Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Lips Are Sealed

Can I just say that goldfish are dirty and disgusting? Okay, thank you. That being said, my child has four. Well, a Shubunkin (translation carp) and three small black Moors (translation goldfish cousins). And I have no idea how they can turn a tank full of clean water into a yucky murky mess in an hour, but they do. With gusto. It's almost as if they take pride in how quickly they can dirty their living space. Not unlike some small children. We had a plecostomus (algae eater), but he went belly up. Literally. I failed to realize this at first, because the stream coming from the filter had a sort of animatronic effect on him, so he looked alive. He was yuppin' and yowsin' (my brother J's phrase for jumping around with gusto, or being animated) in such a way that he appeared to be swimming under his own power. After watching him slam himself into the pirate ship a few dozen times, it occurred to me he might not be captain of his ship after all. So I scooped him. And flushed him. If there's one thing I know, it's how to dispose of aquatic animal carcasses. Sometimes they get tossed in the garbage, or down the disposal (ewww, right?) or flushed. It just depends on my mood, really. I refuse to feed them to the cats, because I'm fairly certain I don't want to be the Eve to their Adam. You know, giving them a taste of the forbidden fruit? That would just create problems for everyone. Mostly me. And I'm all about minimizing my list of problems.

In my previous attempts to keep the tank water somewhat clean, I have resorted to sucking the yuckiness out with a turkey baster. We don't have a need for a turkey baster in our kitchen, because J fries our turkeys. J can sense if I'm even thinking about roasting a turkey, and he'll appear out of nowhere and say, "Wouldn't rather have me fry that instead?" And yes I would. Because that's some good eating right there. Have you tried it? You should. But make sure you THAW the turkey before dropping it in a vat of hot oil. So there's my cooking tip for the day. No need to thank me...

Anywho, the baster worked fine, but it was a slow and messy process. I finally gave in and decided to procure a gravel vacuum. I had two choices. Pay $30 for some fancy you-don't-have-to-work-to-get-it-to-siphon number, or pay $8 for a length of plastic tubing and a plastic cylinder you connect to the tubing. Sold. As I read the instructions on how to get the siphon action started, WyoBaby said, "You know, my little friend has one of those, and he just sucks on it a few times, and that gets it going." To which I replied, "Well, your little friend is a boy, and as such, may not have many qualms about placing his lips in a situation where there's the slightest chance they might come into contact with yucky fish water. If Mommy did that, I'd have to scrub my lips with Clorox, and we both know that's not safe. Plus, if Daddy found out my lips had touched nasty fish water, he might not want to smooch me anymore, and that would be a bummer, because I kinda like smooching Daddy." And she replied, "Gross Mom, that's more disgusting than dirty fish water!!! Eww. Eww. Eww!" She has a flair for the dramatic. I'm pretty sure she learned it from her father.

Armed with a mop bucket and the little gravel vacuum, I set out to clean the dirty buggers' tank this morning. According to the directions on the package, I was supposed to pump the vacuum up and down in the water a few times to get the siphon going. I guess I wasn't pumping the right way, because it took more than a few times to get it working, but when it did? It worked like a charm! It was sucking that gravel clean like nobody's business. But I wasn't really paying attention to how quickly it was sucking out the water. That puppy was movin'! I'm pretty sure the fish were saying "Whoa. Whoa! WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA!!!!! WHERE THE HECK IS THE WATER GOING?! HEY YOU, YEAH YOU, THE ONE WITH THE DEATH TUBE!! SLOW DOWN LADY!!" Have you ever read The Water Hole by Graeme Base? It takes about 15 pages for the animals' watering hole to shrink down to nothing. I did that in about 30 seconds. Excellent book, by the way; the illustrations are phenomenal. He's also the author of Animalia, another beautiful book. You should check 'em out if you have kiddos. Fortunately for me (yeah, the fish too), I stopped just before my mop bucket overflowed. I added clean water and changed the filter (turns out I might have put it in backward the first time), and we were good to go. Best eight bucks I've spent in a long time. And I didn't even have to touch yucky fish water to my lips. Lucky for J, eh?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

But, Where Is the Awesomeness?

Sometimes, it's best to remember things the way they were. Just leave them in the past; don't revisit them, because I'm here to tell you, if you do, you might find yourself holding a big bag of disappointment. And life as you know it will never be the same. It could rattle you to your very foundation. Trust me on this, people.

Saturday night, after my beloved Ax Man and I made beautiful tree killing music, we sat down with WyoBaby to find a decent movie on t.v. Can you imagine my excitement when, while scrolling through the guide, I came upon The Karate Kid?! Oh how I loved this movie. I had a hugenormous crush on Ralph 'Babyface' Macchio. I can't tell you the number of times my friend Tiff and I watched this movie, sighing and drooling and cheering when he did his Crane Technique to beat Johnny and Elisabeth Shue came running onto the mat to hug and smooch him! And when The Karate Kid II came out? Oh my word we were excited!! Not one, but TWO Ralph 'Babyface' Macchio movies!! The bliss! The ecstasy!

Naturally, when I discovered it was just about to start, I hollered, "OH MY GOSH WYOBABY!! THE KARATE KID! YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS MOVIE, I LOVED IT!!" So the three of us watched this awesome movie. Only, it wasn't awesome. Not even a little bit. It was cheesy. It was hokey, but not in a good way. The acting, oh the acting...yikes. And the soundtrack? Bad 80s muzak versions of I-don't-know-what-music. And of course, what cheesy 80s movie would be complete without the musical montage? But WyoBaby loved it! She was entranced! And J loved it when Mr. Miyagi made Daniel wax the cars, because then he walked around the house using his best Mr. Miyagi voice, saying, "Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off." Oh but he was enjoying that. And when we reached the end, and Johnny and his bad guy cronies were beating up on Daniel-san something fierce, and it looked like curtains for The Karate Kid? I couldn't wait for that Crane Technique kick which would finish Johnny. The anticipation was killing me! And then all of a sudden, the movie was over! Nothing. Just Daniel hopping up from the mat after a wicked kick to his already-injured-leg, and getting into his Crane position and boom! It was over in five seconds! I turned to J and said, "Hunh. I remember the whole final scene with the big Crane Technique kick as being waaay more suspenseful and exciting." To which J replied, (in a brief break from his Mr. Miyagi impersonations) "Yeah, so did I. Hunh. Go figure."

