time, I'm not complaining at all.

I have just one request for you bloggers out there-- you all mind writing a little smaller?

From my 8.9" display to yours, whatever size it may be,

Friday, February 20, 2009

three, Three, THREE posts in one

Did I convey that commercial voice-over well enough in my crescendo-ing title there? Yeah, probably not, but you can't fault a girl for trying.

Anywho... being the mom of three kids, I am pretty much hyper aware of the level of attention that is divided among the offspring. For a while there, it was undoubtedly tipped in favor of the youngest, what with his inability to move his body of his own accord and 100% dependence on my boobs for his nourishment. Well, those days are gone as he runs around like a holy terror and instead wants to eat crackers nonstop all day long. After school, JAM needs a little bit of time focused just on him as he does his homework, but that is significantly less than it used to be, as the dude is really organized and independent with that daily chore for the most part. So, in our day to day life, the interactions are split pretty evenly, I do believe.

But, then there's blog world. Looking at the tags for my posts, I can't help but blanch at the numbers-- Red is coming in at a whopping 66 posts, JAM is trailing a little behind her at 59, and poor little Pudge barely registers on the screen with a measly 44. In thinking about these unfair numbers that hopefully will never come back to haunt me (think an 18 year old Pudge yelling- "You never blogged about me the way you did the others!"), I've come up with a few possible excuses explanations.
  1. I started seriously blogging about 8 months before Pudge was born. That alone could cover the spread, right?
  2. I've been that horribly labeled stay-at-home-mom with Red and Pudge for almost two years now (whoa!), and in that time, JAM has always been at school on the weekdays. (Yeah, he's that kid with perfect attendance. That kid never gets sick, I learned as a teacher!) So, that helps to account for why JAM's numbers are lower. And...
  3. While I've been at home with Red and Pudge, Red has been the one in the toddler stage-- the growing habit of saying funny things, the trials and tribulations of learning to control one's bladder, the star of the show in toddler world. Pudge is coming into his own these days, so I'm hoping to see his appearances here become more frequent.

All that being said, today's post is about equality, so everyone gets a moment in the spotlight. Shall we?

Let's give it up for JAM in "the world of KIDZ":
The kid who garnered that incredibly-sought-after all A's report card last semester, is definitely entering a new phase. Yeah, the grown-up teeth are gigantic compared to the rest of his face, and oh yes, he's growing (only taller, not wider-- the kid has a teeny tiny waist-- he'd be great on a runway). But the thing that definitively marks his move into the preadolescent world this week... he has discovered teeny-bop pop music, thanks to the KIDZ ONLY! music channel on our cable system. Which he has requested to have on during dinner every night this week. That's a whole lot of 'musical' dinner accompaniment that has me feeling officially old. Why old, you ask? Old because I actually found myself thinking these exact thoughts: This doesn't even sound like music. This is just noise. Annoying, annoying noise. Sound familiar? Of course it does, because it's what OUR parents said to us all those years ago when we played our generation's music. Damn, I'm getting old and so is my kid.

Now, here she is, Red in "feelings, nothing more than feelings":
Red is entering her own stage, as well. It's called the I-can-go-from-utter-joy-to-rampant-despair-in-a-heartbeat stage, which just happens to overlap with the I-can't-quite-find-the-right-words-yet-to-express-what's-going-on-in-my-head-so-I'll-just-scream stage that we haven't found ourselves completely out of yet. Fun fun fun. The solution? Who the heck knows. But, it at least seems like a nice panacea to haul out all the 'feelings' books I accumulated back when JAM lived in this stage (somedays it seems like he hasn't completely moved out of it either, but that's a whole other story). We now have a book basket in the living room that is home to When I Feel Angry, The Way I Feel, Sometimes I'm Bombaloo, and When Sophie Gets Angry-- Really, Really Angry among others. So name a feeling, and I'm sure I could pull out a verse about it-- we got the feelings genre covered.

