Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Glimmer Of Hope

So I'm still flirting with the idea of going back to school for my Masters degree. Some days I say "screw it!" and what's the point of taking on student loans? And other days, I really want to go for it and open up new career horizons for myself down the road. There are days when I wonder if I'm pursuing a pipe dream and there won't be many (any) jobs available for the subject I most want to teach: marketing and general business classes at the high school level. It's not like there are dozens of those teachers at each school. More like one or maybe two. I need to research this more before I commit, but my gut tells me it's not the subject most in demand for teachers.

Anyhoo, Mr. Chick took both kids again this morning, giving me several hours all to myself. I decided to take that quiet, uninterrupted time and take a sample test. There are a couple of tests that a prospective teacher must take in order to be admitted to a grad program: the Praxis I or CBEST (at least in my state). So I took the sample CBEST this morning.

The CBEST is broken down into 3 areas: reading, mathmatics, and writing. You need a passing score of 41 in each area. You can get as low as 37 in one area and still pass the whole thing if you total score is at least 123 (I think that's the way it goes). Also, you don't have to take all three areas at the same time. So, with all of that in mind, and no previous prep AT ALL, I took the sample reading and mathmatics tests since those can be "scored" online immediately vs. the writing, which is more open to interpretation and therefore cannot be scored in the practice test. Of the two areas, reading is my stronger suit.

Or so I thought.

I took the reading test first. There were 50 questions in total, several questions per reading sample. I missed 7 questions. If my understanding of the scoring is correct, I would have received a 43 on that section and PASSED. Yay me! Then I moved onto the math section. Maybe it's because I was now warmed up after the reading section, but I scored a 46 on math. That's right: I did BETTER on math than reading. Total shocker. I think it's because I prefer to read off paper, not a computer screen, so that was harder for me. I found I was working the math problems out on paper - old school - so maybe that helped me. Also, I assumed it was OK to use a calculator during the test. I did maybe half the problems with a calculator and half on paper, chicken-scratch style. Oh algebra, how I used to enjoy you! Solve for y? Yes! Would you like me to show my work? I totally will! y-2 + 3y = 10. So to isolate y you first add 2 to each side of the equation, resulting in y + 3y = 12. Then consolidate y into 4y = 12. Divide each side by 4: y = 3. Voila!

I didn't even attempt the writing section of the test. Didn't even look at it. I have no idea what they would ask me to write about. Explain and expand and all that. Cripes.

There is an informational meeting at a local university on January 10th. They offer a part-time program at night that would take 20 months to complete (5 semesters). It would cost us $22k + in tuition and books. That's almost as much as we had to take in student loans for Mr. Chick to go to law school for 3 years full-time! That's the difference between a public and private university, I suppose. Anyway, I'm planning on going to the meeting and finding out more about the program and my options. The deadline for application to the program is in June. That would give me 6 months to get my shit together and take the tests, get my transcripts and recommendations, etc. I have no idea if there are any prerequisite classes for admission - guess I'll find out. If I do this and start in the fall, then I would be done in 2 years, which is right when Lauren would be starting kindergarten. Her starting kindergarten is when I'll be freed up to begin working at some level without the massive juggling act of childcare. So the timing is good. And maybe I just end up being a substitute for several years - part time work. I don't know.

All I do know is that I did decently on the sample CBEST test stone cold, which gives me a glimmer of hope that I haven't lost ALL my brain cells since being on the "mommy track", and makes me believe that maybe I can pull it off without having to go through Herculean efforts. Because study time these days? Is very, very hard to come by.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Twelve Days Of My Christmas - a review

12 - number of gifts I wrapped
11 - thank you cards I've written
10 - gifts for the kids
9 - adults at dinner
8 - dozen cookies eaten
7 - times I yelled
6 - pairs of panties received
5 - fights over toys
4 - checks instead of gifts
3 - hats made
2 - DVD's of porn
1 - successful holiday!

Yes, Christmas is over. It was a big success. The various family events all went fairly smooth, minus a few typical head-shaking moments about my mother (what's new) and her need to re-hash my high school exploits for all to remember. I'm not sure why that all came up, but it did. I'm (almost) over it.

Christmas Eve found us at my sisters house for a big dinner feast. The kids got to unwrap one (pre-determined) present: pajamas. Both of mine and all three of hers opened at the same time. There was frequent checking of the Santa tracking website all throughout the evening. It's wonderful that my oldest nephew, who is 8 yrs old, still believes. It just makes it so much fun when all the kids are still on the same page in that department. We went to church (except Mr. Chick, who begged off with the excuse to buy one more gift) and it was as expected: boring. I was not impressed with the Mass. Forget the fact that church doesn't play a role in my life these days and I'm a lapsed Catholic at best. Usually Christmas Mass is at least pretty with the decorations and the music and such. But not this one. Well, there was one pretty tree of pointsettias... mostly I was just entertained with Lauren deciding to wink at everyone. I opted not to go to Communion (not wanting to be a complete hypocrite) and that raised an eyebrow from my mother. Love that. We were home by 8:30 and quickly sprinkled the reindeer food outside and assembled cookies and milk for Santa. Then the kids got tucked into bed and drifted off to dreamland where I doubt there was much in the way of sugarplums, but I'm certain there was more than one appearance of a Leapster.