Life as I knew it was forever changed. The Karate Kid wasn't awesome. It wasn't even all that good. But WyoBaby loved it so much, she wanted to stay up to watch the second one. I was so bummed, I had to lie down, and try to make sense of this new topsy-turvy parallel universe in which I found myself. I mean, in what world is The Karate Kid not awesome?

So you see? It's best to leave certain things in the past. Trust me. If you don't, you'll find yourself asking, "But, where is the awesomeness?" And no one will be able to answer you, because it turns out the awesomeness was all in your head.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Wisdom of Children

One of the great things about being a parent is hearing all the little words and phrases kids use. And one of the things which really cracks me up is when WyoBaby says things just a little differently than most adults. For example, we don't use nail polish in our house. If you're going to give yourself a mani-pedi, you use pay nailish. And for the longest time, we caught calepittars and put them in jars, hoping they would disappear into cocoons and emerge as flutterbys. We're big fans of mazagines, because there are so many interesting articles to read. Sadly, WyoBaby is outgrowing many of these words. But the other day we were in Walmart (good grief, I spend some time in that dang place!) when WyoBaby turned to me and asked, "Mom, can you feel my glads? I think I'm getting a cold, and I'm pretty sure my glads are swollen." Of course I replied by feeling her little neck glands and saying, "Nope, your glads feel okay to me, Baby." And then two days later, she said it again, "Mom, I'm pretty sure I'm getting a cold because my glads feel really swollen, can you check?" Still no swollen glads.

Last week I was getting on her case because she'd left a trail of crumbs from the kitchen all the way to the living room. As I was telling her to go get the vacuum, she said, "Jeez, I guess I'm like Handsome Gretel, huh?" At first, I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly, so I asked her to repeat herself. "I left a little trail of crumbs through the house, just like those two kids, Handsome Gretel, did. Remember?" Ah yes. Handsome Gretel. Who could forget?

But the one which really got me this weekend didn't come from WyoBaby. It was uttered by the little neighbor girl. It wasn't that she mispronounced a word; rather, it was the way she said what she did. I was on the computer, and the kids were playing the Wii. I could tell because the one not playing was yelling instructions at the two who were. Don't you just hate that? It's like the person who looks over your shoulder when you're playing Solitaire, "Move the red queen onto the black king! Oh, black 7 onto red 8!!" Like you didn't see those moves...drives me crazy. Anyway, the three kids were making a lot of noise, and yelling at each other and the game, when all of a sudden, the little neighbor girl announced, "That's it. I'm using The Force." Yes, they were playing the Lego Star Wars game, so I know to what she was referring, but the tone she used got me thinking. I want to be able to say, in a matter-of-fact way, "That's it. I'm using The Force," and be able to back it up.

Do you have any idea how invaluable a tool that would be to me, both as a wife and mother? The possibilities are endless. "Baby, I have asked you TEN TIMES to clean up your room, but it's still a disaster. You leave me no choice; I'm going to have to use The Force. You will clean your room." To which she would respond, "I will clean my room." Oh, and when I want J to take me on a date? "You want to take me to dinner and a movie." And I would act completely surprised when he said, "I want to take you to dinner and a movie."

I'm on to something, people. Any ideas how I can make this work? I haven't seen Yoda in ages, so I'm not sure of his current address. If any mothers out there have enough midichlorians in their system to use The Force, I could really use some pointers. If you need to Google midichlorians, you can't help me. Sorry.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Ax Man Takes a Wife

Do you recall my previous post, in which J fancied himself a big bad ax man? Well, J kicked it up a notch, and by notch I mean, well, a few thousand notches. We went from this:

To this:

And the best part, aside from watching J run a chainsaw, was this:

Except, I was the one in the cab, and J was in the basket. And I was hoisting him to dizzying heights. And he had a chainsaw in the basket next to him, and the chainsaw was on the entire time.

I will admit, when I was first informed I would be running the man-lift, I was less-than-thrilled. I had better things to do. Like laundry. And dishes. And scrubbing toilets. But then I hopped up in that cab. Well, not really hopped so much as scrambled and huffed and puffed and crawled. Once I was in that seat, my whole world changed. I had power at my command. And that power was Heavy Equipment. I became an equipment operator, and just like that, the Ax Man had found his partner.

For two hours, I gleefully pushed and puller levers, moving J up and down as he whittled away at our dying Cottonwood. I have never loved him more. Huge limbs fell, making fantastic cracking and thudding noises. There was only one moment when a street sign may or may not have been hit by a falling log, and the sign may or may not have been bent, and J may or may not have hung on it like a monkey, yanking this way and that to straighten the sign.

At first, the prospect of hoisting my beloved high into the air scared the bejeepers out of me, but we settled into a rhythm, and sailed smoothly through the process. Well, there was that one instance when I started to move the basket down, and J jumped, grabbed on for dear life, and turned eyeballs the size of saucers on me. But it wasn't my fault. He gave me the hand signal for down, and that's what I did! Apparently in the 30 seconds between his signal and when I pushed the lever, he forgot! But he recovered right away, and we carried on. And this is the result:

It's a beautiful thing. And so is this, but you're just going to have to take my word for it, because my phone camera doesn't zoom. So you really can't appreciate it, but I do. Yes I do.

The Ax Man's work here is not done. And it won't be until the entire tree is gone. Despite our neighbor telling him that 'it looks perfect now, and maybe it'll even come back to life'. J has put the tree on his list, and no amount of input is going to remove it. That's just fine with me, because that means I might get to operate the man lift again.
And this year, I'm asking Santa for a new camera...

Happy Monday!
Mrs. Ax Man

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Macho Macho Man

Do you know what that is?! That, my good people, is why life insurance agents LAUGH AT ME! Laugh. Knee-slapping belly-laughs. Because that is J. My partner in life. And J is up a tree without a net or harness. Wielding a pair of pruners.

