Friday, December 30, 2005

The Battle of Wills

Oooh, I've had it! I want my own bed back! Is that too much to ask?? Here's the scene: about a month ago Lauren started climbing out of her crib. We're all set to move her into her "big girl" twin bed.... once we move. Which has been filed under the category of "soon" and "any time now" for months [sigh]. So until then, she's still in the crib. We simply lowered the side rail to make it easier and safer for her to climb out. Because, once the crib climbing starts there ain't no going back. Better to adjust than fight it.

Except now? I'm totally fighting it. Or rather, fighting to keep her sleeping in her crib instead of in our bed. You see, at some point during the night - usually betwen 1am and 4am - Lauren wakes up, climbs out of her crib, and comes into our room. She used to come to me, because a) I'm the mama and b) I sleep closer to the door. But I'm also the one to take her back to the crib. She caught on real fast and altered her plan of attack. Now? She goes over to Mr. Chick's side of the bed and snuggles up to Daddy. Daddy, who rarely remembers her coming into bed at all. He just sort of slides over and makes room for her in his sleep. So she totally gets away with it. And I get crunched. I end up teetering on the edge of the bed because Mr. Chick is now in the middle, having made room for Lauren, the biggest space hog ever. It blows. It blows big. Sometimes, with enough elbows to his ribs, he'll take her back to her crib. Sometimes not.

Well, last night I reached the end of my rope. This sleeping in my bed thing has played out. It's a bad, bad habit that must be broken, and sooner rather than later. And so, The Battle of Wills began last night in earnest.

Mr. Chick was out of town last night so the bed was MINE! All mine! But by 12:45am I had a little visitor who completely ruined the joy of having the whole bed to myself. I'm a scooch more lenient when a kid(s) is sick - I'll allow some sleeping in Mama & Daddy's bed when you don't feel good and just want some comfort. I'm down with that. We did that all last week. Kids are feeling better now, so GET OUT, I say. At first, I caved. I let her snuggle up and fall back to sleep [which she's able to do almost instantly, unlike me]. At 2am-something Nicholas started pitching a fit crying about his knee hurting - ?! And I of course had to tend to him. When I got back to my bed and saw my daughter, sprawled diagonally across my bed, I said NO MORE and took her back to her bed, vowing to hold firm for as long as it takes until Lauren starts staying in her damn crib all night long. Like she's supposed to. Like she used to do. I had hoped for a slumbering transfer. The kind where you can move a kid and they never wake up? Yeah - didn't happen. She had her bed-moving radar on and woke up instantly as I was picking her up, and was immediately pissed. "no no no no no Mama no no NO NO NO!!" as I'm putting her in her crib. There was no way in hell she was going to lay down. She crying and carrying on and having a royal fit of mammoth proportions because she's back in her crib. I go back in bed and listen as she climbs out of her crib and comes back to my room. As if I'm going to just let her get back in bed with me. Riiiggghhttt. I take her back to the soothing screams of "no Mama! Bed! NNNoooooooOOOO!" and she gets back out again. Oh! This is FUN! I take her back a 3rd time, attempting miserably to use logic, "Lauren, you have a nice bed with cozy covers. You sleep HERE, ok?" Um, she didn't go for it. But - BUT - she stayed there this time. Standing up, clutching her enormous blankie, and pathetically calling "mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama.... ", varying her delivery between rage and sorrow in the tone, for at least 15 minutes. Do you have any idea how long 15 minutes of "mama" repetitions is in the middle of the night? It's a freakin' eternity is what it is. Torture. But I was engaged in a Battle of Wills with a 2 year old. I picked this battle and therefore COULD NOT lose. I had to endure. And endure I did.

At one point, during a momentary lull in the mantra, I went to check on her. I was envisioning her exhausted and crumpled in her crib and not under her covers properly. I didn't want her to be cold. Mad, yes. Cold? Never! Big, big mistake. She wasn't even close to being done with me yet. She saw me and lunged at me (going for my throat maybe?). I held her, rocking, and told her again how she needed to sleep in her own bed. She still wasn't buying it. But she stayed, like a tortured, obedient martyr, and started up with the "mama" chant some more. Eventually she crashed and slept. I'm a faster learner than she is because I did not go back to check on her and make sure she was all tucked in. I didn't need a 2nd sucker punch.

I don't know if she got cold or not, but I do know that I got to sleep in the bed all by myself for the rest of the night. I have no illusions that this nasty little habit of Lauren's is over yet. One night does not a trend make. Oh no, I'm sure I'll be doing more battling in the nights to come. The biggest trick will be to get Mr. Chick to engage and go along with my program or I swear this child will be sneaking in to sleep with us after she gets home from dates. I gotta nip this one in the bud.

Let the battle begin. May the best woman/girl win!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Couldn't Resist...

Got a few requests to show the mother of all Vegas rings, so here goes. Again, let me emphasize, my camera sucks ass (maybe a new one next Christmas?) and cannot take up-close, detailed pictures. They turn out blurry.

Without further ado, The Ring (you might want to shield your eyes lest they burn):

I'm sure some of you are saying to yourself, "hey, that's not so bad. What is she thinking bashing a lovely ring like that?" TRUST ME when I tell you that the unanimous assessement of this ring is that it is quite a stretch to say this ring is pretty. A big stretch. A stretch a mile long. People tried - they really did - to come up with nice, diplomatic things to say about this ring when they saw it. I got comments like, "Wow! I've never seen a yellow diamond before." and "Well, maybe it looks better on. [pause to put ring on]. Nope." and "Maybe you can re-design it - there is a lot to work with here." and "Your father-in-law must think very highly of you" (which he does, for which I am grateful). See? It's hard to find nice things to say about it. What the pictures DON'T show is the unique way the scrolls at the top and bottom lift up. Yes, up, like wings. They don't lie flat. Now, I'm sure a little lift might be necessary to allow for finger flexing with comfort and to avoid the tips from digging into your knuckles, but the lift of these beauties defy gravity. Sure, it LOOKS flat in the 2-dimensional picture, but this ring is anything but. It catches on everything. I think the best thing that can be said about this ring is that it's shiny. It shines and sparkles A LOT. Beyond that - it's ugly and shall rarely, if ever, be worn.

Unless I'm in Vegas for a girls weekend and I'm feeling particularly blingy.....