And last, but certainly not least, comes Pudge in "repetition, repetition, repetition"
Speaking of ups and downs, that is exactly what Pudge has been speaking about lately. Step up the tiny, nonsensical step from the living room to the dining room and say, "UP!" (Or technically, it's more like "BUP!"), then step back down and shout, "DOWN!" Then repeat 4,298 times in rapid succession, and look to your loving family members for encouragement and applause each and every time. That's my little boy. Bup and down, over and over. When he's not showing off his skillz in the opposites department, he's singing "Ashes, ashes, ashes, ashes, ashes" somewhat musically recognizably (again, there's no ending point, AND lovely hubby insists that I should make this reference to 'Ring Around the Rosie' VERY clear hence anyone thinks that our baby walks around cleaning up ashtrays or something equally disgusting or inappropriate), or he's grabbing whatever toy/book/coaster/shoe/piece of furniture is nearby and bopping his sister in the head with it. Those could officially be listed as his hobbies, if he were filling out some sort of profile. That and drooling.

There you have it, equal coverage (I didn't do a word count, so we're just going to call it equal) for my three dearies. My heart is so darn big holding all the love in for them, that's why I have to wear such a big size. (Apparently my heart is housed in my midsection. Go figure.)

Lovingly yours,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

colbert and his 'tv promise'

It's been a while since I've posted any Daily Show or Colbert Report clips, but my friends, I have just seen a clip from last week's show-- Stephen interviews his 'nemesis' Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and made me get up from my reclined position on the couch to laugh out loud without restriction. All I have to say is, if Stephen Colbert comes to DC to accept the key to the city, I think I have a few friends who would want to join me in the audience! Enjoy--

With serious laughlines,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

the kids are picking away

Gotta love a carnival! Over at 5minutesforbooks, it's Kids' Picks time again, and I have actually been wanting to share a couple of books that we picked up at the library last week. Emily Gravett is an accomplished author/illustrator with a handful or two of titles under her belt, but the littlest ones in my home have their definite favorites. Red has been loving Orange Pear Apple Bear and Monkey and Me, and I must say that I feel the same way. The illustrations are gentle and soft- sketches with muted colors, yet vivid movement and spirit. She especially laughs when the word combos get silly (think a pear shaped bear), and I literally get thrilled to hear her 'reading' these books to herself. The word count is way low, but they read like story books, not primers. For the toddler/preschool set, these are winners.

On the older end, JAM has been a longtime fan of Andrew Clements, and one of his school library books this week was No Talking, which he forgot that he actually owns in his own giant set of books. He reports that he likes the characters in these books the best-- they are usually funny, and that is a plus for him. I read Frindle when he brought it home for a reading group last year, and I enjoyed the story as much as him! I appreciate the real-life storylines of Andrew Clements' books, and I like being able to read something that my big kid is reading, and not want to jab myself in the eye over and over to dull the pain of the experience (like the Star Wars books that keep finding their way into our library bag week after week). Perfect for the older elementary school crowd, Andrew Clements' stuff does not disappoint.
With heavy library bags,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

this week's guffaws

Yes, it's only 10 pm, but I feel like the living dead, I am that exhausted. I say that as the very feeble excuse for why I am not planning on putting forth the effort to look up the exact reference to this week's guffaws. Suffice it to say, you've probably already seen it, and it is probably older than everyone thinks it is when they forward the email on to all their contacts. Regardless of its age, it's definitely a funny read, even if you have in fact seen it before. But, I fully admit to being a lover of words (I even figured out Will Shortz's challenge on Weekend Edition this morning... okay, it was an easy one...), so this kind of thing is right up my particular alley. (Which, if I did have an actual alley, would be a lot cleaner than the image one usually conjures up when that word is spoken. I'd have potpourri.)

Wow, time to get to the list, seeing as I'm feeling a little punchy here. So I present to you The Mensa Word List.

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners. Each is an artificial word with only one letter altered to form a real word. Some are terrifically innovative:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease.

10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's, like, a serious bummer.

11. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido: All talk and no action.

13. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

14. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

And the #1 pick:
17. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and ...

Hope you enjoyed the show-- and you know you want to create some words of your own, right??

Laughing with you, of course,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

wanna view some reviews?

It's that time again, folks. If you're interested, you can check out a few reviews of mine over at 5minutesforbooks. Since I last bugged you all, three reviews have posted-- Love and Other Natural Disasters, The Opposite of Love, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. That's two grown-up novels (adult novels sounded kinda pervy), and one middle-grade novel, if the titles don't sound familiar. As usual, feel free to give 5M4B some love by browsing through some of the other reviews!