Let me give you a little glimpse at the inner workings of J's brain. When J sees something which needs to be done, he does it. Right now. And if J starts his Saturday morning sipping a cup o' Joe and watching Ax Men on the History Channel, J decides pruning trees is just the thing to which he should give his undivided attention. Right now. So he consumed three of the cinnamon rolls my friend Tammy & I spent five hours making last night (more on that in a minute), said, "Quite tasty my Dear!!" and hopped in the shower. He emerged outfitted in his Serious Manly Work Clothes, a.k.a his Manly Logging Clothes, and armed with a handsaw, a pair of pruners (seen above) and a ladder. As he sauntered out the back door, I called out, "Don't you need my supervision?!" and he hollered, "No, Woman!! Get back in the house!! Do you see any of those Ax Men hauling their wives along when they go to work?! No! No, you don't!! You have windows, most of which operate fairly well, and you can call to me through one of those if you MUST give me advice!!"

Since the dawning of time, a battle has raged in our household. A battle of wills. On the one (read: right) side, a woman who has knowledge in the Design and Maintenance of Landscapes. And on the other side? A six-foot tall tower of Testosterone. And in the words of another J, a.k.a. Hubs, "My Estro is no match for his Testo!" Never mind that mixed in with my Estrogen is an education in The Proper Way and Time to Prune a Tree; one simply cannot reason with Testosterone. And, within his arsenal lies a secret weapon, His Mother (whom I love dearly!!). This has put many a chink in my armor. Not that the man needs any support in his efforts to ignore the Nagging Banshee Known As His Wife, but his mother (whom I love dearly!!!) has told him she has pruned trees at all times of the year, and they have been none the worse for wear. And when a boy brings his Momma (whom I love dearly!!!!) to the fight, I'm gonna lose. Nevertheless! Might does not beat Right. And as you'll recall, I'm RIGHT. You don't have to take my word for it. Just think of it this way: If you're in the midst of a growth spurt (read: Spring & Summer), how much growing do you think you'd do if someone suddenly lopped off your arm? Stumped? (Forgive the pun, I couldn't help myself. Won't happen again. I swear.) I'm gonna say, not a lot. You'd forget all about growing and focus your energy on healing. Next question: If you were heading to the North Pole for an extended vacation (read: Fall), and as you boarded the plane, someone suddenly lopped off your leg, how well do you think you'd fare in the frozen tundra? Stumped? (Sorry. No more. Promise.) I'll tell ya how you'd fare, not well! Not well at all! Because now, instead of using your flight time to load up on calories to keep you warm, you'd spend it bandaging your severed limb! So you're left with Winter. That is when you prune; you lop all you want (up to one-third of the tree). Before bud-break. Then and only then.

So, the Ax Man did choose to act impulsively at the right time of year. I take no issue with his timing. The thing which gives me pause is the picture at the beginning of this post. After being told to stay in the kitchen and share my 'advice' with the cats, if I felt the need to speak, I set about cleaning up the breakfast mess. (No, I haven't forgotten about the five hours of baking story, that's another post.) Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a slight movement, which I figured was one of the millions of squirrels who frequent our trees. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was J! Shimmying up that tree like a monkey, pruning shears in hand. Sweet Jesus, give me strength! I resisted the urge to scream at him, fearing any sudden loud noise might startle him, causing him to lose his grip on the tree and drop the shears, which he would then land on squarely. I did the next best thing. I snapped pics with my cell phone, and sent one to Tammy. Her husband replied, "Is J on drugs?!" And I fired back, "Not unless you consider life a drug. He's high on life. And, he watched Ax Men this morning, so now he fancies himself a big bad logger!" I'm told that upon reading my response, he burst out laughing, and needed to take five to compose himself.

Yes, J is high on life. And when J encounters an obstacle, he and his inner child have a conversation which goes something like this, "Hm. I need to get that branch way up there, but can't reach it with this puny ladder!" Inner child: "Dude! Use the puny ladder to reach the tree and then just CLIMB THE TREE TO GET WHERE YOU WANT!!" J: "Why that's a splendid idea! I like the way you think, young man!" And that is how J ended up in the tree. After trimming to his satisfaction, he came in search of Man Fuel, a.k.a. pizza, and informed me that he was going to find some equipment, namely a man-lift and small end dump. I asked him if he was done assaulting the first tree and he muttered, "Yeah. After a while I stared hearing a song in my head, 'Face on the ground, face on the ground. Lookin' like a fool with your face on the ground!' and decided it was about time to get out of the tree." On his way out the door, in search of more Ax Man equipment he hollered, "You might want to read section 6, sub-paragraph xii of our Marriage Agreement!" To summarize, "The Husband, hereafter referred to as Morpheus, may, at any time, call upon the Wife, hereafter referred to as Woman, to operate a man-lift, thereby aiding Morpheus in his tree-pruning activities. Woman may not, at any time, offer suggestions, advice or warnings to Morpheus, and shall remain silent during the operation of the man-lift." (Just a little nod to all my fellow Dwight Schrute fans.)

Happy Saturday Folks, I'm off to operate a man-lift.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me!! (And Happy St. Paddy's Day to Everyone Else...)

Today J and I celebrate a crazy little thing called love. (Quick! Who sang it?!) Our journey together has had its share of bumps and potholes, but lots of smooth sailing too. And yes, I realize I've just combined two metaphors, driving and sailing. And yes, I'm perfectly fine with that. They're both means of transportation, and the general idea is that we've continued on this journey. So there.

I particularly like this picture because it so eloquently illustrates how one enters into a marriage; with eyes closed. And it's just so flattering to both of us! (I have no idea why we look the way we do in this pic; I know we weren't praying at the time.) Honestly, who knows what the future holds? As it turns out, the 'better' part is far better than you dreamed, and the 'worse' part can be far worse than you expected. You see each other at your best and worst. You (hopefully) learn what makes the other person tick, and what makes 'em crazy. And sometimes you use that knowledge for evil, instead of good. Oh admit it! But through it all, you stick to it. You don't give up. And you're rewarded mightily for it.