The Ugliest Best Gift That I Almost Threw Away

We're home again after a few days spent being all merry and bright with my family. I'm done being merry and bright. Now I feel a little post-holiday Grinchy, truth be told.

After being told of potentially "significant problems" in my father-in-law's marriage (he's been married to A for 8 years next month but they don't live together. Never have. He's in the southern part of the state and she's on the far opposite end - 5 hours away), he joined us for our first Christmas Eve/Christmas morning on our own. We did essentially a repeat of our Thanksgiving menu - a full turkey feast for just the 3 of us. Because my kids are weird and don't like much of anything having to do with a turkey dinner. Not even the scrumptious garlic mashed potatoes. Heathens. I got excited about an excuse to use our good china and crystal and pulled out all the stops. The kids had been sick (still are) and Mr. Chick was coming down with it, too. I spent the day making mountains of Chex Mix (made with extra seasonings because, come on, the traditional recipe tends to be a bit scant on that front) and my favorite kick-ass chocolate chip cookies (see April archives for the recipe - it rocks!) because Santa is a rock star and deserves nothing less than my best cookie effort on his big night. I wonder why I went to such trouble because my kids were cranky, my fil was 2 hours late, and Mr. Chick was asleep on the couch by 6:30pm. Seriously. Fa la la. So much for me taking Nicholas to the childrens Mass, or going on the tour of lighted homes, or even watching a classic Christmas special on TV. So much for making our own traditions. Maybe next year. Because there is no way in hell our tradition is going to be me slaving away all day in the kitchen, then cleaning up from it all while I try to listen to cheesy Christmas music over the snoring of my congested husband.

Our plan was to enjoy the chaos of Christmas morning and all the Santa magic goodness here in our own home, have a nice breakfast, and then hit the road and drive to Portland to enjoy the holiday with my family. Good plan. There were so many gifts under our tree I thought a fun new tradition (and we all know how well my other plans for traditions played out...) would be to open up the non-Santa gifts on Christmas Eve and that way the Santa stuff could assume a bigger level of importance on Christmas morning, plus free up valuable time to get it all together so we could leave at a reasonable time. Makes sense, right? Only Mr. Chick has this thing about not opening gifts until the day of. He wouldn't let us open up wedding gifts until after our wedding, and he won't even open up birthday cards that come before his actual birthday. He will wait until his birthday to open them. So it was completely OUT that we would open up family gifts on Christmas Eve. Oh no. We could only open them on Christmas morning and really put the kids into overload mode. So that's what we did.

I mentioned the kids were/are sick. So sleeping at night has been a bit of a challenge. Added to the fact that ever since Lauren started climbing out of her crib she crawls into bed with us sometime in the wee, ungodly hours. And then proceeds to cough and hack all over me. It was a holly-jolly night, let me tell ya. And then she's UP at 6:30am and sliding out of bed and wandering into the kitchen asking for "bot" (translation: milk, left over from her bottle days), and I can't have her discover the Santa stuff before Nicholas is awake, so I attempt to bring her back into bed only that's a non-starter and she's insisting on being awake, the little imp. So I grab the video camera (better to be the one behind the camera than the parent to assist the kids in front of it when one hasn't gotten much sleep and looks like death) and we wake up Nicholas, drag Mr. Chick from bed, and instruct Nick to wake his Opa, too. All this happens in, like, 14.8 seconds. Nicholas saw his stuffed stocking and lo and behold - ! An Icee machine! OMG! (What was I thinking??) And a Rudolph coloring book in his stocking! And a SpongeBob toothbrush! It was all too much! Lauren got the LeapPad Phonics magnetic toy that sings about the sounds each letter makes and a Winnie-the-Pooh bear. From Mama & Daddy she got a Dora doll and Nicholas got a Snoopy youth set of golf clubs (3 real clubs and a bag). We had to absorb all of THAT plus the stuff from their Opa (a VSmile and game cartridges), and many more gifts from assorted relatives on Mr. Chick's side of the family. Mr. Chick gave me the most-awesome Kitchen Aid mixer in the hot red color! Yay! You KNOW you're getting old when you get jazzed about your husband getting you a mixer for Christmas. Then Mr. Chick, still feeling poorly, took Lauren with him into the hottub for some steaming relief while I got breakfast rolling and Nicholas continued to enjoy his new booty. Slyly, fil slipped a small box onto the kitchen counter for me. We all know good things come in small packages, right? Well, I opened this little goodie and was met with something sparkly. LOTS of sparkles. Too bad the sparkles were UGLY. It was a ring. A ring that I thought was completely an ugly costume ring. But I'm a gracious person (really!) and kept my thoughts to myself, instead making pleasing utterances for fil's benefit. "What sort of stone IS that?" and "oh my - wow! That's really intricate" and other such nonsense. It looks like a tacky Vegas cocktail ring, if you can picture that. I'd post a picture but my camera wouldn't do it justice. The center stone has a sort of yellow-green tone to it. It has 3 strands of diamond-looking stones on each side of the center, and going top-to-bottom from the center (along the length of your finger) are long swirly loops with various stones. There are different tones of metals involved. Oh how I WISH you could see how unattractive it is. I put this gem on and fil asked if it fit or if I'd have to have it sized. Sized? That was my first clue that this may not be junk, despite all appearances. Why would you have a cheap costume ring sized? Then he says it could be an heirloom piece that I could pass down to Lauren, and how it's likely the most expensive piece of jewelry I own. WTF??! He told me he paid wholesale for it but he left the retail sticker on so I'd understand how valuable it is. The sticker said - are you ready for this? - $6600. Yes, that's right. I wondered if he knew he'd gotten ripped off. (and my engagement ring/wedding band is worth more now that I have a bigger diamond. Huzzah!)

