Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Cool Geek

I am one proud mother! Nicholas has recently been making all sorts of "breakthroughs" in a scholastic sense lately, and both my heart is swelling as well as my ego, truth be told. It's nice to know that you have a smart kid - it just is. We ALL want our kids to be smart, so when you get concrete proof that they are, well, it's cool. Now, if there was only a fool-proof way of ensuring they make the most of their intelligence THAT would be priceless! Nicholas may be smart, but he's lacking in the motivation department.

Anyway, pardon me a moment while I brag: Nicholas is a reader! He's reading! Words! Books, actually. Aloud! It's so cool. He's not even 4 1/2 years old. He's suddenly very interested in reading and his progress is amazing. I think it has something to do with me telling him, over and over, that he needs to start working on reading so he'll be ready for Kindergarten next year. That prospect has really fired him up. He wants to go to K so badly that he's determined to be ready for it.

We borrowed a couple of Easy Reader books from a neighbor who is home-schooling her 2nd grader. These books have 4 short stories in each book. Nicholas is able to read most of the stories! It's funny the words he can read and the words he has trouble with. A lot of what he's doing is sheer memorization after the first couple of read-throughs, combined with some lucky guesses. He'll nail words like "garden", but stumble on "them" vs "they" vs "then". He does what is called Whole Language reading vs Phonics. He's not trying to sound out the words by looking at the letters that make up the word. Instead he looks at the word as a whole and recognizes it in it's totality. He's always done it this way - this is not something we've taught him to do. In fact, I kept trying (and still do) to get him to sound the word out if he has trouble. But that rarely works - he's wired for the other method. Fine - whatever gets the job done.

So we got this book and started at the beginning and Nicholas just sort of took over reading the book TO ME instead of the other way around. It goes a little something like this:

"Father and Oliver were making a garden. First they raked the dirt. Then they made five very straight rows. Then they dropped in the seeds and covered them up. Now our garden is ready to grow, said Father."

Nicholas was able, on the first try, to get most of that, believe it or not. And since his memory is water-tight, he's able to remember the words he needed help with and get them right the next time. It's really impressive. We videoed him reading to his Opa this weekend - very special. When he would come up against a word he didn't know he would stop, look up so sweetly at this Opa and say, whisper actually, "I'm stuck" and his Opa would read the word that was problematic and Nicholas would continue to read. I seriously got a little emotional watching this, and I don't normally get choked up about stuff. But this touched me.

To keep the momentum going I rented a reading DVD from the library. It's perfect for him and the way he learns. Like the book, there are stories on the DVD. When you begin a story it tells you the words to memorize (like "we" "into" and "the", for example). Then the story starts and you see an illustration and one sentance of the story. There is a long pause to allow the child to attempt to read the words.

"Bill and Jill went to the farm"

After a bit, the narrator speaks the words as they are individually highlighted so the child can follow along. Sort of like preschool karaoke. Nicholas is now in the habit of actually hitting the pause key on the remote to give himself plenty of time to read the words before letting the DVD play and check his work. It's very exciting and validating for him to have the words read back to him and know he got them right. That he read them himself!

The next geeky-but-cool scholastic thing for Nicholas lately is math. For some reason the idea of doing math popped into his brain and he was bugging me about doing math. I would ask him stuff, while we're in the car or something, like, "if you have 2 fingers, and then add 3 more fingers, how many fingers do you have?" and he'd literally stick out the fingers as we went and then count the total and tell me. But then he wanted to "write the math down on paper". Umm, ok. So I wrote out several simple math problems in the correct format (one number on top of the other with a line underneath and the "+" symbol). We practiced writing the numbers and then he did his "worksheet" (calling it a worksheet, like they do at school, made it more enticing). He still counted his fingers, but always got the right answer and wrote it down. His writing needs a LOT of work still, but it was cool to see him so excited to learn. What geeks we both are!

I chatted with his preschool teacher about what sort of Kindergarten program would be best for him. That's coming up and I want to be ready. We both agree that Nicholas would not do well in a Montessori type of school. He is very structure and rule-bound. He's a planner that likes to know what is coming next. He's not self-directed in the slightest. I am constantly having to be "cruise director" and suggest various things for him to do or he says he's bored. He doesn't seem to be able to come up with entertainment ideas on his own (yet??). So a program where the kids are encouraged to pursue their own areas of interest would not work for a kid like Nick. His teacher thinks a regular school would be just fine for him, but to be careful about class size because Nicholas will get lost in a big class. He needs to feel connected to the teacher(s) and requires attention. His preschool teachers' only concern is that he does appear to be "advanced" (whatever that means) compared to his peers and could get bored in regular school. He may not be pushed or challenged enough. So I'm perplexed about which type of school situation will be best for him. Sure, he's showing some early academic aptitudes, but please don't ask him to tie his shoes or button his own pants. He's still in Pull-Up's at night, for christ sake! Regardless, it's just so amazing to hear your kid reading and doing math at levels expected in the first or second grade, and he's not even 4 1/2 yrs old. Very, very cool.

And finally, Nicholas is a dancer. We have frequent "dance parties" in our living room in the evenings. He selects classical music and then dances his hiney off, shrieking as he moves to the rhythm of the music. He's a shrieker and it nearly pierces my eardrums. So today I enrolled him in a beginning dance class to start in January. He is so excited! We were at the mall having some pictures taken and to have a little chat with Santa, and we grabbed some lunch. He finished eating before Lauren so he told me he was going to practice his dancing for his dance class. And he did - he danced right there in the middle of the food court. It was hysterical to watch him. No music, just him in all his dramatic glory. Big arm gestures, funny footwork, and a few shimmy's thrown in for good measure. At least he refrained on the shrieking element in public. All that was missing was a hat in front of him for tips, I swear. My little street performer-to-be. I noticed quite a few fellow diners grinning appreciatively? Smirking? at him during this impromptu recital of sorts. At least he wasn't shy about it. I was happy watching him.

I definitely have a smart, dramatic cookie on my hands. I've always known he was bright, but it's super-cool to see it emerge like this. He's always been gifted on the computer (his latest thing is to download digital pics from the camera onto the desktop all by himself. And he is able to add various kid websites to his "favorites" list on his own, too. He's very, very good on the computer. Scary good.) but to have him take an interest and show achievements in more traditional and basic areas like reading and math is just wonderful. I credit his interest in the computer for a lot of it, actually, because many of the games he plays on the computer reinforce these areas. The two go hand in hand. Pretty soon Nicholas will not only be able to read the instruction manual for the computer, he'll be able to program it himself. All that between dance recitals and naps, probably.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cool Crafty Chick for Christmas

Try saying THAT 5 times fast!

Everyone by now knows that I'm big into crochet and I also make beaded jewelry. This is not news. I have a semi-large family PLUS a couple of family birthdays (including my own, but we're not talking about that yet!) that fall within the realm of The Christmas Season. So, buying gifts can get to be an expensive proposition each year. In recent years my 3 sisters and I have drawn names to make it easier on us. We end up "saving" 2 gifts each that way since we exclude the kids from the draw (they're fair game - Christmas is for the kids, after all), and the brothers-in-law just exchange something between them (usually a favorite kind of booze), exempting them from our exchange as well. They're on their own. This year there is a new bil, so I wonder how their "rules" will change, if at all... This year, as I've previously posted, is my mother's 60th birthday and we're throwing her a big suprise party. Plus a nice gift. So already my holiday/December budget is blown.