Bookishly yours,

Friday, February 13, 2009

lyrically gifted

You know how there are all those jokes about alternate song lyrics, the words that people sing for years and years, never knowing that they are way off? "There's a bathroom on the right" is what I always belted out, and my sister always sang, "Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you" to another song, conjuring up images of a chick storming out clutching a pork roast. Well, we introduced another not-so-accurate song lyric to our family's collection.

The other night, our crew was seated around our little dining room table, with JAM and Red sitting directly across from each other. We were reveling in the ambiance that only a meal with two children under age three can create, accompanied by a CD of JAM's choice playing in the living room. He had put on a mix-CD that lovely hubby had put together for him years ago, which he entitled, Songs All Kids Should Know. JAM was alternating between putting a few bites in his mouth and singing along throughout the beginning of the meal when Fun, Fun, Fun by The Beach Boys came on. He started to sing the chorus, "And she'll have fun, fun, fun 'til her Daddy takes..." when he stopped and turned to his dad. "What's her dad take away from her?" Before his knowledgeable father could reply, Red leaned forward over her plate and provided the answer instead.

"Her Daddy takes her cheeseburger away! That's what they say!"

Ah yes, to this beef-worshipping toddler, that sounds like the ultimate in party-pooping actions. Take my dolls, take my books, just don't take my ever-loving cheeseburger away, Daddy!

With a newly formed image of a Beach Boys classic,

Monday, February 09, 2009

you can call me narc

You know that ridiculously long diatribe the other day pondering my overall happiness level? Well, it occurred to me that I haven't given much thought to the actual premise of the book that connects happiness level to locale. That is, until I was reminded for the sadly-not-exaggerating-500th time today that there are just so many things that bug me about where we live. I realize that in writing these things, they may appear silly and/or mundane, but these are some of the things that build up day after day after day, and do truly affect my happiness level. But... then I can also recognize the really cool things that I appreciate about where we have chosen to call home, at least in the general area, but the frustrating reality is that those things may not be as apparent in day to day life.

So, I've written before about my frustrations with what I can only call the vast differences of personal lifestyle between my family and much of the larger community in which we live. Take, for instance, the interesting conversations I've overheard at the bus stop, or the joy we've had interacting with local youth. Well, my daily frustrations start when we try to cross the very major road on whose corner we live, and I kid you not, I am confronted with having to navigate around at least one vehicle whose driver decides that the large white line on the road is something to simply drive completely over before finally coming to a stop in the middle of (or fully blocking) the crosswalk. The best ones, by far, are the large vehicles-- the Metro and school buses, because apparently the "STOP HERE ON RED LIGHT" signs that are at each intersection simply don't apply to them, and anyone wishing to actually use the crosswalk should just wait an entire light cycle until they have driven off. I am not exaggerating that this happens with such a frequency that I often form elaborate plans like creating large signs to whip out of the stroller when needed that chastise the offending drivers, or simply rolling the stroller directly into their front bumpers. (Yes, I know that nothing good could come out of that one, and I would never put my children in harm's way... but I still feel like it would release some tension...)

Okay, so all of that was just to relay some of the frame of mind I often have when I'm out and about walking in my community. At this point, I should share that I also have our city's police numbers-- emergency and non-emergency lines-- programmed into my phone so that I can call them with the push of one button if the need may arise. And it wouldn't be unprecedented. There was the time that lovely hubby and JAM came riding their bikes home from JAM's school and rode directly into a HUGE fight among an incredibly large number of students from the high school that sits in between our home and the pedestrian bridge that is my gateway to main part of our city. Or, I can still vividly remember the time last fall that the two girls started beating the crap out of each other with a crowd of 30 or so onlookers at JAM's bus stop ten feet in front of where I sat with the kids in the stroller. Can you see a common thread here? There is a regular lack of appropriate behavior that I observe each and every day from our local teenagers-- from the mundane to the extremely offensive. It's an absolute joy to have lines of kids stream through our development screaming the F-word as literally every other word of their 'conversation' as my kids play in our front yard in the afternoon.

