December 18, 2007

O Canada!

And we're off for our yearly road trip. To the French side.

To all my Canadian snowbound friends

with their cars under makeshift white tents in their driveway

who frequent all of the Tim Hortons across the land

where the typical "huh?'" is replaced with the Canadian "eh"?

and where I don't know a lick of French except what my husband says to my daughter:

Change la couche? (Which means change your diaper.)

Somehow, I don't think I will be able to use that phrase much to illustrate my illustrious French skills.

We are leaving tomorrow for a 16 hour drive, with a toddler in the back seat who is only pacified (for ten minutes) by her favorite sticker book. It'll be National Lampoon's Vacation - French style. Please pray for us that she doesn't get bored twenty minutes after we leave the driveway. Otherwise it's going to be a looooooooooooooooong road trip.

Have a great holiday everyone

Au revoir (well, at least I can use that word!) But it gets old fast.

December 13, 2007

Here Comes Santa Clause

Ah, the joys of taking a toddler to see Santa Clause.

"No, no, no!"

Happy again!

Anyone? Anyone?

Long office meetings. Daunting work seminars.

Has anyone ever experienced them? If not, you've been hiding under your desk for the year.

Some of these never ending seminars remind me of the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off when the pesky teacher, played by Ben Stein, notices half the class asleep and decides to ask a question. When nobody answers, he says, "Anyone, Anyone?" in a monotone voice and the camera pans the classroom where most of the students are either chewing their gum, sleeping or looking out the window.

Today, I had to go downtown for a work seminar. Right now, my job is typically working with seniors and setting up community based services.
For the first seminar (lasting three hours), it was all about baselines, probabilities, statistics, formulas and ratios. After the fifth chart regarding statistical evidence and formulas of whether Adult Day Service leads to precursory nursing home placement, I decided to peruse the room a bit with my eyes.

My attention first came to a woman who was chewing her nail tips off and then looking at them (which didn't hold my attention long), then I decided to write down the supposed work out schedule for my upcoming New Year's resolution of joining a gym and working out every morning (which was quite overblown when I put that I would wake up at 5:00 in the morning and go exercise for two hours along with walking the dog, then doing ab exercises at night and so on and so forth), then I looked at my neighbor who was trying to figure out how many words she could come up with from the word Marriott (Hotel).

Finally, a break for lunch.

The later half of the day and the second session (of three hours again) was the Disaster Relief seminar. Everything you need to know and then some of how to prepare your Adult Day Center for an upcoming natural disaster or threat. First of all, I don't own or work at an Adult Day Center and second, three hours of listening to how we have to be prepared for any kind of threat and what to stock our Emergency kits with started to get to be a little too much.

The first half of the afternoon session was interesting but after the break, it slowly went to "Is it over yet?" Toward the last hour, I again decided to peruse my eyes around to see what people were doing. But it's more like I heard what someone was doing.

Down at the end of our row, a woman had fallen asleep and was snoring outright like a grizzly bear inhaling deep breaths and then spewing out a loud, "Argh!" The woman even had her head tilted back with her mouth wide open. Several people noticed, especially when she was exhaling her loud snore. I don't know if the speakers heard her or not, but I don't see how they couldn't have noticed. But they went on, never missing a beat which I guess is a mark of a true meeting presenter.
In all fairness to myself, I tried to listen to what they had to say. But not only was it not relevant to what I do but it was long. Really, really long.
Meetings. Seminars. They are an American right of passage into the business world. Great things can come from them: detailed to do lists from the organizers, doodles and portraits from the creative thinkers and daydreaming for those who are neither.
So the next time you go to one of "those" seminars or meetings, do what I do. Look around at the people and what they do when they are bored. And perhaps a smile will come across your face because we are all more alike than you think.

December 12, 2007

Christmas Gift Exchanges

Gift exchanges.

Whether you have to buy gifts for people at the office or extended relatives that you really don't know, they always seem to come around faster than you think at Christmas time.

And what do you receive? You either end up getting the typical black glove and scarf set or the ever so popular Christmas paraphernalia (that went on clearance the day after Christmas last year) such as the singing stuffed Santa that lights up and drives you nuts or a candy cane striped coffee mug that you'll use one month out of the year. And my least favorite, a musky cologne that can kill anyone who comes within ten feet of you. We all look at the gifts and say a little prayer before we open them but often you are secretly wanting to ask, "Is there a gift receipt for a return on this?" Which people never seem to include for Christmas gifts.

This year for our office Christmas party, instead of buying a gift for the person whose name you drew out of a box, they opted for everyone to buy a general $10 to $15 gift for a man or woman. Do you know how hard it is to buy a $10 dollar gift that suits either sex and 20 some people with different personalities?

I thought about chocolate, but what if the person is on a diet? I thought about candles but what if a man received it? I thought about the typical black glove and scarf set but it's so overused. So I thought long and hard about it, found nothing and at the last minute opted for buying a super duper ultra snow brush and ice scraper. The deluxe version that will never leave any car under scraped during an ice storm. (Yeah, laugh my friends.)

Yesterday was our office Christmas party. Due to a potential ice storm (which the ice scraper might actually have come in handy for, see I'm so intuitive) we canceled the party at our coworker's house (which is all decorated and welcoming) and decided to have the party in the staff meeting room. We had several people bring wine but that had to be replaced with Diet Pepsi because it was at the office.

We were instructed to put all of our chairs in a circle with the presents in a pyle in the middle of the room. At the same time, we were told to go to the center and get a gift. We each opened our own gift and then had to say what we received. Now the stealing part started. All of us received two playing cards and one person had an extra deck of cards and called out the numbers so we had two chances to steal somebody's gift when our card came up.
You can tell a lot about people by how they play this game. You can tell who the really kind people are when they keep their gift which is obviously something they aren't thrilled about just so they don't hurt peoples' feelings. You have the people that just don't care. It's $10 dollars, what really can I get out of this? So they take whatever comes. You have the people that take it seriously and stop at nothing to try and keep their present. And the list goes on.

The gifts included: numerous lotion sets (which I didn't try for because you never know if it's a good lotion unless you know the brand or smell it), a Chia pet herb garden, wine, the Christmas nick-knacks which end up being added to your attic and the one gift which everyone tried to avoid: a pot which strains the fat from gravy.

As for which type of player am I? I'm the over thinker. I analyze who will probably take what so I can end up with a gift that I like. The fun is actually more in trying to predict how it will play out.
Thought process: If I steal the $25 dollar gift certificate that most people want, than my chance of getting a gift I don't want is greater because I'll be stuck with whatever they have. If I go for another gift I like, but isn't the best one, then I'll probably get to keep it because nobody is stealing it. It worked. I ended up with a nice black picture frame that holds 5x7 photos which was perfect for Olivia's Halloween portraits. Unfortunately, my best friend at the office and coworker ended up with the gravy de-fatter. And she doesn't cook.

But it was fun and I highly suggest the steal a gift scenario if your extended family (or office) is tired of buying a boat load of gifts for so many people. Other versions include: drawing numbers and then the person with number one gets to pick a wrapped gift, then number two can either pick another wrapped gift or steal number one's and then number three can pick a wrapped gift or steal any of the people that went before him.

Another family does the same thing but nobody opens the gifts so it's more based on the anticipation of what that gift might hold and at the end everyone opens what they end up with.