I'm not one to normally brave the insanity of the after-Thanksgiving shopping crush. I enjoy shopping, sure, but at a more leisurely pace, like an activity to be enjoyed, versus the madhouse, chaotic scene that erupts the day after Thanksgiving. It's just not for me, no matter how great the deals. I am NOT getting out of my warm bed at 4:30am so I can stand in line outside a Circuit City by 5am and get a DVD player for $10. I'm just not. But this year I happened across a 20% coupon from Michaels, the craft supply store, that was for Saturday and was good until noon. NOON! That's more my style. So I went with lots of ideas of things I could make for Christmas gifts, and I ended up spending just $52 and got everything I'll need to make gifts for my family and maybe a few friends as well. SCORE! Now it's just a matter of time - lots and lots of time - to make everything before Christmas. It'll be a race to the finish for sure, but I'm up to the challenge. I always work better when there is a firm deadline to meet. I've decided to make my sister(s) (depending on whether we draw names again this year) cute black-on-black mittens with a fur cuff, and a set of wine charms. Not related items in the slightest, but I thought the wine charms would be cute and easy to make (they are) and would be nice package toppers for the mittens. I'm going to make my mom a new pair of slippers, in red to match the decor of her new lake cabin, after noticing the the hand-knitted pair she currently has is sporting a gigantic hole in the bottom of one of them. I'm also going in with my sisters on a carved wooden house sign for my parents for Christmas for their lake house. It seems to be the thing to have up there - whatever. I've started making the mittens and wine charms and I'm pleased with how they're turning out:

mittens for my sisters

wine charms for family and friends. they make nice gift toppers, don't you think?

Each glove takes me a day or two to make, and I have at least 3 pairs to do. I'm not sure how long to expect the slippers to take since I'm only starting them today. The wine charms are super-easy (Swarovski crystals - nice, huh!?) and I can bust them out in an evening. We're talking 50-60 of them, given in sets of 4-6. I'll probably make personalized diecut cards per set from which to attach them, the way you'd see them displayed in a shop.

So those are my cool crafty Christmas gift plans. I think they'll be received well. I'm happy to devote countless hours making these special gifts vs. buying stuff I usually end up paying too much for and then bitching about it. We'll be buying the kids toys and stuff - from us and from Santa, and I have something special in mind for Mr. Chick (who has both a Dec. birthday AND Christmas). That stuff alone will max out our budget. So if I can "cut some corners" by making things to give as gifts, then I'm all about doing that.

Excuse me - I need to go start crocheting some slippers! I only have 26 more days to get everything done!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Big Shocker (Not)

We all saw it coming, right? Even if you DON'T believe everything you read, when there is so much of it all over the place, the seeds get planted. If you're like me, you pretty much only get to read the trashy tabloids and other celebrity-oriented mags in the grocery store checkout lines (in between keeping the candy display intact and preventing a child from escaping, that is).

I don't get expanded cable so I never saw their reality show "Newlyweds". But even if I did get that channel I probably wouldn't have watched it. Nick and Jessica have always sort of turned me off. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because it seemed that everything they did was calculated for maximum exposure and career boosting. And didn't she just seem, oh I don't know, indulged in every way? Sort of like Veruca Salt: spoiled. "Daddy, get me a record deal" "Daddy, let me get married" "Daddy, I want a TV variety show - get it for me NOW!" I'm sure she's a nice person, and she's laughing all the way to the bank, but I'm so over her/them. Not that I was ever into them in the first place, mind you. But like a lot of us, I do enjoy celebrity-watching.

But despite it all, I get sad when marriages end. Sure, Jessica was young young young when she got married. And yes, they both had a lot of demands on their time from their chosen careers. And add public scruntiny to the mix, and, well, it's hard. But ALL marriages are hard, celebrity or otherwise. You have to make the choice to put your marriage first over career. Inviting the public into your private lives and relationship cannot help. The only saving grace here is that they did not have children, unlike the other blonde bombshell disaster-waiting-to-happen train wreck we all can't help but watch with a mixture of disgust and fascination. I don't predict a golden anniversary for those two. Does anyone? It's sort of sad, in a way, how these two talented girls both seemed to rush into marriages. Why? What were they looking for? What weren't they getting in their lives that they felt the need to get married? Of the two grooms, I think Nick was a much better choice than Kevin, who makes my skin crawl. One word: Ewww! But in spite of my personal opinions, I hope they do make a go of it purely for their son (nevermind the fact that nasty Kevin didn't do that with his other baby-mama who has 2 of his kids... not exactly a stellar track record).

I'm sure we'll all hear a lot more from the world of celebrity since our culture can't get enough of it - me included. I just hope that up-and-coming starlets/singers/celebrity wannabe's pay attention to the atrocious divorce statistics coming out of Hollywood and think twice before jumping into something. Marriage should NOT be taken lightly no matter who you are. Period.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Recipe Rip-Off *edited*

In the town where we live there is a small chain of restaurants called Cafe Yumm. They serve stuff like rice bowls with black beans, spouts, and salsa. Every dish they make comes with their famous Yumm Sauce. It's delicious!! We love it. You can buy their Yumm Sauce from their restaurants, but it's pricey: $3.75 for an 8oz jar. 8oz doesn't last very long in our house. I was recently chatting with a friend about a craving I was having for Cafe Yumm and she told me she has a recipe for Yumm Sauce.

"No way!! I have to have it!"
"Way. It's easy. I'll email it to you."

And so I waited for a couple of days but sadly, the email never came. I prompted her, and she finally obliged. So yesterday I went to the store, both kids in tow, to buy the ingredients necessary to concoct this coveted delicacy. And it's a close facsimile to the original! It was easy to make and turned out yummy (ha! pun intended!). And so, I share this recipe with you and strongly encourage you to try it:

Original Yumm Sauce:
1/2 cup oil (I used a canola oil)
1/2 cup almonds
1/3 cup brewers yeast (the grocery store didn't carry brewers yeast specifically but assured me that fast acting yeast would be a good substitute. It seems to have worked).
1/3 cup garbonzo beans - drained (I used closer to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup soybeans (again, the store didn't carry soybeans so I used a silken tofu and used approx. 1/2 cup. This seems to have worked.)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder

Blend nuts, beans and oil in food processor. Then blend in yeast and liquids one at a time. Puree until smooth. Voila!

This sauce is great with rice or pasta. It can also be used as a dressing for salads, a topping on soup & chili, a spread for sandwiches, a dipping sauce for veggies, a basting sauce for grilling, or a mayo alternative. It's really quite versatile! But best of all, it's egg free, dairy free, wheat free, gluten free, sugar free, cholesterol free and low in sodium. There are nuts in it, however, for anyone with allergies to nuts. My kids love it! I'm sure if you make it you'll find a ton of creative uses for such a flavorful, yummy sauce. Go for it!


I just went to go use the sauce I made with my lunch and discovered that it's a good idea to let the sauce "rest" overnight before bottling it up (I put it into 3 jelly jars with tight fitting lids). You see, the yeast will expand and the sauce needs room to accommodate that. Otherwise, you find jelly jars weeping sauce out of bulging lids and, shall we say, explosive results upon opening? Yeah, I'm an idiot. The sauce still tastes great, though! Live and learn...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

She Went Down Fighting

Lauren decided to boycott napping today. So, after she refused to eat her dinner (a yummy concoction of Sloppy Joe's whipped up by Mr. Chick), we sent her to her room to wait until the rest of us were finished eating. A few minutes later we went to check on her, and this is what we found:

It's like she carefully selected the most pathetic spot and meticulously positioned herself for maximum impact upon discovery. I'm probably giving a 2 year old too much credit, but still - ! Doesn't it seem that way to you?? Of course we couldn't let her stay there, under her table, tempting though it was. It was simply too late for her to be snoozing or bedtime would be in jeopardy. And we absolutely CANNOT mess with bedtime. So Mr. Chick picked her up and is cuddling with her on the couch while I went to go post this.

On a completely unrelated subject, I went and saw the new Harry Potter: The Goblet Of Fire movie today. All.By.Myself. It was lovely to get some time alone, in a crowded theater. It's so rare that I get to see a movie on the big screen. Having recently discovered the magic that is Harry Potter, I was excited about this film. And it was really good! They did a great job of turning an 800 page book into a 2.5 hr movie. Only a few little things were left out or minimized. The special effects were amazing! And it's fun to see the actors mature in the movies the way Harry does in the books. They are smack-dab in the middle of awkward adolescence, and you just HAVE to feel for them. Some of that stuff really took me back and gave me a few chuckles in the movie. You won't want to miss this one!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Faith Restored

Remember my bitching about the deplorable state of sending a proper Thank You? And remember my crocheting this cute dress for a friend's daughter's first birthday? Remember how I said that I was willing to overlook a lapse in good manners because I know my friends to be good people? Well, I'm certainly glad I did. I'm a believer in 2nd chances. Of having faith in my friends. But, you know, once bitten twice shy...