The next morning started early, but not too early. Mr. Chick must have been nuts to think he could ask the kids to wait until at least 7am before ripping and tearing into the Santa stuff. Lauren was still sleeping, but Nicholas was sitting on my side of the bed, chattering about what he was sure Santa had brought for him, and counting down the minutes - literally - until 7am. "Mama! It's 6:54. Just 6 more minutes!" followed by, "Mama! It's 6:55. Just 5 more minutes!". Yep, we all got lots of rest. Good thing we made him wait.

The kids were beside themselves with excitement when they saw that Santa had really come. Oh my! It was chaos. Ripped wrapping paper flung everywhere, shrieks of, "look! A (fill in the blank) - just what I wanted!" and mumbles, mostly from me, wondering if the coffee was made yet. Nicholas received a new Razor scooter (not what he asked for) from Santa, a Cars DVD in his stocking, and a few other minor stocking stuffers, mostly along the lines of socks and toothbrush stuff. Lauren received a dinosaur that roars (exactly what she asked for), a small My Little Pet Shop toy (another requested item) and the Curious George DVD in her stocking. Also toothbrush stuff to round things out. After breakfast we moved into the living room (where the tree is) and opened "family" gifts. The kids got an outfit each from us. We choose to let Santa get all the toy glory this year in an attempt to simplify Christmas and not go overboard. Nicholas didn't seem too disappointed that he didn't get the Leapster he so dearly wanted (there was no way in hell I was buying him a hand-held video game, "educational" or not. He's 5, for chrissakes!). He consoled himself with the thought (planted oh-so-cleverly by me out of sheer necessity) that Santa brought him a new power source for the V-Smile game system that would make it work again instead. A poor-man's solution to the problem, but it worked.

Mr. Chick's stocking was a bit more racy than the kids'. The gift I'd ordered for him didn't arrive in time, despite ordering the damn thing on Dec. 3rd (this is why I'm not a fan of online shopping!). So at the LAST MINUTE, given a rare morning to myself, I mustered up the balls to go to an "adult" store. It's not the first time I've patronized such establishments, but I'm never very comfortable doing it. But I knew it would bring the biggest grin to Mr. Chick's face if he received something from such a place. So I played Naughty Elf and did a little shopping. I ended up with two "full-feature" DVD's (hey - they were having a Buy One, Get One Free sale on previously-viewed movies!). they're Vivid productions, which I'm told tend to be of higher quality. Whatever. They're porn. It spices things up sometimes, y'know? So I wrapped them up and put them in his stocking from "Santa's naughty elf, open with caution" and reaped the rewards. If he got nothing else, that gift totally made his holiday. He was thrilled and impressed that I would do such a thing. Remember this for next year, fellow wives. You won't be sorry and he will totally cater to you for quite awhile after receiving such a gift. Seriously. So that was fun. And, like usual, he got me some fun new underwear. So we were perhaps both thinking along the same lines, it seems.

After breakfast we dressed and drove to my parents house for more family Christmas. The kids opened up more gifts and joined their cousins for hours of raucous play. The adults enjoyed my brother-in-laws famous gin fizzes and played board games, a family tradition. It was good. The kids did well and after a casual dinner we drove over to a friends house to drop off a gift for Mr. Chicks goddaughter and called it a day. We all collapsed into bed utterly exhausted and happy.

I only have one gift to return. I know! Shocking! Just one. No, I take that back - I have two gifts to exchange. One is too big and one is too small. Not bad. I received more cash than gifts from Mr. Chick's side of the family, but will have to spend a big wad of it on the dinner we went to last night for my parents 40th anniversary instead of for something for me. Somehow, I ended up paying over $100 for Mr. Chick and I to have an $9 burger + $5 salad, a $13 chicken caesar + $5 cup of soup, a beer and a glass of wine. I know - the math totally doesn't work. My sisters and I plus our husbands took our parents out. Two of my sisters work for Intel and had "2-for-1" discount cards, so my parents meals were essentially covered by those. That left the meals we all had, plus the bottle of wine we shared, and the cocktails my sister bought for everyone else who arrived before we did. So since she's single and only having to cover herself, she was exempted from the bill because she'd already forked over $45 for drinks. That left the 3 of us to split the bill of over $330 (including the automatic 18% gratutity. Gah - I HATE those policies because our service wasn't so fantastic and I want the choice to decide how much to tip based on the service level). I don't mind that much, since it was for a good cause and all, but somehow it just doesn't seem fair that Mr. Chick and I ate two of the least expensive meals, didn't have any drinks beyond a single beer for Mr. Chick and a small glass of wine from the community bottle for me, and yet had to pay as much as everyone else who ordered the seafood specials and such and got to enjoy several cocktails. So much for budgeting. I had asked how we wanted to handle the bill before anyone ordered, saying we could just pay for ourselves. But I was overruled by the group and the restaurant policy to not do separate tabs for large parties. Damn those bastards. But it was a lovely time, minus yet another discussion of my high school mishaps.