We drove to Portland for Round Two of Christmas gifts and chaos. It was fun. Everyone seemed to like the gifts I'd made for them, and the Harry Potter Gryffindor scarf was the biggest hit. We spent the day enjoying the gifts, playing games (VisualEyes - good one!), and just hanging out. The next day I had a few exchanges to do and went to the mall. While there I detoured into a jewelry store. I asked the clerk about my new ring. What WAS this? Was it legit? She took it and ooh'd and ahhh'd about how lovely it is (liar!) and then looked at it under the loup thingy, did some sort of steam test, and then used the diamond hardness tester on it. Guess what? The ring is real. It's got several yellow diamonds - the bigger stones - and many, many tiny regular diamonds all along the strands. It has white gold for the band, rose gold for the medium-sized stones, and a yellow gold for the center stone. There are 9 yellow diamonds in all on this sucker. And about 60-70 tiny little clear diamonds wrapping around the yellow ones and on the 3 strands. Really, that many. I just counted. This ring is encrusted. I just wish I liked it. I was giving serious thought to making this my white elephant gift for this year's exchange coming up. Good thing I double-checked it's validity. And while I may knock the design of this ring, I absolutely appreciate the hyper-generosity of my fil for giving it to me. That's amazing. He has a habit of buying artwork and stuff for people - stuff that tends to be very personal taste-wise - and that's risky business. I only wish I'd had a say in the look of a ring of this magnitude. Because I won't really be wearing the one he gave me. It is seriously UGLY and completely not me. So now we'll have it appraised for insurance purposes, and probably put it in our safety deposit box with my loose diamond that was swapped out from my engagement ring. We've thought about having it re-worked into something I like, but we don't want to offend fil and will just leave it alone for now. But can you BELIEVE that?? Unreal.

The only other highlight of the holiday was going to see Mamma Mia. My sister had plans to go to dinner and see the show with some friends of hers from high school. They live all over and only come back to town at Christmas. This year they were all going to be around so they thought they should get together. Except then my sister and her husband made plans to go to see his family the day after Christmas and she could no longer join her friends. So, they asked me to stand in for her. I also know these girls since I was just one year ahead of them in school, but I haven't really seen most of them since. And my, how they've changed! My sisters class in school was always very, very smart. Wicked smart. And my sister, the aeronautical engineer, was right in the thick of it. One of them is a jet-setting, globe-trotting physician. One is an attorney. One of them got her MBA from Stanford. The other is a VP. It's impressive, and just a little intimidating. I'm proud of my accomplishments, but a bachelor degree from a state university just isn't on the same level, y'know? But the dinner and show was really fun - who doesn't love an ABBA-filled evening? And it was nice to get out for a bit.

And my blingy-Vegas ring was just the right accessory for the event!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Alzheimers SUCKS

I have an uncle - my dad's oldest brother - who lives about 30 minutes from me. I wouldn't call my dad's side of the family "close" per se. More the kind of uncle I would occasionally see at family gatherings that centered around my grandmother type of relative. I never had any problem with him - he was nice enough - but I also never really knew him. He was always just Uncle T and we'd see him from time to time. He was married to H for decades and they had two kids - my cousins R & C - both of whom are older than me. They were always a more casual family than my own. My mother would make us dress up - or at least dress nicer than normal - when we'd go to Grandma's house and see these people. They always got to come in jeans and sneakers. My mother always made us write thank you notes, but these people? Not so much. So again, nice semi-distant relatives who lived 2 hours away and we saw a couple of times a year. Get the picture?

Now I live much closer to my uncle. His kids live farther away from him than I do. His wife, my Aunt H, died 10 years ago. He lives alone on 152 acres in the same house they've had since before I was born (and in case you need reminding, that was 36 years ago yesterday). In other words, a long-ass time. Like a lot of men who push 60, his memory started slipping. Nothing major at first - just little lapses that seemed like nothing. But a few years ago those little memory lapses started becoming bigger and bigger. Until it became obvious that he was dealing with something major. More than just aging into your 60's. My cousins intervened and discovered he'd been doling out butt-loads of cash based on bank statements that were a few years old. He'd nearly run out of cash when he was once quite flush (he did quite well financially). He got angry about something and said some terrible things, only to have no recollection of any of it the next day. Things like that. They had him diagnosed and yep, Alzheimers. Shit.

He had his driver's license revoked with that diagnosis. But that didn't stop him from driving - he drove into town everyday to get his mail and to eat in his favorite restaurant (the owner of which he also helped finance, we've come to learn). So my cousin had to physically get rid of his cars. They had to arrange for a home-health nurse to come to his house once a week to make sure he was set up with his meds (which he was forgetting to take sometimes) and take him to the grocery store. Then arrangements for Meals On Wheels got set up. My cousin R (male) completely took over his finances. He told me he thought they'd be moving him into a home of some sort designed to help memory patients by the fall. But his sister, C, is resisting that idea so he's still living utterly alone and on his own.

I've had tremendous amounts of guilt over how infrequently I've been to visit him. He's really not that far away, and yet making the trip is an ordeal, especially with the kids. He's not set up for kids. He gets confused so easily and it's awfully uncomfortable to see him trying to cover for what he obviously does not know. His long term memory is intact and sharp - ask him something from his childhood or even 15 years ago and he knows. But ask him what he had for breakfast and he's incapable of telling you. It's so, so sad.

I got his Christmas letter the other day and it broke my heart. It was a thinly disguised plea for visitors and company. It told the terrible tale of loneliness and solitude. He was saying things like how the deer are his only company these days. *crack* - the sound of my heart breaking wide open. I'm an awful niece! Here I am the relative living closest to him and I only see him once a quarter, if that. So today I broke down and called my uncle and invited him to lunch. The kids and I would drive down to him and take him out. This was at 9am. I told him I'd be there in 2 hours - 11am - and we'd visit and go have a nice lunch out of the house. Nothing fancy - maybe just McDonald's since I'd have the kids and all. He readily agreed.

When I got to his house he'd already eaten, having forgotten we were coming to take him to lunch. The Meals On Wheels people had stopped by with his food for the day and he simply ate it. But he was still eager to go out so we did. But not to McDonalds - a place he's unfamiliar with (silly me - shoulda thought of that), but to his time-worn favorite restaurant where everyone knows him. We spent about an hour in that restaurant and I was told at least 5 times that the husband of the waitress likes to hunt on his property. Sometimes within 5 minutes or less of each other. He had no memory whatsoever of just having told me that fact. None. It makes me want to cry. I don't think he asked about Mr. Chick because he couldn't remember his name. I made sure to refer to the kids often by their names so he'd know them. I asked him if he knew yet what his plans were for Christmas - was he going to R or C's house? He said he didn't know all the details yet (in other words, he couldn't remember). I told him that I'd love to have him over to our house for a nice dinner on Christmas Eve if he was going to stay in town. We'd come get him and take him home and everything. He said he'd let me know (he won't - he wont' remember to). Nicholas asked him where his Christmas tree was and cannot understand why someone wouldn't have one. Uncle T didn't have an answer for him. Turns out my cousin R is coming down tonight to stay the night and take him back to Portland for Christmas. But earlier my uncle didn't know that.