Well, I received this in the mail yesterday. A proper thank you note!! AND she'd called me on the phone the day she received the package in the mail to say thanks and gush all over the place. It was very gratifying. :) And appropriate. That's how it SHOULD be done, people. Take note. Now excuse me while I go write out the thank you note's I owe the friends and family who came to Lauren's 2nd birthday party. They MUST go in the mail today or I'll never forgive myself.

Mr. Fix-It

You know those stories you hear about a husband who thinks he can do home repairs, but can't, and ends up fucking things up worse than before? Me, too. And then you hear about the lucky people who really DO have spouses that can fix stuff and it makes life a lot easier (and cheaper!). And then there are always those who probably can fix stuff on their own, but never seem to get around to it and the stupid thing stays broken for an eternity. Well, we fall sort of right in the middle. Mr. Chick (mostly) knows his limits about what he can and cannot do around the house. Wire the electrical for the hottub? Call the electrician. Change a lightbulb? Let MP do it (LOL!). But he's been able to build a new gate/fence, snake the toilet, install gutters, etc. Light to medium level home repair chores.

A few years back our disposal crapped out and it was Mr. Chick to the rescue. We hadn't been in the house very long at this point. So he drove to Home Depot (is there any home owner who doesn't live there at some point??), got the new disposal unit, and dug in. And he was able to successfully swap out the old disposal for the new one. Or so we thought.

The disposal worked fine. It ground up whatever we shoved down there. You flipped the switch and it went on. Nothing came back up. Success, right? Well, sorta. You see, right around that time our dishwasher started draining water into the sink from that silver aerator overflow gizmo that sits next to the faucet. This occurrance barely registered with us at the time for some reason. I guess we weren't paying attention. And then when we DID start noticing what was happening we could no longer remember if this was normal for the dishwasher or not. Had it always been doing that?? We hadn't been in the house very long, remember, so we didn't know for sure. And? The dishes were getting clean and things seemed to be generally working, so why monkey with it?

Flash forward 3 years. Now we're selling the house. We know that it's not right for the dishwasher to drain into the sink the way it does, but it's been working ok getting our dishes clean. We've assumed for awhile now that there is a clog of some sort in the drain line which is what is forcing the water into the overflow valve on the sink. We feel compelled to mention this to the buyers, saying we're not sure if this is normal for this dishwasher or not, but this is what's happening. It gets mentioned to the inspector, and he notes that there must be a clog, too. The buyers come back to us asking us to fix it as part of the necessary home repairs that preceed a sale. Ok, fine - we'll fix it. We knew it was coming.

Yesterday Mr. Chick had a day off. He gets up, has his coffee (fortification), and grabs the snake from the garage. He announces that he's going to try to clear the clog himself before we call a plumber. "Oh holy jesus," I think, "this is going to potentially cost us a buttload of money if he screws it up more." I leave the kitchen - I can't watch.

About 30 minutes later I wander back into the kitchen and Mr. Chick asks me to listen to see if I could hear anything when he blew into a tube he was holding. Umm, ok. He blew, I listened, and got a face full of dirty water from the overflow valve as a result. Nice. I think he was hoping to clear the clog by blowing into the tube, but there was no clog. Trust me when I say that tube was clear - my wet face attested to that. So he was momentarily stumped. The dishwasher seemed to be just fine. And that's when he thought to think of the disposal and the potential for human error when it was installed. His error. I had nearly forgotten that we'd ever replaced the disposal. Thank God he remembered.

He found the manual for the disposal (yes, we keep that stuff. Or should I say, HE keeps that stuff) and retraced his installation. And, as expected, found an error. He'd forgotten something called a punch-out in one of the tubes. No punch-out punched out = closed tube for draining from the dishwasher = water forced up into the overflow valve. Voila! So he punched it out, proudly showed it to me, and put everything back together. He was happy he fixed the problem without having to call a plumber. But he wouldn't know until he ran the dishwasher, and we weren't going to do that until we had a full load, which would be after dinner. And so he waited, like a kid waits for Santa. He was happy when he discovered a dirty cup or plate or whatever and loaded it into the dishwasher. He even did the dishes after dinner. Yay for me. And then he plugged the sink so he could measure any water that drained into the sink and turned the dishwasher on.

And it worked! No water AT ALL drained into the sink. It went through the tubes and pipes under the sink like it was supposed to. Kudos for him for fixing the problem.... 3 years after creating the problem in the first place!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Old Faithful

** Warning: graphic discussion/description of female stuff to follow. Read at your own risk **

Yes, yes it's true, I'm on the rag again. Aren't you so glad I shared that tidbit? And I'm happy about it for two reasons: 1) it means I'm not pregnant and 2) that my body is completely back to normal after going off the dreadful Pill a few months back. It snapped back to regularity immediately, and that's a good thing. Don't get me wrong, it's not fun to be on my period, but it IS rather nice to know my body is functioning as it should.

But speaking of bodily functions, there are a couple that seem to go hand in hand with menstruation (god how I hate that word! It reminds me of those old filmstrips/movies we had to watch in 7th grade health class about "your body". Ick) that are really annoying. Like the soft stools/diarrhea thing. Does this happen to anyone else? I read that it's quite normal and common.... I can usually tell when my period is upon me couple of days before hand because I seem to get a little more constipated than normal (and I'm a very regular kind of girl in that department, thankyouverymuch) for a day or two, and then it goes in the other direction, if you know what I mean. Everything loosens up and starts a-flowin'. My trusty internet research into this phenomenon tells me that it's due to an increase of proglandins (or something like that) circulating throughout my body. Whatever causes it, it's nasty. It's bad enough that you hemorrhorage for a few days from the cooter, but must you also do something similar from the poop shute as well?? Apparently Mother Nature says yes, yes you must.

And the bloat - ! OMG, I feel so bloated right before my period starts. It's like my body hangs onto all fluids, saves them up, before releasing the dam. Getting Aunt Flo is a relief because I get rid of stored up bloat and my pants fit a smidge better. (Maybe that's why those size 8's fit me! Nah, I'm still a 12 - they're just mis-marked. Damn.)

Does anyone else notice an increased itch factor in the southern regions during your "cycle"? I do. It's nasty, but sometimes I discover, when I wake in the morning, that I've scratched myself while I sleep. That's just wrong. And EWWW! But I can't help myself, it seems - I don't wake up to do it and am completely unaware until the next morning. I'm gross, I know. But I can't be the only one - can I??

And is it just me, or does anyone else notice that hair seems to grow faster around the time of your period? I'm not certain of the connection, but for the past week or so it seems that the hair on my legs is suddenly growing faster, requiring more frequent shaving, and my eyebrows sprout back, like, overnight. I pluck the few random stray ones to keep a nice brow, and it seems like normally I can do this weekly or even every other week, but lately? I'll do a quick grooming and inspection, pluck the ones that need it, and come back a few hours later and notice more that need plucking that I swear weren't there before. What's up with THAT??! They seem to grow faster now that I'm not on the pill, or maybe it's just when I'm nearing my period - I can't tell. But there does seem to be a difference!

So while I'm glad to be having my period back with regularity, I'd happily do without all the bonus extras that go along with it. How many more years until menopause? That might be a nice relief after all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Crushed or Boosted?

I don't know whether to feel totally HOTT, or totally NOTT.

A friend of mine - no, let me rephrase that - a skinny friend of mine (whose not even 30 yet, so bah!) just dropped off a pair of cool-looking black micro-cord, boot-cut stretch Calvin Klein pants for me. Because they were too big for her. So she thought of me. I guess I'm the fat(ter) friend. Except? They're size 8. EIGHT!! And I hafta believe that's total bullshit, because my ass is sooo a size 12 these days, so this is one mis-marked pair of 8's. But the tag still says 8, so that counts, right? I'm psyched that it does - my ego needed that even though my logical self knows it's misleading as hell, but on the other hand, they were given to me because they're too small for my friend and she thought they would fit me. In other words, I'm big. At least, bigger than her. And I've been feeling really big these days. Very muffin-topped. It's getting worse as my ability to exercise with regularity diminishes. So, has my ego been crushed or boosted? I don't know. But the bottom line is I have a new pair of pants!