And one of my relatives family bring gifts under $5 dollars (gag gifts) and does this so it's more fun than anything else. As for my husband's family, they have a spending amount of $30 dollars for the gift. So it can go anyway you want it. When you can pretty much get whatever you want during the year, it's a fun and memorable way to enjoy Christmas. With less emphasis on buying a ton of gifts which Christmas shouldn't be about anyway.

December 9, 2007

Ten Things

Kriss, a fellow blogger, had tagged several of us to post ten known facts:

I hate dipped food. Ever since my daughter first learned that food can be dipped, EVERYTHING has to be dipped: in ketchup, in mustard, dipped in ranch dressing and in any kind of liquid, spread or configuration which something can be dipped in. Last week, on a long tumultuous two hour drive, we had to get something for dinner on the way. Looking for the easy way out, we went to McDonalds. For twenty minutes, I had to continually turn around and present my daughter with sauce for her chicken McNuggets or she cried. (I would never trust a 21 month-old with holding honey mustard sauce in the backseat of a car.) After many times of turning around, I realized, she wasn’t eating the chicken, she was just licking the sauce off. There wasn’t any chicken being eaten at all.

I laugh continually when I read the book I've almost written which either means it’s a damn good book or I’m a borderline lunatic.

I love chocolate, way too much. But what woman doesn’t, really?

I hate changing diapers so much that my husband has probably changed 75 percent of them. Especially the stinky ones.

I hate going to bed because I don’t want tomorrow to come.

I never thought I would be a baby person but I fell in love with my daughter when she smiled at me. And gradually, when I see babies, I’ve now become the motherly schmoozy person by saying, “Ah, look at that baby!” Before I was like, “Yeah, so what?”

I’m way to idealistic for my own good. I believe everyone should operate on a basic of good ethics, sound principles and a kind heart and many times, because of this idealism, I’m let down.

My greatest luck came about with my husband. He looks at me like I’m the best thing that happened since apple pie. And everyone should have someone who thinks they are better than apple pie!

I believe in God and that we should be tolerant of all religions, sexual orientations, differences of opinions and life as long as it doesn’t cause physical harm to others. Who are we to be so sanctimonious to judge others and then use God as the catch phrase for the reasoning behind what constitutes as our own opinions or translations of what he stands for.

I am a grouchy Christmas customer. I now like Christmas shopping for the first twenty minutes. By the time I have been poked, ran over by a cart, stood in a long line for some “limited release” toy, have seen too many people drop stuff in stores and not pick it up and have been ran over by people in a hurry and people not keeping the flow moving in the aisles, I say, “forget this” and I grab the closest present on the shelf and I’m gone. So what if Grandma is going to get an electric knife in a dented box that was on the clearance shelf next to the front lobby. After Christmas, she can be my guest and mosey on over to take it back with her walker in tow and peruse the limitless aisles in search of a left over fruit cake or a foot warmer.

(Actually, I don’t have a Grandma. I’m not THAT mean.)

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday weekend was great! Yesterday, we went to see Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz. There was a man that laughed like a horse throughout the whole musical who sat next to my husband, but other than that, it was pretty damn good. Well worth the bazillion American Express points it took to see it.

Then we went to the Melting Pot for a four course fondue dinner. Today, we went to see the movie, The Golden Compass and then to Sam's Club to get groceries. (Okay the Sam's Club thing wasn't so great but hey, you have to eat.)
And tonight, I am blowing out my candles and making a big ol' wish. Perhaps it'll be the typical Miss America beauty pageant wish for "world peace" however, I doubt it.

November 1, 2007

Congratulations Olivia!

This is a professional picture and cannot be copied
On Halloween, after trick-or-treating, we entered the mall's Costume Contest. Each child had to go on stage and model their costume. When her time came, Olivia (dressed as a lady bug) walked on the stage by herself, gave her card to the announcer, went to the front where the judges sat and gave a big toothy grin.

She actually came in first for the Cutest Costume out of 100 plus children who entered. Way to go Olivia!

I learned three things:

1. I am of course very proud of her ability to make even the grumpiest people smile.
2. Cracker Barrel has become the newest and greatest place to buy halloween costumes. (Go figure.)
3. I've turned into one of "those" parents.

October 28, 2007

The Lost Child

To those who left us behind too early

Yet so visually have never escaped our minds

We wait in anticipation for the day

When remembrance becomes completion

And we shall be reunited

As if time had never passed

And love was never lost

(For Jackie)

October 10, 2007

Bite-Size Brown Bits of Joy

Now I have heard of individually wrapped chocolates, individually wrapped popsicles and even individually wrapped pieces of cheese, but individually wrapped prunes? Where does one even start with this?

Sunsweet, a company that produces and sells most of the dried fruit and juices that you see in grocery stores came out with a new product Sunsweet Ones. The hype: you can now buy your prunes individually wrapped! Boy, how lucky we are that science and technology has advanced us.
The upscale bourgeois eat with your pinkie up name:

Pitted Dried Plums

The name which parents used when they made us eat them:


I still remember when I ate my first prune as a child. It was like eating a beetle, once you bit through the tough skin, the ooze came out. I pointed to the roof of my mouth where it had stuck itself and yelled, "Yucky!"

And where does one eat these "individually wrapped" prunes?

People at offices bring in goodies to their fellow coworkers all of the time; candies, cookies, and especially chocolate if you work with a bunch of women. But who is going to be the one to bring in a can of these babies and say, "Would you like an individually wrapped pitted dried plum?"

And the parties. "There's a bowl of Cheetos and a bowl of prunes on the table. Help yourself and enjoy." But as one website mentioned, "Prunes are well known for their ability to prevent constipation." (Which may be a hint that it isn't such a good party or group food if you don't want your bathroom stool in use for the whole night.)
The product is actually targeted to people who want a boost of energy and vitamins without gaining weight. But let's be truthful, if you are starving and trying to lose weight it's not a prune you want to reach for, nor do you want to take the umpteen seconds it takes to unwrap just one. No, if you are starving, you'll be taking the half an hour it would require to unwrap each individual one from the can, just to feel semi-full.
And then of course
running to the bathroom.

So I ask you? Would you buy and then take the time to individually unwrap a delectable, downsized, delicious Prune?

And what's next?

Individually wrapped raisins?
(And since it's Halloween and all, try putting one in the kiddies napsack or jack-o-lantern on Halloween night when they ring the doorbell and say, "Trick-or-treat".
And then you can reply, "Here's a nice delicious individual prune for you."
I'm sure they will just love it. Now your house may be egged at a later point in time, but I can't be responsible for that.)

October 7, 2007

To Get You in the Mood for Halloween

You have to click on the link below and see these pictures from a fellow friend's website showing "Why Pets Hate Halloween"

Hilarious and definitely worth the time. I promise.
And if that doesn't scare you, you can always scroll down and look at Phil Spector's picture again.

September 26, 2007

A Face (And Hairdo) Only a Mother Could Love

We all remember the perms of the 80's. I do, because I had at least eight of them in my school career and I still have the smell of a freshly new perm in my mind.

Let me tell you, when you left the beauty salon, the smell of fried hair lingered with you, that is until the beauty salons went new age and got in fruit smelling perm solutions. Now when I left with a new perm, I could smell like both strawberries and burnt hair. I don't know which one was worse.