I hope everyone had a memorable holiday and enjoyed the festivities with those you love. Now we can all get back to normal, right?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

37 Is The New 26

Today is my birthday - Happy Birthday to MEEEEE!! 37 short years ago I was born, my parents first baby, and quite a Christmas gift indeed. They brought me home from the hospital on Christmas Eve in a big red stocking. I can barely claim to have been born in the 60's, but yet by 10 days, I can. 1969, baby - whooppee!

37 seems sort of like a "nothing" age. It's not monumental. It's not a milestone as far as I can tell. It's definitely middle-age sounding. Suddenly, 40 doesn't sound that old anymore. Strange... but alas, here I am celebrating my 37th birthday and so far, it's off to a good st
art. Not spiked eggnog for breakfast good, but good nonetheless.

A couple of weeks ago my parents gave Mr. Chick and I a new digital camera and photo printer for our collective birthdays. yay!! We've been wanting/needing one for so long. Now I need Santa to put a fat memory card in my stocking so I can store more than 12 pictures on my new camera, but that's another occasion.

Two of my sisters gave me workout clothes, which I desperately needed. We had a little soiree for my mothers birthday over the weekend and they gave me my gifts then. So
it's sort of like I've been celebrating my birthday for days and days (not a bad thing!) I'm not sure whether to be happy or pissed that the jog bra (size L) I was given is too big. Happy because hey! a large is too big! Or pissed because of what that says about my aging boobs. I'm not going to think too hard about it. My other sister included a swimsuit in her gift to me, which is quite daring of her. I mean, to give someone a swimsuit? That they haven't tried on? It's just fraught with risk and danger. But I love her for it because it's a size 10 (!) and is a really cute, sporty Nike one-piece for playing at the lake and possibly lap swimming, which I love to do (damn the YMCA for keeping their lap lanes too hot to accommodate the geriatric crowd and swim lessons and making it uncomfortable for lap swimmers like me!). I've not been brave enough to try it on yet. Maybe after a few spiked eggnogs.

Then this morning, my actual birthday, Mr. Chick made the coffee and got Nicholas to make me an adorable card with lots and lots of hearts all over it, and had the kids bring me two gifts to be opened in bed, where all birthday presents should be opened. First was the kick-ass CD of Boston's Greatest Hits (LOVE the song More Than A Feeling!) one of my favorite CD's that I didn't have yet but totally wanted, and the other present was a new Nike watch. I completely knew about the watch (that's what happens when your friends who can shop at the employee store drop it off at your house by handing it directly to the intended recipient - oh well.) but am stoked to get it because I so needed a new watch. My old Nike watch saw me through both kids as babies and all the night feedings, etc. plus the marathon I did back in 1999. I never took the thing off - I slept with it on, I showered with it - everything. It was a part of me. And when the band finally broke last spring, I felt lost without it. It's nice to have a new one. A new fixture and timepiece. Now I'll no longer be that annoying person who's always asking what time it is. Everyone can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

As for plans for my birthday, nothin' much. I'll be spending some time on my knees today (get your filthy mind out of the gutter) grouting the new tile floor in the kitchen. Oh what fun. Later tonight, after dinner, I want to go to ZooLights with the family for some festive fun and then come home and enjoy the homemade apple pie Mr. Chick made. I'm not much of a cake person, but I love me some apple pie. Since I was about 9 I've always had an apple pie for my birthday instead of cake. It's my thing. Mr. Chick got all the ingredients he needed for the pie last night and spent some time peeling and slicing the apples so they're ready for the pie making later today. That's love, people. Having your husband make you an apple pie for your birthday from scratch is love. And I'm feelin' it today.

So yes, I'm officially 37 today but don't feel a day older than 26. I might not get carded much anymore, but I think I'm holding up well. If pushed, I think I could even pass for 26. So there! I can even still fit into some of the clothes I wore when I was 26. They might be a bit tighter in places, but I'm just happy I can get them on. THAT'S a gift. I'm not sure I should still HAVE clothes I wore when I was 26 still in my closet, though. Fashion queen I'm not. But they're classic pieces, I swear!

Just like me.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Value Of A Dollar

First, we're fine - thanks for asking. We didn't lose power. It flickered a couple of times, and the winds were scary-strong (oh those trees were swaying something fierce! Yikes!), but thankfully nothing disasterous happened. The next morning our street was covered with all sorts of tree debris - branches and twigs and needles everywhere. Some of the branches that came down were pretty big, but none landed such that damage was caused. It took me a couple of hours to pick up in my front yard alone, nevermind the backyard and decks. I rushed to fill the can before the truck came (it was pick-up day, as luck would have it) and managed to overfill the sucker. The guy took it anyway and told me that if I hurried I could re-fill the can and put it across the street and he'd pick it up for me again. I hustled to shovel my pile into the can a 2nd time and dragged it across the street just in the nick of time and got a 2nd pickup. Then, the remaining debris just about filled the can a 3rd time, but I'll have to wait for the next weeks' pick-up. And that was just a down-and-dirty tidying of the yard/sidewalk. That doesn't include all the crap that's on our roof or the backyard.