And I am so totally getting some cool shoes to wear for all the holiday events this year now that I don't have to spend money on new pants.

3 Score

3 score ago this December my mother was born. That's right, she's turning 60. In just about a month. And so the plotting and scheming starts. You see, my mother is extremely nosey (was quite a problem during my teenaged years when the worst thing ever was a nosey mom) and can't stand not knowing what is going on. At all times. And she's highly suspicious. Of everything. Essentially she can't stand surprises and that's just what we are attempting to do: throw a surprise party in honor of her milestone birthday this year.

We have quite a few roadblocks making planning this event difficult, to say the least. The biggest obstacle is the fact that my mother is the communication police and it's impossible to talk to my dad without her knowing. I mean, this woman won't leave him alone on the computer AND they share an email account, so we can't send him emails with questions or details about the party. She'll know - she'll read them. And she's not above checking the "send" or "delete" files to see what she may have missed. Really, she does that. And she checks the caller ID, so she'd know if one of us called him and then she'd quiz him about it. "Why did MP call? Did she leave a message or did you talk with her?" That sort of thing. Or she'd just call me back and say she saw that I had called. Same with the cell phone - she checks the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls. So communicating with my dad privately, apart from my mother, is impossible. The only way it's happened recently is when he's been up at the lake house by himself working on something. And that's rare that he'd be up there without my mom. My sisters and I can speak freely amongst ourselves, but we just have a hard time including my dad. So really, the details of the party are on us. It's our gift to Mom.

When my family was just here for Lauren's party we were able to snatch a few moments for quick, mumbled exchanges about the party planning. Key things like the date. But the whole time my mom was watching like a friggin hawk. She loves the attention but can't stand not knowing something. It makes her crazy. It's like she has this 6th sense that vibrates when something is being planned, or kept secret. She claims she knew when either my sister or I were pregnant before we ever announced it, even if she didn't really know. She suspected, and that was enough. She has a way of ruining surprises that way. So pulling off this party will be tricky. She'll probably claim she knew about it the whole time, even if she didn't. She's just that way.

I'm in charge of the invitations. I like to make creative invitations so I'm looking forward to doing these. I'm thinking of going with a Mission: Impossible wording theme since this party really is. The guise is that one of my mother's friends will host the party at her house. That's ground zero. She'll be sending my mom - and only my mom - an invitation to a holiday luncheon open house sort of thing. My mom's birthday is December 17th and the party is scheduled for the 18th. She'll be on high alert. My Dad's only role is to get her to that "open house" around 1pm. The invitations will share this ruse with the party guests and ask them to be at the house by 12:30. God, I hope this works.

We're planning a diversion the night before, on her actual birthday. Dad will be taking all of us (minus my sister Carrie who lives in San Francisco) to a nice dinner to celebrate Mom's birthday. We're getting her a gift and everything to try and make it seem like that is the extent of her birthday. While we're at dinner my sister Carrie, who will fly up that day, will watch the kids at my other sister Katie's house, keeping her presence in town a secret until the party. Too bad she's going to miss the dinner, but oh well. Her presence at the party will hopefully be another surprise for my mom. She'll probably announce she knew Carrie was coming. We've learned to just expect that from my mom.

I love surprise parties! Mr. Chick threw me a surprise party for my 30th birthday and it was so fun! I had no idea, and that added to the pleasure. It's nice knowing that people will go to all sorts of extra measures to do something nice and fun for you. I know my mom will enjoy herself at the party. Part of the fun for us is going to extreme lengths to keep the secret from the toughest lady to deceive. Trust me, I had a LOT of practice in high school and I was rarely successful in pulling the wool over her eyes. She's saavy, so we have to be extra-vigilant to cover all the bases.

Game on!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Great Slurpee Adventure

"Mama, I've been a good boy. Can we go get a Slurpee?"

"Yes, if you take a quick nap." (I'm not above bribing my kid)

::: nap time :::

"Mama! I'm so excited because we get to go get a Slurpee because I took my nap!" (said the split second his eyes opened after his nap)

"Aw nuts, Mama. My bike is broken and now I can't ride it to go get a Slurpee "

"Let's walk there. We'll bring Abby (the dog) and see if Hannah (neighbor friend) wants to go, too"

We get all the way to the 7-11 without major incident, making up for a lackluster start with the bike breaking and all. The kids get Slurpees and we head back. Cue whining.

"Mom! I'm not the leader and I want to be the leader and Hannah is the leader now but she can't be the leader anymore. I want to be the leader!!"

"Maaammmmaa! Waa! My Slurpee fell down! Oh no! "

"Mom! My hands are cold and I don't want to hold my Slurpee anymore. You hold it"

"Mama! Wait for me! My hands are cold. You aren't waiting for me! Hannah is still the leader and I want to be the leader. Are you keeping my Slurpee safe? When are we going to get home so I can get warm?"

"Keep walking, Nicholas. We're almost there"

"Mama, I want to go in the hottub when we get home. You're not waiting for me, Mama. Do you think Santa will bring me a Slurpee machine for Christmas? If I don't get a Slurpee machine I'm going to be really sad. I love Slurpees. My hands are cold. Why did my bike break? How come Lauren gets to be carried? Did Lauren finish her Slurpee? Why is Hannah still the leader?"

"Because you're walking slower than molassas. Speed it up."

"Mama! Wait for meeeeee!"

finally arriving home and getting into the house a litte more than an HOUR after we left on what was supposed to be a fun, quick little walk to the 7-11, during which my child seemed to complain and whine the majority of the time.>

"Mama, I love you. You're the best Mama. I had so much fun going to the store for a Slurpee. Can we do it again tomorrow?"

WTF??! Gotta love being 4.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Let's Party!

Lauren's birthday party has come and gone. Thank God. It was fun, but exhausting, and I'm glad to have my house back to myself. There were lots and lots of people here, it seemed, but it went well. A few of the local friends ended up leaving their older kid home so there weren't *quite* as many 4 year olds running around. 5 preschoolers and one 7-yr old ringleader were plenty. The 2 year old crowd was mellow. Somehow we made it all work.

The night before the party was a bit frantic. I got all the gift bags put together, got the house tidied up, and make the cupcakes and 4 colors of frosting. Mr. Chick tackled putting together the play kitchen for Lauren.

Mr. Chick begins assembling the toy kitchen for Lauren. Many 4-letter words were uttered during this process.

The fully assembled kitchen! Isn't it cute? It took 3 hours to put together, but the kids love it!

The gift bags Nicholas and I put together the day before the party. He was most excited about these for some reason...

The morning of the party dawned bright. Yay - no rain! Maybe the kids really could run around in the backyard instead of in my house! We moved into high gear right away, prepping for the party. Nicholas was given the all-important job of putting the cupcake toppings into their bowls. Coffee and juice were brewed, snacks were set out, kids were dressed. Most importantly, I showered. But before any of that happened Lauren got to "open" her kitchen. We had draped a big sheet over it and left it in the living room for her to see when she woke up. She pulled the sheet off and both kids got excited. Mr. Chick had the video camera rolling and captured some funny comments. We got Lauren saying "tank oo Opa" - so cute! Nicholas was a goof with the toy phone. They examined every inch of the kitchen and deemed it pretty cool. Me, too.

Lauren - the before picture. She's eating her breakfast of dry cereal while watching some cartoon. Normally we don't let the kids eat in front of the tv, but it was a special day and, well, I needed the distraction, frankly. Don't judge - you've done it, too. Note the dog she's holding? Yeah, she's really into that dog right now and carries it everywhere. She tells us repeatedly that the dog says "woof woof".