When I dropped him back off at home after lunch he got out of the car and went to the side garage door to go inside. This is the door that has served as the primary entrance to the house for years vs. the actual front door. The door was locked. It was locked when I arrived and I had to go to the front door for the first time IN MY LIFE. And for some reason, that's the door we left from when we went to lunch. But one hour later my uncle could not remember this and stood at the garage door, completely befudled because it was locked and he didn't have his keys. He just sort of looked at my questioningly, as if to say, oops! I'm locked out! I've learned how to best work with his illness so as to not embarrass him and simply got out of the car and told him I would check to see if the front door was unlocked (knowing that it was). I opened the door for him, gave him another big hug, and got back in the car. Just then, a light flashed for him and he was able to connect the dots and understood that we'd left the house from the front door. I want to cry just thinking about it. I'm sure he would've eventually thought to check the front door had I left before he was inside the house, but there's no telling how long he would have stood there, in the drizzle, wondering how he was going to get inside if the door was locked and he didn't have the key.

My uncle T is 67 years old. I'm sure that the fact that he's so alone and lonely and isolated is contributing to his illness. I mean, think about it - wouldn't the days just sort of blur together if you never left your house, rarely had visitors, and had nothing to pass the time except the tv and computer? I'm sure I'd begin to lose it in those conditions. He lives out in the country a few miles from town, so it's not like he can just take a stroll into town to visit with friends he'd had for a lifetime. He's very dependent on people coming to him. Although, the exercise would do him good. He's overweight (has been for as long as I can remember) but now he's got shortness of breath, too, from simple lack of activity. He starts panting just walking from here to there.

One of my New Year's resolutions - in additon to all the old tired standard ones about losing weight, blah blah blah, is to be a better niece and visit him more often. I would bring him back to my house, but he's not nearly as chatty when he's somewhere he's unfamiliar with. It's important for him to stay in surroundings he knows well. So we'll just go to him. For as long as we're living here or until my cousins decide he needs assisted care. I'm glad I was able to brighten his day today just a little bit, but again, I feel so awful that such a little thing makes such a big difference and I've been shamefully wrapped up in my own life to just go and visit. VISIT! That's not a hard thing to do, and yet I've not done it often enough. I resolve to do better.

What makes seeing the decline of my uncle even more painful to me is the realization that my own father is starting to show signs of aging. He's not an Alheimers patient yet, but his memory does have some holes in it from time to time, and his hearing is going. He now has to wear digital hearing aids in both ears. He gets confused in crowds and chaos of having all of us plus the grandkids running around wears on him and addles him just a bit. I am simply incapable of conceiving of life without my father and have turned a blind eye to his various "ailments" but seeing my uncle today has made me face the fact that they're all aging and THAT JUST SUCKS!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Birthday to MEEEE!!!

Today is my 36th birthday. Man, that sounds so middle-aged. I don't FEEL 36. I hope I don't LOOK 36. I feel more along the lines of 24. I don't delude myself to believe I still look 24, but a girl can dream, right? RIGHT!? I thought so. I mean, what's a dozen years really? I'm not quite at the point of lying about my age the way I do my weight on my drivers license, but it would be nice to get carded again. I AM at the age of appreciating that little white lie.

This morning Mr. Chick let me sleep in. Now THAT'S a gift! The kids are sick so I was up a couple of times during the night with them and it was sheer heaven to get to snooze for as long as I wanted this morning. I woke up to fresh coffee and lots of hugs and kisses. Lauren can even manage to say a semi-intelligible Happy Birthday Mama!, which is just music to my ears. And speaking of music, the "kids" (uh-huh right, the kids) gave me the new Kelly Clarkson CD for my birthday. I've wanted it since summer. Mr. Chick's gift to me was really the new, bigger diamond and getting it reset into my ring, but since he also wanted me to open a little something on my birthday, he got me a bra/panties set from Frederick's of Hollywood. His selection surprised me in that the panties were full-coverage vs. thongs like he likes and like he gave me last year. The bra is shiny and waaayyy padded (I don't need THAT much "wonder" in my daily life, thankyouverymuch), but would be fun to have just for messing around. Which was his intention, I believe. So that was fun to get and model for him. I got a nice check from fil and will use the $$ to buy new running shoes. I'm about 4-5 years overdue on those. I also got a gift card to Barnes and Noble, so I get to go pick out a couple of new books - yay!

I'm not much into astrology, but it's been my habit to read my horoscope on my birthday. I'm a Sagittarius on the cusp of Capricorn, for those who know about these things. And from what I've read about the traits of Sag's, that describes me pretty well. In my local paper this morning, this is my horoscope:

If your birthday is December 21:
Start to look at things the way they truly are. Once you realize what you can do, nothing will stand in your way. Changes do have to be made, and a clear view of what you want must lead the way. Minor accidents are apparent if you don't concentrate while driving or exercising.

You are unique, changeable and very disciplined. You are emotional, strong-willed, lucky and have a vivid imagination. You are worldly, outgoing and not afraid to speak your mind.

I'm not too wild about that part concerning accidents while driving, but I'll be extra-careful, just in case. But the rest of it seems fairly accurate in describing me. I AM strong-willed. I AM lucky. I DO have a vivid imagination. I AM outgoing and I'm NOT afraid to speak my mind. Yep, that's me. Scary, huh?

Happy birthday to me!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Madame President

I believe I mentioned in a previous post that there was a chance I would taking on the role of "interim president" for the indoor playground co-op Tiny Tots. Well, it's happened. I've been asked to step into the role being vacated by another member who has gone back to work and cannot continue as president. So I'm it! I've been on the board for the past couple of years - as VP and as secretary - and only didn't continue this year until now because we were going to be moving and I didn't think we'd even be here. But we are. And so I'll step up and help out for as long as I can. I can't help myself - I'm a "joiner". I'm a natural leader, I guess. I'm extroverted and can (and do!) talk to anyone and everyone. I don't shy away from introducing myself to someone new. I know a lot of people aren't comfortable with this, but it's my strong suit. So, just call me Madame President for now.