But with Phil Spector, somewhere amidst the perm solution and the curl relaxer, damn it, someone got this one wrong. And if you haven't noticed the elephant in the room, I'm talking about yes, that particularly charming looking fellow up above.

Phil Spector, a famous music producer back in the 1960's, is charged with shooting Lana Clarkson. (Which many journalists so politely denote her as "B actress Lana Clarkson" - as if her life was only mildly important.)

Five women from his past came forth and said that Spector threatened them with guns so he obviously has a fascination with firearms, which may or may not be compensating for a lack of something else he may not have elsewhere. (I don't know? Big hair, big guns - you be the judge.)

So here is what I think - the perm is being used to house a small pocket pistol, like the one you see James Bond sporting in his earlier movies. I mean really, it could fit in there, right?

If a person is going to court and especially if he is being charged with murder, I have always felt it is in their best interest if they dress up a bit, do their hair, clean their nails and such. It is not however, the time to get a fresh perm.

However, once the deed is done and there is no going back, it's time to use styling products to diminish the damage. He could sprinkle some water on top of it to flatten it down a bit and take out the frizz or perhaps another option, take a hand full of Pantene hair mousse and run it through so the poof relaxes a few feet. In any case, he certainly shouldn't have appeared in court with a hairdo which could have been easily achieved by sticking his finger into a light socket.

Here is the clincher: The court had to declare a mistrial because the jury did not come back with a unanimous verdict.

It had to be the hair.

In other news, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (or as Whoopi Goldberg on The View called him, Mahmoud I'm-a-dinner-jacket) spoke at Columbia University to a fiery crowd. Not only does he deny that the Holocaust happened which is baffling but he also thinks that being gay must be strictly an American thing.

Ahmadinejad told the audience: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this.",0,4057721.story

And there you have it. Obviously, someone never asked either of these interesting gentlemen: "Where did you come from?" Because these two certainly fit the bill.

And with that smile and wave, perhaps the now deceased televangalist, Reverend Jerry Falwell, would have a different take all together for Mr. Ahmadinejad as well.

September 18, 2007


Our House and the soon to be "crap" sidewalk

2:00 A.M.

Olivia has a severe cough, we are both up all night.

7:00 A.M.

Dog chews her cast from her leg. (She had a $700 operation last month.)

7:30 A.M.

Call vet and make an appointment for 8:00 A.M. for a new cast.

8:30 A.M.

Drop off baby at daycare and go to the office for a full day of work.

2:00 P.M.

My eighteen-year-old niece came up to stay and help with the baby while my husband is on a business trip in Virgina for the week. She has my father drive her three hours back to her house because she misses her boyfriend and I yelled at her. Go figure.

5:30 P.M.

Pick up Olivia from the daycare for which I am told that she had a diarrhea blowout and her new pink pants and white shirt are sitting in her daycare cubby hole in a sack fermenting since lunch time.

6:00 P.M.
I arrive home and I find that the new partial sidewalk in the front of our house has been finally put in by the city. (Our tree uprooted a segment many years ago.) Where upon I became aware that some kid had pleasured himself by writing CRAP in big giant letters on our newly wet cemented sidewalk. I, being the creative solution solver, go over and try to make CRAP into four large squares but give-up when I realize the cement had completely dried about a half an hour ago. Therefore, I can always tell someone who is looking for my house, "Just look for the house where the word "crap" is on the sidewalk.

11:30 P.M.

Go to bed and hope that tomorrow is a better day. And as long we all wake up - I guess that's something.

Side note:

As you can see by this last picture, for the first two years we moved in I went crazy on planting flowers. Anywhere and everywhere.

"Stephane, can you dig a hole here?" "And one here?" And how about over here?"

"Is there any method to this madness?" he would say. Finally, he said firmly, "No more flowers or plants. There isn't any space."

And that's when I started sneaking in the flowers and planting them before he arrived home.

Yes, I was a closeted flower maniac. I was seriously suitable for some Garden Center Anonymous, for people who had addictions to garden centers. Finally, I can say I'm four years clean. I now only buy enough to fill the urns in front and to plant a few herbs and I didn't even do it this year. It shows you what you can do if you fight the urge! I bypass the garden centers and if I go, I look straight ahead and close my eyes to all of the bright beautiful "real" flowers or else I'm sure that would be on the divorce papers, "wife obsessed with planting". But no plastic ones!

September 6, 2007

Where Did You Come From?

Every once in awhile, the full moon comes out and the crazies abound everywhere. And for those people who do not have a full moon to blame their abnormal behaviors on, well, perhaps they are singing to a different tune. So you would think.

On Labor Day, the four of us went to the Lincoln Park Zoo, to the Chicago History Museum, to the lakefront and finally, out to eat to Sweet Tomatoes. In other words, it was a labor intensive non-stop day with my husband and I taking up the lead, an over extended grandpa in the back and a toddler in desperate need of a good nap taking up the middle. It was fun, but alas, this is not the true nature of this story.

As we were driving out of the parking lot near the lake, a young boy, probably around ten, had his pants down and was mooning us from the sidewalk. His pants were clearly down to his kneecaps, his derriere showing for any passerby to see. Worst of all, his father and mother were by the side of the car laughing at him. Stephane and I agreed, if we had a son at that age who thought it was funny to show his backside to cars as they went by, he would have quite a slap on that backside to convince him otherwise.

On our way back, we stopped at Sweet Tomatoes, the salad bar buffet, where at dessert time, I took a small bowl of tapioca pudding, and while in line, I put it down beside me to get something, and a young little preteen girl runs up to me, sticks her finger in my bowl of tapioca pudding and licks off her finger. I must have given a look of shock, because she stared up at me with an ice cream mustache, probably ice cream from some other person’s ice cream bowl, and said, "Sorry" and then hopped away.

Then tonight, I went to Sam's Club to get some groceries. It wasn't very busy and very few people were there. As I took my cart and started pushing it down the long aisle, this fuzzy headed middle-aged woman with a long brightly colored skirt, bobby socks and 1950's shoes walked up to my cart and stayed glued next to me while I went down the aisle. At first I was like, someone must have lost their mentally challenged aunt and for some reason she's hanging out with me, but then after several minutes, up from her side came a clip board and binder and she said in a thick Eastern European accent with some kind of speech impediment, "Would you like to buy a sunroom?"

Now if you've ever been to Sam's Club or Costco, you know as soon as you step an inch past the checkout counters, these people come at you, trying to sell you sunrooms, cell phones and whatever else they can attack you with right when you get into the door. So I relaxed a bit once I knew I wasn't being followed by some crazy lady but instead was being followed by a weird woman selling sunrooms.

"No thank you," I said as she went on with her spiel. "See," she said. She flipped through the pictures, quickly trying to keep up with me while I was trying to get away with my cart. "No," I said, "I'm not interested" and turned the cart immediately to the right to enter another aisle and to hopefully, be out of her selling zone.

Fifteen minutes later, I'm on the other side of the store looking at outfits for Olivia and I see the fuzzy headed woman heading straight toward me again. I move into the hanging clothes a bit more, hoping she doesn't see me however, there are only around ten people in the entire Sam's Club so I guess she felt she had to be persistent with a low volume of customers to badger.