Then, right at 10am, the doorbell starts ringing. People are arriving and the chaos begins. Er, I mean, the party begins. I think we had to brew a couple more pots of coffee for people - my family had to leave Portland by 8am in order to get to us by 10. They needed the java. It was very cool of them to come. Nicholas adores his cousins and was bouncing off the walls because they were at his house. Literally bouncing off the walls - my nephews are wild and very, very physical. No furniture was safe. Thankfully, the friends from Portland were 1.5 hrs late. My house was filled to bursting without them there, so that was for the best. Besides, they were staying the night with us anyway so there was plenty of time to visit even if they did miss most of the party.

When it was time for cupcakes, I had to restrain Lauren from diving into hers before we sang to her. Actually hold her back because she was going for it. We lit her candles, sang "Happy Birthday" terribly off-key, and she immediately blew out her two candles all by herself. Her big brother didn't even get a chance to do it for her! The micro-second the candles were removed from her cupcake, she did a face-plant into it. For some reason Lauren didn't use her hands to eat it. This was new, but whatever. She ate like she was in a cupcake eating contest. Or maybe a dog. Regardless, it was pretty funny to watch.

The Birthday Girl has her own unique way of enjoying her cupcake. "Look Mom, no hands!"

Lauren, the aftermath.

Gift opening was a flurry of paper flying and kids squealing and general mayhem. I'm thrilled I didn't get trampled in the process and managed to note who gave her what. I'm all about the thank you's, remember? She got quite a bit of pretend food and such for her kitchen and of course it had to be opened immediately. That stuff scattered to every corner of my house. She received a toy shopping cart, which Nicholas commandeered with much excitement, practically forcing my mother into slave labor to assemble it "right now, Grandma, please!" She did, bless her heart.

After the party ended we all went to a local pizza place that has a gigantic area for kids to play. And play they did. We ate, visited with my family, and relaxed a bit. Then my family had to head back to Portland and we were able to visit with our friends who were staying with us. It was nice and the kids had a blast having friends for a sleep-over.

My house is trashed and I have mountains of laundry to do. Mr. Chick is gone for the night for work, so I'm flying solo today. My car keys won't come out of my ignition for some reason, so I have to deal with that today, too. We're out of milk. Lauren is getting sick. Just another day in the life . But I'm so glad we were able to host such a fun party for our precious daughter, who ain't so little any more. At her 2-yr check up she measured 36 inches tall (90th percentile), and weighed 32 lbs (95th percentile). But she'll always be my little girl, even when she's bigger than me. Which, at this rate, might just be by her next birthday!

Friday, November 11, 2005

FSBO Tales

Selling a house is hard work. Sure, we've done it before, but never with two kids living in the space we're selling. Last time, Nicholas was a year old and not walking. He could be contained. It was easier. Now? Not so much. Sure, sure - our buyers dropped out of the sky and saved us from actually having to list the house in any way. No sign, no flyers, no open houses. Oh wait - I take that back. I've had 4 OPEN HOUSES with yet another one happening today since we embarked on this endeavor. Not fun. Not fun at all.

See, the first time these people wanted to look at the house it was when I literally stumbled upon them in my driveway as they were leaving a note expressing their desire to see the house. It was a tad bit awkward, to say the least, because the house was anything but ready to show perfect strangers. Messy living room, dirty dishes in the sink, embarrassingly un-showable master bedroom (what? You mean you never leave your clothes on the floor when you go to bed?? And you actually MAKE your bed first thing in the morning? Who are you?). So I was only able to really show them the outside of the house/yard and give them a run-down of the basics. They must've liked what I was selling because they hassled us to come get a look at the inside. FINE! I huffed and puffed and got the place pulled together. It ain't no easy task. I abhor clutter and fight it everyday. And yet it does accumulate, and accumulate fast. I spent hours and hours going through every room, every corner, every nook. Nothing was spared. Closets got cleaned out. Crap that was collecting dust in the garage was either sold or dumped. It was liberating to be free from all the junk and live in a much tidier space. The buyers came and the buyers liked. And they've come back a few more times since. That's the problem. I'm not horribly messy, but we LIVE here, so it's not a showplace every minute of the day. It takes time to bring the place back to a condition ready for buyers to see it. We always have advance notice that they're coming - to see the place, to sign papers, whatever. They don't just pop over and knock on the door - surprise! Mind if we have another look? I appreciate the warning. But it's gotten old. They were just here yesterday for a few hours because the house was being inspected. And they're coming back today to show the house to one of the ladies sister who is visiting from out of town. It's nice that they're so excited, but damn - ! And so YET AGAIN I'll be busting out the vacuum, mopping (or at least spot cleaning) the floors, making beds, tiding up the random crap that tends to get scattered about by the kids, and lighting candles in the bathroom and various places to create a warm, pleasant environment. It's all about the little touches, right?

But this visit is really cramping my style because now I have to keep the kids home this morning so we're here when they come over. And I need to bake a couple dozen cupcakes, make 4 or 5 different colors of frosting, assemble 13 gift bags including personalized coloring notebooks, and at some point wrap some gifts for the humongous party we're having here for Lauren tomorrow. Plus a million little details I'm not thinking of right now. But all of that has to be on hold until I show the house ONE MORE TIME. Sigh. This makes the 5th showing to these people, for those keeping count. I'm certain it won't be the last.

It's really interesting to hear what new buyers plan to do to change the house once they move in. We've learned that these people plan to install some skylights in the kitchen and bathroom. One snag - we have ceiling radiant zonal heat. Installing a skylight would interfere with the heating system. So they're puzzling over eliminating the heat in the kitchen (we never use it anyway and instead just heat the adjacent living room) and bathroom, or going with solar tubes. Regardless, some form of skylight will be installed. And Nicholas's room will be painted blue, the choice of the teenager who will be claiming that room as her own. It has a blue carpet - that's a lot of blue. But whatever - there's no accounting for teenaged taste anyway. They plan to plant an apple tree in the yard. I'm looking forward to making plans for my own new house. Let's all hope we know something about the where's and when's of our own moving scenario soon! I'm very excited about settling into a new house, wherever that may be, and decorating it to fit our style and make it our own. That's the fun part. Until then, we wait in endless limbo. At least every penny of this sale goes into our pockets and nothing is paid in commission! We're gonna need it. Oh the joys of FSBO...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Lauren!

Happy Birthday to my precious daughter Lauren! Today you are 2! And oh boy, are you ever 2! Right this minute two years ago I was at the hospital, my water having broke at 5:30am, dealing with an epidural that only took on one side. Ouch, Lauren. You can read a full accounting of Lauren's birth here. Details aside, November 8, 2003 will always be a special, momentous day because it's the day you entered the world and entered our lives and made our family complete. We love you!

The birth of a daughter and sister.

Newborn daze. Lauren was a very mellow baby. What happened?? She's a far-cry from mellow now. She's rough and tumble and busy busy busy.

Pretty baby girl @ 3mos old. I LOVED how your hair curled straight up in the back! This was the photo that proved to me you bear a strong resemblance to me. This could have been a photo of me as a baby. You're my mini-me!

Nothing sweeter than two happy kids. Lauren brings a lot of joy wherever she goes.

Lauren @ 7 mos. She loved to jump in the doorway jumper thingy and would happily hang there while I cooked or cleaned or whatever in the kitchen.

Our UO Duck Baby with her first sunburn... This is one of Daddy's favorite pictures of Lauren. She looks very tomboy here, and that seems to be a pretty accurate description of her still today. Mama was a tomboy, too, Lauren. It's a good thing.

I like the slightly mischievious look she has here @ 10.5 mos.

1st birthday! Lauren took her first steps just 2 days prior. You've come a long way, baby!

Looking more like a little girl and less like a baby with her first pigtails @ 14.5 mos. We ditched the binkie for good just 6 weeks after this picture. Thank God - I was having a love/hate relationship with that stupid thing and I'm so happy it's gone.

The beginning of leaning out and losing the excess baby chub @ 20.5 mos. But don't let that fool you - Lauren is a solid girl weighing over 30 lbs already. I grow 'em big and healthy, I guess.

What a big girl! Heading in the right direction here @ 22 mos. Sadly, no progress has been made in this arena and I don't expect it to for many more months. But good practicing, Lauren! You just like sitting on the potty ring because it has pictures of Blue's Clues on it, and you LOVE Blue!