So the the lame attempt to make a logical segue into the title of this post, Mr. Chick told Nicholas he'd pay him a nickle for every pinecone he picked up in the backyard. So far, we haven't been paying our kids any form of allowance but have discussed when to begin. This was our first toe in the water. Nicholas got as high as 107 pinecones before Mr. Chick stopped him and said that was enough and he'd pay him $5 for his efforts. Nicholas was so excited to earn $5!

He began to immediately think about how he'd spend his money. First thought? Buy something from the vending machine at the YMCA. I rarely allow the kids to have junk from vending machines, but that doesn't stop them from asking. Just about every time we go there (which is several times a week) they plead for something from the vending machine. The lure of chips and candy is very strong. So Nicholas, now flush with cold, hard cash, decides he wants to spend some of it on the vending machine.

"Please Mama! I'll buy something healthy like pretzels!" cries my little master negotiator. He so knows how to work me, I swear.

So we let him buy the pretzels and he's thrilled to get a quarter back from his dollar. "more money, Mama!" I think we need to step up the money lessons, yes? Maybe he doesn't understand much about the concepts of change because I so rarely have cash, instead making the majority of my purchases with my debit card. No change!

Then today it was time to return the shoes he was demo'ing. He wore these shoes nearly everyday for almost a month and for his trouble he was to be paid $25. And again, he started deciding how he wanted to spend his money, like right now. It just so happens that right down the street from the research company is one of my favorite toy stores. Also as luck would have it, I needed to buy one last present for Mr. Chick's goddaughter. So we went. I tried discussing with Nicholas all the different things he could do with his money: a) put it all in the bank. b) hold onto it until after Christmas and if he didn't get something he really wanted he could then go buy it with his money. c) blow it today at the toy store, or d) use the shoe money to buy himself new shoes, which he'll need in another couple of months or so. I was really pushing a, b or d, but Nicholas was high on the idea of c. Of course he was. Did I really expect anything different?? Not really, but a mother could hope.

I really wasn't wild about the idea of letting him buy himself a toy this close to Christmas, but then again, it's HIS money and these are good opportunities for learning. In the store he kept running the numbers: "I have $25 from my shoes, and Daddy still owes me $4 more from the pinecones. That means I have - how much do I have, Mama??" and "these Legos cost $44, and I only have $25, so I can't get these." I was fascinating witnessing this. He scoured the entire store, letting me know which toys he liked best and which ones he could afford. With my help, he narrowed the choices down to just a couple, and I steered him (gently, gently) towards one in particular. It cost $19.95.

He decided to buy that toy (a really cool toy called Frigits that are a collection of shutes and wheels and such that are magnetic and the child can create a path for a marble. It starts at the top and you have to place the various shutes, ramps, buckets and wheels in place to catch and keep the marble going until it lands in the catch bucket at the bottom. Love it!) and agreed to put the remainder of his money in the bank. He figured out that would be $9. He was quite pleased with himself for being able to buy a new toy AND have money to put in the bank.

We've always encouraged savings, and each of the kids have their own savings accounts. Every so often we go to the bank and the kids are involved in doing the banking transaction. They enjoy it and think it's fun. And shoot! I swear these kids have more money in savings than I do! But I don't want to be stodgy and ONLY push savings over spending money. I think it's important to teach the value of a dollar. How else will they learn?? What I need to become better at is finding creative ways to do this that are age-appropriate. How do other parents handle the spend/save issue with their young kids? I want to develop solid saving habits, but I also want them to understand money from a spending/value point of view. Tricky stuff. I heard somewhere that more parents are comfortable discussing sex with their kids than discussing money and the family finances.

What have you taught your kids about money?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday, dear Mr. Chick
Happy Birthday to youuuuu!!!

I love you. You've never looked hotter and this life journey with you is even better than I could have ever imagined. I truly believe I picked the best possible person to be my partner. You are a wonderful friend, an inspiring father, and a loving husband. You can't sing to save your life, but that's ok, because you make ME sing in all sorts of crazy ways.

Here's to celebrating countless more birthdays together!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Part of my morning ritual, at least most days, is flipping through the newspaper. We subscribe to it daily. Sometimes I only have time to skim the paper, sometimes I can dig a little deeper and read several articles, and sometimes I can only manage to squeeze in a few of my favorite comics. We all have our priorities.... I find that reading the paper is better, usually, than watching the news on TV. I find the graphic images and sometimes shocking content of the television news can be a bit more than I'm comfortable with my kids seeing and/or hearing. The paper, however, is a different story. And I must confess to preferring to actually read and handle the newspaper physically vs. reading the news on the computer. There's just something comfortable and familiar in that tactile-ness that I'll always prefer.

Some mornings the news isn't anything that sticks with me. Today, for some reason, several articles are still banging about in my brain and I'm sure I'll be churning on them throughout most of the day. For example:

Front Page: another article about the Kim Family tragedy. I can't shake thinking about this family. They sort of represent Every Family, in a way, and we can all see ourselves in them. At least I can. And since what happened to them happened in my state there has been a LOT of coverage. Today's article discusses the fact that the gate to the road the Kim family drove down in an attempt to get out of the snow was actually left unlocked by BLM employees, not vandals as previously thought. What would have happened - how would things have been different - had that gate been locked and they couldn't have gone down that random spur road? Could someone be held accountable for contributing to James Kim's death as a result? Likely not, since it's a government agency vs. a private individual, but still - could this lead to some civil suit for negligent homicide or manslaughter? If YOU were Kati Kim, would you seek legal recourse? My heart goes out to Kati Kim this holiday and I hope she can find some peace and joy in her girls this holiday, despite James no longer being there.