She stopped directly beside me. Obviously, me hiding behind the clothes rack didn't work. "Would you like to buy a sunroom?" she said again in her thick accent and meaningless expression.
"You already asked me," I pointed out and with no response she immediately left and was on to a new customer she spotted coming down the aisle.

I know there are crazy people out there - people with no social discretion, people who think everything is their domain to claim like the tapioca pudding girl, people that are, as the saying goes, "two colors short of a rainbow" which can certainly describe the fuzzy headed sunroom saleswoman from Sam's Club. (And her kaleidoscope of a skirt I might add.)

The world is filled with people that you wonder, "Where did you come from?" Because sometimes it sure doesn't feel like they came from planet Earth.

When I first started working at United Airline's answering phones, we blamed it on the full moon. We all knew what kind of customer phone calls we were going to get when there was a full moon that night.
Like clockwork, they would call us. And we knew it would always be an interesting night when we worked the late shift.

The only thing I can say is there must be a full moon out this whole entire week because I certainly had my fill of strange people.

So the next time you run into one of them, someone you consider crazy, strange, peculiar, a little bit off - because you know you will, we've all seen them out there - stop and say, "Where did you come from?" and then thank God nobody classifies you as one of them.

August 31, 2007

Bubba This and Bubba That

All day last week, Olivia kept on shouting, "Bobbie, Bobbie." We were like, "Who is Bobbie?"

Yesterday, at her daycare, the teacher said, "Oh you know what? She must mean one of the toddlers we have in here named Bubba. You know him don't you?" "No," I said. "Everyone knows Bubba," she went on. "Are you sure you don't know Bubba?" "No, I don't know Bubba."

She looked puzzled. "He's the really, really big baby. His mother calls him Bubba because the child eats all day." And Olivia loves to eat therefore, I guess she has an eating buddy and is quite fond of Bubba. So our daughter now can say five words: mama, daddy, kitty, doggy and the ever popular Bubba!

She must be thinking of her buddy, Bubba.

August 20, 2007

Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Pleads Guilty

From an article posted on AOL by Larry O'Dell:

"Michael Vick's lawyer said Monday the NFL star will plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, putting the Atlanta Falcons quarterback's career in jeopardy and leaving him subject to a possible prison term."

Included in the story, "About a dozen bright red Vick jerseys have been donated - often accompanied by financial contributions - to the Atlanta Humane Society since he was indicted last month. The shelter uses them for dog blankets, and to clean up after the animals."

Utterly befitting if you ask me.

Previous article:

August 13, 2007

Who Ate the Cheese?

It is starting to become quite the episode when my toddler and I enter through the mechanical doors into a world that Olivia loves - the unassuming grocery store.

She has been on a crusade of exploration. First (and still), it's her thumb in her mouth. Then to soothe herself, she started the habit of rubbing her ear. Next, it was down to sticking her finger into her belly button. It is an interesting show when she decides to do all three at once and it certainly shows that she is a multi-tasker.

At the grocery store last week, she was on to a new venture. She discovered she had a left nipple. Up went the shirt in the frozen food aisle. "What are you doing? Put that shirt down." She laughed of course, since she rarely takes me seriously and up went the shirt again. This happened all through the store, in the grocery section, the baby food aisle, the dairy case, the checkout line and then again out to the car. It was as if she discovered something amazing.

Today at the grocery store, I had it all planned out. I was going to buy a chicken tender at the hot food counter for her to eat while I shopped. I figured it would keep her occupied at least to the checkout lane. It went faster than I thought. So I looked in the cart for some food item she could look at, something that wasn't a jar made out of glass or a can that she could drop on my foot since I went through that experience a few months ago.

I found a block of cheddar cheese in the bottom of the cart. I figured she would look at it, admire it, and that would be that. I bent down to buckle my sandal, came back up and she handed me the cheese, only with a large exposed chunk bitten off plastic and all.

Lord does that child have some teeth.

I could have put it back but what kind of surprise would another customer have when they held up the package and a part of it was gone. Or, I could have given it to the cashier and told her I think they may have a mouse running about in the cheese aisle. Which I'm sure would have made the store and the Board of Health so happy. But alas, I'm too much of an honest person so I had to tell the cashier to ring up the cheese and immediately put it in a bag because, well, my child bit off the end.

But Olivia loves the grocery store and she is a very friendly baby when she is inside. She says a firm "hi!" to every customer who passes by our cart and if they don't respond, she yells after them, "HI!" until they say hello back.

I think her destiny is to be a greeter at Wal-Mart. I just hope they don't have any blocks of cheese there.

August 9, 2007

Baby Buffalo Versus Lion Versus Alligator

You have to watch this amazing video called Battle at Kruger on YouTube. A man captured this while on safari. It definitely shows you the power of resilience.

It starts out slow so you need to watch it to the end.

Side note: The outcome is good, otherwise, I couldn't watch it.

July 31, 2007

That Old Black Magic

Photograph by Gordon and Cathy Illg/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes
Tonight it happened again.
Our dog, Emmy, has been skunked so many times she can pass herself off as an honorary skunk. Five times in four years.

We first became aware of this phenomenon when we were at the family farm on one cold Thanksgiving night, right before we were to leave for a holiday party. We were outside in the dark rubbing her fur down with cans of tomato juice. Since then, we've moved onto bigger and better things, namely industrialized strength skunk shampoo.

An hour ago, my husband came running through the living room, “Where are the dogs!" He said he could smell the skunk odor through the air conditioner in the kitchen. (After having a dog sprayed five times, he has developed quite the nose for that particular smell. It has become his enemy.)

He ran outside and I heard this loud, “No, no!” I knew what was coming because I had heard this "No, no" many times before. He walked through the door covered with dirt and said that Emmy had shook her fur (and consequently her odorous perfume) right as he took hold of her collar and then added that he was now covered in skunk dust.

Poor Stephane, he is in the bedroom once again, changing into his worn out shirt and old shorts at 10:30 P.M. on a Tuesday night to go outside and hose down our dog with skunk shampoo.

He deserves an honorary award.

The Amazing Skunk Cleaner Upper

Somehow, I don't think this is the best time to mention the award.

Emmy is now considered the largest skunk in the world.

July 19, 2007

Accountability - Is It Just A Word?

Michael Vick, a famous NFL quarterback, is in the hot seat for pit bull fighting.
The article said law enforcement officials found a dog fighting ring along with many pit bulls and indications that dogs were hung, shot, and electrocuted if they did not win.

According to this article on AOL, by Kevin Johnson, “After a meeting involving NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the Falcons, the league will let Vick keep playing, the Associated Press reported. The AP reported that a person with knowledge of the meeting, who requested anonymity so the case would not be influenced, said the NFL would stick to that position for the foreseeable future, despite its new personal-conduct policy.”

Please post how you feel regarding the NFL and other affiliates that are still supporting Michael Vick by allowing him to play. Michael Vick’s money making capabilities have overshadowed that using animals in any form of fighting is unethical and illegal and all those who participate, regardless if they are star athlete players, should be held accountable.

If you look at the comments at the bottom of the AOL article, you will see that as of this date, there are over 11,000 reader comments in regard to this case. This is just a small amount of the overall opinions on this matter. Most are asking that everyone email Roger Goodell and state they do not approve of the NFL allowing Vick to play until proven guilty. (I mean really people, it was at his house! How could he not know it was going on.) There is an opinion section at the bottom right corner of the web page where people are writing their negative comments.