Well, there's another number that I programmed into my phone this past fall. I read about the county' public schools' latest initiative to curb truancy in our area-- the request that adults call the county's non-emergency line to report suspected truants. My first thought to this was, how would one know what was an appropriate reason to call? At any point during the day, I can see high-school-age-looking people walking down the main road-- should one call then? For goodness sake, every single time that I walk through the high school parking lot for 10 minutes as a shortcut to get to the pedestrian bridge, I can easily count 10+ students walking away from the school, getting in cars and driving off, or waiting at the Metro bus stop across the street. I assume that there are legitimate reasons for students to leave campus during school hours (internships? anything else?), but the number of students I see (and yes, their school ID's hang right there on their necks) always seems a bit excessive. (It seems to me that if it weren't for the obvious funding difficulties, it makes sense to have someone posted at the exit points of the schools' campuses-- but we are talking about a county with something like 25 high schools-- our local one has 3,000 students alone!) But, I've never called. Until today.

We were walking back home from the kids' music class at the community center in the main part of the city, and as I was approaching the pedestrian bridge, I was soon aware of the presence of two people walking in the same direction somewhat behind me. As they passed, walking in the middle of the street together, but listening to their individual earbuds, one kid began to shout out his lyrics. Now, mind you, they came up behind us-- as we crossed the intersection at the same time, there was no way that they didn't notice me with the two kids riding in the SUV stroller. So, as the singing began, it didn't take me long to become furious, and simply stop in my tracks so that I wouldn't have to share the walk on the bridge with these two characters. The lyrics introduced some lovely new words to the kids-- although, I'm sure they weren't aware of anything at all, it was just me who was instantly enraged. What kind of person acts this way with full knowledge of their surroundings? Honestly, I just wanted something to happen that would thwart these guys in a way that made up for how pissed their stupid behavior made me. That's when I remembered about the county initiative, and remembered too, that I had that number in my cell.

I wish I could say that after I made the phone call, I saw the kids get stopped by the local police who I had talked with, but in all likelihood, by the time officers made it out to the road that I said these kids were walking toward, they were long gone. Most likely they went about their business-- exactly what that could have been, I can only guess-- without any interruption whatsoever. But, I figure, I did what the Post article reported was the intent of the initiative. Even if I did it solely as an act of anger and retribution. Sometimes it's just plain hard to be happy here.

Trying now to remind myself of the positive attributes of our community,

Sunday, February 08, 2009

branching out from the plan

I'm not sure that this really needs to be stated to the select few of you who decide to twiddle away your time by visiting here, but in case you hadn't heard by now-- I love plans. This is inseparably connected with my love for lists, since a plan really is just a list not necessarily written down. A mental list, if you will. I like going into each weekend with a physical list-- the chores, shopping, and errands that will hopefully get accomplished in those precious 48 hours where I am not fully responsible for the well-being of the wackadoo kids. (Oh to be able to clean my bathrooms without the kids barging in and trying to suck on the toilet bowl cleaner bottle...)

In order to get a good sense of how realistic The List is, I need to know at least a general skeleton of The Plan each weekend. For now at least, all three kids are in swim classes on Saturday mornings, so that is a constant part of The Plan, but the rest is usually up for grabs. When I heard mid-week that it was expected to be absolutely spring-like this weekend, I decided to try to get as much of the regular weekend chores done on Friday, freeing up Saturday to hang out with friends out of doors, and leaving Sunday completely open. Everything actually went according to The Plan, and we splashed away in the pool (back to back parent-and-child classes with Pudge and then Red), had a friend of Red's come over for lunch and the afternoon, met up with a few great pals and our collective slew of kids at a playground after naptime, and kept the shindig going back at our house with friends and burgers from Five Guys. Very nice day indeed.

This morning, the big question hung in the air-- What's the plan for today? It literally hung in the air over our bed as I posed it to lovely hubby a few times as we lazily lay in bed with the children playing all around us until a blissful 8:30 in the am. (Not knocking him or anything, but lovely hubby has not yet converted to a strong belief in The Plan... even after almost 15 years of life with me!) This was followed by a leisurely prepared and eaten breakfast, and then a rousing session of everyone-pile-up-on-Daddy-and-giggle-and-jostle-around-until-someone-returns-his-or-her-breakfast! (Thankfully, it did not come to that end.) Again, I tried pressing The Plan, but again there were no takers on that committee. I jokingly declared that I wanted to see llamas, then I went upstairs to take a shower at a shameful 11:30. While simultaneously rubbing shampoo in my hair and brushing my teeth under the spray of too-hot-just-how-I-like-it water, lovely hubby walked in the bathroom and loudly declared, "We're going to the zoo when you get out. I'm going to make sandwiches now."