One of the things I enjoy most about J is I have learned (for the most part) how his mind works. Yesterday morning was an excellent example. He woke me, bright and early, both to kiss me goodbye and ask if he could have my phone, because his Blackberry was dying. The moment he made that request, I was WIDE awake. My phone is one of my appendages. Where I go, my phone goes. My phone and I are BFFs. Heaven help the mister who comes between me and my phone. Yesterday, that mister was J, and he was headed for a world of pain. In a panic I asked, "TO KEEP??!?! FOR THE WHOLE DAY?!??!" Sweaty palms. Heart palpitations. Shortness of breath. I had all the symptoms of a full-blown panic attack. He talked me down off my ledge by assuring me he just wanted to borrow it to make one phone call, and then he would return it. Pinky promise. Cross his heart, hope to die, stick a needle in his eye. Luckily for him, he was true to his word.

I asked him where the charger for his Blackberry was, and he declared, "I have no idea; it's been missing for two weeks!" How he has maintained a battery charge for that long is beyond me, because the man is permanently attached to that phone. If he isn't talking on it, he's emailing someone. (And he teases me about my texting...sheesh!) I would like him to enable texting on his phone so I could get in touch with him during the day, but so far he's resistant to the idea. Perhaps he doesn't want to be that accessible to me.

Anyway, I asked him if he'd left it in the motel room he stayed in about two weeks ago, and he was adamant that he had not, because it was missing before his trip. I chose to not take him at his word on the matter, and went in search of his overnight bag. Lo and behold, inside that bag I found not only his charger, but also the receipt for his room! (It's sort of important that we have those receipts, for expense report purposes!) I strolled into the kitchen with a smug grin on my face and said, "Um, is this what you've been looking for?" You can imagine the look of surprise on his face when he asked, "Where'd ya find it?!" and I told him it was right where I thought it would be. To summarize, I had been awake a total of five minutes, and in my sleepy stupor, I found his charger in under thirty seconds. All because I've studied the man's movements, taken notes and created a psychological profile of him. That's one of my favorite parts of marriage; the comfort of knowing a person so intimately.

So here's to marriage, and here's to J: Thank you for making my life crazy and hectic and happy and blissful. Thank you for deciding I was the one you wanted to share this life with. You made an excellent choice my man, and I love you!

(Much better!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

There Will Be Blood...

How's about a trip into my childhood? I wish I could say the names have been changed to protect the innocent, but I'm not sure who that would be. Well, besides me, of course.

I am the oldest of three siblings, and the only girl. That my friends, is a combination fraught with peril. But in this particular tale, I was sort of on the fringe of the action. This one involved my brothers, a metal toy rifle and a sleepless father.

My parents owned a restaurant, and my dad worked nights, so he was never in bed before 3 a.m. This left the morning routine to my mom. As a whole, my brothers and I were a rambunctious trio, and mornings were hectic, to say the least. My mom would wake at an insanely early hour in order to get herself ready before waking the beasts. Once awakened, my brothers would spend a good amount of time goofing around, fighting, playing with their toys, tattling and generally doing anything but getting ready for school. Most mornings at least one of us would go flying through our parents' bedroom door to holler at Mom, "J won't get out of the bathroom so I can brush my teeth!!" or "C is telling us what to do! Please tell her she's not our boss!!" or "N is making that face at me again! You know the one?! The one he makes just to tick me off?!?!" All the while, my father was in bed, trying to sleep. Invariably, he would end up pulling the pillow off his head and yelling, "GET OUT!!! GO GET READY FOR SCHOOL AND STAY OUT OF OUR ROOM!!!" So we would. For about ten minutes. Kids have notoriously bad short-term memories.

As most sibling issues do, this one eventually came to a head, and ended with a Sit-Down Talk About Staying Out of Dad's Room in the Morning. He informed us that we were not, under any circumstances, to enter their room in the morning. Period. And I quote, "I don't want ANYONE coming in this room in the morning unless someone is bleeding!! Do you understand me?!?!?" Three little heads nodded meekly, and the discussion ended. But here's the thing about kids. Setting parameters is the equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a bull. It's a throwing down of the guantlet, if you will. Nine times out of ten, your kids are gonna pick up that gauntlet and slap you in the face with it. My father had made a request, and by golly, he was gonna get it.

The next morning was a Saturday. My brothers were playing on the living room floor and I was somewhere else in the house. Translation, no witnesses to the crime. Dad was sleeping, and I'm not quite sure where Mom was. All of a sudden, the calm and peaceful morning was shattered by a scream and the sound of thundering feet headed to my parents' room. Their bedroom door was flung open and my brother J was screaming, "HE HIT ME!!! I'M BLEEDING!! OH, HE HIT ME!!!" Listen, Dad had laid the ground rules, and my brother had stuck to them. Involuntarily, of course, but still. He had a gash above his eyebrow, and the blood was streaming down his face at a pretty good clip.

Not having witnessed how he came to be injured, I can only relay the facts as they've been given to me over the years. Here is the time line of the crime, as best as I can tell: My brothers were playing in the living room with their toy guns. Things were going fine, until my little brother N asked our brother J to cock the metal rifle. Never dreaming he was about to become an accomplice in his own assault, J quickly cocked the rifle and handed it back to N, who proceeded to crack J across the face with the barrel of the rifle. I am unclear as to why N chose to 'rifle'-whip his brother, but he did. And the result was a trip to the emergency room to get one of his many rounds of stitches.

Let this be a lesson to any parents who would be tempted to add the phrase "unless there's blood" to their rules. Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Monday Mommy Moment

I am a stacker of papers. My aversion to filing is a mystery to me, but I can tell you, I'd rather do a Mt. Everest of laundry than deal with a stack of papers. Every couple of weeks, I'm forced to face my nemesis, and try to make sense of all the notes and statements and schoolwork and junk mail covering my dining room table.

Yesterday was one of those days, mostly because my brother and sister-in-law were coming over for dinner, and I like to maintain the illusion of a clean and orderly house. As I waded through a particularly large stack, I came upon an assignment by daughter had brought home. Her teacher had asked the class to write a letter describing the best gift they'd received. As I started to read, I was so overcome with emotion and love, the tears ran in great rivers down my cheeks. Here's why:
(You might need a tissue if you're as sentimental as I am.)