The playground co-op has been my life saver many a time. It's so nice to have a place to go that the kids can run around and play indoors when the weather is crappy. And it's crappy here a lot. For about $10/month I can take the kids 6 days a week plus one evening a week if I want to. That's a lot of flexibility. And? It's right next to the Costco so it's convenient as well. The downside is that the membership levels aren't high enough for the playground to be self-sustaining much beyond this year or next. 8-10 years ago it was at it's heyday when there was a waiting list to get in. Now? Now we're hurting for members. We have about 60 member families, and I think break-even is closer to 75-80. Our budget is small so it's hard to advertise. We rely mostly on word of mouth and flyers/cards left in strategic locations (like the public library, for example). The other area that needs to be addressed is community building. There seems to be a general blah attitude this year - among the board members and the general membership. Where has the spark gone? Now it's up to ME to try to breathe new life into this organization. My background is business - marketing specifically - and I'm going to be really tested to make this work. I have to dig deep to find creative ways to make the members feel like they are a part of something special. I have to find ways to motivate my board of directors, who are all volunteer moms, and are starting to flake out. I have to keep up good relations with the church in which we rent the space for the playground. I suddenly have a lot on my plate. But I believe so passionately in this organziation as a huge, cost-effective resource for families with young kids that I'm willing to do it. For free. Maybe I'll get my "pay-off" for this as a way to possibly-just-maybe keep my resume just a little bit active during my SAHM years. I worry about that. A LOT.

One of my ideas is to host monthly new-member coffee breaks at the playground. Personally call them and invite them to join me for coffee and do a little "meet and greet". Introduce myself and all the new members to each other. I think a big reason people join, aside from the obvious place for their kids to play indoors, is to meet and connect with other moms. Only often times they feel like they don't meet new people because they don't reach out and introduce themselves. I want to help that process along by facilitating ways for people to meet and begin chatting. Break it down into smaller groups. If it costs me a couple of pots of coffee and some fruit or something it's well worth it.

Another one of my ideas is to host "Mom/Parent Night Out" in which the board agrees to babysit the member kids for a couple of hours during the evening hours so the parents can go out together. I think this would be well-received and appreciated. I just need to investigate our insurance policy to see about any liabilities that need to be addressed before making this a reality. Maybe suggest a $2/kid donation or something so we can bring in some pizzas and feed the kids while mom and dad are out.

Those are just a few of my off-the-top-of-my-head ideas to get people more involved and excited about Tiny Tots. It's my new job. It's fun for me to have a new challenge in my life. I would LOVE to hear any ideas anyone else might have for me. What would YOU like to see if you were a member of the Tiny Tots co-op? What sort of things/activities would motivate you? What would keep you coming back? What would make you encourage your friends to join? PLEASE, if you have any thoughts, send them to me!! I'm desperately trying to brainstorm as I assume this new role and would give appropriate credit where credit is due, so don't be stingy with your grand ideas!

Off to go get organized - I need to hit the ground running on this one.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Happy 34th, Dear!

Today is Mr. Chick's 34th birthday! He's home today so we're getting him all to ourselves and soaking up all his daddy/husband deliciousness. He got a big gift this morning when the kids and I were gone from the house for about 4 hours. It's not often either one of us gets any alone time in the house, so it was good R&R chill time for him. Then he got to open gifts! Cards from the kids, and a saWEET iPod Nano (in black, naturally) from me. He's been wanting one of those gizmos for months now. MONTHS! And now he has one. And he promptly exchanged it. He got some $$ from his dad and used it to upgrade from the 2gig Nano to the full-on iPod with video. Nice! He's in man-heaven checking it out and discovering all it's features and such. Now he can listen to decent music during his long-ass commutes - his car doesn't have a CD player and his radio reception leaves much to be desired. The kids (cough cough) gave him a tape deck converter thingy so he can play the iPod through the car stereo. He's all set.

For those of you who didn't already know, Mr. Chick is 2 years younger than me, almost to the day (that means I'm 6 days away from my 36th birthday. The horror!). I met him in college - his sophomore year, my senior year - during spring break. He was a baby - just 20 yrs old (even though I initially thought he was older because we met in a bar and I mistakenly assumed he was of legal age. My bad). I've essentially known him almost his entire adult life. He's always had a baby face and people think he's younger than he is (why doesn't that ever happen to ME?!), but over the years I can see that he really is aging, as are we all, but he's doing it gracefully. He actually has a few visible gray hairs now - oh the shock! (I've had far too many grays to count for years now... damn him!). And he's starting to get that more mature chisled look than men get. I think it's HOT. I didn't have time to go through all the pictures we have pre-wedding to do justice to the aging of Mr. Chick, but I did find one readily available and did a quick scan:

MP & Mr. Chick - the beginning. This was taken in 1992, approximately 6 months after we started dating. Yes, we were at a frat party since Mr. Chick was still an undergrad at that time (age 20!) and yes, those are cheap "silver bullets" we're drinking. We're so cool! Damn we look young!

MP & Mr. Chick in the summer fo 2003. You're aging nicely, dear. Just as good at 31 as you were at 20. Better, actually. Just a slightly more filled-out face is all. I mean, look at my belly - that's a pretty "filled out" pregnant belly there. We've both "swollen".

Mr. Chick the dad. This makes him even more sexy to me. He's a terrific father, friend and husband. No one could ask for better. NO ONE!

Mr. Chick the grad. Well done! Here at age 33. Still a hottie (in my eyes). And my, what a lovely daughter you have.... oh how things have changed since that first picture when we were celebrating you giving me your fraternity pin! Just look at us now... better than ever and I hope it stays as strong and good as it is today. I love you, baby! Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Floating Down the River Snot

(sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)
"Dashing through the rain. With a couple of sick sick kids. Into the stores we go. Coughing all the way (cough cough cough). Kleenex is a must. To wipe that snot away. Cuz if we don't it just builds up big boogers in our nose. Oh! blow blow blow, blow blow blow, blow your runny nose! Oh what fun it is to float down a river made of snot!"

My kids both have colds and man - ! the snot it is a-flowin'! They're cranky, whiney, tired and clingy. 'Tis the season, eh? It's not terribly bad, just mildly annoying. They don't have fevers and aren't barfing, so I figure we're ahead of the game. It's just the ever-present drip of snot coming out of their noses (and inevitably ending up on ME somewhere) and the unpleasant mood side-effects that really gets to me.