Front Page: More wind storms predicted - worse than it was 11 years ago when innumerable big trees were knocked down leaving thousands and thousands without power and 4 people died. Expect sea swells of 40+ feet and 100+mph wind gusts. Great - I live under the canopy of about 7-8 gigantic trees, and hundreds more surround me in the neighbors yards and beyond. It's raining big fat buckets today, saturating the ground once again right before this storm rolls in. I'm going to be worrying all night long that one or more of the trees won't be able to sustain the wind gusts and will come down on the house.

Hmmm... yet another big sale at Macy's. Yawn. Good thing my shopping is done. Does anyone ever pay full price there? Ever? Because eventually it's all on sale. They must spend the equivalent of a small nations' GNP on advertising - geez!

World: HIV studies reveal that circumcision can help protect men from the virus that causes AIDS. A very controversial subject here in the US with parents of newborn babies. To circumcise or not? Big debate with strong feelings on both sides of the issue. This article states that two studies show that in countries where the more traditional, tribal practice of circumcision still happen the AIDS death rates are noticeably lower than in countries that are more "western" and no longer circumcise as routinely. It says that in Kenya and Uganda they found that circumcised men are about 50% less likely to contract HIV than in those who are not. Now the question is what to do with this information. Medical personnel want to educate these men and at least offer circumcision to them. They wonder if it's possible to offer the procedure widely enough to slow an epidemic that kills millions of people each year, mostly poor Africans with little access to safe, modern medical facilities. What effect will this information have here in the USA with regards to this hot-topic? Will the pediatric professionals ultimately repeal their stance that circumcision is no longer a medical recommendation? If your sons are not circumcised, does this information make you question your decision?

Metro: Portland kids campaign to get Jay Leno to eat his vegetables, and he does! Live! With the kids participating via telecast. A recent feature of Jay Leno in Parade magazine mentioned the fact that Leno hadn't eaten a vegetable since 1969. This class of 2nd graders were just finishing up a unit on nutrition and decided to write letters to Mr. Leno urging him to eat his vegetables "for his health" and offered suggestions to make them more palatable. So, he did, with their help and encouragement. Good for you, kids! I'll be thinking of ways to get Lauren to eat a vegetable today, something she can detect at 50 paces and uniformly rejects.

Living: For $20 million you can give the ultimate Christmas gift: a vacation in space! Yep, for that cool price you get to spend 8 days aboard the International Space Station where you'll orbit Earth 16 times a day. Ummm, will there be room service and spa treatments available? Because that's my idea of a vacation, and if I'm dropping that much cash there has to be at least a mini bar. I'm just sayin'. I think my dad is tough to shop for, but he'll have to be happy with the iPod Shuffle and iTunes my sisters and I are getting for him. Maybe for his birthday - ??

Yes, these are the subjects that I'll be thinking about today and talking about with Mr. Chick later tonight as we sit in our living room, sipping wine, and enjoying the glow of our Christmas tree this kids are I are decorating this afternoon. What's on your mind today?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bah Humbug!

I suppose it was inevitable - it happens to the best of us. If you choose to blog you apparently also put out a big fat welcome mat for all the trolls of the internet. WELCOME! Feel free to bash me and my kids to your hearts content! No really, say all the mean-spirited, ugly, judgemental comments you want. I apparently ASK for it because I blog. I get it. Hate away. And you're right, it doesn't say a THING about you to leave such comments.

I never understand these people. Who does this? Oh, wait - according to one of my trolls *I'M* the one actually doing this. Or, at least one of my many personalities is. Uh-huh, sssuuurrreee. These hateful trolls hide behind the Anonymous shield and spew forth their venom. What does this get them? Do they feel somehow vindicated that they "told me off"? Somehow took me down a peg or two? Perhaps they feel that by being so "brutally honest" they're really helping me by opening my eyes to the shame I should be feeling for blogging about myself and my family. Or better, that they'll convince me to not blog at all anymore. I'm not sure how that will help them in the end because if my blog is so offensive to them they could easily solve their problem BY GOING AWAY. Period end of sentance. But maybe that's their goal - to rid the interweb of all bloggers altogether! But wouldn't that also end their fun? Because clearly they spend time reading such blogs...

Do I expect everyone to like me and my family? Take an avid interest in the everyday details of our lives? No. Hell no, in fact. I don't fancy my family any more interesting than yours in the grand scheme of things. We're very normal and typical. But my life is interesting to ME, and the devil is in the details, so that's what I write about. To remember. To vent. To commisserate. To even show-off some when I'm feeling particularly proud of something (including my kids). As we ALL do from time to time.