The beginning of her art career. Lauren LOVES to color - on anything. 23 mos.

Lauren just a couple of weeks ago as captured by her picture-taking brother. It captures her spirit pretty well: BUSY!

We're planning to officially celebrate Lauren's big birthday with a party on Saturday. We've invited a few local friends (who are also bringing their moms and older siblings who just happen to be Nicholas's friends, doubling the number of kids coming to this party in my small house ) and family from Portland. I think there will be about 13 kids and 11 adults squished into my tiny home. Fun, right? I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible and yet find ways to keep kids ranging in age from 2 - 7 entertained. No easy task.

Since Lauren loves to color I'm sort of going with loose art theme. I am putting together little gift bags for the kids that contain a box of crayons, a small spiral notebook (Lauren loves to carry one of these around with a crayon and scribble in it), some stickers and a silly bead necklace Mardi-Gras style. At least for the girls. The boys will get sucker balls instead (you mean you don't know what a sucker ball is?? It's a ball with a bunch of suction cups all over it and you throw it at various things and try to get it to stick. Much fun.). I bought a coloring book with large pictures of animals and will spread them out on our table with fresh new crayons and let the kids color to their hearts content in between running around, screaming, and causing general mayhem. After that, the coloring comes off the table and the cupcakes go on. I'm letting the kids decorate their own cupcakes. That's artistic, right? Several different colors of frosting and a bunch of different toppings = massive fun and sugar overload. Nichoals is ready to pee his pants in excited anticipation of this. He can hardly wait and has been taking pictures of the bags that have the various toppings. We'll open presents, run around like crazy people some more, and then send the locals home. 2 hours start to finish. I don't know if I'll make it. I would be more concerned about the state of the house but hell - we sold the place so it's not really my concern anymore! The party ends at noon so the plan is to go to a nearby pizza place for lunch with the family who travelled and let the kids run off their sugar-induced energy there. It's a good plan, I think. Then bye-bye, Grandma and naptime. Blessed, sweet naptime. I think I might just make it.

I'm pretty excited about the gift Mr. Chick and I are giving Lauren (co-gifted with Mr. Chick's dad). It's the most awesome wooden kitchen ever! Costco sold them and I knew she'd love it. You can see it here. (only we picked it up for $100, not $139. Score!) Isn't it sweet?! I always wanted one of these when I was a kid and never had one. I think that's why I'm so excited for her to have it. She seems to really enjoy playing with toy kitchens at the indoor playground we go to, so I hope she'll continue to foster her imagination with it at home. It even has a dishwasher that pulls out so it can be "loaded" with plates and cups and such. We'll give it to her, assembled, the morning of the party and hope that the party guests will play with it, too, and it will entertain everyone for a bit at some point.

What, you may ask, are we doing to celebrate this occasion on the actual day? Why, going to the doctors and getting a few shots of course! Is there any better way to say "happy birthday" than to have a needle stuck into your leg? I didn't think so, either.

Happy Birthday, Lauren!
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Sunday, November 06, 2005

I Married A MAN

Mr. Chick did something recently that really impressed me. He stood up for me, backed me up, and showed his backbone. To his family, no less. I haven't written much about my mother-in-law out of respect for Mr. Chick. It's a touchy situation. No one likes to hear their mom being bashed or criticized, no matter how deserving or justified. The only person/people who can dump on your family is you and any siblings you might have. I know that my own mother has some issues, but she's MY mother, y'know? Last spring when Mr. Chick was having a hard time with my mother it was difficult for me. Most of the time I stifle my natural tendency to speak, however diplomatically, about the issues with my mother-in-law. I try very hard to be respectful no matter my true feelings. She IS his mother and deserves credit for the role she played in Mr. Chick's life. I try to just let stuff roll off me and grin and bear it, and try to make the best of things. But it's gotten worse in the last year and both Mr. Chick and I have had it.

To make a long story short, my mother-in-law has a whole host of problems. That's putting it mildly. To begin with, we believe she's got a drinking problem. That's number one. I also highly suspect she's got a mental illness of some sort - depression and/or bi-polar is my best (uneducated) guess. She's not had the easiest life, but she's just plain weird. She has lots of quirks. Privately I refer to her as "Psycho Granny B". In sum:

~ She has sleeping problems that go way back and she takes a near toxic level of meds to go to sleep each night. A few years back she was in an accident and had to be taken to the hospital and when the doctor found out the dosages she was taking he was appalled and shocked. Usually she has to have a beer or two before bed in order to sleep.

~ She claims that tap water - ANY tap water no matter what town or state - causes her to break out. She insists on drinking only bottled water - even in her coffee and ice cubes. She'll ask waiters if they used filtered water for those sorts of things and if they don't then she won't have them. She was given a Brita one Christmas and she now filters bottled water through the Brita. Mostly she just drinks regular Coke (out of a plastic bottle - it must be plastic) instead of other (non-alcoholic) beverages.

~ She's a heavy chain-smoker.

~ She's incapable of holding a job (she's a real estate appraiser) and has been self-employed for years. She can't support herself - her parents have been subsidizing her probably since the divorce from Mr. Chick's dad when he was 9 or 10. So over 20 years. She's almost 60 and still relies on her parents money.

~ She lives alone and once spent an entire summer essentially homeless, choosing to go from campsite to campsite every 2 weeks instead of living where she had been when her roommates' daughter came home from college. That triggered her parents to buy her a house so she'd have a place to live.

~ She's always late and incapable of multi-tasking.

~ She holds grudges forever and refers to things that happened forever ago as if they happened yesterday.

My personal thought is that the root of her, um, idiosyncrancies? lies with problems she has with authority and men. Religion and politics are big subjects with her. The fact that I was raised Catholic and still technically claim Catholicism as my faith is bothersome to her.

These character traits are innoculous in and of themselves individually, but when you put them all together, wrapped up in a dysfunctional package, you end up with my mother-in-law. And she has ruined, RUINED, many a special event over the years.

There are many, many stories about the strange, upsetting behavior she's displayed. Like the time Mr. Chick and I came home to an answering machine message from her, mumbling something about "if you don't hear from me I'll be in jail.". It freaked us out. Mr. Chick tried calling her but got no answer. He called the local jail to see if she had been incarcerated. She wasnt' there. We spent a couple of days not knowing what happened. Turns out a neighbor called animal control about her cat because Punky was super-old and in failing health and looked really bad. Animal control came and took Punky and left a notice telling MIL where to go. At the offices of Animal Control they told her that Punky needed to be put down, that she was suffering, and MIL freaked. She was screaming and hysterical and assaulted an employee. The cops were called. She was given several citations. She was drunk when she called us, and was saying that it was possible, depending on the court outcome, that she could go to jail for a year. Worst case. THAT's the message she left us. That she was going to jail. Not the back story. Just the worst possible, highest sentance a judge could impose. But she said it like it was a reality. And then didn't get back to us for days, leaving us panicking in the interim.

She moved shortly after that, convinced the cops were out to get her and she could no longer live where she was.

Or like the time we were visiting the city where she lives (thankfully about 1000 miles from us) to attend the med school graduation of Mr. Chick's best friend (and best man at our wedding), and we stayed with her. I was pregnant with Lauren at the time and Nicholas was not yet 2. She "forgot" to pick us up at the airport and kept us waiting for over an hour. When we got to her house, she didn't have any food in stock beyond boxes and boxes of who-knows-how-old leftovers she keeps for herself and her dog. No biggie - we simply went out to the grocery and stocked up on a few things we'd need (mostly for Nicholas) for the 4 days we were there. But it was the start of many things. The house was overwhelmingly reeking of cigarette smoke. Fine, it's her house - who are we to complain, right? We spent as much time as we could outside or elsewhere. Except that she left her ashtrays and cigarette butts all over the place ON THE FLOOR where Nicholas could get them the whole time we were there. And she smoked incessantly in the car. With us. Without the window rolled down (ok, it was cracked but she held the cigarette in her right hand, not next to the window, and the smoke drifted right into my face in the back seat). And neither of us could take it. When Mr. Chick asked her, politely, if she could maybe refrain from smoking just when we're in the car with her (seeing how I'm pregnant and all and the smoke was making me nauseated, plus with Nicholas being in the car, too), she flipped out. She staunchly refused to cease smoking and called Mr. Chick rude for suggesting it. She wouldn't even stop smoking for a 5 minute drive to a resevoir, forcing us to drive two cars and pay twice for a parking permit. We had borrowed our friends car by that point. We ended up staying a night with our friends since they were pretty far out, and the night we were gone she slept in our bed. IN OUR BED!! ON OUR SHEETS! That creeped me out. She came with us to the graduation, but then started acting strange and completely disappeared. She missed most of the graduation and offered no apologies or explanations as to where she was. She didn't attend this same friends' wedding (Mr. Chick was a groomsman) because she was pissed that Mr. Chick stayed with his buddy for the wedding festivities instead of with her. She had rsvp'd her attendance and bailed at the last minute.