February 22, 2010

Dear Mom,

What is the best gift you got? Mr. Blanky is the best gift I ever received.

He is the best gift I ever received for these reasons. He was the first blanky I was wrapped in and he was comfy. I cannot believe you were thinking about me when I was not even born, that was such a nice thing to do. He is also my friend, because I had no friends. See, I've had him since I was not even born and he is the best gift ever.

Mr. Blanky made me feel safe. When I was wrapped in him he made me feel safe because he was, and still is, comfy. When you wrapped me in him it made me feel happy. Mr. Blanky made me feel like you were holding me when I was sad. As you can see, Mr. Blanky made me feel safe, and he is the best give I received.

Mr. Blanky has been my friend for nine years. I did not have any friends when I was one year old. Also, when I was alone, I would play with him. Mr. Blanky always made me feel happy. See, he is my friend and will always be. Also, he is the best gift ever.

As you can see, Mr. Blanky is my favorite gift I received.

Your daughter,

If that doesn't yank on your heartstrings, I don't know what will. Folks, I read this and balled like a baby. Sobbed. Snorted and sobbed and blubbered. At one point, J came in the kitchen to make sure I was okay, only to find his wife red-eyed, with snot and tears running down her face. He quickly walked away, no doubt driven by the fear that he was the cause of my current state and that he would have to try to reason with a woman who was clearly not in her right mind. And through it all, I had the biggest smile on my face. My heart was so full of love, I was convinced it was going to burst. I will try to put into words all I was feeling with this letter of response:

March 15, 2010

Dear Grace,

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so touched that you love Mr. Blanky as much as you do. When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to find a blanket you would love forever. As soon as I saw Mr. Blanky, I knew he was the one. He has been a good friend to you; from the time you were a tiny tot, you and Mr. Blanky have been inseparable. I remember many nights when you refused to go to sleep until you had him snuggled in your arms.

You asked me about the best gift I received. That's easy. You. Hands down, you are the best gift ever. I loved you the very moment I learned you were going to be a part of my life. As I carried you for those nine months, my love for you grew each day. And when you were born, I knew I could never put into words the depth of my love.

Through the years, you've laughed and cried, learned so much, tried and failed, and tried again. When you giggled and smiled, my heart swelled with joy. When you cried, my heart broke. Through every experience, you've shown me how truly blessed I am to have you for a daughter.

My love for you knows no end, and as long as I live, you will always have me. When you're sad, I will wrap you in my arms, and when you're glad, I will share your joy with you. In all my years, I will never receive a more precious gift. Thank you for being you, and for making my life better than I ever dreamed it could be.


There are days when I'm certain my parenting rights should be rescinded, because I feel like a big fat failure. But then I read a letter Grace has written, or I see a smile cross her face, or I look at her as she sleeps and know I'm doing alright. No parent is perfect. Even in ideal circumstances, things don't always work the way we plan. But here's the thing, it's okay. What's important is that we keep trying. That every day, we commit to this responsibility we've chosen. The way I see it, God gives us the gifts of children, but it's up to us to choose the responsibility of raising them in a way which pleases Him. Plenty of people are given that most precious of gifts, but turn their backs on everything it includes. I have no idea how they make that decision. All I know is that as a mother, I have good days and bad. The worry over the bad days is part of what makes me a good mother. And all the things in this world could never take the place of the best gift I received.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

That's the Best Ride of the Night Ladies and Gentlemen!

So, as mentioned previously, I left the house yesterday morning, after doing my Daily Dozen with Denise Austen, and getting dressed to fabulous. Can I just say, as an aside, that I'm a big Denise fan? And mostly it's because Denise is the polar opposite of Jillian Michaels. That woman scares the heck out of me and makes me angry all in the same second. Seriously. I do not want someone screaming "STEP IT UP MAGGOT!!!! GET THOSE LEGS UP! UP! UP! PUSH! PUSH! PUSH!! WHAT???!! YOU'RE STOPPING BECAUSE YOU'VE DISLOCATED YOUR SPLEEN??!!! THERE'S NO STOPPING IN JILLIAN'S WORLD!!!" I like Denise because she's nice to me; she cheers for me and says, "That's right, you can do one more leg lift!! There you go, good job!!" Yep, I prefer people to be nice to me when I'm sweating and crying. But I digress.

I was headed on down the road to see The Woman Who Makes Me Look Fabulous, because my roots were long overdue for a touch-up, and my hair was getting so long the only style I could pull off without bursting into tears in the morning was a ponytail. If I have a bad hair morning, it sets the tone for the whole day, and the tone is not melodic. This gal is a magician. But the only time my hair looks perfect is when she styles it for me. And apparently, our budget does not include paying her to drive an hour round-trip to make me looks gawjus every morning. J can be so unreasonable...

I have to drive on the interstate to go see the Magician, which isn't a big deal. Here in Wyo, we think nothing of driving two hours to go shopping. One way. Clearly I'm not going to let a little hour of drive time keep me from the Magician. Night before last, we got a little skiff of snow, and by the time I hit the interstate, it had melted. I'm sure you're all familiar with what that means to a windshield. Tires create a fine mud spray which coats every inch of your vehicle. This is not a problem, unless you've say, forgotten to refill your washer fluid reservoir. Not that I would ever forget to do so, but hypothetically, it could reduce a gal's visibility. And hypothetically, if you turn on your wiper blades to clear the fine mud spray, and you don't have any washer fluid, you just sort of smear the mud all over the windshield. Turns out smeared mud is far more difficult to see through than finely sprayed mud. Hypothetically.

Anyway, I arrived in one piece, she worked her magic, and two hours later, I headed home to pick up WyoBaby from school. After swinging by the house to grab her swimsuit and towel for her lesson, I decided we had time to run through the automatic car wash. Because hypothetically, my windshield was smeared with mud, and I cannot stand a dirty windshield. And I like my car much better when it's shiny. Now, there is an Urban Legend in our town which tells of an automatic car wash so diabolical, it's been known to toss a Suburban around like a rag doll while a small child hollers from the back of the vehicle, "Let me drive Mom!!! I can get us out of here, I know I can!! JUST LET ME DO IT!!" But folks, that is just a myth, and the car wash doesn't scare me. At least, it never used to...