Today has been weird. I had planned to play at our indoor playground, Tiny Tots, and then hit the grocery store (we're woefully understocked currently). I got to the playground by 9:45am but the kids weren't feeling like playing and only wanted to sit ON me. We could do that at home, for the love of pete! Get off me! And Nicholas is crying at the drop of a hat these days - that gets so old I could scream. Seriously. So, of course, something happens that makes him cry and I ask him to sit on the couch with me so he could chill and calm down. He does, and then he falls asleep! Before 11am. At a noisy playground. I was stunned. And then I notice that Lauren is rubbing her eyes and acting tired, too. What gives? They both got normal amounts of sleep last night. But so be it. I wrestled them into their coats and got them loaded up in the car and off we went towards the grocery store. Not 3 minutes out of the parking lot and I see that Lauren is already fast asleep in her carseat. Nicholas is awake, but barely. The grocery store would clearly have to wait and I drove home. The kids were napping by 11am today when normally they don't go down, if at all, until closer to 2pm. Obviously they're fighting something. Some bug. I just hope it remains mild and doesn't morph into something nasty. We have a BIG weekend ahead with my mother's surprise party and I DO NOT need sick kids during that. No way.

Added to the mix is my, ahem, monthly visitor, which just adds to the BLAH factor around here. Wanna party? And Mr. Chick is having to work an extra day this week because it's year end, blah blah blah, so I'm pulling extra-long hours as well.

The good news? I'm almost finished making everything for Christmas presents. It's been a steady few weeks of making stuff, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And? I'm being potentially tapped to return to the Board of Directors for the indoor playground co-op, Tiny Tots (see above), as the president because they "need a strong leader" and thought of me! I'm taking it as a compliment. I've already been brainstorming what I think needs to be enacted to spark new life and build a strong community. The meeting is tomorrow night but I wont' be able to attend because tomorrow is MR. CHICK'S 34th BIRTHDAY! He doesn't work and we'll have the whole day to enjoy as a family. Normally he requests a German chocolate cake, made entirely from scratch, but this year he's breaking from tradition and wants a decadent, rich chocolate torte-type of cake. I'm in search of a good recipe so I can make that for him. He deserves it.

And now that the kids are finally awake I can make that run to the grocery. The big question is whether or not I take Nicholas to his final swimming lesson tonight! He "claims" his cold is all-gone after his nap, so I know he's feeling better... decisions decisions!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Maintaining the Ruse

As parents, we all lie to our children this time of year. We're guilty of deception, and we love it. Telling our kids that a fat man named Santa Claus comes into their house in the dead of night to leave them gifts is a big, fat lie. And it's the best thing going because that ruse does WONDERS to keep the naughty behavior of kids in check for a few weeks. Telling them that Santa is watching them is a long-held, long-cherished tool a parent can wield as necessary. I'll be sad when that comes to an end - for many reasons.

This year, instead of physically writing a list of "wants" in letter-form to Santa Nicholas opted to cut out the pictures of the various toys and gifts he wants and send Santa the cuttings. He went through the entire Target catalog and cut out nearly.every.picture. It was a fat envelope that got sent to Santa (little does Nicholas know that Santa's inbox is on top of our refridgerator...). That was a few weeks ago. 3, I think. Maybe 4. Nicholas got an early start this year. He's also already been to see Santa at the mall. Top of his list this year? A Slurpee Machine. Yes, slurpee. As in the sickly-sweet frozen concoction purchased at 7-11 stores. And yes, they do make surpee machines for real. Sort of like an EasyBake oven for the convenience store set. Nicholas "discovered" Slurpee's this summer when we would ride our bikes to the local 7-11 and he would get the child's small Slurpee as his reward for riding that far. And to cool off - it was HOT this summer. And the fascination with all things Slurpee began. It's a love affair. We cannot drive past a 7-11 without Nicholas asking if we can stop and get a Slurpee. Now mind you, I personally don't care for Slurpee's. I think they're too sweet, even for me. But to Nicholas there is nothing better. Nothing. And as luck would have it, our little 7-11 happened to have the toy Slurpee machines for sale. And the seed was planted. He's been asking for one since SUMMER, people. It's all I hear about. Now we are starting to see them at Toys R Us and Target. Nicholas made sure to cut out the picture of the Slurpee machine and include it in his "letter" to Santa. And he was very specific about his desire for one when he had a chance to speak directly with the Big Man himself last week.

I'm still not sure we'll be getting him the damn Slurpee Machine or not - I'm torn. On the one hand I remember the fantastic feeling I got as a kid when Santa brought me exactly what I had been hoping for. There is no better feeling that the thrill of seeing the toy you've been coveting for months under the tree with your name on it. On the other hand, it's a SLURPEE MACHINE, for the love of pete, and I am so not wild about having that messy hassle of a toy in my house. I can just see the red syrup stains on the carpet now. Ick. Mr. Chick and I have some more discussing to do, clearly.

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand, which is lying to our kids and perpetuating the myth of Santa. Today, as my innocent and truly believing child slumbers, I crafted a reply letter from Santa to Nicholas. I put it in an envelope, addressed it to him, carefully disguising my handwriting so as to not tip him off, and put it in the mailbox along with today's mail. When he wakes up I'll ask him to go get the mail, something he likes to do, and he'll see a letter for him. When he opens it up, this is what he'll see:

Think that'll do the trick? Oh, I am SO BAD!! In the copy he'll get "Santa" actually signed his name. I'm excited for him to get this - he'll be pumped. I'm guessing he holds onto that letter for a long time to come. I love Christmas!

The Big Experiment

Today is Day 3 of our week-long experiment. What experiment, you ask? Something "creative" from the kitchen? (my mom performed quite a few of these as I was growing up). No, no - nothing as risky as that. We have decided to ban TV and computer from our home for a week. But don't get too freaked out - we're total hypocrites and firmly believe in the double-standard: the ban applies only to the kids. Mostly Nicholas. Obviously, *I* am still using the computer since I'm posting on my blog (as I hide from my own son so as to not taunt him or rub his nose in it needlessly), and Mr. Chick and I watch some TV in the evenings after the kids are in bed (if Lauren would ever STAY in bed, that is). And there is one exception to this experiment as far as Nicholas is concerned: if there is a special Christmas program on he may watch it. Like last night, for example, he was allowed to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, because, well, those are just classics of the season and I'm not cruel.