The only way Michael Vick will be held accountable with the NFL is if people hold him and any of his supporters accountable. There are 11,000 angry comments on AOL. If everyone emails their opinion on the Fox website then perhaps it will matter. Address it to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Take the time right now because there are dogs out there that will never be given any time - to live a good life.

July 16, 2007

Botulism in Its Finest Form

Today, I forwent my motherly duties and went to judge the Foods Competition at the 4H fairgrounds. 4H is a state wide organization where children enter projects such as foods, sewing, crafts, home decorating, demonstrations, and other areas where they are judged in their own county and have the chance to go on to the state fair for state champion in their division.

I was in 4H for 10 years. I loved it and I was quite happy when they asked me to judge one of the competitions. This afternoon, I was the judge for International Foods which included international cookies and quick breads. I had to taste around 15 cookies, but it was much better than the judge on my left who had to taste around 15 yeast and quick breads. How would you like to eat 15 bread products? And last year she said she had to taste well over 15 "bran" muffins! She said she was seriously sick for two days. By the time we were done, neither of us wanted to taste anything for quite awhile.

We also had the participant sitting in front of us while we judged. We had to ask the child questions and then score the product in front of them.

The majority of my cookies that I had to score were pretty good. In fact, I was worried it would be hard to pick a winner. Everyone was receiving a blue ribbon which is the highest ribbon. After four hours, when I thought we were done for the day, in comes “the one”, which Lord help me, I should have stayed clear away from. It didn’t necessarily look bad, but the taste, oh man, the taste.

It was a Polish kolacky cookie which most people have tried before since it’s a popular cookie. So I cut a bite size piece off one of the cookies and tasted it in front of her. Once it was in my mouth, I could clearly tell something was definitely not right. It was so awful I could hardly keep it in my mouth; all the while I’m sitting there smiling while this young girl who worked hard on these cookies is watching me. So I did what any moral person would do – I shared the cookies with my fellow judges.

I mean, what if it really wasn’t that horrible? Clearly I needed a second opinion. Maybe it was my imagination that I was eating something as nasty as curdled milk. The second judge (who didn’t have to judge my group, but I so graciously offered her a sample) tasted a piece and after seeing the look on her face, I knew I was right.

So usually, I’m supposed to tell the child their ribbon color before they get up, but this time, I told her she could leave and that I would fill out her evaluation later. I just didn’t know what to say it was so awful.

Once the girl was gone, I thought; why not share in the tasting? So I had the judge on the left of me taste it. She started chewing, let out an “Oh” groan and gave me a nasty look. She opened her mouth with the cookie chewed up inside and kept saying, “Oh, oh,” chewed a few more bites and said, “I think I need to spit this out.” I told her I would get her a paper towel but she looked around, realizing that we were in this big auditorium and someone such as the girl might be watching her so she continued to chew it up and said that it was the worst cookie she had ever tasted.

The conclusion – the judge on the right side of me thought the problem was spoiled cream cheese and the cookies could have been left all day in the girl’s car and the judge to the left of me thought the girl maybe didn’t wash her hands and they were not baked enough to kill the bacteria. But all three of us agreed we might end up with food poisoning. I felt really ill afterwards for several hours but luckily, I have had no real signs since then. And the sick feeling could have been from the fact that I had to taste 15 cookies.

It is now later in the evening and I can honestly say that I’m never eating another Polish kolacky cookie without looking it thoroughly over. And somehow, since I dream of things that bother me, I know I will end up dreaming of some giant raspberry filled kolacky in the sky with cream cheese that has gone bad.

Overall, I had fun and met some interesting people. I would do it again anytime.

July 13, 2007

Flowers Flowers Everywhere

Today, I went to visit a client for work to set up services. Their front yard abounded in flowers - that is plastic flowers. I must say, when I go to The Dollar Store and see their unique variety of plastic flowers, my first inclination is not to landscape my yard with them. In fact, my first thought is, didn't putting plastic flowers ANYWHERE in or around your house go out in the 90's?

But, whatever floats a person's boat I say.

My mother did this before, or I should say, she had my dad do it. Planting plastic flowers that is. All I could say is, "No mother, just no. You're really not fooling anyone."
I mean, do people who do this really think other people can't tell the difference?
"Oh, your garden looks so beautiful. It's amazing, all the flowers are in bloom at the same time. But heh, weren't they also in bloom when we visited you at Christmas?"
"I just use an industrial strength fertilizer. They come out looking the same everytime."

So I go to my client's house, divert my eyes from the plenitude of plastic petals and safely make it into the house.
And then I go in and I see -
the green shag carpet.
Perhaps this topic, in all of its elegance, is best saved, for yet
another post.

July 1, 2007

A Short Story

Babies love water.
Babies throw things in the water.
Babies throw EVERYTHING in the water.
These are just a few.

Olivia received a Water Wheel for her birthday.

She figured the doll baby needed a bath. So first it went in.

She then figured the baby had to have a stroller in the water. (She couldn't quite lift it up to get it in.)

And then went in the remote control which she kindly brought back to me, dripping with water. (She must have thought the baby wanted to watch T.V.)

Everything in our house will soon be in the water.

May they all rest in peace.

June 17, 2007

Quote of the Day

My parents are visiting us this weekend to help watch the baby while my husband puts up our much needed fence (our dogs always think the grass is greener on the other side, in this case our neighbors yard), while I work on in house things.

My seventy-four-year-old dad, due to his age, was designated the "official babysitter" for the weekend. So he can sit down and take it easy while making sure our toddler doesn't put her fingers in the light sockets, doesn't eat anything off the floor, and doesn't get into anything that she shouldn't.

But since Olivia loves to run and be chased, it's more of him sitting down in a comfortable chair, her running into the kitchen, him getting up to bring her back, him sitting down, then her running into the library, him getting up again to go get her, him sitting down again - the process never ending. After awhile, what's the use of sitting in a chair at all he says. Poor dad, oh well, Happy Father's Day! Anyway, in the midst of his anxiety he yelled, "Someone turn on that purple boy show!"

I guess Barney, the dinosaur, has a new name - the illustrious Purple Boy.

But I ask you, does anyone really know if Barney is indeed a boy? Or perhaps the now deceased televangalist, Reverend Jerry Falwell, would have a different take all together:

June 14, 2007

The Things We Try Even Though There Isn't Any Damn Way

Picture of Emmy
Tonight, just after my husband arrived home, we decided to head for the park with two dogs and a toddler in tow. Olivia has finally learned to walk by herself and it took about ten minutes to pass two houses just to get to the park with the two dogs wanting to walk a million miles a minute while the toddler was well, toddling along behind – slowly.

At the park, Stephane headed over to the tennis court on site. He had the great idea for all of us to go inside, lock ourselves in and let the dogs and baby run free, uninhibited. After a few minutes, my husband gets the crazy idea that our dog, Emmy, who is a Labrador/Greyhound mix, can intuitively, if challenged, jump over the tennis court net, just like a poodle would do jumping through a hoop.