And you know what? We did. We got everyone ready; packed pb&j sandwiches, some fruit and a ridiculously large pitcher of iced tea; threw apparently unnecessary light jackets on top of the bags; remembered the camera as we were locking the door; and headed down to DC. I was once again reminded of my gratitude for living so close to our nation's capital, as we have this resource (free, except for the exorbitantly raised parking fees!) just a ways down the road. As it turned out, there were no llamas in The Plan for me today-- in fact, there was absolutely no plan at all. We simply walked around and saw a few animals and exhibits that interested us, but with no rush or list in hand whatsoever. Pudge mooed at some cows (the sound that all farm animals make according to him) and went berserk in the small mammal house at all the tamarins and other monkey-like animals leaping in the trees. (He also has this exclamation that he makes at pretty much any animal-- lemur at the zoo or squirrel on our fence-- that is difficult to transcribe, but sounds much like he's yelling "Ga-Cock!" Which he did over and over and over with such enthusiasm and glee that I had tears in my eyes by the end of the small mammal house!) Red and JAM got to see some real live Naked Mole Rats, and lovely hubby and I enjoyed some time out of the house-- and off of The Plan-- for a day. A different, but quite pleasant, experience for me.

And of course, a trip to the zoo wouldn't be complete without pictures... an absolutely beautiful, "Don't I have precious children" one, and one that is reminiscent of many of our family pictures, with Red's stubborn streak shining through.

From my monkeys to yours,

this week's guffaws

I saw this posted on someone's Facebook page... and it was quite possibly the funniest take on FB that I've heard yet. After listening to a bit on Weekend Edition this morning about the role FB plays in business-- think executives younger than the majority of their workforce requiring employees to be present on FB-- and I am still mulling over my own personal thoughts about this. I use FB, but I can't tell you how many friends I have, and I don't poke or throw objects at anyone, quite honestly, I routinely 'ignore' all the requests that end up on my page. I like to look at other people's statuses, and the main function I use is simply to send messages to people I haven't seen in years and years.

That being said, lovely hubby refuses to join Facebook. I think this video quite humorously portrays some of the stuff that simply confounds him about the whole thing. And not only is it accurately funny, but it has British accents that up the humor factor even more.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

if you can't say anything nice...

... apparently, you just don't blog. I've had a bit of a grumpy cloud over my head this week. I don't really know why, but I have a nagging suspicion it had to do with a book I read about happiness. Yeah, that's messed up, isn't it? Well, here's the deal. I actually really enjoyed reading The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World. I had been interested in reading it since I heard the author, Eric Weiner, interviewed on NPR some time ago. It went on my beloved Shelfari 'I Plan To Read' shelf, and then my online book club voted it as this month's read. I was so excited that not only did I have the motivation to read it at a particular time, but I'd also have people to discuss it with-- a huge added bonus. And since my fellow book club pals are some of my most regular readers here, let me point out ahead of time that none of this has anything to do with any of you personally. (That sounds somewhat foreshadowing of bad things to come, which I don't think is necessarily the case, but I really don't want any of you to misread what I say here!)

Before the official discussion opens at the book club's site, there are sometimes pre-discussion threads posted, and this time there was one:

Before you read the book, rate how happy you are, in general (not necessarily just today), on a scale from 1 to 10 (one being pretty depressed, ten being ecstatic). I think a gut reaction is okay, but I do want you to think about why you rated yourself the way you did. (You can share the reasoning if you want, but it's not required.)

I was the second person to respond to this, and I was somewhat hesitant to put a number out there for fear that I would be the lowest. The first number that popped into my head was a 6. But on further thought, that sounded horrifically low. So, I bumped it up one notch and finalized on a 7. Now, I don't really feel like getting into my several-years-long-dance with depression here, because quite frankly, it's depressing to think about. These days, that's not so much an issue, although I've been thinking lately that its buddy, anxiety, may be creeping back into my life with a greater intensity than I'm comfortable with. (I do happen to believe that a small dose of anxiety is healthy, at least for me, as a motivator and a protector... but that's a whole other train of thought.)