Why the experiment? Other than knowing in my logical brain that too much TV and media in general is not the greatest thing for young kids? Lately it seems like watching cartoons/videos or playing on the computer are the ONLY activities Nicholas wants to do. They are the first things he asks for. And he has plenty of other toys to play with, and keeps telling me of all the new toys he wants for Christmas (thank you, Madison Ave., for marketing so aggressively to my child), yet hardly ever plays with them. That is just so uncool. And lately, if I'm being honest, his behavior has deteriorated and been a lot more challenging to deal with. There are many days when I might still fiercely love my son but not like him very much. And that's not a good feeling. I want to remedy that. It has seemed that when he gets too much TV time or computer time he gets all spun up and becomes harder to manage. He loses it in the blink of an eye. He becomes more argumentative. I think he's over-stimulated. And so, we pulled those elements out of his life to see if there is any difference in his behavior. And so far, it does seem to be helping.

We told him that there would be no TV or playing on the computer for a week, except for any special Christmas shows. He's cool with that. We told him if he could do this for a whole week he would get to pick out a special video to watch. This is the carrot we're dangling, and he's buying it. He's excited to pick out a video just for him. Enforcing these rules hasn't been too hard on me, and I expected it to be worse. I find that *I* suggest a video or something right around the tough dinner hours so I can get some peace in order to make dinner or just get a breather. I thought it would be rougher not having that crutch to lean on. But I'm finding, to my surprise and pleasure, that I'm enjoying the quiet. There is more music on instead of the jabbering television. And the best outcome so far? The kids are playing together! They have no other choice but to engage with each other. Yes, there are spats and accusations (Mom! Lauren hit me with that toy! Put her in the naughty corner!), but we had that before this experiment started. This is nothing new. There is just a little more of it because they're both not plugged in to a show or something. I can live with that. Today is really the first morning where the kids have not been allowed to watch morning cartoons. The house is eerily quiet. The other mornings we've had someplace to be first thing, so no TV wasn't a big deal. It's a bigger deal this morning - cartoons during breakfast time are the norm. But they're rolling with it. They're dressed earlier. They're fed earlier. They've made big messes earlier. But the damn TV has NOT been turned on. Nicholas has already asked to play on the computer, but as soon as I reminded him that there was no computer this week he stood straighter and brightly said, "oh yeah! I almost forgot. I get to pick out my own video from the store if I don't play on the computer!" and rushed out of the room like he feared the lure of the almighty Dell might be too strong for him.

We'll see how this weeks plays out. So far, so good. If it works well we might start trying to make this the norm. Allow the kids a special show here and there (Saturday morning cartoons, for example), and severely limit Nicholas's time on the computer. I think we all may be better off for it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


You see that sweet face of my daughter in the post below (go ahead and look, I'll wait)? Well, she ain't so innocent. Don't let the look fool you. As of last night she learned how to effectively climb out of her crib - all thanks to her Daddy. She likes to try to climb IN, so he showed her how to do both. Thanks. So after putting her to bed at 9pm last night I got myself settled on the couch to unwind with the boob tube **. At 10pm I thought I was seeing a ghost: Lauren walked into the living room. What?! She's in bed - asleep, right? Plus, how did she get OUT of the crib?! I could only stare and point to her dumbly, showing Mr. Chick what had me so momentarily perplexed. That's when he confessed teaching her this new trick. So now? She doesn't want to STAY in her crib. She's a little jack-in-the-box. You put her in and BAM! She's out. You put her back, and she pops out again. It's such a fun game - try it!

We (mistakenly) thought she was down for good and ventured out to the hottub, only to discover she wasn't asleep (little faker!) and had locked us out. Nice, huh? It was now 11pm and I was tired. Both physically and with dealing with this. We got back in and tried yet again to put her to bed. How was she still awake? Finally, after catching her mid-escape and dangling from her crib rails, I asked if she wanted to sleep in Mama's bed. "Mama beh! Yeah!" So I brought her in. And suffered for it. Lauren eventually fell asleep - pushing midnight - so that's when I was able to crash, too. Only to be rudely woken up by her flinging a meaty leg and hitting me in the face. With her heel. That hurt. She stayed asleep (little shit!). So I picked her up and transferred her back to her crib. All was well for the next few hours and then somehow, magically, Lauren sensed something had changed and horror of all horrors - ! she was back in her crib. Must commence loud crying and calling repeatedly, "mama! mama! mama!" and when that doesn't yield results, start in with "daddy! daddy! daddy!" until pleas are finally answered. Declare intent: "mama beh!" and settle in next to your daddy because Mama is pissed and tired and wants nothing to do with you. It was 5am for the love of all that is holy. I like NO ONE at 5am. I don't care how cute you are. Resume wild, restless sleeping, good for no adult but which seems to work perfectly well for a 2 year old.

At 6:15 I'd had it and got up to brave the 34 degree weather and go for a 3.5 mile jog. Yes, I really did. I knew I'd need something stronger than coffee, and nothing is a better jolt than adrenaline and bitingly cold temps. In the still-dark pre-dawn hour. Trust me. I got home from my run around 7:15am, brewed some coffee and folded a load of laundry. I drank my first cup and perused the morning paper. No one else was awake. Slugs! I had to go wake up Mr. Chick at 7:45am so he could go to work (remember, he has a 1.5 hr commute each way. Now he'll be even later tonight for getting such a late start this morning.). Big yay for me. Dealing with the kids on my own for a few more hours today. And with precious little patience since I'm so bushed. Lauren woke up with her daddy, having gotten fewer hours of sleep than in normal what with all the excitement of being able to get out of her crib at will.

So here it is, 1:30pm - prime naptime at my house - and what's happening? Lauren is fighting me on napping. How has she not collapsed yet? She's climbed out of the crib once so far and is calling for me - her favorite mantra - like it's a Buddist chant. Oh wait - scratch that. I just heard a big thump and now she's escaped twice. Lucky me. I need a nap and my kids are not cooperating, damnit!

We were planning on moving Lauren into her "big girl" twin bed when we moved. New room, new bed. But I think it's clear we can't wait that long. It's not safe for her to be climbing out of her crib the way she is. She could fall and hurt herself. I have sheets for her, but no bedspread or comforter or other such necessary items. And it's Christmas, so stretched budget. Nice timing, Lauren. Do you think she'd mind/notice if Santa brought her a bedspread this year?