This last spring we were in Michigan to visit Mr. Chick's grandparents, who are wonderful people. MIL usually visits at the same time if we're going. Her parents are her best friends and the only people she respects. But only from a distance - when she's in their presence she sort of wigs out and reverts to being child-like. We made plans to take the kids swimming at a local indoor pool and MIL came with us. She, Lauren and I all went into the ladies locker room together. Lauren and I had our suits on already, MIL did not (again, the whole multi-tasking inability and chronic lateness), so she told me to take Lauren out to the pool to join Mr. Chick and Nicholas and she'd follow. Normal, right? Well, she never came out. We waited and waited. At one point I went back in to see if she was OK, but she wasnt' there. Our family swam for about and hour and had fun, and she never showed. She had come with us in the same car, but she'd disappeared. We all got dressed and had to search the whole facility for her. After about 20-30 minutes she wandered by where I was sitting like it's wasn't strange she took off. She never really directly answered our questions about where she'd been, only saying that she found a quiet spot to sit. Later that night she and Mr. Chick's grandmother were going to watch the kids so Mr. Chick and I could go out together. Only MIL ended up sneaking off to the basement and raiding her parents liquor stash that was 30 years old and getting drunk. By herself. In the basement. While her 83 year old mother took care of two young kids and got them both to bed by herself. Nice, huh? When we got home she was in her room with the door closed and we chatted a minute with his grandmother before going to bed. No one knew at this point that she was drunk - it was never mentioned by his grandmother (they protect her and never say anything). But then MIL came into our room, where we were in bed together and the kids were sleeping, and started babbling some nonsense about her earlier disappearance at the pool. She rubbed Mr. Chick's chest and got weepy and saying stuff about how cute we looked in bed together. It was very odd and very uncomfortable. The next day she stayed in her room, probably hungover, and didn't join everyone in going out to lunch, and came within minutes of missing her flight. She seems to miss more flights than she catches. That's normal for her. She rarely gets to see us or the kids, and yet manged to not spend more than half a day out of 3 with us. She flips out and disappears. It's her M.O.

Or the time, most recently, when she ruined Mr. Chick's graduation from law school. She flew out with her parents and we got them hotel rooms. It was a big deal that his grandparents travelled so far for his graduation. We had breakfast with them before the ceremony and gave them directions to the graduation. They arrived at the ceremony, but didn't sit with us. We're not sure if they didn't see us or what, but I was frantic thinking they'd gotten lost and was trying to call the hotel to track them down, etc. I was saving seats and pissing people off in doing so. In the end I was just glad they didn't miss seeing Mr. Chick graduate. We had a big reception party planned for after graduation at one of the nicest restaurants in town. It was to start about an hour after the ceremony ended and was a block away from the location of the graduation. MIL and her parents decided to return to their hotel to rest before the party. No sweat, right? Except that the party started, a lovely dinner buffet was served, and things were underway. But they weren't there. We were worried. For over 2 hours they didn't show up. Then Mr. Chick's grandparents arrived. Just them, no MIL. Dinner had been cleared so I had to make arrangements for them to get plates, etc. Still no MIL. They didn't know where she was, either. She stood them up at the hotel. She left for some reason and never came back. The hotel ended up arranging for transportation to get the grandparents to the party. They stayed a short while and then left. Still no MIL. Finally, 4 HOURS after the party started, she slinked in. Drunk, we think. She wasn't able to say where she was other than she got lost trying to find the restaurant. People, this is a relatively small college town - it's impossible to get lost for 4 fucking hours. You could practically drive to Seattle in 4 hours. You could be in California in 4 hours. She stayed mostly to herself for the short time she was at the party, started getting emotional and babbling some bullshit about seeing everything she's missed with Mr. Chick over the years, and took off. At one point she said something about enjoying a chat she was having with some guy she met at a bar, so we're not sure what she was doing for those 4 hours. Hanging with strangers at a bar instead of being at her only child's graduation celebration. Mr. Chick was so pissed his beloved grandparents weren't able to participate in everything because of her. She missed the party. They left the next day and it's never been spoken of again. That's how they are - they simply don't mention the white elephant in the room.

MIL recently asked Mr. Chick to not send him pictures of the kids anymore "because it hurts too much to see what I'm missing." Uh-huh, right. But then on the phone the other day she says something about not getting any emails from me lately. I say that's because Mr. Chick said not to send pics fo the kids, and that's the primary reason for me to email his family - to send pics of the kids. She just sort of laughed it off, saying she wants so much to do things like babysit the kids. Over my dead body.

In between all of these situations Mr. Chick has received many strange, negative emails from her. Random, odd, short emails that are very upsetting. We suspect she sends them late at night when she's drunk. Normally just sends them to Mr. Chick and he doesn't always tell me when he receives one. He's been shielding me from her craziness. Apparently she will sometimes bash his dad about something that happened when Mr. Chick was a kid. Or say critical things to Mr. Chick himself. Occasionally, however, I've learned she's also included my family as fodder for her negativity. My mom, mostly, and the Catholic church. A couple of days ago she included me in an email as well as Mr. Chick, and it upset us both.

"In the eyes of the Catholic Church, men who molest boys don't go to is okay........they get moved.
So, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, no man should go to prison for molesting a boy???

Patty told me that if you would live here, she would hate me...........real loving and Christian."

Followed immediately by this email:

"I don't have sex in my life now. How do I join the Catholic Church??? There are Priest who like sex. Perhaps I can do what they did....have sex with the kids."

I resisted my urge to fire off an reply email and tell her where to get off, instead opting to go get a cup of hot tea by myself at Starbucks. While I was gone Mr. Chick took care of business on my/our behalf. He told his mother, essentially, that she's created a big wedge between them by insulting his wife and family. That he won't allow her negativity be around the people he loves most - his family. He told her that he doesn't think he could ever leave the kids with her (something we've both felt and agreed about for a long, long time but have never said anything as it hasn't come up specifically since she lives so far away). There has been some discussion about everyone (us and Mr. Chick's grandparents) going to her house for Christmas this year (vs. going to Michigan, as is what usually happens). We were actually considering it - not so much to see her but to see the grandparents and some dear friends who also live there. But Mr. Chick told her we wouldn't be joining them for Christmas this year. She's just too unstable and our visits are horrible and stressful. I have to walk on eggshells. I don't trust her, I dont' like her, and I certainly don't want to stay at her house ever again. Sadly, she wouldn't understand our desire to stay at a hotel and that decision could possibly set off a major drama. And worse, we love Mr. Chick's grandparents dearly and are sad to not see them. They're getting up there in age and you never know how long you have with someone. Anyway, Mr. Chick sent this email to his mother and copied his grandparents and father. He wanted them to see the type of crap she's been pulling for years and he's never said anything about it. Bold move. His dad won't be surprised, but it will hurt his grandparents. They defend her, their oldest daughter, no matter what. They're not stupid - they know something is not quite right about her - but just ignore it, choosing instead to deal with her as she is.