So, back to me and my 7. My short post addressed my nagging feeling that I don't have full control over my emotions-- I don't think I can simply choose how to feel. Now, I know that most people would vehemently disagree with this, but the way I look at it, for me personally, is this-- I can have a situation, whatever it may be, and I can look at it from a logical, cognitive perspective. I can make lists (till the cows come home, people!) of possible actions I can take to address the situation. I can even choose to take no action, if that seems the most effective solution. BUT-- regardless of what I choose, I still feel the way that I feel. If someone dislikes me-- even if I don't have any respect for the person in the first place-- it still hurts my feelings intensely. If I feel that an injustice has taken place in regard to someone I love, I experience deep anger, regardless of what my logical mind says to choose to do. Maybe that's the best way to describe it-- I experience my feelings with great intensity. Just thinking about a particular long-standing and unresolved issue in my life causes my heart to race, my face to flush and my head to pulsate. And that's just me thinking about it to myself in my head. No joke, guys - you know how some people have extra-sensitive taste buds or hearing, I think I could qualify for that when it comes to emotions.

So, given that ridiculously long description of my intense emotions, I feel like the regular frustrations in my life loom large at times, so I could not put myself any higher than a 7. You know Lewis Black? The angry comedian who gestures wildly with his hands throughout his rants on The Daily Show? Yeah, I L-O-V-E that guy. One could say that everything pisses him off, but I see it as only the awful crap in the world pisses him off, and sadly, there's no shortage of that these days. Ironic as it may appear, I actually enjoy listening to his rants because it affirms the fact that I'm not alone in getting extremely frustrated with the ridiculous things out there. But I'm getting off on another tangent here, so let me circle the wagons back.

Me and my 7 were out there on the book club thread (and to be frank, I was beginning to worry that I had actually aimed too high, and that 6 was looking more and more accurate), and I anxiously awaited the responses of my fellow book lovers. As they began appearing as many 8's, 9's and a few 10's, (with one or two 7's showing their faces as well), I really started to feel out of place. Almost everyone talked about choosing to feel happy, even in the face of struggles and difficulties in their lives, or perhaps most especially during those times. One question rang out in my head over and over-- What's wrong with me??? No disrespect meant to anyone in my book club-- those are their personal assessments of their own feelings, and have nothing to do with mine. But, I still feel so very differently when I think about my own general happiness. Don't get me wrong, I consider myself a moderately happy person, but I also am aware of an undercurrent of frustration, sadness and ire that is always with me. It flares up at different times, in response to different things-- situations in my own personal life, as well as things on a larger scale in politics and world affairs (why I often find myself yelling at my radio while I cook dinner). When the undercurrent rises, it bubbles over and comes to the surface, and those anti-happy feelings make themselves apparent.

Now, I am fully aware at this point that I'm bordering on sounding like a complete lunatic, and I'm not even sure that I'm articulating my own interpretations about my feelings well enough to make sense to anyone outside of my own head. (And, for the record, there are no people living in my head right now... I don't need that added to my lunatic status!) But there it is, nonetheless. As I've been thinking about my own definition of happiness, I've inevitably been comparing it to the perspectives expressed by my book club friends. In one sense I worry (as I do about most areas in life) that I am somehow coming up short. That there is a right way to be, and they have all obviously found the solution and are blissfully living at points 8, 9, and 10. But I have started to think about it differently lately, and this is perhaps my impetus right now for coming out from under that grumpy cloud. Maybe for me, this isn't a scale that has an ending point. Maybe there's no best place to be. Maybe a 10 isn't what's right for one person, even if it's just perfect for another. (No offense again guys, but I asked lovely hubby where he'd rate himself, and I was really relieved when it was not a 10-- I joked that I didn't think I could live with a partner who was a 10!) Perhaps the number is not an actual value-- 10 is greater than 7-- but more of a perspective. Whether I choose it or not, I think a 7 (and sometimes a 6) is simply the most accurate spot for my viewpoint, and that doesn't mean that the happiness I experience is any less valuable than others, it simply is accompanied by a different share of other emotions.