I'm always surprised and get a little thrill when someone leaves a comment on my blog. It's a very small blog, after all. I'm no Dooce or Amalah or any of the other "big" bloggers out there. I'm in the cheap seats of the blogging auditorium and they are the main act. I get that. I'm not aspiring to be that blog/blogger. But the occasional comment will come in and give me some feedback on something I wrote. Usually, it's positive, which I appreciate. Someone who "gets" what I'm saying. Sometimes, someone will disagree with me, or present a different viewpoint. And that's cool, too, when it's done respectfully and thoughtfully. I dig when that happens because I like seeing things from a different perspective. Most of my posts are silly and garner no comments. None. And that's ok. I don't write for comments. But when I do receive a comment, I like for it to be useful. Telling me how horrible my kids look is NOT useful. You don't have to think they're cute, but telling me specifically they're not is hurtful. I can guarantee that no one else thinks your kids are as cute as you do, but that's all that matters - that YOU think your kids are cute and the greatest people on the planet. I don't expect anyone else to think Nicholas and Lauren are as great as I think they are. But that doesn't mean it's ok to tell a mother that her kids are fugly. What am I supposed to do with that? Yes, I usually just ignore it. But it's still "out there" and it's still a horrible thing to say to someone. By saying such things, are you trying to goad me into a cyber-fight? What else could I possibly say except "you're wrong - I think they're beautiful. So there!" What does that get us? Because I can guarantee that I'm not suddenly going to look at my two babies and decide that yep, the trolls ARE right - they're hideous! They should be stricken from the Earth! I bore truly ugly kids - woe is me!

Some people obviously feel that I share waaayyyy too many personal things on this blog. And they're right. I do discuss topics you wouldn't necessary chat about at a cocktail party. And that's exactly why I blog about them. Sometimes it's just easier to "talk" about them in forum so public it's essentially anonymous. And let's be frank - somethings are just funny to talk about. I took some crap about blogging about Mr. Chick's vasectomy. A few people wondered if nothing in my life was sacred and how could I even consider sharing such details??! And then last night while I was making dinner a re-run of a sitcom came on - the one with Jim Belushi and the chick from Melrose Place - shoot! I can't remember the name of it since it's not a show I ever really watch. What's it called?? Anyway, it came on and whaddya know? Jim and his wife were sitting anxiously for a pg test to be completed and were THRILLED when it turns out whe wasn't pg and then decided that Jim should get a vasectomy. The show went on to show Jim on the table with his feet in the stirrups as the doctor was running through the procedure, etc. Now, I ask you, if such a subject is considered comedy fodder for a television show, what's so wrong with me discussing it here??! I'm just askin', because some people clearly got their panties in a twist about it.

But mostly, I'm upset about the lack of common courtesy displayed by people. To say such hurtful things when there is no need simply boggles my mind. I just don't roll like that, I guess. You have to make a conscious effort to type out a flame-a-gram comment when it would've been so much easier to just click to another website and leave well enough alone. What void must they be trying to fill in their lives that saying nasty things to a stranger makes them feel better??


And so, I'm putting it out there to tell all trolls to keep it to themselves. Please. Because even if you think you're being helpful in some warped way, you aren't. Even if you think it's somehow funny, it's not. This is my family, and hateful comments about them affect me. I know it shouldn't, but it does. I more than welcome constructive comments and think a healthy, respectful debate is fun and informative, but the haters need to beat it. Fast. I'm not asking for ass-kissing commenter only, but I do ask they be respectful. Don't like what I'm writing? Don't read it. No one is forcing you, or even asking you to. You have the power to control what you spend your time on, and if my little blog isn't your cup of tea, change the damn channel. I love my family more than anything else in this world and don't appreciate people bashing on them. And just because I have a "public" blog does NOT mean it's ok and all bets are off. They're not, believe me. If you don't like something my daughter is wearing, keep it to yourself. If you think my son is a geek, save it. If you have a new idea for how I might approach solving a parental dilemma I'm having, tell me all about it! See how it works?

Good. We all have to play in this sandbox, so let's make nice and everyone will have more fun. Deal?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's Beginning To Look...

...a lot like Christmas! And, even better, I'm very much enjoying it. So far the holidays have not stressed me out. I don't usually get too stressed out and worked up about the holidays and instead find myself enjoying the season. It's mid-December and I'm pretty much done with my gift buying (but gift making is a completely different story...) and I've addressed all the envelopes (by hand - no computer-generated labels here) for our holiday card/letter (all 75+ of them), and we've started decorating the house. Started, but nowhere near being done. We have the tree, but it's still in the garage drying out. We'll hopefully get it in place in our living room tonight after Mr. Chick gets home from work. Then on Wednesday the kids and I can decorate it. Fun! But our stockings are hung by our chimney with care, so that's a start. I don't have many festive decorations for the house, so it takes me very little time to get them unpacked and put somewhere. The tree is the biggest thing and takes center stage.