When I was a young lass, I played girls' softball. One summer, I got into a wicked batting slump, and every time I walked up to the plate, I was so mentally psyched out, my slump continued to decline. Almost to the point where I would refuse an at-bat. My dad explained that it happens to every batter, at some point, and that eventually, it would just take care of itself. Turns out he was right, and one day, just when I had become convinced I would never connect with another softball, I knocked it clean out of the park. (Well, not really. It's just a figure of speech.) The point of this story is to lay the foundation for what has been a rapid decline in my ability to maneuver through the automatic car wash, or as I've come to think of it, The Car Killer.

In this particular automatic car wash, there is an elevated tire track on the driver's side on which you must park your tire. If you don't do this properly, the car wash will not operate. If you don't do this properly, your car will jolt and bounce around, and the drivers waiting in line behind you will see this and giggle to themselves, "Geez, talk about your crappy drivers! Must be a woman..." In the beginning, I had no problem parking my little car right where it should be. But one day, I missed by an inch or two, and my car got high centered. When I gunned it, the car leapt off the track and lurched forward. So the next time, I was nervous about hitting the mark. I missed. And yesterday? Oh that was the worst yet. I watched the car in front of me navigate the labyrinth with the slightest of ease and thought, "No sweat. I can do this!" Boy was I wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. On my first approach I missed and had to back up for another try. I missed again, and the car bounced around for thirty seconds. On the third try, I sorta made it. Well enough for the car wash to start. The real trouble began when I had to pull forward to the dryers. Turns out I hadn't parked as well as I thought. When I tried to pull forward, the car lurched and died. After starting the car, I gave it another shot. Lurch. And die. By now I was sweating profusely and my knuckles had turned white. Started again. Lurch. And die. FOR THE LOVE OF PETE!!! Started again, backed up, and tried again. The tires were spinning and squealing. The car started bouncing around so violently I felt like a bronc rider in a pinball machine perched on an unbalanced washing machine. Meanwhile, WyoBaby is reading her Star Wars book and calling out, "Mom, what's this little thing on Obi-Wan's toolbelt?!" People, I can answer 1.3% of all Star Wars related questions under the best of circumstances. When my car is being eaten by The Car Killer, and a steady stream of expletives is piling up on my tongue, the words Star Wars don't even compute. All I could think was, "Any minute now, I'm going to hear the sound of metal shearing as the axle extricates itself from the front end of this car, and the dryers have started running, so I'm losing precious seconds of dry time!!" I have no idea how I did it, but I finally got the car out of the track. As I ran the car through the dryers, I noticed my hands were shaking. Violently. I had so much adrenaline pumping through my veins I needed a good belt of whiskey to still the shakes. After the dryers stopped, I tentatively turned into the alley, and I swear the car was pulling to the right. A lot. I'm pretty sure my little eight second ride did irreversible damage to the front-end alignment.

I'm in the biggest car wash slump of my life. Way bigger than my softball batting slump. And I don't see this one fixing itself any time soon. Guess I'll be driving all the way across town to use the other automatic car wash. The one WITHOUT the tire track. Remember, just because it's an Urban Legend doesn't mean it isn't true...And those bull riders have nothin' on me!

Live and Let Live?

This is J:

He's a handsome devil, (at least I think so) which is part of the reason I have such a huge crush on him.

And this is J's (not by his choice) cat:

Perhaps you remember Marley? She's the one who has acquired a taste for polyurethane. (I have the scars to prove it.) While not handsome, she is pretty dang cute, and most days I'm fond of her. However, she is most fond of J. Her favorite part of the day is after dinner, when J settles in with a blanket and book. This is her cue to get thisclose to him. She crawls all over his arms and his book and gets right up in his face. This causes J to have mixed feelings about Marley, but I know that deep down, he really does love her. And deep down, I really do love J, which is why I allowed Marley to live this morning. Well that, and the fact that she scurried under the bed before I could outfit her in a finger necklace. I do not advocate animal abuse in any form, but I was seriously tempted this morning, when I heard a fantastic crash come from the direction of the office (my project, remember?). I had a pretty darn good idea what the source was, so I ran in there to see the little African frog cube on the dresser, on its side, slowly draining. The poor frogs were scrambling for escape, as you would if your house was suddenly and violently thrown on its side. Fortunately, the lid on the cube seals tightly, and there's a little tiny hole in it for feeding purposes, so there was not a huge amount of water lost. Still, there was a steady stream running down the wood dresser, which has been in my family for a long, long time.

My first instinct was to string Marley up by her whiskers, but as I've already mentioned, she's quick. And I'm not about to hurt an animal. That didn't stop me from hollering at the top of my lungs, "THAT'S RIGHT MARLEY!!! YOU BETTER STAY UNDER THAT BED!!! SO HELP ME, IF YOU COME OUT OF THERE, YOU'RE GONNA GET IT!!" I'm pretty sure she understood the implication of my words, if not the meaning. I set about righting the cube, but chose not to rearrange the gravel in the tank at that moment. I figured the little guys had suffered enough and were in desperate need of some quiet time. I then did my best to dry the dresser and mop up all the water which had pooled on the hardwood floor. I had to sequester the traumatized amphibians in a dark closet (not fair, I know), because I couldn't trust J's cat to leave them alone, and I had to leave the house. I apologized to them profusely, promising to check on them when I got home. As of this posting, they're still alive. In fact, I'm fairly certain they're relishing the safety of the closet. On the other hand, Marley is still on MY LIST, and we're not speaking. And when J gets home tonight, he's going to hear all about how much I don't love his cat. But that's what marriage is: loving your partner and accepting their flaws. Even if their flaws happen to be a five pound bag of punk who goes by the name Marley. Oh the sacrifices I make...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh What a Beautiful Morning...