Now we all know how high a tennis court net is (unless you’ve been living under a rock all your life), and we all know that even for us to get over a tennis court net, we have to walk up to it, slowly put one leg over and then manipulate our other leg over, all while balancing ourselves and not falling over. So how is a medium size dog that took me a whole year just to train to sit, going to find the ambition to suddenly jump over a tennis court net, and the second question is, why?

But in any case, my husband felt she would do it. So he ran around the tennis net to the other side, called her, and then she came bounding toward him, went to the side where she could walk through between the two nets, and arrived next to him. Wagging her tail and happy as a clam.

“See I told you she wouldn’t do it. She’s not that dumb.”

“No, I think she will.”

So he ran again over to the other side of the net, yelled for her to come, and just like before, she ran around and met him there again. Wagging her tail, happy as a clam.

“How many times are you going to try this?”

But my words mean nothing when my husband is trying to prove something. After several times, he had Emmy, Daisy, and our toddler, Olivia, all coming to him when he called only now all three of them were walking to the end of the net and going through the opening of the two side by side tennis courts. Even Olivia, who just turned 15 months, was smart enough to know it would be a lot easier to follow the dogs and walk around than to try to jump over the tennis court net like “daddy” was proposing. There was no jumping the net for any of the three.

So I give my husband credit, because he tried, but even if he put two dog biscuits and a baby teething biscuit on the other side, there wasn't any damn way, any of them was even remotely considering jumping that tennis court net. But the good thing is that he tired them out with walking several times around that tennis court and right now, all three are sound asleep so I can write this. Now that’s progress.

June 8, 2007

Getting Ready for Grandma's House

How I long for the days when we grabbed a change of clothing, bagged up our toothbrushes, jumped in the car and left for places unknown and of course “the parents house”. That was before family hood. Now it’s a regular event just to get ready to go to the actual event.

This weekend, a three hour drive away, will be my niece’s and nephew’s graduation party on Saturday. Both my husband and I just got home from a long work week and several things need to be done before we can leave for this trip: the lawn has to be mowed, the baby has to have a bath (her hair is sticky on one side), the litter box needs changed, all the pets need food for the weekend, we have to eat dinner and then we can start packing. Clothes for all, diapers (not for all), diaper wipes, toys, socks, clothes if it gets cold, clothes if it gets hot, pajamas, baby barrettes, camera for the party, two cards and two graduation gifts. I have to find a good book to bring because my sister doesn’t have cable, makeup, a brush, throw away any food that won’t make it until Sunday from the refrigerator, and we have to do laundry because I am out of underwear and we all (at one time in our life) have thought well, we’ll just go without it until we have time to do laundry. And that one experience was all that we needed to know, to never do it again.

And that is just the precursor to leaving for only a weekend trip with a baby. Maybe we just shouldn’t go and spend a nice relaxing weekend at home. (And the second I make this decision I know my mother will find out and I will start to receive a plethora of phone calls on my answering machine saying, “Debbie, where are you!”

And how do I know this? I received a guilt trip for the past month for deciding to go on our vacation (which we planned a year in advance) instead of going to the yearly family reunion. Let's see, a family reunion in the country eating fried chicken and sitting on fold away chairs or a Florida resort drinking margaritas and sitting on the beach. Hmm. Such hard decisions I have to make.

“But are you sure you don’t want to change your plans to come home a few days early and go to the family reunion?”

“No mother.”

“But. . .”

“No mother.”

Stay tuned because I have two vacation stories to post, and they are quite funny if I do say so myself. Just to give you a little idea so you will come back and read it.

The first story is about our Vacation in 2006 in Williamsburg and Hilton Head. I wrote this awhile back and never published it because I couldn’t find the pictures. And believe me; you have to see the pictures. I couldn’t figure out which title is better for this one. Either-
A Hurricane, a Cockroach, and a Cat
A Hurricane, an Immensely Hairy Man and a Cat
(Cast your votes now. No, really don’t. I'm not as advanced as American Idol where you can call in and vote. And pay a $1 for it of course.)

The second story about our Vacation last week in Florida is,
Hotel Ceiling Chains, a Kentucky Faith Healer and Yes, another Cockroach

There were a lot of crazy things that happened. I’m not sure if I’m just around when craziness happens, or that I have an aura that draws this craziness to my life. Maybe it’s a unique perspective to see the insanity in everyone and everything. In any case, I hope it doesn’t indicate that I’m going to have some mental disability when I’m old and gray and be one of those people who end up in a mental ward, where I talk to myself and look out of iron barred windows saying, “Birdie, birdie.”

May 3, 2007

Shopping With A Toddler - The Dressing Room

Today, I went to a clothes store, figuring I could tire out Olivia and find a few clothes for my vacation at the same time, multi-tasking at its finest. I would put her in a stroller, push her around and she could be visually stimulated while I looked for some summer tops.

As soon as I arrived, I realized it was a bad idea. As I looked at the clothes on the clearance rack I kept noticing clothes were falling off the rack that was a few feet over. One slowly went off, then another one with a little more speed and then another one.

I moved over so I could see what was messing with these clothes. As other customers have a propensity to see clothes on the floor and either walk over them or leave them there, I have the nagging sensation to pick them up and I didn't feel like dealing with some thoughtless shopper today.

I turned and looked down over by the other rack, and there was my one-year-old daughter pulling clothes off the hangers as she innocently sat in the stroller. "Um, no, don't do that," I said nicely. She turned away, slowly put her hands on another pair of hanging pants, looked back at me and slyly smiled. "No Olivia, don't do that."

Boom! She pulled the pants down and looked back, smiling. I knew there was no rationalizing with a semi-non-verbal toddler who only knows the words "do do" for doggy and "ditty" for kitty so I figured I was left to my own ingenuity to figure out how to solve the situation.

I moved the stroller over to a vantage point where she couldn't grab anything and went back to look for some summer tops. I looked back at her for some reason (call it mom's intuition that something must have been happening because she was too quiet) and there she was, standing straight up in the stroller. "No, sit down, you'll fall and get hurt." There I was again, trying to rationalize with her.

I finally found a few tops and went to the dressing room where the woman kindly told me that there weren't any dressing rooms big enough to fit a stroller inside so I could use the one at the end and leave the door open, while changing my clothes and while watching her in the stroller. I said to myself, "We're all women right?, I can watch a baby and change at the same time, right?," and since I've entered my 30's I really don't care anymore about a lot of the things I used to, so I blocked the open door with the stroller and was able to get my arm out of one sleeve until, the banging started.

Olivia was close to the door and thought it made a great noise to consistently and repetitively bang the wooden dressing room door against her stroller. I took her hand and said "No, don't do that Olivia." I tried to be have an even tone and look straight in her eyes. Where upon she slyly smiled at me again as she rested her hand on the door, and once I turned around, yes, the banging started once more. Okay, my multitasking session was not working. I was not wearing her out, but rather she was wearing me out.

I pushed the stroller out of the door, took her out and put her inside with me and then shut the door so we were both inside. "Ha ha," I said, "you're not going to get to bang on the door anymore." For which she fell to her knees and quickly crawled underneath the door. I, still in my bra, had to open the door, go outside (thank God I was still in the dressing area) and capture a fast moving toddler which was headed toward the outside of the store. I brought her back in, blocking underneath the door with my legs and then she decided to go back to banging again, only this time it was the dressing room mirror.