Gifts this year were easy. My kids are at the perfect ages to buy for, and are both deeply embracing the belief of Santa. We've been to see old Kris Kringle and picked the perfect time to do it - NO LINES! I know! I was blown away, expecting to wait in a super-long line for our turn to sit with Santa and tell him what their little hearts yearn for. But we walked right up and got to just hang out with Mr. C for awhile, chillin'. It was great. And HE was great - REAL beard, very decent suit, not creepy. Plus he gave the kids full-size candy canes, not the itty-bitty ones. He'll be bringing Nicholas a new big-boy scooter (Razor) and the Cars movie in his stocking (along with a new toothbrush, socks, and jump rope), and Lauren will be getting a remote-controlled dinosaur that ROARS (exactly per request) and the Curious George movie in her stocking (along with a My Little Petshop creepy-looking toy she really really wanted and a new toothbrush to match her brother. They blink for 1-minute to help the kids brush long enough). From us the kids will be getting new pj's (to be opened on Christmas Eve with their cousins, who are also getting pj's), and a new outfit each. I know - boring - but Santa is getting all the glory this year. I had to buy something for the kids from their Opa and picked out a MarbleWorks set for Nicholas and a cash register for Lauren. They'll LOVE them. I think that's more than plenty for these kids. I wanted to get them stuff they'd be excited about without going overboard. I hope each toy/present isn't lost in the shuffle but cherished and appreciated. They'll also be getting gifts from grandparents and aunts, so they'll have nothing to complain about. Very fortunate kids. And, we didn't break the bank (much).

As for the gifts I'm making, I've finished one hat and am nearly done with the 2nd. That leaves just one more to go with 2 weeks to get it done. Should be doable, but close. I also need to make a beaded necklace for my mother and one for my great-aunt (the one who taught me to knit). Likely, Mr. Chick will ask me (at the last minute, no doubt) to make something for his mother and grandmother. So I'll have to work those in as well. The handmade gifts are the most stressful part of this holiday season by far. It can be tricky to find time to sit and work on them. We're still up to our eyeballs with the floor remodel, so that's a time-suck as well.

Oh well - perhaps snacking on yet another cookie and sipping yet another hot chocolate while listening to holiday music and/or the audio of another holiday movie while I knit my brains out will help.

Is anyone else mostly stress-free and able to kick back and enjoy the holiday season? I hope I'm not alone... this should be a time of wonder and excitement, not bitterness, anxiety and stress and financial ruin. If you're overwhelmed, join me in a cookie! I'm finding that cookies seem to help with most everything this time of year...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Future Model?

Like an idiot, I had Lauren's portrait taken this week. During the holiday rush. When every other family in the world is having pictures taken. Good plan! I *thought* I had a reservation with Picture People, where I normally have the kids annual photos done, but the numb-nuts there couldn't find it. Couldn't find it! I had called exactly 45 minutes prior to make the appointment, but they managed to lose it in that short time. And I had to wait nearly 20 minutes in line just to find out they had no record of me and couldn't fit me in - yay!

I was not going to be deterred. Lauren *never* agrees to be in a dress - never - but was willingly wearing one for her pictures and I was NOT going to waste the opportunity. So with two kids in tow and a mall full of people, we began to hunt for a place to take her pictures on a walk-in basis. Oh what an adventure - ! JC Penny - nope. They actually had to surpress the urge to laugh in my face for even suggesting a walk-in appointment. Sears, however, saved me. They were running late, but if I didn't mind coming back in an hour they could fit me in. We killed the hour by playing with the bowling toy and basketball hoop toy down near the tools, and by watching the last 40 minutes of Ice Age 2 on a huge 50" television in amazing HDTV. An hour well-spent.

We returned to the portrait studio and were added to the line-up of waiting families, all of whom except us were there for holiday photos. The group ahead of us was an extended family of no less than 16 kids. The place was a circus, to say the least. And not to sound catty (oh, who am I kidding - I'm totally going to sound catty!), but the girls in that big group were wearing the ugliest dresses I've seen in a long time. Seriously bad. Like bad holiday prom dresses being recycled on these girls. One coupled scrunched knee-high black boots with a shiny satin tea-length dress with shoulder pads that would make Crystal Carrington weep with envy. It was NOT a good look and I had to bite my tongue. Most of them were wearing those gawdy frilly holiday dresses you see in all the mall stores this time of year. The ones that make me shudder in their horribleness. The ones that look terribly tacky instead of classically tasteful. The girls all looked very awkward (but I'm sure they thought they were the height of glamour) and I can't imagine how that photo shoot ultimately turned out. Yikes. Pity the grandparents who I'm sure are the intended recipients of this trainwreck for having to display that photo for years to come.

Finally, we were called. Being December and all, they assumed we were here for holiday pictures as well and had the backdrop all set up. "um, no - we're here for her 3 year old portraits.". So without discussing anything with me regarding the photos I was hoping for beyond knowing what was prompting the visit, they started setting up a backdrop with really cartoonish birthday presents and balloons and such crap. "Um, no. I'm not really a fan of that sort of photo image. I'd like a cleaner, simple and classic background for the pictures please." (sidenote: do a lot of people really go for that sort of tacky background? Really? Because to me those are the worst! I am not big on props or backdrops or anything "fake" in studio photos.) We settled on a simple white backdrop and nothing else. Perfect.