I finally got around to having the kids portraits taken. And by professional portraits I mean JC Penny (they were running a good coupon). I do this every year - usually at their birthday. But this year I decided to do them jointly and make things easier on me. So this represents Nicholas at age 4 and Lauren at age 2. They turned out ok - there wasn't the perfect shot in the bunch - but there were plenty of "good enough's" to suit me. I struggled with wardrobe malfunctions like the collar of Lauren's shirt not wanting to lay down nicely and Nicholas struggling to keep his shirt tucked in (normally we don't bother with tucking around here). Amazingly, Lauren didn't fuss with the bow in her hair, the one thing I thought for sure she'd object to. And the one thing Mr. Chick DID object to when he saw the pictures. Sigh. You just cannot please everyone!

The one I ordered...

2nd choice. Lauren would not put her foot down! And Nicholas sort of looks awkward. But good smiles and a cute pose.

Mr. Chick's fave. Nicholas did NOT like his sister sitting on his back like that but hid his displeasure well, don't you think?

good one, but Lauren's face looks chubby.

My big, handsome boy! Right down to his shirt sticking out from the bottom of his sweater.

Sweet girl, who was NOT wild about sitting in that chair... and again with the foot!

Deck The Halls

Like many families, we went out and got our Christmas tree this weekend and did the majority of the decorating for the holiday. We splurged (at my urging) and got the pricier Noble fir tree vs. the cheaper Douglas fir because, well, Nobles are just better Christmas trees. They are! Doug firs have just never done it for me. The branches aren't strong enough for heavier ornaments, and the trees are denser, which results in it looking like the ornaments are sort of laying against the outside of the tree. Ornaments need to hang and the tree should have depth. Clearly I'm a Noble fir snob. Shut up.

We bought the lovely Noble fir Christmas tree for $20 (Douglas firs were going for $10 - you get what you pay for.). The lot was selling them at that price for up to 5.5 feet tall. They had separated the trees shorter ones on one side, taller trees on the other. I happened across a lovely Noble on the short side of the aisle. Technically it was taller than 5.5 feet, but the guy sold it to us for $20 anway (vs. $30 for over 5.5 feet). So we're off to a good start, right?

We get the tree home and Nicholas is practically peeing himself with excitement to decorate. He can't wait to dig through the boxes of Christmas stuff and see everything. Mr. Chick had rented The Polar Express DVD and we had the Egg Nog waiting. All very Dickensesque. I had the make a quick run to the store to get another couple strands of lights because those suckers just don't last, but soon we were in full swing. I strung the lights on the tree because that HAS to happen first (there IS a certain order to decorating a proper tree - duh!) And then it was all about controlling the chaos as the kids went to town putting ornaments on the tree. I'm all about participation, but I draw the line at having all the ornaments clustered together on the bottom quarter of the tree (perfect child height). I had to discreetly re-hang most of them, but in the jubilation neither child seemed to mind or even notice. It didn't take us long to finish. Voila!

Nicholas has since spent lots of time just staring at his stocking or even stroking it. He loves his stocking, obviously. Mr. Chick's aunt, who owns a knitting shop and is a master knitter, made the stocking for Nicholas's first Christmas. It's awesome. It has Santa on it and a bunch of buttons shaped like toys have been sewed onto Santa's bag. That what Nicholas keeps looking at - all the toy buttons. I've been waiting for 3 Christmas's now for a stocking for Lauren, but still we wait. Instead we've hung a stocking she made for Mr. Chick when he was a boy as Lauren's and are working with that until we can convince her to make one. Can you tell the difference in colors from one generation to the next?

As for outdoor lighting decorations, it's a big deal in my family. For years my father has held his own private competition in his neighborhood for who has the best lights. There are rules, you see. Rules only he and my family know about. And shockingly, he wins every year (of course he does, no one else even knows he competing! Oh the silly fun we have.). For example, a house will get fewer points if the lights aren't straight. If they hang down and are sloppy in general you are docked points. No way you can win. You also get dinged if you have tacky lawn decorations. The occasional lit deer, tastefully displayed, is acceptable. But cheesy flashing trains on top of your roof? You're out. You also risk losing if you use those mesh bush lights. Those are tricky. They have to be used wisely as to prevent the look of a perfectly square mesh tossed onto a bush ad hoc. No no no. You MUST not appear to use short-cuts such as that that end up backfiring. And right now, icicle lights are just so overdone that you lose points if you use them. So, what did Mr. Chick go out and buy this year for our outdoor lighting? Yes, you guessed it: mesh bush lights. He is risking major ridicule if word of this leaks out. I had to assist him in the strategic placing of these mesh lights in order to obscure the fact that they were, in fact, mesh lights. It's tricky. The shrubs with which I helped look OK. They were small enough for the mesh lights to work and be adequately camoflaged. But then I left Mr. Chick to his own devices and the results were, shall we say, sub par. Way way WAY sub par. He commited the ultimate Christmas light faux pas that flies in the face of all known etiquette: he draped a large bush with a square mesh and left it at that. So at night when you turn the lights on we have two bushes artfully done. They look festive! And then we have this long section of shrubbery with a random square section that is lit. No edges are tucked under. No small branches are tastefully poking through. Nope - it's just a big square mesh monstrosity. And what's worse? HE THINKS IT LOOKS ACCEPTABLE! Oh no, this simply will not do. Now I'LL have to go out and fix this situation. We cannot have tacky mesh bush lights that reveal us to be the white trash we so desperately attempt to conceal!

And so begins the holiday season. I'm madly working to finish my handmade gifts and it's going well. I was even asked to teach some neighbors how to crochet yesterday and spent an hour or two showing them how to do it. They love the mittens I'm making and are determined to be able to make a pair themselves. It was fun to teach.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

White Elephant Preview

I finished the slipper socks for one of my mother's Christmas gifts. I did them in red to match the accent color up at my parent's new lake cabin. And, well, they're cheesy. The pattern was easy and I was able to do one slipper in just a few hours - naptime, essentially. They just look so GRANDMA. Like the kind of crochet granny's do. Oh well - I guess it was inevitable that something I make not have any coolness factor whatsoever. And these slippers are far from cool. They're warm! They serve a purpose. They're functional. They're a tad bit ugly... maybe I'll put them in her stocking and hope she gets a chuckle out of them. I'm guessing they'll end up categorized as this years White Elephant gift.

Free Counters
Hit Counters

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?