Last night I rejected an invite to do a last minute Girls' Night Out at the late showing of Dear John. I was more interested in sleeping than bawling over a Nicholas Sparks story (which I do EVERY SINGLE TIME). So I tucked WyoBaby into bed and read her a chapter of Nancy Drew before she fell asleep. After I was sure she was far away in Dreamland, I carried my weary butt downstairs and got down to the business of sleep. Apparently I was fairly successful in my endeavor. Right up until 3:45, that is. That is when my sleep ended. One minute I was doing my best Rip Van Winkle impersonation and the next, BAM!! Hello! Wide awake! I fought it, tooth and nail, and in the end, was able to squeeze in two more hours of sleep before getting up for real. My first order of business was coffee. We DO NOT do morning without coffee. I savored every last drop, then went to wake WyoBaby. She got up relatively well, hauled her bleary-eyed keister into the shower and stood under the stream of hot water for ten solid minutes. After turning off the water, she spent the next five minutes leaning against the shower wall, doing nothing. Except trying my patience. It's her specialty, and she does it very well. Still, the rest of the morning was without incident. Well, almost. I had picked out a cute Madras print shirt with rolled up sleeves held in place by a strap which buttons onto the sleeve. (Does that sentence make any sense?) Here, this is the shirt:

Cute, no? Anyway, as we were getting ready to head out, I told her to put on her coat, because it was chilly this morning. As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew we were headed for a meltdown. The girl has issues with sleeves getting all 'funky' in her coat sleeves. As in, if they're messed up, she flips faster than a short order cook plating short stacks during the breakfast rush. We're talking hopping up and down, stomping her feet, flailing her arms, sniffling, pouting and just generally losing it. Why then, would I be surprised when she started to do that very thing this morning? I don't know, but what I do know is I in turn flipped. Faster than she. I YELLED at my girl, "STOP IT!!!! YOU'RE GOING TO TEAR YOUR SHIRT SLEEVE IF YOU KEEP THAT UP!! NOW JUST TAKE A DEEP BREATH, AND RELAX!!" (That last bit was for my benefit, because midway through my rant I realized I had snapped and needed to chillax, big time.) She had been yanking on her rolled sleeves so hard I could foresee a huge rip in the immediate future if she kept it up. Turns out her mother was the huge rip. I felt like a big ol' heel for snapping like that. The situation was frustrating, and she was so far beyond reasoning it was ridiculous, but that did not justify my yelling. I could have calmly pointed out she was very near to cutting short the life of her shirt, and still accomplished the same effect. In the end, I unbuttoned the sleeves, so she was able to hold onto the cuffs as she put her arms through her coat sleeves. Voila. Problem solved.

As I opened the car door for her, I apologized profusely and asked for her forgiveness, which she gave, albeit a bit grudgingly. She refused to make eye contact with me the entire time, and even when I dropped her off, telling her how much I love her, she just shrugged and walked away. Oh, it's like a knife twisting in my heart, but I guess I deserve it. Note to self: Next time, don't roll the dang cuffs!! And, don't yell!! Happy Tuesday All!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My New Project

As Spring gears up to make its grand entrance, I find myself longing to scratch the redecoration itch. Part of my inspiration is the fact that the walls of our house are closing in on me like the garbage compactor on the Death Star. In fact, I can hear Harrison Ford saying, "One thing's for sure; we're all gonna be a lot thinner..." Not that I'd mind being a lot thinner right about now. The point is, I have a serious case of claustrophobia going. I've attempted to treat it with running, which has been very rejuvenating, in a sort of Good-Lord-my-lungs-are-going-to-explode-and-my-shins-are-on-fire!!!!! way...but the itch remains. Combine that with a growing need to make my mark on our home, and you have a decorating binge waiting to happen. Inspired in part by the Little White Room featured on the Resovled2Worship blog, and in part by my desperate need for a place of serenity, I've decided to attack our office. This has always been a bit of a No-Man's Land. Mostly it's where everything I don't know what to do with goes to die. In the past few months it has been improved, but I'm just not feeling the love for this poor room. That, folks, is all about to change...

This is the space as of today. I think you'll find the photography breathtaking, as any picture taken with a camera phone is. My digital camera is dead dead dead, and my A.D.D. will not allow me to wait for it to charge. The consequences of this are the following: (Please, don't be jealous of the quality!!)

The Honey Nut Cheerios box is WyoBaby's touch, as she was eating her cereal while she helped me pick a paint color. She used the ironing board as her table. J is under the impression that said board can remain right where it is indefinitely, because he's just gonna use it the next day, so what's the point of putting it away? Sound reasoning, no?

The space has good bones. The wall is an interesting material. Not sheetrock, not lathe & plaster, it's some sort of paneling with a cool texture which just screams to be accentuated. J despises, with every bone of his manly body, this paneling, and would love nothing better than to yank it down. J has plans for every room of our house, and the office is not immune. However, when we went through our Top 20 List of Home Projects, it was dead last, so I'm pretty sure it's safe for a good year or so. In the meantime, I'm going to turn it into My Haven. I need a Haven. Every Momma does. As Missi was giving me the tour of the house they just bought, she said, "And this small area was probably the maid's quarters. So of course, this is where I'll be living." Sure, she was joking, but what mother doesn't, at some point, scream out Serenity Now!!! and fantasize about a little room she can call her own? Did you ever see the Cosby Show episode in which Cliff builds Claire her own room? It's complete with sound-proof walls and a 2-inch thick steel door. He even put in a separate phone line for her. Oh to have a room like that...

So, I've chosen the paint color, Mountain Air. Doesn't it just sound relaxing? WyoBaby helped me select it. J looked at it and said, "Will you even notice it?! You see, J is responsible for 99% of the decorating which takes place in our house. The man has an eye for it, and most of the time, I just stay out of it. I once made the mistake of purchasing what I thought were fabulous throw pillows at Pier 1. I was so proud of myself, and was practically glowing as I showed them to him. He remained mute, and a month later, I saw him packing them into a closet. When asked why, he said, "They're the wrong shade of red." End of discussion. Ever since then, I've limited myself to the smallest of small accent purchases. And I now have a complex. If I start to think about decorating, my left eye starts to twitch. So this project is a HUGE step for me. In fact, I'm starting to hyperventilate a little. Does anyone have a paper bag???

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

And the Award Goes To...