Man, I don't know what I said in all that-- too many words just to say this: I've been kinda down lately thinking that I'm not choosing to be happy enough like other people, so all that thinking about not being happy made me really unhappy. But now I'm turning a corner and thinking that my level of happiness simply is what it is because that's who I am. Overall, my life is great, and for that I am happy, but I am also the product of a slew of other intensely experienced emotions as well. Does that mean I'm choosing to be happy about not being as happy as other people? Hmmm... I can't help but wonder what Lewis Black would say about all this...

Moderately happily yours,

Postscript from the next day: I think I snorted a bit of OJ up my nose from reading this at breakfast this morning. Appropriately timed, no?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I may be late to the party...

...but I still feel like these words need to be blogged.

Hey, politicians? Can I have your attention for just a moment? I know you're all out there busy-busy-busy trying to make our country a better place (however that may look through your eyes, that is), and I realize that your schedules are jam-packed with conference calls, votes, hearings, constituent meetings, baby kissing and the like, but I'd really appreciate it if you all could stop for one little moment to hear me out. I have one simple piece of advice I'd like to share with you.


I may not be the most politically informed person, but not because I don't try to be. Honestly, I have a truckload of good intentions to read and listen to various news sources, but I'm somewhat limited in time and understanding. I consider myself a mildly intelligent person, but too often, the whole procedural and structural aspects of politics simply baffle me. But this I know-- it's not too damn difficult to pay your legally required taxes. And if it's one thing that politicians should be aware of (especially the ones in the Legislative branch!!), it's the freaking law. C'mon people. Seriously.

*stepping down from soapbox*

Thanks, politicians. You are now free to roam about your political world once again. You may want to take a moment to give H & R Block a call sometime soon.

postscript: Lest anyone be misled, this is not intended to be a partisan exclamation at all. I am informed enough to know that any type of misbehavior goes both ways-- R's and D's can fill their share of headlines each, so no party-specific declarations were intended with this post!! Philosophy-- which is why I choose my own party affiliation-- doesn't always line up with individuals' actions, but I still proudly claim my personal affiliation. Man, the air up here on this soapbox is really quite thin...

now posting regularly

As I was preparing some delicious pork fajitas for tonight's dinner, my favorite item in my whole kitchen was soothing the regular sounds of evening chaos by being tuned in to... you guessed it, NPR. Yes, friends, it's time again to spread some NPR love. During All Things Considered this afternoon, they played a song they referred to as a "musical commentary," which is a term that definitely fits the bill. Be forewarned that this is not a happy-feeling-inducing kind of song. While I did chuckle a few times at some clever lyrics (my favorite being-"they want your gold, and they'll pay cash" -those commercials are everywhere-- even during the Super Bowl!), it was overwhelmingly simple and frankly, quite bleak. Loudon Wainwright III sums it up-- Times Is Hard. Check it out, and the best part is, it's NPR... so it's free!

Monday, February 02, 2009

sick and tired

I am not a fan of winter. Yeah, it would be fun to have some actual, measurable snow that would allow for my children to experience the thrill of flying down a hill toward their inevitable mild injury, and yes, it's just grand to sit by a roaring fire in our wood-burning stove until the living room feels like Bermuda. But. With winter comes the unstoppable force that is The Germ. It doesn't matter that I wash my hands approximately 437 times each day, The Germ still manages to find a way into my home, settling down for the long haul in the respiratory tracts of me and my loved ones.

JAM usually gets away with pretty mild symptoms- a sore throat here, a scratchy voice there, and this time is no different. Red is a little further on the spectrum, with a faucet for a nose... which she insists is simply too good for tissues, allowing only her left sleeve to function as a wiping instrument. And then there's Pudge. The poor kid has drippiness all over, and a cough that doesn't do much but make me want to clear my own throat incessantly. Add my 70 pound head to the mix, and there's just no happiness to be found around here. For now, lovely hubby seems to have missed the incubation period while he was living it up in Vegas, but I'm sure he'll catch up soon enough.

So that covers the sick part, and the tired part goes without saying. If I had my druthers (whatever that might be), I think I could sleep for days and days-- just throw me a few chocolates every few hours with a small glass of milk, and I'd be ecstatic. For now, I guess I'll have to settle for a 30 minute nap now, hoping that the kids don't cough themselves awake too soon.

In love with DayQuil,