I thought I was losing it. I had been in the dressing room at that point for a half an hour and had only tried on two tops so I put her back in the stroller, strapped her down, and shut the door. Well actually, I kept the door cracked open an inch. I've learned you can never leave a toddler totally out of your sight.

Shopping with a toddler can never be confused with multitasking, it is more like multi-insanity.

Somehow I believe that later, I will see these as precious times instead of a stressful day. So many people say that children grow up quickly and to treasure each moment you have while they are young.

I know though, I will save this story for when she is older and she will be like any other teenager who says, "Mom, don't bring up that story again, your embarrassing me." And I will reply, "Until you have to run out of a dressing room chasing a baby in your bra, I think I have a few more times that I can remind you of the first time we went shopping together."

April 8, 2007

It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, No, It’s a Black Hairy Tongue

Ah, side effects. Every medication has a side effect, but do you ever really notice the side effects or care about them when you’re in the doctor’s office feeling like crap? And those beautiful drug commercials where the side effects are given at the end of the commercial in one of three ways: in fine print smaller than the human eye can see, told to us by some super sonic speed reader or gently flashed at the bottom of the screen while a woman in a bikini runs above to avert the commoners’ eyes.

But have you ever seen this side effect?
And no, this is NOT my tongue.

One which looks so gruesome it could be used in a midnight B movie on the Sci Fi Channel with some title like, Attack of the Killer Tongue or The Mutation Project.

On Saturday, I was prescribed penicillin for a cold and throat infection. After a few days, I finally decided to peruse the side effect sheet, you know the one that is on the medication bag and is consequently stapled shut from every angle. It stated, “Although uncommon, you may develop a black “hairy” tongue while taking this medication. This effect is harmless and usually goes away after treatment. Maintain good oral hygiene and brush your tongue with a soft toothbrush twice a day.”

“Stephane,” I yelled, “what the hell is a black hairy tongue? Quick, look at my tongue. I don’t want hair on my tongue!” I must say, I was not handling it well.

My husband grabbed the flash light and peered into my mouth. “I don’t see anything. What is it supposed to look like?”

“I don’t know,” I whined, “they call it a black hairy tongue so I guess it looks like a black hairy tongue.”

“I don’t know what a black hairy tongue is?”

“But do you see any hair on my tongue, any at all?”

“Well I don’t think so but I really don’t know what to compare it to?”

I run to the mirror in the bathroom and stick my tongue out as far as possible. After ten minutes, I concurred that I did not thankfully, have the dreaded black hairy tongue.

A week later, I am happy to report, I still do not have any kind of hair on my tongue. But it may be due to the fact that I have brushed my tongue more times than I can count - all to avoid looking like a space alien or monster from the deep. I did notice my husband hasn’t kissed me much this week. He says it’s because I have a horrible cold but I wonder?

I mean really, the sheet said it’s harmless. I shouldn’t worry - so you would think? But tell me, if your tongue turned out like the one in the picture, would you say to yourself, “Oh well, it’s completely harmless,” and then saunter off to work with your business suit and your black hairy tongue. I think not.

It may be physically harmless but nobody wants to be known as the Black Hairy Tongue Girl. Can you imagine how many of your friends would no longer let you taste any of their food because they can’t get that visual out of their mind? It's social suicide I tell you. On the other hand, it would make a great Halloween prop.

April 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Baby!

A child's first birthday. Either you host the birthday party or you are part of one at some point and they are always, always over the top. When we started to plan our daughter's first birthday party we thought it would be something small, no fancy decorations, just an easy homemade cake. Well, that's how it was supposed to be anyway.

The whole event started at The Party Store where there are rows and rows of childhood necessities to make the ultimate birthday party. You're roped in when you hear the saleswoman say, "Oh, I've seen people spend $400 on their child's first birthday party."

You look in your cart where you have one Happy Birthday Banner, the cheapest invitations you could find, and a package of balloons to blow-up.

By the time you leave, you have everything matching in a certain theme of course, whether it be Strawberry Shortcake, Winnie the Pooh, Elmo or the tons of other child themed cartoon characters that are out there. By the time we left, we had matching napkins, hats, invitations, thank you cards, two banners; one for the kitchen and the living room, tablecloths, cake candles with press on figures, first birthday bib, first birthday sippie cup, first birthday crown and the ever dreaded piƱata.

All for a small family affair, that is until your mother realizes you aren't inviting Aunt so and so, or the cousin who just moved back to town that you haven't seen since you were eight, or her friend from work who would love to attend because she says, "What a cute grandchild," every time your mother flashes your daughter's picture.

We decided to have dinner at the party which included a whole other set of issues. My sister-in-law doesn't eat certain types of meat and the meat she does eat, my only sister pretty much doesn't eat. And that pretty much leaves hamburger.

So I run down the list of what we could easily make since all of my family live three hours away in South Bend and all parties have to be there otherwise, I don't think anyone would attend.

Hamburgers would be okay, but it is too cold to grill outside, there's spaghetti which is pretty much the poor man's dinner (I mean really, you don't go to a special event and eat spaghetti with Prego sauce dumped on it), meatballs which personally I have no idea how to make, lasagna which takes a long time, so that left tacos. All of the high school/college kids that would be there like them, my nephew engulfs them and voila, it has hamburger! Not much in the way of gourmet food but I figure it'll pass.

The party was going to be held at 4:30 P.M. so the plan was to go and buy the balloons and then buy the groceries. The party/balloon store was very busy and when we finally arrived at the counter to buy balloons the cashiers were ready to get the order and get us out.

"We need some balloons," I told them.

And then the questions boomed out at me, "How many, what kind, how do you want them attached, did you want to order the twelve for this much or the four for this much, what kind of weight do you want them attached to, blah, blah, blah."

Since I have never bought balloons for anything before I started asking questions. This was where it started to go wrong. There wasn't room for questioning, not with a line of ten people behind me. After the balloons were added up, the cashier overheard me saying to my husband that we have to go to the grocery store now.

"You're not going to leave these balloons in the car are you?"

"Um," I said, "I was."

"Oh no, no, no. You can't do that, they'll pop."

I made a mental note to myself to check out a book called Ballooning 101 the next time I was at the library because obviously there is some science and preanalyzing that needs to be done before you step inside a balloon store.

I thought I would start the party with a few games. I happen to love party games, most of the adult population (and older relatives) do not like party games. Me asking the guests to write down on a piece of photo safe/acid free paper "Why is Olivia special?" for the scrapbook I was going to make was probably asking a bit much. By the time we got to how many M&M's are in the jar, I pretty much lost them.

After the games, we moved on to the taco dinner. Just saying "taco dinner" sounds like I had a trailor park birthday party. It's like those charity luncheons where you pay $50 dollars and expect chicken or steak and all they have is a table long sandwich from Subway. I guess that's why I wrote appetizers and dinner will be provided on the invitations instead of get ready for a taco dinner made from a Taco Bell kit.

After dinner, Olivia blew out her candle on her Care Bear cake. As you can see by the picture, she was not fond of having her hands covered in frosting. She first thought it was neat to stick her fingers in the cake, then looked at her fingers like, "How do you get this stinky junk off my hands?" and then it escalated to, "Someone get this stuff off my hands now!"