I'm so proud of Mr. Chick. It takes balls to stand up against your whole family. He's an only-child. He has divorced parents, neither of whom had other kids. His paternal grandparents both died before I met him, and he's very close to his maternal grandparents. They've referred to him as the son they never had. His mother, sadly, is a whack job. She can't cope. She sits alone in her house all day long (well, she does have a drop-kick dog), and drinks. She doesn't have many (any?) friends. The one friend I do know about died last year from cancer. Then she was claiming her deceased friends' husband was flirting with her after the funeral. She has real issues with men. Mr. Chick has told me that she's gotten beaten up by a boyfriend before. She "dates" mostly sketchy guys by the sounds of it. But then again, she could be talking about a boyfriend like it's someone she's currently or recently seen when in reality it's someone from 15 years ago.

Mr. Chick went to live with his dad when he was 14. Thank God he did. But his dad is old-school and insisted that Mr. Chick call his mother regularly as well as his grandparents. He did, and continues to do so nearly every week. He's better about it than I am, and I'm pretty close with my family. I believe his mother is an embarrassment to him. It makes me sad. Her life is pretty sad. I try to remember that when we're dealing with something. But it's hard. And recently, with the email Mr. Chick sent, a clear message was sent that he/we are done putting up with her bullshit and pretending it's all ok. It's NOT ok. It's hurtful. I've always thought she might benefit from some therapy and possibly meds. But she flatly refuses to admit anything is wrong. At one point her father tried arranging full medical check-up's including a psychiatric evaluation, and she did everything except the psych eval. She refused that element of the check-up. I think she knows something is wrong but refuses to face it. But we're at the point of no longer putting up with her unless she does something to get help. It's hard to take a stand, but Mr. Chick did. It takes a man to do that. A man looks out for his family and refuses to let anyone - even family - hurt the people he loves.

I married a MAN, and I'm so grateful he is who he is.

Friday, November 04, 2005


To the highest (and only) bidder. Our house is all but under contract. We met with the lesbians this afternoon and presented our official counter-offer. The only change was including a clause detailing our rent-back agreement if that becomes necessary. They were ready to sign on the dotted line right then and there but opted to take it home for the evening under the auspices of giving it due consideration. They not considering anything - it's a done deal. They're pretty excited, which is cool. They had their 4 year old daughter with them today and she was trying to figure out which bedroom would be hers. But the off-hand comment that made my day? The fact that they love Lauren's room and don't want to change the paint or decor. Music to my mother/designer ears **.

Lauren's nursery! The computer table is no longer in her room. Picture a matching wood toy box there instead... Sweet, isn't it? This was taken before she was born and the crib bedding wasn't even in place yet. My mom made her a quilt, a crib skirt, sheets and bumpers to match the curtain, which I made.

Lauren's dressers/changing table area. Again, this was taken just as I finished painting the room. Some of the decorating wasn't fully complete yet...

So, we're set to close on Jan. 3rd and a month-to-month rent goes into effect from that point on for up to 6 months. If we're not moved by then (June), shoot me. Mr. Chick and I feel like we sold at the right time and got top dollar for the house. We essentially made 54% on the house in just 3 years. That's right, 54%. That's not a typo. How ridiculous is that??! Good for us as sellers, bad news for us as buyers. We'll be paying someone else that sort of fat profit on their home when it's our turn to make offers and buy something. If it looks like we'll be renting back, Mr. Chick and I are tempted to put the lions share of that money into a 3 month CD or something and pick up a little more $$ on the interest. Can't hurt, right?
It sort of feels like we're living in someone elses home already. I'm always curious about what sort of stuff the new occupants will change. It's nice (and a little validating, if I'm being honest) to know that at least Lauren's room - a room I spent a lot of time decorating - will remain intact.
** I'm not a decorator, but I play one on TV and in my own home.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Latest Creation

Yay! It's finished! And in time, too. It went out in the mail today. I've been working my fingers to the bone rushing to finish this sweet little dress in time for the recipient's first birthday. Which happens to be, btw, on the same day as Lauren's 2nd birthday. It was pretty easy to make, just time consuming. The skirt part was made in rounds and was over 100 stitches each round. And it went round and round and round... ad nauseum. I made it using Baby Georgia 100% mercerized cotton yarn. It's fingering weight yarn, so it's small. I swear that's why my fingers now literally hurt - from having to grab such tiny yarn so tightly to maintain the tension as I crocheted. Ouch. But worth it in the end because it turned out so cute! I got the pattern from this book, in case you're interested.

Next up: a baby blanket (called the Heirloom Blanket) for some good friends' first child, due in early March. Also made from a pattern in the same book as this dress. I'm off to a good start but still have a loonnngg way to go before it's finished. And Christmas is coming - yikes! So many projects, so little time.

crocheted dress full view

hemline details

yoke close up. It has a square neckline. The yoke was done in one long piece starting with one sleeve and working all the way to the other sleeve. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Culinary Malfunction That Could

You know how when you move into a new house you discover it's individual quirks? The things that seem to be unique to the home. Well, shortly after moving into our current house 3+ years ago I uncovered something that wasn't noted in the inspection report. A malfunction of sorts. But over the years this malfunction has turned into something I appreciate. You see, one of my stovetop burners doesn't work properly.

My stove is electric. It's the kind that's built into the counter. I think this is called a "drop in" stove. The oven is built into the wall next to it, not under it like in a free-standing stove. Follow? There are 4 burners on this cooktop: 2 small ones and 2 large ones, and they're arranged in a sort of skewed way. They don't line up two in the back, two in the front. It's more like the back two are shifted to the left and the front two are skewed to the right. The controls are on the front on the left side, in front of the back left burner. Can you picture this? There is one large burner and one small burner in the back, and the same in the front. My malfunctioning burner is the big one in the back. The one behind the control dials.

I'm a tea drinker at night. I usually have a big-ass mug of decaf Earl Grey tea after the kids go to bed. I sweeten it with sugar and try to convince myself that it's my nightly sweet treat in lieu of dessert, but who am I kidding? That never works. But I digress... Since I drink tea I have a tea kettle and I keep it on my stove. It's always there. For aesethics it's usually on the far left back burner. Yep, the one that doesn't work right. But because I'm a far cry from gourmet and don't often have the need to have all four burners operating simulateously, much less the two big burners, it's possible I wouldn't have discovered the "problem" burner for a long time. But it's my designated tea kettle burner, so my discovery was quickly made. See, that particular burner overheats. No matter what you set the dial to, it heats up to full heat. We're talking hot. HOT. Lava hot. More than the "high" on the other burners. It heats my tea kettle to steaming whistle hot in no time flat. Nearly as quickly as microwaving the water in a mug (and between you and me, boiled water in a kettle is just so much better for tea than microwaving the water. It just is. Trust me. Something about pouring the boiling water over the tea bag vs. just dunking it into hot water already in the mug. It must be poured.)

This burner is sort of like Lauren: all or nothing. And it sure has come in handy over the years! In our rush rush rush lives, being able to heat something super quick is nice. Need to whip up some spaghetti? That burner gets the water boiling and cooks those noodles faster than you've ever seen done on a normal stove. It's the super-hero. It's the burner on steroids. It gets so hot that I can't often keep the pots and pans directly on it. I have to sort of move them off to the side a little bit to try to manage the heat or it will boil over. But here's my dilemma: I've come to embrace this "quirk" and work with it, but I'm afraid that someone else will see it through more objective eyes as simply a malfunction that must be fixed. Someone like, say, a potential buyer of the house. It was never disclosed to me - I stumbled upon it shortly after moving in. But should it have been? Should *I* feel obligated to share this endearing malfunction and risk having to fork over unknown amounts of money to potentially get it fixed? (the offer we've received doesn't say word one about a set amount of money to be allowed for any repairs... yet.) Or do I keep my fat mouth shut? We've already told them that the dishwasher seems to drain into the sink via the aerator overflow thingamajig... not sure how long that's been happening. Is it normal? Is it because there is a clog somewhere? Dunno. All I care about these days is that it cleans my dishes, which it does, thankyouverymuch.

I'm sort of going to miss my super-charged burner when we move from this house. No one else in my family seems to appreciate it like I do. But I'm wondering how I can spin it for the new owners so they see how helpful it can be when cooking for hungry, tired kids who just can't wait, as mine always seem to be. Because in my eyes, this little malfunction - this culinary quirk - is a beneficial feature I'd like to have installed in my next house.

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