The photographer started out by having Lauren sit on this pedastal, which she did. Then she was asked to cross her hands on her lap, which she did. Then the photographer said "smile!", and she did. Lauren moved easily from one pose to the other, being a pliable little model and going with the flow. She never complained, never shuffled about, never cried. She simply moved where she was asked, and once in place, turned on a big, beaming smile. Right on cue. Like she's been modeling for years or something. Of course, many times the smile was overly exaggerated and over-the-top, but she was doing it and performing like a champ. We got a lot of great shots from which to choose. The photographer commented to me that Lauren was the easiest 3 year old she's ever worked with, and that's sayin' something considering how many kids she must deal with in her job. We were in and out of the studio in about 15-20 minutes. Record time for the day. But since the other groups were taking a friggin' eternity to view their pictures and hogging all the computers on which to do so, I elected to return the following day to view them and place my order.

We went back the next day and saw the photos. Lots of cute ones! I'm NOT a photo studio ideal customer in that I rarely buy much. I'm only after 1 sheet - something I can frame and add to the collection of special family photos. All those packages? Yeeeahhh - no thanks. I'll just take my 2 5x7's and be done with it, and I'm only getting 2 of those because you can't buy just one 5x7 (to which I add a white mat and black 8x10 frame - all very consistent with the other pictures.). But since we live in the digital age, they give me a link to all the photos from the set - for additional orders. But me? I save a copy of the electronic image to my computer and send out the photo via email to friends and family vs. buying and sending an actual photo. It works for me.

I long for the day when we can have stunning photos taken from somewhere other than a mall studio. Not that they do terrible work, but it just doesn't compare to the photos generated by a truly talented photographer who's not churning out formulaic pictures for the masses. Sadly, our budget doesn't support that kind of photography - yet. Someday. But for now, we'll enjoy the photos we have and cherish them always.

If you'd like to see a few more of Lauren's portraits, go here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Where I Make The Pitch To Be The New Depends Spokesperson

I went to the gym the other day to workout. This is not noteworthy or new per se, but normally I park the kids in Child Watch and then head to the treadmills for a run. This day I was not feeling the treadmills. It simply wasn't happening for me. So I grabbed the latest trashy mag and spent some time on the stationary bike. Again, not feeling it. I could NOT settle down into my workout - any workout, it seemed.

So I must have been tickled by the crazy stick and had the brainstorm to head to the basement weight room for a different kind of workout. I don't normally spend any time there - it's the "manly" weight room. Big and quiet and filled with lots and lots of machines and iron. You don't often see ladies pumping iron in there. They tend to be found upstairs in the "softer" workout areas. You know, where there is at least some form of carpet on the floor (vs. that stinky black rubber mat stuff) and the machines are clean and white and there are windows and the hand-weights/dumbbells are covered in bright foam vs. cold, hard steel like downstairs. Anyway, I ventured into the manly portion of the YMCA and set about winging an impromptu workout on the fly.

I spied a jump rope and beelined for it. Why I have no idea - I haven't jumped rope since I was a kid. But for some reason it struck me as just what I was looking for that day. Thankfully there weren't many people in the dungeon when I started jumping because I looked like a complete ass. I was skipping rope like a school kid - you know, where you jump and then do an extra little hop between jumps over the rope. Very ridiculous looking. So I thought I'd channel Rocky Balboa and speed up my rope and only jump once per rotation. Better, but still clumsy at first because I kept tripping up. The rope would hit my head weird as it went over me, or it would snag on my ankle. I couldn't get the rhythm down at first.

But then, it clicked. I was jumping like they do in the boxing movies when they show the underdog training for the big fight! I was rockin' the jump rope! And boy howdy, it was definitely getting my heartrate up! So I started pacing myself: jump for 50, then do 10-15 push-ups (girl style - who are we kidding here?), then jump for another 50 then do 25 sit ups. Jump again then do arm curls or whatever. I was enjoying my strange new workout and feeling all powerful and strong when my reality came crashing through: I'm a woman whose given birth twice.

Yep, you guessed it: my bladder started to give way with all that jumping.

I don't normally have bladder control issues in my everyday life. I can run, play with the kids, ride bikes, race up stairs, etc., all without feeling like I needed to be a spokesperson for Depends. But jumping? Jumping must be my weakness. I noticed this "issue" a couple of times before when I would get in those big inflatable jumping bounce house thingies with the kids. But nothing much. I conveniently forgot about that when I took up with the jump rope. It's not like I wet myself to the point of emptying my bladder, but little drops would sort of squirt out and surprise me. What the hell - ?? This only happens to the elderly or my mother, who actually had to have surgery to lift her bladder after she had 4 ginormous babies. We used to make fun of her (sorry, mom!) for having to physically grab herself to stop from peeing unintentionally. And now? Now I seem to be headed for the same fate. Well, perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself, but still - having urine leak out of you when you did not give them command for it to do so sort of kills the buzz and makes you realize that yes, you ARE turning into your mother.

I guess the next time I decide to repeat this particular workout I'll be prepared with my Poise Pads or something, because jumping rope? It really does kick ass - wet pants or not.

Has this happened to you? Have you experienced some urine leakage at a most inopportune time? Would more kegal exercises help? What have you done about it??

Now I'm off to the gym again to attempt to negate the effects of tonights cocktails, dinner and cookie exchange with the girls. I think this time I'll stick to the treadmill.

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