By the time we got to the presents, the party had been rather long. My brother was yawning and people were looking pretty bored. But the main thing is that we have pictures and when she grows up, she'll see that she was loved, even at the age of one little year.

April 1, 2007

The Beverly Hillbillies of Scrap Iron

One trash day a year, our city has a free-for-all day, where citizens of an otherwise modest community group together to throw away their trash: busted television sets, broken refrigerators, rusted bicycles, stained mattresses and outdated computers – absolutely free of charge. No one garbage can maximum, no expensive yard stickers to buy, it’s a pure unadulterated garbage fest and people come out sliding, pushing, and carrying anything and everything to the curb that is both attached and unattached to their house for the next morning’s pick-up.

But here’s the clincher: before any city worker, recycle center or garbage truck can pick the stuff up the next morning it’s gone, all gone, or if you want to be exact, mostly gone.

I had heard of these zen masters of the recycle world. These phantom garbage men who slowly venture into the night when everyone is asleep, to scour the streets for trash items which can be recycled for profit, reused, or are being kept for some world’s greatest garage sale that nobody knows about. And I was bound and determined that day to see what all the commotion was about. Why did they come out when nobody was around?

Today, I knew they would be at their best because it was the one day they would be able to collect to their heart's content. They were sure to be on a regular rotation schedule, wanting to get all of the unwanted goods before the next day. I thought for sure I would be able to hear them coming, the truck shifting into high gear or at least jerking to a halt to deal with the excess junk in their trunk. But these were the Gods of garbage hunting. They knew how to swiftly drive by and collect without anyone ever noticing.

The morning started out well. My husband and I decided to first clear out the excess from the attic and upstairs. Out went an old shower door, a painting of a woodland scene on particle board that the previous owners so graciously left us, tubes from a make-shift outdoor cat cage and one bag of trash. After two hours, we decided to go down to the corner restaurant to eat breakfast and when we arrived home, the shower door was gone, snatched up in broad day light without me ever getting the chance to see who were these wanderlust collectors of well, crap.

Although I was dismayed, I was also undaunted. I told Stephane we had to put out more collectible and recyclable trash. I went to look around the house for products of value for which Stephane reminded me it's supposed to be stuff we don't want, not something we actually still use.

We decided to head out to the garage. There was an old stationary exercise bicycle, a rusty Schwinn bicycle, a garbage bag of plastic flower containers, and a bird house that leaked. And of course, plenty of those someday items which everyone stores in the garage, you know the ones that are kept there just in case someday you are in a situation where you might need them: renegade screws, plant food for the garden you never planted, lose boards, a left-handed work glove in case the mate is ever found. Yes, we got rid of it all. I had a monolithic mountain by the curb, bigger than any of garbage heaps on on the block, and I knew the truck had to be coming by soon, figuring that by some unknown ESP or hunting sense, the truck would know some irresistible treasure would be lurking in the vicinity and they would use their radar to find it.

Alas, this second round of trash Olympics was not going to be mine to win. Somewhere between walking twenty feet from the curb back to the garage, the exercise bicycle had been snatched. I went back again to the garage to tell Stephane and when we went back to the curb, the rusted Schwinn bicycle had been snatched too. That truck must have been on some super mega rotation schedule.

These people were playing hard ball and now and I had another plan in mind. I yelled back to my husband who was in the driveway, “Stephane, we need some major aluminum bait!”
We looked through the garage and there it was in the corner, almost as if it had a shining aura of godliness cast upon it, the piece de resistance - the bent aluminum tire rim from my car.

I first must admit, that with every item we hauled out, I asked the typical question that at least one person in every couple asks, “Can we use that for anything? Can it be fixed? What if we need it one day?” For which the sane person of the couple immediately replies, "no, no and no” and runs to the curb with it before the other person can think of some reason to save it. But with my bent aluminum tire rim, I was sacrificing it for an important purpose, to catch the Garbage collectors.

As I put my found treasure on the curb, I thought of how quickly the truck knew when I had put something out. There surely had to be some resident spy staged on every street, somehow being paid to look out of their window. I could just see the elderly woman down the street, the one who didn't like that we had our Christmas lights out after the snow melted, using a walkie talkie to inform Pedro or Bud, "The goods are out, the goods are out! Run and get the wheel rim from the white house!"

So I immediately looked at peoples' windows (especially hers) and glanced down both sides to see if some truck was posted at the end of the street, conveniently concealed by the trees, ready to make a quick drive by. But there was nothing.

I ran back into our house, went inside and concealed myself behind the window curtain. I was going to see what or who it was that came by and I had my camera just in case it was some ghostly garbage ghoul which plunged out of trash hell just to grab the goods.

I took a moment to stop and reflect, “What the hell was I doing? This had to be the lamest way to seek entertainment.” But then I realized most of my amusement had to come from our toddler, so by rights, I had a reason for this insanity. And then it happened, from the beginning of the street, I heard it coming. I knew it was coming. The abominable truck. There was no mistaking it, for if you looked at the picture, there is never a truck like this one parked next to you at work. It was slowly inching itself towards my shiny aluminum tire rim.

I ran out the door to take a picture of the truck, maybe to prove to myself it really did exist. If the men wondered why the crazy woman on her front lawn was taking pictures of them picking up trash, they did not seem to care. They were on a mission. I would have loved to go on their adventure, interview them for some newspaper column, "What junk is valuable? Has their truck ever turned over from too much poundage? Have they ever ran into a homeowner running out the front door with a shot gun yelling, 'Get away from my yard.'" You know, the usual questions. Just as reporters like to go on beats with cops so too, would I like to see the peril and personage these people commit to once a year.

They ended up coming around about ten more times before I finally got bored and went to take a nap. I guess they were desperate to get the best goods from a day that was almost done. After I woke up, Stephane told me that he took out the broken dryer to the curb. The man stopped again and actually called for back up for our monolithic appliance that he could probably get top dollar for and didn’t want to leave behind. I went to drop off some library books and noticed everyone who had been hauling things outside had stopped for the day and most of the items had been taken except for the real trash. I guess you can’t get any money for banana peels, dirty diapers and old coffee grounds.

So in reflection, I take my hat off to you O Beverly Hillbillies of Scrap Iron: for being the purveyors of Al Gore’s initiative, for saving unwanted stuff from certain doom in the junk yard, and for taking the time to do the hard work so you can make the money to feed your families. And if you remember the long ago show, The Beverly Hillbillies, you will see that they ended up filling their truck with junk too, hoping for a better life. (Although the truck I saw contained junk and scrap iron and apparently, the Beverly Hillbillies truck contains junk and grocery bags of Kellogg's Cornflakes. A product placement if I ever saw one.)

And somewhere near or far, I believe my prized bent aluminum tire rim is being melted into something better and its life will again be of value. So when you go to a tire store or used car lot, be on the look out for a tire rim which has an aura of Godliness shining upon it, for it just may be my treasured bait, all shiny and new because someone valued it enough to save it.

So in honor of my day of free entertainment with the hillbillies of Scrap Iron, I say a fond farewell, with a verse from the Beverly Hillbillies song:

Well now its time to say good-bye to Jed and all his kin

And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly droppin in

You're all invited back again to this locality

To have a heapin helpin of their hospitality

Hillbilly that is. Set a spell. Take your shoes off.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?