In the last 24 hours, I have known the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I gotta say, I'm more of a victory fan. It tastes like fun and happy, and defeat, specifically this one, tasted like my baby's sad little heart. That, people, is the most bitter taste of all. But let's start with the victory, shall we?

J and I are coffee aficionados. Starbucks would be our bean of choice, although we don't have the same coffee palates. As it turns out, I usually give in to his preference because I know that I will just run down there after taking WyoBaby to school and get my own little piece of Heaven. Perhaps I've mentioned if before? The Mocha. And now, Lord love 'em, those baristas are whipping up a new little twist on The Mocha, known as The Dark Cherry Mocha. Sweet mercy. If that doesn't do it for ya, I don't know what will...Where was I? Ah yes, J's morning cup o' Joe. J is an early riser. Well, that might be an understatement. My beloved's eyes usually first pop open around 4 in the a.m. You heard me. No, he does not have to be to work by five, unless he's traveling, which he does about twice a month. So, he awakens dark and early (no sun = no bright), and has the decency to lie in bed and let his brain run for an hour before starting his day. On a good day, he'll wait 'till 5:30 before firing up the coffee grinder, and I love him for it. The grinder is by no means a quiet apparatus. I guess the name 'grinder' sort of rules that out. If he's feeling really considerate though, he'll take said torture device in the bathroom, close the door, and run it. Unfortunately, there's a bit of a flaw in his plan. The kitchen is at the opposite end of the house from our room. The bathroom is one room away. get the picture. Even with the door closed, enough of that sound invades my ears to make me hop out of bed with a blurry-eyed start, struggling to remind myself why I share space with this individual.

He can operate the grinder just fine, but when it comes to making a cup of coffee, the man struggles a bit. I, on the other hand, have what's known as a 'gift'. I can make a mean cup of coffee. He knows this, but fights it. It is written on his Y chromosome that he must, morning after morning, work at it until he has perfected his technique. It ain't happening, but he's driven by a primeval instinct which laughs in the face of logic. Two or three days a week, he'll ask me, "Okay, how do you make your coffee again?" And I will tell him, yet again, how I use my gifts for good, only to have him heave my wisdom out the Man Window. Such was our exchange last Saturday. I made the coffee, and it was great. I told him the key is to give the coffee maker the Sea Monkey Treatment (Just walk away. Ignore it. Don't even think about messing with it!!) And what does he do? Wakes up Sunday morning and makes, well frankly, a crap cup of coffee. Less than 48 hours after being taught the proper method (translation, the Right Way To Do It), the man went back to his old habits and was shocked! shocked, I tell you, that it didn't work out for him. So I made a real pot of coffee, and order was restored in the universe. And when Monday morning rolled around? He did it AGAIN! The first pot was swill, so he asked, ever-so-sweetly, if I would make him another cup of coffee. And my response? "Sure honey, I'd be glad to do that for you...If you'll say I'm the Queen of Coffee..." And he did! So there you have it! I'm the Queen of Coffee. And I'd like my crown to be made of dark chocolate covered espresso beans, thank you very much!

I was still riding high after my coronation when I woke up the girl this morning. And that's when things went sour. For me, anyway. I was in the bathroom, putting on my makeup, and she was lying on our bed, doing her best interpretation of Slug in Repose. All of a sudden, her little voice called out, "Mom! You missed Orchestra Parent Day yesterday!" I tell you, I wanted to crawl into a little hole in the earth and hide. I could feel my heart splintering as I realized what I'd done. All day long, I'd had a sense I was forgetting something, but couldn't put my finger on it. And there it was. I walked into the bedroom, my eyes welling with tears and said, "Oh baby, I'm so so sorry! I cannot believe I did that!! Do you forgive me?" And she did! "It's okay Mom, don't worry." Doesn't she just melt your heart? I felt like the biggest jerk because I remembered her handing me the slip a week ago, and I was too distracted to take the 15 seconds to write it on the calendar. And if it's not on the calendar, it doesn't happen. In that moment, it didn't matter that I help with centers in her classroom once a week, or that I'm going to coach her soccer team, or that I'm a member of the PTO, or that I'm having hot lunch with her today. All that mattered was I had forgotten something important. And with that, my chance for Mother of the Year went sailing out the window. But in the words of Scarlett O'Hara, "Tomorrow is another day," and I'm going to make sure every last thing gets put on the calendar. Next year, when I walk into the music room on Parent Day, you'll know it's me. I'll be the one wearing a coffee bean crown.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Death by Chocolate

For what I'm about to post, I apologize. In my defense, this is what happens when J goes to work, leaving me without adult supervision.

Dark Forest Cheesecake Brownies with Chocolate-Coffee Ganache.
You've been warned...


1 recipe Better Than... Brownies (see Mmmm....Chocolate for recipe), omitting walnuts

Cheesecake Layer
8 oz cream cheese, softened (you can use low-fat if you want but trust me, it's an effort in futility)
1/3 C granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg

Beat cream cheese for 1 to 2 minutes until light & fluffy, add sugar & vanilla, beat for another minute. Add egg, beat until combined, another 30 seconds to a minute. Set aside.

Glazed Cherries
1 15 oz can dark cherries, drained & juice reserved
2 Tbsp Kahlua or Grand Marnier
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2/3 C reserved cherry juice

Combine cherries and liqueur in bowl, let stand for one hour. In small saucepan, combine cornstarch and juice, bring to boil, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes or until thickened. Let cool, add cherries.

Chocolate-Coffee Ganache (somebody stop me, please!)
1/2 C heavy cream
8 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp instant coffee crystals

Combine all ingredients in double-boiler or heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and shiny.


Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 9x13 pan. Make one batch Better Than... Brownies. Spread 1/2 batter into pan, then top with cheesecake mix. Drop remaining half of brownie batter by spoonfuls on cheesecake mixture and swirl with the handle of a wooden spoon. Bake 35-45 minutes, until tester comes out almost clean. Let cool. Make glazed cherries, spread over top of cooled brownies. Make ganache, let cool slightly, then drizzle over cherries (sweet mercy), and gently spread to coat. Let rest for a few minutes, then cut into SMALL squares. Trust me, anything more than three bites will induce a chocolate coma.
Good grief, I think I need to go lie down.